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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 you, 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.
Yars' Revenge provides examples of:
- All There in the Manual: The plot.
- BFG: The Zorlon Cannon.
- Deflector Shields: An edible one, no less.
- Difficulty Levels: Four, with one and two player variations.
- 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".
- Endless Game
- Energy Weapons
- Excuse Plot
- For Massive Damage: The Zorlon Cannon.
- The Golden Age of Video Games
- Hoist by His Own Petard: You, if you don't get out of the way of the cannon projectile.
- Insectoid Aliens: Justified in that they're Earth insects that got mutated into intelligent beings while in space. In the remake, they're still mutant Earth insects, but they look like 4-armed humans with wings and antennae
- Instant 180 Degree Turn
- Justified Extra Lives: Always another Yar to send out there.
- Lead the Target: Shooting the Qotile with the Zorlon Cannon.
- One Bullet At a Time
- One-Hit-Point Wonder
- 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.
- Scoring Points
- Shoot'Em Up
- 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.
- Top Down View
- Wrap Around: Vertical only.
- 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 reimagining (called "Yar's" Revenge) provides examples of:
- Bare Your Midriff: Yar.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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 reimagined, 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.
- Mid-Season Upgrade: Yar gets a new armor in the beginning of Stage 3. Later on, she also gets the Zorlon Cannon.
- Name's the Same: Yar's race is known as the Yars.
- Not So Stoic
- Roaring Rampage of... well, you know
- Samus Is a Girl: Yar is now a woman with insect wings.
- 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.
- Third Person Person: A variation with Yar who refers to herself as "this-one" (sic); also the villains.
- The placement of the apostrophe is important