The ZX Spectrum version of Elite was developed by Torus and published by Firebird in 1985. There were 48K and 128K versions made available and both are excellent.
The game has a couple of idiosyncrasies though… Firstly: it uses an anti copying device called “Genlock” that requires a special lens to decrypt a code on the screen and it’s very unreliable*. And secondly: to get the joystick to work you have to push it left before starting a game, which is a weird way of detecting what kind of joystick you have plugged in… Especially when there are no keys for movement on the keyboard itself (that I could find anyway, and I read the manual before playing). So – before even playing the game – Spectrum owners have to jump through silly hoops to get to the meat of it…
Thankfully this version of Elite is excellent, and worth the ballache of setting it up and playing. The keys are slightly different in this version to the others I’ve played. Some keys are the same, but the Spectrum‘s lack of function keys means that some commands have been moved around to other places. It’s worth reading the manual before playing or at least having a list of key functions.
Otherwise, the ZX Spectrum version of Elite is as good as the others – if not better. The frame rate is pretty good – better than on the C64 anyway. It’s not as colourful as the Amstrad CPC version, but it’s neat and tidy visually, and the trading/combat gameplay is all present and correct.
The Spectrum version does have a unique mission, where you have to rescue a bunch of refugees before a local star goes supernova.
Elite on the ZX Spectrum is a superb conversion of a classic game – adding to the growing reputation of this pioneering space sim; not detracting from it.
*= Genlock is a nightmare! If you want to play the Spectrum version of Elite you’re going to have to find a copy without Genlock. Or find a Genlock lens… Which would be pretty much impossible.