Namco’s brilliant shoot ‘em up StarBlade was one of those amazing arcade games that sadly I’d didn’t give too much attention when it appeared in the arcades. I seem to recall seeing that huge cabinet only once on the east coast were we used to holiday and being bowled over my the amazing graphics that was reminiscent of the 1984 film The Last Starfighter. However, credit was very high to play, so I always opted for the games that I was good at to stretch my coins as far as possible. Fast forward almost twenty years and I’d completely forgot all about it.
StarBlade arcade cabinet.
That was, until a member of the Retro Computer Museum had posted an article about his own Panasonic 3Do console collection including the home conversion of Starblade. Seeing those screenshots brought it all back and I trawled through YouTube videos soaking up this gaming gem. At last months RCM Gaming Event (see post http://stiggyblog.wordpress.com/2010/05/17/retro-computer-museum-gaming-event-may10/ ) a 3Do had been setup and with a selection of games were on offer to play including the home port of Starblade dubbed Starblade Alpha.
The Panasonic 3Do (and Sony Playstation) conversions are absolutely brilliant and looked to be almost on par with the original. I played it for hours as well as the hilariously funny Road Rash. As well as the flat polygon look of the original arcade game , the 3DO (and again the Playstation) versions contained an enhanced version, adding rich textured polygons. This really does make everything look extremely good but to be honest, I think I prefer the original ‘Tron’ look.
-Alpha version with added textures.
I’d never owned a 3DO before but a friend of mine had brought a year or so after release and was impressed with EA’s Need for Speed when I first saw it. Back then, I had considered getting one myself but with the Sony Playstation was soon to be released and seeing early preview shots of titles like WipeOut & Ridge Racer I’d decided to hold off.
A few weeks ago I was browsing eBay and found one for sale (front loading version) and as a bonus, it happened to have a copy of Starblade included – sadly, without the game box though. I’m really enjoying it and hope to increase my software collection soon.
Panasonic 3DO FZ-1
As a good as the 3DO conversion is, I still long to play the original arcade version. Emulation via MAME isn’t particularly good but after a little research online, I found a derivative of Mame that has been written to emulate Namco System 21 arcade boards. On my first attempt, I couldn’t getting it working as some of the required files were missing. On closer inspection, I did indeed have the correct files, they were simply named incorrectly. One I’d renamed the files, StarBlade loaded and looked awesome compared to the 3DO version. Controls were a little bit iffy but thankfully the emulator supported MAME command line options so I wrote a configuration file that allowed me to utilise my PC analogue flight stick. With this configured, gameplay is much better and probably as close as I can get to original.
I’ve uploaded a short video of me playing the first two scenes on my PC. It looks great on my PC monitor, bet it would look even better on a projector!