I collect video games. A lot of the games in my collection are bought from Goodwill, or flea markets, or wherever you might find old games. As a result, there are a lot of games in my collection that I have little to no experience with. Top Gun: The Second Mission is one of those games. After spending an hour or two with the game, I kind of wish I hadn’t. This game is impossible. Much like Jurassic Park, the graphics are gorgeous which lead to a very good first impression. The game takes place from a cockpit view that is especially detailed for an NES game. Enemies aren’t particularly animated, but their sprites have different models depending on what direction they’re facing. The boss of the first mission is a massive bomber with four engines that crumble as you shoot them. It all looks awesome.
There’s a real sense of speed, which is great for this kind of game. The only other NES game that I can think of that compares is Slalom, Rare’s classic skiing game. It’s a very strange sensation, looking at blocky NES sprites but still feeling a real sense of immersion thanks largely to the speed.
But this is where my positives end. There’s hardly a story at all, which in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But this game is based on a movie! Well, it’s a sequel to a game that’s based on a movie that never had a sequel. So, I guess they didn’t have much to work with. But still, what you get is about the most bare bones story you can imagine. According to the game’s intro, Maverick receives a distress call to go on a new mission. That mission is to hunt down the enemies’ secret weapons. And that’s it. Who are the enemies? If the weapons are secret, why do we know about them? The first mission doesn’t offer much either, only stating that we need to hunt down the “enemy’s hi-tech bomber”.
And then you start playing the game. You start from an aircraft carrier, and when you take off, there’s a voice clip that says “lift off.” At least I think that’s what it’s saying, it’s very muffled. Then you gain control of your jet, and if you’re like me, the first thing you’ll notice is that the controls aren’t inverted. Now, I know I’m kind of a weirdo, because I’m one of the few people who inverts their camera in every game. But this is a flight game. Just about anyone will agree that when flying, down is up and up is down. It’s the way it is in virtually any other flight game, but not Top Gun: The Second Mission.
The combat is super finicky. The A button accelerates, B fires your machine guns, double tapping B fires your missiles. I had to look up on GameFAQs how to fire the missiles. You can also perform barrel rolls by double tapping either left or right. Most of the time, I just seemed to barrel roll at random. Enemy jets will fire at you, but honestly, I couldn’t really tell if it was doing any damage. The only thing it seemed that I really had to watch out for was missiles. You can shoot them down, but you need to be extremely precise. Unfortunately, the game doesn’t really allow for precision and missiles will kill you in a single hit.
There’s a good game buried in Top Gun: The Second Mission somewhere. The graphics are appealing and the sense of speed is a sight to behold. But it’s simply to difficult and demands more from the player than it actually allows. This is not a game I can easily recommend.