Preview - Star Trek: The Next Generation - "A Final Unity" (DOS, 1995)

Space . . . The final frontier.

For almost 30 years, Gene Roddenberry's vision of the future has dominated the public consciousness. The original Star Trek television show only maintained mediocre ratings during its original run in the late 60's, but it gained almost immediate cult status in syndicated reruns, and was resurrected as a series of big-budget movies throughout the 80's. These films were so successful that in 1987, Roddenberry announced a controversial plan to create a new television series with a crew of unknowns aboard the fifth generation of the Starship Enterprise, NCC-1701D. Fans were shocked and cynical about the prospect, but Star Trek: The Next Generation ultimately gained the mainstream success that eluded the original show, and more than doubled the original's episode count, only stopping to make way for the newest members of the Star Trek family, Deep Space Nine and Voyager.

"Next Gen" was more than just a spin off. It was an evolution of the social ideas put forth in the original series. Captain Kirk was a young turk, just the kind of maverick the world wanted to watch in such a revolutionary time. However, in an increasingly diverse and multicultural America, the brash Kirk was supplanted by the ever diplomatic Jean-Luc Picard. Despite the character shifts and the greatly increased production costs, one thing stayed the same between Star Trek and its offspring: The shows always featured a combination unknown, bizarre plot situations and very well known crew members. This alchemy has created a loyal viewership unprecedented in the history of mass media.

While the Next Generation series finished its run this summer, fans will have two new opportunities to revisit their favorite Enterprise crew this winter. Paramount is releasing its crossover film between the original and Next Gen casts, Generations, and Spectrum Holobyte is giving gamers a chance to wander a virtual Enterprise in the first of a series of Next Gen CD-ROM games, A Final Unity.

Star Trek is no stranger to electronic media, but most of the previous products have focused on space combat or tactics. In keeping with the tone of the Next Generation series, A Final Unity is very character driven. In fact, Next Gen's most prominent actors, including Marina Sirtis, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner and Patrick Stewart, will be contributing character voices. Even Majel Barrett, Roddenberry's widow, will be reprising her role as LCARS, the ship's computer. Each of these seasoned professionals recorded an hour of dialog, about as much as they would have spoken during an entire season of the television show.

One of the primary goals of A Final Unity is to duplicate the atmosphere of the show in every possible respect. This ranges from careful rendering of the various sets and ships to completely digitized music and sound. When a phaser is fired in the game, it will have exactly the same sound as in the program, and the whole experience will start with a full orchestral version of the famous theme tune. The different locations in the game will be navigated by 3-d virtual actors instead of digitized video of the original cast. This will allow for smoother interaction with the rendered sets.

While many adventure games are designed with only one story to experience and one way to win, A Final Unity is more flexible. The decisions the player makes will influence game events and can completely change the outcome in more subtle ways than just win or lose. In addition to this, the player can choose to follow any of his favorite characters through the unfolding events, so there are numerous replay possibilities.

It may seem like this game is specifically geared toward Trek fans. To some degree, that's true. Fans are far more likely to pick up a licensed product like this, that's only natural. But Spectrum Holobyte has gone to considerable lengths to insure that those players who have never watched the show will not be at a disadvantage. All the necessary background information on the characters, alien races, habitable planets and the capabilities of the Enterprise will be easily available throughout the game. A Final Unity will also appeal to a broad range of computer game player experience, featuring very challenging puzzles as well as a series of detailed online hints for the novice. This game will not only introduce the Star Trek universe to more PC gamers, it will probably initiate numerous "Trekkers" into the appealing world of animated graphic adventures.

It seems the end of the Next Generation television show is by no means the end of the story for the intrepid crew of the NCC-1701D. They will continue to boldly go where no one has gone before in a series of films, and to engage the imaginations of PC gamers with this promising Spectrum Holobyte series. There's a lot of potential for future products using this game engine. Here's hoping the fans of the series will take A Final Unity into their collective heart and . . . make it so.

Download the demo for A Final Unity