|Compatibility:||Model I and III, tape and disk|
Starfighter, written by Sparky Starks, falls somewhere between an arcade game and a simulation. Far more than a shoot-em-up game, the incredibly detailed scenario in Starfighter lends itself to a game that can be played for hours. Although a unique game, Starfighter has some similarities to Star Raiders, a 1979 game for the Atari 800 that was written by Doug Neubauer.
Sparky Starks later wrote a version of Starfighter for the Atari 400/800 using the name Destiny: The Cruiser. A new title was required because the rights to the name Starfighter had already been sold for use by the 1984 movie The Last Starfighter.
The goal in Starfighter is to pilot a spacecraft, the SC-78503 Starfighter, and destroy hostile enemy spacecraft. From a description in an Adventure International catalog:
The Starfighter player begins his tour of duty as a new pilot. At this
embryonic stage, he or she must prepare for the mission ahead—a
mission which will consist of the identification and destruction of
enemy craft. Perhaps in time (but only perhaps) the coveted rank of
Star Lord can be attained. But for now, one need only concern oneself
with basic survival.
Starfighter was supplied on one self-booting disk or two tapes, one containing the SC-78503 Training Simulator and other containing the Main Mission. Both the tape and disk versions can save games in progress, with up to ten saved games possible using the disk version.
Cover of Starfighter manual
Starfighter came with an official-looking 32 page manual, supposedly written by the S.G.A. Military Central Command. The manual outlines the nature of the conflict and also more advanced topics, such as hypercharge theory, technical details about the spacecraft, and instructions about how to operate it. There are also details about rules and regulations, such as combat and towing procedures. Here is the description of the SC-78503 from the manual:
The SC-78503 is a drive-capable light chase-attack fighter with
advanced Hypercharge weaponry. Some other features of the SC-78503
include extremely long drive range and two independent gravity sensing
systems. The craft boasts 3 nose jet control systems; manual control,
target lock tracking system, and an advanced automatic long range
drive alignment system just introduced. The most advanced feature
implemented in the SC-78503 is the newly introduced target positive
identification system, which is capable of determining not only target
craft type but also port of call.
Destroying enemy spacecraft is only one part of Starfighter. Another important responsibility is to maintain the SC-78503 spacecraft and keep it in good condition. Damage can be repaired at a Landbase, but repairs cost money. Destroying certain enemy spacecraft is the only way to earn credits.
The player is continually evaluated as the game progresses. Every player starts at the rank of New Pilot, but promotions can increase this to Ensign, Inspector, Captain, and the top rank of Star Lord.
The ultimate goal in Starfighter is to reach the rank of Star Lord. This is extremely difficult, as was stated in the manual:
Only the most intrepid STARFIGHTER pilot reaches Star Lord rank and
even fewer exceed it! If you are one of the dauntless few, a special
password will appear on your companel. Contact Adventure International
via landgram (U.S. Postal letter will also be fine) of this password
and you will receive a special Gift.