Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Top 30 Hardest NES Games Ever. Day 27

Star Voyager

This is as exciting as the graphics get, kids!

Akklaim takes a lot of flack for being "Ak-lame" and while I think they have made some really good games that I enjoy, Star Voyager seems like a strong argument for the derogatory appellation. Basically a Star Raiders clone with about half the complexity, none of the fun, and far more difficulty than a game of this sort needs, I was originally convinced that this game was broken and could not be beaten.  As a matter of fact I lobbied hard for it to be expelled from the project based on the pure fact that after more than 5 hours of playing it, I was unable to take even the first step toward victory.  Obviously I was overruled and the game stayed.  Not only did it stay, but it found itself here at #4.

Lost in Space!
What makes Star Voyager so damned difficult is the learning curve.  I have no doubt that someone with infinite patience could learn how to beat the game, but I don't know anyone with that kind of patience.  Much like other Star Raider-esque games, your job is to wipe out an imposing enemy fleet and defend your galaxy.  In Star Voyager, enemy fleets are made up of mother ships and fighters.  You must wipe out the mother ships to successfully destroy the fleet.  The fighter ships run interference and can't take much damage, but the mother ships are armored to the teeth.  First, you must locate the enemy fleets as they spread out into your sector of space.  Once located, you engage in battle.  You have shields and guns and all of the usual space combat stuff at your disposal.  The fundamental game is not much different than a TIE Fighter sequence from Star Wars The Arcade Game.  What is different is just how freaking hard it is to defeat a fleet.  The fighters hit you hard and full throttle from the minute you enter their sector of space.  The mother ship hits twice as hard and takes a ridiculous amount of punishment before it can be destroyed.  Your ship is not so well equipped.  Unless you keep moving, you can be taken out completely in about 2 minutes.  Sadly, maneuverability is not your strong suit either.  The enemy ships dart in and out of your sights with unnerving speed and adroitness.  Just locking on to an enemy ship is an act of god.  I have never played a game where dog fighting combat is this one-sided.  In all honesty, I played this game for nearly 7 hours and never once did I destroy an enemy fleet.  You can count the mother ships I destroyed on one hand.  It is just brutally hard.
The game does feature things to assist you in your mission.  Scattered throughout the galaxy are friendly planets and if you land on the right ones, the denizens of that world can upgrade your engines, your shields, or your lasers.  The tough part is finding the right worlds.  You can waste a lot of time and energy planet hopping and not come up with any improvements.  All the while, the enemy fleet is encroaching on your home base.  So it is great to go looking, but waste too much time and all of the upgrades in the world cannot save your game.  There are also star bases located around the galaxy that you can dock at to repair your ship and refuel.  These are vital as you are going to be taking a LOT of punishment.  The tough part is that every retreat takes you away from where the action is and wastes valuable time and energy you need to spend pounding the enemy.  It is also difficult if the enemy hits your engines because the trek back to a star base can be extremely difficult and sometimes futile.  These two aspects are meant to help you take down the enemy fleet, but more often than not they are a source of frustration and waste valuable time.
If you are lucky, Space Jesus will come and make your ship more powerful!  Start praying now!

I think I was destroyed every way possible during my time with Star Voyager.  I was blown to bits by the enemy, I was stranded when I ran out of fuel, and I lost the home world while I was away searching planets for upgrades.  The only thing I did not do in Star Voyager was anything remotely connected to beating the game.  My general sense is that there is a learning curve in there somewhere, and once you get past that the game opens up and becomes much easier.  However, I must conclude that after 7 hours of play, that learning curve is so deep into the game that few will ever find  and overcome it.  The game just flat out beats the hell out of you and doesn't let up.  I'm not saying I am the master gamer over here, but if I played Star Voyager for over 7 hours and never beat a single fleet, then it must be pretty tough, and that for me is top 5 Hardest NES games material.


  1. You are exactly right. This game is brutally hard. I have spent way more than 7 hours, probably at least 30, and I think I destroyed two or three mother ships. The difficulty of the game is just stupid. You go into it like "I've got this, bring it." Then you get hammered like 45 seconds into a fight and barely have enough engines left to leave the fight. Thinking you are smarter now after your first battle and first few futile playthroughs, you say to yourself, "sooner or later I'm going to get a mothership and learn how to win this game. All I need are better lasers and other equipment from the planets." So you go around the planets and collect things, but it doesn't matter. I wonder if the game's creators could beat it. I would be astonished if anyone beat the oncoming hoard of enemy ships.

  2. The fact that you destroyed a single mothership is very impressive. No matter what you try, direct assault, loading up with weapons, hit and run, nothing seems to prepare you to take on a single fleet, much less the entire armada. Tough game.