I have made a habit out of picking up and playing just about every Star Trek game I could get my hands on over the years. One of my earliest acquisitions was the Sega title, Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator. Let me tell you, as a kid, I spent many a weekend afternoon battling Klingons on the screen. Probably too many, since the game quality itself was middling. Allow me to explain.
A young me saves up change from cigarette runs for his family members until he has enough money to pick up Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator from Toys R Us. He brings it home, calls up his friends and fires it up. The friends come over and are immediately taken by the impressive scrolling splash screen, the split screen design and the dazzling music. Yet the friends are not Star Trek fans and one by one they wander out of the room over the course of the next hour. All the while the Star Trek fan continues to play and play and play.
The problem with Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator isn’t that its not technologically interesting or “off theme”. It is wonderful in all those regards. You take control of the Enterprise and navigate the minimap until you encounter some Klingons and blow them sky high. Then you get to dodge some asteroid and even have boss battle against Nomad. All in a VCS game! I know, it is impressive, but it is also super easy. This ain’t adult me talking, this is kid me as well. In 10 minutes I had mastered all the skills required to play the game, but yet I kept playing it over and over. Why, when all my Star Trek fans had bailed on me?
Well if you did not guess, the answer is that in my imagination I was battling Klingons and navigating asteroids way before I every picked up this game. Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator was the first game that allowed me to project those Star Trek imaginings into the digital world. Despite its simplicity, I was sold. Because in that mushy cereal soak brain, I was putting extra story into the game. Those weren’t Klingons the 80th time I played it, they were Romulans. It took the place of my limited Star Trek toy collection and for that I loved the game.
Younger me would throw 5 stars at this game and be done with it, but older me has been spoiled by more immersive Star Trek experiences and finally sees what all my friends were seeing. This is a well built game that only takes 10 minutes to clear. They might as well have made you hit the reset button, because it does not change, it does not get more difficult. You are really only playing against your own imagination and willpower. How long you sustain the illusion that Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator is fun? Its a wonderful metagame for you to try for about 20 minutes.
Still you cannot discount the wonderful technology behind the game. Sega did a wonderful job programming and designing the game which is at least worth 2 stars. Add to that the music, the postage size scrolling splash screen and the hilariously unnecessary joystick overlay and you get my final rating of 3 stars.