Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi is the first sequel in Chris Roberts' Wing Commander science fiction space combat simulator franchise of computer games, produced by Origin Systems.
Released in 1991, Wing Commander II retains much of the first game's core conventions: an interstellar war between the Terran Confederation and the felinoid warrior race called the Kilrathi, multiple allies as wingmen, and a wide variety of ships on both sides of the war. However, WCII places a greater emphasis on storytelling, providing various sprite-animated cutscenes and some of the industry's first examples of voice acting.
The storyline is also somewhat less open-ended: the game's campaign tree is much more structured and the player character can no longer be promoted or awarded medals. Wingmen can no longer be killed during normal gameplay; when their fighters are damaged beyond repair, they eject (though some die in scripted sequences).
Finally, because the story is a direct sequel to WC, many Kilrathi ships have names similar to the WC ships they replace (for instance, the "Sartha" replaces the "Salthi", and the Confederation uses an upgraded version of the Rapier medium fighter).
Expansion packs Special Operations 1 and 2, were released in 1991 and 1992, respectively, and a stand-alone spin-off, Wing Commander Academy, in 1993. Origin also released a Speech Accessory Pack, which upgraded WCII with pre-recorded voice acting.
Wing Commander is the eponymous first game in Chris Roberts' science fiction space flight simulation franchise Wing Commander by Origin Systems. The game was first released for MS-DOS on September 26, 1990 but arrived at our museum almost 30 years later in this beautiful box.
The game was a marked departure from the standard formula, bringing space combat to a level approaching the Star Wars films. Set in the year 2654 and characterized by Chris Roberts as "World War II in space", it features a multinational cast of pilots from the "Terran Confederation" flying missions against the predatory, aggressive Kilrathi, a feline warrior race (heavily inspired by the Kzinti of Larry Niven's Known Space universe).
Wing Commander was originally titled Squadron and later renamed Wingleader. As development for Wing Commander came to a close, the EMM386 memory manager the game used would give an exception when the user exited the game. It would print out a message similar to "EMM386 Memory manager error..." with additional information. The team could not isolate and fix the error and they needed to ship it as soon as possible. As a work-around, one of the game's programmers, Ken Demarest, hex-edited the memory manager so it displayed a different message. Instead of the error message, it printed "Thank you for playing Wing Commander." However, due to a different bug the game went through another revision and the bug was fixed, meaning this hack did not ship with the final release.
Wing Commander shipped in 1990 for PC/DOS as the initial platform and came with an instruction booklet styled as a shipboard magazine, Claw Marks. It provided tactical suggestions, statistics on fighters and weapons both Kilrathi and Terran, capsule biographies of notable pilots on both sides of the line, and general shipboard news (such as the discontinuation of the popular comic strip Hornet's Nest, due to the recent death of its artist, Lt. Larry "Tooner" Dibbles).
Notable contributors to the Claw Marks magazine include Captain Aaron Allston, Major Warren Spector, and Col. Chris Roberts. The game also shipped with a set of blueprints for the game's four playable fighters, the Hornet, Scimitar, Rapier, and Raptor.
Wing Commander "raised the bar for the whole industry," as the game was five times more expensive to create than most of its contemporaries. Because the game was highly successful, other publishers had to match its production value in order to compete. This forced a large portion of the video game industry to become more conservative, as big-budget games need to be an assured hit for it to be profitable in any way.
We are very glad to be able to showcase this amazing game with all the goodies that was included in the box, as games in the 80 and 90 often had. Lot of extra things to read outside the game itself.
Yngvi Th. Johannsson
Retro gaming enthusiast and all around computer collector.
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