Star Fire

Star FireThe Game: This may sound awfully familiar, but you’re the lone surviving pilot of a space squadron decimated by enemy attacks. The enemy’s bow-tie-shaped fighters are closing in on you from all sides, and you must keep an eye on your own fighter’s shields, weapon temperature (overheated lasers don’t like to fire anymore), and ammo, all while trying to draw a bead on those pesky enemy ships. You’re also very much on your own – nobody’s going to show up and tell you you’re all clear, kid. (Exidy, 1979)

Memories: It didn’t just sound familiar – Exidy’s 3-D blast-o-rama Star Fire looked familiar – its TIE fighter-shaped enemies and the typestyle seen in its attract mode were straight out of Star Wars. How it escaped a legal dogfight is hard to fathom – unless it has something to do with George Lucas and 20th Century Fox not wanting to remind everyone that the only other exponent of that galaxy far, far away in 1979 was the Star Wars Holiday Special. Continue reading

Star Battle

Star BattleThe Game: As a lone space pilot flying down a seemingly endless trench, your job is simple – blast or bomb all of the vaguely-bow-tie-shaped space fighters that you see. If your fighter is on the lower half of the screen, you’re blasting See the videostraight ahead/upward; if you move your fighter near the top of the screen, you can bomb any fighters below you. The game ends when you run out of ships; fortunately you never seem to run out of ammo. (Bally, 1979)

Memories: With arcade games such as Star Fire (with its obvious TIE Fighters and Star Destroyers) and Starhawk (with its own animated trench) gobbling quarters, it might just be that Star Battle for the Bally Professional Arcade is where it all begins in the console realm – the sub-genre of the Star Wars-inspired space game. Continue reading

The Empire Strikes Back

The Empire Strikes BackThe Game: Derived from an action scene in the second of a trilogy of little-known films about a budding Jedi Knight named Luke Skywalker, The Empire Strikes Back puts you in the cockpit of Luke’s snowspeeder in a desperate bid to beat back huge Imperial Walkers – also known as AT-ATs – from destroying the Rebel back on the ice planet of Hoth. The AT-ATs’ heavy artillery can seriously deplete your snowspeeder’s shielding with a single hit, though you must score numerous direct hits before you can even begin to have the same effect on the onslaught of Imperial Walkers, let alone destroy one. Occasionally, a weakness will be exposed in the “neck” region of the huge mechanical monsters, and you’ll have a few seconds in which you may take advantage of that and blow the machine away. And even less frequently, the triumphant strains of John Williams’ Star Wars theme – as squeaked out by the Atari 2600’s limited sound facility – will signal that the Force is with you, rendering you invincible for a short period of time. You’re going to need it. (Parker Brothers, 1982)

Memories: The Empire Strikes Back is just one in a series of excellent Star Wars-themed game cartridges released around this time by Parker Brothers (other titles included Star Wars: The Arcade Game, an excellent adaptation of the Atari vector arcade game, and the intriguing Return of the Jedi: Death Star Battle). Continue reading

The Empire Strikes Back

The Empire Strikes BackBuy this gameThe Game: You are Rebel snowspeeder pilot Luke Skywalker, flying low over the surface of Hoth, prowling for Probots and waging war on AT-ATs and AT-STs. (Atari, 1983)

Memories: The description sounds rather glib, but there’s a simple reason for it – this game, based on the 1980 sequel to Star Wars, is – in case you hadn’t guessed it from the screen shots – merely a very thinly-disguised makeover of Atari’s original Star Wars arcade game. Ripped straight out of the second level of Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back replaces the towers and bunkers with probe droids and Imperial Walkers, replaces the X-Wing gunsights of the earlier game with two Snowspeeder blasters, and voilà, it’s a new game – almost. Continue reading

Star Wars

Star WarsBuy this gameThe Game: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…you mean to tell me there’s someone out there who doesn’t know this story?! 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 See the videoof 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… (Atari, 1983)

Memories: In a sad way, Atari’s uber-Star Wars game puts Sega’s rival Star Trek arcade game in its grave. The eminently playable and addictive Star Wars is fast-moving, gut-wrenching, and best yet, you actually have at least a chance of winning the game, offering some satisfaction that you’d accomplished something. Continue reading

The Empire Strikes Back

The Empire Strikes BackThe Game: The Empire Strikes Back puts you in the cockpit of Luke Skywalkers’s snowspeeder in a desperate bid to beat back huge Imperial Walkers – also known as AT-ATs – from destroying the Rebel back on the ice See the videoplanet of Hoth. The AT-ATs’ heavy artillery can seriously deplete your snowspeeder’s shielding with a single hit, though you must score numerous direct hits before you can even begin to have the same effect on the onslaught of Imperial Walkers, let alone destroy one. Occasionally, a weakness will be exposed in the “neck” region of the huge mechanical monsters, and you’ll have a few seconds in which you may take advantage of that and blow the machine away. (Parker Brothers, 1983)

Memories: Based on Parker Brothers‘ rendition of The Empire Strikes Back for the Atari 2600, this is one of those games that you’d expect to be even better on the Intellivision…and yet something is “off.” The phrase “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” is very applicable here. Continue reading

Return of the Jedi: Death Star Battle

Return Of The Jedi: Death Star BattleSee the videoThe Game: Presumably, you play the part of Lando Calrissian in this game, which seems to follow the events in the latter half of the film Return of the Jedi. Piloting the Millennium Falcon, you dart around the perimeter defense shield of the Empire’s new Death Star, which is still being constructed before your very eyes. You must eliminate a certain number of TIE Interceptors before a hole opens in the shield, allowing you to get close enough to start blowing pieces out of the Death Star itself. But an automatic defense system won’t take long to track you down and eliminate you, so you have to work fast. The sooner you can hit the Death Star power core, the better. And when you accomplish that, you have to worry about dodging the flaming debris of the huge space station… (Parker Brothers, 1983)

See the TV adMemories: Possibly the best game Parker Brothers released out of its series of four Star Wars titles, Death Star Battle had some truly great graphics considering which machine they were squeezed out of. The vaguely 3-D grid of the Death Star’s defense perimeter would constantly shift colors, and it was actually very pretty. The game play itself was no slouch either – one out of five times is about how often I manage to evade all the Death Star debris without getting creamed. Continue reading

Star Wars: Jedi Arena

Star Wars: Jedi ArenaThe Game: You weren’t born with a lightsaber in your hands. Even a Jedi Knight must practice his skills. Two Jedi are safely tucked away behind deflector shields, while an automatic seeker ball roams the center of a large chamber. You can use the Force to influence the seeker to attack your opponent, and you can deflect the seeker’s laser bolts when your opponent does the same to you. And every once in a while, the seeker goes into berzerk mode, firing multiple bolts at both contestants, pummeling their shields until one or both are defenseless. (Parker Brothers, 1983)

Memories: Easily the strangest of Parker Bros.Star Wars-inspired games for the 2600, I have to give Jedi Arena full marks for originality – instead of trying to ape a scene from any of the films in a convoluted game structure, Parker Brothers instead opted to create a completely new scenario, based only loosely on Luke’s training scene with the seeker ball in Star Wars. Continue reading

Return Of The Jedi

Return Of The JediBuy this gameThe Game: In the first screen, you’re zipping through the forest of Endor on a stolen speeder bike, with Imperial stormtroopers on their own bikes chasing you. While you can shoot the stormtroopers’ bikes or bump them off the playing field, they can shoot you, and running into trees isn’t good for anyone’s health. Your only advantage? The indigenous Ewoks, those furry little critters who occupy a special, beloved place in every Star Wars fan’s heart, will help you out if you lead the stormtroopers into their primitive traps. The second screen is much like the first, only you’re flying the Millennium Falcon through the Death Star trenches, and the other speeder bikes are now TIE Interceptors. (Atari, 1984)

The Game: Though graphically superior, and almost certainly guaranteed to gross more quarters just because of the Star Wars association, this game was, more or less, Zaxxon with a new paint job. Still, many players at the time hailed it as a vast step up from the vector graphics Star Wars game which Atari had released the previous year, even if the controls were aggravating. Continue reading

Star Wars: The Arcade Game

Star Wars: The Arcade GameSee the videoThe Game: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…you mean to tell me there’s someone out there who doesn’t know this story?! 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 III. 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. (Parker Brothers, 1984)

Memories: Just think of it as the original X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter. In one of the strangest licensing deals in early home video game history, Parker Brothers snagged the rights to adapt Atari’s Star Wars arcade game for Atari’s own home video game systems. (If you’re wondering how this worked, it’s because Parkers had the rights to all home video games based on the Star Wars properties – so Atari couldn’t do its own cartridge version.) Continue reading

Star Wars

Star WarsThe 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 See the videouse 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. Continue reading

Revenge Of The Jedi Game I (Return Of The Jedi: Ewok Adventure)

Revenge Of The Jedi Game ISee the videoThe Game: They’re responsible for the deaths of countless Imperial officers in battle, and served as a vital ally to Luke, Han, Leia and the Rebel Alliance in their darkest hour. Surely every gamer wants to join their ranks and experience the battle of Endor from their perspective! That’s right, you’re an Ewok, flying a primitive hang-glider behind enemy lines, avoiding AT-ST fire and trying to take out as many Imperial troops as you can. Stormtroopers on speeder bikes are both tempting targets and formidable foes for you; if you can, try to fight your way to the Imperial bunker and clear the way Ewok Adventurefor your friends. Good timing can allow you to temporarily take over the Empire’s walking terrors and use them against their own forces. Face it: you’re a short, stubby teddy bear, armed with rocks, and the fate of the universe depends on you. (Parker Brothers, 1984 – never released)

Memories: A real curiosity, this was planned to be the fifth in a series of Star Wars cartridges for the Atari 2600, and yet it never saw the light of day. A prototype of the game exists in completed form, as does a prototype of the packaging, bearing the obvious work-in-progress title of Revenge Of The Jedi Game I. (There was a Game II as well, of which more in a moment.) Continue reading

Star Wars

Star WarsThe 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 See the videouse 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… (Domark / Zeppelin Games Ltd., 1988)

Memories: Years after Parker Brothers’ lumpen version of Atari’s Star Wars arcade game, someone finally had the decency to bring Atari’s hit game home to Atari’s home computers in a form that’s worth playing. And as luck would have it, North American Atari 8-bit owners didn’t get to see this one – it was a British exclusive release. Continue reading

Star Wars Chess

Star Wars ChessOrder this gameThe Game: Choose either the Dark or the Light Side of the Force and battle enemy forces in this galactic version of chess that takes place a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. (Software Toolworks, 1993)

Memories: In the late ’80s, Interplay’s Battle Chess reinvented the computer chess genre. In Battle Chess, each chess piece was portrayed by a character on a three dimensional chessboard. The game followed the same rules as the classic board game – the only difference being when one piece captured another, it was visually portrayed on screen through light-hearted animations. Characters clobbered one another in humorous ways throughout the game, and the game’s sense of humor along with its stunning graphics and animation launched an entire wave of similarly styled chess games. Continue reading

Star Wars: Dark Forces

Star Wars: Dark ForcesOrder this gameThe Game: Former Imperial officer Kyle Katarn has defected and joined the Rebel Alliance – and they intend to use him as an undercover operative. With his knowledge of infiltration and Imperial procedures, Katarn is the perfect choice to wreak havoc from the inside. But getting back in to an Imperial facility is the trick isn’t it? And it’ll cost you a little something extra – namely, a lot of pain, and a lot of time spent hiding, running, and blasting away at hordes of stormtroopers and a few other enemies, including bounty hunters Boba Fett and Bossk. If you can help Katarn survive long enough, he may discover the secret of the Empire’s legion of darktroopers, a new breed of stormtrooper with more advanced weaponry and almost invincible armor. (LucasArts, 1995)

Memories: Though clearly inspired by the Doom / Duke Nukem genre of first person shooters, Dark Forces won many a fan simply by virtue of being a Star Wars game that doesn’t involve spaceflight. Continue reading

Star Wars: Rebel Assault II – The Hidden Empire

Star Wars: Rebel Assault II - The Hidden EmpireOrder this gameThe Game: Darth Vader, forever vigilant in his quest to destroy the Rebel Alliance, has apparently enlisted some new help – and it’s up to you, a lone Rebel pilot, to brave the odds against enormous flotillas of a new breed of TIE Fighters, blast your way through entire platoons of armored stormtroopers, and bring home the details of the new Imperial plan – and then return to the fray to defense the galaxy against this nearly-invincible threat. (LucasArts, 1996)

Memories: I have to hand it to ’em – Lucas Arts finally came up with a game set in the Star Wars universe which won my heart. Rebel Assault II is somewhere between a video game and a movie. There’s a lot of action and forwarding-of-the-story in the game’s numerous well-produced cutscenes, and the whole thing honestly does feel like an untold, yet worthy, entry in the Star Wars canon. There is a straightforward plotline, a set goal you’re trying to achieve, which rings true to this long-time fan of droids and Jedi Knights. Continue reading

Star Wars: Masters of Teras Kasi

Star Wars: Masters of Teras KasiOrder this gameThe Game: The Emperor, tiring of the constant Rebel threat to his plans for conquest, plays his hidden ace – Arden Lyn, a deceptively young-looking woman who is the last known master of the ancient martial art of teras kasi. Her mission is to hunt down Luke, Han, Leia and the other Rebels…and eliminate them. Little does she know that the Rebels are aware of the new threat to their cause, and are preparing for her arrival as well. (LucasArts, 1997)

Memories: How best to describe Teras Kasi? Think of MTV’s Celebrity Death Match set in the Star Wars universe, and you’ll have a pretty good idea, sans claymation. Teras Kasi could have been more easily titled Star Wars Ultimate Fighting and gotten the point across more succinctly (and probably would’ve sold better as well). Continue reading

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom MenaceMemories: As various heroic characters from the days when Jedi Knights still enforced justice in that galaxy far, far away, you must expose the danger posed to peaceful Naboo by the Trade Federation’s army of battle and destroyer droids, and escort Order this gameQueen Amidala out of the clutches of the invaders who would force her to surrender her world into slavery. (LucasArts, 1999)

Memories: Oh, what a frustrating game! The Playstation is a recent acquisition for me, and I like the wealth of Retro Revivals and emulations available for Sony’s nifty little game console. But this game and the Xena game just about drove me nuts…yet this is the style of game that most everyone seems to be trying to create these days. Continue reading

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