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Star Wars Arcade (A2600) - April 19, '01 by -^Cro§Bow^-
Game:Star Wars Arcade (A2600)Company:Parker Brothers
Type:ShooterPlayers:1

Parker Brothers was one of the largest third party providers for games for the Atari 2600 VCS during the early to mid 80s. Perhaps the series that Parker Brothers is best known for is their Star Wars series of games released for the VCS. There were five titles proposed of which only four actually made it to production release. Of these four which were released, Star Wars: The Arcade Game was perhaps one of the their lesser known ones. There were a number of reasons for this i.e. late release, poor marketing, great video game crash of '84 to name a few. So it isn't too surprising that you may not have known that they even made a conversion of the arcade classic to the venerable 2600 VCS. The arcade game of Star Wars is a known classic and for good reason. It featured fast furious game play, multiple boards, and decent speech for the time using the actual voices straight from the movie itself. So how well does a conversion to the 2600 hold up? Pretty well actually despite the fact that there are probably more enthusiast out there who dislike this game than those who adore it. It is important to keep in mind what it took to convert most of the arcades versions to a console such as the VCS. Most of the time graphics must be cut out or completely removed as well as the sound. Sometimes the game itself will actually undergo a complete change from their arcade counterparts in order to meet the demands of the limited hardware of the time. Thankfully most of the elements of the arcade version were kept in the limited 8K of ROM space that was allowed for the VCS version.

The basic story behind the game takes place towards the end of the first movie. That is the part where the famous Death Star space battle takes place with the trench run and final destruction of the Death Star. The arcade game and the 2600 version play the same. Basically there are three boards or waves that the player must complete. On the first wave, the player must try and shoot down as many Tie Fighters as he can while dodging the fireball laser fire that they shoot back. Keep this up long enough and you will be sent to the surface of the Death Star itself in the second wave. Here the player has to dodge more fireball blasts coming from the laser turret towers and even the towers themselves in order to reach the final wave.

The trench run is without a doubt the most exhilarating aspect of the whole game. Here the players run at high speed through the maintenance trench of the Death Star to locate and send a salvo of photon torpedoes into a tiny vent shaft opening at the end. The trench run is made more difficult in that you not only have to dodge the trusty fireball laser blasts again...but you also have to dodge the catwalks which will randomly be placed at different heights during the trench run. The experience really has to be played to be fully appreciated. While the sound in the arcade version is fantastic with a lot of the sounds from the movie being present, the 2600 cannot compete even remotely in this area. Speech was a virtual impossibility for the 2600 in a game of this complexity. Without the speech there are only the sounds of your laser fire, the tie fighter laser blasts, and the sound of you hitting a fireball, tower, or catwalk, which almost share the same sound. Nope the sound in the 2600 version isn't very impressive but Parker Brothers did manage to have the game play the theme song when you start a game and when you take out the Death Star, which is pretty cool. That arcade version plays the theme through out the whole game, which does get annoying after awhile.

The graphics in the 2600 version are for the most part pretty good. The Tie wave is fairly accurate to the arcade with the exception that the Tie Fighters do not zoom past you or even change in size at all. Basically the best way to describe the Tie Fighter movements is that of flies around a rotting carcass, you get the idea. The Tower wave suffers the most in the 2600's hardware limitations. Parker Brothers was able to pull off the Psuedo 3D effect of going across the landscape (shipscape?) but the towers do not look 3D at all and so it completely kills the effect. The trench run graphics on the 2600 are the shining star. All the graphics of the arcade version are present minus the turrets shooting the fireballs at you and again the 3D effect is made possible only it is more convincing this time. There is one very very annoying aspect to the 2600 version of this game that simply has to be addressed. All the screen shots that were made for this game had to be edited due to the way the game renders these scenes on the 2600 hardware. The shots would only show half of the game scene at any one time. Parker Brothers basically has the game render half the scene at a time in order to achieve all the sprites that are used simultaneously. So I had to overlay multiple shots between the different renders to show you how it would appear within the game. Parker Brothers method of rendering does come at a price however, the game suffers from horrible flicker that actually made my eyes start to hurt after about thirty minutes of playing. The flicker is incredibly noticeable in all the waves played in the game. It isn't clear if this was the only way to render all the objects on the screen... or if Parker Brothers was trying to recreate a vector like appearance with this conversion. Just remember to take breaks from the tube when playing. The arcade does not suffer from such flicker since it was a high definition vector game like "Asteroids" or "Tempest". The controls for Star Wars on the 2600 do suffer from some awkwardness. The arcade game actually features a yoke flight controller for playing the game. The 2600 didn't have peripherals like this so the standard joystick controller had to be used. It takes some getting used to as the game is programmed with a reverse Y-axis control. Basically up goes down, down goes up on the controller. If you're a flight sim fanatic this one be much of a problem. However, I am not a flight sim buff and always find the first few minutes of playing Star Wars: TAC odd to get used to. Also the 2600 version seems to suffer from some sluggish response within in the game. Even pressing the fire button you will notice a delay in the fire rates. I don't see how the control in this game could have been improved on the VCS, but I do have to give a mediocre score in this area. Challenge and replay are quite high for this game. The arcade and the 2600 are the exact same in that the waves repeat in increasing difficulty and speed. After the third or so wave the action becomes much more frenzied and random. This makes the game a joy to play, as even though you complete the three waves, you will always be in competition with yourself to see just how many waves you can survive. The VCS version does feature a twist to the trench run wave that I can't recall seeing on the arcade version. The catwalks in the 2600 version not only increase in number and speed...but they actually will split up in such a way that you have to fly in either upper or lower right or left hand screen sometimes to get through the barriers. The arcade will split up the barriers but not into half sections, which is what the 2600 does. Difficult to explain but definitely an added challenge that creates more sweat on your brow. The only low mark on the replay value would be the lack of any 2-player support on either version.

Star Wars: The Arcade Game for the Atari 2600 Video Computer System is a joy to play. It doesn't hold a candle to its arcade counterpart, which could never be faithfully redone on any console during that time. But in all fairness I do think that of the Star Wars games made for the VCS that Star Wars: TAC is by far one of their better ones. The VCS version may have simple graphics and sound, but at least it has all the game play of the arcade version left intact. All in all I am proud to own this cart and provide it with a permanent home in my collection.

Graphics
8
4
Sound
Play Control
7
9
Challenge
Replay Value
9
10
Performance

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