Saturday, January 24, 2015

Game 172: Hard Nova (1990)

Hard Nova
United States
Spaceport Malibu (developer); Electronic Arts (publisher)
Released 1990 for DOS; 1991 for Amiga, Atari ST
Date Started: 24 January 2015
The other day, I downloaded Hard Nova, fired it up just to get a sense of it, and had an immediate visceral reaction. Specifically, I said, "Oh, hell no." With mounting suspicion, I did a search for the game's title in my past blog comments, and my heart sank when I saw that most of them were attached to Sentinel Worlds: Future Magic. That game sticks out in my memory as one of the dumbest games I've ever played. I just checked out my final rating from May 2012, and sure enough, I wrote it has "a dumb plot, a dumb interface, a dumb approach to combat, dumb dialogue, dumb exposition, and a final 'battle' so dumb it beggars description."

I'm not saying it didn't have some interesting elements. My final rating of 36 was, after all, slightly in my "recommended" range. The game has its fans. The interface, while difficult overall, had some interesting elements. Character development was okay, and it was one of the few games in its year to offer actual NPC dialogue. But every time that Sentinel Worlds had to do anything with plot and dialogue, it suddenly seemed it was created by a sixth-grader. Let's all recall the game's moment of victory, seconds after the player has defeated the dumbly-named "Malcolm Trandle" in the bizarrely stupid final combat:

Slightly better would have been, "You destroyed me?! I am beat."

Hard Nova is recognizably from the same team as Sentinel Worlds. Both were published by EA, and Karl Buiter was the designer of both. Seeing all this, I did not approach Hard Nova with a lot of promise. My fears turn out to be partly founded. The manual and in-game descriptive text are well-written, but the in-game dialogue is absolutely cringe-worthy (as we'll see below). The lame combat system hasn't been improved, and the interface is confusing as hell. It relies a lot on the function keys, which aren't the easiest set of keys to get right without looking at the keyboard.

On the other hand, there are some improvements, primarily in graphics and sound. The back story is pretty good (then again, so was Sentinel Worlds', before it devolved into idiocy). There are more descriptions of individuals, objects, and areas; in fact, you get a D&D module-style paragraph upon entering each room.

The pre-room and in-room descriptions add some flavor to the visuals.

The back story casts the player in the role of a ship captain who lost his or her ship and crew in an errant meteor strike. Escaping in a pod with one crewmember--a "Bremar" named A'kri Janr--the player gets picked up by the Starkiller Mercenary Group and has no choice but to join. As the game begins, the player chooses whether this captain is "Nova," a female who specializes in guns, or "Stark," a male who specializes in hand-to-hand combat. As with Sentinel Worlds, both portraits look vaguely like people I've seen before, but I can't quite place.

Neither, incidentally, looks anything like the character on the box cover, who to me looks like a young Kate Mulgrew. Voyager wouldn't be on for five years, but perhaps Buiter was a fan of Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins.

In any event, it's not like the game is called Hard Stark, and since the manual uses "Nova" as the main character in its back story, I decided to go with her.

A map of the game world, courtesy of The game starts in the system in the upper-left.
The game takes place in an area of space called the Four Systems, a group of mining and trading colonies established for commercial exploitation. Conflict has recently broken out between the systems, which has both enriched the mercenary companies and pitted them against each other. Meanwhile, far away from the Four Systems, the sun of a planet called Typhon is dying, and the Typhonese battle fleet is seeking a new home "beyond the tunnel in space." The ominous suggestion is that the tunnel's exit is somewhere near the four systems.

Nova starts on a base called Mastass, at which her ship is docked. She is accompanied by an NPC companion named A'kri Janr, her alien navigator from the backstory and the only survivor from the meteor strike. The first quest seems to be to assemble a new crew.

The small base has a store, a "robomaze," and a casino. The "robomaze" requires a $300 entry fee and offers a televised match in which Nova fights robots and can collect bronze flags to sell for $60 each at the store. It's an easy way to learn the combat system, gain some experience, and make a little money. I'll have more to say on combat in a later post, of course.
Fighting in the robomaze.

The casino offers the ability to play roulette (using Vegas-ish rules, so no real PC advantage) and talk to a few NPCs. Dialogue is something like Sentinel Worlds, offering a couple of full-sentence options for each stage of the conversation. Also, like Sentinel Worlds, the writing is awful. Sometimes the dialogue options don't make a lot of sense, as in this case, where the only choices are to insult the NPC or lie to him.

Or in this case, where you're just obnoxious whatever you choose:

The casino included an aristocratic "business woman" who didn't want to talk with me no matter what I chose, a merc from the "Zero-L" company, a space merchant who ran a test using a crystal to see if we were "compatible" and got scared at the result, a Lanta (lizard species) preacher who called me an "abomination," a young alien who was entranced by my status as a mercenary and wanted to join me (I said no, since he didn't have any skills), and a more competent NPC named Ace Elcator who did join me. I'll relate the entire dialogue with Ace so you can get a sense of it:
ACE: That seat's taken, merc.
NOVA: What makes you think I'm a mercenary?
ACE: Either you're a merc or a plastic surgeon's test dummy. Your clothes are torn and smell like smoke and fusionite. And you also had the eggs to talk to me. What do you want.
NOVA: I'm looking for some people.
ACE: People? What kind of people?
NOVA: (striking a noble pose). People who want adventure, fast living, and the threat of death at every turn.
ACE: What are you, a recruitment poster? Is this your first time looking for a crew?
NOVA: Well, yes, it's my first time. But don't worry--I've got experience.
ACE: That's a load of crap. If you're not going to be honest with me, we can stop talking right now.
NOVA: Okay (shrug), so I've done this a lot. I just didn't want you asking questions about my last crew.
ACE: That's better. (She smiles.) So what happened to your last crew?
NOVA: Hey, it was an accident. We took a meteor hit, and only me and my navigator made it. That what you wanted to hear?
ACE: I'm sorry about your crew, but accidents happen. So you need a gunner, don't you? I know where you can find one.
NOVA: Yeah? Tell me.
ACE: Me. I'm the best gunner you'll ever find.
NOVA: Great! You're hired. When can you leave?
ACE: You're being sarcastic! You don't believe I'm a gunner. Well, watch this! (She gets up and starts to walk away.)
NOVA: Uh...
ACE: (She walks away, over to the front of the bar. She taps the Lanta evangelist on the shoulder and says...) Hey, snot face! I wanna buy a book! (When he turns, she pulls a nasty looking blaster out of her holster and fires one blue bolt of plasma at his chest. The Lanta falls amidst a shower of sparks. The twisted body lies on a scorch mark on the carpet.  You notice three other scorch marks near the new one. The whole bar erupts with applause. The woman bows and she walks back to your table while the bartender quickly drags the body away. The woman sits down next to you and says...) So, where's our first assignment?
NOVA: Welcome aboard. What's your name?
ACE: Alexandra Elcator. But call me Ace. It really pisses me off when people call me Alexandra.
NOVA: No problem. (You smile.) I don't think I want to piss you off. Let's go.

So my first NPC addition is a psychotic murderer, and apparently there are no laws in this universe against shooting someone in a bar just because he's annoying the customers.

The bartender, an ugly guy peddling a drink called "hot mud," was described as Nova's friend. He sympathized as I recounted the events of the backstory but didn't offer much information. I found a case of mud near the bar and sold it in the store for $360.
The on-base store.

Each character has a score in 16 abilities, categorized into those that are "land-based" (e.g., agility, firearms, demolitions) and those that are "ship-based" (mechanics, star gunner, electronics). I'm not sure if there's a maximum to the scores, but the maximum that anyone starts with is 21, and the average is around 3-6. Although there's no character creation process, characters start as if they've already "leveled up," giving you the option to put 1-4 points into the various abilities.

Each character starts with a different concentration of actual and possible abilities. Nova herself can learn anything except the Bremer-specific "navigation song," which is the ability that allows navigation through stargates. She comes with a strong selection of land-based abilities and a couple of ship abilities; her highest scores are in stealth, fitness, aptitude, star communication, and programming. The Bremer scout, A'kri Janr, can only learn 7 abilities; he starts extremely high in "navigation song" and moderate in a few ground abilities. Ace Elcator has her highest abilities in both ground and ship weapons.

Ace Elcator's ability selection.

As with combat, I'll have more to say about abilities, experience, and leveling when I understand it better. I assume that the goal is to get a balanced crew. You appear to be able to recruit up to 5 additional NPCs (for a total party size of 6), but only 3 of them (not including Nova) can be assigned to the "ground squad" at any given time, so there's a place for 2 people with space-only abilities. I hope there are more than 5 NPCs in the game because I rejected "Young D-Coro" when he told me he didn't have any skills.

The dialogue options are to take an unqualified crew member or be cruel to him.

There weren't any other encounters or clues as to the main quest in the opening base, so after exploring a bit and talking to everyone, I entered my space ship and blasted off.

You fly your ship in several views depending on the scale. When I first left the base, the screen showed me a close-up view of the planet, across which I could coast and watch the changes in coordinates. I guess I'm in the "hovercraft" at this point.

This view reminds me of an action game from the 1980s where you fly a plane and dodge missiles and obstacles before bombing something at the end of the run. I did some Googling, but I can't find it. Any ideas?

One level above that is a planetary view, where you cover larger territory in a low orbit. I think that at this level, the hovercraft had docked with the ship, as indicated in the little diagram.

And above that is "space" view, where you do a lot of things: travel between planets, fight other ships, repair your ship, assign ship and ground positions for the various party members, and change the "signature" of your ship to deceive others. We'll explore all of this in the future.

Getting my first sort-of quest.

The moment I left the base, I received a message from Starkiller Headquarters that my "r and r" was over and I needed to return to the headquarters on Holbrook (described by the encyclopedia as an airless, lifeless world populated only by mercenaries) for a new assignment. According to the map, it was in the same system, so I flew to the planet, orbited it, and went to the coordinates indicated in the message, where I found some kind of base. As I wrap up this post, I'm trying to figure out how to land in it; moving up and down in the hovercraft doesn't seem to work. Whatever the case, I'm probably going to reload in the original base and master the robomaze first.

This appears to be Starkiller headquarters, and I'm guessing the arrow is where I land. I just can't figure out how.

A few miscellaneous notes:

  • While you can move with both the arrow keys and keypad, there's no diagonal movement. I think this is a bit unforgivable in 1990.
  • While the sound in general is okay, a horrible disco soundtrack plays when you start the game and when you transition between areas. I don't think there's a way to turn it off independently from the sound effects.
  • The game makes an autosave as you enter and exit each area, so it's easy to pick up where you left off. You can separately save and load specific game statuses. I don't remember any game doing this so far in my chronology.
  • There's a decent in-game encyclopedia about different planets and races.

The entry for the starting planet.

It took me a long time to get this opening post written, but I mostly think I'm over the hump and can start to enjoy what the game has to offer. Coming from a game in which space combat was completely optional and kind-of lame, I look forward to seeing how it works in Hard Nova.


  1. Regarding your question in the screenshot caption: My guess would be Zaxxon.

    1. I immediately thought of Blue Max (C64).

    2. Has to be Blue Max.

      Had a lot of fun with that game waaaaay back in the day.


    3. When I saw the screenshot, I was reminded of Star Goose.

    4. I'll second (third?) Zaxxon and Blue Max. Perhaps an outside chance of being Raid Over Moscow, although that game had other parts that would probably distinguish it from the others.

    5. Raid over Moscow ?

    6. Zaxxon does seem to be what I was thinking of, though I checked out the screenshots for Raid over Moscow, and I remember playing that as a kid, too. Thanks!

    7. The hover map reminds me of Star Goose and Populous, but I knew that Chet was talking about Zaxxon.

    8. Wow, raid over Moscow. I had forgotten about that one. I do remember playing it many, many, many times on my old C64. I don't ever remember finishing it any other way than having the reactor blow up and losing all pilots. Did anyone ever manage to blow up the reactor once it got critical?

    9. If I remember correctly you had to bounce your explosive frisbee off the side and back walls of the reactor room to shoot the back of the reactor. After a few successful throws the reactor shutdown and you could escape.

      I think after that the game just restarted so there was no way to truly win. Leave it to 80's USSR to have an unlimited stockpile of nuclear reactors.

  2. At first glance I though that both the in-game and cover portraits have a passing resemblance to Sigourney Weaver, but the more I look the less I see it.

    1. Perhaps a bit like Sean Young from Blade Runner?


  3. I loved the possibilities that you describe in the game experience.
    Speaking as onde who's completely fed up with Fantasy settings I'd love to see a 2015 RPG in a sci-fi setting,allowing someone to explore planets and stars.
    I can only remember the Mass Effect and KOTOR series as the sole sci-fi RPGs of the 21st century. Or am I forgetting something,folks?

    1. Anachronox! Barely a 21st century game, because it was released in 2001, but it's definitely sci-fi. It mostly takes place on space stations rather than planets, but it's a good turn-based RPG with great characters.

    2. Anachronox! Of course!
      How could I forget it?? I have the game on GOG, but I still have to try it.
      As for KBbtGS suggestions, I thank you for them, but they're different from what I had in mind. I was reffering to the "Buck Rogers"/"Star Wars" type of settings (lasers, ships and space cowboys).

    3. Can't think of many recent traditional rpgs set in space.

      You have a few dungeon crawlers - teleglitch, steam marines, sword of the stars: the pit

      You've got a few ship-based games with rpg influences - Smugglers V, Faster Than Light, EV: Nova

      You've got squad-based combat games like the hunters series, x-com and xenonauts.

      Not many that offer the full RPG package though.

    4. Can't think of recent ones either, which is a damn shame. I'm tired of all the Tolkien knock offs.

      I'm looking forward to Chet playing Albion at some point. I bought it from a bargain bin around 15 years ago and keep trying to play it every few years but always end up putting it down at some point.

      There's also the X series from Egosoft. It has super light RPG elements that take a back seat to space sim and trading elements.

    5. Consortium, Ring Runner, the Starpoint Gemini games, possibly Drox Operative depending on your criteria. Dunno that they're necessarily exactly what you're looking for but I think they're probably closer than a lot of what's been suggested so far.

      Also, keep an eye out for the Kickstarter game The Mandate. if that ever comes out it will probably fit the bill.

      But yes, SF is a pretty rare genre for CRPGs in general, and if you specifically want classic interplanetary starships and explorations type fare, rarer still. A lot of SF CRPGs have been planet-bound - cyberpunk, post-apocalypse, etc - and the starfaring seems to be largely a space sim thing. Very few of which have significant RPG elements, alas.

    6. I love Fantasy RPGs like every common mortal.
      But, after killing the 1008th Orc and killing 765 liches and 3463 kobolds I'm starting to get terribly annoyed.

      To be honest I like the Planetary RPGs due to the originality of the setting. I don't mind some Fantasy, as long as it is original and explored in a new way (Planescape Torment)

      I think most gamers don't like to get out of their "confort zone". I know plenty of RPG lovers who didn't manage to play P:T because they said the setting was "weird".
      The same applied to the Fallout universe. Many of these guys I'm talking about only played Fallout 3 because it felt like an FPS to them. :P

      It's like the Anime fans, in a sort of way. I love japanese Anime, but I know most of it is just plain rubbish. Yet most of its fans love it because they know that they'll always find girls with big boobs and short skirts (and innocent faces), black and white characters and some soap-opera moral dillemas that haven't evolved much since 1970's "Battleship Yamato".

      Maybe I'm being a bit extreme. But just recently, in GOG's forums, one could find plenty of people arguing that there's too much emphasis on story in recent RPGs. These games should be more about combat and less about bla bla bla. WTF?

      Sorry for the rant, guys.

    7. Well, as far as sci-fi RPGs in the current century, there are games that are sequels to other sci-fi RPGs, like Star Ocean 3 and Phantasy Star Online/0/Nova. Infinite Space is an original sci-fi RPG released this century and Cosmic Star Heroine is another sci-fi RPG that's coming out this year. I dunno if it meets your classification criteria, but Opoona probably counts as well.

      I don't think that there's too much of a shortage of them, but I'm not particularly fond of space-settings, so my opinion isn't really too relevant.

    8. I think my answer will seem pedantic to some, but I have a terrible prejudice against JRPGs.
      Too much grind (battles + random battles + battles + tandom battles on top) and childish plots. I've tried playing several of them, ultimately got bored.

      I like that some JRPGs have sci-fi or steampunk settings, though. In that aspect I think that eastern developpers are more broad-minded than western ones.
      But, in the end, things like ship management are discarded.
      Japanese people are known for being too conservative. Japanese are very keen on acquiring new knowledge and trends, but only to a certain degree (if you read "The Silence", by Shūsaku Endō, you'll see how the author describes the way japanese assimilate foreign knowledge).

      It's well known that the RPG standard in Japan has never evolved beyond the Wizardry or Ultima rules. Even games like Final Fantasy or Dragon's Quest are "modern" variatons of the early Ultimas.

      Correct me if I'm wrong.

    9. Albion perhaps although I can´t remember whem it was released

    10. @autor

      "Japanese people are known for being too conservative."

      While certain aspects of Japanese society might be able to be described that way, Japanese technology revolutionised the automotive industry, photography, electronics and home entertainment.

      If you claim that 'it's well known that the RPG standard in Japan has never evolved beyond the Wizardry or Ultima rules', then I'm not sure how you explain successful franchises like Legend of Zelda, Front Mission, Star Ocean, Wild Arms etc etc

    11. The day a supposed japanese "RPG" attains the complexity of a Fallout, then it will be time to celebrate.
      90% of these games are recycled versions of each other.
      And just because they're popular, it doesn't mean a thing. Transformers movies were pretty popular too. Doesn't mean they're not rubbish.

      In fact,most people who play JRPG never play western ones. And vice versa.
      These are 2 completely different and antagonistic schools.

      Plenty do westerners play japanese games. But did you know that most japanese gamers and developpers simply despise or don't even know nothing about western games. In fact, most japonese hardly understand english.

    12. Okay, you got me going. Now you're going to have to hear me rant:

      I tried getting into JRPGs on the original PSX. Eventually I came to realize that they almost universally had cringeworthy, cliche-ridden stories (you're almost always a selfish, orphaned teenage boy with a painful aversion to self-confidence who gets a sword on his birthday or somesuch) that were bursting at the seams with the most inane dialogue you could possibly imagine, and that the only thing that even set them apart for the fans was minor differences in the combat systems that usually revolved around some silly gimmick that quickly got boring (combos! active time battles! jobs! levelable items! blah blah blah).

      The worst example I found was probably Xenogears, which was a promising, technically impressive game with an interesting backstory about a world where people dug up buried mechs from an ancient war. Unfortunately they squandered the whole thing by filling the game with annoying talking animals and insufferable amounts of utterly boring pseudo-religious dialogue. The fans loved it, though, because the game had multiple combat gimmicks like "separate" mech and hand-to-hand combat systems.

      I tried playing the "shining jewels" of the genre too. Chrono Trigger was okay, but still on the goofy side. The final boss was barely a character, which made the ending unsatisfying. Final Fantasy 7 had an overly-rambling plot that was constantly sidetracked by embarrassingly stupid side-quests like screwing around at a beach/carnival/whatever, which completely destroyed any possibility of immersion.

      The 8-bit and some of the early 16-bit JRPGs aren't too bad, mostly because there wasn't enough capacity on the systems to hold much in the way of inane dialogue/text. Unfortunately they ended up being mostly rambling grindfests though.

    13. I suppose JRPG is great if you're a kid.
      Bright colours, girls with innocent faces and big boobs, huge weapons and cool armours. Specially ir ur still in school and can spend hours + hours fighting hundreds of random encounters and grinding your character to the top.

      Not só much fun anymore when you are an adult who wants a mature story, filled with sex, pain and Intrigue (like real life, most of the time).

      In Planescape Torment we control a character who wants to die! A complete opposition to the goals in 99% of videogames.
      Give me this sort of character depth and originality in a japanese RPG and im sold.

    14. To be fair to JRPGs, they are mostly aimed at children in Japan. The The big difference between JRPGs and WRPGs in my mind is that western RPGs have always been aimed at men in their 20s, while JRPGs are typically aimed at boys and girls between the ages of about 10 and 15. This isn't true for every JRPG, but it does hold across the subgenre.

    15. If what Daniel wrote is true, that explains a lot of stuff.
      The scary part is that some western teenagers and adults almost seem to worship certain JRPG series as if it was Scientology.

    16. To call Daniel "wrong" would be like calling the sun "mildly warm". The only major JRPG franchise that is aimed at the 10-15 age bracket is Pokemon.

      Most JRPGs are aimed at the exact same age bracket as WRPGs, and the primary consumers are adults (to the point where business often grinds to a halt when a new Final Fantasy or Dragon Quest game is released. Meanwhile, the plots (on average) aren't any more "childish" than the majority of WRPGs. There are a few "destined orphan(s) saves the world" plots, but you're much more likely to find "mutant mindraped supersoldier joins up with a terrorist group, accidentally saves world", "rebel fighter has to decide whether liberating his people justifies genocide", or "rumors are reshaping reality, meanwhile a high school student must take up arms against a wrathful spirit that has, for some reason, marked him for death",

    17. @ED

      Fallout is a great game with a lot of freedom in exploration and initial character development, but I don't see many avenues of 'complexity'. The combat and leveling mechanics are pretty straightforward.


      It's certainly true that JRPGs are more likely to be interactive novels and WRPGs are more likely to be environments that you can play in. It's certainly true that the "party" in a JRPG is more likely to be a colorful collection of teens plus some sort of fluffy monster, whereas in a WRPG you're more likely to see a group of grim-looking, blood-spattered 30 year olds.

      These are trends though, not rules - I mean, the most JRPG game I've played recently was Banner Saga, which was developed by ex-BioWare guys :p

      When it comes to tactics and character development/customisation, JRPGs certainly don't play second fiddle. If anything, they're stronger - one of the consequences of the RPG-on-rails genre is that the gameplay is almost entirely combat and leveling. In any case, there are plenty of strong systems from both lands.

      For the record, my 'Top 10' probably consists of 9 North American games and 1 from Germany.

    18. Hey guys, your xenophobia is showing. Calling out all JRPGs as being too similar when you've all refused to give them a chance is really really weak.

    19. I think Noman got me wrong. It's unquestionable that JRPGs and video games in general in Japan were viewed as children's entertainment in the 1980s and 1990s. Consider Nintendo's family friendly reputation. This is quite different from early Western RPGs which (as this blog has demonstrated) were created by university students largely for play by other university students. Of course, the market has aged in Japan and there are many series that aren't aimed at kids anymore, but the early teen aesthetic remains.

    20. @Anonymous: I gave almost a dozen of them a serious chance on PSX. My previous comments still stand.

      I think it's partially a cultural disconnect for me, as it's not just RPGs; I literally fell asleep waiting for Okami's intro to finish so that I could start playing the game.

    21. Daniel

      Nintendo's "family friendly reputation" exists only because Nintendo's AMERICAN branch censored the hell out of everything they touched. It has nothing to do with the "target audience" of the original works, many of which featured (in their original forms) significant amounts of violence, some nudity, and constantly used the word "kill".) Suggesting anything else only proves that you don't have the faintest clue what you're talking about.

    22. Didn't Final Fantasy VI start with war crimes and the mass slaughter of innocents? That is also an ongoing theme in both the Front Mission series and Ogre Battle 64.

    23. Also I've tried Anachronox. I'm not sure how a game that old has load times on my gaming PC, let alone super long ones, but it does. I might have to reinstall it to an SSD.

    24. Anachronox was disappointing. The writing was good, although the world was goofy. The combat was almost extraneous - it's more of an adventure game than an RPG in terms of gameplay.

      The biggest problem though was that it fizzled out later in the game and then ended in a never-to-be-resolved cliffhanger.

    25. @Canageek

      Final Fantasy VI did have massacres early on, as did FF IV, although the word "kill" or "died" never showed up in dialogue. These were among the few exceptions to Nintendo's censorship policies - most games that featured such things - such as Tactics Ogre (where the player has to choose whether or not to participate in a false-flag ethnic cleansing of his own people) and the Front mission series - didn't make it over here because NIA would never have allowed it without butchering the game, a prime reason why so many developers jumped ship to Sony when the PlayStation came out.

      By the time Ogre Battle 64 came out, Nintendo of America had wised up to their reputation as a platform fit only for children and had not only dropped their censorship policies but were actively seeking games with more mature themes - too bad most developers didn't trust them not to screw things up anymore and stuck with Sony.

    26. Final Fantasty 8 roped in more female gamers than every western RPGs COMBINED.

    27. Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

    28. The Pokemon series is hands down the most popular RPG for females, and hands down the most popular RPG series for males, and presumably hands down the most popular series for every other gender designation as well.

    29. Kenny: I don't know about that. When I was in high school the women I knew were all about Sephiroth. I would not be surprised if FFVII did a lot to open up RPGs to women.

      (As a note: Mara and I are playing through it right now, I'll post her impressions once I've caught up on Chet's blog, right now they are going up on Retrosmack, Trickster's new blog).

  4. The portraits look like a young (thin) Oprah and Dermot Mulroney. Don't recognize the lady on the cover

  5. I honestly think the dialog in this game is pretty good, once you've gotten a feel for the tone it's going for, which is not 100% serious.

    1. The interface is absolute garbage though.

    2. Everything about the introduction sequence in the bar reminds me of Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire. I think the designers may have been going for the same sort of semi-silly space noir.

  6. Somehow I think the cover art is great. I'm a bummer for this kind of 80's (90's?) pulp scifi art.

  7. Smuggling jobs that you get offered (redressed science missions from Sentinel Worlds), might get you to close to bases on planets where visiting results breaking the plot (or at least you get instructed to visit them at later stage of game, dialogues don't change, well... unless you killed people who were supposed to say them.).

    On the contrary, Holbrook have some abandoned military bases which you can loot at any time. (But their locations are not provided anywhere and require exploration).

    IIRC There's also exploit you could use. The robomaze is boring but quite easy way for main character to grind for experience if you leave the maze before killing final opponent or whatever you had to do get to next level (or at least, not finishing final level) and start from beginning.

    1. If you save and reload the current maze level respawns.

      I'm not sure what the point of the smuggling missions is when you can make 8K a trip running guns from Holbrook to Masstani (sp?).

    2. There is a far better way to grind XP that is free and almost completely risk free, and right next to the maze...

  8. Neat, a tutorial of sorts, better save options and background information. The typhon battlefleet sounds a bit like Mass Effect's reapers, you know they're coming...

  9. Somebody tell Chet how to land the hovercraft at the base!

    Weird that they don't allow diagonal movement but that they use fancy isometric views. Even Starflight had diagonal movement!

    1. Pretty sure he long since figured it out. You press D when you're over the arrow. A line of text telling you this pops up when you're in the right spot, it just does so in a terribly unobtrusive and hard to read color.

    2. Yeah, I got it from the manual. I had just missed it the first time. I haven't noticed it on the screen, but as you say, a lot of the instruction text is hard to read.

    3. The bright green on dark blue that is used for most of the game's interface is pretty good if you ask me, it's just the dark red over black that's used in the hovercraft interface that's unreadable.

    4. Hehe, the screenshot of the hovercraft actually has the answer directly in it :) "Hoverport. Press (D) to dock." But yeah, kind of hard to read that red text on top of the picture of mountains.

    5. My colorblindness no doubt contributes to the lack of apparent contrast in the image.

    6. I'm not colorblind and I still had to look it up.

  10. That isometric landscape view is really eye-catching, especially the way it pops up from the interface. I bet people were impressed by it in 1990.

  11. Mr. Stark reminds me of the late Rod Taylor.

  12. I actually enjoyed sentinel worlds back in the day. The story was incomprehensible but I thought the portrait style graphics were very nice in an age of CGA graphics. The one sentence descriptions of the environments added a lot of flavor. The paragraph booklet was well-done including the false entries.

    I don't remember hard nova so Must have missed it. I would have bought it if I knew it was the sequel to sentinel worlds. Nice job EA marketing.

  13. Nova's portrait makes me think of Condoleezza Rice.

    Ace brags about being a great gunner, and demonstrates this by...shooting a surprised/innocent bystander at point-blank?

    1. A person who runs is a runner.

      A person who uses a gun is a gunner.

      I'm sure that's how shit works.

  14. Excellent homepage! I really enjoy reading your stuff!

    Best Wishes from Stuttgart, Germany!

  15. The male character portrait looks to me like Andrew Garfield (Spider-Man #2).


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