Anyone wanna go skinny dipping?
Long ago and far away, a man named Peter Benchly and a big fish
scared the hell out of me. It’s amazing how much you can scare people with two
chords of the right music and a big plastic shark. Twenty-five years later, I’ve
finally gotten over my fear of the water, but something about plastic fish still
gives me the willies.
Thanks to the folks over at Ubi Soft, I’ve been forced to deal
with my old fears in the Dreamcast’s latest submarine action title, Deep
Fighter. Bring it on, Jaws. I got my own tank of compressed air with your
name on it.
Deep Fighter basically takes your average space combat
sim and throws it down into the depths of the deep blue sea. Players take on
the role of a young pilot charged with protecting an underwater colony from
any threats that might arise. You’ll have to make sure the local fish farm is
stocked and defend the colony from vicious attacks by the evil “Shadowkin.”
The game starts off pretty slow as you basically play miner and fish farmer,
but eventually missions progress into the standard space-fighter format including
scout, attack/defense, and escort duties.
The story isn’t half-bad, with some interesting plot twists
thrown in to keep you from dozing off. Those pesky Shadowkin are up to something
and it’s up to you to stop it. The success of your missions will ultimately
decide the fate of the mothership, which could save your colony from utter destruction.
Kinda like a cheezy sci-fi plot, ain’t it?
Graphically, Deep Fighter does an average job. You never
see anything visually spectacular or anything particularly ugly. There are some
nice lighting effects, landscape textures are smooth and the design of the subs
is satisfactory, but through it all, you don’t really get the feeling of being
underwater. Sure, there are plenty of fish floating around and the water is
blue, but that’s about it. You could actually be in some sort of parallel universe
where space is blue and has fish flying around in it. In any event, you would
probably get a greater sense of being underwater by watching The Little Mermaid.
The audio doesn’t fare any better than the visual. While there
are some interesting tunes during intense moments of the game, you’ll spend
most of the time in silence. Even some cheesy background music would have been
better than the quiet solitude of your sub. I guess that AM / FM radio just
speaking, the control of your sub is satisfactory. You’ve got your tool trigger,
your weapons trigger, and your thrust buttons. The nagging problem with this
setup is that dogfighting can be a major headache. Players are forced to toggle
between their guns and missiles! You can’t fire off missiles while shooting
your guns, so you’ll have to forget the guns and hope there are enough missiles
to see you through. Then, when all else fails, blaze away with the pea-shooters.
In between missions, you will occasionally get a briefing from
Admiral Lynn. These mission briefings take place in the form of a live action
video, showing off your team members before they head off to battle. The video
briefings are a nice addition to spruce up the overall tone, but they can’t
save it from the mediocrity of the rest of the game.
Deep Fighter is oddly reminiscent of my all-time favorite
space fighter title, Wing Commander. One of Wing Commander‘s best
traits was the multiple storylines that a player could follow based on performance.
Obtaining a new rank, medals, and even new ships all depended on your accomplishments.
Even your fellow pilots could die, thereby having a direct effect on the outcome
of the game.
In Deep Fighter, you get the sense that the developers
wanted to take this route, but ended up merely skimming the top off Wing
Commander‘s good stuff. Promotions are gained, medals are won and new fighter
craft are received, but unfortunately all of this is required to continue on
in the game. Everything is extremely linear and any sort of failure will result
in a free, all-expense paid trip to the Game Over screen.
Deep Fighter is one of those games that has already
been done, and done better. At its heart, it’s simply a space combat title that
sunk into the ocean. The overall design of the game is bland with only the occasional
bits of FMV to really spice it up. If you love space combat, you might consider
renting this one, otherwise I’d stay out of the water.