Released in 1983 by Sega, Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator marked the franchises first appearance in the arcades. It also marked me spending an awful lot of my pocket money trying to shoot the pesky red Klingons!
Think back to the beginning of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan when we see Lt. Saavik in command of the Enterprise on a rescue mission to save the crew of a damaged ship. When the Enterprise enters the Klingon Neutral Zone to reach the ship it is attacked by Klingon cruisers and critically damaged. We soon find out that Saavik is a trainee taking the Kobayshi Maru test for Starfleet Academy.
Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator was inspired in part by that 'no-win scenario' test, and arrived in arcades around the same time that Wrath of Khan was released on home video. The game's vector graphics display was meant to mirror those seen during in the beginning of the film.
The player controls the Starship Enterprise, and must defend sectors from invading Klingon ships. Through usage of the buttons you could activate the impulse engines, warp engines, fire phasers, and photon torpedoes. The warp button was deliberately placed farther away from the rest of the buttons, in order to force the player to reach for them in heated battle.
Unlike most arcade games of the time, the game featured multiple views of the playfield - a two-dimensional display and a three-dimensional first-person perspective. Throughout the game, survival depends on the player's ability to accumulate shields. These are rewarded by docking with starbases, which sometimes must be saved from destruction at the hands of the Klingons.
Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator was presented in two styles of cabinets: an upright standup (featured at the top of the page), and a very nice sit-down/semi-enclosed deluxe cabinet (below). You could actually feel like Captain Kirk as the chair was modeled after the Star Trek: The Motion Picture's bridge chairs, with game controls integrated into the arms.
Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator used synthesised speech, primarily that of both James Doohan and Leonard Nimoy as their Star Trek characters. Scotty's voice gave you commands, and Spock's was used to welcome you aboard and announce entry into each sector.
I still remember the buzz of sitting in that chair and hearing Mr Scott announce "You are the Captain of the Starship Enterprise", albeit in a very tinny, synthesised squeaky fashion.
The game performed well, and a review featured in the August 1983 issue of Electronic Games said that "Star Trek is sure to be a top-grosser in the arcades this year. If you can squeeze through the crowd around the machine, you may never want to leave."
Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator was ported to many of the computers and consoles of the era; including the Atari 2600, Commodore 64, TI-99/4A, Tandy Color Computer, Commodore VIC-20, ColecoVision and the Apple II. And courtesy of the Internet Archive you can play the game yourself below...
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