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Star Raiders (Atari)

DoctorSpuds

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It is no secret that I’ve recently acquired an Atari 800 computer, and when I asked on the forum which games were the best to play on it, one game was recommended above all else… Star Raiders. I found this a little confusing since I had played Star Raiders on the 2600 and was thoroughly disappointed, but the game store I bought the 800 from did have a copy of it, so I bought it and played it, and now I know why people like it so very much. The 2600 Star Raiders absolutely pales in comparison to the 800 version, there is no contest which one is best, but for all of those out there who’ve never played either the 5200 or 800 version of Star Raiders and have only played the 2600 one I’ll put in a few comparisons between the two. One thing I must talk about before jumping into the actual game is the rather ridiculous packaging, both for the 800 and 2600 versions. These boxes are huge, the 2600 version is almost three times as thick as a regular box, while the 800 version as approximately twice as tall as a regular box. I can understand why the 2600 version is as thick as it is since it has the Video Touch Pad bundled in with the game itself, but I can’t really understand why the 800 version is as big as it is. Was it for theft prevention? Or did Atari just want to show off? I don’t know, but what I do know is that neither of the fat bastards are gonna fit on my shelf. Enough about the packaging, let’s take a look at Star Raiders for the Atari 800, and kinda the 2600 version too, but only to laugh at it.

 

My first impression from Star Raiders is how absolutely blue it is, the emulator I’m using for screenshots actually has the proper coloration but when I play it on my crappy little tv I think I need to listen to some Eifel 65 whenever I’m playing this game. There isn’t a whole lot to this game; most of what you’ll be seeing is the play screen and the quadrant map. The play screen is where all the action happens, and let me be the first to say that is a nice-ass starfield, it moves in a realistic 3D fashion that really immerses you in the game, unlike the 2600 version which has multicolored stars, the 800 version has only blue stars which is a bit disappointing, but it keeps the enemies from blending in, which is a bit of a problem on the 2600 version. The enemy designs are simplistic at best, in fact I’m pretty sure they were recycled in Solaris, you have the standard TIE Fighter shape, the grabby alien shape, and the classic Cylon Basestar from the original Battlestar Galactica, except in Star Raiders it’s advocating for equal rights since it’s a strobing rainbow. The quadrant map has 128 sectors to jump to, when compared to the 2600’s paltry 16 it seems absolutely giant, you’ll see indicators for squadrons of Zylon ships with special indicators given to squadrons containing a fabulous rainbow base ship, as well as for Star Bases which you need to protect and refuel at. The only other thing I can think of at the moment is the long range scan which gives a realistic 3D radar to show the location of enemies, obstacles, and Star Bases, unfortunately depth perception is a bit of an issue since you can’t really tell the distance between yourself and the object you’re looking at, but it’s still useful nonetheless.

 

All you’ll really be hearing is the sounds of your engines blasting and your guns shooting, and if you ask me that’s perfect for this type of game. I know I sometimes rag on games for having too few sounds, but that’s only if a game would benefit from having more sounds or having higher quality sounds. Star Raiders is perfect with the sounds it has, since I think if it had any more it would actually detract from the gameplay, you don’t need the computer beeping at you constantly all you need is the calming sounds of your engine and the crunchy explosions as you make those alien bastards suck some space.

 

For such a simple premise of “shoot the aliens dead” Star Raiders is a fairly complex game, simple to pick up but difficult to master. The first thing you’ll need to figure out is the Hyperwarp function as you’ll be using that to get around the quadrant, you need to press ‘G’ on the keyboard to bring up the map, and then you simply move your cursor over the sector you want to warp to and press ‘H’, before you jump you’ll need to accelerate while you’re doing that you’ll want to press ‘F’ to bring yourself to the ‘Fore view’. If you’re still on the map when you jump there is a chance you’ll be jumped to a random section on the map wasting fuel. Before you go hurling yourself into dangerous situations I’d recommend you raise your shields with the ‘S’ key and boot up your Attack Computer with ‘C’, now you can take more than one hit and can actually aim your shots. Movement is a bit weird, you control your velocity with the keyboard 0-2 will break you out of hyperwarp and stop you entirely while keys 3-9 will make you move faster or slower depending on the value of the key, I and the manual recommend ‘6’ as being your default speed so you don’t outrun your enemies. You’ll notice that whenever you shoot, or jump, or even use your engines you’re expending fuel, you are given 9999 units of fuel at the beginning of every mission, if you need to refuel you’ll need to jump to a Star Base and refuel there. Refueling is a pain in the ass, you need to position yourself extremely close to the station and four out of five times it won’t take, I’m pretty sure it’s user error but it has lost me several games so far. A warning though to all of those new players who think they’re invincible, if your attack computer is destroyed you are absolutely boned, you will never find a Starbase and you will starve to death in the vastness of space, even with the long range computer, because of the depth perception issues, you’ll simply fly circles around it but never ever find it.

 

This is a fantastic game, I love it, have several games for the 800 already but Star Raiders is by far my favorite. It’s rather odd to me that my favorite space shooter on one system is my least favorite on another, life’s weird that way. Copies of this game are absolutely everywhere, I got mine for 4 dollars at my local game store, but I have a boxed copy on the way that I bought on Ebay for $14. If you ask me every single Atari 800 owner needs to own this game. Also if you’re wondering, no the slowdown doesn’t bother me, nor does it detract from the overall gameplay experience.

 

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Possibility the best game ever before 1980.

 

Star Raiders was released in 1979.

 

Other games for consoles/computers before 1980 suck (my opinion).

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I always like to say that Star Raiders is great for two players. A pilot and a systems/navigator guy.

 

SR was also one of my favs to play (along with Lunar Lander) when we made cardboard blanket forts and make-believe moonbases in the bedroom. Vintage Atari helped us create many many good times.

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