Defender 2000

Atari Jaguar

from AEO magazine, Volume 4, Issue 9

 |||   Jaguar Review: Defender 2000
 |||   By: Bryan C. Edewaard
/ | \  Internet:

Coding Guru Jeff Minter does it again - this time with an update to
the classic Williams game: Defender. Created in 1980 by a team headed
up by the legendary Eugene Jarvis, Defender established Williams'
position as the arcade videogame leader of the early '80s. Your
mission in this side-scrolling shooter is to defend a planet and the
astronauts thereon from wave after wave of invading and body-snatching

Defender 2000 offers three variations of the original Defender game:
Classic Defender, Defender Plus, and Defender 2000. Each of the games
supports a ProController mode with separate buttons for fire and
thrust. Two player games can be played either with two controllers or
two players sharing one controller.

//// Classic Defender

Most mature gamers will immediately recognize Classic Defender in all
of its sixteen color glory, and if you haven't seen the original in a
while, it's quite a rush. All the original elements are here: Landers,
Mutants, Humanoids, Pods, Bombers, Swarmers, and Baiters.

Classic Defender closely resembles the arcade original, but purists
will notice that it deviates on a few points. There are a lot of
slight cosmetic variations between Minter's Classic Defender and the
actual arcade machine: explosions are larger in Minter's Classic, both
in the size of the particles and in the fact that they carry over into
the top area of the screen; the score has rastered colors instead of
the pulsating solid color of the original; the sprites are noticeably
larger; and there is a volcano in the game, which is borrowed from
Defender II (originally Stargate).

Perhaps more seriously, I found Classic easier to play than the arcade
machine. This may be somewhat due to the difference in controls, but
it largely seems to be due to the fact that the landers in Classic are
slightly oversized (as mentioned above) and some enemies exhibit
different behavior than in the original. One good example is the
Mutant, who makes quick jerky motions in the original, but jumps and
jiggles around like he's going critical in Minter's Classic. I feel
that both the oversized enemies and the frantic motion of the mutants
makes them easier to hit.

These are minor things, really, but they are somewhat disappointing.
Back in the 1980s, there were valid reasons for making changes to a
game when it was ported to a different platform. Frequently the
hardware was different, and just couldn't do the same things as the
arcade original. But the Jaguar can certainly do everything the
Williams arcade machine could do, so there really isn't much of a
reason for not having a perfect replica of the old game. And Minter's
Classic Defender, while closer than almost any other attempt, is not
quite perfect.

//// Defender Plus

Defender Plus is very similar to Classic Defender except that more
enemies (and elements from the Defender sequel Stargate) have been
added, your fire-power is upped quite a bit, and several new visual
effects have been added. Defender Plus is to Classic Defender what
Tempest 2000 is to Classic Tempest - it retains the feel of the
original, but increases the tempo and intensity.

Visually, there is plenty of eye candy to look at. The background
contains several layers of scrolling stars, and a strange "plasma"
effect hovers over the mountains. The mountains themselves are filled
with a psychedelic moving pattern, and all the sprites have been
given a colorful overhaul. Landers now have a more metallic spaceship
look, and humanoids now look like actual people. (Imagine that.)

Plus also adds Stargate-like warp gates and some nasty new enemies -
although I don't know what to call the new enemies because the
evaluation manual doesn't have pictures of them. Starting with the
fourth wave, huge ships start popping up out of the ground that take
multiple hits to kill. To help keep things even, in addition to the
smart bombs of Classic Defender, you have what Minter calls the
"llightning laser", which will target the closest enemy, wherever it
is on the screen. You only have a limited amount of this, though, so
you have to use it sparingly. If you're a real wimp, you can opt to
have two droid ships fly with you to help you out - they'll zip around
the screen shooting at things and picking up humanoids for you.

//// Defender 2000

In Defender 2000, the game takes on a whole new look with varying
backgound (and foreground) scenery that can scroll up and down as well
as left and right. As you progress from level to level in Defender
2000, the graphics change from desert to mountains to city and so on.
All the game objects have new graphics as well and look very hi-tech
compared to the other versions. The radar, rather than just being a
box sitting above the screen, is partially transparent and allows the
background to be seen through it. And all the game objects are much
larger on the screen, so you can see more detail in them.

Your ship can pick up bonuses that increase firepower - AI Droid, AI
Droid 2, Lightning Laser, and Turbo Lightning Laser. You can also pick
up a shield to protect you from attack. With it, you can be hit twice
without dying, and each time you will bounce off whatever hit you. (If
you're moving quickly when you bounce, it's a little disconcerting to
suddenly be flying back in the other direction.) Another interesting
feature of Defender 2000 is that humanoids that have been picked up
can fire along with you. Each humanoid hangs below the previous one,
so when you get three or four of them strung beneath your ship, you
carry a solid Wall o' Death wherever you go.

There are also warp tokens present. Collect enough of these and you
go to the warp screens, where you must stay on a lit path while
hurtling down surfaces shaped like the levels of Tempest. In fact, it
is very similar to the second warp level of Tempest 2000. ("Stay on
the green path.")

As with Tempest 2000, Defender 2000 includes a bunch of hip new tunes
(portent of a Defender 2000 Soundtrack CD?) and flashy menu graphics.
Some of the other effects - like the end-wave screen where your
humanoid bonus is counted - are also very nicely done. Oh, you'll
undoubtedly see what happens when you let the landers steal all your
humanoids; it's certainly something to make you think, "Uh, maybe I
shouldn't have done that...."

While playing Defender 2000, I noticed that Defender is not an
equation that can be played with as easily as Tempest. While I felt
that Tempest 2000 gave Tempest a new lease on life, Defender 2000
loses some balance in the conversion. Defender 2000 is very cool to
watch, but there can easily be too much going on at once. Once I had
picked up a few bonuses, there was so much happening on the screen
that I was forced to play by watching only the radar at the top. It's
also difficult to pick out the colorful enemies from the colorful
background, I would often collide with them while flying. It's
definitely a game for those gamers who know how to get "into the

//// Comments

I know this will sound negative, but with all that's going on, the
2000 mode lacks the feel of Defender. Defender Plus gets my vote for
the better update to Defender in this package. Plus has a nice, modern
(if wacky) look and formidable new enemies while still preserving the
Defender/Stargate atmosphere. Defender Plus and Classic were very
satisfying games and well worth the price of admission. All the
original game elements are here and the control was very precise.

Overall, I'd recommend Defender 2000 to anyone with a Jaguar who
loves classic games while I'd also recommend the Williams Arcade
Classics pack for PC/Mac owners with a serious craving for the
classic. (Get both, it's only money.)

//// Final Ratings

        Title: Defender 2000                    Jaglink: No
   Programmer: Jeff Minter                      Players: 1
 Published by: Atari                          Cart Size: 4 Megabytes
       Retail: N/A                          Availability: 2/96

 A Summary of Ratings:
              "*" is a whole
              "+" is a half
              5 stars Maximum

  Graphics - ****    Graphics are very nice, and full of Minteresque
                     effects although some of them get in the way at
                     times (much more than in Tempest 2000).
     Audio - ****    Authentic sounds from the original as well as
                     many improved effects. Great background music
   Control - *****   Dead on controls and thrust-fire option earns
                     Defender 2000 five stars.
  Gameplay - ***     Although Classic Defender and Plus play fairly
                     authentically, Defender 2000 doesn't feel much
                     like Defender and can be hard to follow.
   Overall - ****    A nice package if you're into the classics, but
                     Plus and 2000 versions might not have what it
                     takes to appeal to people who don't already like

Pts Stars  AEO Ratings
""" """""  """""""""""
 10 *****  GAMING NIRVANA!!! - You have left reality behind... for good.
  9 ****+  Unbelieveable GAME!! - Your family notices you're often absent.
  8 ****   Fantastic Game!! - You can't get enough playtime in on this.
  7 ***+   Great Game! - Something to show off to friends or 3DOers.
  6 ***    Good game - You find yourself playing this from time to time.
  5 **+    Ho-hum - If there's nothing else to do, you play this.
  4 **     Waste of time - Better to play this than play in traffic.
  3 *+     Sucks - Playing in traffic sounds like more fun.
  2 *      Sucks Badly - You'd rather face an IRS audit than play this.
  1 +      Forget it - ... but you can't; it's so badly done, it haunts you.
  0 -      Burn it - Disallow programmer from ever writing games again.

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