Return of the Jedi

Return of the Jedi

Retro Coin Op Synopsis

In a big switch from the first Star Wars arcade game, Atari’s Return of the Jedi traded in first-person vector graphics for a whole new look, as well as a new way of playing through the movie’s most famous scenes. As a further draw for the worldwide army of Star Wars fans, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, Han Solo, Lando Calrissian, R2D2 and C3PO all made appearances, as did several dozen very unlucky Stormtroopers.

As seen from a mock-3-D perspective (a la Zaxxon), the game unfolded in four “scenes,” starting on the forest moon of Endor. In the first scene, Leia took a jaunt on a speeder bike through the woods, trying to blast or bump rival speeder bikes manned by nasty Stormtroopers. Players guided Leia around trees and through hollow logs, trying to lead the Stormtroopers into the traps those helpful little Ewoks had set up.

Once Leia reached safety, the scene shifted to another part of Endor, where Chewbacca stormed toward the shield generator. To get there, however, he had to maneuver his commandeered AT-ST scout walker around forest obstacles while fighting off enemy Imperial walkers.

Borrowing another page from the movies, Return of the Jedi used an innovative “Split-Wave” feature, cutting back and forth from Chewie’s scene to one high above in the stars. In space, somewhere over Endor, Lando Calrissian led an attack on the Death Star, with the rest of the Rebel Forces backing him up. The game switched between the two scenes, allowing players to guide both Chewie and Lando on to victory, all in the same level.

When Chewie finally arrived to help Han blow up the generator, the action fell squarely on Lando’s shoulders, as the ace pilot started a desperation run into the bowels of the Death Star. Lando raced toward the power generator in the center of the space station, all the while zipping over and around blockades and enemy TIE fighters. Once inside, Lando had to maneuver his way in for a shot, blast the generator, and make it back out before the whole place blew.

Through the use of “scene”-based gameplay, Return of the Jedi was able to recreate large portions of the film itself, allowing players to feel like they were part of the movie. Unfortunately, even the Star Wars tie-in wasn’t enough to stave off the effects of the 1984 video game crash. Return of the Jedi and its 1985 follow-up, The Empire Strikes Back, never achieved the popularity of the original Star Wars arcade game, but the franchise was far from dead. Star Wars-based games flourished on home systems over the next decade, and the franchise made a triumphant return to the arcades in 1993’s Star Wars Arcade, kicking off a whole new wave of success for the Rebel Alliance.

Arcade Machine Release History

1983 - Star Wars
1984 - Return of the Jedi
1985 - The Empire Strikes Back

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