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Star Wars. Who doesn't know that classic sci-fi movie from the late 1970s? It spawned a huge toy line, many sequels and side stories in movies and books, and quite a few video games of varying quality. In the arcades, the original movie was transformed into a vector graphics 3D shmup (shoot-'em-up). This game got a number of ports, including one for DOS PCs. How'd it turn out? Read on.
Like the original arcade game, you play the part of Luke Skywalker in his X-Wing fighter. You'll take on Tie Fighters in outer space, zoom through the Death Star's various defenses, and try to reach the infamous exhaust port in hopes of blowing the Death Star into a billion little pieces. You start off with a quick 2 level first mission. After that, you go through a 3 level second mission, a more varied 3 level third mission, and from then on, you just get more things thrown at you without really having anything new added to the levels. And yes, you can still get a bonus if you “use the Force”.
Graphically, the game retains much of the original arcade game. Due to the lessened PC color palette of the time, Vektor Grafix shifted the colors a bit from the arcade. The lines used in this game are fatter than the arcade originals due to the much lower resolution of PC monitors at the time, but the shapes and ships still look very much like they did in the arcade. The Tie Fighters went through a little redesign for the pod where the pilots sit, but you can tell the ships are still undoubtedly Tie Fighters. Also, the 3D scrolling is smooth, though there is some chugging when the screen gets more crowded. So on this front, the game holds its own.
I should add that the mouse controls do the job quite well. You can choose to play via a joystick or keyboard as well, though I'd advise you to stick with the mouse or joystick. The keyboard controls just don't cut it in the later levels, and make targeting more of a chore than it should be.
If this game were to have any major faults pointed out, one of them would be that it's not something you can just sit and play for hours. It doesn't take long to go through the three main levels, and after about the sixth Death Star explosion, you've pretty much had your fill. Another one would be the audio. There's no music, the laser blasts are very different (and a little annoying) sounding, and there aren't a whole lot of sound effects. The familiar lines from the movie are also gone, and all this takes away some of the charm and atmosphere the arcade game had. Granted, this game was published at a time when PCs weren't exactly known for their spectacular sound capabilities, but it's disappointing that basically all the sound effects are pretty much just one sound at different pitches.
In the end, this is a pretty faithful port. It takes a few missions before the game starts getting interesting, and the sound is disappointing, but it captures the core gameplay and graphics, has all the levels, and the mouse controls make Star Wars: The Arcade Game easy to play. It a good game to load up when you just want a quick gaming break.
Even at 3000 cycles, this game runs too fast. You'll need to drop the cycles to about 1000. Also, to change the controls, hit “F1” on either the high score screen, or the difficulty select screen.