586th played so far
Genre: Shoot ‘Em Up
Year of Release: 1983
There are many different games called Star Wars. The one I’m familiar with was the NES iteration that mixed platforming and top down planet exploration sections with space battles. That one was released in 1991, while the one we’re talking about today goes back further.
In 1983, an arcade cabinet was released that used vector graphics to simulate the space battles in the Star Wars movie series. It’s the best suited for early game play, really, as it covers the most gamey moments in the film, but just reading about it makes it seem samey. This certainly won’t be a Knights of the Old Republic for us.
This game is divided in three distinct levels, each with its own challenges. The first is a free movement three dimensional shooter like we’ll see in Wing Commander one day, and a more basic version of Elite‘s type of navigation. I usually lost quite a bit of my health here, but managed – I simply lose my bearing after it.
The second (which I believe is skipped on the lowest level) has you go across the surface of the Death Star to take out laser turrets. Or, as I saw it, has you go destroy evil trees. It’s fairly simple, with obstacles being your main problem, but it’s manageable.
Then the third confused me most. You’re in a tunnel and have to avoid beams in the air, by flying on different heights to get through gaps. You have to shoot the exhaust at the end, but I didn’t quite realise the timing for that until several games in. It’s still the most fun, because it feels like it’s far more about flying maneuverability than just shooting.
As said, this is all done through vector graphics, which makes it look fairly simple. It works really well to create the semi-3D feel, but on the whole it leads to some confusing moments early on, especially in the first round. It does convey the sense of speed quite well.
This game is obviously about the action, and it packs a surprising amount of variety in, with a natural difficulty curve that goes beyond more and bigger to also adding more interesting aspects to the levels. It can be tricky to follow – as so often, probably a consequence of not wanting to spend too much time to learn – but it works together really well despite that.