I got a huge nostalgia hit, recently, in the form of a fan video. One person spent over four years hand-animating a tribute to Star Wars, but not the side of Star Wars most people are familiar with. No, this short film chose to focus on the Empire, as seen through the lens of the classic flight simulator TIE Fighter.
If you haven’t seen it, take a few minutes and watch it below:
When I was a kid, I loved Star Wars (still do, to a certain extent). But I was also really in to video games. There are several Star Wars games that stand out to me: Droidworks, Episode I Racer (which I played to the point of wearing out my joystick). But none stood higher in my mind than TIE Fighter.
Somehow (I forget the details), my family ended up in possession of the X-Wing Collector’s Edition game, which included three different flight simulators: X-Wing, TIE Fighter, and the multiplayer-focused X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter: Flight School. In fact, I still have the discs.
Like any good Star Wars fan, I started playing with X-Wing, which took me through various scenarios from the films, including (of course) the Death Star trench run. But for me, TIE Fighter was always the better experience. The Empire had better technology, a wider reach, and I loved the mystique of being able to complete secret mission objectives to gain acceptance to the Emperor’s secret society. The thought of playing as “the bad guys” very rarely crossed my mind; I took great pleasure in shooting Rebel scum and Imperial defectors out of the sky with my increasingly-powerful ships and abilities. There’s nothing more satisfying than latching on to an A-Wing with your fighter’s tractor beams so the quick little bugger can’t escape and pumping wave after wave of proton torpedoes into its backside.
As mentioned above, I still have the original game discs. But the game is old enough (1998!) that it’s difficult to get running on modern computers. GOG recently re-released the game, however, tweaked and reformatted to run smoothly on new operating systems. But I had resisted the urge; after all, why buy the game again when I already (or still) had the CD-ROM?
Well, after an attempt at tweaking and optimizing, nostalgia got the better of me. That, and the $10 gift-card-cum-rebate burning a hole in my pocket. So in probably less time than it took my 1998 PC to boot up (maybe an exaggeration), I had downloaded and installed the best flight sim I had ever played.
It’s amazing how quick things started coming back to me. Sure, my skills are a bit rusty (yeah, that’s it, not the fact that my reflexes have dulled with age), but TIE Fighter scratches an itch in a way very few other space flight sims can. My fingers found the shortcut keys and commands with uncanny familiarity, and while I still remember some of the mission details, the experience is as amazing as ever.
So if you don’t hear from me for a while, it’s probably because I’ve taken to the stars, trekking across the galaxy for nostalgia and the glory of the Empire.