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The Last Starfighter

Recall Alex Rogan ? You sure do not !

He is the main character of this story, whose addiction to a video game called ‘The Last Starfighter’ will allow him to defeat the game with the highest score. Ever. Making him the most popular guy in town (you know, small town..)

* Picture from https://www.roguesynapse.com/games/last_starfighter.php ,a working version of the game

Little did he know that it wasn’t just a game, instead it was a recruitment tool from an alien race looking for the perfect candidate to pilot the new Gunstar ship, and defend the solar system from the Ko-Dan threat that’s getting closer, and have recently discovered how to infiltrate the defensive barrier around the galaxy known as ¨The Frontier¨.

This is the story The Last Starfighter is built upon, a 1984 sci-fi movie that most people didn´t even knew existed and is now considered a cult classic. Some time ago, Gary Whitta (writer from ‘Rogue One’) mentioned that he is working in a related script (reboot or sequel?) together with its creator Jonathan Betuel .

Atari XL/XE Game

Initial screen
You are attacked as soon as you establish orbit
Galactic chart

I think i was 4 or 5 when i first got to see this game. “The Last Starfighter” , or as i knew it “LASTSTAR.EXE”, the executable file i had in a diskette. (game which was never officially released)
The game is quite simple, incorporates a couple of different challenges, and a dynamic pace that will keep you busy a couple of hours to win the game.

The prototype for the Atari 2600 said “By Solaris”
For ZX Spectrum, ship controls are at the top of the screen

For C64 it was a similar experience

Because the game was never oficially launched related to the movie, the story, names and a couple of mechanics of the game were tweaked to be launched as Star Raiders II , as a sequel to the popular game. You can find it on other systems with this name (Commodore, Spectrum, Atari 2600, etc) albeit with some differences.
Given the hardware limitations of the Atari 2600, a far inferior game was prototyped based on the story, and it was launched later as “Solaris”.

For this page, i will refer to the “original” version of the game (for me) : Atari XL/XE.

The game starts at the launchpad. A text ribbon at the top of the screen gives you the vital information :

GreetingsStarfighterYou have been recruited by the Star League to defend the frontier against Xur and the Kodan Armada…””

With that, you must prepare yourself to fulfill your responsibility as the last hope of the galaxy against the invaders. No pressure.

Confronting invaders at the frontier
Attacking enemy planet
Brawl with a destroyer

For controls, we have :

  • Trigger : Shooting or select.
  • Start : Duh
  • Select : Difficulty
  • Option : Change weapon (frontal/orbital)
  • Space : Toggle the galactic chart

Just use the trigger or start to launch and establish orbit in order to repel the invasion, that started a little while ago by the way. As soon as you are in orbit, you will be welcomed by a small fighter squad.

With the weapon systems of your Gunstar, you must defent the galaxy against these enemies. You’ll find 4 kind of ships, from which the flagship you will only find in space :

Fighter : Short range ships. Dogfight mostly. By themselves are just a nuisance, but in great number they might cause some damage. These are the welcome party from the enemy squad, so you will need to destroy all enemy fighters before facing the bigger ships.

Destroyer : Big ship. Big guns. Main function is to destroy bases on enemy planets from low orbit. They also have a BIG front gun which can drain your energy levels fast, and cause damage to the ship. You will find these in space and in orbit.

Flagship : The BIGGEST enemy ship. In the original game, you will find just one of these in a space squad parked at the enemy galaxy, and you will have just one chance to destroy it. It has a BIG frontal defense, but it is slow, so you need to shot the main reactor just before the enemy attacks.

Frontier event: A BIG ship trying to break the frontier to sneak enemy squads within your home galaxy. No defenses and just one shot will destroy it, but you got to hurry. If you take too long, enemies will sneak past the barrier.

Oh. Something new players always get confused with (because nobody reads the manual). To travel in space you have to toggle the galactic chart with the space bar. Then, with the joystick you have to select the destination and press the trigger to engage. In order to recharge/repair you need to visit the sun, which will slowly refill your energy reserves. Be ready to leave as soon as it is filled, as a few seconds too long and you will melt !

You can also travel to the enemy’s galaxy and take the fight to them. The trip is long and while you are there their squads will keep advancing towards your bases. Once you arrive to their planets, you need to switch to your cannon and destroy every single base. Don’t bother taking out their fighters, as long as there are bases in the planet, fighters will keep coming.

After you take out all the bases and every single enemy unit you will finish the game, and get rewarded a new callsign. (according to your score)

Oops. We failed.

For me, at least, this is a great distraction to which i gravitate towards from time to time. Thanks to the great work current emulators do, i can transport myself to that time frame where you could marvel at how a clever story gets mixed in with a simple and fun game mechanic which will last at least until you finish the game before feeling it being repetitive or frustrating. (Unless you really suck at this game)


And all of this, for an 8-bit system, with an addressable space of 64 Kilobytes (about 48 of those free to use). Just marvelous.

Newer games

In the movie you can get a glance to the arcade game. This game never really existed beyond a prototype used to film those sequences. If you look around, you can find a remake of the arcade game. ( Download it from here , same website from the top of the article )

In 2011, a re imagined version for XBOX was launched. Didn’t have a great reception, and for a reason (at least for me). The same base story was used, but the mechanics of the game were those of a standard space shooter. It becomes repetitive REALLY fast.

So ? Is that it ?

EEEeeehhh… kinda.

To be honest, the idea to tell the history for this game was to let anyone who might care that after an eternity (and a half) I’m finishing a soft of “conversion” for current platforms. An also a 3D implementation based on the mechanics of the game.

“Almost playable” conversion (no gui)
3D”ish” concept

As there is a TON of work left, I’ll be updating this page with relevant information, such as correcting/completing information about the game or update status on the development of related things.
Minor advances, miscellaneous stuff that i might find while developing or anything else i will be posting new articles and linking them here :

  • There is nothing yet to link

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