Ok, let’s begin!
Star Trek The Next Generation “Future’s Past” (TNGFP) for the SNES was developed by HoloByte and released in 1994. The game was also released on the Sega Mega Drive, Game Gear and apparently, was also going to have a release on the Atari Jaguar but that ended up falling through, much like the console itself. TNGFP I suppose is classified as a Sci-fi action-adventure game with you commanding the Enterprise through space battles and solving puzzles on the ground with your away-teams. There should be phaser fire fun, nuanced ethical and moral intrigue with a hefty dose of Star trek Lore for good measure, so let's start with the plot.
The game begins with the USS Enterprise in orbit around a star near the edge of the Neutral Zone. They are monitoring the border in response to increased Romulan activity due to the Romulans recently losing contact with one of their vessels patrolling the Neutral Zone. Starfleet, enigmatic as ever, has agreed to assist the Romulans in any investigation attempt. The Romulans, however, refuse this aid, as usual, preferring to handle the situation on their own.
Upon beginning play, the Enterprise receives a distress signal. The Crew discover that it was sent by a Vulcan geologist, Dr T'Laris. She explains that she is stationed on Codis Mu VI, in the Codis Mu system. She continues to explain that her dig site was recently attacked by Romulans and that they are still present. The Enterprise responds to her plea, probably after getting lost because you glazed over the details of the location, and arrives just in time to assist her.
As the game progresses, the player learns more about the missing Romulan vessel's mission, and of the IFD. What's an IFD? Well, it stands for Integrated Field De-randomizer. A fancy name for an artifact that can reshape matter and energy a bit like that well-known device in Star Trek the replicator or indeed the transporter. Mmm, I’m starting to see a plot irrelevance here. Anyway, I suppose we can assume it’s like that but on a much larger scale as the device does seem to be capable of making things travel through time by the end, so maybe it’s a bigger deal then I’m making it out to be. During the Enterprise’s continued investigation it makes contact with an alien race known as the Eunacians who were on their way to the IFD before their ship suffered damage. It turns out the Eunacians once won control of the IFD and could not cope with the responsibility of it. Thus they sent it 10,000 years into the future so that future generations may be able to harness its power for the good of all races. Why the Eunacians couldn’t just change their policy on the IFD, considering that they understood that they were abusing it, is anyone's guess. Nah, much smarter to send it off into the future and just let some randoms have a crack at it, makes far more sense. I suppose they did send that one ship, with the one and only key to the IFD to take care of it. Christ, if they were this incompetent I can see why they sent it into the future.
Anyway, they give the Enterprise the key and as the Enterprise investigates how to use the key they come across the Chodak, a hostile mollusc-like race who are also looking for IFD. Eventually, it’s uncovered that an extinct race, the Senatorious, were the creators of the key, the TAVAD, over 100,000 years ago and used the IFD to aggressively expand their empire, conquering much of the galaxy. After finally getting the key to work, generating a subspace corridor to the IFD. Upon arrival at the subspace corridor Picard, the Chodak Captain and the Romulan Captain are teleported away to a chamber in the IFD. Here it is explained that they must pass three trials in order to win control of the IFD, they are then sent back to their ships. The Enterprise must hunt the three shards scattered on distant worlds to operate the IFD. The enemies, Romulans and Chodak, do the smart thing and let the Enterprise do all the heavy lifting and then ambush you at the end. When all is said and done and the Enterprise is victorious Jean-Luc Picard decides to copy-paste the Eunacians solution sending it in the future another 10,000 years. I presume because he never really saw the point of a time-travelling replicator and just wanted to piss off everyone and spite Eunacians for coming up with such an asinine decision in the first place.
The pixel art is a very good feature of TNGFP with the sprites being large and distinctive though I'm not sure what's happened to Picard, he's looking a little too egg-headed for my liking. It also boasts a damn fine recreation of the Enterprise bridge in a 16bit art style. This is the one area I believe they got near perfect for the game and it makes me feel as though I'm in command of a starship. It is one of the more Star Trek-like parts of the game as you are able to plot your course, take note of the data in your computer banks, check on the sensor data and use the iconic view screen. The view screen is an essential bit of kit for any Starfleet Captain. Indeed it is through this view screen that you are given all of your missions and objectives, as well as accepting hails from your enemies and allies along the Neutral Zone. The sprites for the away missions are also just as distinctive allowing for easy recognition between the core characters, which is really all that matters because who wants to play as a complete set of red shirts. I mean that would just be a team doomed not to come back...you’d think.
The space battles are also quite well done in this game though I'd argue you could have slowed it down quite a bit and made the sprites a bit bigger and better looking. Yet, as they currently stand they tend to be quite manic with starships firing dozens of torpedoes in rapid succession while the enemy does loop after loop around you at seemingly breakneck speed. That being said though it does all work, it shows you all that you need to know; such as your ship and its relation to the enemy, yours and the enemies shields and hull damage and how many photon torpedoes you have left. It even has the view screen at the top showing you the enemy ship in front of you. People have criticized the repair cycle for being slow, but I find if you apply the resources before getting in a battle this tends to mitigate some of the later troubles. The only other oddity is that the command prompt for accepting the enemy's hail can be very delayed so badly that at one point I thought my controller was broken.
The music for all sections in the game is quite good and distinctive between different areas of the game and would be well placed in an action-adventure game. Sadly that is also a little bit of a problem though as the only actual bit of Star Trek music is situated in the bridge all the rest of the music though would be better suited for a different game. The music though is varied and not boring by any stretch for the SNES, it's just not very Star Trek.
The away missions, this actually may be the only Con, but it's a big Con. TNGFP could be summed up generously as 40% starship interactions and 60% away missions and boy do all the problems pop out during the away missions. I'm going to tell you now that all of your away missions are going to be some form of a maze. Some will be clever with puzzles and item acquisitions and thus forgivable. Others, on the other hand, are not. Take for instance mission three which is to find people in a cave and mission five which is also to find the same people in the same said cave. These two missions alone are literal repeats of assists.
"What's that I hear. The fifth mission is easier." Well yes but only in the sense that it doesn't even bother giving you the enemies to fight in mission three, thus making it not only a maze but a very boring one. As missions go they are the worst that TNGFP has to offer but the problems don't end there let's move on to the away team.
Okay if you're going on an away mission I'm telling you now that you need Data to go. Data is able to see in the Dark, has a phaser plus a tricorder and can tank damage better than any other crew member. Data is also an officer which allows him to use the comm badge function allowing other crew members to follow him. Other than Data, do not bother taking any other named character. Why you may ask well that's because there is no real reason to have anyone else essential. There are no character interactions between the away-team and other main characters can be a liability if they get mortally injured resulting in the mission getting scrubbed and you starting from the beginning again. However in true Star Trek fashion if a red shirt (nobody) gets killed then the mission carries on as though nothing happened. Which leads me clunckly to your away team's poor sense of self-preservation.
If you leave these guys in a group unsupervised and an enemy shows up they will do one of two things. One, do nothing and get mauled to death or two, worse still they get their phasers out and start firing, usually missing the enemy and hitting each other. Yes, that's right, friendly fire is a thing. My advice is to try and find a safe room, there is usually one or two around where enemies can't enter, mostly due to doorways. Then if possible spread them out just in case any of them gets any ideas of defending themselves. You will unfortunately at some point in the mission need these morons to assist in puzzles, lugging around extra items or occasional suicide scouting. Thus keeping at least one alive long enough to complete the mission is kind of essential.
Now finally the last awkward and annoying bits that pop up during an away mission. You have little to no invincibility frames, this means that enemies and traps are able to hit you multiple times without pause making escaping them without massive injury and near-impossible task for most away-team members. When you do get to defend yourself with your phaser you will struggle to reliably hit as when facing the enemy east or west it's difficult to determine if you're on the same plane as each other. When firing at enemies north and south though you'll come across another problem. You don't fire from the centre of your sprite but from where the sprites hold the phaser. Arguably this makes sense in reality but in-game it takes quite some getting used to in order to hit your targets reliably. This predicting of firing arcs is also an issue you have with enemies as the same rules apply with them, which makes it instinctively tricky to dodge them.
That's about it really I could add that picking up health and phaser ammo is oddly delayed at times and in one mission you must have a woman on your team as the Ferengi in the bar will not give the information you need to progress otherwise. These though I consider at worst a minor annoyance rather than something fundamentally wrong with the game.
Nerd O Metre Rating
Low 3 out of 5
This may seem harsh but let me justify this rating. I'll start by applauding this game's scope. It's not easy to make a game work for Star Trek. In fact, there are a few games that I find embody the Star Trek's exploration, investigation, action-adventure and story as good or better than the point and click games based on the original series. Even the more modern games struggle to combine all these factors. So for a SNES game to have bridge management, space battles and away teams is pretty good. However this isn't something new for Nintendo as Star Trek on the NES (STN) had the same scope with bridge command, space battles and away-team missions, but it also had something TNGFP doesn't have and that was actual character interactions. When you check for damage in STN you ask for Mr Scotty in TNGFP you go to the panel yourself. When you want a scan in STN you get a report from Spock in TNGFP you have to check it yourself and this is the same in the away missions. TNGFP for some reason is very bare to the bones when it comes to character interaction and world-building. I`m not saying STN is perfect by any stretch, it has a slew of problems with controls but it's better in presentation, it feels more Star Trek then TNGFP. It is because of this that although visually TNGFP looks better it doesn't really add anything more, except arguably the computer memory banks which are packed with Trek Lore but this isn't actually important to the game, which is the problem. In fact, it feels laughably lacking in character and story interactions which if anything is a detraction from STN which is why I’ve given it this score. TNGFP is a just ok Star Trek game, maybe if it wasn't Star Trek then I could consider this as an above-average Sci-fi adventure but when you have a game a console generation older that’s so similar, if not better in places, then you really can't expect me to give it a stellar rating. So is this game worth your time well if you're into the original series Star Trek or just a general fan of all Star Trek I'd give this a miss, you have better options. I recommend the PC point and click adventures and even STN if you're an original series fan. If you're a Next Generations fan only then yes you may want to get this as there are far fewer choices for you.