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Star Trek doesn’t have a very good track record when it comes to quality video games. I suppose that can go for many media properties. However, every now and then, you can find a diamond in the rough. One of those diamonds was Star Trek: The Next Generation: Echoes from the Past for the Sega Genesis (there was also a Super Nintendo version of this game, but since I never played it, I am focusing this article on the Genesis version).
This game is great. While most video games are “action oriented”, Star Trek is generally not known for that. The great thing about Echoes is that it combines a lot of different elements into it that gives gamers not only a satisfying gaming experience, but also blends fundamental Star Trek touchstones (exploration, diplomacy, intelligence-over-force). It isn’t an easy trick to do (which might be why so many Star Trek games fail), but Echoes succeeds.
In the game, the Enterprise become involved with attempting to locate the IFD, a piece of technology that can change reality on a whim. Competing with them on this journey are the Romulans and the Chodak, a new enemy race invented for this game. Hoping to find this device before their enemies, the crew must endure several challenges and trails in order to find themselves worthy of receiving it.
The game is primarily puzzle-based. The crew find themselves in various planets, ships, and outposts. The puzzles are challenging, but not impossible. The major trick is finding out what you need to do in order to be successful. Sometimes you need to repair a ship. Other times, you need to traverse an obstacle-style course. There are rescue missions and missions in which you need to find various items. The events during the game vary to keep things interesting and fresh. The game is also pretty long. You can’t complete it in reasonable one sitting (don’t worry – there is a save setting). That’s a good thing as I like becoming invested in a game for a long time.
When you beam down to planets, the game presents a Zelda-like set-up with a top-down view and multiple item selection. However, unlike Zelda, you have up to four characters you can use at any given time. This helps out tremendously as you can separate your group to explore various parts of the level at the same time (you can rotate who you control at any given time). In fact, you will need more than one crewmember to accomplish various tasks that befall you (and some crewmembers have different advantages to them that others don’t).
When not on a planet, you are hanging out on the bridge where you can rotate through each station, conn and tactical being the most prominent. Yes, with tactical being an option, there are space battles you can engage in. However, don’t get too many hopes up as the battle function, while fine in its own right, is nothing to really write home about and, to be honest, you likely won’t be using it all the much (at least if you are smart about things).
There are a couple of tricks to Echoes that make it stand above other games. The first being when you are talking to other people, you can choose how you want to control the conversation. You will get a few options and you can pick your response. Your response will then determine the course of the conversation. For example, if you encounter an enemy ship, you can steer your conversation away from a battle or straight for one. It is wonderful.
The other little cool thing is the computer. You can access this and read files after files of various Star Trek-related items, many of which are not connected to the game at all. The game even has an entry on the Enterprise-B which was completely made up for the game since Echoes was in development a good two years before Star Trek Generations (the first Enterprise-B appearance) was released. I think this info was pulled from the Star Trek Encyclopedia then in print when this game was released.
This was not a game I really appreciated when I got it at 12 or 13. But when I returned to the game later in my high school years, I really learned to love it. It has so many elements that keep the gamer invested in the story. The most important thing is that it is fun, and that is really the key component when playing a video game. If you can get a copy of Echoes from the Past either as an emulator or the actual game for the Genesis, get it! It is worth your time.