The highly influential first three titles of the Wing Commander series are back in their original splendor and optimized for Windows 95 in Wing Commander: The Kilrathi Saga. With the exception of being souped up (slowed down, actually) to run on modern-day Pentium machines, the games contained in The Kilrathi Saga remain mostly unchanged in this Origin Systems re-release. Those fans looking to play some of the finest space flight simulators of all time need no longer dust off that old 386, as Origin offers the entire trilogy in this five-disc package complete with a juicy (albeit black and white) manual containing extensive documentation from all three - in addition to several new bonuses.
The Wing Commander games still look fantastic. Each was visually revolutionary in its time, and glancing back on them shows exactly why: Colorful, carefully hand-drawn graphics are the pride of the original Wing Commander, while slick, pre-rendered spacecraft pave the way in its sequel. Wing Commander III presents a high-resolution, fully polygonal game engine with detailed, texture-mapped spaceships and a greater field of vision than any of its predecessors. But perhaps the most enjoyable element of The Kilrathi Saga is its audio. The memorable music scores of Wing Commander I and II, still a joy to beholdeven in original form, make a fierce comeback with this release. Completely remastered The Kilrathi Saga's restored soundtrack is truly awesome. The sound effects of the first two games have likewise been improved; the missile lock tone, for instance, sounds much better than before. Several other subtle enhancements and bug fixes are present in The Kilrathi Saga, none of which is particularly noteworthy.
Wing Commander: The Kilrathi Saga is a fine package for those who either didn't get a chance to play through the entire series, or for those longing to experience it again after all this time. All three games remain very playable and enjoyable even now, seven years after Wing Commander's 1990 release. A great deal of history hides in this package, as it takes you from the heyday of Origin's hand-drawn, animated artwork through the transition to big-budget full motion video. The Secret Missions and Special Operations add-on scenarios for Wing I and II are also available for download, thus ensuring you'll enjoy dozens of hours of topnotch space combat against those infernal felines.
It's too bad certain Chris Roberts titles were left out of the package. Though not as popular as the Wing Commander Trilogy, games like Wing Commander Academy, Privateer, and Wing Commander Armada (all of which take place during the Kilrathi war) would surely prove just as enjoyable as the big three. May this strong re-release mark the beginning of a trend for Origin. Bring on Ultima!