Long has this game eluded me, but now I have it in my possession, sort of. I’ve really wanted to get my hands on Star Wars: The Arcade Game for a long while but the price has always been a prohibitive factor, mainly due to it being a late release Parker Brothers game coupled with a big IP driving the prices up dramatically. It seems though that I’ve been after the wrong version the whole time, because as I was focusing on the 2600 version, as I tend to do, I has completely neglected the other versions of the game, mainly the 5200 port. So, now that I have it, was it really worth all the time, and money, I spent to get it? Let’s start where we always do, the graphics.
This is a fairly attractive looking game that goes for a very minimalist look, which makes sense since the arcade game this was based on was rendered using vectors, no solid colored shapes here. As far as the 5200 port goes, it looks like as perfect a recreation as the 5200 was capable of. The graphics are flicker free and the attempts at 3D are pretty good, but I feel that an opportunity was missed when it came to the graphics. A part of me wishes that the programmer went off in their own direction and filled in those shapes, even though the game doesn’t look bad by any means I feel that there just isn’t enough on the screen at once and I begin to get tired of seeing the same set of lines over and over again. I can understand the vector approach for the 2600 perhaps, but the 5200 was capable of so much more, and I feel that its potential was rather squandered.
The sounds are alright. Mainly you’ll be hearing a load of gunfire and a few explosions, but apart from the Star Wars theme at the start of the each round you won’t be hearing much else. I fell that this was also a bit of a letdown since the arcade game has voice clips from the movie itself put in for immersion. I know the 5200 is capable of playing voice clips just listen to Berzerk. Perhaps it was an issue of storage, or certain criteria had to be met for the 5200 to play voice clips that would hinder the gameplay experience, I don’t know, but I do think it could be better.
Due to this being a home port of an advanced arcade game things had to be shifted around and altered a bit, and removed. When starting the game you’ll be assaulted by a load of TIE fighters just like in the original, and as usual they’re incredibly difficult to hit, but once you get past that you’re immediately thrown into the trench sequence and completely bypass the towers. Only after you destroy the Death Star once do you get to play the tower sequence. Unfortunately the 5200 version can only offer a stripped down experience, the small red turrets in the tower sequence are absent and the wall mounted turrets in the trench section are also absent leading to a rather shallow experience as you spend a large chunk of the game not really shooting at anything. The controls are unique to the 5200, due to its analogue controller it uses the joystick to move the crosshairs like a cursor, wherever the joystick goes the crosshair goes, no more no less. These controls bring a lot of much needed fluidity to the game but make it impossible to emulate properly unless you manage to hook your mouse up as your joystick, the arrow keys just won’t work well.
Overall I can totally see how a kid back in the 80’s would have loved this game, but unfortunately fitting the whole arcade experience into one little cartridge was just impossible. As for the game, it’s fun enough for a few rounds but you’ll quickly lose interest in it when the repetition hits. If you want to try out Star Wars: The Arcade Game for yourself you can find loose carts on Ebay for 15-40 dollars with boxed copies of course being more expensive at 40+. I’m gonna put this one tentatively in the Collector’s Zone, I can see how many people would find this to be great fun, but the price coupled with the stripped back nature of it just don’t gel with me.