The Cosmos’ Most Ridiculously Implausible Video Games: Time Pilot — Konami 1982
Jason Helton takes apart the science of Konami's classic videogame Time Pilot. Even by our standards, this is quite geeky...
Of all of the most implausible video games ever made, Time Pilot is close to, if not on the top, of the list.
The story is this: you, a crack shot pilot from the future, must travel back in time with your amazing, dot-firing, Colonial Viper Wannabe spacecraft, to rescue friendly pilots from the future who have been shot down and are parachuting down to presumably enemy territory. After shooting a multitude of period aircraft, you face off against a ‘boss’ before moving to the next era of conflict.
There are a myriad of problems I have with this game, although it is certainly a fun, classic shooter.
I. A fleet of World War I aircraft could not take on a single aircraft from present day, much less a plane from the future.
- So combat begins in 1910. Your starship encounters a flotilla of bi-planes led by their supreme commander, a blimp. For the sake of argument, let’s say that in the future, the primary armament on aircraft is your typical kinetic energy weapon, the traditional gun that fires bullets. One would think, that even if using kinetic weapons, they would have significantly advanced between 1910 and the unnamed time period your future-craft would have come from. I think it is safe to say, the Time Pilot should be able to Swiss cheese the shit out of this cannon fodder. Additionally, one would also think that humanity would have had significant advances in armour technology, certainly enough that your high tech, futuristic harbinger of doom would be able to withstand getting hit by one single bullet from an 1910 era aircraft.
- In the game, enemy aircraft are able to keep pace, and even fly faster than your starship. To put this into perspective, one of the first combat aircraft mass-produced was the Royal Aircraft Factor F.E.2b, which flew at a top speed of 80 knots. After some research, I talked to an F-16 pilot who said the slowest he was able to take the aircraft to and still maintain a level of control, was 140 knots, and that was with full flaps and landing gear down. Unless the pilot forces of the future are made up by senior citizens and tourists, I can’t imaging they would make a starship that flew slower than the forces of the 20th century.
- It turns out that, prior to 1915, the primary weapon onboard a military aircraft was a sophisticated system called: ‘Whatever the Fuck You Can Throw At the Bad Guys’. Grenades, bricks, and handguns were armament of the day, and it wasn’t until the FB.5 was produced in 1915, that a machine gun was mounted on a combat aircraft. In fact, prior to 1915, most combat aircraft were reconnaissance planes.
- So, in addition to the ‘Machine Guns’ the 1910 enemy aircraft fire, they also release bombs. Now, kudos to Konami for keeping out the guided weapons until the Vietnam era, but dear god, if these enemy pilots actually think they can hit your fast moving fighter with a little bomb, sign them up for the attack on the Death Star. Even if your plane is bigger than a whomp rat, I seriously doubt these jokers could hit it while both of you are moving. It would be like climbing onto the top of a train and crapping on an ant while moving.
- So, the boss of the first level is a blimp. Here, they actually get something right. Blimps did exist as military aircraft, and could carry armament. The problem is they were also filled with hydrogen during this era. See, hydrogen + light objects = float. Hydrogen + spark = Hindenburg. But for some reason in the game, it takes seven shots to take out the blimp, when, generally speaking, one shot to the balloon area should be enough to send it straight to fucking Broadway.
II. You are SERIOUSLY fucking up your ancestors.
- So, you fly a plane back in time to rescue pilots who somehow get shot down in that timeline, and to accomplish this, you have to annihilate scores of period aircraft.
Additionally, when a plane is shot down, it erupts into a ball of flame, with no ill-fated pilot ‘hitting the silk’ so to speak. So, that being considered, how long will it be before you shoot on of your ancestors? Additionally, what if you pull a Marty McFly, and kill someone who was instrumental in getting ancestors together? Even further still, what if you kill someone instrumental to your history? You could have just fragged the person who will prevent the Damn Dirty Apes from taking over thousands of years in the future. When you get back, if you can get back, your Commanding Officer might be Roddy McDowell.
Even if you don’t end up waxing your ancestors, if you killed someone whose descendents developed your starship, would it just disappear, leaving you falling to your doom? In order to face the boss of each level, you have to shoot down 56 enemy aircraft…if you don’t count level 5 (UFOs) and only shoot the mandatory 56 and boss, and if the boss aircraft are solo piloted, that will still leave you with a minimum of 228 people through four eras of time dead. If you’ve seen The Butterfly Effect, you know that by killing one you could be making devastating changes to the timeline. But 228 is practically genocide.
- Secondly, you are rescuing pilots in these timelines. So what the hell are they doing there in the first place? And how did they get shot down? This is a pretty poor reflection of pilots in the future. I mean, there are multiple pilots shot down in each era…what gives? And for that matter, how many other people did the pilots you are rescuing kill? The game should end on level one after you kill enough enemies to terminate your own existence.
- So, if we are advanced enough in the future to develop time travel, wouldn’t you think we would have some kind of regulatory agency running the show? I mean, come on. I can’t drive and talk on my cellular phone without a Bluetooth headset in Washington. I need a passport to travel to England or any of the other countries I have been to…So why the hell isn’t someone putting the smack down on this willy nilly time travel crap? Seriously, why would you even rescue the assholes that got shot down in the first place? Is it because you want them to return home to their families? Or are you afraid that they will pull a Biff Tannen and do a shitload of sports betting and rule the universe if left unchecked?
III. Other anachronisms include:
- The only combat helicopter in mass production in 1970 was the AH-1G Cobra, which was armed with miniguns, grenade and rocket launchers. Only the more modernized Cobra, the AH-1F carried TOW missiles, a wire-guided anti tank weapon. There is no way any of these enemy craft in this level would be able to fire guided weapons. And even if they were armed with TOWs, the odds of hitting an air target with a wire-based missile system are about as good at destroying the Death Star without the Force (first Death Star, not the second. All you needed for the second was Billy Dee Williams, that weird looking thing, and some Colt 45….It works every time).
- In the 1983 level, the enemy fly aircraft that look identical to your own, are just as fast, and have guided weapons. So there are no advances in aircraft design between 1983 and the time period in which you come from? I call shenanigans.
- You face the final level, a UFO invasion in the year 2001. I guess the Time Pilot was successful, because I don’t remember seeing flying saucers in the sky that year. Or is it just a global conspiracy to make us think we didn’t see UFOs in the sky in 2001?
IV. Of course, there are a few things the game gets correct:
- Level 5, in space, has no pilots for you to pick up. This is good seeing as how I doubt a pilot, even if he were equipped with a space suit, could last long in space. Plus, it would be hysterical to see someone try to effectively use a parachute in a vacuum.
- In the 1970 Vietnam level, the enemy helicopters are slower, yet more maneuverable, slightly more like their real world counterparts.
Now, I can’t be too hard on this game, because it is a classic arcade game, and there are many games more anachronistic and improbable. Some other games with similar issues include:
Sky Soldiers – SNK (Vertical Shooter, 1988) A dead rip-off of Time Pilot, you fly your space craft to a time-altered past where you must clobber the crap out some authentic period aircraft as well as some fantasy ‘steampunk-ish’ aircraft. Basically the same game, but here you actually have futuristic weapons, and a bit of a challenge.
Time Soldiers – SNK (Vertical Shooter, 1987)Ikari Warriors meets Time Pilot, with an even worse grasp on history. Command one of two foot soldiers trying to escape being sucked through time. Why is this a historically bad game? Well, the demo features a level where the enemies consist of Medieval knights, the background is of Roman design, and the boss Anubis, the Egyptian god.
Spinal Breakers – V-System (Horizontal Rail Shooter, 1990) Wow….just…..wow. At least it tries to create a fantasy story line. Any game where the main character is named Captain Waffles (and it tried to do this seriously) has got to be played. Trust me, you’ll never forget it.
Time Pilot was one of the first games by Yoshiki Okamoto, who is also known for Gyruss, Gun Smoke, and Resident Evil. The game was very successful in arcades, and spawned a sequel, Time Pilot ’84, which ironically, doesn’t seem to involve time travel, unless the future consists of a metallic background that changes colors over the years. Needless to say, ’84 was nowhere near as popular as the original.
The game has been released for home environments for the Atari 2600, Colecovision, and MSX systems. Ite has also been released as part of a Konami compilation for PS1, GBA and NDS, and is available for download from Xbox Live Marketplace.
Okamoto formed his independent game company Game Republic in 2005, which has developed the Genji series of games, as well as other titles for PS3, PSP, NDS and Xbox 360.
One final note: I like how this game begs you to play it. At least it is polite.
I think not.