Star Trek: Starfleet Academy – Strategic Command
The Game: You’ve just embarked on the most challenging field of study at Starfleet Academy: Command College. Your instructor, the recently-promoted Captain Sulu (still two years away from his command of the U.S.S. Excelsior), arrives just a little bit late for his first lecture. Your initial missions include such tasks as destroying minefields, but your assignments soon grow in both complexity and risk. Not only must you battle alien threats in Starfleet’s most advanced simulator, but you must also get your crew to cooperate and learn how to lead them. (Interplay, 1998)
Memories: Though it’s mired in the mid-1990s trend of endless cutscenes and movies, inside Starfleet Academy is actually a fun little game, really more or less a 90s update of the old Star Trek arcade game with much flashier graphics (not the least of which is the full-motion video foreground of your crewmembers at the helm and at other stations) and a slightly different storyline.
One of Interplay’s biggest selling points for this game when it was first released was that it was the first Star Trek game to include any of the original cast members as anything more than voice actors. Some of it is interesting to watch, but (A) I want to play a game, not watch snippets of an unmade Star Trek movie, and (B) Shatner’s in it. I know dear old Bill has his defenders out there, and hey, even I liked how he played Captain Kirk a lot of the time. But in the video cutscenes for Starfleet Academy, he’s ill-at-ease, shiftless, and – when he opens his mouth – just a wee bit hammy, an accusation I realize that the much-beleaguered actor has never before faced. Maybe it was the oddity of having to work on an empty bluescreen set over which computer-generated sets and backgrounds would be added later…but Shatner should be used to that by now. If the only original series actors who had shown up had been George Takei and Walter Koenig, I would’ve been happy with it. There’s more of a rapport there than there is between Shatner and Takei anyway.
The game itself is more or less an arcade action first-person ship-shooter, with a few elements of strategy and resource/personnel management thrown in for good measure. The controls, though they can get a little bit intricate as you progress, become instinctive pretty quickly.
The graphics are decent, and the music – by Ron Jones, who was fired by Rick Berman after turning in too much music the producer considered too energetic for Star Trek: The Next Generation – rocks.
But really, when you get right down to it, it’s a lot like the old Star Trek arcade game, just with better audiovisual elements and lots of movies thrown into the mix. Granted, they’re new movies, starring some of the classic Trek actors, and the CGI model work is very cool, but when the intro movies start to squeeze the game for CD-ROM space, there’s too much playback and not enough play.
Fortunately, Interplay’s next Star Trek title was vastly improved.