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Defender vs Nova Blast vs ESB

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I recently spent some time with each of these games as they fit in the "Defender Clone" category. I've been playing all of these with a Radica Plug n Play that I modified to work with Intellivision, and it works beautifully with all of these.


I really like Intellivision Defender, but the enemies advance very quickly from off screen to kill you which makes the game difficult for me. You can compensate a little using the radar of course, but my games just don't last very long. The control you have over your ship however, is pretty great, and I think it is one of the most responsive Intellivision games from the original library. It also looks and sounds nice and does a MUCH better job imitating the arcade than the 2600 version. I wonder why they didn't work hyperspace onto the keypad?


Nova Blast should be better than Defender. It puts a nice twist on saving people by giving you the ability to reinforce your cities, and the enemy variety of ground and air adds an extra dimension to the game. However a couple of things hold this title back. First (and somebody check this for me) I can't keep the ship pointed to the left. Sure if I hold left it goes to the left, but as soon as I push any other direction (namely up or down), the ship flips back to the right. This is beyond annoying. I tried with multiple controllers, so I know it isn't that. I remember playing the Coleco version of this game, and I just can't get past this particular control obstacle in the Intellivision version. I also can't seem to make sense of WHEN and WHERE I should be to rebuild the shields on my cities. Sometimes I go over the city and beam down a shield that I see satisfyingly transfer to the city below. Other times, I empty the entire tank and nothing happens. Maybe it is a RTFM problem, but it just doesn't seem like I can be predictably precise enough to get this mechanic right.


ESB - I just recently tried this one for the first time. The big differences between it and the 2600 version are well known. There are only 2 spots on the walkers to hit instead of 3, the Star Wars music is worse, and the colors somehow manage to offend my eyes more than the VCS version. All that said, if you play on one of the higher difficulty settings, the core gameplay that I like from the 2600 version is in there. Not being able to zoom down and hit those flashing targets predictably takes a lot of the satisfaction out of this one though - maybe I'd get the hang of that if I played more.


Result (Score 1 - 5)

1) Defender (4)

2) ESB (3)

3) Nova Blast (2)


I have to give it to Defender for not screwing anything up. The game controls well, and everything in it functions as it was intended to. ESB takes the second spot but only because its simplicity lets the game underneath poke through. Nova Blast could be the best game of the bunch, but the game's individual elements don't seem to consistently work and defending all 4 cities simultaneously is too big of a challenge for me.

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Do you mean Atlantis, instead of Nova Blast? That being said, I really like Nova Blast ;-) Similar to another great game for Atari 2600...Megamania


Never mind. I'm thinking of Demon Attack. Silly me...


Christ, there is a chance I've never played Nova Blast :o

Edited by JasonlikesINTV
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Do you mean Atlantis, instead of Nova Blast? That being said, I really like Nova Blast ;-) Similar to another great game for Atari 2600...Megamania


Atlantis? Huh?


I think you've got your games mixed up. Nova Blast is a sidescrolling shooter where you pilot a ship and orbit over and around 4 cities. The game is remarkably like Defender. Megamania OTOH could be considered a clone of SI/Galaxian/Astro Blaster.

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I thought you guys knew something about Intellivision over here! It seems I'm introducing you to some new games - quick box them up with a custom made box and call it a homebrew!


I also just edited the original text so that if someone new reads this for the first time they'll probably wonder how you could have missed ESB = Empire Strikes Back.

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You know, I never thought of ESB as a Defender clone. I guess you're defending the rebel base, but the nature of the enemies and other details are so dissimilar.


I remember reading an interview (or seeing a video?) with the developer where he basically said he wanted to make a game like defender. It was a good move too because they had a core game concept that was good, and they fit the movie into the game after the fact. Not a bad formula as opposed to starting with the movie elements and trying to build something around it. However, the similarities begin and end with the side scrolling ship that shoots things and can do something on the ground. IMO VCS ESB is better than VCS Defender.


Choplifter and soon to be released copter command could be added to the mix too.


I didn't preorder Copter Command, but I have very fond memories of the original on VCS version. I imagine that I will have to get a copy eventually.


Choplifter - been there done that over and over again. But yes, very much inspired by Defender as well. I didn't know there was a homebrew of this one for Intv.

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  • 1 year later...

I've not heard of Nova Blast, but now that I have, I'll look for it, if it is available for the 2600, that is. There is a store close by me that has a ton of Atari 2600 games, maybe all of them as I keep finding gems in their shelf of them, including ones I'd not heard of before seeing it like Wabbit, for example. Neat discussions like this are one of the reasons I joined this forum. It's nice to have an idea of what you might be getting into before buying a new cart, especially if they want more than just a few bucks for it.

Between, Empire Strikes Back and Defender (both of which I've spent way more hours on than I can even guess at over the years), I think Defender still edges out Empire Strikes Back for me on the 2600. Never had an Intellivision, so I can't speak to how they are on that console. Even though I'm a huge Star Wars fan and consider ESB to be one of the top ten best Star Wars games ever, (a list of which is on one of my many Ranker.com submissions), I still like Defender a bit better.

Yes, ESB has the cool feature of actually having the Star Wars theme song in it, which does make me smile every time I've 'gotten the Force' to help me be invincible for a bit. It does also does a pretty decent job of recreating that cool sequence from the movie where our heroes try to keep the AT-ATs from taking out the shield generator. Everything is there, except for being able to use the tow cables (which is quite fun but also properly difficult and frustrating in games like Rogue Squadron for the GameCube - another fantastic top 10 Star Wars game). Managing to hit one of the flashing bomb ports on the AT-ATs is cool in this game and is almost as satisfying as using the tow cable in other games. It is also one of the few 2600 games which actually attempts to show damage from your shots (in the AT-ATs and your own Snowspeeder changing color) rather than just having everything being the usual one-shot target.

I think Defender is still better than ESB, though because you get that extra element of challenge and satisfaction in rescuing the humanoid (as the Atari 2600 manual calls them) from being abducted. It's one of the more sophisticated 2600 side scroller games as you aren't just wildly shooting everything in sight. You have to be careful to avoid shooting the humanoids as they fall from destroyed aliens. You get more points and that 'ah, I've done it!) feeling from not only shooting the alien lander, but swooping down, catching and carrying the humanoid to the ground without getting shot in the process. You also get that 'damn, I've failed them' feeling when one of them falls to the ground with an appropriate 'splat' or gets carried all the way up to the top of the screen (to the mothership, I suppose) and gets combined with the alien to make a mutant that is then forced to attack you. It's bittersweet victory to take the mutants out considering that part of them is a humanoid you failed to protect. Pretty deep for a classic video game.

I think I've played just about every port of Defender (except the Intellivison one) there is, and this is actually my favorite. Others, such as the ones for Sega Genesis, do a better job of being spot-on clones of the coin-op game and there are some clever, newer takes on it for the DS and Xbox, but I still find the 2600 version to be my favorite. The Defender coin-op game is crushingly difficult, at least for someone like me with less than superhuman reflexes. I like that the game starts out quite manageable for me on the 2600 and that the difficulty ramps up rather gradually, giving you time to get warmed up.

The coolest feature of the 2600 version, that is also unique, as far as I know, is that it has the cityscape (which makes far more sense to me than having humanoids standing out in the wide open while aliens swoop down on them). The best thing about the cityscape, though is that you can fly 'behind' the buildings and sneak up on the aliens while they are trying to abduct humanoids!

You are safe from the alien fire down there and they don't seem to notice you until you pop up suddenly and snipe them. If you press the fire button while down there, you do the same thing as the 'bomb' feature in other versions and wipe out everything on that specific screen. Better is to just hide and then pop up right when a humanoid is first caught in the alien's tractor beam (at least that's what I imagine it is). You kill the alien and also get the extra points for saving the humanoid. It gives the game another layer of strategy that the other versions I've played lack.

Thanks for bringing Nova Blast to my attention and for this fun discussion of Defender vs. Empire Strikes Back.

Edited by DarthDuke
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And there is the Intarivisions podcast comparing different conversions. http://intarivisions.blogspot.ca/2016/01/episode-12-defender.html?m=1


The problem with Defender type games is that I liked Defender in the arcade. So, now at home, I can just play the original anytime I want (even though it's such a hard game). Intellivision Defender is a decent conversion and controls fairly well with the third function (hyperspace) being on the keypad. The Atari 2600, only having one button, had to make some compromises with the gameplay; so it is a little different.


Nova Blast is an interesting Defender type game. You have to focus on protecting the cities so its a little different than Defender. The animation and parallax scrolling is very smooth and really well done. The controls are pixel precise, unlike so many other Intellivision games including other Imagic games. But like wongojack said there is serious problems with the controls. When you face left and move up/down it flips you to face right. And it forces you to use both left and right side buttons which I hate in action games.

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