Chronicles of a Wing Commander, Part 3:
Wing Commander: The Secret Missions 2: Crusade

By this point in our lives, the two dudes who we saw the most often at Software & Such referred to Joe and myself collectively as "those two Wing Commander kids." No, that's not a misnomer; ever since Joe's chance encounter with Secret Missions, we were at the store around once a week or so, asking if they had any new Wing Commander games. Sure, we probably just could have called down there to ask, but as teenagers, we kind of needed someplace to go and something to do on a Saturday afternoon.

We would often head down to the general area for an In-N-Out shake, and one of us would ask the other: "wanna go see if S&S has any new Wing Commander games?" after we'd finished. Honestly, that was a neat time to be alive. Anyway, after God only knows how many weeks of bugging these poor Gen X-ers about games, we came in one day, and the guy who didn't mind us so much (whose name escapes me) said to us: "Wait! Before you ask, yes, we have Wing Commander stuff. A guy came in three days ago and traded in all his games for store credit, so we held them for you."

The games that had been traded in were Wing Commander and its two expansions, Secret Missions and Secret Missions 2: Crusade, and Wing Commander Academy. Of course, we'd rolled down to the store with no money, expecting them to turn us down again; thus we had to ride all the way back home to dig into our respective savings for some dough. As interesting as Wing Commander Academy looked, we opted for Secret Missions 2, since that was the next game in the series. Apparently, Secret Missions 2 (which I will refer to as Crusade from here on in) was harder to find, so it ran us $22 used, of which we each agreed with the other to pay $11.

As with the first Secret Missions, Crusade was an expansion of the original Wing Commander; thus, the gameplay remains unchanged, as do my "favorite/least favorite" sequences, and the straight forward approach to missions also remains unchanged. However, Crusade continues in the tradition of its predecessor by adding more depth to the Wing Commander mythos by adding a new race, the bird looking Firekkans, as well as adding details of Kilrathi religious practices and how they relate to their aggressive, combative nature. The farther along the series goes, the more we learn about the Kilrathi.

Also, a deadly new Kilrathi fighter-craft is introduced into the game: the "Hhriss-class" medium fighter:

Spawned in the shipyards of Hell itself, the Hhriss.

Also introduced into the mythos are the Kilrathi Imperial Guard, known as the Drakhai. These cats are aces among aces, and often lead squadrons of fighters into battle. They are the bad guys you really don't want to tangle with, especially when behind the stick of a Hhriss-class fighter.

Even Colonel Halcyon needs to take a moment to warn you about them.

Oh, and they love to taunt you.

Especially if you're kicking some Kilrathi butt!

But they aren't invincible!

The box featured the same lack of dramatic graphics on the front as its predecessor, but did feature a "filmstrip" of screen captures from the game on the cover, which was a great thought as a kid. This made me feel more like I was the actor in some kind of movie, and that was pretty neat.

Arr! Spoilers ahead, me hearties!

Cast changes:

Major James "Paladin" Taggart finally retires, and Major Kien "Bossman" Chen is killed in action in Wing Commander's first "scripted death."


In their place, we meet:

As an interesting side note, Doomsday explains that his facial tattoos are that of a Maori warrior, the Maori being natives to New Zealand here on Earth.

The Scimitar-class medium fighter has been retired from service, much to my chagrin as a kid. For whatever reason, I still have a soft spot in my heart for that slow old bucket of bolts. Joe loved the action of a Raptor-class heavy fighter, but I still get a good feeling thinking about flying Scimitars with "Paladin" on my wing.

Doesn't seem to bug Iceman, though.

With Operation Thor's Hammer behind them, all is well with the crew of the Tiger's Claw. The Terrans have made first contact with an alien race, the Firekkans, and are pursuing diplomatic relations.

However, several Kilrathi warships have been leaving their front line positions to make haste for the Firekka system for unknown reasons. The player must fly a series of aggressive, cloak-and-dagger missions to ascertain the purpose of this massive Kilrathi battle fleet movement.

During the course of these missions, a Kilrathi commander surrenders and defects to the Confederation, bringing over lots of enemy tech and inside information, including several Dralthi-class fighterships.

Shortly thereafter, the Colonel calls you into his office to tell you that there's a covert mission coming up, and you're going to be getting it. However, it's so secret, he can't even tell you what it's going to be until he briefs the pilots on their missions!

You wind up getting to fly a one of the enemy Dralthi-class medium fighters! I remember that being a very exciting thing as a kid.

Iceman isn't so excited about it, though.

Man, does this thing look alien, or what?

Over the course of several teeth-gritting missions, the defecting Kilrathi commander, Ralgha nar Hhallas, informs the Confederation that Kilrathi priestesses have chosen the Firekkan homeworld as the site of the Sivar-Eshrad, an annual ceremony in which the cats pray to their war god, Sivar (remember blowing that thing up during Secret Missions?), in order to gain the god's favor. Success would give the Kilrathi success and domination on the field of battle; failure would leave the cats doomed to fail.

No, we can't.

This does not bode well for the Firekkans, and the Terran Confederation flies its best and brightest in to lend a hand. That's where you come in; your job: disrupt the ceremony, help save the Firekkans, and strike a hard morale blow to the cats in the process. This is made all the more ominous by a mysterious communication received onboard the Claw from "Prince Thrakhath," heir apparent to the throne of Kilrah:

"Warriors of the human ships, hear me now. You are trespassing on the holy ground of Lord Sivar. If you remain, the Sons of Kilrah will destroy you. We must prepare the Way of Lord Sivar, and no unbelievers may remain here alive. But because you are brave warriors, I shall grant you this: You have one planetary rotation to leave this system. Leave here now, and no harm will come to you until we meet again in honorable combat. Thus speaks Prince Thrakhath, Firstborn of the Firstborn, Heir to Kilrah."

Subsequently, the Confederation pulls out-system, but the action is simply a ruse; they instead formulate a bold plan to use the nearby Corsair star-system as a makeshift staging area for a larger assault, not willing to give up on the Firekkans and their defense. Several missions turn into an all-out slugfest, the outcome of which could very well decide the fate of the Firekkan race. This is wonderful storytelling on the author's part. The player character never sees the mysterious, threatening prince, and thus the sense of the unknown is palpable at this point in the game. I can remember saying: "Who is Prince Thrakhath? Whoever he is, he's going down!" as a kid.

The game concludes in one of two ways:

1.) Your efforts are successful and the Sivar-Eshrad ceremony is disrupted. You beat a hasty retreat, hoping that the Terran Confederation has given the Firekkans enough of a leg up to push the Kilrathi off their planet.

The Firekkans are able to beat the cats back, thanks to the success of the Tiger's Claw and her mission.

2.) You are unable to disrupt the ceremony, and it goes off without a hitch. Millions of Firekkans are enslaved or killed, and the Tiger's Claw and her crew bug out with their heads hung low.

Well, there goes that peace treaty.

Best features:

  • Transfer Program: Crusade came with another transfer program that let you continue to use the same character data you'd carried over from the original Wing Commander and had added to during Secret Missions. It was at this point that I broke the 500 kill mark.

    Man, look at all those pilots gone due to series overflow.

  • Story: Crusade had so much plot, universe expansion, and character development going on when compared to the previous two that it's not even funny. In addition to the main plot, there are several subplots that play out during the rest of the game:

    Maybe Iceman's not so icy:

    Iceman is a hustler.

    Angel feels responsible for Bossman's death:

    Maniac is in Sickbay with mental problems:

    Not that it bothers you or Knight very much.

    You travel to the surface of Firekka on shore leave to watch the diplomatic relations continue:

    Spirit's fiance is captured by the enemy:

    Colonel Halcyon has gotten himself a new job:

    With you having made Lieutenant Colonel just a few missions prior, it isn't much of a surprise.

    Wow. As a kid, the Colonel telling me that I am going to have his job was awesome. Things really had come full circle for Joe and I at that moment. We started out rookie second looies with maybe two or three kills to our credit, to being a Lieutenant Colonel poised to take over the ship's fighter squadron, and a centuple Ace (that's an Ace 100 times over, if 5 kills are what is necessary to earn "Ace" classification).

    And the Kilrathi aren't the only side who has had someone defect:

    Ok, so maybe he is still pretty icy.

    Really, video games just did not tell stories like this in 1991. I think the most complex plot up to that point was: "Super Mario needs to take down Bowser for the 111th time. Go! Fight! Win! Super fun time!"

  • Addition of alien races and revealing details about the Kilrathi.

    Worst features:

  • Series Overflow, Asteroids, Crashes, and the lack of a mission tree still apply.

    Most memorable mission: It's gotta be the disruption of the Sivar-Eshrad. However, a close second would be the first time you get to fly one of the Dralthi-class medium fighters, before I found out just how un-desirable they really are to fly, especially when you're outgunned.

    Most frustrating mission: Flying the captured Dralthi-class fighters may seem like a super cool thing to do at first, but the fact is that the ship is not a very effective ship, with its weak shields and only two moderately effective main guns. On several occasions, I came across several big, bad enemy ships, and I was flying these missions alone due to the series overflow bug. There is only so much that the Dralthi can handle. Sing it with me...


    Though, with perseverance, I was able to successfully complete all of the Dralthi missions.

    Overall rating: 4.25 stars out of 5 possible.

    Combined rating for Wing Commander, Secret Missions, and Crusade: 13 stars out of 15 possible.

    Next game: Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi
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