The sophisticated vector graphics of the Vectrex brought gamers one step closer to the arcade experience.








This is the story of two games.  The first is Defender, a loud, obnoxious American who never thinks twice about leaving his dirty socks, or hundreds of aggressive enemies, all over the place.  The other, Space Invaders, is polite, refined, and annoyingly anal retentive.  His strict Japanese upbringing has taught him to keep everything in his collection perfectly organized... even his formations of steadily marching aliens.  Can these two classic video games live in the same cartridge without driving each other crazy?

Believe it or not, these two entirely different games can co-exist peacefully, and even complement one another.  When you're overwhelmed by the swarms of landers and baiters in Protector (the Vectrex conversion of Defender), you can simply reset your Vectrex and play a few rounds of Y*A*S*I to calm your nerves.  When you've lost interest in the slower, less demanding gameplay of Y*A*S*I (short for "Yet Another Space Invaders"), it's time to hit that reset button again and experience the unrelenting intensity of Protector.

This odd couple has the kind of synergy you don't often see in classic game compilations, which offer a handful of similar titles, all created by a single company with a specific approach to game design.  No matter what you choose to play, there's a homogeny to the gameplay that eventually makes the entire collection boring.  Protector/Y*A*S*I never suffers from this, however, because you couldn't possibly pick two more different 80's shooters than Defender and Space Invaders.

When you've got two great games on a single cartridge, it's important to keep them evenly balanced so that one game doesn't eclipse the other.  Designer Alex Herbert has accomplished this by putting an equal amount of effort into both Protector and Y*A*S*I. 

Protector is important to the collection because it brings a new style of gameplay to the Vectrex... a blisteringly fast side-scrolling shooter that offers more to do and more incentive to do it than the many Asteroids clones on the system.  It takes a while to get used to the convoluted control... rather than pressing left or right to go in those directions, you must thrust, then turn your ship to face enemies.  However, this gives the game a better sense of inertia, and a lot more challenge, than its closest Vectrex equivalent Scramble.

Y*A*S*I is just as important for introducing an amazing visual technique, which brings raster scan graphics to a system with vector graphics.  This makes not only the graphics much closer to the arcade original than previous Space Invaders clones on the Vectrex, but the gameplay as well.  When you fire at one point of a barrier, you'll eventually peck a hole through it, rather than steadily weakening and eventually destroying the entire structure at once.  This gives the player strategic advantages that just weren't available in John Dondzila's Vector Vaders.

It's tough thinking of ways that the two games could be improved.  Alex Herbert thought of pretty much everything, from the thrilling special effects in Protector to the ability to control your base in Y*A*S*I with either the joystick or buttons.  I can come up with a few complaints, but they're pretty minor.  I can't help but wonder why a cartridge with battery backup doesn't give you the option to save your controller configuration in Protector.  I also get a little annoyed when the screen calibration menu pops up every time I play Y*A*S*I.  I've adjusted this once already... do I have to go through this again?  Furthermore, is it even necessary to have this whole screen calibration stuff in the first place?  How much different could my Vectrex be from everyone else's?

That's really all I can bitch about in this collection.  Everything else in Protector/Y*A*S*I is spectacular... it's the best Vectrex homebrew you can buy, and even outperforms the vast majority of commercially released titles on the system.  A Vectrex without Protector/Y*A*S*I is like a Dreamcast without Soul Calibur, or a Nintendo 64 without Super Mario 64... or Jack Klugman without Tony Randall.


tech specs


Motorola 68A09


1.6 MHz




cart, 64K max




240RB40 display









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