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Video Game / Yars' Revenge

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Yars' Revenge is a Top-Down View Shoot 'Em Up for the Atari 2600. Written by Howard Scott Warshaw and released by Atari in 1982, it became the 2600's best-selling original title.

An included comic book sets up the plot: Yars began as ordinary Earth houseflies, who hitched a ride aboard a human spacecraft on a mission to the Razak solar system. The mission ended in catastrophe, but the flies escaped and mutated into super-beings that built advanced civilizations on three of the Razak system's planets. To protect themselves, they created a BFG called the Zorlon Cannon. But before the cannon was finished, an enemy called the Qotile attacked and destroyed one of the planets. So now the Yars must get their revenge by destroying the Qotile.

The game itself started as a port of Star Castle, and still has some of its gameplay elements, such as the main enemy hiding behind a shield, and a smaller enemy chasing you around. You play a Yar, a giant fly that shoots energy missiles. On the right side of the screen is the Qotile, surrounded by a shield. You can shoot away the shield, or come right up to it and eat it. Once you have destroyed enough of the shield, you call in the Zorlon Cannon. Different variations of the game have different methods for calling the cannon. Once you have called the cannon, you position it by moving the Yar up or down. The Qotile is always moving up or down, and the Zorlon fires a Painfully Slow Projectile, so you have to Lead the Target carefully. Then you fire it, and get out of the way or you will kill yourself with your own cannon.

The Qotile cannot directly harm younote , but it does launch a Destroyer Missile that chases you around. From time to time, the Qotile will also turn into a Swirl, that fires at you at high speed. In the center of the screen is a Neutral Zone, where you are safe from the Destroyer Missile, but not the Swirl (being that it is a planet-annihilating weapon), and where you cannot fire. And that includes not being able to fire the Zorlon Cannon.

The game is endless, and the only objective is Scoring Points. More points are awarded for hitting the Swirl with the Zorlon Cannon than hitting the Qotile, and more still are earned for hitting a Swirl in mid-flight (not easy considering that both the Swirl and your own Zorlon Cannon can kill you).

Alternating levels have different shield types. Higher difficulty levels cause the Qotile to become the Swirl more often. But the Red Swirl is always the swiftest and deadliest.

An anime-styled Rail Shooter re-imagining by Killspace Entertainment that made the Insectoid Aliens more humanoid was released on Xbox Live and PC via Steam on April 13th, 2011.

Another re-imagining by Adamvision Studios in the style of their line of Recharged Atari 2600 titles, titled Yars: Recharged, was announced by Atari and was released on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC via Steam and Epic Games Store, Google Stadia, and Atari VCS on August 23, 2022.

In a bizarre Where It All Began Book End, a former Atari employee has created what Warshaw said was impossible: an Atari 2600 port of Star Castle that works and doesn't "suck".

Yars' Revenge provides examples of:

  • All There in the Manual: The original game included a mini-comic entitled "The Qotile Ultimatum" that explains the story, and exactly why the Yars were gunning for revenge.
  • Batman Can Breathe in Space: You aren't in a ship. Yars are stated in the comic to be capable of unpowered interplanetary flight, as well as having a biological Energy Weapon.
  • BFG: The Zorlon Cannon. This becomes Super Weapon Surprise as the Yars use it to blast the Qotile to pieces after they destroy one of the Yar worlds.
  • Boss Game: The whole game is the Yars vs variations of the Qotile, there are no minor enemies, there are no levels to traverse, no mini games.
  • Deflector Shields: The Qotile deploys several different kinds, all of which are edible, no less (due to the Yars being able to eat any substance). Your energy missile also chips away at the shield quite quickly, but the Zorlon missile will just take a single cell out of it and, in some game variations, bounce off (and likely into you - though, again, depending on the game variation this could be a bad or a good thing).
  • Difficulty Levels: Four, with one and two player variations: an easy game (with slow missiles and Swirls), a medium game (with faster missiles and Swirls), a hard game (same as medium, but the Zorlon Cannon bounces off the Qotile's shield and can kill you on the rebound), and Ultimate Yars (same as hard, but it requires you build up a resource called "Trons" to summon the Zorlon cannon; getting hit by the Zorlon Cannon when it bounces off the shield gives you Trons in this variation).
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: The reason the Yars want revenge in the first place; the Qotiles vaporized Razak IV with a Swirl unprovoked.
  • Easter Egg: If you kill a Swirl in mid-air, a black vertical line appears where the Swirl died. It's a Warp Zone, and if you move along it at just the right time and place, it takes you to an ending screen with programmer Howard Scott Warshaw's initials, spelled both forwards and backwards ("HSWWSH"). Unfortunately, it's also an automatic "Game Over", since it freezes on that screen until you reset the game.
  • Energy Weapons: The Yars' shots are described as "energy missiles".
  • Excuse Plot: After you take the Yars' revenge you have to do it again, and again, and's an Endless Game that just makes the scenario different or more difficult each rack up that score!
  • Extreme Omnivore: As noted in the pack-in comic, Yars can eat any substance and convert it to energy missiles.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: You, if you don't get out of the way of the cannon projectile.
  • Homing Projectile: The Destroyer Missles follow the Yar relentlessly. And they get very fast as the game goes on.
  • Insectoid Aliens: Justified in that they're Earth insects that got mutated into intelligent beings while in space.
  • Instant 180-Degree Turn: There is no animation or delay for your Yar when pressing the joystick in the opposite direction.
  • Justified Extra Lives: Always another Yar to send out there.
  • Lead the Target: Shooting the Qotile with the Zorlon Cannon; it's rather slow, so lining it up with the Qotile will result in a miss.
  • The Neutral Zone: Referred to by name and Justified, in-game it's a vertical stripe of rainbow-colored sprites, but in-story it's the irradiated remains of Razak IV. Being inside it neutralizes normal shots from friend and foe alike, but does nothing to stop stronger attacks like the Zorlon Cannon or the Swirls.
    "We are safe from Destroyer Missiles in the Neutral Zone. But, while taking cover there, we lose our own ability to fire and communicate. We are not safe from Swirls in the Zone. They're deadly anywhere'."
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: It's heavily implied that the human astronauts exploring the Razak system were killed by a Swirl, making the ship with the flies onboard crash into one of the planets in the Razak System, giving birth to the Yars in the first place.
  • Nuclear Mutant: The irradiated remains of the human ship is what caused the transformation from houseflies into the Yars.
  • One Bullet at a Time: The Zorlon Cannon shoots one shot at a time, and no more than destroyer missile can be on screen.
  • One-Hit-Point Wonder: Your Yars die from one hit from anything, including your own Zorlon Cannon.
  • Painfully Slow Projectile: The Zorlon Cannon, which works both for you and against you. For you, in that it gives you time to get out of the way; against you, in that you have to set up a shot against a moving target. In-story, this is explained with the same reason that it can end up attacking you by mistake: they couldn't finish the aiming system before the Qotiles began their onslaught.
  • Radiation-Induced Superpowers: Not only did the radiation from the ship transform ordinary house flies into an intelligent race of aliens, it also imbued them with powers such as interplanetary travel and energy weapons.
  • Scoring Points: The main point is to go on as long as you can, score as many points as you can and see if you scored more than your friends.
  • Shoot 'Em Up: A weird take on the classic Shielded Core Boss of the genre.
  • Shout-Out: To Atari CEO Ray Kassar. Yar and Razak are Ray's name spelled backwards. Also the Neutral Zone, and Trons, which are used in some variations to call the Cannon.
  • Spin Attack: The Swirls. It's not clear what they actually are in the comic, but in-game the Qotile transforms into it and flies across the screen.
  • Suppressed History: The comic uses this to justify the Info Dump, with the new recruit to the mission being informed of their race's "sacred past" for the first time. It's unknown what the average Yar believes about their own origins.
  • Top-Down View: Like many games of the era, the one playing field is viewed in its entirety from overhead.
  • Wrap Around: Vertical only, you have to cross the neutral zone the hard way but can reappear on any side of it with impunity.
  • Writing Around Trademarks: As noted above, this was supposed to be a port of Star Castle when the licensing deal fell through. Howard Scott Warshaw decided to rework it into an original game.

The 2011 re-imagining (called "Yar'snote  Revenge") provides examples of:

  • Animesque: This re-imagining's art-style was heavily influenced by Japanese anime films such Hayao Miyazaki's Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind as well as anime-inspired Western animation such as Avatar: The Last Airbender according the game's art director.
  • Arrange Mode: The Challenge mode offers three alternate gameplay modes upon clearing the game for the first time. The Berserker mode features unlimited missiles and Annihilator stock, but cannot use the Shield. The Hardcore mode cuts Yar's maximum HP by half and shields are removed (yet strangely they are still usable and present as drops, and Yar starts out with one from the get-go). Finally the Juggler mode requires players to maintain their multiplier meter up as long as possible otherwise they lose HP to an extent but conversely can recover some by scoring combo chains.
  • Auto-Save: The game saves progress in between checkpoints and clearing stages.
  • Blood Knight: Yar qualifies big time. Seen most clearly in Stages 2 and 3.
    • Stage 2: The Qotile unit commander, wanting to make sure the Ankine queen is destroyed, orders the charging of the Zorlon Cannon, and tells Yar to retreat and leave the Qotile superweapon to kill the queen. Yar refuses, wanting to kill her herself. Cue the Boss Battle!
    • Stage 3: Yar reluctantly runs away or hides when Bar-Yargler tells her to stay away from the Qotile dreadnoughts, but ultimately grows fed up and, when one of them notices her, she attacks it with all she has. Cue Boss Battle!
  • Brainwashed: Yar was subjected to the Qolite's brainwashing to use her to fight against the Yar on their side, but she eventually comes to her senses by Stage 3 and Bar-Yargler informing Yar of her past and she was being used by Qolite.
  • Breath Weapon: General Triatoma and Zyron can shoot bursts of glowing death.
  • Cut and Paste Environments: The game only features three distinct environment types, re-used twice between the game's six stages.
  • Collision Damage: Flying into hazards or on-screen enemies flying into Yar will damage her.
  • Co-Op Multiplayer: The 2011 re-imagine features 2-player local co-op where each player controls Yar and have their own independent reticle, but both share the same lifebar.
  • Cores-and-Turrets Boss: MOG-01, who has a picture of the original game's Qotile on it.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Bar-Yargler is very good at snarking. Yar picks up the habit herself while talking to him, though she can't match his zingers.
  • Deflector Shields: In the Backstory it is the Yars who use one of these, rather than the Qotile. Yar herself can bring up a rainbow shield to restore her health, though it has limited energy. Also, the Ankine bosses can bring up such shields.
  • Difficulty Levels: The game features the standard Easy, Normal, and Hard difficulty levels, each affecting how much damage enemies can inflict to Yar.
  • A Dog Named "Dog": Yar is a member of a race known as the Yars.
  • Easy-Mode Mockery: Playing any game mode on Easy prohibit players from submitting scores to the leaderboards.
  • Energy Weapon: Queen Goptrii and Zyron have lasers that you have to dodge by watching where they scrape across the screen, similar to Sin and Punishment: Star Successor. The main weapons are also called "pulse lasers".
  • Fantastic Slur: The Ankine are called "nectar drinkers".
  • Fighting Your Friend: Zyron and Yar used to be but the former becomes a boss battle for the latter.
  • Forced Tutorial: The game's first stage in Campaign mode restricts you from being able to control Yar or use your weapons until the game tells you how to play the game and interrupt gameplay when a tutorial prompt pops up. The Challenge mode however does not have these interruptions or restrictions.
  • Guns Akimbo: Yar is dual-wielding Pulse Laser guns for her basic attack.
  • Homing Projectile: This time it is Yar who lock on to the enemy and shoot missiles. She can hold up to twelve at a time, however each missile salve can only lock onto six enemies at a time. She can also acquire a temporary helper that seeks out enemies.
  • Humanoid Aliens: Yars are still mutant Earth insects, but they now look like four-armed humans with wings and antennae. The Ankine and the non Yar Qotile slaves are still Insectoid Aliens.
  • Info Dump: The game's cutscenes has no voice-overs and instead uses text over images to convey the game's story between stages.
  • Klingon Promotion: After defeating Queen Aaktamalina, she helped give Yar a purpose in helping free the Yars and lead them into battling the Qotile by appointing Yar as their new Queen.
  • Mind over Matter: General Triatoma can cause rocks to float towards you over matter rocks.
  • Meta Multiplayer: The 2011 re-imagining features online leaderboards for the game's campaign stages and Challenge Modes.
  • Multi-Platform: The game was released on Xbox 360 and PC via Steam within the same month. A PlayStation 3 version was also planned but it was quietly canceled.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The Shield power-up covers Yar in a rainbow-colored barrier not unlike the shield from the original Atari game.
    • The MOG-01 computer displays the symbol used to represent the Qotile in the original Atari game.
  • In Name Only: There is some stuff from the original that remains here (namely, there are the Yars, the Qotile, the Zorlon Cannon, the Yar homeworld is still called Razak), but most of it has been re-imagined, including the gameplay, to the point that you wouldn't think that the original game and this one had much of a link between each other.
  • Macross Missile Massacre: Tarsus starts out shooting missiles straight up, where you aren't at, but then they swerve towards your position.
  • Magnetic Weapon: Yar has a personal rail gun. It's a Weapon of X-Slaying against arachnids and walking tanks.
  • Mid-Season Upgrade: Yar gets a new armor in the beginning of Stage 3. Later on, she also gets the Zorlon Cannon.
  • Not So Stoic: Yar is the stoic until she loses the armor the game starts you in.
  • Power-Up: They come in these varieties as you defeat enemies:
    • Missiles: adds one missile salvo.
    • Swirl: charges the Zorlon Cannon.
    • Shield: creates a barrier that temporarily protects Yar from harm and restores some HP, but she cannot attack while the barrier is up.
    • Seeker: creates a temporary helper that homes in and attack enemies for a brief period of time.
    • Destroyer: creates an electrical discharge that can clear enemy projectiles.
    • Annihilator: increases the damage output of her pulse laser for a short time.
  • Railgun: Yar's other weapon is a Railgun that fires a powerful beam at her enemies, but operates on a cooldown meter between use.
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: As suggested by the title, Yar is out for revenge against the Ankine for breaking her armor, then against the Qotile for suppressing her memories.
  • Scoring Points: The game's scoring hooks is centered around a multiplier meter that builds as you destroy enemies in succession but decreases at varying rates depending if the player is firing or not.
  • Shock and Awe: One of your potential helpers will shoot down enemy projectiles with lightning.
  • Slave Race: Yar's race was once independent, but then the Qotile came to Razak and waged war against them. By the end of the war, the Yars that remained (including the protagonist) were brainwashed into believing they were subservient to the Qotile.
  • Smart Bomb: The Zorlon Cannon removes all enemies from the screen. The Qotile sent spies to steal it from the Yars but you eventually get it back.
  • Speaking Simlish: The characters' voice-over during gameplay consist of bizarre radio feedback noise.
  • Teleportation with Drawbacks: General Triatoma can teleport short distances
  • Third-Person Person: A variation with Yar who refers to herself as "this-one" (sic); also the villains.
  • Title Drop: The game's sixth and final stage is titled "Qolite Labs: Yar's Revenge".
  • Training from Hell: MOG-01 tests warriors with live ammunition .

Yars Recharged provides examples of:

  • Bullet Hell: While mostly faithful to the original's gameplay, the Qotile is much more capable of fighting back this time around, their shields having numerous types of turrets (referred to as "Silorak Cores") built into them.
  • One-Hit Kill: While the Yar is no longer a One-Hit-Point Wonder, the swirls don't care; they're every bit as instantly lethal as in the original game.
  • Power Copying: Destroying Silorak Cores will allow the Yar to use their attacks for a short time.