Way Far Down the Geeky Rabbit Hole
This one took a little effort, but you kids are worth it: earlier this afternoon, my buddy Dave sent me a link to a short blog entry which reads as follows:
If you're a child of the 1980s, you're no doubt well aware of the movie The Last Starfighter, the fantasy epic about a videogame lovin' kid in a trailer park who's recruited by aliens as a gunner an intergalactic battle. I mean, based on that short description alone how can you not think the movie is awesome? The only problem is that the Last Starfighter game was never actually released. As crazy as it is, Atari developed the game but never released it for some reason. Talk about not following through on capitalizing on ancillary markets and product tie-ins.
Well, 23 years later the game has finally seen the light of day. Sure, its tech specs are less than impressive at this point, but you can't beat the nostalgia value. It was custom-built into a cabinet that looks exactly like the one from the movie, but if you want to try it in the comfort of your own home you can now download the game as a simple exe file. Who knows, maybe you'll be recruited if you try it out and are good enough.
Hmm, thinks I, this is intriguing. I remember liking The Last Starfighter back in the day. I would've been about 14 when it came out, and it was a perfect little piece of summertime adolescent wish fulfillment; what disaffected teen hasn't dreamed of discovering they have some remarkable talent that will enable them to save the day? Or, in the case of Alex Rogan, the protagonist of TLS, the universe? The summer of '84 was also the golden age of my interest in video gaming, so naturally I thought it be totally awesome to play a for-real arcade game just like the one in the flick. And now someone has finally made such a game? Awesome! Where do I click for more information? I tried here, the link referenced in the blog entry I quote above. Nope, not the source of this story, just another blog:
Who didn't walk out of The Last Starfighter -- yep, the Lance Guest movie from the '80s -- hoping to find a Starfighter game in the arcade? Sadly, the game was never produced. But some guys over at Rogue Synapse recreated a playable version of the actual game from the movie -- it's a free download -- and offer drawings of the movie-prop game cabinet. Add a little MAME ingenuity and you've got yourself the arcade you dreamed of as a kid. (Just don't leave me behind if Centauri comes for you first.)
Okay, now we're getting somewhere, a destination at last... and I'll be darned if the screen caps of the game these guys have cooked up don't look just like what I remember from the movie. Very impressive indeed... personally, I can't imagine having enough dedication to any movie to spend the time and effort needed to develop a game, let alone build a cabinet to house it, but I am utterly blown away that someone out there has. It's so easy to imagine myself walking up to this thing in the middle of a dark, cacophonous room that smells of sweat and ozone, a heavy wad of quarters dragging my pants pocket all out of shape, only moments away from becoming the hero of the story behind the screen, and in my own mind... sometimes I really miss being 14.