Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi (SNES)

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Description

Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi (SNES) is an unreleased Wing Commander game developed in 1994-5. Unlike the first two SNES Wing Commander titles, WC2 was developed in-house at Origin Systems in Austin. The development team was lead by Billy Cain, who would go on to design Wing Commander Prophecy. The game was planned for a May, 1995 release.

Wing Commander II was developed but never released. The decision was financial in nature: sales of Super Nintendo consoles declined more than had been expected for the 1994 holiday season and Wing Commander II was a large game which required a more expensive type of SNES cartridge. Review copies were apparently sent to magazines and the finished master was shipped to Pony Canyon in Japan. No copies of the game have been located.

The game is considered the last 'holy grail' of Wing Commander fandom; locating and preserving a copy is a major goal of WCNews.com.

Differences

  • Wing Commander II would have different significantly from the PC release. Gameplay was said to be more arcade oriented to better suit the platform and audience, similar to the changes made in the 3DO port of Wing Commander III.
  • Many changes to the artwork are visible in the published screen shots, including full color communications VDUs, an 'invisible cockpit' in the bomber turrets and two VDUs instead of one in the Ferret cockpit. Most cockpit elements seem to have been redrawn and graphics were generally simplified for the SNES' lower color palette.
  • Lines of dialogue in the published screen shots differ in some instances from the PC version, which suggests that the script was rewritten to some extent.

Known Credits

Lead Designer / Project Director - Billy Cain

Programming - Axel Brown, Julian Alden‑Salter

Art - Eric Lund

Testing - Chris Primozich

Music - Barry Leitch

Reviews

At least two magazines printed reviews of Wing Commander II SNES, the April, 1995 issue of Electronic Gaming Montly (EGM) and the May 1995 issue of GamePro. Both were extremely positive, with EGM claiming that "this is one of the best translations from a PC to a gaming console I've ever seen." The EGM review was written by Ken Badziak and the GamePro review was by "Toxic Tommy" (Wes Nihei).

Wing Commander II was also mentioned in the May 5, 1995 issue of Point of Origin (http://download.wcnews.com/files/documents/Point_of_Origin_Vol_5_No_05.pdf).

Q&A with Billy Cain

What was your role with Wing Commander 2 SNES?
Lead Designer / Project Director

Can you give us some background on Origin at the time of WC2 SNES?
We were completing a series of game contracts for FCI Pony Canyon. WC2 SNES was the last of these. It was completed, but never shipped.

Who else worked on the game?
Axel Brown, Julian Alden-Salter (JAZ), Chris Primozich, and many other people, but we were also working on two other games at the same time so I am not 100% sure who did what on each game. I apologize for not being able to remember.

Do you remember how it differed from the original PC title?
Gameplay was significantly different, but we spent a majority of our time ensuring that the movies were 100% accurate. Story was huge on that game and we wanted to give it the respect it deserved. Since there was no real 'backup' of the original art, we wound up getting art from the FM Townes version that was either still in production or just completed production. It was quite a feat finding everything!!

Did you build off of WC SNES for the game, or did it have a new engine?
We did everything from scratch. It would have been very nice to have had that other engine to start from.

The magazine scans of WC2 SNES show some new artwork - different cockpits, full color Kilrathi VDUs. Who was responsible for that?
I want to say Eric Lund and other amazing artists we had on the team. Hey - write in guys and speak up if you can help fill in the info here! :)

The original Wing Commander SNES ports were done by Mindscape. When did Origin switch to in-house SNES development?
It was before I got there, but I worked on Ultima IV SNES, that was eventually renamed Ultima: Black Gate. I had a mint copy until I lent it to a friend that promised to keep it in mint condition. He finally gave it back to me after it rode in his backpack for about 6 months, when he told me that he never got around to playing it. These are the things that make me wish I never lent things out. But back to the story... We then took the engine for U7 and did some quick conversion tools to create Savage Empire. I still don't have a copy of that. Then we did Metal Morph on a whim and FCI published it. I'm not particularly proud of that game, but it helped Origin make its quarter with EA, so there was "much rejoicing." After that, we started on Wing Commander II, but the SNES market was drying up. I think FCI made the right decision to not release it financially, but obviously it would be great to have it as part of the canon.

Was WC2 SNES a fun game in its own right, or an attempt to simply reproduce the PC WC2 experience?
It was a fun game in its own right, but the truth is that by the time we were in QA, I had been asked to help on Rugby World Cup '95 in EA's England office in Langley, so I was doing data files during the day in England (fixing bugs), they were being implemented at Origin during the day in Austin (my night), and I did not have a way to burn SNES EPROMs there. I could have done it if it was Sega... :) The person to ask if it was fun would be our intrepid tester Chris Primozich. He really did the hard work of getting through that game time and time again.

The game was finished, shipped off... why didn't it come out?
Financial risk in the market would be my only answer.

Do you have any idea where the prototype could be today?
Yes.

Screenshots

Wing Commander II: Vengeance of the Kilrathi
Wc2snestitle.jpg
Platform Super Nintendo Entertainment System
Release Date Unreleased