Star Wars Hints

Should you be lucky enough to either know an arcade that still has Star Wars or even own the game yourself, here are some hints on how to play. Please note that I did not write this document, so I can't answer any questions about it!

From: (Keith Jarett)
Subject: Star Wars Play Hints (Long!)
Date: 2 May 1995 17:42:14 -0700
Message-ID: <3o6jh6$>

Anyone who wants to archive this post for a FAQ or whatever has my permission to do so.
Keith Jarett

This is an update of my July 29, 1994 post. After much practice, I have achieved reasonable proficiency at Star Wars. A week ago I set a new personal high score of 15 million and change on Wave 56. It took an hour and 45 minutes! This was 5 million and 17 waves better than my second-highest score two months ago. Of course my machine is set to Easy with 9 starting and 3 bonus shields. I may change that after I reach Wave 99 once.

Here is a compilation of information from all four replies to my 1994 request for Play techniques for Star Wars. I have added a few of my own observations here and there in square brackets. Three of these folks had amazingly high scores, for example: (Michael W. Zintl) "walked away from the machine with a high score over 30 million" on a two shield end-of-wave bonus. This is just amazing! (Glenn Mandelkern) achieved a score of "56,550,191. This was on WAVE 99, having gone through it many times. Essentially once you're on WAVE 32, it's just like any other wave, the number just does not increment past 99." Nice to know; I doubt I'll ever see that for myself. I assume Glenn's machine was giving a 3-shield bonus.

Staffan Ulfberg says, "I used to have 6 starting shields, no extra shields when death star is destroyed, and game setting on Hardest. Having the game set up this way I have reached level 20 once. (Around 3 100 000 points if my memory serves me well.)" Note that Staffan was NOT using the Force (i.e., he was shooting at the fireballs in the trench), but reaching wave 20 with a TOTAL of 6 shields is phenomenal!

Regarding the Force, Michael explains it:

"If you can get through the entire catwalk sequence without firing, you get an extra bonus at the end. The bonus is 5000 at the end of wave 1, and goes up to 100,000 for waves 7 onward. It's tough, but it can be done, even with no shield damage."

Based on Staffan's score, I would have to say that one has a choice between going for a high score using the Force or a high wave number shooting when necessary. But (Roger Sunshine) reports "I find it much easier to navigate the trenches while using the force since I can concentrate on avoiding things instead of shooting turrets and enemy shots." [I agree! And besides, how could a Star Wars fan resist "Using the Force"?]

Of the play hints, the most helpful to me was:

: One specific question is: How do I avoid taking a hit from the 
: fireballs defending the exhaust port?  

From Michael:

The fireballs aim for the position you were at when they were fired, so you need to decoy the enemy turrets.

When you clear the last of the catwalks, drop as low as you can and wait for the turrets to fire. When they do, climb up and shoot at the exhaust port. That's one way; another is simply to climb high once you've cleared the catwalks and fire at the exhaust at your earliest convenience. It's easier to hit the port from high up, since the [target is larger from that angle].

You only need to hit the exhaust port once. Whatever you do, don't go after the fireballs; they're a waste of time. When you hit the exhaust port, the fireballs simply disappear, and you won't have to worry about them any more.

Staffan sent me much the same approach, with the addition that: "if a fireball is fired just behind a barrier, it is almost always possible to avoid it by first passing the barrier and then making a sharp turn. Of course I think this should be avoided when possible due to risk of hitting either the fence or the fireball...

I like to avoid as many fireballs as possible without shooting them, and give most of my attention to controlling the X-wing fighter's trajectory in the channel. Try to shoot the fireballs as early as possible, to give you more time to plan how to avoid remaining fireballs and fences."

Glenn gives another possible strategy, which I have not yet mastered:

After WAVE 8, every exhaust port ending is the same, i.e., a catwalk with 6 sections, then one with 2.

My approach to this is to aim the cursor very high towards the end so that the topmost turrets in the ending area shoot, but the bottom ones do not. This allows me to then sweep down fast after passing the 2 section catwalk and shoot my one shot into the exhaust port.

[I was unable to avoid being hit by the fireballs from the topmost turrets unless I swept down before the 2 section catwalk. Therefore my strategy was to sweep low for the turret firing, then climb to shoot the exhaust port. It worked fine for me.]

The second helpful point was mentioned by Roger:

"I find it easiest to deal with the towers by drifting to the right continuously and generally ignoring towers on the left side of the screen (don't worry, the tower playfield is fairly small in both depth and width, so they'll be back.)"

[This was a VERY helpful comment. I would now add that it often helps to reverse directions once, and only once, after most of the tower tops have been cleared. Reason: some of the tower tops are easier to hit (fewer obstacles) from the left, others from the right. After a while you will get a feeling for when to reverse field. Just use the Force! :)

I still have trouble clearing the tower tops on Wave 11, though.]

In my request, I wrote:

: In the FAQ it mentions that you can get 21 extra shields by hitting 
: Vader's ship 30 or so times, which is said to be nearly impossible.
: I would certainly agree, but any tips on how to do this would also 
: be appreciated.

There was universal skepticism about this. I think it's urban (arcade) legend.

I also asked:

: When you change the difficulty from easy to hard, exactly what 
: changes?

We don't seem to have a definitive answer here. Roger says: "Generally, the number of shots outstanding at a time. The speed through the trenches and towers may also increase, but I can't really tell (it seems way too fast as is :-)"

Glenn, who knows PLENTY as you'll see below, says: "The rate of the fireballs being shot by TIE Fighters, towers & bunkers and turrets."

Miscellaneous hint:

Michael suggests: "If it seems like you're hitting the catwalks a lot on the higher waves, try leading into them a little early. It won't feel comfortable at first, but it does work, and you won't hit as many."

[Takes some practice to get this right, but it is a good hint.]

Now I will quote the rest of Glenn's reply, since it was such an amazing treasure trove of facts...

The things to learn about STAR WARS are its patterns in the three sections making up the game. I'm primarily going to talk about WAVE 5 and up since this is the fastest way to get a high score.

TIE Fighters

From WAVE 5 to WAVE 32, there are two basic formations based upon whether the WAVE is odd or even. After WAVE 32 the TIE Fighter starting formation is the same as for the previous even waves.

The key to this phase is to realize that there is only one ship on the offensive. Also, there are at most 3 enemy ships on the screen at one time, namely 2 TIE fighters and Darth Vader. In order to get heavy points off of Darth Vader, try to get him with one of the TIE fighters around. Then shoot him while he's on the offensive. After you shoot him, it'll be the TIE fighter's turn to be offensive. Shoot that TIE Fighter's fireballs, but don't shoot the TIE Fighter. Darth Vader will be idling close by and that's when you should keep pounding on him. There is a small time that your shots will not give you 2,000 points for shooting him, during that time you can defend yourself from the TIE fighters fireballs.

Another thing to do is to shoot the fireballs in the order that they appear, especially when you are bombarded by them.

[Keith's note: the words on the Death Star are "MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU" on the odd waves, and the designers' names on the even waves. I haven't checked above Wave 32 yet. I don't get there very often. :) ]


WAVE 3 to WAVE 11 present you with the basic tower formations. WAVE 12 to WAVE 20 then present you these same formations, but 4 towers are added.

From WAVE 21 up, you'll only see the tower patterns that came from WAVE 15 to WAVE 20. In fact, when the tower screen starts for WAVE 21 and up, if you see TOWERS 31, you'll know that it's the same configuration of towers seen on WAVE 19, which is 4 more towers than those from WAVE 10. The least number of towers here will be 24, from WAVE 15 and 16, the highest is 32.

Another thing that helps is to think of the towers area as being the surface of a spherical planet. If you keep going in the same direction, eventually you'll return to the same spot. Applying this to the towers area, if you spot a tower early that you miss, don't waste time trying to go after that one tower by moving back and forth. This will cost you time-wise for getting the others. Instead, keep veering to the right or left (your choice) and keep going after tower tops. Eventually, the one you missed in the beginning will reappear.

[If there are many laser turrets (the red ones), you can sometimes decoy their fireballs by momentarily switching directions (right-left) just before they fire. Then switch back to the original direction, and the fireballs will not be in your way. You can also decoy the fireballs or avoid them with up-down motion.

As a simpler strategy, you can do a maximum left or right turn and the fireballs will not reach you. Of course, you may miss an opportunity to shoot a tower top this way.]


The main thing to do in the trench to get the most points is to USE THE FORCE. This means to go through the trench without firing. Only fire into the exhaust port when getting near the end and the message appears saying, "100,000 POINTS FOR USING THE FORCE".

If you really want to become good at the trench part, then USE THE FORCE every time, even if the top of the screen reads SHIELD GONE.

	Each catwalk can be viewed as containing 8 sections
	\ A \ B	\
	/   /	/
	\ C  \D	\
	/   /	/
	\ E \ F	\
	/   /	/
	\ G \ H \
	/   /	/

Each of the sections may be present or not, thus allowing 2^8 combinations. Of course, the all present and all-not-present cases are not seen nor used. Not all 256 possible ones appear. But if you'd like a good exercise, consider writing a program that displays all 256 combinations. Then take a good look and think, where would I go if I saw this? Once you feel comfortable with that, try thinking where would you go if you saw two different ones back to back. Then carry this over to the game by learning to look ahead into the distance to see what catwalks are coming up and devising a plan.

You'll probably need to get into this mode of thinking in the beginning on a catwalk-by-catwalk basis.

Again, the key to mastering the trench part is to recognize the repertoire of patterns. 8 catwalks put together make up a catwalk set. There are 16 catwalk sets in each trench.

From WAVE 6 to WAVE 11, you will see several catwalk sets. From WAVE 12 up, the catwalk sets will appear in random orders. However, the catwalk sets themselves are those that you have seen from WAVE 6 to WAVE 11. WAVE 8 and WAVE 9 contain the most.

So the key to getting ahead through WAVE 12 and up in the trench is to recognize the catwalk set, (if you can name the WAVE you saw it in originally, that'll cement the catwalk sets in your brain).

The trench has turrets that shoot fireballs. I like to coax the turrets to shoot. They sense where my cursor is and will shoot. When getting to that area, I can then turn opposite from them or have enough knowledge of where fireballs are appearing in order to maneuver away from them.

[When you need to go through a small opening (such as the one open section in a 7-section catwalk), you should *not* line up early with the opening. Instead, position your ship elsewhere and wait until the last possible moment to make your move. Then the fireballs will generally miss you.]

After WAVE 8, every exhaust port ending is the same, i.e., a catwalk with 6 sections, then one with 2. From my drawing above these would correspond to CDEFGH, then EF. My approach to this is to aim the cursor very high towards the end so that the topmost turrets in the ending area shoot, but the bottom ones do not. This allows me to then sweep down fast after passing the 2 section catwalk and shoot my one shot into the exhaust port.

Point the cyan cursor at the exhaust port itself. Realize that when you shoot the exhaust port, all fireballs are extinguished. Don't bother trying to shoot the fireballs first, just shoot the exhaust port.

Return to Lee's classic video game info.
Created: 15 Apr 1996; Last Modified: 17 Aug 1996