ⓘ Defender 2000
Defender 2000 is a side-scrolling shoot em up video game developed by Llamasoft and published by Atari Corporation exclusively for the Atari Jaguar on December 1995. It is a remake by Jeff Minter of Eugene Jarvis and Larry DeMars 1981 arcade game Defender, which drew inspiration from Space Invaders and Asteroids.
Following a mostly similar premise to the original Defender with a few new additions, the player as a member of the System Defense Team taking control of the Threshold spacecraft, is tasked to protect the working space miners and defeat invading waves of aliens from the Alpha Proximian Empire, who seek to obtain the life-sustaining materials humans extract in multiple planets for an Earth that lacks natural resources in the future.
Defender 2000 received mixed but mostly positive reception since its launch. Reviewers praised the soundtrack and gameplay but many felt divided in regards to the gameplay and graphics, while others criticized the difficulty and controls.
Defender 2000 builds upon the gameplay from the original Defender by introducing more power-ups, bonus levels, more and sophisticated enemy types and level designs varying in thematic, among other new additions. The game features a total of 100 levels, with new color variations for the stages after level 50. Progress is automatically saved after completing five levels via the cartridges internal EEPROM, which also keeps tracks of the high-scores and other settings made by the player across the three game modes available at the start of the game. Completing all the 100 levels in Defender 2000 mode unlocks Vindaloo mode, which is a harder difficulty setting. The game also features support for the ProController.
The main objective across the three game modes is to protect the space miners from being abducted by alien invaders of the Alpha Proximian Empire, while also trying to survive and score points as long as possible by destroying every enemy ships, which is done by navigating either to the left or right of the planets terrain. The players ship has rapid-fire capabilities to shoot down enemies fast and three screen-clearing smart bombs at the start that destroys all current enemies in their radius. As with the original game, defeating all of the aliens in the playfield allows the player to progress into the next level, while failing to protect the miners causes the planet to explode and the level becomes populated with mutants. Surviving the waves of mutants result in the restoration of the planet and the miners themselves. Players can also accidentally kill a miner with their main weapon.
New to Defender 2000 are power-ups, which appear as sphere-shaped capsules after destroying a number of enemy ships and projectiles from certain enemy types. Grabbing the power-up will increase the score multiplier, while also activating any of the progressively useful capabilities, such as AI-controlled droids, shield and more. Catching a falling human after destroying an enemy will grant a wave shot that destroys enemies and is harmless for the humans and if a droid ship grabs a falling human, will grant fire capabilities for it as well. If a human is successfully abducted by the enemy, they not only turn into mutants that attacks the Threshold ship, but will also leave a falling headstone capable of harming the players ship as well. Also new to Defender 2000 are bonus levels, which can be accessed by collecting a number of warp powerups and if they are successfully cleared, allows the player to skip five levels ahead.
Other game modes are Classic Defender, a recreation of the original arcade game and Defender Plus, which plays mostly similar to Classic mode but with updated graphics and a few new additions such as a secondary lightning weapon for the players ship, warp gates that either teleports the player to the next stretch of the planets terrain or to the nearest human in trouble, acting similarly to the main mechanic in Stargate, the sequel to the original game and more. Entering specific names on the high-score table of any game mode enables cheat codes and unlocks two mini-games: Plasma Pong and Flossie Defender. Two players can also play in any of the three modes by taking turns.
2. Development and release
In September 1994, Atari Corp. and Williams Entertainment announced their partnership that included plans to update and release some of Williams early arcade games for the Jaguar such as Defender, Joust and Robotron, with Atari handling the publishing of these titles. Six months later it was announced that, alongside Mortal Kombat III coming to the Jaguar as a result of their partnership, Defender 2000 and Dactyl Joust were in development for the system. It was also revealed that Jeff Minter, who was previously involved with Tempest 2000, was working on the game and that it would feature three gameplay modes.
Defender 2000 made its appearance on the showfloor of WCES 1995, E3 1995 and Autumn ECTS 95. It was also covered by the magazine press that were invited to Atari Corp.US and UK divisions. During development of the game, Minter said he felt the game would most likely be for the Atari Jaguar CD, and that he intended to use the extra space of the CD-ROM format for a documentary section which would include, among other things, an interview with Eugene Jarvis, one of the creators of the original Defender. The music was composed by Alastair Lindsay. The voice work was done by former Atari tester Tal Funke-Bilu.
Defender 2000 kept being advertised to be released for the Jaguar CD and was originally slated for an October 1995 release and was later pushed back for November 1995. However, these plans were cancelled at some point during development and the game was instead released as a cartridge. The animations for the humans in Plus and 2000 modes were created using motion capture. Minter himself has since referred to the game as "not one of my best works", due to issues that occurred during the games development process when he was an employee of Atari Corp. The game was also showcased during the Fun n Games Day event hosted by Atari.
Defender 2000 received mixed but mostly positive reviews. Air Hendrix of GamePro remarked that while Defender 2000 updated the arcade originals graphics to the modern generation of consoles, the graphics were below average for that generation, and the gameplay was not similarly updated. He also criticized the "slippery steering" and outdated sound effects, and concluded, "Defender still supplies Jag owners with adequate shooting. But that reflects more on the quality of the Jags game library than on this game".
Next Generation contended that the original Defender was only significant because of its remarkable originality, and that the gameplay had not aged well. They commented that, "When isolated from its heritage, Defender 2000 is a fun, good-looking, side-scrolling shooter charged with a pulsing soundtrack. But that description could tag any number of recent shooters." They scored it three out of five stars.
Despite their bleak review of the game, GamePro later awarded it Best Jaguar Game of 1995.
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