Super Duper Chris Cooper, talking about Super Duper Stuff, on Super Duper Stuff!
When I look back at my PC gaming days in the nineties a few things instantly spring to mind:
- Testing our Sound Blaster 16 with a quick blast of ‘Yub Nub’.
- Making deals with Mum for phone line usage.
- Raging at AWP campers on Counter-Strike.
- My Dad explaining that we had to enter ‘RISE.EXE’ to play the worst fighting game I’ve ever touched.
- Star Wars: TIE Fighter.
Lucasart’s form was so hot in the nineties they must have been working on Tatooine. It was never a question of how good the game would be. It was merely how awesome it would be.
TIE Fighter was right up there, with an intriguing story that, from a certain point of view at least, made you one of the bad guys. Working your way up through the Imperial ranks, and gaining more favour with the Emperor, got you into the cockpits of more and more advanced ships. You could target individual sections of cruisers, store multiple targets for easy identification, go to hyperspace, and best of all, manage your energy levels between shields, lasers and engines! You even got the chance to fly alongside Darth Vader!
So it was (and still is) a very cool game. There was something else though. One particular ship, found later in the game. This ship was sex on legs (or pylons). It was the TIE Defender.
If you like technical details you’re in for a treat…
Ditching Tarkin’s doctrine of overwhelming force allowed the Empire and their supplier, Sienar Fleet Systems, to create something that out-performed pretty much everything at the time. Corran Horn nicknamed them ‘Trips’, and they were OP. With four L-s9.3 laser cannons mounted on the two lower wings and two NK-3 ion cannons mounted on the upper wing, they could either destroy or disable their targets. Two M-g-2 general purpose warhead launchers on the fighter’s chin gave it even more oomph.
Then there’s the tractor beam – originally designed for the TIE Avenger. It couldn’t be used for long before needing to recharge, but was capable of slowing down fighters and making them easier targets.
The Defender didn’t stop there when it came to breaking tradition; it actually provided some protection to the pilot! A pair of forward and rear projecting Novaldex deflector shield generators offered protection alongside a reinforced hull. There still wasn’t a life support system, requiring the usual fully-sealed flight suit, but with a hyperdrive the ship was far more tactically agile.
Looking over the the Empire, and comparing it to it’s predecessor; it’s clear that the Imperials regressed. The Grand Army of the Republic had specialty forces and equipment for a host of scenarios. A small squad of Clone Commandos (Remember the ARC Troopers? Cool as hell) would have taken out Echo Base on Hoth and captured Skywalker no problem. But instead the Empire needed ridiculous displays of force to instill fear in the populace. With the Defender it seemed Imperials were finally twigging that looking after your pilots and giving them good equipment could lead to better results.
The design of this ship stuck with me long after we’d finished the game.
Sadly I couldn’t find or afford a Micro Machines Action Fleet model of the Defender. First released in a later wave in 1997, the Defender started off rare and has only become rarer and prohibitively expensive. Even unboxed models cost upwards of £100. Maybe one day I’ll get one to put alongside my Y-Wing and StarViper.
That toy may not have come my way, but another model would be released that would be far easier to get my hands on. The TIE Defender came back into my life in 2014 when they played a huge part in me taking up the X-Wing Miniatures Game.
My brother discovered the game through Wil Wheaton’s ‘Tabletop’ show. They had no idea what they were doing, but our interest was piqued. Moving on from Monopoly and discovering this whole new landscape of gaming was huge. You could say we took our first step into a larger world. Within two months of our first game I owned twelve ships (I own roughly fifty now). This only got worse when I discovered that the latest wave of releases included – you guessed it – the TIE Defender!
I promptly bought three despite them actually being over-costed in squad terms. I rocked up to one of my first tournaments with those three Defenders, and it didn’t go that well. Rule of cool trumped any sensible list building. It would be a couple of years before they were fixed, to such a degree that they then had to take a nerf bat to the back of the knees to get them in line.
Moving into the second edition of X-Wing they’re looking like beasts once again (YAY), and I think that’s partly due to something that happened to them in another medium.
When Disney bought the franchise and turned the Expanded Universe into Legends I figured that was it. Defenders were old canon now. I started watching Star Wars Rebels, the new animated show they’d created with Clone Wars head honcho Dave Filoni. He had form for melding different aspects of the saga together, but I never expected what he’d bring into the show later in it’s run. My ship was back! Not only was the TIE Defender back in canon, but it was cool and important to the story!
Its first appearance showed it to be a decent improvement over the TIEs of the time, but still nothing crazy. Later appearances in its improved ‘Elite‘ guise blew me and the Rebels away. Had it got to full production, this ship alone would have beaten the Rebellion. Ultimately the factory producing the ship was destroyed at huge cost to both the Empire and the Rebellion in what was in some ways the culmination of the whole show. It may not have been around for long, but it made an impact. I loved the show but this extra touch was so special to me.
From the Y-Wing to the Eta-2, the Star Wars starfighter aesthetic grabbed hold of me at a young age. But the TIE Defender will always be Super Duper to me.