Read From Memory: Resident Evil 2 pt. 3

Last time we got to the “safe” police station in Resident Evil 2 with Leon. That’s where we’ll pick up today.

An Eclectic Place

We enter the police station, and the camera pans up so we can take in the place. It resembles a museum or library more than a station, but as we know in the real world, that was an intentional art direction choice. The raccoon police seal is set in the floor below us. Ahead of us there’s a fountain with a prominent statue, flanked by ramps which lead up to a platform/desk area. There’s a visible second floor which we can’t get to, with a high vaulted ceiling. A few doors to our left, and nothing else I can make out on this screen.

The place is apparently deserted. And the compared to the nightmare outside, it looks clean and orderly. No sign of a struggle, except for the fact that nobody’s around.

Heading up quick to the information desk which sits behind the statue, we find some ammo, a computer (which we can’t access yet) and a save typewriter. Ah yes, old school Resident Evil, where even the save function is made into a resource.

We head to the small door in the left center of the screen, and enter into an office of some kind.

A Canceled Party

The room is completely trashed. Compared to the last area, it looks like it was lived in and fought in. We hear a groaning coming from somewhere else. Going over there, we meet a wounded officer, sitting on the floor, slumped against the lockers. “Oh, man!” Leon exclaims. I’m sorry but the dialog is awesome in this game.

The poor soul recognizes  Leon as the “new guy” and apologizes for canceling his welcoming party. The RPD seems like they were solid dudes. Anyway, the wounded cop explains some more about what happened, specifically about S.T.A.R.S. S.T.A.R.S. member Chris Redfield (Claire’s brother) and the others attempted to reveal the truth of what happened at the mansion, and suddenly the zombie attacks occurred in the town. And Umbrella Corporation is behind it.

Not much time to talk, so he gives us a keycard and begs us to leave him and rescue survivors in the other rooms. He puts his gun in our face to make his point, to which Leon says “Ok fine.” We leave the room, and the door locks behind us, somehow. I have a feeling when we see this man again, he’ll be turned. I have some memories of this, but I don’t know how elaborate his involvement will be.

Searching the Station

We have the keycard now, which grants us access to the computer terminal in the receptionist’s area. Leon unlocks the doors in the hall near the entrance. By time-honored tradition, I take the lefthand door.

We end up in a kind of large room, with an inventory box. These boxes are interesting because inventory management is essentially a minigame in itself. Your weapons take up slots, as do ammunition. You also need to carry some healing items, unless you’re very bad ass (I am not). We also need to carry key items (like…keys, for instance) and puzzle items. Since there’s not enough space for it all, with only eight slots available to us, we have to be strategic about what we carry.

I’m not going to both with the details of this as I write up the game, suffice it to say I prefer to carry more weapons and fewer healing items, along with the requisite key items for solving the puzzles. I don’t want to spend any more time than I have to in this place.

See what Resident Evil 2 is doing to me with atmopshere alone?

Text Misadventures

Anyway, in this room there’s also a POLICE MEMORANDUM on a pad next to the storage box. It says that the munitions have been moved from the S.T.A.R.S. office to the east office on the first floor. Helpfully lists the combination for us 2-2-3-6. Pitiful opsec, but I’m grateful for it.

As we go to leave, some very nasty looking crawls on the outside window. In the next hall, which is really damaged, we come across a headless body. Investigating, Leon picks up some more handgun bullets, and continuing on a little further, we come up to a pool of blood, and a short cutscene introducing us to said creature. The Licker.

Ah yes, the iconic Licker. It’s a hideous looking beast, with a long tongue, nasty teeth and claws, and no skin so all its musculature is exposed. I always thought it had metal plating on its shoulders and spinal column, but upon a closer look I think it’s bone. Key the “urgent” music at this confrontation.

The licker moves weirdly. It sort of hops at you from the crouching position, but also flattens itself out before it pounces. The movement makes it a difficult target, especially if you’re creeped out by it. Both its tongue and its claw put the hurt on you real quick, so I blast this thing a couple times with the shotgun to put it out of its misery.

There’s another door here on the side, but we ignore it for now and head to the door at the end of the hall. There are a couple of herbs here so we gather those and combine them. The next hallway is rather narrow, with a lot of hastily boarded up windows, but the place is a mess like the last hall. Going around here, we enter into what looks like a briefing room.

The briefing room, like everything else, is a junk pile. To Leon’s left there’s another pad, titled Operation Report. It says that Raccoon PD was “unexpectedly” attacked by zombies. I don’t know if one ever actually expects that, but ok. All comms are down and there’s no contact with the outside world. Explains why Leon couldn’t raise anybody on the radio, I suppose. Besides the fact that everybody was dead or wounded, of course. It also means no help is coming for us. But I guess we knew that implicitly. So, the PD decides to carry out rescue operations and quarantine the area.

The battle plan is as follows: Chief Irons, due to “terrorism concerns” (?) ordered all the weapons and ammo distributed to decentralized locations, to prevent their seizure. By terrorists. I’m unsure of the wisdom of this move, as is the author of the report, who laments the difficulty in retrieving the munitions. So top priority number one is to get our load outs in order. There is an underground weapons storage room, which still has some goodies in it. But, the person with the keycard has gone missing (was it our friend from the first room?) and power the locks is down. Thus, top priority number two, therefore, to get the power back.  The “recorder” is listed as David Ford.

There’s a follow-up Operation Report (in the same document), also recorded by David Ford. The “west barricade” fell and the injured were sheltered in the confiscation room. That doesn’t sound wise during a zombie attack, to be honest. But what were they to do? Twelve more casualties. An additional report tells us about the licker, which suddenly appeared and killed three people. I’m going to guess that the countermeasures Ford refers to weren’t developed in time, or they didn’t work. That’s the end of the report.

“We cannot get out.”

Red Jewels

Moving on to the back of the room, there’s a painting on the fireplace. It’s a creepy painting, of a woman with her hands bound above her head a noose. I now remember why Leon has the lighter, switching to that, we light up the fireplace. This causes the painting to burn through, and a red jewel drops on the floor in front of us.

Score one puzzle item. More hand gun bullets in here too. Thanks for that. I return to the hall and carry on.

There are a bunch of zombies in this next hallway, who groan and shuffle toward Leon. Manuevering around them, we head to the stairs and go up to the second floor. At the end of this area, there’s a statue surrounded by two little statues. It just looks like they can be moved, huh? I remember this puzzle, it’s one of those “pressure plate” deals. Shuffling the statues to face each other, this releases another red jewel to us.

If I’m not mistaken, these jewels will give us a key. Somehow. It’ll come back to me.

Moving on to the next hall, there are a few “cop zombies” shuffling about. Avoiding these, we go into the first room on Leon’s left, the S.T.A.R.S. office. There’s a locker we can open in here for weapons (I thought this was moved?) On the desk, we can thread through Chris Redfield’s diary. Essentialy it’s more background information on the outbreak, and what happened in the preceeding weeks since the first game. But we also learn that Chris has decided to fly over to Europe to take the fight directly to Umbrella Corp.

Underneath the diary, we get another puzzle piece, the Unicorn medal. With that, Claire comes into the room. Reunited at last!

Since this has been a very long entry, this is where I’ll stop for now.

 

 

 

Read From Memory: Resident Evil 2 pt. 2

Yesterday I covered some of the basics of this latest Read From Memory series, about Resident Evil 2. As most of you know, the game has two protagonists, Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield. On the original PlayStation version, Leon’s Story is on Disc One, whereas Ms. Redfield is Disc Two. Additionally, each character has an “A” scenario and a “B” scenario. It’s been a long time, but I’m pretty sure you have to beat the game once on A scenario to unlock the B scenario. Your game save carries over, and what you do does affect future plays.

I can’t remember any of the parameters of what’s needed to secure A rank or S rank plays. I assume those are far beyond my skills after twenty years. I’m playing the Dual Shock version on PS Vita, for the record.   I also don’t know which order is considered canon (i.e., Leon A to Claire B, or vice versa).

So without further ado, let’s get started with Leon A, shall we?

First Day on the Job

The opening cinematic holds up pretty well twenty years later. We get some exposition explaining the events of the first game, a bunch of narration over some stylized stills of iconic scenes and art from that game. Apparently, the events at the doomed mansion took place two months before.  Then we cut to Leon’s path, following the rookie cop in his jeep as he pulls into Raccoon City. He’s stopped by a dead body lying in the middle of the road. He leaves his vehicle to investigate, and is soon attacked by a mob of the undead.

Leon, of course, is as green as they come, and he doesn’t know anything about any T-Viruses or flesh-eating zombie monsters. He vainly orders the zombified townfolk to back off, but they keep coming on just as the corpse on the ground animates and grabs him. The rookie makes a run for it (who wouldn’t?) and in an alley behind a diner, comes face to face with Claire Redfield, who is similarly harried by the dead.

Leon recovers his composure, boom headshots the zombie about to bite Claire, and two beleaguered survivors make haste for the nearby squad car. They get in and rush off.

Separated By Destiny

As the two speed away, they make their brief introductions: Leon is reporting for duty to Raccoon Police force, while Claire is looking for her brother Chris. Chris Redfield, the very same S.T.A.R.S member from the first game. Leon insists the police station is the safest place in this crisis (despite that he can’t raise them on radio…). He asks Claire to check out the glove box, and there’s a gun in there. She takes it so she’s armed now, thankfully.

The respite is brief. We have a zombie passenger in the back who tries to join in our conversation. The guy – who’s model looks weirdly like Leon’s – tries to bite our hero, and in the struggle, Leon loses the control of the car. He crashes it into a road sign, and the zombie is ejected out a window.

In the distance, an 18 wheeler barrels down the street, presumably to ram our heroes. The driver is now turned (we met this poor chap briefly in the cutscene before) and it drives the rig straight into the wreck. Leon and Claire escape in the nick of time, and there’s an impressive explosion.

The Nightmare Begins

Leon and Claire are separated by the destruction. Leon tells Claire to get to the station, where he’ll meet up with her. With that, we’re in gameplay mode.

A few zombies are upon us already, and though we’re armed with a handgun and a combat knife, we need to book it. Ammo is limited in this game and the knife is essentially useless in straight up encounters with zombies. More importantly, though, health is limited too.  It takes me a bit to get used to the controls, which are built around the fixed camera angles. Been a long time. These pre-rendered backgrounds still look great, even if the low poly character models are starting to show their age.

The undead shamble and shuffle their way to me, at slow but relentless paces. As you might expect zombies to move. The key here is to zigzag your way through them. Even if you’re playing on Easy, with tons of ammo and weaker enemies, the designers love to give you bullet sponges in this early going. Yes, the initial screens are a tutorial of sorts…to get you used to moving and shooting. But we don’t need that. We need to get to the police station and to conserve as much of our ammunition and health as possible.

Moving left two screens and down one screen, ducking the zombies as we go, the game’s environment depicts a scene of a desperate and quick battle. Everywhere the streets are trashed with makeshift barricades, abandoned vehicles and riot control equipment. Sends a chill down my spine, really.

On the next screen, we reach a gun shop with a parked SUV out front. How fortuitous.

Kendo’s Gun Shop

Once we’re inside (love those door loading screens by the way) we’re confronted by a shotgun-wielding owner. Leon quickly confirms he’s not the dead, and Bob Kendo, the proprietor, eases up. He moves over to the door and locks it behind us, and gives us a very brief (though not very helpful) rundown of the situation in Raccoon City.

He assures us he’s watching things, so we head behind the counters and loot some sorely needed gun ammo. There’s a crash behind us, and we go into a brief cutscene in which the hapless owner is beset upon and devoured by four zombies. So passes Bob Kendo.

We now have an interesting gameplay choice to make: do we exchange a sizeable amount of handgun ammo for Bob’s shotgun? If I remember right, it’s only got a few shells left. I decide I feel better with that street howitzer, so I put down rabid dead and grab it.

To the Station

Leaving The gun shop via the door behind the counter, I’m back in another narrow alley. After a screen, there’s an urban basketball court with dead behind the fence.  If you go to the end of this alley, there’s another box of handgun rounds in a dumpster. At that, the dead break through the door and start shambling toward you. There’s no room to maneuver here, so we have to expend more precious ammo to put them down.

After taking care of that, we head into the basketball court and rush to the other door. This leads us to another narrow alley, with stairs leading up. We’re on a catwalk now. There’s a surprising amount of graffiti on the walls and papered junk. Guess urban decay is even out here in a small midwestern city.  Around the catwalk, and back down another set of stairs, we’re back in the alleys. On this screen, to Leon’s right are some barrels that contain more handgun ammo (thank you) and to his left, a few zombies blocked by a blue dumpster.

The thought occurs to me to stand atop the dumpster and pour lead into these monsters. But, you know, we need to be smart about things. So instead, Leon hops down and we zig-zag our way through the alley and the zombie crowd to the door at the end of the alley. In the next screen, there’s a bunch of zombies feasting on a corpse. We run past these as they slowly realize fresher meat is on the market. A barricade blocks our way, but we can enter into a bus, which we do. Ominous music picks up, and the bus is hell, with corpses slumped everywhere.  But the scenery is worse than enemies, two of which shamble toward us. We blow them away and continue on outside, but pick up some more ammo from a discarded satchel.  Outside the bus, we haul past more zombies and emergency response vehicles in flames, before banking to Leon’s left and into another door. Once the new area loads, we cut to Leon’s right, run down a side lawn area, ducking the zombies (as usual by this point) and finally, we’re at the RPD. At last.

Safety!

Next Up

A long post today for the relatively short initial area. To cut down on word counts, I’m going to try to condense in the following

 

Read From Memory: Resident Evil 2

Welcome to the first Read From Memory series of 2018, it’s time to remember Resident Evil 2. The first Resident Evil had been an alternate pick up for me and a friend from the local Blockbuster; we wanted to rent something like Mortal Kombat Trilogy or Legacy of Kain. We got it on a whim, fired up the PSX and after that memorable FMV sequence, the game sucked us in. It’s still funny to me how we stumbled upon what would turn out to be one of the more iconic game franchises purely by accident. Two years later though, we were ready for Resident Evil 2.

Now, I don’t actually care for horror games, but my friend insisted that we put it on the playlist. I’m glad I listened to him. Despite being one player, Resident Evil 2 ended up being a sort of party game for us for a while. During one of the many puzzle quests in the police station, I remember the soundtrack turning off, and being off for a long while. My friend was convinced that the music was some sort of puzzle too (that would have been cool). So he cranked up the volume on the old TV. When he finally recovered the piece from the interrogation room…well, some of you probably know what happened next.

It was in the dead of the morning, and many of us were dosing for the sleepover. I’ll never forget how loud that smashing window sounded, even with the noise coming from my ancient monaural TV. We all jumped up (literally) while my friend playing frantically paused the game.

Damn licker.

Anyway, I’m going to be making my way through the police station and other locales of Raccoon City all this week, culminating with the twentieth anniversary this coming Sunday.

Read From Memory: Rogue Squadron Pt. 5

Last time in Rogue Squadron, we shot down the evil Moff Seerdon and defeated his invasion of Thyferra. With that, we’ve completed the campaign that started way back on Tatooine. So what’s left to do? Glad you asked.

Rogue Squadron: Chapter Four

We go through a time warp, to years after the destruction of the second Death Star. Luke is long gone, of course, but in this timeline, the Empire is far from defeated. We’re now in the shoes of Wedge Antilles, and he’s leading Rogue Squadron against the World Devastators. These immense, rectangular ships may look awkward, but they have a lot of firepower. Their gimmick is they suck up everything in their path, break it all down into common elements, then recycle the materials into drone TIE Fighters.

Apparently, the new Emperor is super green.

Anyway, this is part of the plot of the Dark Horse comic book series Dark Empire. That’s also the subtitle of this Chapter. In this story, the Emperor quite sensibly cloned himself, so he didn’t really die on the second Death Star as shown in Return of the Jedi. His new fleet includes these monstrous “World Devastators,” which he sends out against the New Republic to settle the score. Included on his kill list is the planet Calamari, where the Admiral Ackbar people live. It’s a neat scenario for a flight combat sim, anyway, and a look into Star Wars after the movies. Of course, this was before the prequels or the sequels existed.

Mission Sixteen: The Battle of Calamari

The sole mission of Chapter Four is also the last regular mission of the game. As I explained above, you’re now flying as Wedge Antilles. If you haven’t been getting medals and replaying missions (or using Cheats…) this is your first chance to fly a V-Wing. The V-Wing feels like the lovechild between the A-Wing and the Speeder. The thing can haul. It also includes a super boost feature which sends your craft out pretty far. It has twin laser cannons, ala the Speeder and A-Wing, but also a “Rapid Fire” option that gives you quick, powerful bursts of lasers. The secondary weapon is a Cluster missile, which is basically like a shotgun blast. So the V-Wing is pretty powerful, but it’s also pretty fragile and doesn’t handle all that great.

We’ll be thankful anyway against the Devastators.

The world map is oceanic and big, but we can cover the distances quickly enough. We have to disable three Devastators before they can destroy the Calamari cities. We accomplish this by knocking out the water towers on top of the ships. Or rather, the shield generators. Then we have to blow off two of their “feet” which causes them to drop to the ground, harmless. There are also futuristic drone TIEs to shoot down for good measure. The main challenge here is a race against time. But at this point, we’re pretty adept at this game. So after a few tries to get used to the V-Wing and the enemy’s patterns, we save Calamari. With a gold medal and everything.

That concludes Rogue Squadron!

Conclusion

I mentioned three hidden levels and a ton of other unlockables. As I said before, the hidden levels aren’t much to write home about. Beggar’s Canyon is probably the only content we never saw previously to Rogue Squadron. Both the Trench Run and the Hoth battle have appeared in video games going back to the early 80s. In this case, I’ve done all that previously in my life, and I don’t want to spend much more time with this game. Unlocking the levels eventually requires getting a gold medal on each of the missions.

The game still holds up pretty well after nineteen years, but I’m curious how the n64 version looks compared to the upscaled PC version. The A/V world was pretty different for me in the 90s; playing consoles on a 13in tube TV – complete with channel and volume dials and RFU adaptor. I’m guessing, probably not as good as I remember.

Still, Rogue Squadron was a surprise hit of 1998. If you have a gamepad and $5-10 to spare, depending on sales, it’s worth it to see how Star Wars games used to be. Short, to be sure, but fun. Keyword, fun.

Thanks for reading this second entry in the Read From Memory series. Sure feels nice to finish an entry in less than a week!

Read From Memory: Rogue Squadron Pt. 4

Last time in Rogue Squadron, we used Kasan Moor’s intelligence to wreck a few Imperial ops, and rescued Rebel POWs. We continue now with Chapter III.

Rogue Squadron: Chapter Three

The Star Wars style text scrolls under the subtitle “The New Threat.” Moff Kohl Seerdon, an Imperial official, is making a name for himself by taking the fight to the Rebellion. His plan is to conquer a world called Thyferra, which supplies a substance called bacta. Apparently, this is the main ingredient for all kinds of medicines for the Rebel Alliance, so they cannot afford to lose this planet.  To counter this threat, Rogue Squadron deploys throughout the sector and engages in hit and run tactics. Like disrupting the Imperial mining operation on Taloraan. This is where our story picks up.

Mission Eleven: Battle Above Taloraan

We’re in A-Wings for this mission by default. As Rogue Squadron comes onto the scene, there’s a dialog between Wedge, Luke, and Ms. Moor. Basically explaining the mission parameters here; we need to avoid as much collateral damage as possible. This is a “sky” mission, meaning there’s no ground at all except for the hovering platforms and Cloud City’s twin. There are several floating platforms which have large tanks on them, filled with something called Tibanna gas. This is the main ingredient for Imperial weaponry, so the fluff says. Anyway, we’re only permitted to destroy the canisters marked with Imperial insignia, and we need to avoid shooting down any cloud cars. Nice gameplay twist here.

The mission isn’t overly interesting at first. TIE Fighters patrol the platforms, but they’re not too much trouble. Every once in a while a fighter will spawn in and track you down, I’m going to start calling these guys “seekers.” By the third or fourth platform, gun turrets will start to fire on you. These die without too many hits, but the danger here is they’ll indiscriminately shoot the civilian tanks trying to take you out. So you need to be swift. A swarm of TIE Interceptors will appear in a scripted event halfway through the mission. Again, these guys aren’t too tough, but the A-Wing is weak.

The last platform is the trickiest, as there are a few SAM turrets nestled with the containers. Once you’ve nuked everything Empire, the mission is complete.

This is my favorite level in the game. The challenge is just right, the A-Wing feels like the correct fighter, the enemies aren’t too dumb, and the world is open and immense.

Mission Twelve: Escape From Fest

A squad of Rebel Commandos stole three AT-PT walkers from a secret research facility on the planet Fest. Rogue Squadron needs to give them cover while they make their escape. We’re in Snowspeeders for this episode, which is one of the more obnoxious levels in the game.

Sorry. I meant to say “challenging levels.”

With the caveat that this is just a game, we deploy overhead the harried little AT-PTs as they stomp their way across the map to the evac shuttle. And I mean harried. Before this one is over, we have to trip up no fewer than three AT-AT’s, strafe a mess of stormtroopers, take out a panzer division worth of droid tanks, and shoot down several waves of TIE Bombers/Fighters. There are lots of turrets too. The AT-PTs are quite fragile, and when those TIE Bombers come, you had better have destroyed all the tanks that rolled into the valley floor. Or you’ll be seeing the Mission Over screen a lot.

Suffice it to say, while “Raid on Sullust” gets all the infamy, I dislike this mission intensely. From pleasure to pain in just one level, huh? It’s tough and long, too. But we get to meet the voice of Moff Seerdon, though, and he’s an appropriately condescending and sneering villain for a Star Wars game.

Mission Thirteen: Blockade on Chandrilla

Moff Seerdon is not pleased that we stole his three little AT-PTs, or “absconded” as he says in the game dialog. Our other more recent exploits are on his grievance list as well. So in retaliation, he orders his forces to blockade Chandrilla, an important rebel ally.  Rogue Squadron escorts a hover train into the city to relieve the oppression of the siege, but we have to make sure it gets in there in one piece.

For the first phase of the level, we’re literally stuck on rails as TIE Fighters, Interceptors, and Bombers come after the train. This is tense, as a certain Star Wars character might say. After a lengthy dogfight, complete with seekers regularly targeting us, we get a cutscene in which Moff Seerdon threatens to shoot us all down. His bombers begin to level the city, so we move to intercept, kicking off the second phase.

The third phase of the battle involves protecting evac shuttles. These shuttles land conveniently in front of Scout Walkers, which proceed to pummel the craft. Hopefully you have some missiles left to destroy them. At last, this action-filled mission settles down. But in the closing cutscene, Moff Seerdon goads the traitor Kasan Moor into an attack. Her X-Wing is damaged though, and Luke again shows good command presence with his subordinates, ordering her to stand down. Seerdon gives us his best villain cackle, and calls her a coward.

Mission Fourteen: Raid on Sullust

Here we go. When I first played Rogue Squadron on the 64, I had cruised along until I got to Sullust. After spending an hour vainly trying to clear the mission, I called my friend to vent and get some tips. All he could say was, “yup.” I was SOL, in other words. Stuck on this level until I got good enough (or lucky enough) to beat it. We weren’t the only ones who endured this trauma, I assure you.

Anyway, Kasan Moor is determined to avenge the insults she suffered in the last mission. So she plans this raid on a volcanic complex on Sullust. There’s a lot of technobabble about thermal generators and such. It results in you getting to do a bombing run inside a caldera.  Ironically, this is as close to hell as we can get in Rogue Squadron.

This is a two part mission; first we bomb multiple shield generators. Our main target is the floating structure, shielded by the aforementioned generators. The targets on the ground are small, but easy to find: they’re bristling with gun emplacements, SAM launchers, and Scout Walkers. An entire squadron of TIEs patrols the area, and seekers spawn regularly.

By the way, you’re in a Y-Wing. Yes, the painfully slow, hulking, flying death traps. Be prepared to be shot down many times. You’ll be under constant fire while trying to bulls eye the minuscule ground targets in a very, very poorly lit environment.  After you manage to destroy them all, you’ll have to blow up the floating structure. This involves shooting multiple pylons as they steadily rotate round in the center of the thing.

For all my complaining, I managed to beat the mission on my first try here. Barely. I guess something stayed with me.

Mission Fifteen: Moff Seerdon’s Revenge

To pour salt on the wound from the Sullust mission, it appears that Moff Seerdon played us like a damn fiddle. While Rogue Squadron meandered about in the dark volcano, Seerdon launched his assault on Thyferra and captured all of the bacta supplies. With our backs against the wall, Luke leads a desperate assault to recapture the supplies and drive the Imperials off.

We’re back in X-Wings, thankfully.

This final mission of Chapter III is fairly difficult. You have your pick of targets here, but you’ll be dogged by seekers most of the way and the attack vectors are awkward. You have to wipe out every last red dot on your radar screen, while avoiding any collateral damage. The Scout Walkers and TIE bombers will plague you with this mission item, so you have to be quick to eliminate them before they can do too much damage. Thankfully, unlike in the Sullust mission, you have an entire open map to cruise around in, with multiple valleys and mountains to duck into and around for cover as needed. Once you destroy all the Imperial forces, Moff Seerdon himself will spawn in. He’s in a command shuttle, which he has apparently tricked out with seeker missiles and heavy lasers.

Luke engages the Moff in a one-on-one dogfight, and the shuttle can absorb a lot of damage. When you finally shut the windbag up, you’ll get a closing cutscene in which all the rebels express their gratitude for their ace pilot and Ms. Moor professes her love for the fledgling Jedi. Or something like that.

Next Up

In the final entry for this Read From Memory series, I’ll cover the solitary mission in Chapter IV. It’s not what you’d expect, but it’s entertaining at least. Thanks for reading!

Read From Memory: Rogue Squadron Pt. 3

Continuing from where we left off yesterday, we just picked up Kasan Moor, leader of the “dreaded, elite, best of the best” 128th TIE Interceptor squadron. We’ve learned the basics of the game, flew in most of the available craft and did several mission types. Now we pick up with Chapter II.

Rogue Squadron: Chapter Two

We get the same classic scrolling text on a star field as in Chapter One. Chapter Two is aptly called Rogue Squadron. The exposition fills us in on Kasan Moor, the newest member of the team. She apparently is a native of Alderaan; the very same exploded planet from A New Hope. Understandably, Ms. Moor feels cross about this and decides to join the team that didn’t obliterate her homeworld. In addition to her considerable talent as a combat pilot, she also brings intelligence of many imperial bases in the sector.

So let’s get back into the fight.

Mission Six: The Jade Moon

Kasan Moor’s first piece of information about the Imperials involves a base on Jade Moon. It’s a storage facility and an ideal target for a raid. Our other imperial defector, Krix Madine, is now a general and will lead the ground assault. Rogue Squadron’s job is to provide air cover. This is a space mission, though we’re close to the moon’s surface throughout it all. The lighting effects are impressive for a 1998 game. We’re back in the X-Wing for this one.

Once we’re in the air and the assault team rolls on to its objective, Wedge asks for a private channel. Luke opens it, and Wedge expresses concern that Kasan might be a double agent. Can’t say I blame him on that, but Luke quickly tells him to stow it until later. Good professionalism on his part.

A few turrets and AT-PTs populate the first valley. We knock these out in quick order. The storage base lies at the end of the valley, but a shield protects it. While the ground troops sit tight, we bank left and take out quite a few more gun emplacements and SAM turrets. The shield generator is nestled in a choke point, so the approach is obnoxious. But after a few passes, we blow the generator.

The shield going down prompts a scripted event. Madine’s troops come under heavy attack. AT-PTs, TIE Interceptors, and Bombers assault their position. But Rogue Squadron returns to the scene and mops them up. Afterward, Luke gives Kasan a pep talk about her recent life choices.

Mission Seven: Imperial Construction Yards

Next, Ms. Moor gives us the location of an Imperial construction facility. They build lots of AT-AT’s there, so the Alliance decides to strike. We’re stuck in Speeders for this one, so I guess there will be some live Walkers ahead.

The start of the mission features a gameplay twist; we have to take out some sensors before getting into the base. If you stray too close to the dishes, it’s an instant mission over. The first two are easy enough to destroy, but the third is tucked in behind a large hill. Oh, I should mention that we’re flying in a canyon. I got a few Mission Over screens before I learned to just hang back and let my wingmen do the dirty work here.

Once breaking through to the base, the Imperials are alerted, but surprised as intended. There’s an AT-AT in front to greet us, but we trip it up with the tow cable and take out the TIEs that managed to scramble. Rogue Squadron strafes several areas before hitting the main factory. It’s particularly satisfying to destroy TIE’s on the ground and immobile Walkers. I did have to fly around quite a bit to find the last building, perhaps a glitch in the radar notification system?

Mission Eight: Assault on Kile II

Kasan Moor comes through again with the intel, this time with the location of a communications relay base on Kile II. This is our first mission in the Y-Wing, so let’s get this one over with.

Again, we begin in a canyon, but this time it’s very narrow. There are some helpfully placed ground targets here to practice our bombing runs on before getting to the main mission. The bombing interface is interesting, as the camera rises above your ship so you can see where your ordinance is going. This sounds annoying, and it is, but it’s for our benefit so we’re not bombing blind. This does make for some challenging gameplay though when you’re getting mobbed by enemies. As we’re about to see.

The first area contains a large building, ringed by gun turrets. You have to destroy all of these to advance to the next area. To make things interesting TIE Interceptors will spawn continually right atop of you. The Y-Wing can soak up damage as advertised, but you’re not invincible by any means. I find it funny when Luke exclaims that laser fire barely scratches the paint, only to be shot down seconds later. By the way, we only get 20 bombs, so we have to make them count. Otherwise, we’re stuck using our slow firing main guns to take out ground targets.

Eventually, we clear this first area. Next, we meander slowly to the satellite array in the next area. Once we blow this up, a scripted event kicks in. TIE Interceptors swarm Wedge’s group and our friend gets shot down and taken prisoner.

Well, that sucks. Anyway, mission accomplished.

Mission Nine: Rescue on Kessel

Obviously, we’re not going to let one of the main speaking characters languish in Imperial prison or worse. Kasan Moor hooks us up with information on the Imperial penitentiary system on Kessel. Wedge is there, so Rogue Squadron comes to the rescue. Thankfully, we’re back in X-Wings.

For this level, we have to neutralize the armored train carrying Wedge to the prison. To that end, our X-Wings are modified with Ion Cannons. Ion cannons are basically stun guns for aircraft. Right off the bat, we encounter heavy resistance in the form of multiple ground anti-air batteries, TIE Interceptors, and the train itself is ray shielded. Now, we’re obviously not supposed to destroy the train. But the thing is armed to the teeth with big guns and SAM launchers. We can’t take these out, so we have to try to hit all of the cars with the Ion cannon. This is a lot harder than it sounds when you’re trying to do this under fire.

The mission begins with an apparent branching choice. One of your wingmen notifies you that he’s picked up a large group of lifeforms. Ms. Moor tells us to ignore this and head to the train. Since we’re up against the clock, I decide to listen to her. This turns out to be a mistake, as I’m downed multiple times trying to neutralize the train. However, if you attack this mysterious convoy as the wingmen suggest, you’ll loop around to the front of the train. Most its guns (and ground support) will be pointed in the other direction, allowing you to get the jump on it.

With Wedge freed, some playful banter ensues, and he tells us about the rest of the prison system. I think I know what we’re doing next.

Mission Ten: Prisons of Kessel

Since we’re in the neighborhood, we might as well free all the other rebels. Once again, general Madine will lead his commandos on the ground while Rogue Squadron takes care of things in the air. This is essentially a larger, longer version of the Jade Moon mission, so I won’t go into much detail here. With the rebels busted out of prison, we wrap up Chapter Two.

Next Up

We’re now about 60% done with Rogue Squadron. The missions were slightly longer this time around, but even with some repeats, I think a determined player could complete this section in an hour or so. In tomorrow’s post, we’ll cover Chapter Three. I’ll get as far as I can as the missions here get a little more interesting. Thanks for reading!

Read From Memory: Rogue Squadron Pt. 2

Let’s begin the playthrough of Rogue Squadron shall we? As I mentioned in the last post, the game is divided into four chapters, covering thirteen missions. We’ll cover chapter one today.

There are two in-game menus dressed up as game locations: the briefing room and the hangar bay. This is where we configure our sessions, in other words. The briefing room is our level select menu and the hangar bay is the vehicle select screen.

The level select gives you a quick narration/briefing for the missions. It also tells you what craft are available for the mission via some iconography; green vehicle icons means they’re available, red means they’re locked. You also see your current medal status for each level. Your medal will appear as backgrounds to the navigation arrows to the left or right of the mission description. You can’t navigate to missions you haven’t unlocked.

Once you’ve selected a mission, you move on to the hangar bay. This is a carousel, for lack of a better word, that shows you models of all the vehicles. While you can see each craft and get quick voice overviews of each, you can only select those that are allowed by the mission parameters. Note to the left of the X-Wing model is the Naboo Starfighter. This was a cool little easter egg in the original release. I’ll talk about that more in the final entry for this series. Anyway, once you select an appropriate plane, you watch a launch sequence and the game loads up.

For now, only the X-Wing is available to me, so I choose it and fly out of the ship.

Rogue Squadron: Chapter One

We open with the classic Star Wars yellow text scroll on the star field. This bit of exposition tells us what’s happening in the game world. Titled “The Rebel Opposition,” we learn that we’re currently six months after the destruction of the original Death Star. But things are still bad for the Rebellion as the Empire is still very strong. Luke Skywalker takes it upon himself to form Rogue Squadron, from the best of the best of all the X-Wing pilots, and here we are.

Mission One: Ambush at Mos Eisley

We open the game on Tantooine, with a cutscene flyover where Luke tells his wingman Wedge he wants to take a joyride in military hardware through Beggar’s Canyon. Things go wrong quickly though as the Empire has deployed dozens of probe droids to destroy homesteads in the area, so we move to intercept and destroy.

This is your standard tutorial level to get you acclimated to the camera and controls. There’s some iconic scenery to take in, such as Jabba’s palace, the pit of Carkoon, and of course Mos Eisley.

The probe droids are stationary targets and usually five or six of them are spread over an area. They can put some hurt on you if they manage to concentrate fire on you, and you fly very slowly over the targets in a linear path. So the challenge is to kill the droids before they can destroy too many friendlies. Wedge gets taken out pretty early in the level, and from what I can tell this seems to be a scripted event.

Once you take out all the droids, another scripted event kicks in. Two flights of TIE Bombers start cruising over Mos Eisley itself, dropping their payloads liberally on the large buildings. Luke tells us we have to save this hive of scum and villainy. So we fly over there, take out the slow moving bombers, and get the screen wipe. We close things up with a lot of back patting, and Luke boldly asserts that Rogue Squadron will make a name for itself.

The mission took me about seven minutes to finish, below par for Bronze.

Mission Two: Rendezvous on Barkhesh

This mission is a little more complicated than the tutorial level. The briefing says we are to escort a supply convoy to a rendezvous point for pick up by the Rebel fleet. Once again, only the X-Wing is available to us, so we select that and head out into space.

The opening cinematic shows us flying over the verdant world of Barkhesh. We get more details from a voice over from General Rieekan (of Hoth battle fame). Apparently the resistance convoy needs to head through an area that’s occupied by Imperials. There are six or so slow moving, large rectangular vehicles on the ground, along with their escorts. Rogue Squadron is to provide air cover.

Immediately to our front there’s a screen of probe droids. They’re blocking the path of the convoy, but your wingmen will blow a hole through it without your help. Just mop them up. Essentially the convoy will follow a winding road through a narrow ravine. If you choose you can fly up and survey the scene, and you’ll quickly see gun turrets on the cliffs and some scout walkers in the valley. I don’t recommend getting too far ahead, though it’s tempting to pick off the ground targets before the group hits the bottle necks. The TIE Bombers will appear behind the convoy, and while they’re slow moving and have a set path, just one piece of ordinance is enough to destroy a supply vehicle.

It actually took me a few tries before I succeeded. The map was simple but the path showed some sophistication on the part of the level designers. The challenge feels at the right level.

Mission Three: The Search for the Nonnah

The next mission is Search and Rescue. The freighter Nonnah crashed down somewhere and it carried rebel personnel and stolen imperial equipment. Rebel high command is anxious to retrieve both before the Imperials can. This time around we’re in A-Wings, since speed is of the essence in this level.

The level is set in a gloomy canyon, with heavy mists presumably generated by the river below us. We have to follow the river to a large lake, where the Nonnah is located. A shuttle will handle the evacuation, and Rogue Squadron is to provide cover while that’s done. There’s a ton of probe droids around to our front, which makes sense since the Empire is looking for the freighter. First thing you’ll notice about the A-Wing is that the flight officer wasn’t kidding when he said it was nimble but weak. Just a few shots from a probe droid will drain your shields halfway.

We run into some old friends as a bunch of TIE Inceptors come in. While A-Wing’s speed is nice, you’ll wish you had your X-Wing in this one. The A-Wing just doesn’t feel as tight a gun platform. Anyway, we receive word that the Nonnah is under attack, so we head there and fend off newly arrived Imperial ground forces: tanks, a Scout Walker, and smaller AT-PT walkers. TIE Bombers will try to join in the fun as well, and the TIE Interceptors feel ever-present.

If you keep the Nonnah and the rebel shuttle alive long enough, the shuttle will eventually lift off and slowly make its way off map. A stream of TIE Interceptors will dog the shuttle the whole way. My tactic is to stick behind with the brake on to let them pass in front. Turns into a turkey shoot.

Mission Four: Defection at Corellia

The fourth mission of Rogue Squadron puts us in the cockpit of a Snowspeeder. This time we’re on the planet Coreilla, and we’re to patrol the skies while an imperial officer, Crix Madine, meets with General Rieekan to defect to the Rebel Alliance. Simple enough.

This is a night flight over an urban landscape. Well, there are large buildings anyway set near a coastline. Three clusters of structures make up the city, divided by hill and ranges. Apparently they don’t believe in roads on Coreilla, but that’s a minor graphical quibble. It’s a cool looking level, anyway, though it feels a little sterile.

We immediately pick up “something strange” on scanners, which turns out to be a bunch of probe droids loitering in a valley. It’s kind of hard to see them at night. After we take them out, several waves of TIE Bombers show up to hit the Capitol building with Rieekan in it. Clever. We’ll be making this back and forth several times, by the way. Once the bombers are dealt with, Madine calls, he needs assistance. This is our first crack at taking down an AT-AT with a tow cable. That accomplished, it’s back to take out more bombers. This time we’re helped out by a random assist from the Millennium Falcon.

Eventually we have to trip up another Walker, and fly cover for a shuttle to get Madine and company out of Dodge.
This is the longest mission so far, and the back and forth errand system is a little boring. Oh well.

Mission Five: Liberation of Gerrad V

The citizens of Gerrad V are ready to throw off the yoke of Imperial oppression. I guess the governor can see the sunrise here, so instead of trying to hold the world for the Empire, he opts to loot the capital. The local resistance notifies the Rebel Alliance of this, and they of course decide to act. Freshly minted rebel Crix Madine takes a squadron of Y-Wings to neutralize the governor’s yachts with the stolen booty before they can beat it. Rogue Squadron will cover the operation, and that’s how mission five starts off.

We’re in the X-Wing for this one, thankfully.

This is another cityscape level, set on a kind of ugly looking red world. Although there’s some fighter coverage in the area, it’s the ground batteries and SAM launchers that are the real trouble here. They’ll jack up your plane and escort really fast if you don’t take them out.
After the first section is clear, Wedge will call in and tell us that the elite, “best of the best” TIE 128 Squadron is on its way to intercept. When they do arrive, they’re not all that impressive, but it makes for good drama anyway.

Finally, Madine neutralizes the last of the yachts, and we go to cutscene. Madine tails a TIE Interceptor, threatening to blow it out of the sky in retaliation for putting the hurt on the Y-Wing squadron. The pilot cuts in, identifies as Kasan Moor, and offers to surrender in exchange for information on Imperial activities.
Another defector. Great. But that’s the end of Mission Five, and Chapter One.

Next Up

That was a lot today. I say you could probably get through the first five missions in about an hour. Tomorrow, we’ll cover Chapter Two.

Read From Memory: Rogue Squadron Pt. 1

Yesterday I wrote that I selected Rogue Squadron as the next title in the Read From Memory series. Let’s give the game a quick rundown before proceeding to the walkthrough.

Rogue Squadron Intro

Rogue Squadron, or more properly, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 3D (or 64 for you n64 owners) is a Star Wars themed flight sim released in December 1998. LucasArts and Factor 5 collaborated on the title. LucasArts hoped to build on the commercial success of its 1996 game, Shadows of the Empire. That game’s Hoth level helped inspire the design of Rogue Squadron. The LucasArts team pieced together a campaign by drawing inspiration from the Rogue Squadron novel and X-Wing comic series. They decided to make a narrative around Luke Skywalker’s exploits, set after Episode IV. But at its core, Rogue Squadron is a vehicle combat game with lots of action. Factor 5’s engine would power it all.

Factor 5 handled many of the technical aspects of the game, including the level mapping technology. For the Nintendo 64, they wrote custom sound drivers that contributed to the excellent sound design for that system.  LucasArts did much of the scenario planning for the levels. Mark Haigh-Hutchinson was project lead, sadly he’s no longer with us.

The market response to the game surpassed the team’s expectations, selling many times more copies than anticipated. The Nintendo 64 version was especially well received. Remember, this was about six months to Episode I, and the Star Wars hype machine was lurching into high gear. Even without that though, Rogue Squadron enjoyed an excellent reputation, at least in my circles, and despite no multiplayer, it was a favorite for a long time.

Rogue Squadron Game Overview

As I’ve already mentioned, this is a space combat sim that’s more arcade-like than a simulator.  In the source material, Rogue Squadron had “the best pilots and the best fighters” and we get all of that here. X-Wings, Y-Wings, A-Wings, Snow Speeders, a “V-Wing,” and the fan favorite Millennium Falcon. Each of the fighters has different attributes to speed, firepower, and handling. Not every fighter is available for every mission, and some have to be unlocked via the game’s grading system.  Yes, you will wish you had certain planes on some missions.

Speaking of missions, there are sixteen in the core game, spread across four chapters that make up the game’s narrative. There are three additional secret missions that can be unlocked that are not related to the story. The levels are a mix of planets and space locales, some of them should be familiar with if you’ve seen the movies.

Gameplay

The gameplay is simple enough; fly around in your selected fighter and shoot Imperial stuff. To do this you get your primary weapons: laser cannons and each vehicle has a secondary weapon mode. The mission objectives are not overly involved; fly escort, search and destroy, fly cover, etc. On some levels the mission scope can expand as conditions change (scripted events, nothing emergent here…). You get three lives, so you can respawn three times if you crash or get shot down. Your wingmen are all AI controlled, and you can’t issue any orders to them, at least on PC. I thought that you could, but that might be memories of the sequel bleeding in here.

The enemies are not really intelligent, they all seem to fly along the same set paths and fire blindly. The ground units are a tad trickier, as they’ll tend to aim at you. The camera system is adequate to flying about, but the default “behind fighter” view is best.

There is a scoring system which awards you Medals (Bronze/Silver/Gold) based on your performance metrics. These can be mission time pars, enemies killed, friendlies saved, etc. Your in-game rank is determined by the number of medals you have.

Next Up

Tomorrow we will begin the playthrough proper. I plan to divide the series up by the Chapters in the game, so unlike FFVII this shouldn’t take 45 parts or so to complete. Rogue Squadron has one notoriously difficult mission near the end of the game (Sullust…) but other than that, once I scrape the rust off I should get through this fairly quickly.

For those interested in more information on the game, I’m including the links below to the sources I used for the write up above.

Sources

Read from Memory: Rogue Squadron

I planned to continue the Read From Memory series next year, after recovering from the long slog through Final Fantasy VII. But with Star Wars in the news lately, I got nostalgic for an old favorite: Rogue Squadron. Rogue Squadron 64 was one of my favorite games on that console. The arcade shooter came out in 1998, quite a memorable year for gaming.  I still own my copy, with the rank of “Supreme Allied Commander.” Though it’s been a long while since the cartridge actually worked.

Thanks to Good Ol Games I’m able to play the PC version. Took a bit of configuring to get the gamepad recognized, but it’s necessary for this game. While the controls are tight in my opinion, playing Rogue Squadron is not quite like riding a bike. Those of you who read the FF7 FRM series know the drill here. Each time I play I’ll write a post about it, with my observations. The challenge here is Rogue Squadron is not a narrative-driven game. A good thing, considering the source material and the game design. But I’ll structure this one differently to address the single-player campaign, such as it is.

A brief scan of the web shows that there isn’t much information out there about the development process for Rogue Squadron. Much of what’s there is buried in a post-mortem for the sequel, Rogue Squadron II Rogue Leader. I’ll have more to say when I conclude this series. But for now, keep in mind that Rogue Squadron was an amazing technical achievement, and Factor 5 delivered under some extreme circumstances.

I’ll have the first piece starting tomorrow.

Read From Memory: FFVII pt. 45

FFVII ends with startingly abruptness. In the long final cutsence, we see Midgar slowly destroyed by Meteor, only to be saved (seemingly) by the Lifestream, and Aeris’ face appears. Then it’s a hard cut to the credits. Post credits, subtitled “500 years later” we see a grown Red XIII running, flanked by two cubs. Eventually they reach an outcropping, and below is the huge, ruined city.

How do you interpret that ending?

Anyway, thanks for reading this long series. I managed to finish the game the day before the twentieth anniversary (today – happy anniversary!). I’m glad I did it, but man 90 hours in one story game. Harder to do these days, even if it is spread out over 7 months. I liked the game better now, although it’s definitely showing its age. It was showing its age when FFVIII came out, in my opinion.

It’s kind of weird not to have some locale to visit, or enemy to beat. But I’m glad I freshened up my memories: clearly I didn’t remember the game as well as I thought I would. If I continue the RFM series, I’ll pick a shorter game. I missed a few anniversaries this year, with the extended detour in Gaia. Thanks for reading!