I've heard that the actual storyline of Star Wars (and events of Episodes V and VI as well) was based in part on the 1958 film The Hidden Fortress (actually there's already a lot of good info in that node), directed by (super-cool) Japanese film-director Akira Kurosawa. To see if this was true, I borrowed a copy from somebody. Despite the horrendous translation, I'd have to agree that there are a lot of similarities, although there are enough differences that it might just be coincidence. I'll let you judge.

Here's the similarities: A nation is in turmoil. Two companions, mostly there for comedic relief, are rounded up and work as slaves (I'm thinking R2-D2 and C-3PO captured by the Jawas) to search for gold, until a rebellion occurs during which they manage to escape. They are then trailed by a mysterious stranger (the super-cool Toshiro Mifune), who eventually joins them (his character appears to be a combination of Obi Wan Kenobi and Luke Skywalker). They successfully make it to a Hidden Fortress in the mountains (some might call it a Rebel Base). A princess must flee from her homeland to a nearby region and seek protection, and must use her country's hidden gold to rebuild her nation. To do this, she must transport herself and the gold to a neighboring region sympathetic to the princess. The mysterious stranger is actually the general of her nation's (no longer existant) army, who agrees to use the two strangers and his own skills to transport her and the gold (the two companions now take the part of Han Solo and Chewbacca, given their shadier antics and the well-deserved distrust extended to them by the princess and general). Regardless, the four of them team up and try to make it to above-mentioned neighboring nation, sneaking through various blockades and getting into various sword fights, all the while pursued by the opposition's general (who I think corresponds nicely to Darth Vader).

Unfortunately, folks, the translation I watched was so terrible, not even the names were right (it was apparantly translated from Japanese to Chinese to English, and a lot was lost, including the actual names of the characters -- names were translated to Shee, Yau, Ting, Tin, etc.). I looked up names for research, but they are all Japanese so I can't really tell you who's who.

Fans of Star Wars should probably try to find this, though. The translation is horrible (as said, but needs repeated), but it's still a good flick nonetheless.

An interesting aspect of Star Wars is the Germanic background of many elements of the story and the film itself. George Lucas has assembled the Star Wars saga from various bits and pieces of Germanic and medieval myths, such as Parsifal. The names of some of the characters bear a certain German touch, too. Darth Vader, for example, is Luke's father -- guess what 'father' means in German? 'Vater'. It is generally acknowledged that Lucas has done that on purpose.

Less fortunate was Lucas' choice for the aesthetics of the 'great celebration' at the end of Episode 4 (i.e. the Star Wars film). It was clearly inspired by Leni Riefenstahl's monumental documentations on NSDAP festivals, probably most directly by 'Triumph des Willens' (Triumph of the Will). Those Nazi aesthetics, in turn, have been greatly inspired by Fritz Lang's ca. 1930 epic film 'Die Nibelungen'. Which is a film adaption of the Germanic myth. That should close the circle.

Factoid: In the French version of Star Wars, Luke and his Dad go by the name of Luc Skywalker and Dark Vador.

a long time ago in a galaxy far far away

The classic Atari vector shooter from 1983 was not the only arcade game ever to bear the Star Wars name. There was another much earlier game with the same name. Made by an unnamed bootleg arcade game distributor in 1979.

these are not the droids you're looking for

Seeking to cash in on the famous name, they labeled one of their games as "Star Wars". Not that it was even their game to begin with. It was a bootleg of the earlier game Galaxy Wars. So if you are bootlegging your program, you might as well rip off a better title while you are at it right?

There will be nothing to stop us this time!

This "new" game was distributed mostly to bars, and smaller arcades (who have always been the largest customers of bootleg games). It seems that several thousand of these games were produced (not a bad run for a bootleg). They are difficult to find today, simply because the game wasn't that good. Most of them were converted into other titles. Plus, bootleg system boards are rarely as high quality as the originals. So a high failure rate was a problem as well.

Aren't you a little short for a stormtrooper?

The game itself, is just mind numbingly boring. It is slightly similar to Space Invaders (and looks a little too similar), in that you are blasting at aliens, who are aligned in several rows above you. You control a little green missile cart. As soon as you fire, the cart vanishes, and you find yourself controlling the missile. You have to maneuver around several rows of what appear to be asteroids, and finally slam into one of the two rows of flying saucers at the top of the screen. Then your missile cart reappears again.

Let the wookiee win

You can play this game on a variety of emulators, including MAME, HiVE, Laser, and VAntAGE. Under MAME you must have the sound samples for Space Invaders in order to hear sound. (The correct samples have apparently never been dumped, but the Space Invaders ones are very similar, so those are used instead).

That's not a moon, it's a space station!

Actually finding one of these machines to add to your arcade collection is going to be very tough. I haven't even been able to find a picture of one of these, much less an entire machine. But, this bootleg would more than likely be the most interesting machine in your collection if you should happen to come across one somewhere. Pricing is unknown, but this is far from a classic game, so it shouldn't be more than a few hundred dollars for a working example.

For nine years (1977-1986), Marvel Comics published a monthly comic about the continuing adventures of the characters from the successful series of science fiction films. This project was the brainchild of Roy Thomas, former Marvel editor-in-chief, who pushed a reluctant Marvel into publishing it and cut a favorable deal with George Lucas, who was eager to promote his film. The comic book was a phenomenal success for Marvel and by some accounts saved the company from going out of business, though this seems farfetched.

Aside from the Kenner action figures and the rare television misstep, at the time this was the only outlet for fans of the series. Eventually it petered out a couple years after Return of the Jedi and was cancelled, long before an endless series of novels and video games provoked a resurgence in the popularity of Star Wars prior to The Phantom Menace. If Marvel had only held on for a couple more years, they might still be enjoying the profits from this franchise, but Marvel has never thought long term.

New adventures of Luke Skywalker, et al seems like easy money, but producing such a series is harder than it looks. You are saddled with a group of characters who can’t significantly change, a love triangle you can’t develop (remember when we didn’t know they were siblings?), and you can’t contradict elements in future films even though you have no idea what they are yet. All things considered, they did a decent job extrapolating from the events of the first film, tackling such questions like: What did Han Solo and Chewbacca do with their reward from the Rebel Alliance? How does Darth Vader learn the identity of Luke Skywalker? What happens at their first meeting? Who is Jabba the Hutt? Aside from making Jabba a dorky-looking yellow-skinned humanoid, most of this is handled suspensefully and makes you forget much of it is later contradicted. Han Solo seems to emerge as the main character, as if they weren’t sure what to do with a dull farm boy and didn’t want to tinker with Luke too much because they knew he was in for some major changes. Post-The Empire Strikes Back, things get a little dicier as the most interesting character is taken out of play and everyone else has to spend their time searching for him but can’t do a very good job of it. But it is handled well, and the bounty hunters we only get a glimpse of in the movie get a chance to shine. Post-Return of the Jedi, nobody gets a break as the remnants of the Empire team up with a new threat, a race called the Nagai.

Perhaps the most memorable thing about this series is the new, bizarre characters introduced, like the humanoid rabbit Jaxxon, the cyborg bounty hunter Valance, Luke’s water-breathing friend Kiro, the telepathic Hoojibs, and the Nagai warrior Lumiya. Jo Duffy, one of the first American comics professionals to be influenced by Japanese manga, wrote much of the later half of the series and introduced a definite manga flair. Kiro and the Nagai are quite obviously straight out of manga. (And, strangely enough, the Nagai officer Den Siva looks a lot like Morpheus from Sandman, which is probably just an indication of manga influence in the latter’s design.)

This series is fondly remembered even by people who aren’t Star Wars dorks, and back issue prices are sky high. It’s debatable, however, how much of the series is amusing kitsch and how much of it stands on its own as decent storytelling. Would this series be worthy of all the praise it gets if it wasn’t about beloved movie characters? It’s a tough call. Many of the industry’s most prominent creators worked on this book at one time or another, including Archie Goodwin, Howard Chaykin, Al Williamson, Carmine Infantino, Walt Simonson, Michael Golden, Chris Claremont, Whilce Poratio, and Ron Frenz. But despite high sales, this was never a prestige assignment at Marvel, and no one here is turning in career defining work, except maybe Jo Duffy.

Dark Horse now holds the Star Wars franchise and they’re making a mint off of Marvel’s missed opportunity. Some would say that Dark Horse’s comics, which are probably more closely supervised by Lucas’ people now that Star Wars is big money again, are truer to the spirit of the film, and they often are, but the ones I’ve read are less wildly inventive and leave me cold. Dark Horse has done a great service by releasing Marvel’s run in a series of seven thick paperback volumes, faithfully recolored by Digital Chameleon. These volumes are really how most comics should be reprinted: somewhere between the expensive hagiography of the hardcover Marvel Masterworks and DC Archives series and the flimsy black and white Marvel Essentials series. They retail at $29.95 each but you can find them used for $10 or $15 in some places. The only complaint that I have is about the useless introductions. You’d think they’d find someone who was actually there and had some involvement with these books to write them, such as Roy Thomas, who spends much of his life writing nostalgic essays about old comics anyway. But instead we get gushing from the Dark Horse office intern who has a room full of action figures.

For your convenience, the issues of Marvel’s run are divided by how they are reprinted by Dark Horse. I will add missing creator credits when I track them down or buy the books. Note that Return of the Jedi was adapted as a stand-alone four issue mini-series instead of in the regular Star Wars title.

Doomworld (ISBN 1569717540)

Star Wars #1 (Roy Thomas/Howard Chaykin) adapts the movie Star Wars
Star Wars #2 (Roy Thomas/Howard Chaykin) adapts the movie Star Wars
Star Wars #3 (Roy Thomas/Howard Chaykin) adapts the movie Star Wars
Star Wars #4 (Roy Thomas/Howard Chaykin) adapts the movie Star Wars
Star Wars #5 (Roy Thomas/Howard Chaykin) adapts the movie Star Wars
Star Wars #6 (Roy Thomas/Howard Chaykin) adapts the movie Star Wars
Star Wars #7 (Roy Thomas/Howard Chaykin)
Star Wars #8 (Roy Thomas/Howard Chaykin)
Star Wars #9 (Roy Thomas/Howard Chaykin)
Star Wars #10 (Roy Thomas/Howard Chaykin)
Star Wars #11 (Archie Goodwin/Carmine Infantino)
Star Wars #12 (Archie Goodwin/Carmine Infantino)
Star Wars #13 (Archie Goodwin/Carmine Infantino)
Star Wars #14 (Archie Goodwin/Carmine Infantino)
Star Wars #15 (Archie Goodwin/Carmine Infantino)
Star Wars #16 (Archie Goodwin/Walt Simonson)
Star Wars #17 (Archie Goodwin/Carmine Infantino)
Star Wars #18 (Archie Goodwin/Carmine Infantino)
Star Wars #19 (Archie Goodwin/Carmine Infantino)
Star Wars #20 (Archie Goodwin/Carmine Infantino)

Dark Encounters (ISBN 1569717850)

Star Wars #21 (Archie Goodwin/Carmine Infantino)
Star Wars #22 (Archie Goodwin/Carmine Infantino)
Star Wars #23 (Archie Goodwin/Carmine Infantino)
Star Wars #24 (Jo Duffy/Carmine Infantino)
Star Wars #25 (Archie Goodwin/Carmine Infantino)
Star Wars #26 (Archie Goodwin/Carmine Infantino)
Star Wars #27 (Archie Goodwin/Carmine Infantino)
Star Wars #28 (Archie Goodwin/Carmine Infantino)
Star Wars #29 (Archie Goodwin/Carmine Infantino)
Star Wars #30 (Archie Goodwin/Carmine Infantino)
Star Wars Annual #1 (Chris Claremont/Mike Vosburg)
Star Wars #31 (Archie Goodwin/Carmine Infantino)
Star Wars #32 (Archie Goodwin/Carmine Infantino)
Star Wars #33 (Archie Goodwin/Carmine Infantino)
Star Wars #34 (Archie Goodwin/Carmine Infantino)
Star Wars #35 (Archie Goodwin/Carmine Infantino)
Star Wars #36 (Archie Goodwin/Carmine Infantino)
Star Wars #37 (Archie Goodwin/Carmine Infantino)
Star Wars #38 (Archie Goodwin/Michael Golden)

Resurrection of Evil (ISBN 1569717869)

Star Wars #39 adapts the movie The Empire Strikes Back (Archie Goodwin/Al Williamson)
Star Wars #40 adapts the movie The Empire Strikes Back (Archie Goodwin/Al Williamson)
Star Wars #41 adapts the movie The Empire Strikes Back (Archie Goodwin/Al Williamson)
Star Wars #42 adapts the movie The Empire Strikes Back (Archie Goodwin/Al Williamson)
Star Wars #43 adapts the movie The Empire Strikes Back (Archie Goodwin/Al Williamson)
Star Wars #44 adapts the movie The Empire Strikes Back (Archie Goodwin/Al Williamson)
Star Wars #45 (Archie Goodwin/Carmine Infantino)
Star Wars #46 (Wally Lombego/Carmine Infantino)
Star Wars #47 (Archie Goodwin/Carmine Infantino)
Star Wars #48 (Larry Hama/Carmine Infantino)
Star Wars #49 (Mike W. Barr/Walt Simonson)
Star Wars #50 (Archie Goodwin/Al Williamson)
Star Wars #51 (David Micheline/Walt Simonson)
Star Wars #52 (David Micheline/Walt Simonson)
Star Wars #53 (Chris Claremont/Carmine Infantino)

Screams in the Void (ISBN 1569717877)

Star Wars #54
Star Wars #55
Star Wars #56
Star Wars #57
Star Wars #58
Star Wars #59
Star Wars #60
Star Wars #61
Star Wars #62
Star Wars #63
Star Wars #64
Star Wars #65
Star Wars #66
Star Wars #67
Star Wars Annual #2

Fool’s Bounty (ISBN 1569719063)

Star Wars #68
Star Wars #69
Star Wars #70
Star Wars #71
Star Wars #72
Star Wars #73
Star Wars #74
Star Wars #75
Star Wars #76
Star Wars #77
Star Wars #78
Star Wars #79
Star Wars #80
Star Wars #81 first post-Return of the Jedi issue
Star Wars Annual #3

Wookie World (ISBN 1569719071)

Star Wars #82
Star Wars #83
Star Wars #84
Star Wars #85
Star Wars #86
Star Wars #87
Star Wars #88
Star Wars #89
Star Wars #90
Star Wars #91
Star Wars #92
Star Wars #93
Star Wars #94
Star Wars #95

Far, Far Away (ISBN 156971908X)

Star Wars #96
Star Wars #97
Star Wars #98
Star Wars #99
Star Wars #100
Star Wars #101
Star Wars #102
Star Wars #103
Star Wars #104
Star Wars #105
Star Wars #106
Star Wars #107
Good heavens, all this information (and TBBK's even told us about the bootleg!) and yet no-one has actually noded the Atari Star Wars vector. (rolls up sleeves!)

The History

Video games of the early 1980s were mostly striving to be masters of suggestion or abstraction. Without the capable hardware available to any PC user after around 1996, or available to the gaming industry in the late 1980s, the machines of the time were severely limited in what they could display. There were a couple of roads to success. The game designer could try to rely on a media tie-in (Star Trek, for example) to generate interest in a game and to foster forgiveness in the minds of players. Or, they could attempt to focus on gameplay, putting effort into the machine's responsiveness and into the play rules - if these were up to scratch, players wouldn't give a damn if the visuals weren't anywhere near photorealistic or even 'realistic.' Some examples of 'pure gameplay' titles included Tempest, Qix, and Zookeeper - only the latter had any semblance of a 'real life story' to explain the gameplay, and that was mere handwaving at best.

Into this split world leaped Star Wars in 1983. Atari's color vector title was one of the first media tie-ins to really evoke its namesake! This was partially due to new technology being available, but also to the Star Wars 'world' offering nicely packaged fantasies (space fighters) that could be mined for gameplay. On top of this, however, there was a healthy dose of genius which allowed these particleboard holodecks to take what were essentially boring-ass old oscilloscopes and use them to create a world of fantasy and power.

The Machine(s)

Star Wars was available in two forms, the upright cabinet and the cockpit version. The gameplay and game hardware was identical, the only difference being the mounting. Both formats were masterpieces of art and marketing; there was almost no place where they were not adorned with overlays or side art, which was of high quality for videogame ornamentation of the day. The monitor bezel was obscured by a plastic molding that suggested the minimalist control panels of the Star Wars space fighters' cockpits as seen in the movie. The cabinet version stands exactly six feet tall, with a traditional marquee. The monitor is midmounted in the cabinet and direct-view; it was originally an Amplifone color XY monitor but was later replaced by a cheaper and more readily available Wells-Gardner unit. Inside, the particleboard cabinet was fairly standard in its layout - a power supply and sound hardware attached to the cabinet floor, with logic boards on the side of the case. One point of difference: Star Wars logic boards come encased in a single metal module, with endpoint connectors. This no doubt contributed to ease of field maintenance, since any computational misbehavior could be easily remedied by pulling this module and returning it for bench repairs. It is, however, irritating for modern collectors as it makes small repairs difficult. This is offset by the fact that Star Wars boards in the wild tend to survive quite well, protected by their metal shielding - assuming, of course, that someone doesn't look at the bare metal box, shrug, and throw it away.

The cockpit version was basic, and came in one piece - which made it a bear to move. It had a hard wooden bench facing a monitor and controls identical to the cabinet version, with additional side art covering the increased cabinet wallspace. The coin acceptors were on the left side of the machine, annoyingly far from the bench and rather high off the ground. While this made replays a pain in the knee, it also meant that the lower area (under the monitor) was mechanism-free, and hence had more legroom (and was more durable). (Note: At the time of this writeup, a picture of the cockpit version can be seen on TheBooBooKitty's homenode!)

One characteristic shared by both versions - they were heavy. The cockpit weighs in at over 450 lbs, and the cabinet tips the scales over 320 (~145 kilos)! Luckily they were quite stable, but they're a bear to move.

Gameplay

The game took place from the point of view of an X-Wing pilot, ostensibly Luke Skywalker. The objective was to close with the Death Star, fly across its surface until reaching the equatorial trench, and then navigate the trench to the end and fire a proton torpedo down the thermal exhaust port. This followed the action in the movie quite closely, which helped players fall into character.

There were a few constants on the screen. The player's current deflector shield strength was centered in the top, an integer digit with a ramped bar-graph above it. The tips of four blaster cannon (mounted on the S-foils of the player's X-Wing) protrude into view, two on each side of the screen. Although they would shift position very slightly in hard maneuvers, they were essentially static. These guns were controlled by maneuvering a targeting cursor (whose shape was also fairly faithfully copied from the movie) around the screen, using a wheel-and-yoke controller that (legend has it) originated on the semi-mythical Army Battlezone or Bradley Trainer. Those same controls showed up in many of Atari's games, including Firefox, S.T.U.N.Runner, and Roadblasters. They consist of a square central unit with two handles, one on each side; the handles can be swiveled front-to-back. There are four fire buttons, two under the forefinger position and two on the back of the handles under the thumbs. All four fired the cannons.

The action came in three distinct stages, or acts. In stage one, the player must approach the Death Star while avoiding destruction at the 'hands' of several waves of TIE Fighters, which will fly out to engage. The player has some 'vague' control over their direction of flight; it is possible to influence the attitude of the X-Wing by continued hard deflection. First priority, however, is those TIEs! The TIEs both attack and protect themselves by firing slow-moving fireballs (proton torpedoes?) at the player. Blaster bolts will dissolve the fireballs, and destroy regular TIEs on impact. They will fire streams of fireballs, so it's not enough to assume a couple of shots at a TIE will do the trick - you need to keep firing until there is no red and white scintillating glare, and then continue until you see the TIE disintegrate under your guns. There are times when the TIEs aren't facing you that they're completely vulnerable, usually when they first appear and sweep out past the player.

In addition to the standard TIEs, Darth Vader will show up in his distinctive TIE Advanced X1 prototype (thanks Walter!) which is flatter than the standard, with forward-extending (and unlike the TIE Interceptor) corner-tucked wing panels. While his weapons are identical to his cohorts', he has one advantage - he has six deflector shield levels, just like the player. Hitting him results in a glare of green from his shield, and his ship will temporarily lose control and begin rolling away. Eventually he will regain control and begin firing and closing again, so beware! It is rumored that all manner of goodies can be had by actually hitting Darth the mystical seventh time and destroying him during the first phase - but I don't think it's possible. He's invulnerable while recovering from shield damage, and the time spent doing so six times leaves precious little for additional mayhem.

Eventually, the Death Star slides in to fill the player's viewpoint as any surviving TIEs rush off in a straight line towards it, shrinking in the distance. The player flies straight at the Death Star, and the view slides to black as it closes in. The second stage consists of flying across the surface (represented by a scattering of green dots on a plane) trying to avoid fireballs shot at you by both bunkers (low red oblongs) and laser towers (tall yellow structures, active versions with white tops). It is possible to avoid many shots by flying around them, but it's just too hard to resist blasting away at stuff. The red bunkers and the white laser tower tops are vulnerable to your cannon, but be careful - you can run into both the towers and the bunkers, and the yellow tower structures are invulnerable! Hitting either will cost you a shield point, as your view heels crazily around and Artoo berates you. There is a fixed pattern to the threats in this stage; in the first level of play, the player simply avoids red bunkers which do not fire. The second level sees them shoot at the player, and the laser towers show up in level three. After that, the number of 'live' towers increases, as does the difficulty in their placement (across the screen from each other), the speed of flight and the thickness of the towers. Eventually, you find yourself trying to kill four or five targets onscreen at once, all while finding a safe path through a thicket of towers and trying not to shoot at the incoming fireballs because doing so will pull you off course enough to hit a tower. Remember, moving the cursor does affect your direction!

Should you survive this, you do a showy barrel roll into the trench, which is the third stage. Threats here include catwalks which stretch across the trench and gun turrets which line the trench walls and floor. As the difficulty progresses, the player will find themselves threading flight paths which force them to unhesitatingly pick the one-eighth segment of each catwalk wall which is free (they are a 4 x 2 grid), with zero time to maneuver between, and still dealing with incoming fire (which isn't troubled by collision detection physics and can hit you right through those same catwalks that you slam into). Eventually, you will come to the end of the trench; the exhaust port comes into view on the floor, and firing quickly at it for long enough causes your proton torpedos to launch towards it. If you hit, your fighter will pull away and you'll be treated to a colorful explosion as the Death Star dies; otherwise, you'll lose a shield point and have to refly the trench.

Just to keep things sporting, you have the option in this phase of using the force - if you successfully traverse the entire trench without destroying anything (or maybe firing, I'm not sure) you receive an extra 100,000 points! This can be tempting if you're just within reach of an extra shield point - but remember, it will be almost impossible to avoid taking damage during the run since you can't shoot down incoming fire.

Eye and Ear Candy

There is an awful lot of this. The game boasted two CPUs and five sound chips (four Pokey sound chips and an additional unit for speech samples). John Williams' ever-familiar anthems are used for mood music - the pace of the track varying with the intensity of play. In addition, there are several sampled voice-over comments which are played during the game both randomly and in response to game events - such as Luke exclaiming "Look at the size of that thing!" as the first stage ends and the Death Star swells in the viewport.

Firing produces the oh-so-familiar Star Wars blaster sounds, and lots of 'em. Explosions are nice bassy constructs, not just random static - things go BLAM a lot when dying in this game. In addition, the vector nature of screen entities allowed for cheap but realistic disintegration effects, as the polygons comprising the destroyed object are randomly rotated and moved apart from each other - pieces fluttering away. Taking damage not only produces convincing squeals of failing systems (and fright from Artoo) but some nicely fuzzed-out, overbright graphics stings across the screen. During attract mode, the game will play the Star Wars Main Theme softly; when the high scores screen is displayed, the Cantina bith jizz band's tune bounces happily out of the cabinet.

Where to play

These are actually fairly common for vector games. Accorded by some the honor of 'the end-all be-all of color vector gaming,' Star Wars machines are highly sought after, if expensive! Be prepared to shell out anywhere from $1500 to $2500 for a good-condition original upright cabinet from a dealer, and remember - this is an XY monitor we're talking about. Spend the money on a Zanen kit early, and learn how to fix them to be safe. One hint: installing a cooling fan across the high-voltage power supply for the monitor seems to increase their lifespan a lot, as does leaving them powered down when not in use. Both the cabinet and cockpit version generate a lot of heat, and neither does a good job dissipating it. I tend to operate mine with the back panels removed and decent air circulation in the room.

As of 2004, there are several 'new production' multigame cabinets (commercial, not MAME) that offer the Star Wars gameplay, along with other vector games. Beware, however - these are using standard 25" raster scan monitors, with emulated vector graphics. One reason the color XYs are so addictive is that their monitors generate a color saturation and contrast ratio that no raster system can match - the blues and reds of a properly tuned Star Wars or Tempest are unrivalled in videogaming history. Coupled with the high contrast and line brightness of the XY monitor, placing one of these in a dark environment helps one come very close to forgetting the machine is even there - there are just the colors floating in the black.

MAME will play Star Wars, as will other emulators. The machine ran on dual Motorola 6809 processors, running at 1.5 MHz, so the main obstacle for modern machines is emulating the graphics system. Modern versions of MAME will antialias the vector lines, which helps immensely. However, the true aficionado will want a cabinet of his or her very own. The experience of playing these things wasn't just son et lumiere - there was the smell of heated particleboard and components, the slight buzzing from the capacitors that caused faint vibrations in the controls, the feel of the metal paddle handles. You can still find these in 'Eighties theme' arcades, rarely.


Sources:
  • CoinOp.Org ( http://coinop.org/g.aspx/100180/Star_Wars.html )
  • The KLOV at http://www.klov.com/game_detail.php?letter=&game_id=9773
  • Original game operator's manual, Atari 1983
  • Personal experience owning and operating the beasts

Thanks to TheBooBooKitty for setting the gold standards for videogame noding!

It may anger some, but George Lucas has milked the cash cow that is "Star Wars" better than anybody has ever milked any franchise ever. This is a history of how George Lucas has creatively made his fans (myself very much included) spend cash on his films over and over and over again.

In 1996, Lucas re-released the original "Star Wars" trilogy on VHS in a package called the "Star Wars Trilogy Giftpack." This was the first video release of the films since their original video release and many re-releases in theatres (not uncommon for films prior to the mid-80s). Advertisements told us this was the last time that these films would ever roll down the assembly line. Lucas labeled the package with a message to enjoy the films for generations to come, as this would be the last time we'd see them. In the video's lone special feature, in which Lucas was interviewed by film critic Leonard Maltin, he briefly mentioned the prequels at times. In a way, Lucas saying these were the last time these films would be released was a truthful statement. This release was the final time the original three "Star Wars" films were ever released in their original form.

In 1997, Lucas brought Special Editions of the original trilogy back to theatres. The films were altered from their original state and new scenes were added. Some fans argued the changes, yet each of the films went on to make good business at the box office. Lucas then went on to release a trilogy pack on VHS on August 26th, 1997.

After the May 19th, 1999 release of The Phantom Menace (which grossed $924 million worldwide, second only to Titanic at the time) Lucas was getting pressure from fans to release The Phantom Menace on DVD. Still a budding format at the time, people thought Lucas could create a fantastic DVD to go along with the film, which received some of the most mixed reviews in the history of cinema. Yet, Lucas didn't give in to the demand. On April 4th, 2000 the film came out on VHS. On April 28th, perhaps as a response to fan complaints, "The Phantom Menace – Widescreen Video Collectors Edition" package was released. It contained a behind the scenes featurette, a 48 page collector's book and a mounted 35mm filmstrip from a print of The Phantom Menace. Yet still, nobody was happy that the film wasn't on DVD.

In the holiday shopping season of 2000, Lucas decided to re-release the original trilogy on VHS again. This release contained the 1997 Special Edition versions of the films and its only hype behind the release was a featurette on the making of what would become Attack of the Clones. Yet the featurette was only ten minutes long and didn't feature a second of footage from the final product.

On October 16th, 2001, Lucas finally caved and released The Phantom Menace on DVD. The package was filled with great features and contained seven new sequences supposedly "created just for the DVD release." The DVD sold like hotcakes, just like the VHS sold like hotcakes...to the same people.

On November 12th, 2002, Lucas's next installment in the "Star Wars" saga came to, Attack of the Clones. This came right to DVD and like The Phantom Menace, was a fantastic package. On the day of Attack of the Clones' DVD release, “Saga Video Packs” were sold in which both prequels were packaged together.

Then, after much demand for Lucas to re-release the original "Star Wars" trilogy films on DVD, Lucas finally did. On September 21st, 2004, a four-disc package with the original three films was released. The special features were once again fantastic, yet the films had been altered even more, with the usual strong reactions from the "Star Wars" faithful.

Obviously, the main problem fans had with the DVD release is that they wanted to see the "Star Wars" films in their original state on DVD. Similar to Steven Spielberg released both the original 1982 version of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and the altered 2002 "Special Edition" of the film on DVD. I wouldn't doubt that Lucas's next trick will be caving once more and releasing the films in their original state on DVD. Maybe around the time he is packaging the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy on DVD after the release of Revenge of the Sith in 2005.

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