Wing Commander tee em 5 Colon Prophecy Gold is one of the cheesiest games I’ve ever played.
It works because its cast of mostly B-listers are talented enough to pull off its many FMV and in-mission voice scenes, and they’re clearly having fun. The characters aren’t complicated but they’re charismatic and memorable. The headliner is of course Maniac, aka Biff From Back To The Future, as the insufferable ace who falls apart when given the command post he craves. But Mark Hamill holds his own as the weary, traumatised commander, and then there’s the technician who the player meekly submits to when she constantly slags him off for getting shot at. Or the one rando wingman who, if asked for a status report, will sometimes complain that “they never clean the seats!”. The energy they put in is infectious.
The fact that the apocalyptic, ‘unstoppable’ aliens could never possibly be scary when you personally have blown up over one thousand of their ships for every one their entire invasion has killed doesn’t matter. They’re fun to fight and unusually varied, with weird jousty ones, missile happy beasts, fragile ones that splinter off and swarm from a big slow one, right up to the gigantic capital ships bristling with turreted tentacles you fly in and out of while defanging it so a bomber can lance a torpedo into the engine.
The ships were alright too, and I loved the few final missions where you have to pilot a bomber, sloooowly lining up a torpedo while your armour takes a beating from a dozen directions. Like the original Wing Commander’s wonderful Raptor, a few of its ships felt genuinely hardy, leading to moments where you’re talking aloud to your trusty bomber, knowing it can hold for another ten seconds if you keep its morale up. And it had a minigun, and the dust cannon from the expansion (which was about a sentient alien virus, of all things) was one of my favourite guns in a game ever.
I doubt it’s aged well. But the more I reminisce the more I want to find out.