It isn’t always easy to change long standing thinking, but doing reviews like this have helped me to honestly reevaluate many games. While most have held up to my memory, there are some that have not. This can be good (see Immercenary – 3DO) or, in the case of Defender 2000, maybe not so good.
Defender 2000 is really 3 games in 1. Classic Defender, which I grew up with on the 2600, is nostalgic fun. Short bursts are entertaining, but actually I think that it hasn’t aged particularly well in comparison to other arcade hits from the early 80’s.
The plus version (my favorite
) is close enough to the original, but adds some nice additions that compliment it. The option to choose a partner AI droid is helpful. The spiffed up graphics definitely make the game more pleasing to the eye too, despite the fact that there seems to be little rhyme or reason behind the shifting color scheme (I often found it distracting ... especially in intense moments)
Defender 2000, for which this collection is named, is meant to be the main highlight. You’d think that this would be the best version on the cart ... but actually, in my honest opinion, it is the worst.
True, it does have the best graphics of the bunch (although they aren’t great) but unless you are watching a friend play you won’t be able to notice much of them. Constant monitoring of the radar is a must to make any real progress in this version, and it stinks!
It is antiquated design, which has no business in a mid 90’s games. This is my main gripe, though certainly not my only one.
Another poor choice was deciding to let the screen scroll not just left to right, but up and down also. I don't not care for this at all. It makes the game feel too
different. Add in your oversize ship (an easy target), and jacked up speeds and you have a game that nearly borders on unplayable in certain sections with so much going on! Dammed if you do, dammed if you don’t! Go too slow, and the shrieking humans will be captured. Go too fast, and you’re bound to crash into something. It just isn’t fun, and is saddled in poor game design. All the more noticeable after the great Tempest 2000 in which Minter gained heavy fame among Atari fans, and (to a much lesser extent) the general video game public.
Like Tempest, the music is very good.
Quite similar actually (maybe too
much so, though not quite as catchy) If you don’t like techno though, its doubtful you’ll like this. The score probably deserved a soundtrack release like Tempest, but it arrived too late in the Jag’s life to make it viable.
There is a 4th game, a bonus called Plasma Pong. Same pong its ever been, with the addition of more gratuitous amounts of shifting colors and paddles that seem stiffer. At first it was fun, but the fun quickly wore thin.
Defender 2000 has its positives, but upon reflection it is not as easy to recommend as I thought. Classic defender is good, but I’m sure many already own a version (same w/Pong) The ballyhooed Defender 2000 is poor. So I find myself left with Defender Plus, which is flawed but fun in small bursts. Do I recommend Defender 2000? Yes … but I wouldn’t pay the high asking price you’ll normally find attached to it.