Star Wars

The Force isn't with me today...

Source // Arcade Museum

Dun, dahn, dunadun dun daun, dunnadu... Hey, kid - do you like Star Wars? You do? Do you want to fly an X-Wing like Luke? You'd rather swing a lightsaber like Luke? Ok, but the X-Wing is pretty cool too though, isn't it? I know, right! We've got a great game just for you...

Star Wars is the slightly late but always welcome game that most of us wouldn't mind playing. We've bought all the toys, we've seen three movies now, can we just play something with some substance? Not that Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back was a bad game, we just want something a bit more... immersive.

That's how I imagine a bunch of 9 year olds spoke back in the day, at least. Star Wars the arcade game is one of the many Star Wars games I've not played, and I do call myself a Star Wars fan. Really. But I can't recall a whole lot about it, other than it loops. Useful. Better find out what's really going on.


Or not. This isn't the slick arcade version, but the Atari 5200 port, and to be fair to it, it plays, it looks vaguely like the arcade game, it has sounds... it's not what you really want to be championing Star Wars with. I don't even know what to do in it.

Shooting is easy to work out. I definitely shot. Didn't hit much, thanks to the aiming being all or nothing, but I survived through to the trench run before not knowing what on Alderaan to do (too soon?). I assume fire a proton torpedo right through that orange isosceles trapezium there, but I'm missing something. Timing? Button combinations? Aiming? No idea. But the game does indeed loop though.

Fun Times

Let's get some video going and see what I'm missing out on. For starters, there's far more going on in the looks department. Star Wars is full of vector-ified TIE fighters and sparkly explosions. It's like someone watched too much Tron, but it looks like space and it looks like Star Wars. The tips of your X-Wings' wings on the screen edges and your nose peeking up from the bottom are all that's needed to sell that feeling, but the fact that we're very obviously shooting TIE fighters does the job too.

Have we had a first person space shooter yet? I think the closest we've come to Star Wars is Battle Zone. I'll take flying through space over driving a tank any day of the week, and if you slap Star Wars across the front of the box you probably don't even have to ask for my money*.

There are three sections to the game, following you as you fight through waves of TIE fighters, down towards the surface of the Death Star and finally into the trench as you attempt to destroy it once and for all (ignoring the second one), and if you've not worked out by now, this is where the loop comes in. You get to do all those stages again and again and again...

Unlike Gorf (which is so bland I had to search through all these previous posts just to remember it's name), the progression of these Star Wars levels makes sense, probably helped by the fact that players have likely seen what happened in the movies. We're not imagining an alien invasion like we used to have to do, but have seen someone else imagine it, plan it extensively, commit it to film at the cost of millions of dollars... Is this the closest I'll get to being in Star Wars? It is? Then I'll take it. Move over, let me see how far I can get.

All you need to do is aim and shoot, and shooting is somewhat optional if you want to be some kind of crazy pacifist and avoid as much as you can. Shoot TIE fighters, shoot their missiles, shoot anything that's in your way. In contrast to other games, a single hit doesn't blow up your X-Wing so that you hop into another of the Rebellion's precious resources (rather well funded this Rebellion, don't you think?), but they drop the effectiveness of your shields. Actually that's a fancy way of saying you have a certain number of shields, and each hit you take removes a shield. When you've no shield, you've only got one hit remaining before it's game over.

The digitized voices are a nice touch but I'm sure they'd get old fast, as would the slightly-too-happy sounding Star Wars theme. It may look like it comes from the movies, but it sounds like it came right out of the arcade. Which it did. And I'm not able to play it there, in all its glory.

Final Word

I haven't been able to enjoy this Star Wars game, but I have been able to see how one can enjoy it. Its time has come and gone, but there are plenty of Star Wars games grabbing for our attention these days, some of which plop us in the seat of an X-Wing, and some of which we'll be seeing scattered throughout this large list of games.

Star Wars is a simple game where you can lose yourself in the troubles of a galaxy far, far away. There's nothing to concern yourself with but your skills and the high score, and it sits pretty damn high thanks to some players having the patience of a Jedi. Skill and stamina; very important.

It loops, often, sure it does, but no other game comes close to giving you the feeling of being in Star Wars, and while it's all sparkles and wire models, it is a damn impressive package, one better late than never. It was ported to a number of consoles, each with their own peculiarities, so if you can find a version, play a version. Then hope to find a better version.

Fun Facts

The world record for a single credit run of Star Wars still stands at 31,660,614 points, 30 years after David Palmer posted it to the high score board. Only took 7 hours or so. Must have had funny vision for weeks afterwards though.

Star Wars, developed by Atari, Inc., first released in 1983.

Version played: Atari 5200, 1983, via emulation.
Version watched: Arcade, 1983.

*Sucks to be you, EA. I learned my Season Pass lesson the hard way with Battlefield 4, so you're not getting anything up front for Battlefront.