Back in the mid-90s, video game arcades were still a thing that existed in pretty much every mall in America. Fighters actually had quarter lines, plastic guns abounded, and games with seats in front of the cabinet covered more arenas than racing, racing, and more racing.
One such game, a personal favorite and one of the few that's never seen a home port, was Sega's Wing War. Unrelated to the Atari/Colecovision title from back in the day, Wing War offered one of the best dogfighting simulations of its time. Two players (or just one and the computer) took turns attacking and evading over several landscapes, in a decent spread of aircraft from across history.
Personally, I leaned toward the Mitsubishi M6A Zero and the Harrier Jumpjet most of the time, occasionally moonlighting on the P38 and the Werewolf helicopter. It was great blowing through a few matches after getting my ass handed to me in Mortal Kombat II, as well as finding that the second-oldest plane in the game (the Zero) could dominate pretty much any comers, regardless of their era of origin.
On the few occasions I got to play single player, things were a bit rougher, trying to work my way up through the tournament-style bracket to the game's UFO end boss. I only made it that far once, and came within one or two fusillades of taking the bastard down before getting kicked off the machine because the arcade was closing. You could say that night was one of my first real heartbreaks.
Short of finding a cabinet for sale somewhere, and actually having the money for it, there's no real chance of me ever making up that loss, either. It wasn't long afterward that my arcade's Wing War got shuffled out for something more current. I forgot the name of the game after a while and a long-running addiction to X-Men vs Street Fighter, and by the time the world wide web had evolved to the point it could tell me what I was looking for, I learned the failure of the Sega Saturn had left Wing War the only game on Sega's Model 1 arcade system that didn't see a home system release.
I've played several Ace Combats, some Wing Commander (SNES-flavored, so it may not even count), plenty of air combat sims. StarFox 64's multiplayer and Crimson Skies: High Road To Revenge managed to somewhat recapture the magic of Wing War's Expert mode, which let you fly more freely but was a lot more difficult, but nothing's quite hit that back-and-forth that made Wing War's standard mode so fun.
It kills me to share something so beautiful that not only hasn't aged well visually, but also that almost none of you can ever play, but I felt that this was as good a realm as any to pay tribute to one of the funnest times I'll likely ever have piloting anything, real or imaginary. At the very least, someone's captured footage of the game's attract mode
, so you can see what you missed.
If anyone from Sega is reading this, it's about time you guys revived an IP rather than beating one to death or relegating it to "all-star" cameo status. HD up-res, online multiplayer. Think about it. For the children.
LOOK WHO CAME: