Welcome to the latest issue of COIN UP! This is the review series where I go back in time and review those arcade games of the past that you probably remember or or have a memory vaguely playing at the local arcade- the game tucked away in a corner while you’re waiting for your turn at Space Ace. If you have a favorite game you would like to see in a review- let me know in the comments section below! We have our first sequel and it will be a part of our Shmup series!
If you didn’t read the last issue- WHAT ARE YOU DOING? go back and read the Coin Up review of Astro Fighter! If you have-great! You know its a shortened name for Shoot Em’ Up- a genre of game that involved a space fighter or jet moving in a direction (or all, as we’ll see later in this series!!!) Shooting enemies who move in a pattern (or random as well…) trying to shoot you down. My favorites tend to be space shmups (or space shooters!) And this one tops it’s predecessor in every way!!!!
Is a 1981 shmup from Sega. It is the true sequel to Astro Fighter. It takes everything from the original, makes it even better while adding SO much more to it!!! What you ask?
- MORE ENEMIES! – That’s right- not just the same 4 rounds of enemies to contend with. I lost count at nine in the demo! and wait till you see how diverse they are!
- WARPS!!! – With the insane amount of enemies and the way they travel, you have one ace up your sleeve- a warp function! slow down the action for 10 seconds and clear some (if not all) of the ships on screen!
- YOUR LASERS OVERHEAT! – With one plus, there is a minus. That’a right, the more you shoot, the higher the temperature gauge goes up! It hits the top- YOU HAVE TO WAIT TO COOL DOWN!
- VOICE!!!!! – Yup- the ships computer talks to you! From temperature warnings, to warp countdown, the computer talks to YOU! It really pulls you into the game!
The standard U.S. upright, cabaret, and cocktail models.
The artwork also came in teal, but the blue is much nicer. According to the fine folks at Sega Retro, the machines with the teal artwork were an earlier version that was MUCH harder. Thanks for the info!
I got my view of this game on a memorable trip from New York to Walt Disney World in 1981. And back then, you didn’t fly- YOU DROVE!
We started down in early August of 1981. And at a stop for the night at the Richmond, VA Holiday Inn ( you know, back in the day when the had the gigantic neon sign out front) we got a room for the night. And after dinner at the Denny’s next door, we hit the pool, then the arcade. It was one of those dark arcades, with the brown shag carpet on the walls to block the sound. And that’s the type of space that allows the games to really show their magic- the screens illuminating the entire arcade! The was about 20 machines in there, so it was a small, but loud room. It was loud, but then, this voice pierced the arcade like a knife-
Yep- I had to check that out.
See- back in the late 70’s and early 80’s, voice synthesis wasn’t just a fad. it was a revelation. Games like Berzerk, Wizard Of Wor, and Gorf were the pioneers with this technology. But, Astro Blaster refined it. Whole sentences were now possible. Sega would refine it more with their release of their Star Trek game in 1982.
I stepped up to the unassuming wood veneer cabinet (the same cabinet used for Frogger, Carnival, and a fellow Coin Up alumni, PULSAR ) and gazed into the bezel- and I wasn’t disappointed!
Even the title screen was awesome!
And that is just one of the many reasons this game is amazing!
Have you ever wondered about my tagline- “Keep Playin’ Like It’s 1981? It’s because of games like Astro Blaster premiering all in the same year. So many innovations happened in that year span- that’s why 1981 was deemed the height of the golden age of arcades. It’s games like Astro Blaster that don’t get old- they keep you coming back for one more try. That’s why in late 1985, it was the second arcade machine I had ever owned. It stuck with me that much.
So, with all those memories out of they, let’s get to the game- shall we?
The astro battles from the original Astro Blaster continue in this sequel! But, the amount of enemies and their movement onscreen is insanely difficult compared to the original. To help balance the game- your given a new ship!
This ship is pretty amazing- the onboard computer TALKS TO YOU! From what level you are on, to the laser temperature, this ship has your back. You’ll notice that your gauges have been simplified- just fuel and temperature. Because the amount of enemies is this game is crazy! It would take months to render all of them for this review. So, we’ll just stick with the first four.
The first baddy is your standard UFO. You’ll see that patterns and speeds of each enemy is varied and so much more advanced than the original game. These guys drop down and swerve fast. Just be patient with your shots, you’ll clear them quickly.
The next- there’s only four! Before you get to happy about this, they drop down, and start shaking quickly left and right. Just learn their pattern, and they are no problem.
Now, things get a little crazy. This squadron moves left to right in a horizontal line across the entire screen, flying very fast. You have to get them ALL before they reach you at the bottom- if you dont… that’s one ship gone! But fear not, pilot! Remember the warp function I mentioned above? It comes in handy here! Hit it as they come out on the screen over on the left, and fire away! Just remember- you only have 10 seconds! And watch your laser temperature! Don’t worry- the tactical computer will remind you!
Ok- now you just have to get through this meteor shower to get to the mothership. Easier said than done- they are flying down the screen at breakneck speed- just keep firing! But watch out! The yellow meteors are explosive! Don’t hit them if you’re close!
Finally- you have reached the mothership! Now- this one’s a bit different than the first game. All you have to do is dock with it. But- your’e coming in fast! be sure to line up quickly, or you will hit the tractor beam or worse- the ship itself. Either way- you lose a life. But if you dock right- You get a refuel, and a nice bonus for the fuel in your tank!
Now before we go any farther, we have to talk about.. THE SECRET BONUSES! The clever programmers hid bonus points in the game! Triggering them depends on how fast how you finish a sector, finish a round, even how you dock with the mothership! Don Hodges actually compiled a list of all the bonuses! go check out his site to see them all, and you can try them out!!
Sadly, Astro Blaster never officially received a home port. But we got a couple of games on various home systems that suspiciously play very similar.
One was the Tigervision game Threshold. This game is lesser known than the obvious one (you’ll see…) but it’s still a good shooter that simulates that Astro Blaster feel. The weird thing- the Atari 2600 port plays a bit different- you can move up the screen- not just up and down. just take a look-
Here’s the 2600- it’s been watered down a bit… but still fun and playable!
And here’s the Apple II- better…
The Colecovision seems to be the best- it even has the docking sequence with the mothership!
It’s a good game but pretty rare. if you can get a copy, go for it! It’s a fun, forgotten game that deserves more attention! It’s been emulated for most of the systems it’s come out for- so, give it a shot! And, I dig the Orange cart the game came in- totally radical!
The game everyone knows… is Megamania !
you don’t know about Megamania?
Well then, I’ll let my friends- THE TUBES tell you about it!
This AMAZING game was programmed by Steve Cartwright and released by Activision.
The story was so remember-able for the time-
A lone space pilot has a big meal, goes to sleep and has a “Space Nightmare” of food and other objects flying towards the ship in one unstoppable fleet to destroy him! All he has is cool nerves of steel- and a laser gunner on his ship to counteract the oncoming menace!
And here’s the enemys-
And the enemy’s ships follow very similar patterns from Astro Blaster! The rumor for a while was that this WAS supposed to be a home port of Astro Blaster, but the licence could not be gotten from Sega.
Even the box art was awesome!
Here’s the Atari 2600-
And this radical Atari 5200 box is something!
Heck- even the title screen for the 5200 was awesome!
Let’s check out some game play- shall we? And maybe you can get a high score- and get your Megamania patch!
Here’s the 2600 version-
Now- here’s the Atari 5200/ Atari 8-bit computer version-
A little visual upgrade to the enemys- but the same game.
If you rally want to experience Megamania- you have to get the Activision Anthology for the PS2!
It has a huge collection of Activision games for the Atari 2600, a rockin’ 80’s soundtrack from real 80’s bands, the TV commercials, you can earn the Activision patches for each game, and special video effects to play WHILE YOU ARE PLAYING!
You also might have noticed the lasers FOLLOWED your movement! That was a setting in the game- either straight lasers or guided! just another part of this games totally 80’s awesomeness!
New- you probably remember back to the Astro Fighter review, that an Arcader over on the Atariage site had done a beautiful homebrew port of Astro Fighter. Well, He’s done it again! we have an AMAZING port of Astro Blaster for the Atari 7800! That’s right- Pacman Plus (aka Robert Decrescenzo) has done it again! Voice and all! WITH GUIDED MISSILES! Check this out- it’s awesome!
Let’s get back to the Astro Blaster and see how it fares in THE HIGH SCORE!
Appearance and Sound-
This one wont be tough at all. Sega knew what they wanted from this franchise from DAY 1! And they delivered! the game looks and sounds light years beyond it’s predecessors- and that’s not even mentioning the voices in the game! The cabinet- while it can be described as there standard fare, it’s the bezel that sets it over the top!
The ONLY REASON I’m giving this a three is because of Megamania. if this had guided missiles… it would be over the top!
This game definitely ramps up the difficulty- but, I think the first round is easy enough for beginners to get the hang of it! Then- all bets are off!
Another no-brainer. From the challenge of every enemy, monitoring your fuel and heat gauges, to the computer’s voice assisting (or annoying) you, this is the first game I remember feeling like I was there. And the challenge ramps up nicely, making this a game you will come back to again and again.
So, whats the final score?- That’s easy!
This one couldn’t go any other way. The game graphics hold up. The play ability is top notch. The cabinet, wile sparse, PULLED you in with that amazing bezel! And to round it all out- The voice synthesis is awesome!
I wish this game came in a cockpit model- they could have put it over the top as my favorite game of 1981!
and Sega Ages- PLEASE RELEASE THIS ON MODERN PLATFORMS!!!! I would play this on my Nintendo Switch everyday!
Hey gang- Thank you for joining me on this journey through another rare classic arcade game here on Coin Up! And to celebrate the return of my favorite passion project, I give you- OUR NEW VIRTUAL COIN UP CARDS! Collect ‘em! Trade ‘em! look at them! they make great holiday gifts! Please give me a shout! Have you played Astro Blaster? Do you like it? Hate it? What’s your high score? Let me know in the comments!
Keep Playin’ Like It’s 1981!