The original Star Wars arcade machine given to us by Atari in the early 80’s is no doubt one of the all time arcade classics, as well as being a great collectors item.
Well one game that trumps it in the collectors market is Empire Strikes Back.
The Empire Strikes Back, while it is the second Star Wars movie, for whatever reason is actually the third Star Wars arcade machine.
Atari released Return of the Jedi in arcades in 1984 — a year before they released Empire Strikes Back. Now Empire Strikes Back, unlike the Return of the Jedi arcade game, is a direct sequel to the original Star Wars game.
Empire Strikes Back features the same amazing vector graphics that the original Star Wars arcade game had — except this time they are just more polished and have a higher quality look to them.
Everything just looks a little more detailed, which for a Star Wars fan makes it all that much more special.
Now like the Star Wars arcade game before it, this game features three levels based on scenes from the movie. But there is one really cool game play addition and that is the Jedi bonus.
Throughout the game you can collect letters to spell Jedi. Once you do this, you will be rewarded by enemies not being able to shoot at you for a short time. But more importantly, if you get on the high score board and have gotten all the Jedi letters then you will have a mark next to your initials on the score board like a badge of honour.
So not only did you get on the high score board but you also got the Jedi rank as well!
For the first level, you play as Luke Skywalker where you fly one of the snow speeders on the ice planet Hoth. You have to shoot down the robots that are trying to find the rebel base.
Once you have destroyed a good amount of these, you will advance to the next level. But if you want to get the Jedi ranking, you must shoot down a specific amount before the end of the level.
For the second level you again pilot the snow speeder on Hoth, but this is really where this game shines. For this part in the game you take on the AT-ST and AT-At walkers and this really is cool. Words do not do it justice.
Just like in the movie, you have to take down the AT-AT’s by tying their legs up and making them fall down. Like the previous letter in order to get the Jedi ranking, you must destroy a certain number of the walkers.
For the final level you get to play as Han Solo and fly the Millennium Falcon up in outer space. This is a nice change of pace letting you play as a different character.
The game play style here at first is similar to the first level on the original Star Wars arcade. You have to destroy TIE Fighters if you destroy a certain amount again like before you will earn a Jedi ranking.
Once you complete this, there is an extra stage where you flying an asteroid field. Your aim here is to survive until the end of the level, if you do this the game starts over but on a higher difficulty.
The Empire Strikes Back is a great game — perhaps even better than its predecessor.
But what makes this such a collectable arcade machine is that Atari only sold it as a conversion kit to the existing Star Wars arcade machine.
So arcades would get the game board and some new arcade cabinet artwork to put on the arcade cabinet. It was not uncommon for many arcades of the time to just leave the original Star Wars artwork in place.
This can make tracking down an arcade machine with the real artwork very tricky. However there are some great custom artwork designs out there for this game that you can use instead.