Tinman Posted May 25, 2012 Share Posted May 25, 2012 Since I've been playing them all over the last few days, I thought I'd give my list of my favorite first-person space shooters. I should start by saying that Star Raiders on the Atari 800 is my all-time favorite video game on any system ever. And it has been since I first played it way back in the 1980's. No other game has pulled me in like Star Raiders on the 800 did, making me feel like I really was flying around in a space ship fighting evil aliens. So, for the 2600, a lot of what makes me like the space shooters there are how well they compare to the original Star Raiders. Does this mean that the 2600 version of Star Raiders is my favorite on that system? Not necessarily... This is not an all-inclusive list of space simulations on the 2600; I know there are others. But these are the ones that I tend to play the most and are my Top Five. Here they are in descending order: 5. Star Voyager (Imagic) Star Voyager is decent, but a bit plain. I love how you can select between lasers or photon torpedos, although having to use the right dificulty switch to do it means that you can't do it as quickly or as often as you might like. Besides which, I've never really figured out a good strategy for using one over the other. Like most of these games, you can warp from one sector to the next for your battles, however there is no "galactic map". Instead you simply warp by flying through the star portals which appear, and you can't choose to navigate to different sectors; you simply move to the next level. The worst part of this game are the colored borders around the screen. I really HATE them! They totally take you out of the simulation and remind you that you're playing a game and just really seem out of place to me. Generally speaking the graphics on this game are the worst of the bunch, simpler and more blocky. Star Voyager (and all Imagic games) does get bonus points for the coolest box and cartridge artwork. It also gets bonus points for having a couple of two-player modes, something none of the others have. 4. Space Attack (M-Network) The Atari version of Intellivision Space Battle is fun and a good port of the original. Unlike all of the other games in this list, in Space Attack you have more than one ship battling the bad guys. In fact, you have fleets of ships that you must send out to meet the alien fleets. When one of your fleets meets one of theirs, you do battle. Unfortunately, sending out your fleets is much more complicated on the Atari than it is on the Intellivision, as the Intelly version made good use of the keypad on the controllers. I wish the Atari version had shipped with a keypad controller like Star Raiders did! That said, it is very fun to have to manage the multiple fleets, especially with the "A" difficulty set which lets the computer manage some of the battles while you're fighting others. In battle mode, Space Attack is the least simulator-like of all of these games. The star field is colorful (love that!), but static. Instead of moving through space, you simply move your gunsight around the screen, avoiding the enemy fire when it turns red (if it touches your gunsight, you lose a ship from your fleet). Learning to "lead" the enemy ships with your fire takes some practice, but once you get the hang of it, it's pretty straightforward. If you really like Space Attack, you need to play the original Space Battle on the Intellivision. If you can handle the INTV's hand-cramping controllers, you'll enjoy that game quite a bit. 3. Star Raiders (Atari) Oh, I had such hopes for this game! Having loved the original version on the Atari 800, I knew that this one wouldn't be as good (how could it be on the more limited 2600 hardware?), but I figured it would come the closest. Plus, it shipped with the very cool Video Touch Pad (the old Atari keypad controller with an overlay), which would make accessing the various features much more easy than on the other games here, which all rely on the 2600's various console switches. So some of the features were changed or missing; the aft view (which I almost never used) and the slick little animation where the astronaut floats out to meet you at the starbase. I can live without those. And the galactic map is far smaller with many fewer sectors. But some other changes seemed less necessary but more glaring. Your targeting crosshairs are now a long horizontal line across the screen. And the flicker! Why so much flicker?? Far more than on any of the other games here. Perhaps because Star Raiders tends to have a lot more on the screen than the other games (except Phaser Patrol, but that's a different story...) Also, if you read the manual, the backstory has been changed as well. You're now fighting "Krylons" instead of "Zylons", for example. Weird. One of my big problems with Star Raiders is the movement of the aliens. They seem to fly only in loops, moving towards you and then back away, and hitting them is just a matter of timing your left-and-right shots to intercept them. And while the movement of the stars across the screen is very well done, overall everything seems just a bit too jerky and not smooth enough. Again, I wonder if that's because of all the stuff on the screen at once. Trying to emulate the original a little too closely may have been the problem here. In fact, that may really be my biggest issue with the game. It's too easy to compare it to the original and it suffers for it. Taken for what it is, it is very fun, it does a good job of simulating space battles and has most of the features I love on the original. You have to protect your space stations by attacking the aliens closest to them, you have to manage your energy reserves and dock to replenish them, and you can lose or damage systems like your shields or targetting computer and engines. 2. Phaser Patrol (Starpath) It seems almost unfair to include Phaser Patrol, since it requires the Starpath Supercharger, which gives the game more RAM and better graphics to use. It has as much detail on the screen as Star Raiders, however none of the flicker. It also uses the extra memory to good effect, with a much larger galactic map (including sectors where you have no knowledge of what's in them until you warp to them), and a gorgeous colorful starfield in the battle mode. Sadly, the stars don't fly past your cockpit in this game, but they do scroll left and right and up and down as you fly around. Of all of these games, Phaser Patrol is probably most similar to the original Star Raiders (as well as to the 2600 version) with a sector map, long range scanner, a targeting computer, and shields; and it has the coolest Atari 2600 animation I think I've ever seen as you activate or deactivate your shields! The shields slowly collapse from the top and bottom of the screen, making the black of space look dark grey instead. It's a really need effect. The targetting computer is also more advanced here, giving you the distance to the aliens as well as the ability to "lock on" to one of them. If you fire when the torpedo sight turns red, your torpedos will chase the aliens across the screen to hit them. Really the only negative about this game is the fact that the starfield doesn't whiz past your cockpit as you fly. Had they included that effect, I think this game would be number one on my list. 1. Starmaster (Activision) Now, I admit that Starmaster probably has the most sparse graphics of all of these games. Activision definitely kept it simple on this game, but it works very well. In fact, so well that this is my favorite of the bunch. Like the others, you have a galactic chart as well as your cockpit view. And you have aliens from which you must protect your starbases. You do have shields, but no way to turn them on or off manually, and there is no change in the graphics to indicate when they're off, except an "S" which appears on your damage computer. But, like the other games, you never really want to turn them off, so this is not an issue for me. The graphics are sparse, as I said, but very smooth and fast. There aren't many stars to see, but they whip past your cockpit as you fly. The aliens as well whip around the screen as they shoot at you and dodge your fire, occasionally coming close to you (making them much easier to hit). Much of Starmaster is a pure shoot-em-up with fast gameplay and graphics, but you do have to use some strategy, particularly managing your energy reserves and trying to kill of the enemies closest to your starbases. If you lose all your energy or all your starbases (or take a hit without shields), it's game over. In gameplay, I think Starmaster stands up best to the original Star Raiders, even if it doesn't match it feature-for-feature, and for this reason it is my favorite of the bunch. 6 Quote Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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