Namco Starblade, home and away.

I spotted this vintage Starblade arcade machine out in the wild today whilst taking a pitstop break during walking day along the coast.

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It appeared to be working o.k despite a slightly pincushioned monitor/plexiglass and so with coin at the ready, well several really (I always think of it as a donation to keep these beauties in circulation) I was once again thrust into the role of ship gunner.

Despite its on rails nature, I’ll never get bored of Starblade especially immersed in the cockpit cabinet with that big ass yoke gun, booming speakers and inset large screen.

With our walk finished and putting ones aching feet up, I hit the Internet for more Starblade videos and a read up about it again on KLOV and various fan sites. Interesting, on its Wiki entry there was this one line –

It also received a re-release in 2013 on iOS as part of the Namco Arcade application.

Trying not to get to excited about this as surely it would be a disappointing port with a (shudder) touchscreen joystick, i headed to the App Store and download the Namco Arcade app.

Apart from the collection by Atari, I’m not a fan of the arcade collections for iOS as they’re often expensive and have very little other game related content that will pry me away from MAME. Atari did a great job with their collection of games like Lunar Lander, Black Widow and Battlezone as they play so much better with touch screen controls than the same games using the default control set in iMame/mame4all.

Namco’s arcade collection contains a rather small collection of their back catalogue. Classics like Pacman, Galaga and Xevious are here as well as one of my personal favourites Rolling Thunder and a couple I’ve not really played that much before, like the rather fun Motos.

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The app itself is a little bland and pretty much a simple frontend shop for the in-app purchases of games (or virtual coins at a lower price rate).

Each day, Namco offer one free credit on any game for you to try before you buy and so of course, today’s credit was spent on Starblade.

…and holy asteroids, it’s flippin awesome. Graphics are just as crisp and silky smooth as the original and the touchscreen is so simple (the gun sight follows your finger) works beautifully and actually makes the game a little more enjoyable for new comers as accurate and quick aiming is easily archived instead of swing around that massive gun yoke on the arcade cabinet. At £3.99 for just this one game, it’s way more expensive than the others (£0.69) but oh so worth it.

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Retro Gaming: StarBlade (Panasonic 3DO/Arcade)


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.

Original

-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!