Back in 1984, Atari was hard at work on both an arcade and an Atari 800 title by the name of The Last Starfighter, based on the movie of the same name. As the movie bombed at the box office, both projects ended up getting axed although to salvage some of the cost and work, someone decided to take the Atari 800 version of the game and they renamed it to Star Raiders II. Released in 1985 when the Tramiel’s were busy focusing on launching the ST line of computers, it was one of the few Atari titles released that year.
It turns out that there was another Star Raiders II that had been in development in 1984. Not many people, even hardcore Atarians like myself knew this existed. Here’s the long story short by the game’s original designer, Aric Wilmunder
In 1983 I was hired by Atari Corporate Research and in ’84 I transferred to Atari Coin-Op where I was part of a small R&D team under Lyle Rains, the brains behind Asteroids and Atari Football. I was tasked with designing and building a sequel to Star Raiders, the most sophisticated space battle simulator of it’s time. While I was still working on the design, Atari Marketing had purchased the rights to develop games based on the movie The Last Starfighter, and when the movie did poorly at the box-office, they quickly re-branded the Atari 800 game as Star Raiders II. The actual sequel that I was coding was just a few months from completion and as a result it never shipped, but it did serve as my resume when I went to work for George Lucas’ fledgling games group, Lucasfilm Games. So after more than 30 years sitting on a floppy disk in my garage, here’s the true Star Raiders II.
It looks like Atari historian Curt Vendel had a hand in helping the recovery of this as he was one of the few that knew about it; either way the game can be obtained for free to play in an emulator or on a device that plays .atr files on real hardware at this link.