Friday, 6 November 2015

Star Wars - Arcade (1980s)


Vector delights ahoy!


Vector graphics. Not often I get to look back far enough and see a game that utilised this kind of display. Battle Zone, Gravitar, Asteroids and Lunar Lander spring to mind as games that used Vector graphics while others used Raster Display to showcase their games. It had its time and place but now seems demoted to quick and simple images such as clipart. But I'm digressing as usual.

Riding upon the huge success that is the Star Wars franchise, Atari made a game that served little significance than to be able to sit down in a mock-up of a cock pit with a flight stick and allow players to BE Luke Skywalker as he assaults the Death Star from the eponymous film.

Large cockpit and flight controls make it a fun experience

Star Wars takes 3 key approaches to the battle between the player and the Death Star. The first being an outer-space dogfight session against various Tie-Fighters, though while not giving the player full control of the direction of the X-Wing, the ship that they pilot, they do get to control the approach and direction of the firepower of the craft in order to try to take down as many ships as they can before they're whisked away to battle the Death Star in one of two possible ways (Depending on if it's your first level or higher).

Now you too can take part in the trench run!

The second key session is a run along the surface of the Death Star and facing off against multiple turrets and towers that will pump out fireballs (not lasers, you can shoot these at least) in an effort to force your shields down and get you killed. There's some level of control to your direction in that in aiming to the left and right will guide your X-Wing in those directions. Which comes in handy when you're trying to avoid sparkly spiky balls of "We're coming for you, still coming for you, yes we're bending our direction to locate you" homing capacity.

Just imagine it's Jar Jar Binks and you'll bullseye it every time.

The final stint in the Star Wars game is the famous Trench Run along the circumference of the Death Star itself. Personified in this case by an impressively built looking trench that is peppered with turrets and shielding while you're barrelling down the alleyway, in later levels you'll have to navigate around and over obstacles such as pillars and blockades while shooting turrets and fireballs before the final showdown between yourself and the exhaust port, one direct hit will kill the Death Star (as killed as a constructed space station qualifies for) and allow you to escape for a fat point boost and then to play it all over but with a significant difficulty spike.... And some vector explosions.

Later rounds add more and more challenges

For such a game, Star Wars has managed to be able to reproduce digitised speech of key phrases from the film ranging from Alec Guinness with "Use the Force, Luke" to Mark Hamill's "I've lost R2!" (usually before biting the big one) and up to and including James Earl Jones with "The Force is Strong with this one", it adds to the experience though little else really comes from the films, but at least they made a significant effort with the speech to lend it that little extra touch of authenticity and give a little extra in allowing players to relive that moment in the film.

Next, same again but harder!

Overall, it'll ramp up the difficulty quickly if it wants to and you may find that while level 1 is a cakewalk, level 2 will be the wakeup call that your reflexes need and by level 4 you'll be frantically shooting down literal streams of fireballs from all walks of opponents to the point that you'll swear that the fireballs are launching fireballs at you. It's bright and animates well given the machine and vectors and manages to create enough of an atmosphere to leave players thinking they're in the film (for 1983, bear that in mind here).