Starhawk was the first arcade game ever released to be based on the film Star Wars. This game literally came out right after the movie. This was an unlicensed translation, but the Tie Fighters and the Death Star inspired background are obvious. This was only the second or third game in history to use an X-Y monitor, and it had graphics that were above and beyond anything else that was available in 1977. This game was programmed by Tim Skelly, and he did the entire game on paper using opcodes, as the development tools for the platform had not been written yet. Supposedly his code worked the first time too!

A lot of online sources date this game to 1981. For example, MAME says it is from 1981 in the program, and then goes on to claim 1977 in the text description. But the personal websites of two actual Starhawk owners both claim 1977, as does the "Killer List of Video Games". Plus you can just tell by looking at the cabinet. It is of the older 1970s "Silver Age" style, and has archaic joysticks that are completely different than what everyone was using in 1981.

The Game

Starhawk is a timed game where you are in a spaceship blasting Tie Fighters, um, I mean enemy spacecraft. Below you is an ever moving landscape that looks like the surface of a mechanical planet, just imagine the Death Star with a big trench in it. All you have to do is move your crosshairs around the screen and shoot everything in sight. You can change the speed of your crosshairs by pressing one of three speed buttons on the control panel. The game is time based, and if you zap enough enemies than the game continues. A really good player can pretty much play this game until her arm falls off. There is one target of note though, there is a ship that appears from time to time that looks different than the rest of them. If you miss this ship then you will lose 800 points, or if you hit it you will gain 800 points. So don't miss that one.

Cabinet Information

Starhawk came in a large cabinet that had a front that was completely vertical, while the back section sloped away slightly from the marquee. This title actually had two marquees, one with the game logo, and a second one right below it that had some game instructions. The monitor bezel was just tinted plastic with more game instructions below it. The control panel had a pair of odd 8-Way fire button joysticks that looked a bit like handgrips on a childrens bicycle. These were positioned to be used with the right hand, eventually the industry would decide that joysticks go in the left hand, but this one was the other way around.

The cabinet features painted sideart of a barely disguised X-Wing swooping down on a barely disguised Death Star, with a few unrelated red and orange bubbles above them.

Where to play?

You can play this title using the MAME, CINEMU, or Retrocade emulators, but you won't get sound out of any of them. Vectrex owners fare a little better, as a Starhawk cartridge was available for that console.

Real Starhawk machines are few and far between. After some research I was able to pin down a value for this game at somewhere between $600 and $1000. So few of them have been sold though, so you are pretty much at the mercy of the seller, as there are probably never going to be multiple working Starhawk machines available at any one time. Be aware that this game uses an X-Y monitor, and that they are notoriously difficult to repair.