Namco's 1991 Starblade

Tailgunner meets Star Wars, with 3D polygon graphics.

You're in command of the spaceship GeoSword. Your mission is to plow through enemy defenses, and destroy the mechanized planet "Death Star", er... I mean "Red Eye", by blowing up its power reactor. If you survive, you have to contend with the enemy command ship in a head-to-head battle to the death!

Using a yoke to aim (you have no control over where you're actually flying) you fire only lasers at a seemingly endless barrage of enemy ships and defenses. Once all of your shields are gone, you're history! (Unless you add more credits and hit "continue".)

MAME's graphic emulation for Starblade is incomplete (large space ships and the surface of "Red Eye" are missing), but the game is fully playable on a fast enough computer. All of the targets you need to shoot are there.

Missing Ingredient

The Death Blossom. Remember the movie "The Last Starfighter"? The Death Blossom was a super-weapon which allowed the heroes' Gunstar to kill off a whole fleet of enemy ships in one fell swoop. Starblade desperately needs some additional weaponry, or better shields, or something to make the fight a little more fair. The enemy is thrown at you in such large numbers, getting through the game without repeatedly hitting "continue" is impossible. You can't earn new shields with points, so the only way to keep playing is by shoving more quarters into the machine.

With minor tweaking, Starblade could have easily become a real "Last Starfighter" game. The graphics are very similar to those which were mocked-up for the movie's arcade game, and the gameplay is very similar, too. A few tweaks to the graphics and story line, and you could have been fighting Xur and the Kodan armada. Sure, it was more than a few years after the film came out, but I think it would have really appealed to players who had always wanted to play that game.

Thanks to Jeffrey Carl at ServInt for providing the space for CinemArcade


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