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Defender - shoot aliens in a modern version of the classical game!

Defender - About

Defender is a two-dimensional side-scrolling shooting game set on the surface of an unnamed planet. The player controls a space ship as it navigates the terrain, flying either to the left or right. A joystick controls the ship's elevation, and five buttons control its horizontal direction and weapons. The object is to destroy alien invaders, while protecting astronauts on the landscape from abduction. Humans that are abducted return as mutants that attack the ship. Defeating the aliens allows the player to progress to the next level. Failing to protect the astronauts, however, causes the planet to explode and the level to become populated with mutants. Surviving the waves of mutants results in the restoration of the planet. Players are allotted three ships to progress through the game and are able to earn more by reaching certain scoring benchmarks. A ship is lost if it is hit by an enemy, or hit by an enemy projectile, or if a hyperspace jump goes wrong (as they randomly do). After exhausting all ships, the game ends. It was developed and released by Williams Electronics in February 1981. A horizontally scrolling shoot 'em up, the game is set on an unnamed planet where the player must defeat waves of invading aliens while protecting astronauts.

Defender How to Play Instructions

Shoot down the aliens, escape their missiles and shoot them down. Use the arrow keys to navigate while avoiding a crush, and the space key to shoot down the aliens.

Game History

Defender was one of the most important titles of the Golden Age of Video Arcade Games, selling over 55,000 units to become the company's best selling game and one of the highest-grossing arcade games ever. Praise among critics focused on the game's audio-visuals and gameplay. It is frequently listed as one of Jarvis' best contributions to the video game industry, as well as one of the most difficult video games. Though not the first game to scroll horizontally, it created the genre of purely horizontal scrolling shooters. It inspired the development of other games and was followed by sequels and many imitations. There were many ports to contemporary systems, most of them by either Atari, Inc. or its software label for non-Atari platforms, Atarisoft.Development was led by Eugene Jarvis, a pinball programmer at Williams; Defender was Jarvis' first video game project and drew inspiration from Space Invaders and Asteroids.

Initially, the game was slow to gain popularity. Defender did not attract much attention at the 1980 AMOA show. In retrospect, Jarvis believed many passersby were intimidated by its complexity. The game, however, was well received in arcades, and crowds gathered around the cabinet during its first nights of play testing. The success spurred Williams to release a cocktail version as well. Defender eventually became Williams' best selling arcade game, with over 55,000 units sold worldwide. By 2004, the game was a popular collector's item; the upright cabinets were common, while the cocktail models were more rare. Since its release, it has become one of the highest grossing arcade games ever, earning over US$1 billion. Williams employee Larry Demar was surprised at the game's popularity, stating that it was the only game he'd seen able to earn that quantity of quarters. Six months after its release, the game was one of the top earners in the United States video game industry. Mark Stearny of JoyStik magazine called Defender the most successful game in 1981, commenting that it outperformed Pac-Man.

The game garnered praise for its graphics, audio, and gameplay features. GameSpy's David Cuciz lauded Defender's challenging gameplay, commenting that it is representative of what other games should be. He described the graphics as "beautiful", citing the varied sprites and flashing explosions. Matt Barton and Bill Loguidice of Gamasutra stated the audio-visuals and gameplay's depth balanced the excessive difficulty. They praised the game's "catch and rescue" feature, as well as the minimap. Cuciz also praised the minimap, stating that the game is impossible without it and that it allows players to plan strategies. Author John Sellers praised the audio-visuals and the connection between the game's plot and gameplay. At the time of its release, Stan Jarocki, director of marketing at then competitor Midway Manufacturing, described the game as "amazing". Next Generation ranked the arcade version as number 13 on their 1996 "Top 100 Games of All Time", saying that its balanced play difficulty makes gamers keep coming back for more instead of giving up. In 2008, Guinness World Records listed it as the number six arcade game in technical, creative, and cultural impact. That same year, Retro Gamer rated the game number ten on their list of "Top 25 Arcade Games", citing it as a technical achievement and a difficult title with addictive gameplay. Also in 2008, Edge ranked Defender the sixth best game from the 1980s. The editors described its design as very "elegant" despite a lack of narrative and characters.

Defender is often described as one of the most difficult games in the industry. Softline in 1983 wrote that it "remains one of the hardest arcade games ever developed. Initial attempts lasting less than ten seconds are not uncommon for novices." GameDaily in 2009 rated Defender the ninth most difficult game, citing the attack and rescue gameplay. Author Steven L. Kent called it "one of the toughest games in arcade history". He also stated that novice players typically are able to play only a few seconds, and that enthusiasts saw proficiency at the game as a "badge of honor". David Cuciz echoed similar comments. Sellers described Defender's difficulty as "humbling", saying that few could play it with proficiency. He further stated, however, that players would continue to play despite the difficulty. Author David Ellis attributes the game's success to its challenging design. Its difficulty is often attributed to its complex control scheme. Edge magazine called Defender "one of the most difficult-to-master" games, describing its controls as "daunting". Retro Gamer writer Craig Grannell called the game and controls "ruthless" and "complex" respectively.

In 1983 Softline readers named the Atari 8-bit version fifth on the magazine's Top Thirty list of Atari programs by popularity. The magazine was more critical, however, stating that "The game's appeal does not justify its unreasonable cost" of being shipped on ROM cartridge. David H. Ahl of Creative Computing Video & Arcade Games said in 1983 that the Atari 5200 version was "a substantial challenge to the most seasoned space gamers".