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Homebreviews - part 29

Posted by Nathan Strum, 02 October 2009 · 1,178 views

Video Game Reviews
I've been looking forward to this one... :D

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Juno First

Welcome to the best shooter on the 2600. Every once in awhile, a homebrew game will come along that makes you rethink what the venerable 2600 is capable of doing, and Juno First is one of those games. A port of the classic (if not well-known) Konami arcade game, Juno First is sort of Defender flipped on its side. A vertical shooter, your view is above and behind your ship, flying above a moving grid, blasting everything in sight, and capturing enemy pilots. Where Juno First distinguishes itself from similar games is in its unrelenting intensity and your ship's ability to fly backwards. Being able to reverse direction completely revolutionizes the feel of the game, and is absolutely essential in being able to maneuver around and blast the endless hoards of angry aliens that will come screaming at you. And believe me... these guys are really angry!

The pace of Juno First is frenetic. The temptation is to fly full-throttle right through the middle of the enemies and just mow 'em down, but that will only lead to quick (and repeated) deaths. You have to learn how to deftly swoop around and through the enemies, know when to back down, and know when to run away. The sheer number of enemies onscreen is astonishing - and they just keep replenishing their ranks. Still, time is of the essence because you only have a limited amount of fuel to complete each attack wave. If you manage to capture an enemy pilot though, they'll stop shooting at you for a few moments, giving you a chance to wipe them out.

The graphics in Juno First are excellent - everything scales in perspective very cleanly, and you can clearly tell, even at a distance, which enemies are which. (Admittedly, I designed the sprites - but it's the implementation here that's so exceptional.) There is flicker in the game, but you'll hardly ever notice it. It's expertly handled, and there's simply so much action going on, you don't have the time to pay attention to it. I rarely even manage to look at my score while playing. The sound is also excellent, being a constant barrage during the game, and featuring great title screen music and AtariVox voices. And let me make this point absolutely clear: if you do not have an AtariVox, buy yourself one - now. Not only do the voices add a lot to this game, but the high score support in Juno First is unparalleled. An arcade-like high score table awaits you if you have an AtariVox (or SaveKey), and few things are as satisfying as being able to add your initials at the top of a high score list on your very own Atari 2600. I hope more homebrew games follow suit.

Juno First is, hands-down, one of the best homebrew games for the 2600. It's tremendously challenging, a lot of fun, and a must-have for shooter fans. Highly recommended!

First! :)

Do you have a link at hand where I can download the latest (PAL) binary to have a look at myself?
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The latest one I've seen is here. Not sure if this is the final or not.
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Nathan - Thanks for the great review - I'm glad you enjoyed the end result!
Thomas - the RC3 version that Nathan linked is the final version.

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You're welcome, Chris - Juno First is just really that good. :) I enjoyed playing this one for the review (which doesn't always happen :) ), and I was really struck again by all of the arcade-like attention to detail. I think what really put it over the top for me though, was I kept looking off into the distance at the aliens, and thinking how far away they were... and there isn't really any distance there. It's just an illusion! That's how much the game pulled me in when playing it.
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Great review as usual. I don't think I've played Juno First for about a year when it was still under development. After reading your review I'm itching to play again.
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What a long road it's been to see Juno First get made. I can't wait to get my physical copy. I certainly hope to see more AtariVox games created.The big thing that distracted me from doing Atari stuff was the machinima site Xtranormal which uses speech synthesizers. You can't control them as deftly as you can the AtariVox, but they do sound more naturalistic. I just have to finally sit down and figure out how to make AtariVox boards so I can sell them again, now that JF is coming out.
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