The Many Faces of . . . Star Wars: Arcade

By Alan Hewston

Star Wars didn't arrive in the arcades until 1983, the same year as "Return of the Jedi" hit the silver screen - almost 6 years after the original "Star Wars" movie came out. Much of this delay in finally getting a Star Wars game to the arcade was probably due to licensing battles with Lucasfilm. When Parker Brothers released the home version they added the word "Arcade" to the title, thus - Star Wars: Arcade. There was also a revised arcade release Star Wars Arcade that saw limited distribution in 1994.

From a first person point of view, you become Luke Skywalker and sit in the cockpit of his X-Wing fighter to recreate the final assault on the Death Star. You have 10 levels of shielding to protect your ship and each hit by a fireball, or collision with a tower or barrier would knock your shields down one notch. When you reached zero shields the next hit would end your game. The game was pretty well designed and included colorful, detailed and smooth vector graphics, and actually followed the story line of the final sequence - attacking the Death Star. Add to this the fact that it was the only official "Star Wars" game, and these machines devoured our quarters and easily ruled the arcades in 1983.

In the first of 3 rounds, you begin the final assault on the Death Star as part of the rebel squadrons trying to get past the waves of Imperial TIE fighters. Shoot the TIE fighters, Darth Vaderís fighter, and any fireballs launched your way. If you survive, then you'd make a run along the Death Star's surface in the next round. There 10 laser towers must be shot and avoided, as well as many more fireballs that can also be shot down to score points. The final round takes you into that special trench that will lead to the small exhaust port opening - the only weak-spot on the Death Star. You must avoid the catwalks and other barriers in the trench, and avoid or knock out yet more fireballs. At the end of the trench, your well timed shot would set off a chain reaction destroying the Death Star - and you'd start the mission all over again, but each level would be a little bit harder. You also get a bonus of an increase in your shields by 3, but not more than the maximum 10. If you missed your shot at the exhaust port, you'd lose one more level of your shields and then have to make another run through that trench.

For more information on Star Wars: Arcade see:

Arcade Game Designed in 1983 by Atari:

Classic Home releases by Parker Brothers: Atari 8 bit (Brad Stewart) , Atari 2600 (Bob Smith), Atari 5200, Colecovision (Wendell Brown), Commodore 64 and by Domark Commodore 64 and Sinclair Spectrum.

Categories: Gameplay, Addictiveness, Graphics, Sound & Controls


Both a stand up and sit down version were made.


Disqualified: Sinclair Spectrum (N/A)
By popular request, readers wanted me to at least acknowledge the Sinclair Spectrum version of this arcade classic. I do not own a Spectrum and was unable to gather much information either. Released mostly in Europe by Domark, the official release is supposed to be a fairly good game. I am only guessing that this version was available both on cart and then disk/cassette.

Have Nots: Atari 2600 (36)
This port makes for a very good late (just before the crash) release for the 2600. It is also a bit hard to find. The Controls are very nice (8), but a little bit sluggish, or slow compared to the other versions. All versions lose a point here due to the bass-ackwards controls, where up is down and down is up. OK, this setup is faithful to the yoke system employed at the arcade, and they made it this way to respond like an airplane - pull back (down) on the stick makes you go up. But then this really only makes sense on the third round where you avoid the barriers and the entire screen moves with you - ie your point of view changes as if you were flying an airplane. In the first 2 rounds, itís pretty much a target shoot where the joystick moves the crosshairs on the screen. Thus it is really backwards for a target shooting scheme and IMHO, this guarantees some control mistakes - so no 10ís will be given out for Controls on this game. The Gameplay is very nice (8) with all 3 rounds included, and the A/B switch lets you chose a starting level 1 or 3. Darth Vader's ship is included as one of the enemy ships to destroy in the first round, worth twice as many points. Since this does not add any apparent value or strategy to the game, the scores are not helped or penalized or by this feature. There is no pause button, but all of the other features of the arcade game are included in some way. The number of shields you start with and max with is 8, instead of 10. The Graphics are pretty good (7), [actually great for a 2600 game] but do take away from the action. The Sound is fine (6), where pretty much everything is there, but a step down from the other versions. Unfortunately, on all home versions, the Star Wars theme music only plays during the introduction, and after the game ends. There is mention of using "The Force", which I still have not learned to do. So maybe, like the Star Wars ESB game, if you do the right thing to invoke "The Force", the theme music will play while "The Force" is in effect. The Addictivenes is cool (7) and you should get a lot of mileage out of this cart.

Have Nots: Atari 5200 (38)
Two words - "Analog Sucks". Well, not this time - as the 5200's analog controls DO respond, but unfortunately they are too responsive. The crosshairs can move about the screen so much faster than the other versions that you could potentially score more points on this version. But I'm willing to bet the farm that 99% of you would give up long before you even get the feel for this hyperactive control - yet alone to master it. So the Controls are pretty good (7), as the game is playable, but the benefit of a quicker crosshair is lost if you cannot stop at an exact location and fire. The lack of control drops the Addictiveness score to very good (7). The remainder of the comments and scores are the same as the Atari 8 bit version below.

Bronze Medal: Atari 8 bit (41)
The Controls are outstanding (9). But as I mentioned before, the airplane scheme allows for error. The Gameplay is super (9) and everything is included, save for Darth Vaderís ship. All versions from here up include a choice of starting levels 1, 2 or 3. You start and max out at 9 shield levels in the 8 bit and 5200 versions. If all 10 towers are destroyed a 50K bonus is earned, which besides being in the rules, is displayed on the screen as well. The Sound is very good (7), but not quite as exciting as on the Colecovision. The Graphics are crisp (8) and effective, but the 8 bit machines are capable of a little bit more. The Addictiveness is enjoyable (8), and youíll be sure to come back for more, either via cart or floppy disk.

Silver Medal: Commodore 64 (42)
The Gameplay (9) is fantastic and includes 2 different pause buttons, and all other features - except for Darth Vaderís ship. The shields start and max at 9. The Controls are outstanding (9). The Sound is cool (7), and all effects are included, but not as good as the Colecovision. The Graphics are fantastic (9), but the Colecovision has better explosions. The Addictiveness is nice (8), and you can enjoy both a cart and disk format.

The rights to the European release were sold by Parker Brothers to Domark, but I do not have a copy of this (1987) version to review. Domark had the opportunity to either re-issue the same game exactly as the original (PB in this case), add to it or touch it up, and even to remake the game completely. The Digital Press Guide says that the graphics are even better in the enhanced Domark version.

Gold Medal: Colecovision (43)
The Colecovison wins the gold, but all 3 medal winners are good versions to play. The Gameplay is superb, (9) and offers all the bells and whistles, save for a pause. It does include three minor features that make up for this some. The choice to start the game is made by moving the stick to the choice of level 1, 2 or 3; some on screen information is given - see Atari 8 bit; and after the Death Star is destroyed, there is a brief pause and displayed is information about the bonus points and bonus shields earned. The shields begin and max at 9. The Controls are nice (8), but slow/sluggish, maybe more so than the 2600. This already assumes that youíve upgraded to using an Atari sick. There is no penalty to using an Atari stick since there is no pause or any other keypad button that works. The Graphics are smooth flowing and excellent (10). The attention to every detail, the explosions and debris make this the best home version. The Sound is very nice (8) and seems to be a little more energetic than the rest of the pack. The Addictiveness is enjoyable (8) and as with most CV games, you will not be bored due to the game (or at least one of its settings) being too easy to play.


Once again, I must ask, why didnít Parker Brothers release a TI version of this game? Given the same quality programming PB included in all the arcade hits, a TI port should have been good enough to medal here. Come back next month when I review the Many Faces of Wizard of Wor for the Atari 2600, 5200, 8bit, Commodore 64 and Apple II. I also plan to review the Bally Astrocade version, but it gets disqualified as the licensing was not official.

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