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Emulation (Games) Games

The Real Star Raiders II 33

New submitter Maury Markowitz writes: Star Raiders was the Atari 8-bit home computer's killer app, inspiring Ted Nelson to claim that "The Atari machine is the most extraordinary computer graphics box ever made, and Star Raiders is its virtuoso demonstration game." It was not until many years later that a sequel, of sorts, was released. This Star Raiders II was nothing at all like the original, as it was originally The Last Starfighter, a licensed tie-in to that was rebranded to avoid the stench of the box-office flop.

Well now, three decades later, Kevin Savetz of the excellent ANTIC podcast has dropped a bomb on the retrogaming community: there was a real Star Raiders II under construction for a long time, but it disappeared as Atari imploded. Kevin tracked down the author, Aric Wilmunder, and convinced him to release it after all these years. You can download the game for the emulator of your choice, and read the manual and backstory on the Internet Archive.
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The Real Star Raiders II

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  • Flop?! (Score:5, Informative)

    by crankyspice ( 63953 ) on Friday December 11, 2015 @08:06PM (#51103191)

    The Last Starfighter ...[a] box-office flop

    Say what? “The Last Starfighter was a financial success, earning over $28 million on an estimated budget of $15 million.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Starfighter [wikipedia.org]

    It's also reasonably well ranked, and spawned a Broadway musical, etc., so I don't see what 'stench' there'd be. Citation needed.

    I suspect (a) Atari had plans for a real Last Starfighter game, but in 1984 tech would have been too expensive; (b) this game was originally ‘Orbiter’ and rebranded mid-development to capitalize on the Last Starfighter film; and (c) because gameplay would have been nothing like the game in the movie, and the game wasn't ready until 1985ish anyway (when any boost from associating with The Last Starfighter would probably have been negligible, especially given the probable backlash of the game having little to do with the movie - c.f. E.T. [wikipedia.org] (which Atari was still stinging from)...

    • I was about to post the same question. Sounds like the submitter wasn't a fan of the movie. A 76% "Fresh" rating on rottentomatoes is nothing to sniff at.

    • by Sowelu ( 713889 )

      It was a financial success in the same way that getting a "C+" grade is an academic success: sure, you passed, but...

      "This was a moderate hit, and while it make back its investment with a profit, all accounts speak of the studio being disappoint[ed], and cancelling any hopes of a sequel, if there was a story to follow." http://futurewarstories.blogsp... [blogspot.com]

      Context for box office revenues of other movies released that year: http://www.boxofficemojo.com/y... [boxofficemojo.com] It came in between Neverending Story and the first Te

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Quit rationalizing. Moderate success is still success and not a flop.

      • Financially it was moderately successful, and the reviews gave it decent scores. I remember watching it when it came out and thinking it was a good movie.
        None of this is consistent with "the stench of the box-office flop". The comment is out of line and this needs to be pointed out.
    • Re:Flop?! (Score:5, Informative)

      by Purity Of Essence ( 1007601 ) on Friday December 11, 2015 @08:49PM (#51103341)

      The Last Starfighter game built from the 8-bit Orbiter game follows the film / game-within-the-film pretty closely. Obviously an Atari 800 couldn't hope to reproduce it visually but it is an excellent tie-in in terms of theme and play. It was leaked in the 80s and I played the hell out of it.

      Atari's coin-op division also developed a Last Starfighter game that was very faithful to the game shown in the film. It was also unreleased.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com]

      Why neither game was released remains a matter of speculation.

    • Re:Flop?! (Score:5, Informative)

      by savetz ( 201597 ) on Friday December 11, 2015 @08:53PM (#51103351) Homepage

      The story of the Last Straighter computer game (which was renamed Star Raiders II, but is NOT the lost Star Raiders II referred to in this post) is told in this interview with its programmer: http://ataripodcast.libsyn.com... [libsyn.com]

    • The Last Starfighter ...[a] box-office flop

      Say what? “The Last Starfighter was a financial success, earning over $28 million on an estimated budget of $15 million.

      Except that the people in Atari believe TLS was going to be the next Star Wars. The movie didn't exactly live up to that expectation, so in that sense it was a "flop", a profitable one, but no craziness like Star Wars did.

  • The Last Starfighter (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dan East ( 318230 ) on Friday December 11, 2015 @08:08PM (#51103205) Homepage Journal

    The Last Starfighter wasn't a bad movie. Technologically, it was incredibly groundbreaking. Pretty much any movie incorporating CGI is simply following in the footsteps of TLS. The Rotten Tomato and IMDB scores are all pretty good as well. The movie made a profit of several million dollars.

    The huge problem with ANY video game version of TLS back then is that it could never, ever hold a candle to the game as shown in the movie. It would suck in comparison no matter what, thus it was wise to not try and market a game under that name. The game as shown then was absolutely amazing, and was rendered frame by frame on a Cray in the same way the CGI for the "realistic" scenes was created. The technology didn't exist then to create the game as depicted in the movie.

    BTW, there is a freeware version of the game available, which appears to be incredibly true to the game as depicted in the film.

  • Talk about mindblowing. The original Star Raiders has been one of my favorite games for a very long time. This is a crazy thing to find after so long. my only concern is it looks like the framerate gets a bit choppy. I haven't had a chance to play it yet but I'm looking very forward to it.

    • Indeed. The version of Star Raiders that we previously knew about was OK as a game but it didn't have the Star Raiders vibe. The video of this newly unearthed version looks very faithful to the original whilst adding a whole bunch of wow. Amazing it's only now turned up, given the importance of Star Raiders in gaming history.
  • Reminds me a little of Starglider for the Atari ST [youtube.com] -- pretty impressive to get real-time 3D perspective wireframe out of the Atari 800.
  • by Pentomino ( 129125 ) on Saturday December 12, 2015 @06:09PM (#51107069) Homepage Journal

    I just tried the game, and if this had been finished and released in 1985, it would have competed well with Elite on the C64.

    It plays very much like the first Star Raiders game, but the joystick moves the crosshairs as well as the ship. Objects in space are rendered in what looks like full 3D line art, rather than simple sprites. And you can fly into planets' atmospheres to do strafing runs of enemy bases. I was awestruck when I saw the spherical planet come into view; it looked like something just a little beyond what I expected an Atari game to do in the 1980s. You're not used to seeing big ol' globes on an Atari 8-bit. You're used to seeing big flat raster sunsets, or if you're lucky, some clever animation like Rescue on Fractalus used. The plantery terrain wasn't quite as realistic as Fractalus, but was still very good, and very arcade-like.

    The part that really shows the game's ambition is the galactic map. The game starts with "galactic history", a cutscene for lack of a better word, which simulates the progress of the Zylon fleet up to the point of the player joining the fight. The map is no longer arranged in a simple grid like the original cartridge. It contains not only enemy squadrons and starbases, but star systems with orbiting planets. It is an extension of the thing that Star Raiders always had that Elite didn't: while you were in your sector, time was still passing in other sectors. Even in the original Star Raiders, enemy squadrons would move to different sectors, surrounding starbases, and eventually destroying them if the player didn't intervene. In this sequel, new squadrons could also be launched from occupied planets. I haven't played the advanced levels yet, but I imagine the player has to choose carefully between defending starbases and raiding shipyards.

    I've found no game-ruining bugs, but I am not sure whether the flight and combat system has been completely worked out, or whether I'm just not good at the game yet. If this had been leaked on a BBS, it would have been received so much better than the ones that were, well, actually leaked.

  • Back in the Atari 2600 days, Star Raiders was an incredible game for the system. A few years later, a game called Solaris appeared on shelves with similar box art to Star Raiders. The comparisons didn't end there. Solaris featured enemy ships from Star Raiders, the map grid, the hyperwarping between quadrants now had an interactive "focus" element to it to determine fuel usage, the visiting of Federation (was it the same Federation as Star Raiders) planets to refuel (versus the star base) and so on.

    Alt
    • by Scoth ( 879800 )

      Solaris was by the same author as Star Raiders, Doug Neubauer, and was indeed intended to be a sort of sequel.

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