Star Force / Mega Force

Introduction

Star Force is one of 4 arcade boards I own. In the mid 80's when the game was new, my friends and I were were all blown away by its graphics, gameplay, and ground breaking enemy AI.

Star Force is your classic vertical scrolling shoot-em-up. The backdrops were stunning for its time and really capture the 'outer space' mood. There are three scrolling planes, a star background, a floating continent and several interesting items / objects that sit on the floating continent.

The enemies are cool, each with a special pattern of movement and behaviour that makes the intergalactic fight interesting. The bullet patterns are quite difficult to master, making this game an incredible challenge.

Game Mechanics

The game does not have a continue feature :-(

The level names are the from the Greek alphabet. There are 24 levels from Alpha to Omega. The 25th and all subsequent levels are called 'Infinity-Area'.

Both the background map and the enemy patterns will repeat if you survive long enough. Basically if you can reach level 25 then you will probably start to see the enemies and backgrounds repeat. It does depend where and how often you have died and how quickly you kill each enemy pattern when it appears.

My Screenshots And Recordings In MAME

The screenshots that follow were possible thanks to the incredible Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator (MAME). Several people have contributed to the MAME project. The project is spearheaded by Nicola Salmoria (the creator). For more details you can visit the official MAME site at http://www.mame.net

The screenshots were created by me by playing repeated games of Star Force in MAME and using its recording function. I then replayed my recorded games and took selective screen shots (by pressing F12).

The screenshots of Infinity-Area were created by using the infinite lives cheat feature available in MAME. Most of the other screenshots were taken from legitimate games (cheats disabled).

In the late 1980's on a real arcade machine I legitimately made it to Infinity-Area once with a score of over 2.5 Million. I don't know if I'll ever be able to repeat this performance.

You can download and playback my (and others) best Starforce recordings yourself by visiting the MAME Action Replay Page (MARP) at http://marp.retrogames.com. Do a search for Star Force. Read the tutorial on how to replay recordings (inp files).

Scoring Bonuses

H bonus

The background has some hidden items that appear when you shoot. If you hit a particular spot a H may appear. If you shoot it you will get 2,000 points. The H's always appear in the same place in every game. The H's only appear in one of two vertical lines right through the entire game map.

Uncovered a H Uncovering Another H
Got one H, uncovering another 2 H's defining vertical H lines

No Miss Bonus

Shoot all the B's and b's in any level to get two 'perfect' 10,000 No Miss bonuses at the end of that level.

A Big B Of Big B's A Big b Of Little b's
13 big B's shaped like a 'B' 11 small b's shaped like a 'b'
All B's and b's Perfect! Another Perfect!
Perfects for all B's & b's in area Perfects again - nice background!

Special Bonus

At various fixed points of the game the music changes and an enemy appears near the top middle of the screen. Four pieces of the enemy ship appear from the edges of the screen and merge toward the enemy ship. The enemy ship flashes white just before the four pieces have joined it. If you shoot and destroy it quickly after it flashes white, before the pieces join it then you will get a 50,000 special bonus. If you miss then the enemy ship will remain invincible until four more pieces of the ship from the diagonal corners of the screen have merged with it. If you shoot before the ship flashes white you won't get the bonus. The special bonus is difficult to perform without autofire.

Piece Appearing Pieces Merging Shoot It Quick
Enemy piece just appearing Several pieces merging - shoot it! Got it just in time!
Bonus On Success Missed! No Bonus
A 50,000 point bonus on success! Missed! Diagonal pieces appear! A harmless ship but no bonus!

Great Bonus

At are two areas of the game where you will see two columns of green arrows down the center of the screen. The first area has 2 X 48 array of arrows that is usually spread across two levels. The second area has 2 X 16 array of arrows. If you shoot 16 arrows in one column (either the left or the right) you will be awarded an 80,000 great bonus. This means that you can get 4 of these if you are good / lucky. If you deliberately die in this area and make the pattern repeat, you can get the bonus again and again for higher scores (at the cost of lives). The arrows themselves are worth 1,000 each when you destroy them.

Line Up The Left Column Shoot 16 In A Line Reap The 80,000 Reward!
Lining up the left column Shooting 16 in a line Reap the 80,000 point reward!

Fortune Bonus - AKA Cleopatra

The Fortune bonus is the most highly coveted bonus in the game. It is also the least known and hardest to get bonus. Between levels 12-16 (around halfway through) there are 3 sections with violet background. At the end of the 3rd section you will see a fish skeleton on the left. If you go to the right side and shoot, your bullets will hit an invisible object that eventually appears as a small icon of Cleopatra. If you then shoot the icon enough times, a cool message appears on the screen and you will receive an enormous 1,000,000 fortune bonus. Even when you know what to do, Cleopatra is extremely hard to get and success usually depends on how many enemies are coming at you during the time when you have to shoot at the Cleopatra icon.

1st Violet Section 2nd Violet Section 3rd Violet Section
The 1st violet section The 2nd violet section The 3rd violet section - A fish?
Shooting Secret Spot Cleopatra Icon Appears Shoot Cleopatra Icon Many Times
Shooting the secret spot Cleopatra icon has now appeared Shoot the Cleopatra icon
Cleopatra Icon Destroyed So Now What? 1 Million Point Fortune Bonus!
Cleopatra icon wasted! So now what? Oh! joy! 1 Million fortune bonus!

Miscellaneous Game Notes

Add-On Ship

After killing the multi-pieced large block ship that appears periodically, the next wave (or two) of enemies will also have a special item that zigzags onto the screen. When shot the item turns into an add-on booster to your ship. With this addon you can move faster and you can shoot faster. Even more important you now have autofire and can shoot simply by holding down the shoot button (less rsi).

The Special Item Shoot It To Reveal Add-On Collect It To Powerup Your Ship
Here's the special item Shoot it to reveal the add-on Collect it to power up your ship

Free Life

You get free lives from score at 50,000, 200,000 and 500,000 points if you are using default dip switch settings. There is one other way to get free lives in the game. At certain points of the game a 2x4 staggered array of question marks appear. Behind one of the question marks is a green smiley face (free life). Under the other 7 question are yellow smiley faces. When you shoot each question mark enough times, its smiley face appears. If you shoot all 8 you will be guaranteed the free life. If you shoot less you may miss out. The placement of the green smiley face appears to be random. A risky but sometimes useful tactic is to collect the free life and deliberately die. The question marks may appear again and you can get a replacement free life. In this way your score goes up but your lives stay the same (one lost, one gained). You can sometimes sustain this trick many times - I have done it over 10 times in some places.

One Of These 8 ?'s Hides A Free Life It's The 5th One This Time
Hmm! Where's the free life? It was the 5th one this time!

The End Level Boss

The bosses at the end of each level consists of an enemy outpost in space. The large base has two guns that shoot at you. The weak spot of the base is a large ship that oscillates from side to side. This large ship does not shoot. You must shoot this large ship 8 times to destroy it and the base. You are scrolled toward the base and its two guns as you fight, so you want to destroy it quickly.

Each subsequent boss (Alpha, Beta, ... , Omega, Infinity) gets harder by moving faster from side to side. The two guns protecting the boss shoot more frequently in later levels.

You can determine which direction the end of level boss will move before it even appears by looking at your score. If the hundreds digit is odd, the boss will move to the left. If it is even, it'll move right.

100's Digit Is 6 So Boss Moves Right Follow Boss To The Right One Toasted Boss!
100's digit=6. Boss moves right Follow right shooting as you go One toasted boss!

If you avoid the boss and the bases bullets and don't shoot the large ship, it will disappear off the bottom of the screen. The game will continue as usual and you will have to repeat that boss again - doesn't seem to be much of a strategy.

Time To Relax

About 2/3 -3/4 of the way through the game you get some very special patterns of enemies where they are all clustered together and don't shoot at you. This occurs for about one entire level. This marks a turning point in the game. It's the lull before the storm. After that, the enemies begin to fire again and the nightmare begins... From then on the enemy patterns are very difficult and they shoot many more bullets.

No Worries! Put Your Feet Up! Relax!
No worries! Time to put your feet up! And relax!
It Doesn't Get Any Easier He's Smiling At Me Like Shooting Fish In A Barrel
It doesn't get better than this! He's smiling at me! Like shooting fish in a barrel!
They Are Falling Down On The Job Maybe They Are On Strike This Is Too Easy
They're falling down on the job! Maybe they're on strike This is too easy!
I Could Get Used To This Maybe It's My Charm This Pattern Ends The Fun
I could get used to this! Maybe it's my charm! This patterns ends the fun

Playing Tag

There are two types of enemies that you can take advantage of. Usually, if they are on the screen then no other enemies will appear until they have been destroyed. They don't shoot you if you leave them alone. They will follow you faster and faster the longer they are on the screen. Eventually you will have to shoot them because they move too fast. The advantage is that the game is scrolling while this is happening and you can get right through a large part of the level without meeting anymore enemies.

These Guys Don't Shoot Until You Do These Guys Never Shoot
These don't shoot until you do These guys never shoot

The Ending

There is no cinematic ending. Like many true arcade classics, Star Force continues until your last life is lost. After finishing Omega-Area (stage 24), you enter Infinity-Area. The level number is incremented at each new level but the infinity symbol remains as the level icon.

Finishing Omega-Area About To Enter Infinity-Area Finished Infinity-Area
Finishing Omega-Area About to enter Infinity-Area Finished Infinity-Area

Some In Play Game Shots That Took My Fancy

Alien Structures Beautiful Background An Explosion
Alien structures Beautiful background An explosion
Another Explosion Awesome Backdrop Earning My Stripes
Another explosion Awesome backdrop Earning my stripes!
Yet Another Explosion Keeping Them At Bay Three Unique Enemies
Yet another explosion Keeping them at bay! Three unique enemies
The End Of The Star Force Map Ugly Faces More Ugly Faces
The end of the Star Force map Ugly faces More ugly faces
Yet More Ugly Faces Ouch! Lightning Fast Enemies Interesting Enemy Pattern
Yet more ugly faces Ouch! Lightning fast enemies Interesting enemy pattern