After enjoying the Atari 5200 adaptation of Star Raiders a few weeks back, I thought it was probably time we looked at its most well-known and well-loved incarnation: the original Atari 8-bit release from 1979.
Regarded by many as the “killer app” for the Atari 8-bit home computers, at least on its original release, Star Raiders is an all-time classic — and a genre-defining game that helped to establish first-person, real-time space combat games as a viable genre. It’s been one of my favourite games ever since I first played it, so let’s celebrate it the way it was always meant to be enjoyed.
With how long the Atari 2600 stuck around — and its position in the early days of the games business — it’s no surprise that games from its latter days bear little to no resemblance to its launch titles.
There are few games in which this is more apparent than Solaris, the official follow-up to Star Raiders on the 2600. But not the sequel to Star Raiders on the Atari 8-bit; that was just called Star Raiders II. Also, just to confuse matters, both Star Raiders II and Solaris were originally intended to be licensed games based on the movie The Last Starfighter, but for one (mostly Tramiel-shaped) reason or another, neither ever happened.
Well, today we’re looking at the official sequel to Star Luster. It took a very long time to show up, being a title for the original PlayStation, but it was most certainly worth the wait. Star Ixiom brings us strategy and action that remains true to the original Star Luster’s format, while incorporating plenty of Namco fanservice from the UGSF series. You can read more about it here.
Let’s take a moment to catch up. Star Luster is a space combat game by Namco, originally released for Famicom in 1985. Despite it being an obvious homage to an incredibly popular Western game — Atari’s Star Raiders — it never came West.
35 years later, Star Luster finally got a worldwide release as part of the Namco Museum Collection 1cartridge for Blaze’s Evercade retro gaming system. This was my first contact with a game that I ended up absolutely loving — and after looking into it further, I was surprised to discover it got a sequel for PlayStation in 1999. A sequel which got a fairly middling reception because the press of the time compared it unfavourably to its rough contemporary Colony Wars — and, of course, because relatively few people in the West had any clue that Star Luster existed.
35 years after the release of Star Luster and 21 years after the release of its sequel, I find myself in possession of a copy of that sequel: Star Ixiom, a game I’ve been looking forward to playing since I was first blown away by Star Luster’s sheer playability. So let’s take a look at what this space-based blastathon has to offer — and how well it holds up today.
Given the popularity of Atari’s Star Raiders, it’s surprising that Namco never brought Star Luster, its own take on the early days of the space sim genre, to Western NES owners.
Thankfully, we can now enjoy it officially outside of Japan thanks to its release as part of Namco Museum Collection 1, cartridge 02 in the Evercade collection. And good Lord have I ever been enjoying this game; it’s absolutely one of my favourites from the Evercade’s launch lineup, and a game I feel it’s a real shame more people don’t know about.
With that in mind, then, I’m doing my bit! Check out Star Luster in action in the video below — and don’t forget to subscribe on YouTube for more!
The humble Atari 2600 had an astonishingly long lifespan, being officially produced between 1977 and 1992. As you might expect, this means there’s an equally astonishing difference between the very first games for it and those which came out later in its lifespan.
Solaris by Doug Neubauer came out in 1986, putting it towards the latter end of that lifespan. To date it remains one of the very finest games on the Atari 2600 from technological, gameplay and design standpoints — although not one that gets talked about all that much. And all this makes it a title well worth checking out even if you don’t normally “do” Atari games.
One of the great things about the Evercade retro gaming handheld is its unofficial mission to bring a variety of overlooked, underappreciated or unlocalised retro gaming titles to a worldwide audience.
The publishing partners who have signed up to distribute their games on the platform are seemingly more than happy to jump on board with this philosophy too — and this is especially evident with the two Namco Museum Collection cartridges, which not only provide the classics we expect to always see on such compilations like Pac-Man and Dig-Dug, but also some lesser-known titles, some of which never officially left Japan on their original platforms.
Part of the reason for this is the Evercade’s initial focus on retro home consoles, whereas Namco’s own Namco Museum releases have historically tended to focus on the arcade side of things. And so, we come to Star Luster, a 1985 release for the Famicom that never came West. Until now!
Greetings, Starfighter. You have been recruited by the Star League to defend the frontier against Xur and the Ko-Dan armada.
Any kid who watched the 1984 movie The Last Starfighter longed to hear those words for real — to put the skills they’d learned in video games to the test with real conflict against invading forces!
Unfortunately, Atari’s attempt to cash in on the popularity of the movie didn’t quite make it to market in time, instead finally seeing the light of day in 1986 as the hastily rebranded Star Raiders II. However, the original, fully playable prototype of the game in its original The Last Starfighter format has been well-preserved over the years… so it’s that we’ll be taking a look at in today’s video!
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