The Vectrex community was taken by surprise in 2003 when the announcement of the upcoming, original release of Protector was revealed, as Alex Herbert envisioned that the arcade classic of Defender could be brought to the Vectrex. Many people were stunned when a downloadable video was posted as well, showing that the fast and furious gameplay from the original did indeed seem to be possible after all. It quickly sold out of its 100 copies upon release, which came with an overlay (a bit rare for Vectrex homebrews in general), were numbered and had an embossed foil logo on its box. It also came with the Spike Goes Down game included with it as well as an unlockable bonus.
Then later on that year, the unlimited edition of Protector was released, although with a different game included, being Y*A*S*I, which stands for "Yet Another Space Invaders", as that game was a clone of that arcade classic (hence the title of this release being Protector/Y*A*S*I this time around). Again this was a bit of a surprise within the Vectrex community, as a lot of gamers in general didn't know that the Vectrex is capable of producing raster graphics as well, which Y*A*S*I proved by looking almost exactly like it's arcade cousin, having bitmapped, rather than vector graphics (note: Spike Goes Down also had raster graphics as well, it's just that this unlimited version is more well known, especially since the ROM for Spike Goes Down has yet to be released years later). No overlay was provided this time around though.
Protector/Y*A*S*I instantly became one of the "must haves" for the Vectrex and was originally sold on the Vectrex Carts web site until that was taken over by John Dondzila, where it is still available to this day at his Classic Game Creations site. Both versions are for one player only.
Like the Defender original, the player controls a ship that flies over a planet's surface. Potentially the only enemy at the beginning are Landers, which do not move very quickly but occasionally shoot at the player. However, there are humanoids on the surface of the planet that the Landers can pick up, which, if they are to reach the top of the screen with a humanoid, the Lander will then turn into a Mutant, which moves much faster and fires more aggressively than a Lander. If all humanoids are taken captive during a wave then the planet will explode, causing all Landers to become Mutants, and "free space" is very difficult to survive for most players in general. The planet gets restored after every four waves though.
Also, if a player takes too long during a wave, a fast-moving Baiter will appear and cause trouble until the player finishes a wave, which they will then receive a bonus for whatever humanoids are still remaining multiplied by the wave number.
From the second wave on, slow-moving Pods are worth a thousand points each, but they will deploy fast, dangerous Swarmers when destroyed. Bombers do not move quickly though, but they leave bombs behind that will destroy the player’s ship upon impact.
Luckily the player starts out each game with three Smart Bombs that will destroy everything onscreen (not counting Swarmers if Pods are bombed without being shot first) and an extra life is awarded with every 10,000 points.
- button 1: reverse
- button 2: thrust
- butten 3: fire
- button 4: Smart Bomb/hyperspace
(Note: these are the default controls, which can be changed.)
Like the arcade original, each wave starts off with 55 invaders that move in formation from side to side; once they reach an edge of the screen, the entire formation drops down a notch closer to the player. Several times during a wave a high point U. F. O. will fly overhead as well. There are four bunkers for the player to hide behind but they can succumb to fire.
The player receives an extra laser base with every 2500 points earned and the game is over when the player loses all bases from enemy fire or they get "invaded" if the invaders make it to the bottom of the screen. Also, there are several unlockable modes, as the game starts off with option A (the regular game), which options can be accessed at the Y*A*S*I menu screen. If the player scores 1000 or more points during a game, the next option will be unlocked. These are:
- B: guided missiles—the player can guide their missiles after they are fired
- C: moving bunkers—the bunkers move back and forth during a game
- D: guided missiles and moving bunkers
- E: cloaking invaders—the invaders are invisible until shot or the player loses a laser base
- F: guided missiles and cloaking invaders
- G: moving bunkers and cloaking invaders
- H: guided missiles, moving bunkers and cloaking invaders
Once the player starts unlocking these options, once they are on this screen, pressing button number two repeatedly will cycle through the options. It is unsure how many points has to be scored in order to unlock the last option though. Also, there are nine skill levels to choose from as well, which can be chosen from the Y*A*S*I menu screen by pressing button three (which the modes can be chosen by pressing button two).
- button 1: pause
- button 2 and 3: move laser base left and right (note: the player can also use the joystick or D-pad for this function as well)
- button 4: fire
- If the is a lot going on during Protector and the player uses a Smart Bomb, at times the enemies will still remain onscreen. Usually pausing a tiny bit before using a Smart Bomb remedies this problem.
- On Y*A*S*I, there are times when the player's shot will pass through a U. F. O. With the excellent programming that was done with these games, though (there are those who would have sworn that Protector was not possible to do on the Vectrex without a lot of flicker and/or the infamous Vectrex slowdown), this might actually be intentional (for some reason), rather than being a programming bug.
- The title screens and scoring tables for both games look very similar to their arcade cousins. For example, the scoring table for Protector shows all the enemies in two rows like on Defender, and the 'y' on the display for Y*A*S*I is upside down, which an invader appears, takes the 'y' offscreen, then reappears soon afterwards and correctly puts the 'y' in the upright position, which is also pretty much the same as on the original.
- It is a little known fact that the hyperspace function (which warps the player to another area of the game in case of an emergency) is actually included on Protector. If a player uses all of their smart bombs during a game, hyperspace is then used in place of smart bombs.
- There is a memory save enabled, where the high scores for both games and unlockable content on Y*A*S*I will remain even after the Vectrex is turned off. There is an option to reset the high scores, but this resets the unlockable Y*A*S*I content back to the default A game and everything will have to re-earned.
- The credits screen, chosen from the main menu, is a bit odd, showing names within what looks to be a compact disc (which it calls itself the "credit disc") that slowly twists and distorts around the screen, again, showcasing that it is using raster, rather than vector graphics.
- Each cartridge has a number.
- The first time Y*A*S*I is played, the screen has to be calibrated, as all Vectrexes are different and there can be a slight variance with graphics. This can be skipped after the calibration is first set though unless the high scores are reset.
- In case a customer has the VecVox (or the later VecVoxx model), when it is used for Y*A*S*I, voices will be heard as the invaders taunt the player during gameplay!
An 'A' review can be seen at the video game critic's site