The Vectrex & Star Fire

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The Vectrex & Star Fire

Post by the89thchris on Tue Aug 08, 2017 6:33 pm

Back in May, Chris Fawcett was interviewed on the Vintage Rebellion (Episode 36) about collecting & refurbishing vintage arcade machines. There was a particular focus on the 1983 Atari Star Wars Arcade machine. Their discussion and praise of the vector graphics used for that game pushed me to YouTube to see what this was all about. I was surprised to realize that I had definitely played this game before, though I couldn’t remember where at the time.

Now that I was sent down the vector graphics rabbit hole on YouTube, it wasn’t long before I came across the Vectrex home arcade console. I considered myself fairly well versed in vintage gaming so I was shocked that I’d never heard of this machine before. I’m sure some of you have, so I’ll link all the information on the console here: [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.]

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The main point is that the Vectrex is the only consumer vector graphics console that was ever released. Another interesting fact: the Vectrex was briefly licensed to Kenner in 1981. They passed on it and after a re-design; it was eventually released by General Consumer Electronics (GCE) in 1982.

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I found a Vectrex for $200 CAD locally within 48 hours of finding out that it existed, and also ordered a multi game cartridge which features every game officially released for the system, as well as "Star Fire", which is an unofficial re-creation of Star Wars Arcade. The Vectrex is much less powerful than the Star Wars Arcade machine from Atari, so the graphics are simplified, but it’s still very fun to play a recreation of that game and actually see it in vector graphics (unlike what you'd see on an arcade emulator). I dare say it’s the second best thing to owning the arcade machine like Mr. Fawcett does, and though those are surprisingly affordable, (as was explained in Vintage Rebellion Ep.36) I live in an apartment and I just can’t picture it. That being said, there aren’t any locally available at the moment and that might be the only reason I don`t have one.  rofl Can't say what would have happened had there been one near by, prices must be considered.  rofl

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There are some other fantastic titles on the multi game cartridge, and to my surprise, there are new games currently in development by the Vectrex community (In fact my MultiCart was assembled last year and "Star Fire" was made in 1999). Some of the games released in recent years (Vector Pilot, for example) look beautiful as well. Almost everyone who has written about this console or vector graphics in general, says that you have to see it for yourself to truly understand why the vector graphics are so compelling, and they are absolutely right. There is a crazy contrast from the black screen to certain points of light which almost look like moving LEDs. This is particularly notable on "Patriot" which is a clone of Missile Command.

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Here are a few shots of the Star Fire game. (There is some video online but none of those guys were able to finish the game on camera.)

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Thought I'd tag [You must be registered and logged in to see this link.] so those guys can see yet another example of their trend setting rockon
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the89thchris
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Re: The Vectrex & Star Fire

Post by ChristianC on Thu Aug 10, 2017 8:27 am

This...is....awesome....!

I'd never heard of it myself.
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Re: The Vectrex & Star Fire

Post by Commander Clint on Thu Aug 10, 2017 2:13 pm

I've never heard of it either.

A nice option for small spaces.
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Re: The Vectrex & Star Fire

Post by the89thchris on Thu Aug 10, 2017 5:16 pm

That's interesting that you guys haven't heard of it either. I just can't imagine that this thing has avoided my radar, I've been going to "retro game stores" for most of my life and never noticed the console or a game. It only had 2 years at retail and only 24 official titles so that's part of the equation. The multi cart I bought has about 60 titles on it lol it has a fairly active community online.

Weirdly though, I think there is some psychological aspect to Not noticing it rofl because I was at a pawn shop recently, (Same one where I found that cartoon logray card and bubble) and they had a boxed Vectrex for $650, in the bottom of a cabinet, covered with game cases for other consoles lol so you don't see it until you look I guess. Not a single game in the place. That said, if you find a Vectrex on the cheap it has an Asteroids like game (better imo) built into it which doesn't require a cartridge.
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Re: The Vectrex & Star Fire

Post by Nico on Thu Aug 10, 2017 6:53 pm

I've heard of it but have never played an original machine, going back a few years I have played on an emulator for Vectrex which while not quite the same it does give you an idea on what games it had to offer rockon

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Re: The Vectrex & Star Fire

Post by the89thchris on Thu Aug 10, 2017 7:22 pm


You're absolutely right about that. I find about 5-6 of the games quite playable. Most of those are recreations of Atari titles lol but the vector display really makes it interesting.

That said, if you want to play the exact Star Wars Arcade (1983) without buying a cabinet the best ways are:

1. M.A.M.E. Emulator, which is free, and then somehow find a rom of the game lol which may not be legal rofl

2. Nintendo Game Cube with a copy of Rogue Squadron 3, the Atari Star Wars Arcade (1983) is a bonus unlockable item, and it's pretty spot on although it's a standard deff console which doesn't look great without an expensive digital output upgrade.
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Re: The Vectrex & Star Fire

Post by hellhippie on Mon Aug 14, 2017 9:56 pm

never heard of it very cool . I played the heck out of the original machine as I basically grew up in an arcade with all my friends . best years of my life really . funny when I hear a 28 year old talk of vintage games as im 45 and was around when the original machines were . its super fun getting old .

on a side note you being into games Chris .. me and the wife have been talking of trying to get an original arcade machine , something like donkey kong or pac land but I just wouldn't know what to do if it broke as electronics are not my strong suite. if it wasn't for that id have owned one for years by now

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Re: The Vectrex & Star Fire

Post by the89thchris on Wed Aug 16, 2017 3:43 am

Yeah assuming you're not wanting to commit to learning how all of the components work & fit together, (like me) then it seems the best route is just having a "local guy" who is qualified to update and repair it. If you're talking something like Pac Man, the parts should be readily available.

There is a pretty good community in the Toronto area for that stuff. We have basically one arcade which is pretty large, they also have a branch that sells old machines which they're switching out of the arcade, as well as maintenance & refurbishing. So here, if we need to, we can always just pay up and go the corporate route and they will source any needed parts. Far better would be just "knowing a guy" lol One crazy thing is that most people don't consider is that most arcade cabinets have very specific consumer repair manuals.
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Re: The Vectrex & Star Fire

Post by arohk on Wed Aug 16, 2017 4:41 am

I remember seeing it, not sure where though. It's one of those unique things that if you seen it or played it you would remember it.
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Re: The Vectrex & Star Fire

Post by the89thchris on Sat Aug 19, 2017 3:25 pm

Yeah I'm pretty happy with it.

Really has the feeling of an arcade cabinet. The screen inserts are a bit of a pain, I just order d a generic "psychedelic" one that isn't game specific.

All the official games came packed with them.
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