Old School Gaming

Retro Games: Jetfighter II

Back in the early days of the home computing boom, just before the Pentium P5 chip set the world on it’s ear, the 66Mhz – 486DX2 processor was king of the MS-DOS gaming era. Paired with a VESA Local Bus card for “mind-blowing” graphic bandwidths, these early home computers represented a huge leap forward in the gaming world at the time.

While primitive by today’s standards, this marked a transition from earlier 2-d games such as Wheel of Fortune, Oregon Trail and Lemmings into the fledgling world of 3-Dimensional gamelay we now take for granted.

Always a popular segment were the flight simulator games, allowing us the curious sensation of flying like the birds without ever leaving the living room, office or den. The most popular flight games have always included some sort of fighting ability, and Jetfighter II represents a hugely popular (and one of my all-time favorite) flight simulators of the day.

It allowed you to take off from several different SF-Bay area airports, fly under the Golden Gate or  Bay bridges and even drop ordinance on downtown’s Trans-America building. I could spend hours and hours just flying around imagining I was in one of the planes actually outside our shop door at NAS Miramar. Choosing external view and then watching the wings of an F-14 Tomcat sweep back as you speed up added to the realism.

But the coolest aspect was the ability to launch from and recover aboard the carrier USS Constellation CV-64. Using some of the very same landing radar “aids” I actually worked on at the time, the action felt very realistic to us Carrier Air Traffic Control technicians. And having several friends who had recently served on or transferred to the Connie made it even cooler to us swabbies. I always tried to land like they actually do at sea, approaching in a counterclockwise “racetrack” and dropping out of the imaginary “stack” for final approach around 3-10 miles depending on my patience.

“Trapping” on the deck (aim for the 3rd wire) still gets my adrenalin pumping nearly 20 years later.

The missions added another dimension to the game once flying around became boring, although dogfighting takes a little figuring out (Hint: the missiles are toggled in the opposite order they are needed, short range first, long distance shoot & forget weapons scroll up last).

On an interesting and semi-historical note, the game was released just before the military’s Advanced Tactical Fighter competition winner was announced, and the developers chose the YF-23 “Black Widow II” to model which actually lost. It actually makes the game a little cooler.


(A cool video with the old sights & sounds)

I recently got to feeling nostalgic about this old favorite game, and found it available for free at myabandonware.com. I ended up getting re-addicted and staying up to meet the sun on several occasions, to the point that super-spouse no longer came in at 3am demanding I go to bed.

You will need a DOS emulator capable of dealing with the clock speed differences (last time I tried to play it with those available a few years ago it was unusable with a tap of the controls resulting in wildly fast spins). This time I chose DOSBox 0.74 wich works wonderfully on my Vista machine. Just install the dos program on your desktop, and unzip the JFII files there too. Then drag and drop the entire folder into the DOS icon to start gameplay. And watch the next several days slip away.

(images courtesy of http://www.myabandonware.com)

  • Can't say I have ever played that game, but A-10 Tank killer was my favorite flying sim of the times.[youtube -bUPAN21Xck http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-bUPAN21Xck youtube]

    • (Off to find A-10 Tank Killer!)

    • dmilligan

      Hmph. I'd like to play A-10 Tank Killer too (I absolutely adore the Thunderbolt II), but I am a lost cause when it comes to flight simulators. I just don't have the right stuff, I guess. Sigh.

  • zaddikim

    Of the older games, I liked Stunts, the Mech Warrior series, and helicopter sims. The last one that stands out was Comanche Gold.

    Damn that was a nice chopper – I was kinda heart-broken when they killed the RAH-66 program.

  • TurboBrick

    I remember that game, but I played more A10 and Gunship:2000 out of the modern airwar games. I've always preferred the WW1 and WW2 flight sims though. "F16 Fighting Falcon" and it's sequels were The games for jet fighter sim nerds back then.

  • PrawoJazdy

    This blew my mind as a 6yr old. It also came on a card. A CARD! That was the future of gaming right there.

    [youtube Z6WwFAz2WxM http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6WwFAz2WxM youtube]

  • chrystlubitshi

    I did enjoy jetfighter II and A-10 tank killer… but I think I spent more time playing LHX than just about any other flight simulator

  • lucas

    OMFG thank you for this I actually bought the cd version of this game on ebay a couple years ago but could never get it to work. This was perfect got me up in the air in 5 minutes………….FOR FREE i felt like i was 13 again

    Only gripe is that the dos window that you play in is really small other than its great