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Put your TIE Fighter in hyperdrive

Updated: Jun 30

Published: December 14th, 2021

Author: Caitlynn Joann


Star Wars Atari is a rail shooter game that was released by Atari in 1983. Color graphics are used to simulate the assault on the Death Star, from Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope. It also uses synthesized voices to emulate the actors' voices to help in simulation. It has since been included on the lists of the greatest video games of all time. Star Wars was led by Mike Hally, who joined Atari in 1976 and primarily designed pinball machines and their mechanical parts. In the ‘80s, he began working on Gravitar with Rich Adam. You can note similarities between Star Wars and Gravitar, although A New Hope was a much greater challenge to create. One of the other key figures included Jed Margolin. He joined Atari in 1979 with a vision to create a 3D space war game. Margolin was a hardware engineer on Lunar Lander, Asteroids, Tempest, and Battlezone. His new project, a 3D space war game, he named Warp Speed; until Atari signed a deal with Lucasfilm. Margolin pushed for Warp Speed to be a great platform for a Star Wars game. And so it was.

The player takes on the role of none other than Luke Skywalker, and pilots an X-wing fighter from a first-person perspective. The original controls have a yoke with 4 buttons, but other machines utilize a joystick instead. Two of the buttons are used for triggers and two are for positioning, each firing a laser positioned on the edges of the X-Wings. Every TIE Fighter and gun turret does not need to be destroyed to advance to the next phase. Rather, the player must survive for a certain amount of time by avoiding and destroying enemies. Luke starts out with 6 shields, which can be lost during a collision or by enemy projectiles. If all shields are lost, the game ends. The game consists of 3 “waves” or phases, all of which are attacks to destroy the Death Star.

In the first phase, the Imperial March is played for a moment and Luke engages in a fight with Darth Vader, as well as TIE fighters. Following the TIE fighter waves, the yellow grid lines on the Death Star spell out either, “May the force be with you” or names of the game developers. Phase two begins with Luke flying across the surface of the Death Star, reaching its equatorial trench. Luke is attacked by artillery bunkers where laser turrets on towers attack him. Luke is awarded bonus points for destroying every turret. In the last phase, Luke must navigate through the trench until firing a proton torpedo to hit the exhaust port target. If Luke succeeds, the Death Star explodes and he is awarded a bonus shield, maxing out at 6. If this fails, a shield is lost and he must attempt the trench again. By destroying the Death Star by only firing the exhaust port, a bonus is awarded for using “the Force.” After the last phase, the game resets to the first phase, but with increased difficulty. TIE Fighters shoot at a higher frequency, bunkers and laser towers appear in the second phase, and obstacles appear in the trench during the third.

For some quick tips, in the tower scene, you can shoot fireballs that are hidden behind towers. During the trench scene, fireballs can be fired through the catwalks. You can also use the force and get 100,000 extra points by NOT shooting anything except the exhaust port. If you move the flight yoke, or joystick, far left and far-right during the attract mode, it will switch between the instructions and the high score list. There is a rumor that if Luek shoots Darth Vader more than 30 times, 27 shields are rewarded and you also could get 255 shields, which is incredibly rare.

Star Wars was Atari’s top-selling game in the 1983 arcade release, with production at 12,695 total arcade units. In 1984 Robert Mruczek scored 300 million points during 49 hours of gameplay and in 2005 Brandon Erickson played for 54 hours with a store of 283 million. Raising money or charity in 1985, Flavio Tozzi, Dave Robers, and Mike Ohren took turns over 5 days to attain the world record score of 1,000,000,012 points. In the 1986 Tournament, David Palmer scored 31,660,614 points in about 7 hours, remaining the world record today.



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This is a great article with interesting information. This is my favorite game and I’m glad to know a bit of history about it and it’s creator. I’d love to hear him talk about it.

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