Sometime in probably 1992 or 1993, I found a copy of a game called Star Trek: 25th Anniversary at the local OfficeMax and demanded that my parents buy it.
In a period when I didn't really have access to PC gaming magazines, I mostly went by the screens on the back of boxes, and what I saw of Star Trek: 25th Anniversary sold me immediately. The Enterprise bridge, slightly updated to look more futuristic, looked amazing in those tiny pictures. And compared to what was available on the NES at the time, the 16-bit sprites looked as real as could be. It was even fully-voiced — a novelty in an era when CD-based games were only just starting to catch on.
I took it home and installed it on our 386/16, on which it chugged mercilessly, with Captain Kirk's lines intermittently cutting out as our CD-ROM struggled to keep pace. I didn't particularly care, though, because it looked every bit as good as I had hoped — better even than the actual television show (at least in my mind). Later I would I get a 486 DX 100 (with 16 megs of RAM!) and find myself stunned by space battles that weren't slideshows.
In the years since I've retained fond memories of Star Trek: 25th Anniversary and Star Trek: Judgment Rites, even if their lack of availability online made them difficult to revisit down the line. Though subject to the vagaries of point-and-click adventures from the early '90s — inventory management was a big one — they were quite faithful to their source material. You could kill your redshirt security officer in literally every mission in Star Trek: 25th Anniversary. And trust me, I did.
Now they're available on Good Old Games; and trust me, the second I get back to my computer, I'm downloading them. In the meantime, here are a couple specific memories.
Star Trek: 25th Anniversary
I'm pretty sure the second mission of Star Trek: 25th Anniversary marked my first attempt to look up a cheat online.
The mission goes something like this: After a Federation starship is hijacked by a group of Elasi pirates, the Enterprise responds. After negotiating with the pirates for a bit (careful or they'll start killing hostages), you look up the command prefix codes for the hijacked ship, allowing you to lower the shields so you can beam aboard. Once on the ship, you have to figure out how to get on the bridge, which is no easy feat in light of the fact that it's blocked by a force field.
The trick, I later discovered, is to combine a couple items in the inventory. But, of course, I didn't know that items could actually be combined, so I spent a very long time puzzling over how to get through the force field (mostly I shot it a lot with my phaser). Finally, I got my dad to look for the answer on the Internet; and to my surprise, he actually found it (the Internet still be in its infancy). My dad being my dad, though, he wouldn't let me peak at the answer because he wanted me to work it out for myself. I eventually snuck down at 2am and peeked at his laptop. I was never one for patience.
Eventually, though, the FAQ failed me. As it turned out, it had been written for the disk version; so when I got to the final mission — a disturbing trip through a wrecked Constitution-class vessel filled with dead and dying officers — I became confused as to why I couldn't just beam back to the Enterprise when it said I could. Later, I discovered that the CD-ROM had an extended version of the final mission, which was far superior to the original. I eventually did figure it out, but it took a while.
When I couldn't find an answer, my usual solution was to start a new game and just randomly fly from star to star fighting Klingons and Romulans. Like most PC games of that era, Star Trek: 25th Anniversary had a de facto DRM that required you to look up the correct star in the instruction manual when navigating to your next destination (thankfully, the GoG version includes the starmap, so make sure to have it handy). If you went to the wrong star, Spock would intone that you had entered the Romulan (or Klingon) neutral zone; and before you know it, Scotty would be yelling, "Shields are falling! Our weapons are offline! Our weapons are offline!" But it was still a fun challenge to just try and stay alive against the onslaught; and on occasion, I did.
Who needs puzzles, anyway?
Star Trek: Judgment Rites
On my Star Trek: 25th Anniversary disc was a trailer for Star Trek: Judgment Rites — the direct sequel due in 1994. Among other things, it included a fantastically animated monster pouncing on Kirk and a World War I tri-plane swooping down to attack the Enterprise. I knew I had to have it.
I ended up buying the fully-voiced CD-ROM version a couple years later, which included a VHS copy of "The City on the Edge of Forever" — a truly fantastic value given that the episode alone could run you up to $25. In include what is widely regarded as one of the best episodes of Star Trek ever made, Interplay was tacitly saying, "Our game lives up to the standards set by the best of Trek." And you know? It mostly did.
Compared to Star Trek: 25th Anniversary, Judgment Rites was more coherent, with the standalone missions slowly building upon a broad central mystery — who or what is trying to test humanity? That question is eventually answered, but not before a run of fantastic missions in which Kirk and company stop a museum heist, meet an old foe from Star Trek: 25th Anniversary, and are once again accosted by Trelane — the god-like alien from "Squire of Gothos" who is eventually revealed to be a child playing with his "pets" (later brilliantly lampooned in Futuruma).
The Trelance mission is definitely the highlight of Judgment Rites. After Trelane "shoots down" the Enterprise in his tri-plane, the crew awakens in a German village called Gothos, which paints a quaint and noble picture of life during World War I. When he reaches Trelane, Kirk convinces him to show World War I as it truly was — a visceral scene set against the blood and muck of the trenches. It's Star Trek at its heavy-handed best.
Ultimately, Judgment Rites and 25th Anniversary proved themselves the exception to the rule that Star Trek games generally aren't very good. Being adventure games, they were able to focus in on elements of Star Trek that went beyond just pure action, with a number of stories that would have been good episodes in their own right. Even cooler, most of the missions had a variety of endings that depended on Kirk's decisions, lending extra weight to individual dialogue choices. You could try and just blitz the mission; but if you took your time and acted as Starfleet officer would, you could get a much better mission rating.
Of course, sometimes it was fun to anger the new life you discovered to the point that they would disintegrate you.
Star Trek: Judgement Rites and 25th Anniversary have been mostly lost to history, largely because they've been tough to find and play; but with their appearance on Good Old Games, they can finally get the attention they deserve.
Go play them. Even after all these years, they're still some of my favorite games ever.