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Gaming Greats – Elite (1984)

Welcome, Commander Jameson.If you don't know what that means, you've missed out on one of the all-time classics of gaming

Welcome, Commander Jameson.

If you don’t know what that means, you’ve missed out on one of the all-time classics of gaming.

Elite could be described as a space trading game, but space exploration might better define the gameplay. Taking control of Commander Jameson, you started at the Lave space station where you can bought different types of cargo to fill your hold and worked out where to travel to make a profit.

But forget the buying and selling – this was all about flying a space ship!

From the moment the opening screen popped up with the craft’s cockpit framing a revolving 3D model of your ship, the Cobra MkIII, you knew you were about to be immersed in an epic experience. The wireframe 3D was enough to make me feel like I was Lance Guest in The Last Starfighter (released that same year).

These were, initially at least, the days of the BBC Micro and Acorn Electron, and Elite’s wireframe 3D was revolutionary. Controlling your spacecraft meant using keys for accelerate, decelerate, rotate left and right, climb, dive and shoot.

Jumping to neighbouring planets was a role of fate’s dice – you never knew what would face you when you popped out of light speed. Space dogfights with pirates were fast and thrilling. The ingenious 3D radar was indispensible and, if you could afford the cargo scoop, successfully destroying the enemy could result in you picking up some debris or an escape capsule to sell.

Then there was the simple task of landing in a space station. Simple as throwing a frisbee through a revolving letterbox, that is. Matching your rate of rotation with that of the station as you approached it – straight on, not at an angle – was an art.

The later version of Elite on the Acorn Archimedes is viewed as the best, but getting an Archimedes emulator running successfully can be more difficult than entering a space station. For the original, authentic flavour, you’re better off finding a C64, Spectrum or NES emulator (such as the excellent NEStopia).

Good luck, Commander Jameson.

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