For instance, in The Last Starfighter, when your energy is very low and you need to refuel, you'll only have to go to any sun because there are no space stations in the game. In Star Raiders II, you can still drop by the sun (if you don't melt) to refuel in a very fast way or, more safely, go to a space station to refuel (very slowly) and repair. The strategy here is to first go to the sun to recharge very rapidly then go to a space station to repair, the gameplay is already a bit deeper. Note that in The Last Starfighter, if you go to the sun, you will recharge but very slowly like when you're refueling in a space station from Star Raiders II.
In Star Raiders II, you have at your disposal much more functions. Where have they found the memory you will ask me, they simply have dropped The Last Starfighter's spectacular presentation. But it was also necessary to erase the strongest ressemblance between the movie and the game.
The weapons stay the same and see their names unchanged: Press (W) to switch between the star fire (PLC) and the ground fire (SSB's), the access to the ion cannon is still controlled automatically by the computer.
In Starfighter, there are no shields, you need to refuel and repair? Go to the sun, straight ahead! What is not working, my radio? (a graphic signal representing the sub-space radio can appear broken or interrupted meaning that the radio is dead and that your maps won't be updated) Which laser cannon is dead? or is it my SSB's? Unless you take a look at the three squares on the bottom left which would appear black, you won't know until you try each one of them. (I remind you that before Raiders II, the game had no manual...)
The shields really adds a lot to the gameplay, for instance, if you fight the zylon fly fighters without shields, you'll loose less energy but you'll also make your ship more vulnerable to any malfunction, on the other side, if you use your shields, you'll lose more energy but it will be easier to keep your Liberty Star safe from the already mentionned malfunctions.
In Starfighter, you must defend the frontier by destroying all the command ships which are trying to break it: Very simple, you warp to the concerned location and you fire, no need to target, it's straight ahead! In Raiders, the frontier is replaced by the space stations, you must first refuel (a bit long if your energy is low) and then after you go on your way to destroy nine zylon fly fighters, three destroyers and a command ship. So you waste much more time than 1ř) in Starfighter. 2ř) If you had attacked first the zylon squadron when it was in deep space. Don't forget that the clock is ticking and that your cities can be destroyed at any moment by a very smart squadron.
Also, one of the major differences between Starfighter and Raiders is the speed:
- In Starfighter, when your are in deep space, you can maneuver your ship in any direction to fire but you don't make any speed, a.k.a. you're not moving in space but your vessel is moving on itself. In orbit, The Gunstar deserves its rank as the best ship ever made! You can go right, left, forward, fast or slowly, you can even stop and not move but you can especially go backward, very important if you have forgotten a Ko-Dan manufactury behind you!
- In Star Raiders II, you have a constant speed in deep space but you can't control it (that's where Raiders II is really an arcade game compared to the first Raiders). Also, when you are in orbit, you'll only go forward, to the right or to the left, not backward. Here, the speed is at your discretion, a slow approach is more suited if you are fighting against a squadron, on the other side, it makes sense to use a fast approach if you want to jump by manufactury after manufactury to bomb them.
Starfighter and Raiders also share the same kind of difficulty level: In Starfighter, more your level is advanced, more your frontier will be attacked. In Raiders II, it's even more simple! Level one: Three starbases to repair. Level two: Two starbases to repair... Of course, there are only three levels of difficulty!
So, more than a different presentation and a different graphic bonus (the intro and the frontier in Starfighter, the starbases in Raiders II), the two games are really different by their respective gameplay, their action (fast and furious in the case of Starfighter) and their strategy (really improved in Raiders II).
THE LAST STARFIGHTER / STAR RAIDERS II VOCABULARY
I - Spaceships
Mainly, there are three types of ships: The Deckfighters which act as the easiest targets (they really are our tie fighters), The Xurian ships too rare in the movie play the destroyer role in the game and protect the final ship, the Command Ship. The names change between the two "versions" so here is a table of conversion if you wish to find the "spirit" of the movie in your game.
II - Planets
Virtually identical, ATARI had to make a few changes due to to the names copyrighted by the original movie, The Last Starfighter.
Finally, to all the "raiders" who have never tried The Last Starfighter, I just would like to communicate them their order of mission if someday, they wish to become starfighters: "Greetings Starfighter..... You have been recruited by the starleague to defend the frontier against Xur and the Ko-Dan Armada." Don't forget that in bonus you'll have a 1984 fantastic intro so don't hesitate: To try it, it's to adopt it! Some will always say that Raiders II is faster but Starfighter is really "the movie in your Atari" so have a wonderful experience. Let me say it a second time: Too bad, they never released it officially!