Countless works of fiction have focused on humanity's struggle to leave the safety of planet Earth and create far-reaching networks - be those lowly colonies or planet-destroying galactic empires. Star Wars, Star Trek, Aliens, Firefly...Red Dwarf. The list is endless, and doesn't stop with the motion picture - 2001: A Space Odyssey (and sequels), The Stars My Destination, Gateway, The Forever War, Altered Carbon...all outstanding literary works with a common theme - that of our harnessing of wondrous technology and the breaking of the chains that hold us to the planet we call home. But what of games set in the black void? They too are numerous and the Dreamcast plays host to some of the finest space-based shmups known to man, but in this post I don't want to talk about those. I want to focus on the games that take the space-based shooting template and weave it into more of a dramatic story-driven production. Those games that involve a little bit more than dodging bullets and getting to the end of the level; and focus more on story lines, character development and fighting a tangible threat for a worthy cause. I want to talk space operas and happily, the Dreamcast has several that are actually rather good. Join me as we step beyond the veil and enter hyperspace to look at the best space shooters available for Sega's final entry into the games race...
Bang! Gunship Elite
Developer: Rayland Interactive
Publisher: Red Storm/Ubisoft
MacGuffin-based reasons for an intergalactic war between several different races is standard stuff. In this particular war, the magical source of all of mankind's energy is a substance known as Khá, and the Alliance is fighting a losing battle against the invading Sektar forces. Cue you, a rookie pilot, being fast-tracked through the academy and then pushed out into space on your own to complete a variety of missions that tread familiar ground for fans of the genre: skirmishes, seek & destroy and convoy protection missions are all par for the course here.
Developer: Digital Anvil/Warthog
The three games I've covered in this article are all outstanding titles in their own right. They all offer a unique experience yet are set in similar environments and all share the key elements of a good space-based adventure. In all of them, you play a lone pilot who is part of a threatened alliance. You are the archetypal underdog with the odds stacked against you and the fate of your people resting on your shoulders. The only thing standing between freedom and certain death are well-maintained laser cannons, a quick trigger finger, and - in some cases - the help of an ally or two. That said, all three of them are different enough to warrant owning them all in my opinion. Armada is more about exploration and upgrading; Bang! is more about solitary dogfighting and Starlancer's game is focussed on commanding squadrons and using tactics. That said, if I could only choose one out of the three, then it would surely be Starlancer; it just has it all - great looks, amazing gameplay and a totally engrossing storyline. It is easily one of the best games on the Dreamcast and if you like space-based shooters it should already be in your library.
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Anyway, enough from me - what do you think about the Dreamcast's space shooters? Agree? Disagree? Let us know in the comments or head over to our new DCJY Facebook Group and get involved in the discussion!