So here I was flicking around the freeview backwater of the Sky movie channels and I came across “The Last Starfighter”.
For those not in the know, Last Starfighter was an 80’s TV movie, with impressive early CGI – aimed squarely at teenage boy fantasy wet-dream video gaming.
Its plot suggested that if you could prove you were really good at a certain arcade game, you would be recruited for real to take part in a herioc last gasp defence of the Rylan Star League against the tryanny of the Ko-Dan Empire.
In the movie, the bored teenage everyman – Alex runs up a highscore on an arcade machine near his trailer park. Later he is approached by an alien called Dastari (who drives a flying car) and whisked away to be trained for real as “The Last Starfighter”.
What a brilliant advertising edge – I always thought, for a game of this type. Imagine said arcade game appearing in arcades everywhere. And if a player could run up a high enough score they could win a go in a real flight simulator – or something.
The Arcade game featured on the film looked pretty genuine but did they actually build a proper arcade machine? After all, movies trick us all the time. (Still scouring Ebay for that Running Man Home Board Game aswell!).
Well the end credits to Last Starfighter even alluded to the fact that the Atari arcade game would be due out after the movie.
I don’t remember ever remember seeing a game as then radically advanced as Last Starfighter and I did misspend most of my youth hanging around arcades in the 80’s.
So whats the truth behind it? Well apparently Atari Inc did build a couple of prototypes for the film but the game was never mass-marketed due to cost.
The arcade machine would have had a final per-unit-price of $10,000 (£7500), which Atari considered too high to turn a profit. It would have bankrupted your local arcade alot earlier than it did, too.
Ironically, some of Last Starfighter’s features (including the controls and look). Were borrowed from the vastly popular 3D Star Wars Vector Arcade game which was released in May 1983 and sold at the much more realistic price of $2,295 (£1700) per unit.
Which was a shame as the game would have been (at that time) Atari’s first 3D polygonal arcade game, impressively powered by a Motorola 68000 CPU. The gameplay would have been taken from game scenes and space battle scenes in the film.
Its has been ported since to other formats and their probably exists a phone app out there somewhere. But it has never to mybknowledge ever officially appeared in the marketplace with the arcade cabinet from the movie (although fans make their own cabinets). As such, this would make it extremely valuable as a collectors item.
Oh well, I’ll just have to stick to playing Nuke Em by Butler Brothers instead.