Arcade Memories: Remembering Star Wars The Arcade Game

Arcade-Memories-Star-Wars“The Force will be with you… Always…” - This mantra never once failed to lure me to be separated from yet another pair of 10p coins. It was 1983, I was 14 years old and had failed once again to walk past one of my favorite arcade games of all time. We are of course talking about Star Wars.

This game came in two configurations. A stand up, where you stood in front of the machine just like any other, the two handed grip in place of the joystick sat comfortably, but not naturally in your hands and its naked, unshielded green line raster display loosing some of its impact. Everyone knew that the only way to play this game was to find the sit down version; this meant you had to clamber inside the cockpit shaped cabinet, and to my 14-year-old mind I was getting into my X-Wing and about to battle the Empire. Gripping the four way, four button joystick and bathed in green vectors I was ready.


This is Red Five!

The first wave, as expected, was simple. Dodge or shoot the fireballs, shoot down the TIE Fighters. As the last of these drones of oppression fell to my quad laser blasts, the main goal of my mission came into view. “This is red five…” I whispered along with the game “…I’m going in” The claustrophobic trench opens up and I plunge in, along with Artoo, who is doing his very best to increase the power.

Sitting inside the cabinet isolated you from the arcade. It was low to the ground so onlookers had to crouch down to get a glimpse of the screen, and that rarely happened. It was just you against the Empire, in all its vector graphic glory. I have said before how today’s gamers are evolving into a lazy bunch. Games nowadays hold your hand from start to finish, and if you die, you feel it’s the game’s fault not yours. Gone are the days of pixel perfect jumps, micro second escapes and that one-more-go feeling of longing as you realize you just were not good enough that time.

Star Wars is a lot like this; you have six shields, four lasers and an Artoo unit. You are more powerful, more agile and able to soak up six hits before dying. Added to that, you have the ability to destroy the laser blasts fired at you by the TIE fighters, so you have all you need, if you are good enough. Those shots should not even come close. Trouble is, you need the reactions of a Rebel pilot and the precognitive powers of a Jedi master to really rack up the scores and advance in the game. Just don’t forget about Vader.


I'm hit, but not bad...

Level 2 has you skimming the surface of the Death Star, shooting turrets and trying to blast towers while avoiding or shooting the fireballs, then diving into the trench, littered with walkways just big enough to squeeze your S-Foils through. On top of all that, you have been told by a very reliable source the way to ‘use the force’ in the trench run and rack up even more points. (Don’t worry; I wont spoil it for those who don’t know how to do it) “Yahoo! You’re all clear kid!” Han’s voice fills the X-wing as the shots fly from the front of my craft into the two-meter exhaust port “Great shot kid, that was one in a million!” Han yells, confirming that the shot was good, and the Death-Star is about to blow, moving me up a level, along with the difficulty.

Of course, the inevitable happens…

“I’ve lost Artoo!!” Those words still haunt me as I know without looking that the words ‘SHIELDS GONE!’ are about to be displayed, with my lasers hot and surrounded by fireballs and a forest of TIE fighters its all over and I slump back in the cockpit, err… cabinet and watch the leader board appear. One really nice touch, is that you are able to see your name and score written on the surface of the Death Star, should you be good enough to get the number one position, and if that’s not reason enough to slot in another 10p and try again, then I have no idea what is.

The arcades of the 1970’s and 1980’s had a certain ambiance, smell and even taste as you walked in. Everyone had their favorite arcade and within that arcade their favorite game. Star Wars in the arcade in Hastings Old Town was one of mine. The more I played the better I got. I feel sorry for this generation of stay-at-home gamers that missed the times when games were everything, an assault on all your senses that left your breathless and aching for more. You got a lot for 10p in 1983.

Last Updated ( 21 January 2014 )  


I am the original first generation. I wandered in to an arcade in the late 70’s and never really got over it. I don’t have a favourite system but I do have a lot of favourite games and spend most of my spare time playing and writing about them. On sunny days you could find me outside, but only if my longboard is with me.

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(Link to this comment) cusser 2014-01-21 22:40
Star wars arcade was one of the first machines I played on and I'm sure had a significant impact on my video game addiction. It still stands out as one of the finest arcade games as is so much fun to play even now.
I went down to "Hayling island" a couple of years ago and they still had a sit down cab running. I guess (hope) its still there.
(Link to this comment) Captaincoconut 2014-01-22 06:41
A total classic - simple graphics but so effective in creating depth and space. Great game control and completely addictive. There was one tucked away in an arcade in Whitby (North Yorkshire) long after these cabs had been replaced by next gen games cabs. Sadly no longer there, so I get my fix now at the Expo event where there is often a couple of the cabs being enjoyed!!
(Link to this comment) Mayhem 2014-01-22 13:28
Nice writeup. The number of starting shields was a dipswitch, so you didn't always get six. Some machines I played on gave you nine to begin with.
(Link to this comment) PageVGP 2014-01-22 13:50
That would have been excellent, but way too easy. I probably need at least nine to get past the first level these days. Actually, I wonder if I would still fit!

Thank you for reading and the kind words
(Link to this comment) JBOPatrick 2014-01-23 10:04
Awesome story. I hope to read more of your memories from the past.
(Link to this comment) PageVGP 2014-01-23 16:08
Thank you very much! I have lots to get down, I love all sorts of games, but arcades are my forte.

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