If you're a long time computer user, you're probably already familiar with the Falcon series of flight/combat simulators. If you're not a computer user, you've undoubtedly heard of Falcon and wished you could play. We've got good news and bad news. The good news is that owners of the TurboGrafx-16 (or TurboExpress) game system can hop aboard the Falcon for some awesome air antics. The bad news is that the TurboGrafx version, while an immensely playable game, isn't as complete a simulator as its computerized big brother.
That's understandable, of course. After all, when translating a flight-simulator program to a video game console, many limitations must be dealt with, not the least of which are limited forms of input (no keyboard, only buttons) and less memory. So, the TurboGrafx-16 version of Falcon is more a combat video game than a full flight simulator. Nevertheless, enough basic aircraft controls - such as airspeed, altitude, directional and targeting indicators - remain to at least give the feeling of flying in combat, if not the full experience.
Falcon's flight screen features a heads-up display that show most of the important aircraft readouts. These include the aforementioned indicators, as well as fuel, damage and electronic countermeasure readout. In addition, a large radar display, which helps you locate and approach the enemy, fills most of the lower part of the screen. The radar shows both your plane and any other planes nearby. By watching the radar, you can move easily judge the direction you're flying and how far you are from the enemy.
In order to fit more readouts onto the screen, the heads-up display changes with your flight mode. For example, as you flip between your weapons systems, the display switches to the readouts you need for each system. Most important, because different weapons use different targeting systems, when you switch to a new weapon, the special targeting system for that weapon becomes activated.
You can play Falcon in several modes, including a training mode that provides options for practicing bombing runs, missile shots, interceptions, and more; dog fights, which give you practice with guns and air-to-air missiles, as well as enemy avoidance techniques; and the mission mode, which tests your mettle with 16 missions, culminating in your destroying a nuclear weapon plant.
But before you take your jet up into the wild blue, you must stock up on equipment. The right choice of missiles can make the difference between heroic victory and flaming defeat. You'll also need to decide on such items as extra fuel tanks and ECM (Electronic Counter Measure) pods, which sense enemy radar but also emit signals that draw the enemy to you.
Once you choose your equipment, you're moved to the runway, from which your jet takes off. Unfortunately, you can do nothing to control your jet until it's in the air. The entire takeoff procedure is handled automatically by your TurboGrafx-16. This is also true of landing.
When you're in the air, you have to keep your eyes and radar peeled for enemy interference, including flak, missiles and other fighters. Which you encounter depends upon the current mission and the type of target you're up against. Ground targets, for example, expose you to ground fire that you wouldn't necessarily encounter in a dogfight. In summary, because the TurboGrafx-16 version of Falcon allows only minimal control over the aircraft, people looking for a full flight simulator won't find it here. Nevertheless, Falcon is an engrossing combat game that'll have you hunting down the enemy for months of wartime game play. If the rattle of machine guns and the "whump" of exploding missiles gets your control-pad hand quivering, climb into Falcon and reach for the clouds.