The Last Starfighter
|The Last Starfighter
|This title eventually became
After Atari acquired the rights to The Last Starfighter (convinced
it would be a hit), they set to work on developing games based on the
movie for the 5200, 400/800, and 2600. The problem was that the
game Alex played in the movie was impossible to reproduce on any home
console of the time (in fact it was impossible to make a game like that
at all in 1984, the one in the movie was just computer generated graphics),
so programmers had to be creative in their approach. Although both
games were finished in time for the movie, Atari canceled The Last Starfighter
due to the collapsing market.
Although the title suggests that this game is based on the 1984 movie,
this prototype is actually an early version of the game that eventually
became known as Solaris.
Although the 5200/400/800 game has some elements from the movie
(including a nice shot of the Gunstar taking off), the 2600 version doesn't
seem to resemble the movie in any way shape or form. The Last Starfighter
is actually almost identical to Solaris with some minor gameplay differences.
This is most likely because this game was never meant to be The
Last Starfighter. It has recently been discovered that Tod Frye
was working on another version of TLSF, which never materialized. Atari
mostly likely saw Doug's wonderful new game (which was called Universe
at that time) and decided that it would make a perfect fit for the Last
Starfighter license. This allowed Atari to get a TLSF game out the
door quickly and freed up Tod to work on other higher priority projects.
|- The title screen says "By Solaris" instead of "D.
|- The copyright is 1984 instead of 1986.
|- Your ship icon on the map is different.
|- An arrow at the top of the map shows which direction to go
(no more mazes).
|- Each galaxy is numbered and displayed on the map screen (Scanner
1, Scanner 2, etc.).
|- When a planet is under attack the Jump Counter is displayed
at the top of the screen instead of the words "Scanner".
When the counter reaches zero the planet will be destroyed.
|- There are no Cobra Ship squads on the main map. Instead
Cobra Ships appear randomly among other enemy types.
|- There are no Red Zones when a planet is destroyed.
|- The galaxy maps are different and only have one exit.
|- There are explosion sounds on a planet when it is under attack.
|- The warning sound when a planet is under attack is different.
|- Your scanner will eventually repair itself when damaged.
|- All corridors have multiple Ion Gates.
|- Extra lives for rescuing Federation Citizens from Ko-Dan planets
are awarded after you leave the current galaxy.
|- The Cobra Ships use the same icon as people on the radar screen.
After being canceled in 1984, Atari decided to release The Last Starfighter
as a new game for the relaunch of the 2600 in 1986. The problem
was that The Last Starfighter license was owned by MCA who was currently
suing Warner (who owned Atari at the time) over lack of payment. The
solution? Rename the game and take out any references to TLSF. The
result? Solaris. It appears that Atari chose the new name
based on the pseudonym Doug Neubauer used while writing TLSF (notice how
it says By Solaris at the bottom of the screen). Pseudonyms were
nothing new for Doug, he wrote many 2600 games under the name Dallas North
(why all the name games Doug?).
Although we've been playing it for years and just didn't
know it, The Last Starfighter is actually a pretty neat variation on Solaris.
The game is actually less complex as there is only one path to take
to Rylos (err. Solaris), which can relieve some of the frustration players
felt trying to get through the maze in Solaris. Why Doug decided
to make these changes are unknown, but Atari certainly could have released
the game as is with only a minor name change. The Last Starfighter
is one of the lucky few games lost in the crash to actually be released,
many others weren't as fortunate.
On an interesting side note, it appears that Doug liked
his Last Starfighter/Solaris engine so much that he actually recycled
it into another game called Radar Lock. Radar Lock was Atari's answer
to After Burner, but never really caught on (probably due to the twin
joystick control scheme). Just take a look at the screenshots and
you'll see the similarities.
to 2600 Software