Video Game Archaeology: Big Sky Trooper

It is time for more Video Game Archaeology! Video Game Archaeology is my monthly exploration of an artifact video game found during my excavations of various bargain bins and yard sales; an examination of a game cast off and long forgotten. This month’s game is Big Sky Trooper, an adventure/RPG from Lucasarts through JVC.

Honestly, I did not play this game as much as I did the previous entries; I probably did not play it enough for a fair assessment. The cause of this is twofold. First, my used cartridge is defective or just old and no longer holds a save. So any sort of sustained play is nearly impossible. Unfortunately, Big Sky Trooper is a big game, so I wasn’t able to see very much of it at all. I could have left my SNES on day and night to try to make progress, but that is not good on the machine. Or I could have downloaded a ROM and emulated the game on my computer (I strive to play these games in their natural habitat) but I didn’t. Which brings me to my second reason for not playing the game enough: I do not like Big Sky Trooper at all. Me and this game just did not click. Maybe if I had made more progress I would have come around, but the first hour or so put me off pretty thoroughly. I quit after an hour wholly bored with the experience. When I turned it on later to find no save waiting for me, I gritted my teeth and played that first hour again. I could not force myself to play it a third time. I started this feature to find obscure gems and “secret classics” (which are a thing I just made up). I know I would more than likely play many bad games looking for one that was legitimately good, but I take no pleasure in trashing a game, especially when in all reality I’ve barely played it. I did play it enough to get a general idea of what he game entails, though.

The fact that the game is from Lucasarts gave me hope that it would be good. Though they were best known for their PC games, in the early 90’s Lucasarts put out some phenomenal games. It was published by JVC, the company behind VHS tapes. They seem to have mostly published Lucasarts’ console games of the time, like Defenders of Dynatron City and the Super Star Wars games. Though it came out in the tail end of 1995, one would be forgiven for thinking this was an SNES launch title. The graphic do little to push the hardware. The game looks simple and cartoony, but not at all attractive. It’s just sort of charm-less kiddy looking fare.

After choosing a gender, the player is given a series of “tests” by a larger than life military commander who literally bursts out of the TV set on screen. The game seems to be striving for a Starship Troopers like tone, a satire, but the whole thing falls flat. Slugs are taking over the universe and the player, randomly drafted by the apparently incompetent military to lead the charge. The player is given control of a dog shaped ship called the Dire Wolf and controlled by a dog like AI. You are given a mission to reach a planet, seen on a map that shows several dots for planets, but you can’t just move straight to your goal. You must stop at each planet in between and eradicate the slugs. And before you can land on the planet, you mist play a crappy version of Asteroids to clear the path to the surface. The Asteroids clone is baffling. It is not a bad idea, but it is a really bad version of Asteroids. Your ship is huge on the screen and moves ponderously. I never failed to destroy the enemy ships, but that didn’t make those sections anything but annoying.

On the surface you shoot slugs with what appears to be a taser and ostensibly solve puzzles, though the only one I solved was simply standing on a switch to open a door. I assume the game becomes more complicated, but the first hour is dull and tedious. When you meet your contact, she tells you to go look for something else, again several planets away. So you must repeat the same tedium. I see from a map of the game world off Gamefaqs that the map eventually gets bigger, but that only implies increased tedium to me.

The world, the toothless attempts at satire and the graphics and the attempts at what I am guessing is humor, all fall flat. The gameplay is neither complex nor satisfying. It could easily get better after the first couple of hours. Maybe the gameplay options open up, maybe there are puzzles worthy of Zelda, maybe the writing hits is stride, but I have neither the time nor the inclination to stay to find out. The SNES has a library of great games, even some classics that I have not yet played (Super Star Wars for instance), I cannot justify spending any more time with a game that provides so little entertainment.