Fighter Command

Name:
Fighter Command

Company: Unknown
Model #:
N/A
Programmer:
Unknown
Year: 1983
Released?
No
Notes:
Also called Combat II

 

Found in the collection of a former Roklan programmer, Fighter Command (a.k.a. Combat II) is a bit of a mystery.  On one hand it appears that someone at Roklan was working on a plane combat simulator (nothing unusual about that), but then there’s the fact that one of the two prototypes is clearly labeled Combat II and was in an official Atari lab loaner case.  While various 3rd party games have been found in Atari lab loaner cases in the past (usually for employees examining other companies games), this prototype is a bit different in that it’s an unfinished WIP and it’s a completely new and unknown game.  Adding to the confusion is the fact that there was already a completely different game called Combat II being developed by GCC for Atari at the time (which was also unfinished and never released).   For the purposes of this article, we’ll refer to the game as Fighter Command so as not to confuse the two.

 

Mystery origins aside, Fighter Command is an impressive jet fighting simulation that really shows off the capabilities of the 2600.  Upon booting the game the player is shown a hanger with several jets ready to launch.  Pressing the fire button opens the hanger door and brings the player to the cockpit view.  The cockpit screen has five different options that are slowly highlighted one by one.  To select an option the player must push the button when the appropriate one is highlighted.  Holding the button down will continually select that option until the button is released

Missile – Although this option has a status bar next to it indicating how many missiles are left, it is non functional in this prototype.  This option will turn to Guns once combat begins.

Defense – This is another non-functional option.  There is a status bar next to it which is assumed to represent how much damage the jet can take.  It is unknown what selecting this option would do though.

Radar – Switches to the radar screen as long as the button is held down.  The radar screen shows the location of any enemy jets.

Faster – Increases the speed of the jet.  The longer you hold the button down the faster the jet will go until the speed reaches its maximum.  As you increase your speed, a bar will appear next to the Slower option indicating how fast you are going.

Slower – The opposite of the Faster option.  Acts the same way except it will decrease your speed.  Holding down this option will cause the speed bar next to it to decrease.
 
Also shown on the cockpit screen are your fuel, altitude, score, status bar, and what is assumed to be three status indicators.

 

To take off the player must hold down the Faster option to increase speed.  Once in the air, the player can fly around for a short amount of time before an enemy jet shows up (visible on the radar) and imitates combat mode (as indicated on the status bar).  Once in combat mode the Missile option turns to Guns and is permanently highlighted.  Now you can push the fire button to shoot at the enemy jet.  This is harder than it sounds as the jet moves very fast and it’s hard to keep it in your crosshairs.  Unfortunately that’s where the fun stops as there doesn’t appear to actually be a way to shoot down the enemy jet, so the combat never ends.  If the player presses reset at this point the cockpit view will still show Guns instead of Missiles and it will be permanently highlighted so the game cannot be started.  The player must completely turn the game off and on again to start over.

 

One interesting feature of this prototype is that flipping the Color switch to B&W produces a nice looking color bar chart which was used by the programmer for reference during programming.  Oddly this screen will roll on a real 2600, indicating it uses the wrong number of scanlines.  There are other scanline oddities in this prototype as well such as the start up screen slowly rolling a bit until it becomes stable when first turned on.  The presumed older prototype (labeled Fighter Command) has a constant screen roll on NTSC TVs and the screen extends past the viewable area.  Why the programmer did this is unknown, but perhaps this hints that these prototypes were developed by someone with a PAL TV or someone who didn’t know the correct number of scanlines for NTSC.  Due to these scanline oddities, emulators are the best way to experience these prototypes.

 

Was Fighter Command intended to be an original game for a 3rd party company then pitched to Atari as Combat II when the original GCC version was abandoned?  Was it originally intended to be one of the other unreleased Atari jet games like Foxbat or Firefox?  Was it planted by a wayward time traveler to confuse prototype collectors?  While we may never know the story behind the origins of these prototypes, they show a lot of promise.  It is unknown if development continued on Fighter Command past the ‘Combat II’ prototype, but it ultimately ended up not being released by any company.  Hopefully we can find out more information about this game in the future.


Version Cart Text Description
?/??/83 Fighter Command
Early Version
6/1/83
Combat II 6-1-83
Later Version

 

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