|Steve Baker (original version)
& Michael Colburn (alt. version)
Yes (original version only)
different versions exist
Defender was an instant classic when it hit the arcades in
1980 due its unique blend of speed, difficulty, and addictive
gameplay. But did you know that Defender was actually
deemed to be a flop when it was shown for the first time?
It seems that most experts thought that Defender's high
difficulty level would turn off most causal gamers, but in a
strange twist of fate it would be that very difficulty that
would end up making Defender one of the highest grossing games
in history (well over a billion dollars). For it seems
that many gamers would spend hours studying the enemy's patterns
trying to come up with a strategy that would allow them to
survive just a little bit longer (pumping in quarters the whole
Needless to say Atari had to have this arcade
juggernaut for its home systems and versions were planned for the
Atari 2600, 5200, and 400/800. While the 2600's limitations
made the VCS version somewhat of a disappointment, the Atari 8-bit
computers were more than capable of bringing Defender home in all
its arcade glory. However instead of tapping one of their
internal programmers to program this version, Atari decided to
bring in newcomer Steve Baker to handle the programming.
Steve was no stranger to Defender, he had once written a version
of it for the Apple IIe while learning to program, so he was a
natural to bring it to the Atari 400/800.
Unlike the Atari 5200, the Atari 400/800 only has
one button so the spacebar is used for triggering the smart bomb.
While this isn't as awkward as the 2600 version (where you
had to go down into the mountains to use the bomb).
Hyperspace is handled by pressing one of the other keys,
which actually makes it useful since you can actually hit it
quickly enough to get out of trouble. The Atari 5200 version
improved on these controls with its second button and keypad on
the controller, making it superior to the 8-bit version.
The graphics in this version are fairly spot on and
show the 400/800's ability to bring the arcade experience home
(which is good since it was supposed to be the home arcade
machine). The sounds aren't exactly the same as they are in
the arcade, but many people (including myself) actually like them
better. There's only a slight hint of slowdown and flicker
present in the game, and only when there's a mass of enemies on
the screen. However it's the gameplay where Defender really
shines, Steve put a lot of effort into this version to make sure
it was 100% arcade accurate and it shows.
||Alternate version (Rev 0)
|Alternate version (Rev 2)
||Defender (C)1983 Atari Rev A Serial #12
to 8-Bit Software