The Game: Zylon warships are on the rampage, blasting allied basestars out of the sky and wreaking havoc throughout the galaxy. Your orders are to track down the fast-moving raiders and destroy them before they can do any more damage. You have limited shields and weapons at your disposal, and a battle computer which is vital to your mission (though critical damage to your space fighter can leave you without that rather important piece of equipment). The game is simple: destroy until you are destroyed, and defend friendly installations as long as you can. (Atari, 1979)
Memories: The original version of Atari’s Star Raiders leaves very few doubts as to its origins; in a sense, it’s a new take on the old grid-based Star Trek mainframe game, only with ample opportunities for arcade-style action. Oh, and – astonishingly, even back then – the game kicks off with a title screen showing a spaceship obviously based on the Enterprise from Star Trek: The Motion Picture, which also appeared in 1979. How the lawyers missed that one, we’ll probably never know.
On the Atari computers, Star Raiders is a far more effective game than the somewhat watered-down version released later on the VCS. The size of its “universe” on the galactic grid as many times bigger, and even the action sequences are a bit more nuanced. The keyboard controls are intuitive, and it’s just an easier game to learn – despite being a harder game to win. About the only drawback I can see here is the lack of Atari Force comics featuring the Hukka, but for a better gaming experience, that’s a sacrifice I think I’m prepared to make for one of the quintessential Atari computer games.