Monday, June 6, 2011

Game of the week: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back for Atari 2600

Every Star Wars fan, whether young or old, remembers the battle scene on the ice planet Hoth in the film The Empire Strikes Back. There were rebels on the ground fighting against giant Imperial Walkers, commonly called AT-ATs, but there were also rebel pilots such as Luke Skywalker taking to the sky in snowspeeders to take the fight directly to the enemy.

It is an awesome scene. For its special effects and its drama.

When the film came out in 1980, the video game craze was just beginning to peak. So it only made sense that there would be a Star Wars video game. Right?

Of course it did.

And the very first Star Wars video game was Star Wars: The Empire Strikes back for the Atari 2600 home video game system.

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (Atari 2600)Released by Parker Brothers in 1982, the game was a scrolling shooter in the tradition of the classic Defender arcade game. The player controlled a snowspeeder that flew around the sky over Hoth while shooting at approaching Imperial Walkers. The trick was to hit the body of the Walkers because shooting the legs did no good. Also, every once in a while a flashing spot would appear on a Walker, and if the snowspeeder could hit that spot it would destroy the Walker in one shot.

But the Walkers didn't just stand by and let the snowspeeder shoot at them, no no. The Walkers shot back. Generally it took more than one shot to down a snowspeeder, and the player could temporarily land a snowspeeder for repairs. Still, there often wasn't time to land because the Imperial Walkers were headed toward the rebel base, and if they reached that base the game was over and the player lost.

Atari 2600 Video Computer System ConsoleAs was common with many Atari 2600 games, there were lots of different difficulty levels for this game, some quite tough. This almost made Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back like having multiple games in one cartridge.

This game proved popular enough that in 1983 there was a version of it made for the Intellivision home video game console.

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