a sequel is incredibly hard and
especially so if you’re following on from an undisputed
and well-loved classic. You’ve got to run hard just to stand
still. If you don’t replicate and improve every aspect of
whatever you’re following on from, then you’re always
going to fall foul of unimaginative critics hypocritically sniping
at your own laziness.
Case in point: fine film that ‘No Cum
Dodging Allowed #2’ is, you can’t help but feel that
without the #2 slapped on its arse it might actually have received
the plaudits it oh so richly deserved, and were ladled in such
big porridgey clumps onto ‘No Cum Dodging Allowed #1’.
fig (i) SNAP!
And so it also is with Stargate, the younger,
brighter and far more talented sibling of the world-famous Defender.
Started, coded, manufactured and into the arcades
just one year after Defender, Stargate is relatively unloved and
barely acknowledged by the purists. For a long time it was unloved
and unknown by me.
I first saw it sat slap bang in the middle of
my flat. A housemate had gone to buy a Defender cab but came home
with a Stargate instead. I didn’t know what the fuck the
thing was and even ungraciously had a bit of moan that it wasn’t
what he went out for – despite not paying a penny towards
So, we started playing and, to cut a long story
short, we were blown off the face of the Earth. It was fast, it
was colourful and the screen was constantly full of shit shooting
shit and exploding into more and more shit.
Long nights of noisy blasting followed, with
sleep taking a back seat. It wasn’t unusual to start work
bleary-eyed with flashes of Yllabians, Mutants, Phreds and Firebombers
flashing around my peripheral vision while ham-fistedly trying
to spanner my work into a fit state.
Excellent times. We had an arcade machine in
the house that was sort of like Defender but with extra knick-knacks
and doo-dahs. Cashback!
fig (ii) ‘jerky mess’
c/o google image search
Except that was dead, dead wrong. Stargate
isn’t a modded up Defender. It really isn’t. It’s
the definitive Eugene Jarvis 2D space fighting game and Defender
is a pre-match warm up, as I found out a few months later.
After a little time honing my planetoid-skimming
talent it was off to an arcade to see how my skillz translated
back onto Defender. I scored okay, but was horribly, horribly
shocked. Quite frankly, it looked crap.
Defender poked a spear through my soul when
I first saw it. It’s an incredibly important game for me.
I can honestly say that the first time I saw it a switch flicked
in my head - I knew that I HAD to be involved with making games
in any capacity I could and at any cost. (And
he is... - Ed)
And it’s a similar tale for a lot of people
my age. Defender is so well remembered and loved not for what
it is, but for the impact it made. It was something so revolutionary
and so wilfully different from anything else available at the
time. It was the first game to have a real world where things
happened outside of the player’s view.
In Southend, trying to show off on an old Defender
machine, it became clear that Stargate is the game I remembered
Defender to be. Leaving the rose-tinted spectacles on the sideboard
and divorcing initial impressions from cold, hard reality, I could
see Defender for what it was – a basic and primitive prototype
for the fully finished article that is Stargate.
Just so you know, this isn’t some misty-eyed
and confused reverie based on dusty memories of a distant past.
I still play Stargate. I was lucky enough to get a cab a few months
back (my mate’s original one ended up in a garage owned
by System 3 – sadly, never to be seen again). Tired and
emotional at the fag-end of a long party, I ended up at 6am kissing
and hugging the thing after it let me do some amazing things in
its pixelly-beautiful universe. That’s because I honestly
really do love it.
Every now and then, something achingly beautiful
happens in just the way you want it to. Invisoing through a Firebomber,
catching a Humanoid at the bottom of the screen just as it swings
onto view, getting a Pod Intersection exactly/completely right
or romping through an Yllabian Dogfight on one life. All of these
are magic moments.
And Wave 10: Firebomber Showdown. The level
where all of the odds are stacked against you but judicious smart
bombery can explode so much of the screen it’s possible
to really slow the game down – and you don’t curse
it as it crawls to a halt and the screen near whites out. It fills
you with a satisfying pride so intense I’ve nothing to compare
the feeling with (hehe that was lazy).
It’s sad writing this, because I know
you don’t and won’t and probably can’t believe
a word I’m saying. I can understand why, too. In your head
you still have the perfect image of the first time you saw and
played Defender – in an arcade somewhere. But the first
time you came to Stargate was probably via emulation, which is
fig (iii) Stargate Controls
Even in the specially made cabinet constructed
with love and care from fine elf-crafted components that Stargate
came in, it can only be described as double-bastard hard. Now,
Defender is merely bastard hard, Stargate adds another button
and a number of new game mechanics that make an already difficult
job of flying the thing hand-shatteringly tough.
On a PC keyboard, it’s near-impossible
and not dissimilar from a fucked up, tiny-scale version of Twister
For Fingers. And PC screens are all very nice, but they don’t
glow like an arcade monitor does.
The only way to understand what I am going on
about it is to play it, which you’re more than welcome to
do if you’re ever at my place.
So, let’s recap:
• Defender okay.
• Stargate fanfuckingtastic.
• I didn’t even mention the sound.
RODENT CASH RATING -
"Ahh but it's a canny blast."
Here. (It's working again)
Things to 'Make' and 'Do'.