Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"That was just a game, Centauri!"

I've mention on this blog before that during my high-school years I had a very good relation with my local video store, enough so that I could call in on Wednesday afternoon and they would cheerfully tell me what games had come in and which they had pulled for me to play. One such afternoon I was excited to hear that they had got in the Last Starfighter for the Nintendo Entertainment System. I almost dropped the phone I was so shocked...six years after the movie I was finally going to get my chance at piloting a Gunstar and taking on Xur and the Ko-Dan armada!

It was a long three hours until I was able to get home and have my father drive me up to the store so I could rent it. On the way back I was humming the Last Starfighter theme, what movie besides Tron so captured the dreams of an 80's game like the Last Starfighter had back in 1984?

Boy my dreams were crushed shortly after inserting the cartridge into the machine and giving it a play. Turns out that Mindscape pulled a fast one on us Starfighter fans...it was actually a Commodore 64 title called Uridium with a new title screen, music from the movie, and reworked sprites to resemble a Gunstar and the Kodan warships. It was a big disappointment to say it lightly, the play controls were horrible, and the game was in truth pretty dang hard.

In a fit of disgust I ejected the game and took it back to the video store quite hastily. Luckily they had a copy of Castlevania II in and I spent the weekend making ghouls and skeletons pay for Mindscape's crimes.

Some interesting bits of info from the Wikipedia:

"A real The Last Starfighter arcade game by Atari, Inc. is promised in the end credits, but was never released. If released, the game would have been Atari's first 3D polygonal arcade game to use a Motorola 68000 as the CPU. Gameplay would have been taken from game scenes and space battle scenes in the movie and would have included the same controller that was used on the first Star Wars arcade game. Ultimately, it was not released because the arcade machine would have had a sale price of $10,000, which the vice president in Atari considered too high.

Home versions of the game for the Atari 2600 and Atari 8-bit home computers were also developed, but never commercially released under the Last Starfighter name. The home computer version was eventually renamed and released (with some minor changes) as Star Raiders 2. A protype exists for the Atari 2600 Last Starfighter game, which was in actuality a game already in development by Atari under the name Universe. This game was eventually released as Solaris."

Well, maybe someday I'll finally get that chance to pilot a Gunstar...because there is that rumor that a sequel to the Last Starfighter is in the works.

Ballad of A Well-Known Gun - Elton John

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