Space Pirates is a live-action laserdisc video game, released by American Laser Games for the arcade and various platforms between 1992 (see 1992 in video gaming) and 1994 (see 1994 in video gaming). The title is considered one of the poorer releases by the company, due to badly digitized special effects, poor acting and an overly simple plotline, though the latter is often an argument against most of the American Laser Games releases. The game was re-released for several platforms by Digital Leisure around 2003 (see 2003 in video gaming), with updated sound and video, among others.
The player assumes the role of a "Star Ranger" who picks up and responds to a transmission by Ursula Skye, the commander of a starship called Colonial Star One. The SOS call lets the player know that the ship has been invaded by an evil group called the Black Brigade, led by Captain Tallinn. As the entire colony on board the ship is in danger, the player answers the distress call and attempts to confront the Brigade.
The player's goal is to eliminate all the opposing villains, and ultimately Captain Tallinn, and destroy the Black Brigade's ship, the Black Dragon. The final objective must be completed using the Star-Splitter Cannon, whose elements - as well as the crystals needed to power it - are spread throughout various locations, from which they must be collected and used to assemble the weapon.
The Black Brigade is and its allies attempt to stop the player's progress, and the only way to defeat them is to shoot them using the default laser weapon. As in all American Laser Games releases except Who Shot Johnny Rock?, the player character's name is not given, and he is referred to throughout the game as "Star Ranger". Following a short target practice tutorial, consisting of shooting at fast-moving asteroids, the player heads out to the Black Dragon to defeat the space pirates.
If the player is successful in freeing the captives aboard, including Commander Skye, the next task is to find and assemble the Star-Splitter Cannon, which, aside from its main component, requires three crystals to work: the Aqua Blue, the Crimson Red and the Emerald Green. Each of the components can be found on a separate planet, bringing the total of planets the player can visit in any order up to four. However, the crystals must be placed in the weapon in a specific order, which is given to the Star Ranger by Commander Skye. On the four planets, the player encounters heavy opposition, but once the elements are collected, the final task is to destroy the Black Dragon with the Star-Splitter Cannon, then eliminating its captain.
Space Pirates is similar to all other full motion video releases by American Laser Games in that the player rarely makes decisions other than selecting a planet and shooting villains. The action is propelled automatically, and only stops when one fails to kill a foe - who, in such cases, does not spare the player - or hits an innocent civilian or colonist. When this happens, energy units are deducted from the Star Ranger's life-support system, and a short clip is shown in which an old man - played by Ben Zeller, the prospector and stagecoach driver in Mad Dog McCree and Mad Dog II: The Lost Gold, respectively - gives general advice and scolds the player for the mistake made.
The Star Ranger's weapon of choice is a laser gun, which also happens to be used by the Black Brigade. The energy in the gun is limited, but can be quickly restored an infinite number of times. The gun is also used to choose paths and make simple decisions like shooting the appropriate spot in order to free prisoners. In the PC version of the game, the player can use either a mouse or a light gun to control the action; the PC version lacks a two-player mode.
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