Jump to content
  • entries
    255
  • comments
    665
  • views
    50,505

Star Raiders II (Atari Corp.)

DoctorSpuds

118 views

It’s sequel time, and boy do we have a doozy today. We all know about the Atari 8-bit line of computers that were launched in 1979 starting with the Atari 400 and Atari 800. Without question the most beloved game on those computers is without a doubt Star Raiders, it is a classic. So what do you do when you have such a popular game? Well, you make a sequel of course! Luckily for Atari a member of their Coin-Op department Aric Wilmunder had almost completed a sequel to Star Raiders; it truly was a spiritual successor to the original with plenty more added in like 3D sections much like in Rescue on Fractalus and an overall more polished feel. As you can guess though Atari didn’t use this nearly completed game and instead used an entirely different game instead. I’m not completely filled in on the situation, but it seems that the Star Raiders II that we got was supposed to be a tie-in for the cinematic ‘classic’ The Last Starfighter, and due to that film’s underwhelming performance at the box office Atari changed the name of the game currently in development to Star Raiders II. I don’t know if Atari even knew about the actual sequel already in development in Coin-Op, but either way the true sequel was never released and only exists as a prototype. The actual release of Star Raiders II is also rather odd as it exists in two forms, floppy disk and cartridge. I’m unsure of the dates for the floppy disk version as the box and manual say it was copyrighted in 1986 while the disk itself says 1985 which leads me to believe that Atari held onto the game for a time before releasing it, for some reason. Here’s where things start to confuse me, a year later in 1987 Atari released a cartridge version for the XE systems, the packaging doesn’t say anywhere that the cart is compatible for the 800 even though it clearly is since there was a version released for it a year prior that said it would work on the 800, XE, and XL systems. If Atari had simply started with the cartridge version then I wouldn’t even be complaining about this. Do you guys know of any other games that started as disk releases for the 800 then were later released on cartridge for the XE? If you do know any please let me know. So let us now dig in to Star Raiders II formerly The Last Starfighter.
 
[attachment=635456:Enemy Attack!.png]
 
This game pushes the aging 800 hardware to the limit; everything is fast, detailed, and flicker free. If you thought the original Star Raiders was a bit monochrome then the sequel will knock your socks off. You’ll be whizzing through space, and blitzing around a range of colorful planets while enemies will explode into a fireworks display of color and carnage. I won’t go into detail, I can’t, I don’t want to spoil the surprises for you, this is a game whose graphics need to be experienced, and besides if I went into detail we’d be here all day long. You will notice however that the graphics on display bear no resemblance to the original game, that is in large part to this not actually being Star Raiders when it was initially being programmed, and I feel that it was a rather missed opportunity not to tweak some elements of the sequel to fit in more so with the original game. One thing that could have been changed is the enemy designs; they could have been changed to look more like those in the original, with the standard enemy looking like a TIE Fighter and the base ships looking like Basestars from Battlestar Galactiga. Those little things might kick the nostalgia back in and make the game feel more complete, or at the very least make this new game resemble the old one in some form or fashion, because right now there is nothing that calls back to the original.
 
[attachment=635457:Protect the planet!.png]
 
The sounds are fairly standard as games like these go. You have your standard engine sound effect playing in the background, shooting, explosions, and various beeps to indicate certain events, all fairly normal. There is an excellent piece of music that plays on the title screen but there is no more music during the game which I feel is a somewhat missed opportunity. All in all the sounds aren’t bad, they’re fairly easy on the ears and the explosion sound effect coupled with the onscreen explosion is fantastic.
 
[attachment=635458:Need A Pit Stop.png]
 
The gameplay is probably the only part of this game that resembles the original. You have a sector map and your job is to jump around all over the place and beat the shit out of the Zylon menace. There are several additions that make this game more complex and others that simplify it, let’s start with the additions. Instead of all the fights taking place out in space enemies can now invade the several planets that make up the solar system you’re protecting, so now you have two places to battle, in space and in orbit around a planet. The battles have also gotten more complex from the spray and pray from the original, the basic enemies will actively avoid your crosshairs until they attempt some fancy maneuvering , and when I say actively avoid I mean that your ability to aim in this game is seriously hampered. You’ll recall in the original where you had 360 degrees of free movement, in the sequel you can only move horizontally with any amount of control, the verticals are not responsive at all, and in the case of the orbital sections gone entirely.  Just like in the sequel there are base ships that will attack when you’ve defeated the basic enemies, taking these guys down is a chore but ultimately rewarding. The base ships will fly around the screen firing almost constantly, and you just have to land 2-4 hits (depending on the color) to destroy them, unfortunately the control makes this far more difficult than it should since the base ships only really fly up and down giving you a tiny window to hit them from while they can whale on you constantly. After you destroy three or so base ships you will be confronted with a command ship, these guys are actually easier to take down than the base ship, just hit them once in their ooey gooey center and they’re gone, just watch out for their massive spiral beam. On the planets battles are much the same except you can’t move vertically, up and down on the joystick effect your speed, this will be useful later, you kill the basic enemies and take down the base ships. Base ships are actually easier to destroy in orbit since they have less vertical movement and pause occasionally to destroy a city allowing for a free shot. You might think that this is a pretty complicated game, and you’d be right but there is actually more to it that you’d think.
 
[attachment=635459:BOOM!.png]
 
There is a second part to this game, not only do you have to destroy the invading Zylons you also have to invade their solar system and destroy their worlds, taking the fight to them so to speak. Entering the Zylon system is a risk no matter what, upon jumping in you’ll be immediately placed in orbit around a planet and your task is to destroy all of the factory cities on the surface. By pressing [W] you’ll switch to bomb mode and can now destroy the cities on the surface, but it won’t be smooth sailing since you’ll be under constant assault by the orbiting defenders, and I mean constant assault. Once you destroy the enemies stationed on all three plants and mop up the leftovers you win the game, I got close once but I accidentally jumped into a sun and died rather abruptly.  I mentioned earlier that some things had been simplified from the original and they are the space stations and the energy bar. The energy bar acts more like a health meter than anything, and while it does go down a small amount when you warp you’re no longer in danger of running out of energy when you need it most, like when you’re warping to a space station to refill it. Space stations have also been improved drastically, you don’t first have to find them and then position yourself in a very specific spot to dock with them running the risk of running out of energy before you can dock with them. I’ve game over-ed several times in the original with a space station on my screen but I was just a bit too close. With the new stations you simply jump to them and you dock automatically, quick and easy. The scanner modes from the original are gone as well, mainly since this game operates more like Phaser Patrol or Star Master where the game is rendered two dimensionally unlike the original which was rendered in 3D and allowed for the fore and aft views as well as the sector map view. The speed settings are gone as well since a game like this wouldn’t have any use for them unlike the original.
 
[attachment=635460:A Baseship Approaches.png]
 
Star Raiders II is a sequel in name only, it doesn’t feel like the original, it doesn’t play like the original, hell it isn’t even technically the sequel to the original it’s just a rebranded movie tie-in game. That said this is still a fun, graphically, delightful game that anybody can pick up and have fifteen minutes to an hour of fun. If I were given the choice between the original and the sequel I might actually pick the sequel, there is just more game to it and more to enjoy overall. I’m not saying that the original is bad by any stretch of the word it’s still a masterpiece of programming and hold up excellently today, I guess it just depends on how I’m feeling at that moment. Prices for Star Raiders II are a bit all over the place, if you want the floppy disk version you’ll be paying around 35 dollars, but for the cartridge version despite arguably being more common you’ll be paying anywhere from 25-90 dollars. There aren’t actually that many listings on Ebay so I can’t get a good price for them. If you actually intend to play the game on actual hardware I would recommend the getting cartridge, from what I’ve heard the cart is backwards compatible with the 800 if you have enough RAM, same goes for the 400 too allegedly. Or you could just get an SD drive and not have to worry about buying the physical games, I know it’s piracy but some of these games are too damn expensive. I won’t send Star Raiders II to the Collector’s Zone since I think this is a game that every Atari 8-bit owner should have in their collection.
 
[attachment=635461:A wild Command Ship Appears.png]
[attachment=635462:Demoted.png]
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5w129-nKePY&feature=youtu.be



4 Comments


Recommended Comments

Do you guys know of any other games that started as disk releases for the 800 then were later released on cartridge for the XE?
 
Hm, do you mean games released on disk by Atari themselves, or also other publishers whose games they re-released on cartridge for the XEGS generation?
 
I don't know if this list is complete, but it is a start:
 
Archon (Electronic Arts, disk 1983)
Lode Runner (Broderbund, disk 1983)
Ballblazer (Lucasfilm/Epyx/Activision, disk 1985)
Blue Max (Synapse, disk 1983)
David's Midnight Magic (Broderbund, 1982)
Fight Night (Accolade, 1985)
Flight Simulator II (subLOGIC 1984)
One on One (Electronic Arts, disk 1983)
Rescue on Fractalus! (Lucasfilm/Epyx/Activision, disk 1985)

Share this comment


Link to comment

 

 

 
Hm, do you mean games released on disk by Atari themselves, or also other publishers whose games they re-released on cartridge for the XEGS generation?
 
I don't know if this list is complete, but it is a start:
 
Archon (Electronic Arts, disk 1983)
Lode Runner (Broderbund, disk 1983)
Ballblazer (Lucasfilm/Epyx/Activision, disk 1985)
Blue Max (Synapse, disk 1983)
David's Midnight Magic (Broderbund, 1982)
Fight Night (Accolade, 1985)
Flight Simulator II (subLOGIC 1984)
One on One (Electronic Arts, disk 1983)
Rescue on Fractalus! (Lucasfilm/Epyx/Activision, disk 1985)

 

 

Whew, at least I'm not going crazy. I guess its like if a company released a game on the Xbox 360, for example, and later re-released it on the Xbox One even though the 360 version will still work on the Xbox One, Its not quite as strange as I though.

Share this comment


Link to comment

Whew, at least I'm not going crazy. I guess its like if a company released a game on the Xbox 360, for example, and later re-released it on the Xbox One even though the 360 version will still work on the Xbox One, Its not quite as strange as I though.

 

Admittedly, it's a little strange that Atari Corp. re-branded the 1979 Atari computer hardware as a game machine in 1987!  It wasn't a huge hit, of course, but it probably did accomplish the goal of allowing them to sell off some of their excess inventory of Atari computer carts.  It's nice for users that that some of the very best computer games got cart re-releases, making owning and maintaining a disk drive somewhat less necessary.

Share this comment


Link to comment

I think it was two-fold: a desperate attempt to counter the NES and the fact that the 7800 didn't have a huge enough library. Technically the 7800 seems fairly advanced but also rather complex in terms of what you have processing power to do and how different operations affect which resources are available. The 2600 and 8-bits are no walk in the park to program neither, but yet again release a system that is hard to program probably wasn't the best idea. FWIW the same seems true about the Jaguar, not sure how difficult the Lynx is to tame.

 

Apparently Atari's own back catalogue from 1979-82 or so wasn't hot enough to counter NES (and in case it even was sold, the SMS) so that makes sense why they would license some of the top games from 1983-86 into cartridge format for the new console to ... have a library worth its salt.

Share this comment


Link to comment
Guest
Add a comment...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
×
×
  • Create New...