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Defender 2000 - The Atari Times

Defender 2000

Minter finally releases his second blast-a-thon
by Gregory D. George

July 1, 1996
As I'm sure you know, the original Defender was Williams Electronics' very first arcade game. It was designed by the very excellent Eugene Jarvis and earned the respect of millions of gamers. Not least of which was Jeff Minter, an awesome game programmer in his own right. Jeff, hot off the success of Tempest 2000, was just itching to do an updated Defender game. And nearly two years later, Defender 2000 arrived.

The Defender 2000 cartridge includes three variations of the awe-inspiring game. Aside from a few tiny nit-picks, Defender Classic is a clone of the original. Defender Plus is similar in graphics, yet different and faster. Finally, Defender 2000 pulls out all the stops with graphics, sounds, and music out the wazoo.

In the all Defender games, your goal is to maneuver your on-screen spaceship through hordes of enemies looking to do you in and eat your humanoids for lunch. Well, I was only 10 years old when Defender came out in 1981, and I defy any so-called "advanced-child under 10" to be able to control an original Defender arcade game with ease! There was an up/down joystick, thrust, fire, hyperspace, reverse, and smart bomb buttons. Thankfully, Jeff wrote all his Defender games with standard joypad movements, but included the original button configuration for you sado-machiosists. Control is excellent in Classic and Plus modes, but feels a bit slippery in 2000 mode.

Graphics in Classic mode are practically dead-on to the original. The Landers seem slightly larger, and the explosions are a bit different, but nothing to cry about. Plus is a psychosis update of Classic where the sprites are rendered, the terrain and horizon are filled with odd color shifting plasmas, and you shoot about 10 shots per second. As for 2000 mode, most everything looks digitized including the backgrounds and humanoids. In addition, the parallax scrolling of the ground and background elements are very well done. Probably the biggest difference in 2000 mode is that it's two screens tall! Talk about adding to the difficulty!

I don't remember too much about the original arcade game's sounds, but people who do say they are perfect. One sound effect I do recognize is from Jeff's ST game, Llamatron. So, now I don't know which one came first! Classic and Plus modes don't feature any music, which is somewhat disappointing. Plus could have at least had music, which would have enhanced it's gameplay considerably. The music is 2000 mode is superb, but is more in the background than Tempest 2000, which really helped draw you into the game.

Plus is probably a better update of the classic game and gives quite a power trip. I thought the difficulty curve in 2000 mode was like hitting a brick wall. After my third game, I breezed my way to level 51 and then became completely stuck.

Unlike Tempest 2000, Defender 2000 adds too much to the original formula. This is a case where you can't throw in new music, graphics, and sounds and expect a great game to spew forth. Don't get me wrong, Defender 2000 is a fun game well worth the money, but most people will spend the bulk of their time with the rippin' Classic game of yesteryear.

The excitement mounts after you pop this game into the slot!
Classic Defender. The real reason to buy this game. The pixel shatter is pure Minter-bliss.
Defender Plus is a much better update than 2000. The effects are quite trippy.
Not a bad game, but it forces you to stare at the radar screen because there is so much going on.
Defender 2000
System: Jaguar
Publisher: Atari
Genre: Shooter
Graphics Score: 80%
Sound & Music Score: 85%
Gameplay Score: 85%
Control Score: 75%

Final Score: 70%

Reader Comments for Defender 2000

Not quite by Darryl B. on 2008-08-26 01:11:55
Looks like Paddle-Ball was Williams first video game, back in the 70s, according to the klov. Thanks for going over the new versions though.
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