If there was one game on the Atari 8bit series that I knew of when I was young that seemed too intimidating to even try, it was subLOGIC’s 1984 title Flight Simulator II (FSII). At the time I was still trying get my head around less confronting flight sims such as Solo Flight and even Star Raiders so seeing something that looked like it pushed the envelope towards realism was a lot to take in.
There were a lot of fans at my local computer club though and books such as 40 Great Flight Simulator Adventures were in popular rotation amongst members. Despite that I was still not sure if I’d get into a game like that and it wasn’t until the Atari ST arrived that I really began to spend a good amount of time playing games of the genre. Though I think military sims are a different beast too… games still needed to have goals for me at that time so the total freedom of FSII didn’t strike me as all that interesting.
Now that I am back retro gaming on my Atari machines it seemed like a good enough opportunity to go back and see just what I had missed out on back then. Thankfully there isn’t a shortage of copies of the game – with the release of the XE Game System, Atari produced cartridge versions of Flight Simulator II which were also pack-ins for the machine. I suppose if they thought it was worth bundling with the system (that also had Missile Command built in) then it must be a pretty decent game, right?
You might not remember subLOGIC or their first two flight simulator titles appearing on the 8bit machines of the era but you’re likely to know of the legacy they left behind. The company would license the game out to Microsoft who would then go on to spend the next twenty years making subsequent titles a staple for their platforms. I think that is a good sign of what is in store for me.
There’s no chance of me being able to just pick this up and run with it minus the manual so finding a good electronic copy was a much needed addition and thankfully there are plenty of sites dedicated to preserving this content. Publishers weren’t afraid to include a lot of documentation with their games and this is no exception – getting all that was available added up to around two hundred pages of material and half of that is devoted to flight physics alone. With most console games now not even including a leaflet in their cases it’s nice to go back and have a hefty manual to go through and learn some things in the process.
I’m really looking forward to seeing what classic flight simulator hijinks I can get up to with this. The more time I spend around it the more I develop an appreciation for the impressive achivement a game like this truly is and I enjoy the prospect of being able to look at it now without the feelings of intimidation I had when I was much younger.