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Defender and Those Like It..

There have been lots of games that define an era.  The Defender Series is one of those titles, and it screams 1980s.  The ill-fated Strikeforce from the early 1990s being the exception of the "series".  There is no denying the popularity of these games back when arcades were all over the place, hell, there's even an album of music praising videogames called Pac-Man Fever, and Defender had one of those song.  Trust me, as cool as it is in its cheesiness, it's pretty fekkin' horrible stuff.  But that seems to be a tanget, so back to the games.

Defender, released in 1980 after just making it under the wire for a trade show, and dazzling nobody, this game went to become a fairly popular unit, selling over 50,000 games for arcade use.  The gameplay was simple- fly around the ever-looping planet, shooting spawning aliens and protecting your humans on the ground from being captured.  If they got captured, they were turned into Mutants, which joined the alien fleet in their relentless attack on your player.  Lose all of your humans, and you go into waves of Mutant-dominated attacks, and they attacked like swarms of bees.  As an added problem, you could fly down below the ground graphic, so if you were shooting, and your little human pixel was walking in front of your fire, they ate it, and became Mutants.  The most important alien to worry about was the Lander. These were the ships going after your humans.  Next would be the Baiter, they chased your ship, shooting and attempting to slam into your ship.  After that, you had to worry about the Mutants, which were Landers who grabbed the humans, and got them to the top of the screen.  The remaining aliens, Pods, Bombers, and Swarmers, seem a bit weak, but when there are lots of them on the screen at once, it gets difficult fast, and you die. Often.

You are armed with an armory of infinite lasers, three smart bombs, and hyperspace. The hyperspace isn't always helpful, as you can use it to get away from a tight spot, and land right into another tight spot. But it's worth a shot! The controls were complex for its time: an up-down joystick, a reverse button to change direction, a thrust button to move, the fire button, the smart bomb button, and the semi-useless hyperspace button. Needless to say, it required some dexterity for playing this game, and watching some people play this game could get frustrating for player and observer.

The sequel to Defender was released in 1981, named Stargate, a name that has since gone away, and can be found on MAME as both Stargate and Defender 2.  Stargate added some new enemy targets, and a slightly different graphic feel, not that you'd notice that much.  All of the aliens returned from Defender, along with some new ones: the Firebomber, Yllabian Space Guppy, Phreds, Big Reds, Munchies, and Dynamos.  Pretty much, there were more aliens that swarmed the player to destory the player, and they did it well. There is also the Stargate, which allows the player to enter and instantly warp to where a Lander is picking up a human. If you have saved several humans, and they are still dangling under your ship, entering the Stargate pushes you ahead a few levels. But I wouldn't know, I've never been able to do it without dying or accidentally returning the humans to the ground. To sum it up, Stargate is Defender with a few extra features and a better name. It's still fun, and these two games were made to eat quarters and make money, and it shows. In spades.

Above: Defender, or Stargate if you're not really paying attention

Lastly, there is Strikeforce, a Defender game with cartoon-like graphics that were becoming popular in the 90s, like Total Carnage and APB.  Aside from the graphics, this one added the ability to drop commandos into battle against the Saurians, the dinosaur enemies in the game.  The gameplay remains the same, save the humans and kill the aliens, er, Saurians.  After you complete a level in Strikeforce, the Mothership will come and pick up your ship and saved humans, in Defender and Stargate, the end of level meant going directly into the next one.  You could even choose different planets to go to, so you had some feel of progression, unlike the other games.  A small but cool idea, and it definitely worked.

Strikeforce: Goofender? Defender Parodius? Maybe.

When all is said and done, these games were pretty much the same game play, with small changes made after Defender with Stargate, and a new coat of paint and some added fun stuff added to Strikeforce (the commando drops, the dinosaurs, the new mutated human beings).  I mentioned above that these games were meant to make money and eat your quarters, and they show, so don't get frustrated with them.  Defender and Defender 2 are found on compilation discs for various gaming consoles, but good luck finding Strikeforce.  You would have to find an arcade machine, or check it out on MAME, which, well, it's illegal to do.  But be warned... there is a good chance that these three games will piss you off. 


With a storyline like this, who needs Shakespeare? 

Last but not least, there was even a Defender Pinball game made, a fairly simple table released in a small run in 1982. Here are some shots from the Pinball Godfather site, The Internet Pinball Database:


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