Lost In Translation/Defender

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This page is a stub for arcade games that are part of the Lost In Translation series using information based on MAME (version 0.113u2).
For an example of preferred content and layout please refer to Out Run or The Ninja Warriors.

Defender marquee.
No screen shot.
Defender control panel.
Manufacturer Williams
Released 1980
2-way Joystick
5 Button(s)
Main CPU M6809 (@ 1.000 MHz)
M6808 (@ 894.750 kHz)
Sound CPU Mono
Raster (Horizontal)
294 x 238 pixels
60.10 Hz
16 Palette colours
Screens 1
ROM Info 14 ROMs
29,696 bytes (29.00 KiB)
MAME ID defender · defcmnd · defence · defendg · defendw · defndjeu · startrkd · tornado1 · tornado2 · zero

About The Game

Defender is an horizontally scrolling shoot-em-up arcade video game.

Your mission, as Captain of the Defender, is to protect the stranded humanoids on the planet surface from the alien abductors. For close-range search-and-destroy accuracy, thrust across the field into the heat of action; for long-range strategy planning, the scanner will give you an overall view of the entire attack force.

It's best to shoot down the alien ships before they reach the humanoids. Once they've captured their prey, you can still destroy them, but then you must also catch the humanoids as they are released from the aliens' grasp and return them to the safety of the planet or they will fall to their death. If an alien swoops down and carries its victim out of your range, the humanoid will mutate, becoming a permanent part of the alien force and the ship, revitalized with incredible powers, will take to the assault with new and deadly vengeance! Throughout the entire mission, you must act quickly or face possible destruction by the cosmic baiter, a most deadly enemy! If all the humanoids are successfully abducted, the entire planet will explode in a blinding flash!

The challenge becomes ever more intense as action progresses. Fighter ships and their mines will soon join the abductors in testing your skill. You must also destroy mother ships. But beware! A direct hit smashes the mother ship into a swarming mass of mini-ships that then must be wiped out!

Use your 2 escape options only if all else fails! The power to activate your 'smart bomb' button which destroys all the enemies in your sight is limited! And 'hyperspace', like Russian Roulette, can backfire! 'Hyperspace' puts you in a time warp, take you out of the immediate space and time, but putting you into a possibly even more dangerous situation! You must think wisely and act quickly for you alone are responsible for the consequences and there's no turning back!

Additional Technical Information

Players : 2

Control : 2-way joystick (vertical)

Buttons : 5



Along with Namco's seminal "Pac-Man", Defender shares the title of 'Highest Grossing Video Game of All Time' and to date has earned more than one billion dollars. It's interesting to note that when the now-legendary shoot-em-up was first shown at a 1981 Chicago arcade machine trade show, it was deemed to be a flop due to its high level of difficulty. Arcade industry insiders confidently predicted that both Defender and "Pac-Man" would be commercial flops and that Namco's "Rally X" would be the next major arcade success.

Defender's attract mode for the game was programmed in just 5 hours.

Defender was noted for both its superb sound and visual effects and, moreover, for its extremely demanding gameplay. This didn't, however, stop players from accumulating millions of points when playing the game. Just minutes after the opening of the AMOA - an arcade industry trade show - Eugene Jarvis and his team - Defender's creators - were burning new ROMs for the game's display due to the fact they plugged the first burn into the board BACKWARDS and fried them. Due to the intimidating controls, hardly anyone at the show played the game and there were even rumours circulating suggesting that both "Pac-Man" and Defender would flop and that Namco's "Rally X" would be the next big hit. Not only did Defender have the highest number of controls (five buttons, in addition to a two-way joystick) but it was also the first video game to feature an artificial 'world', in that game events occured OUTSIDE the on-screen viewing area presented to the player.

Chris Hoffman holds the official record for this game on 'Marathon' settings with 79,976,975 points on January 1, 1984.

Gino Yoo holds the official record for this game on 'Tournament' settings with 230,125 points.

Some bootlegs of this game are known as "Star Trek 1981", "Defence Command", "Defense Command", "Zero" (Jeutel), and "Tornado" (Jeutel).

Defender inspired a catchy hit song by Buckner and Garcia called 'Defender' released on the 'Pac-Man Fever' album.

A Defender unit appears in the 1983 movie 'Terms of Endearment', in the 1983 movie 'Joysticks' and in the 1983 movie 'Koyaanisqatsi - Life out of Balance'.

MB (Milton Bradley) released a boardgame based on this video game (same name) in 1983 : win the most points by using your Defender ships to protect Humanoids from waves of aliens. A set of chance cards will bring the different aliens (Bombers, Landers and Humanoids) into play. Movement is determined with a spinner. Players can move their defenders and aliens.


Defender ROM sets were distinguished by early and later editions. The early edition supported only upright cabinets. In 1981 Williams released a cocktail cabinet version which necessitated extra code to flip the video display and to support a second set of game controls. The editions had some minor differences in the game's attract mode : The early edition gave an erroneous point value of '100' for alien landers; this was corrected to '150' in the later edition. Also, the high score value for player PGD was '14185' in the early edition and '14285' in the later edition.

Early edition ROM sets :

  • Defender (White Label)
  • Defender (Green Label)

Later edition ROM sets :

  • Defender (Red Label)


Target Points
Lander 150
Mutant 150
Baiter 200
Bomber 250
Pod 1000
Swarmer 150

Other Scoring
Action Points
Completely destroying a pod with a smart bomb 1600, 1750, 1900, or 2050
Getting hit by an enemy bullet 25
Saving a humanoid from a Lander 500
Depositing a humanoid onto the ground 500
Humanoid landing onto the ground safely on his own 250

Bonus at the end of each wave
Wave Bonus
Wave 1 Humanoids Left X 100
Wave 2 Humanoids Left X 200
Wave 3 Humanoids Left X 300
Wave 4 Humanoids Left X 400
Wave 5 and above Humanoids Left X 500

Tips and tricks

The enemies that initially appear in each wave are :

  • Wave 1 : 15 Landers
  • Wave 2 : 20 Landers, 3 Bombers, and 1 Pod
  • Wave 3 : 20 Landers, 4 Bombers, and 3 Pods
  • Waves 4 and up : 20 Landers, 5 Bombers, and 4 Pods

  • Avoid using hyperspace unless you are about to die. Fighting off attacks, regardless of the number of enemies, will make you a better Defender player.
  • Baiters can usually be overcome by hitting the reverse button twice quickly. They will fly past you and be in range for your fire power. Do NOT try to outrun them as baiters are faster than your ship.
  • Swarmers are easy to defeat. You can hit reverse as soon as they fly past you and fly behind them. They cannot shoot backwards so you can blast away at will.
  • Shooting a Pod will usually release between 4 and 7 Swarmers. However, there can be a maximum of 20 Swarmers on the screen at any time. For example, if there are 18 Swarmers on the screen and a Pod is hit, it will only release 2 Swarmers.
  • At higher levels, you will need to play God and even sacrifice some Humanoids (by killing them yourself) to preserve the rest of the planet's population. The planet is too large for you protect and you are sparing the Humanoids from a fate worst than death (mutation). Do not worry, these Humanoids reproduce quickly and overpopulation has always been a constant problem. The planet will be fully populated at the start of every fifth attack wave (configurable).
  • See Credits : to see the designers’ credits, do the following while in game play: Down, Reverse, 1P Start, Thrust, Reverse, 2P Start, Fire, Down, 1P Start, Thrust and Fire.
  • The International Date Line : there are reverse lines for Swarmers and Mutants (AKA the 'International Date Line'). If this line is between you and the type of enemy in question, they will travel the opposite direction around the planet to get you (i.e. they won't cross this line to get to you). If a Mutant, say, is following you and you cross the Mutant reverse line (to the left of the big mountain) it will suddenly reverse direction and go around the other way. The same is true for the Swarmer reverse line (located approximately where your ship starts each wave). This doesn't affect Swarmers that you are following behind. If you're on one side of the line and a Pod is on the other and you shoot it open, the Swarmers will fly away from you and you can get in behind them immediately. The best use of these lines is where there are lots of Swarmers and/or Mutants that you don't want to hassle with. You stay near the line and go back and forth over it to keep the enemy on the other side of the planet. This is especially useful in space and waves that get really hairy.
  • Freeze : you can freeze a Defender machine by picking up all ten Humanoids (on any wave, but Wave 1 is your greatest chance at success), stopping all forward motion of your ship, quieting the screen down (i.e. having no enemies moving around on it) and setting all the Humanoids straight down quickly. This seems to work better were the terrain is very close to the bottom of the screen. Everything will freeze, but you can still move your ship up and down. Thrusting will break the spell, so to speak. If you do pick a spot with shallow terrain, some Humanoids will go thru the bottom of the screen and appear suspended in mid-air near the top. This trick is good to use during marathon games when you've reached Wave 256 and need a breather.
  • Some top players begin each round by shooting all the Humanoids except for one, which they pick up. The planet is too large for you protect and you are sparing the Humanoids from mutation, a fate worse than death. This keeps Mutants from developing, but it also means that the planet explodes if you lose your last Humanoid. The planet is fully repopulated at the start of every fifth attack wave (configurable). This can be considered an advanced trick.
  • Due to a bug in the algorithm that computes extra lives, every scoring activity from 990,000 to 999,975 will earn one extra ship and one extra Smart Bomb. If the player suicides on something or gets shot, one ship is lost, but one ship and one smart bomb are awarded; the net effect on the number of ships is zero. Dying on hyperspace re-entry awards nothing, because this awards no points. For winning N ships from 990,000 to 999,975, the player will have to achieve N x 10,000 points after passing 1,000,000 before the game's accounting balances, and ships are awarded properly at 10,000 point intervals again. For example, if a player earns 45 extra lives during this interval, he will have to score another 450,000 points before being awarded another extra life. The player gets to keep surplus ships and bombs and can have super long turns where he may bomb 2 to 3 times per wave to get out of dangerous situations.
  • The trick is this. If the player wins 100+ ships between 990,000 and 1,000,000, this causes the game to start awarding extra lives right away again after turning the score over to zero. If the player wins 100 ships, the machine will have to wait 1,000,000 points to begin awarding ships again. However, since 1,000,000 is equivalent to zero, it awards them immediately at 1,010,000.
  • It's possible on a real Defender machine to make the screen color inverted so that all the black space is white while you are playing. It will reset itself when you die and maybe when you use hyperspace. Smart bomb flashes are cool when it's reversed. The trick was to drop a credit in right when you die and the screen flashes white. Somehow the program gets distracted (non masked interrupt on coin drop?) and the screen stays white.
  • Defender attack waves 'roll over' at wave 100, which is displayed, after being completed, as wave 0. The game keeps track of the actual number of waves, even though they are not shown properly. For example, the next wave will be counted as wave 101, even though it shows being completed as wave 1. The game will 'roll over' again at wave 200, which is displayed, after being completed, as wave 0 as well.
  • The next 'roll over' occurs at wave 256. Upon completion of wave 255, the next wave is a 'blank' wave, in which no enemies appear, and the wave immediately ends after the player’s ship appears on screen. This level is counted and displayed as Wave 0, and the player is awarded a bonus of humanoids left X 0 points (the bonus for this wave is always 0 points). The next is wave 1, and the game now plays just as if the player had started a new game, except the player gets to keep his score and all of his bonus ships and smart bombs.


  1. Defender (1980)
  2. Stargate (1981)
  3. Strikeforce (1991)
  4. Defender 2000 (1996, Atari Jaguar)


Eugene Jarvis (DRJ)
Sam Dicker (SAM)
Larry DeMar (LED)
Paul Dussault (PGD)
Mike Stroll (MRS)
Steve Ritchie (SSR)

Cabinet and Artwork


Atari 2600 (1981)
Atari 5200 (1982)
Entex AdventureVision (1982)
Emerson Arcadia (1982, "Space Squadron")
Atari XEGS
Colecovision (1983)
Mattel Intellivision (1983)
Nintendo Famicon (1983 "Stargate" - Atari)
Atari 2600 (1984, "Defender II" - Atari)
Nintendo Famicon (1988 "Defender II" - Hal America)
Nintendo Game Boy (1995, "Defender / Joust")
Nintendo Super Famicom (1996, "Williams Arcade's Greatest Hits")
Sega Mega Drive (1996, "Williams Arcade's Greatest Hits")
Atari Jaguar (1996, "Defender 2000")
Sega Saturn (1996, "Williams Arcade's Greatest Hits")
Sony PlayStation (1996, "Williams Arcade's Greatest Hits")
Nintendo Game Boy Color (1998, "Arcade Hits - Defender / Joust")
Nintendo 64 (2000, "Midway's Greatest Arcade Hits Volume I")
Sega Dreamcast (2000, "Midway's Greatest Arcade Hits Vol. 1")
Nintendo Game Boy Advance (2001, "Midway's Greatest Arcade Hits")
Nintendo Game Boy Advance (2002)
Sony PlayStation 2 (2003, "Midway Arcade Treasure")
Nintendo GameCube (2003, "Midway Arcade Treasure")
Microsoft XBOX (2003, "Midway Arcade Treasure")
Sony PSP (2005, "Midway Arcade Treasures - Extended Play")
Tandy Color Computer (1982, "Starfire")
Tandy Color Computer (1982, "Planet Invasion")
Tandy Color Computer (1982, "Offender")
Atari 800 (1982)
BBC B (1982, "Defender" - Acornsoft)
TI99/4a (1983)
Commodore C64 (1983)
PC [Booter] (1983)
Apple II (1983)
Commodore VIC-20 (1983)
BBC B (1983, "Super Defender" - Acornsoft)
Acorn Electron (1984, "Guardian" - Alligata)
Acorn Electron ("Gauntlet" - Micropower)
BBC B (1984, "Guardian" - Alligata)
BBC B ("Gauntlet" - Micropower)
Oric ("Defence Force" - Tansoft)
Sinclair ZX-Spectrum (1984, "Starblitz" - Softek Software)
Sinclair ZX-Spectrum (1984, "Defenda" - Interstella Software)
Commodore C64 (1984, "Guardian" - Alligata)
Commodore C64 (1985, "Guardian II" - Hi-tech Software)
Amstrad CPC (1985, "Defend or Die" - Alligata)
Amstrad CPC (1985, "Gauntlet" - Micropower)
Sinclair ZX-Spectrum (1986, "Defenda" - Interstella Software) : 128k version improved sound/graphics.
ZX Spectrum (1990, "Guardian II" - Hi-Tech Software Ltd 'UK')
Atari ST (1990, "Defender II" - ARC developments, Atari UK, limited)
Commodore Amiga ("Defender II", 1990, Arc Software/Llamasoft)
Commodore Amiga (1991, "Zeron"- Acid software)
Commodore Amiga (1994, "Defender" - Shareware)
PC [MS-DOS] (1995, "Williams Arcade Classics")
PC [MS Windows] (1996, "Williams Arcade Classics")
PC [MS Windows, CD-ROM] (2004, "Midway Arcade Treasure")
Microtan 65
VFD handheld game (1982) released by Entex.
VFD handheld game (19??) released by Gakken
Palm OS ("Midway Arcade Classic")
Tiger Game.Com ("Arcade Classics")

Soundtrack Releases

Album Name Catalogue No. Released Publisher Comments
Alicesoft Sound Album Vol. 06-2 - Alice's Residence 7 ASS-011[1] 2004-12-17 Alicesoft 2 CD version.
Pac-Man Fever CBS A2055[2] 1982-01-01 CBS Inc. Vinyl version.
Pac-Man Fever N/A[3] 1999-06-01 bucknergarcia.com / K-tel CD version.
Arcade Ambiance 1981 N/A[4] 2002-01-01 Andy Hofle Digital download only.
Zero The Best Memorial N/A[5] 2001-01-01 Artlim Media Co.Ltd. CD version.

External Links


The contents of this page are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.
The sources used include MAME (version 0.113u2) and history.dat (revision 1.28 - 2008-10-18).
Please see http://www.arcade-history.com for credits.