Back in 1983 or so my brother and I got so good at Star Raiders that we could -- no lie -- hit Star Commander Class One (the game's top rank) some 80% of the time on the Commander level mission.
It got to the point that in order to compete, we started tracking how quickly we could finish the game. You'd play until there was only one Zylon ship left, flip the chart up to see the clock, and then count the final seconds before you nailed that last ship.
My best time: 6.9 minutes
A few of my favorite tactics...
1. Upon arriving in a sector immediately go to the sector scan and flip the stick around to see how far the enemies (or starbase) are from you. If they're far away, turn so you're heading right towards the nearest one and let your residual speed from hyperspace close the distance as you slow to a stop. If enemy ships are right on top of you, turn so they're BEHIND you, use the residual speed to get some distance, and then roll them back in front and switch back to the forward view. This doesn't work well on the 800 because you can't turn the ship anywhere near this fast.
2. Enemy ships become visible at range 130. If an enemy ship is approaching from beyond this range, line it up using the X and Y coordinates (the closer both are to +0 they more directly in front of you the target is), and watch the range. When the range hits 135 pop off a couple of torpedoes. The Zylon appears as a faint speck at range 130, and often you can push the stick and "nudge" the torpedo into it at over 120 away. Drives your friends crazy because you can destroy the suckers before they're even really visible.
3. Don't use the engines. I use the engines only in two situations: 1) to close on Zylons that didn't automatically head for me, and 2) to evade Zylons that got behind me. Otherwise, I get within range of them and they usually turn to attack. I go to speed 0 (stop) and then just pick them off.
4. If the shields get destroyed, slam on hyperspace without even looking at the map, and place the hyperspace target just off center of your crosshair...you'll end up in the next sector over (hopefully free of enemy ships) and can plot a course to starbase from there.
5. Never use the Tracking mode. It's just confusing.
6. Use AFT view only to evade a shot you know is coming from behind, and do it only while gunning the engines (speed 9) to get away.
7. Lock-ons. Forget it. Get a Zylon in your crosshairs and it's as likely to shoot you as you are to destroy it. To destroy those pesky, shielded Basestars, I just try to get them right in front of my torpedo tube...at that range I can just slam shots into them so fast they blow up, and it's much easier to dodge their return fire.
8. Turn off the shields any time you're not around enemy ships. As soon as I wiped the last enemy from a sector it's shields off, chart up, select next target, hyperspace, sector scan, look for enemies (described above) and pop shields on only when they're within danger range (under range 140).
9. Watch the power a hyperspace jump takes (on the Galactic Chart). If the value goes up too high, do two short jumps. Takes a few seconds longer, but the power you save is more important to a top score.
I've played pretty much every single version of Star Raiders on the various machines. I find the 5200 version to be the most playable, followed by the 800 (nearly identical), the 2600, and worst of the lot, the 520ST. The game Star Raiders 2 isn't Star Raiders at all.
The differences between the 800 and 5200 versions are:
--800 version says Star Cruiser 7 was destroyed "by Zylon fire" even if you run into an asteroid. The quoted text was removed from the 5200 version.
--The 800 version uses flashing specks for all objects on the Sector Scan, making it difficult to tell an asteroid from an enemy ship. On the 5200 they have distinct icons. Not a big deal normally, but on the 800 if your combat computer gets damaged and you want to steer after an enemy ship without the "dash" working, you might end up chasing down a rock.
--The 800 has digital steering control. 8 directions. One turning speed. On the 5200 the analog sticks are fully supported, so you can slam hard over to avoid enemy fire. It also makes it easier to zero a target in your crosshairs, and to finesse the hyperspace steering.
--On the 800 you have to manually switch to Fore View once hyperspace is engaged on the Galactic Chart. On the 5200 it flips back automatically. On the 800 if you don't flip back manually, the hyperspace engages super-fast.
Finally, the biggest difference is the much-maligned 5200 controller. Because all the functions are in your hand instead of on a keyboard, a good player can thumb buttons and switch modes while steering AND firing, which gives you an advantage.
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