While the heyday of the original Star Wars trilogy video games in the 70s and 80s belonged to Atari, during the 90s and early 2000s our favorite arcade game maker (that’s SEGA, if you’re wondering) internally developed a three games that blew the Atari arcade experiences out of the water. The arcade games I am referring to are Star Wars Arcade (by SEGA AM3 and LucasArts), Star Wars Trilogy Arcade (by SEGA AM8 and LucasArts), and Star Wars Racer Arcade (by Sega Rosso). These games were exciting for a number of reasons. For starters, you had some of the best SEGA arcade talent behind the titles working with some of the best arcade technology of the time. [Learn more about SEGA’s arcade development in the 90s]
I know old Atari arcade games have their charm, but when you’re dealing with a franchise like Star Wars that leans so much on visuals, sound and music I’d much prefer to know what I’m looking at rather than trying to figure out what tiny wireframes are trying to convey. Personally I found Star Wars Racer Arcade to be the pinnacle of Star Wars arcade experiences, as it felt 1:1 to the film in every aspect. But today, for the latest entry in our SEGA Tunes series, I wanted to look back at the Star Wars arcade experience that kicked off the SEGA trilogy of arcade games, the aptly named Star Wars Arcade.
Released to arcades in 1993 by SEGA AM3 and LucasArts, Star Wars Arcade promised a Star Wars “virtual reality” experience and with the power of the Sega Model 1 arcade board they truly delivered. Star Wars Arcade played today does appear dated, with low poly graphics and music that doesn’t reach the heights of John Williams, but for 1993 it is very impressive. Unlike the two follow-up Star Wars arcade titles from SEGA, Star Wars Arcade received a home release on the SEGA 32X in 1994. This was a big deal, as it was a near perfect port of the original arcade experience on your home television set just a few years after the initial release (in fact, in Europe the arcade and home console port released in the same year). Not only did the home port feature the original arcade game, but there was also an exclusive 32X mode with extended and more challenging levels. [Learn more about the game and how it plays in the My Life with SEGA video review]
While I did give Atari some grief for their renditions of John Williams’ iconic themes, I guess you could say that the home port of Star Wars Arcade it’s THAT amazing. 1993 wasn’t the era of CD quality sound, so instead the game features the 32X’s take on Star Wars music. Still, while not nailing the true sound of an orchestra the gameplay music does sound rather nice and I love the segue from the Star Wars theme to Jabba the Hutt’s theme – 1 minute in – which always makes me imagine that a Jabba the Hutt boss battle in space is about to occur (though it sadly never does). While the music does loop rather quickly, it should be noted that this was an arcade game so it was unlikely that players would be sitting through the music for too long. Still, I would have loved to see a few more themes mixed in.
With a new Star Wars movie on the horizon, it will be exciting to hear what new themes John Williams throws at us. In the comments below, share your Star Wars music memories!