Overall Rating: 3/5
One popular video game genre in the arcades was the space shooter: Whether it was the now-classic Galaga units or the horizontal Defender models, there always came a distinct sense of satisfaction at piloting your technologically advanced aircraft and defending the planet by blasting the crap out of alien intruders.
The Nintendo Entertainment System released its fair share of vertical shooters, including the military-themed Sky Shark and a modest little title from the now-legendary developer Rare called Captain Skyhawk. Completely played from a top-down perspective, it followed the mission of an advanced fighter jet in an effort to repel alien forces from destroying the world. It also featured levels where the pilot had to drop supplies to scientists, in order to form a more powerful weapon to destroy the alien base.
This game had remarkable graphics for an 8-bit title. Using isometric line drawing similar to those in Marble Madness, Skyhawk retained a faux three-dimensional effect, granting all the sceneries, ships, and effects a digital-framework feel that truly enhanced the gameplay. The clever developers deserve credit for creating such a unique, state-of-the-art appearance. The only downside was the somewhat repetitive appearance of the levels: Although the enemies, specific path, and colors changed, they otherwise retained a very similar feel.
Featuring music by renowned video game composer David Wise, the soundtrack soared to new heights compared to most games, and the sound effects were pitch-perfect: From the reverberating explosions, to the flight of the craft, to the rapid gunfire of the fighter’s cannons, this title stretched the NES to its effect limits.
The interesting thing about Skyhawk is that, although it is an interesting and enjoyable game, there definitely seemed to be more effort put into its packaging than into its play. The concept itself had been seen before, but Captain Skyhawk put it into an intergalactic battle across pretty landscapes and booming sounds. Once you boil it down to its basic elements though, Skyhawk is fairly ho-hum, with all of its innovations coming into the audiovisual department.
The game does have a steep learning curve, as the amount of difficulty will deter many. But there is a simple invincibility code, where the player can simple run his or her thumb around the control pad a few times while the credits are on before the game begins; after a flash signals the code has been entered, the craft is now completely invincible! This makes most of the game easy, though a few levels still require finesse precision, but whether invincible or not, the title is good for a few play-throughs at best.
Worth a look but not a love, Captain Skyhawk gets a thumbs-up for its space-age settings and an alright three stars out of five rating.
To see other not-quite-there NES game examples, experience NintendoLegend.com.