Space Invaders

Original System: Atari 400/800


Space Invaders is a rather curious 5200 port as it's neither a direct port of the 400/800 version or a entirely new game and it's far too different to be called an enhanced port like Star Raiders.  No, 5200 Space Invaders is a different beast entirely.  What Atari did was basically hack the original 400/800 version of Space Invaders until it was unrecognizable, but at its core (or rather in its code) it really is the Atari 400/800 version. 

So why go through all this trouble?  To understand that you have to know the history behind the 400/800 version (see here), but the short version is that it was drastically different that the arcade version and some people were upset.  But rather than throw out all usable 'behind the scenes' code and start from scratch, programmer Eric Manghise removed all the parts that made the different and built off of what was left.  So gone was the rocket ship and oddly shaped invaders and in came the bunkers and... oddly shaped invaders. 

One of the biggest ifferences between the two are the Atari 5200 version doesn't have the rocket on the left side of the screen.  Sorta.  While the graphics for the rocket were removed from the 5200 version, the coding behind it wasn't.  This means that you can see that the invaders don't move all the way to the left of the screen due to their movement code not being updated and you can also hear the sound for the rocket lowering between rounds.   The odd thing is the invaders movement code was updated so they start off slightly more to the left and don't suddenly appear from the now missing rocket.  This actually makes the 5200 version slightly more difficult as you can't pick the invaders off as they come out of the rocket and have to wait until they come into range.

Next you can see that that while the invaders in the 5200 do lower after each round like they do in the 400/800 version, they return to the top of the after the UFO abduction scene.  In the 400/800 version the invaders simply stay at the bottom for the rest of the game, which makes getting high scores very difficult.  Speaking of the score, the score display in the 5200 version has been updated to add a fifth digit allowing for much higher scores.  This is due to the fact that the scoring has been completely redone for the 5200 version.  In the 400/800 original each invader is worth 2 or 4 points (depending on where on the screen they are) and the UFO is worth 18.  In the 5200 version each invader is worth 2, 4, or 8 points for the first three sets of invaders, but worth 10, 15, or 20 for the final set of invaders depending on what shape they've morphed into.  The UFO's value also changes depending on how many shots you've fired (ranging from 10 to 60) reflecting how it worked in the arcade.  This introduced a new bug however where if you shoot the UFO for 60 points you actually don't get any points!  Also changed was that the 5200 version displays the point value for the UFO (which has been redrawn) when shot.  The original 400/800 version displayed nothing due to the fact that it was always worth 18 points.

Another change is that the 5200 version has bunkers!  These were missing completely from the 400/800 version.  The addition of bunkers completely changes the flow of the game.  They both get in the way of your shots and protect you from the invaders shots.  As the 400/800 version has no bunkers there's a lot more dodging involved.

The last major difference is in the invaders themselves.  The Atari 400/800 version had one set of invaders for the entire game whereas the 5200 version has four different sets.  The final set morphs into three different types of invaders.  It's a nice touch that keeps the game from getting stale.  One odd thing is that the third set of invaders have a different explosion graphic.  It's unknown if this was some sort of easter egg or just an extra bit of graphical flair.

Other minor changes include the addition of Trak-Ball controls to the 5200 version which were absent in the 400/800 version since the Trak-Ball hadn't been developed yet (and was still in development for the 5200!).  Next the copyright message  was updated from 1980 to 1982 to reflect the current year for the 5200 release.  Finally the planet surface has had all the 'craters' removed for some reason. 

Note that the 400/800 version was also released on tape, but the only difference between the tape and cartridge versions is that a bug affecting the UFO sound effect (which was broken on XL/XE systems) was fixed.


Atari 400/800

Atari 5200





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