The Game: You’re an intrepid X-Wing pilot participating in the last-ditch Rebel attempt to destroy the Death Star – before it destroys the Rebel base on Yavin IV. TIE Fighters try to intercept you, but you can destroy them (as well as use your own lasers to blast their incoming fire out of the sky). Then you move in to attack the Death Star itself, with its incredibly hazardous system of gunnery towers and bunkers. Once you’ve gotten past the surface defenses, you dive into the trench that will lead you to an exhaust port which is the only means of destroying the Death Star – but there are defenses in the trench as well, and your deflector shields can only take so much… (Parker Brothers, 1984)
Memories: In fairness, at the time Parker Brothers snagged the lucrative home video game license for Star Wars, home computers with 64K were still not quite a household fixture (though the Commodore 64 was in the process of changing that). The guts of Atari’s slightly lower-powered home computers were originally designed by the company’s engineers to be their next generation game machine, and the XL series of atari computers was only just being phased in. Faced with these obstacles, Parker Brothers toned down its home computer version of the ambitious Star Wars arcade game, slimming it down to a cartridge with just 17K of code.
The result might not have been what ardent fans of the arcade game were looking for. It was playable, to be sure, but fell far short of its inspiration in terms of graphics and complexity of game play. The TIE Fighters are practically boxes, the Death Star trench lacks the arcade game’s target gallery of gun emplacements (and yet someone’s still constantly shooting at you – whoever said you should worry about the fighters while he worries about the towers obviously skipped town and headed back to Yavin), and it just lacks the arcade game’s “oomph.” Even the explosion of the Death Star comes across as a bit lame.
A later attempt at translating Atari’s Star Wars for the folks at home (or at least folks at home in the U.K.) was closer to the mark on the above counts, but the Parker Brothers version just edges ahead in terms of sheer speed.
In the end, numerous games had already proven that the Atari 400 and 800 could give us better gaming experiences than this. Playable, but ultimately dull.