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October 2013 Retro Gaming Article


October 30, 2013 Retro Gaming Blog Post:

They said it was impossible until he showed them Star Castle on the Atari 2600

Star Castle arcade game cabinet Atari's most successful original game on the 2600 was Yars' Revenge. It was quirky, different and broke the mold of what gamer's had come to expect on the platform. It was created by Atari programmer, Howard Scott Warshaw. However he didn't set out to design Yars' Revenge. Did you know that Yars' Revenge was born from attempting to port Cinematronics' Star Castle arcade game to the Atari 2600?

Star Castle for  Atari 2600 packaging and cartridge Former Atari programmer Scott Williamson had revered the "impossibility" of porting Star Castle to the Atari 2600 as a cool chalenge.

I love a story with a happy ending - Williamson successfully ported Star Castle to the 2600 - but he didn't stop there. This story actually has a stellar ending! He designed custom translucent cartridges that contained led lights. Having the cart light up is pretty slick, but Williamson seems to enjoy pushing boundaries and synched the flashing lights with elements of the game play! This effect is astounding and has to be seen to be appreciated (view the kickstarter video).

One would think that Star Castle's arcade controls would lend easily to the Atari 2600's joystick and single fire button. Apparently it did, but I tend to forget that, like Asteroids, Star Castle has no joystick. Instead the arcade controls relied on all-buttons. There were Left & Right spin buttons to maneuver the ship, along with Thrust and Fire .

Star Castle for  Atari 2600 screen comparison
Check out the book Racing the Beam for the chapter on the evolution of Warshaw's Star Castle into what we love as Yars' Revenge. Star Castle was developed by Cinematronics and released to arcades in 1980. I remember it vividly at my local arcade in NY, The Electric Playhouse. It was the first arcade game for which I was aware of it's vector technology and the use of screen overlays to simulate color.

Initially, I thought I was too late in discovering this Star Castle wonder... Ok, I am late, but the project seems to be just wrapping up. You can follow the progress on Atari Age forum for Star Castle. I was afraid I was way too late because there was a Star Castle 2600 Kickstarter campaign in the Spring of 2012. Fortunately (for those who are as late as I am) the project is nearing completion and there's still time to try the beta ROM and delve into Scott Williamson's amazing creation. He also has a Star Castle 2600 blog with details of his project.



We recommend following this project, even if you didn't get in on the Kickstarter, and see where it goes. A lot of tech, ingenuity and retro love went into this port of Star Castle.

FYI- A Star Castle arcade game appears in both epic 80's flicks, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Ghostbusters.

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