Many people are surprised to know that despite being the third movie, that Return of the Jedi in fact was released before the Empire Strikes Back.
This game is unlike the other two in the series in many ways, so lets take a little look at what many consider the black sheep of the original Star Wars arcade trilogy.
It may sound odd that this game was released before Empire Strikes Back but when you actually think about the time frame that this game hit the arcades — its not that odd at all. Return of the Jedi was released in 1984, just one year after the release of the movie in the theaters. So Atari clearly wanted to have the game in arcades to capture the excitement fans still had from the movie.
Like the other two Star Wars games the sound effects in this game are fantastic and use some great samples taken right from the movie. However the graphics are the first things many people will notice are different. Gone are the vector graphics and instead what we have are more traditional looking raster graphics.
Return of the Jedi will see you take control of three different vehicles from the movie and the game play is at a isometric view. These are a speeder bike, the Millennium Falcon and a AT-ST.
One cool thing Return of the Jedi does to mix it up is it splits the use of these vehicles up. For example, you don’t play all the speeder bike levels then move onto the Millennium Falcon one — you switch between the two.
For the first level, you start of on a speeder bike as you race through the Endor forest to make your way to the Ewok village. Just like in the movie Storm Troopers will be hot on your tail and try to shoot you. It can be a very challenging, bordering on frustrating level, as you have to memorize where hazards like trees are; all the while avoiding the fire from the Storm Troopers.
The next level sees you pilot the Millennium Falcon through a reactor with the aim of blowing it up. This is very similar to the first level where you must avoid obstacles being bits of pipe in the reactor, as well as the Tie Fighters who are chasing you down. Where it gets really difficult is that once you blow up the reactor, you have to fly back the way you came.
This is where the memorization aspect of the game comes into play. It is tough, kind of like trying to keep up with tracking ten different bingo cards at once.
Next up, you have another speeder bike level, but after this you also get to pilot the Millennium Falcon again mixed in with sections where you get to control a AT-ST. Unfortunately the AT-ST seems very slow compared to the other two vehicles.
Return of the Jedi is its own game — there is no doubt about that. It is actually quite a fun game in its own right.
At the same time it can be a very frustrating experience due to having to memorize where many of the obstacles are.
It may not be as fondly remembered as the other two Star Wars games, but unlike the Empire Strikes Back this game is available in its own arcade cabinet (as opposed to just a conversion kit).
Return of the Jedi gets a bit of a raw deal when it comes to history as it is often remembered as the “other” Star Wars arcade game, when in fact if you put the time in this is one fun game.