When I first saw Starflight in the software store I knew I had to have it. It looked and sounded amazing, and it came from Electronic Arts which, at the time, meant quality. I moved whatever mountains needed to be moved to get it into my hands.
It came out in 1986 and I believe that I got it on PC, but there’s a slim possibility I played it on the Commodore 64. Playing it on the PC would mean not playing it in color, and I think I did so. Doesn’t matter.
It was a perfect game for me. The emphasis of the game was on exploration. Dozens if not hundreds of randomly (or maybe “procedurally” — I don’t really know the difference) planets with minerals, life forms, and other stuff to explore, alien races to find and interact with, and a mystery to solve, not a boss to kill. It was amazing. And yes, that Electronic Arts quality shone through, with the alien conversations well written and hilarious. It was truly a groundbreaking game.
When Starflight 2 came out in 1989, I jumped on it immediately. It was one of two games that prompted me to buy my very first hard drive, which was actually a “hard card” (it was mounted directly on the interface card instead of taking up a drive bay.) It held a whopping 10MB and I paid $125 for it, which was actually not a bad deal. I would finally be able to play Starflight 2 without constant disk-swapping.
Starflight 2 expanded on the original, emphasizing the trade aspect. Now you were finding stuff and delivering it to the folks who wanted it, a la that Space Trader game that there are countless iterations of. But there were still mysteries, fun interactions, and things to discover.
One thing I discovered while poking around the game files with a hex editor (hoping to cheat, no doubt), was a conspiracy theory involving the JFK assassination. You can read more about it here (and almost nowhere else on the Internet! EXCLUSIVE! MUST CREDIT DAVE EX MACHINA!) but the message was “JUDGE JIM GARRISON IS RIGHT. ELEMENTS OF FBI/CIA KILLED JFK.” It’s hidden in the code, and as far as I know it never comes up in the game. Who put it there and why is still a mystery.
The Starflight games are commonly confused with the Star Control series from Accolade, which I’ll talk about later. They have a lot of similarities, so the mistake is understandable, but this is not to imply that Accolade ripped off EA.
I recently grabbed the Star Control series (even if I still had the originals, I don’t have a 5.25″ floppy drive anymore) from Great Old Games. Not sure how well they aged, but we’ll see.