Though the value of this long-delayed port of Blizzard's excellent sci-fi strategy title may fail to impress PC owners, those who keep their gaming to the television should be well pleased. Starcraft 64 collects all of the missions from the original Starcraft and its "half-sequel," the Brood War add-on pack, and offers up a handful of N64-specific stages. The game's 50-plus missions can make you into a Howard Hughes-level recluse if you choose to accept them.
In Starcraft 64, you can play as one of three races: the Terrans, Protoss, or the Zerg. Each has its own unique missions, playing style, units, and personality. Terrans, who are essentially humans who have colonized space looking to renew their dwindling resources, have run into two unfriendly species equally as bent on total domination. Playing as the Terrans means mobility, resourcefulness, and speaking with a heavy and often exaggerated Southern accent. The Protoss are technologically advanced aliens that possess psionic powers and command robotic drones, and the Zerg borrow extensively from the horrifying creatures from the movie Aliens. If you've played other real-time strategy games - such as the Warcraft or Command & Conquer series - you can surmise the goals of all three races here: collect resources to build up your offenses and defenses, then crush the enemy completely.
As in the N64 version of Command & Conquer, the control is quite serviceable. Though the controller is still not nearly as responsive as a mouse, the developers did the best they could adapting the title considering the limits of the N64 controller for strategy games. Hitting the A button selects a unit or structure, while B or the yellow directional buttons assign it a task. Moving the analog joystick is similar to the cursor sweep of a mouse, though this gesture fails to approximate the quick swipe needed in panicked, fast-response situations.
On one hand, Starcraft 64's graphics fall short when compared with the crisp look of its PC counterpart, but the game doesn't look bad by any means. It's easy to distinguish the units from the backgrounds, depth is visible in the terrain, and all the visuals shape up pretty well considering that the system is much more used to pushing polygons than sprites. The sound, on the other hand, is a bit of a letdown. While all the units have their respective verbal cues (such as the Protoss signature line, "I long for combat!") and the throbbing guitar score is intact, the briefings are all text based. This point may come off as nitpicky, but the lack of spoken audio in these segments severely pulls the punch of the game's narrative - reading a transcript of the proceedings can't possibly compare to the superb voice work found in the PC version. And since Starcraft has one of the strongest and most compelling storylines in gaming history, it's a real shame.
While previous ports of PC real-time strategy games have lacked the ability to save during levels, Starcraft 64 allows you two save slots to play with. It's a major step forward for RTS titles for the console systems, and puts the game a step ahead of all that have come before it with its genre. Ultimately, the N64 version of Starcraft holds plenty of rewards with only few minor drawbacks. The huge number of levels available and the two-player split-screen mode - slowdown ridden as it is - make for an incredible amount of value. N64 owners looking for a game to help fill time before the next big release for the system arrives will find exactly what they're searching for here.