I was not that surprised when I learnt that this game was made by Rare, along with Snake Rattle ‘n’ Roll and Marble Madness; they were a kind of company that seemed to enjoy pushing the limits of the consoles’ capabilities. Captain Skyhawk is no exception.
The storyline is simple: aliens have taken over the world, and they are using four bases that they built to suck the energy out of the Earth in order to feed it to their mothership, which is chilling somewhere in space. You take the roll of Captain Skyhawk, an ace pilot who, with the aid of his hi-tech jet, has been ordered to wipe out this alien menace. In short, you get to blow shit up.
The normal levels in this game are vertical shooters where you fly up the screen shooting anything that gets in your way, which is pretty much everything. All the enemies are slightly different in their movement and attacking style, but only a few of them can sustain more than one hit (though, the same goes for you). Unlike most games of the genre and time, you can make your ship ascend and descend, which helps you dodge bullets and mountaintops. This extra element adds a whole lot more interest to the game.
There are eight missions—four which involve destroying an enemy base, two in which you rescue scientist, and two in which you have to bring supplies to a friendly base. Between each mission you get a flying bonus game, which involves shooting down planes; this game starts out fun, but quickly gets boring, seeing as the later ones go on for hours. Every so often you can also enter a space station where you can spend credits you earn to pimp up your ride, and to buy extra missiles and stuff.
For an NES game, the graphics of Captain Skyhawk are pretty sweet. They have a slight 3D element about them, and you can easily recognize the mountains stretching up into an axis that most NES games don’t dare to tread. The colours are plain, but are mostly easy on the eyes—at least until you reach the later levels, for which sunglasses are recommended.
The music for this game is quite a letdown. Except for the sound effects, the levels are played in silence, and I can’t help but feel that if they stuck in a tune, then it would make the game a whole lot cooler. When the music does play, it is above average for an NES game, and the tunes at the title screen and high scores table are very catchy.
Overall, Captain Skyhawk is a pretty addictive game, and you will keep coming back to it to try to achieve a high score, even if the high score table gets wiped out whenever you reset your NES (last time I completed the game, I got 316,900). If you find this game anywhere, I highly recommend it; fans of shooting and flight simulators will like it, and you can have fun crushing my score and sticking it in my face.