Let's look at some chalkboards! The kill board in Wing Commander I is one of those great immsersive touches: instead of scoring points like an arcade, you stay in the game world and compete with the characters you recognize.
All the characters' kills increase as the game progresses but they start from the same numbers. It's nice environmental storytelling, too: you can tell right off that Maniac is the rookie, Iceman is the top gun, etc. There's a million untold stories in this picture!
That environmental storytelling started to become linear storytelling as the series went on: here's a bit added to the Super Wing Commander Claw Marks that tells the story of how Maniac became an ace (as had already been reflected on the original board):
Quick aside: the kill board is based on actual 'scoreboards' used aboard aircraft carriers, particularly in World War 2. Here's a neat article with some history and pictures.
So I thought that it would be fun to emulate all the ports and compare their killboards. Starting with the obligatory EGA vs VGA! Wing Commander generated its EGA graphics programmatically so there aren't any artsy details to look for.
The Kilrathi Saga, Amiga and CD32 versions are identical to the PC so I kind of assumed the FM Towns would be too... and boy was I surprised! The counts are all much higher and this version removes a rank! It has a single LT. grade and promotes all the other characters!
Then I captured the Super Wing Commander version and it's not only different but it has the same starting numbers as the FM Towns release! What's going on here? Did they intentionally up the challenge for players in these ports?
The answer is... no they did not! What happened is that the starting values are stored in wc.exe. Origin updated the executable for Secret Missions 2 and thought to plug in new starting values since the mission disk takes place two campaigns later.
The FM Towns, 3DO and Macintosh teams then worked from that codebase (which added things like a much needed frame limiter) and didn't think to change the hard values back. An old error echoing through eternity!
The standalone release of Secret Missions for SNES also thought to update the values (no others did). Which means we have canonical kill counts for the characters at the start of WC1, SM and SM2! Neat coincidence.
I thought it would be fun to take this screenshot in every port, too. It's the one that every magazine article and retrospective uses since it's the first place you can stop to grab an image! Here's EGA vs. VGA:
Scratch that, it's not one new saying... I was able to find sixteen different version, some of which were extremely funny. And one is a reference to Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, so good on you TCS Victory IT team.