Coin Up Review Of Astro Fighter!

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Hello Arcaders!

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 Dragon’s Lair. If you have a favorite game you would like to see in a review- let me know in the comments section below! This beauty will be a part of our Shmup series!

Wait- what’s a Shmup? Good question! It’s 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 is at the top of my list!

 

AF-logois a space shooter that was designed (and their first game by the way) by Data East. The game was released in 1980 by Data East in Asia and Europe and by Gremlin Sega in the U.S.

With the success of games like Space Invaders and Galaxian, a fledgling Data East wanted in on the action. This would be the game that would break them into the U.S.- and the world.

 

 

 


Astro Fighter was always one of those visceral favorites of mine- meaning when you even look at the game, those familiar smells, and yes, tastes of that bygone era come flooding into my head again.
It was 1980. We had a little Mom and Pop Deli up the road from our house. I rode my bike there every chance I got. If my Mom needed ANYTHING from the store, I was on it! The reason- they had a 5 piece arcade in the back! They had this game- I could play for hours! We always needed bread at home- Mom would give me $2.00 for a loaf of bread that cost .60! So, I could get a Twix bar, (or a Whatchamacallit, before they put caramel in them, by the way!) a Nehi Grape, and enough for a game or two! So, every time I play this game, it just takes me back!

Remember- this game came out in 1980- at the height of Space Invaders and Galaxian’s popularity. So at it’s core, it plays the same. But- it has so much more going for it! Let’s go over the game’s instructions for a moment-

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The first thing you will notice- you have a fuel gauge! Now- it’s not just about stopping them from reaching the bottom (which you have to do… but more on that in a moment…) you are quickly running out of fuel. The enemy groups are moving down towards the bottom of the screen. If they get there… they REAPPEAR at the top! IN FULL FORMATION! That’s right- you may have gotten a few of them. but if EVEN ONE gets to the bottom- the ENTIRE FORMATION is back. And- to make it a bit more difficult- you move up the screen a little. AND YOUR FUEL GAUGE IS STILL GOING DOWN! Reach The Master ship to refuel (and score a nice bonus) to start again!

Let’s look at the the opponents in this galactic war, shall we?

rocketThis is your ship- the Astro Fighter! She’s fast- but with a quickly dwindling fuel supply, and a single blaster to shoot down the enemies, do you have what it takes to survive?

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This is your ships gauges- it will tell you everything you need to know at a glance. Ships remaining, sector you’re in, and your fuel is displayed.

The first wave of enemies the player faces are blue ships that stay in a small formation, moving from side to side, then occasionally dropping down a notch.

The second wave of ships are purple, which behave in pretty much the same manner, although their formation covers a much wider area, spanning across almost the entire width of the screen.

The green ships afterwards (which somewhat resemble T. I. E. Fighters from the Star Wars movies) fly at a diagonal, reverse direction, then fly at a diagonal again.

The final round of yellow ships only occupy a few vertical rows that move straight down. These are the easiest to hit- fire away!

Watch out for comets! They randomly fly down the screen. Shoot them for a bonus! There tons of them!


At the very end of each level is the GS MASTER ship, which is at the top of the screen and moves from side to side. It can shoot in ANY DIRECTION and it’s very fast- moving from left to right at the top of the screen! Hit the center to destroy it and get it’s fuel for a bonus, and to continue the fight!

SEQUELS-AND-SPINOFFS

Look at this- a new tag! It’s because Astro Fighter is our first game with sequels! That being said- things are about to get… interesting. that’s because there wasn’t one- but TWO SEQUELS to Astro Fighter! Remember how I said there were two companies involved with Astro Fighter? Now- this wasn’t a unusual arrangement- companies like Namco, Tekahn, and Konami did this all the time. It’s 1979- you are a big Japanese arcade company- kicking major butt in Japan with some great killer arcade games. The problem is- you have no american plants for manufacturing and distribution- losing out on a HUGE market. You read about U.S. companies like Atari, Midway, and Centuri who is rocking it with their own games- but HAVING THE SAME PROBLEM- no distribution in Japan. So, you reach out to the american manufacturer to come to an agreement- Distribute OUR games in western markets- we will distribute in the east. It always works out for us- the Arcader. If they hadn’t- we wouldn’t have had seen games like PAC-MAN, Swimmer, and Scramble.

Well, that’s what happened here. Data East had created the game. Sega became the distributor in the western markets. The game did well enough in the U.S. that Sega wanted a sequel. Not a problem! in early 1981- Data East had completed a sequel- Super Astro Fighter.

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There were a couple of problems with this sequel.

One was Data East decided to release Super Astro Fighter on their DECO cassette system- the games were put on a micro cassette- that transferred the game data to the game PCB. It was a great concept that unfortunately had two problems- as the cassette got older, the data would corrupt- making it impossible to load- the other was the load times at power up were LONG. Up to three minutes. To a U.S. distributor- this was no good. Bally had distributed Burgertime from Data East. the first few thousand had the DECO system. Distributors HATED it! Bally quickly took the games data, and but it on a rom, and used one of their own PCBs for the game- so if you have an ORIGINAL DECO cassette Burgertime cabinet- consider yourself lucky. Most were converted to the PCB version. Super Astro Fighter a sequel- meh. It’s more of the same game wise. Some enemy ships appearances change a bit, Some enemies are completely different, moves have been updated- Some dive like in Galaxian, there’s some new backgrounds, but that’s it. the sounds are AWFUL- scratching fingernails against a chalkboard awful- especially for 1981. Just watch the video- I DARE YOU! (skip to 4:00 to see the game- I’m not kidding.)

The second problem was Astro Blaster was such a success in the U.S., Data East decided to open their own offices in here. While it would be a a few years before they would build their own cabinets here (or use JAMMA ready cabs- like the ones made by DYNAMO) Sega wasn’t needed exclusively at this point. Also, because of Astro fighter’s success, other companies were jumping up to snap up their titles- Taito released Lock n Chase in 1981. Sega wasn’t going to take it sitting down- so they went on to make their own sequel. and in my opinion- a better game. Astro Blaster!

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We’ll talk about this amazing game in a future Coin Up!

 

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Home versions- yup- we had some!

The two I found were on two different computers. One looks official- the other… not so much.  Surprisingly, Data East’s first game wasn’t on their own compilation for the Wii- being it’s the game that started it all.

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(get this compilation- it’s good.)

The first one’s from the TI- 99. I looks good. kind of a port of both Astro Fighter and Super Astro Fighter-

The other one I found was for the EACA EG2000 Colour Genie- a computer out of Germany. It’s called Cosmic Attack.

Then, out of the blue… there is this AMAZING HOMEBREW!

From programmer Robert DeCrescenzo- This is an AMAZING PORT for the Atari 7800! The Atari 7800 was a great system that didn’t get much love in it’s time- it’s so great to see homebrewers are making great games for it! so, if you have an Atari 7800, and your looking for a really good Shmup- you can’t go wrong with this one! head over to Atariage to get your copy!

As I find more ports- I’ll post them!

 

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Appearance and Sound-

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Given this is game not only was programmed in 1979, but was Data East’s FIRST GAME…

It looks good. The gauges on top tell you everything you need, from fuel remaining, to what sector your in. That being said, the enemy ships are… a bit sparse. I mean, we had Space Invaders two years before, and at least they were- animated. The ships in Astro fighter are static. May be they should have animated the windows. make them look like moving eyes. They look like that already. I would have given them a bit of depth and look more threatening. Also- there’s only the four types of enemies. A few more would have made it that much better. But, the final round with the master ship looks great! When you warp into his sector- you know it’s on!

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Given that, the sounds are spot on. The warping sound is very reminiscent of  the thumping noise in Space Invaders. It keeps the sense of urgency high throughout the game. The laser fire and explosions do their job. But, the fuel critical sound mixed in with the master’s warbling noise will get the heart racing! Knowing your’e just a couple of seconds from defeating the master ship and collecting the precious fuel (and some sweet bonus points in the process) or certain doom is palpable. and the master ship’s explosion is spot on!

Control-

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Why am I giving this a four? It could fire… a bit faster.  I’m not asking for a rapid fire chip. But knowing you only have a minute  or so to get out of a sector, and your ship is firing like it’s in a game of GORF… no bueno. It gets the job done, but it could be better.

 

Difficulty-

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Astro Blaster will give you a challenge. The enemy ships movement and speed takes a sector to get used to. Except sector four- they come straight down- so fire away! The master ship is tough- just keep firing at its center- you’ll get it!

Play ability-

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With it’s simple but challenging game play, you will be coming back to play Astro Blaster again and again to see what else it has to offer!

So, whats the final score?- 

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You know this was going to be a five out of five! It’s such a piece of my history. out of most games I played as a kid- this one sticks out. And as the sophomore game from Data East- it’s good. and it’s one of those shmups you can just pick up and play- no explanation required. Astro Blaster is hard to find today- complete boards fetch a hefty price. But- fret not Arcaders- this classic can be played on the 412 Game Elf board- or better yet- there’s always Retropie to get your Astro Fighter fix! And don’t forget the amazing Atari 7800 port!

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!

Thanks for reading and keep playin’ like it’s 1981!

Raygunn

Video Game All Stars Part 3!!!

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Hey Arcaders… I’m back… sort of.  More on that later.

It’s the Third- and unfortunately- final episode (that I know of) of Video Game All Stars!

We have a new host (hosts), puppet, new games, and a new sponsor… Nickels & Dimes! I worked at a Gold Mine Arcade for about a year in 1986! Awesome arcade that ACTUALLY LOOKED LIKE A MINE!!!

It looked like they finally had some grasp on this show (or not, depending how you look at it…)

Your new host, Jeff Valdez and -Mel Grier give us the inside scoop on the latest games of early 1984!  And your scorekeeper and the creepiest puppet you will ever see..

BIG DADDY VIDEO!!!

The Competition games  of this episode-

 

Dragon's Lair

Dragon’s Lair

 

Xevious

Xevious

 

Pole Position

Pole Position

 

Congo Bongo

Congo Bongo

Mario Bros.

Mario Bros.

I  wish this show had gone on longer-  it had that kooky local feel- something today’s TV is lacking. i love the new intro- using an Alan Parsons Project song- I Robot!

Lat’s get to some classic game fun!!!

 

As a special bonus, here’s the album I Robot by The Alan Parson Project!

Keep Playin’ Like It’s 1981!

Happy Halloween From The Stephens Clan!

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HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Yeah, I know it’s a day late- someone had the games running at DisneyQuest last night! So, with Super Mario Month out of the way, and Halloween done, I’ts time for the holiday season to begin. But, Before we move on, one of my favorite artists has celebrated a milestone.

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Four years ago, Sperry posted her first Saga of The Seven Steves!  The characters have come a long way since then, but her attention to detail and story writing have always been the cornerstone of the comic.

Now, to celebrate I have a new comic for Halloween, and a surprise!

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…And now, circa 1982-

Congratulations Theo!

Video Game Boom Box Halloween Edition- Escape From Monster Manor

Video Game Boom Box Halloween

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Hey Arcaders!

           RayGunn here, and  the UberNerd thought I should try my hand at this “Video Game Boombox” article, so I stepped up to the challenge! And most Arcaders would think” RayGunn’s going to highlight music from Ghost and Goblins! Or even better- Haunted House for the VCS! (HA! Haunted house Only has one song- The theme to The Twilight Zone.)

Nope, I’m gonna tell ‘ya about another great game to play on Halloween- and that’s Escape From Monster Manor!

One of the launch titles for the 3D0 in October, 1993 it was a first person shooter (one of the first, by the way) and the only one I know of to animate clay figures!-for the time this game came out- I thought it looked great! the atmosphere was dark and foreboding, with lots of jump scares thrown into the game to keep you on your toes! while the games appearance might have not held up for some people (I still love it- some of the areas look like something out of the Haunted Mansion!) but what does hold up is the MUSIC! I still use this soundtrack at Halloween ( back in the day, I had to set up my 3D0 to some external speakers and stick them out the window, then choose a level and let the game run!)

Now a days, you can listen to the soundtrack right on your computing device of your choice! that’s right, someone has extracted the soundtrack and put it up on YouTube  for all to enjoy!

Now I will tell you, my personal favorite is the music in levels 1 and 9! it is quite a fright!

now, you can listen one of two ways-

  1. play the entire video out!
  2. click on the times below- it will open a new tab and you can listen to each one individually!

Let’s get scary!

 

 

2:08 Levels 3 and 8: Rooms of gloom and Grave cave.

8:11 Levels 1 and 9: Beastly belfry and Marrow mall.

10:23 Levels 4 and 10: Ghostly gallery and Lone catacomb.

14:30 Levels 2 and 7 Evil attic and Grisly grotto.

20:54 Levels 6 and 11 Prisoner’s peril and Tombs of doom.

23:56 Levels 5 and 12 Demonic dungeon and Ghastly graveyard.

Don’t listen…WITH THE LIGHTS OUT!!!!!!!

 

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Dragons Lair Movie Closer To Reality! It Needs Our Help!

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Arcaders! After 30 years, It’s finally happening! And we can help and get some amazing rewards from Don and Gary! Watch the video and get over to KICKSTARTER and do your part! as of this posting-

591 backers 

$53,657 pledged of $550,000 goal

29 days to go

we can do this!!!!!!

The Arcade Archives Podcast- Episode #2- Donkey Kong!

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Hey Arcaders!

Here it is… After 4 years, I’ve brought back the original- The Arcade Archives podcast! I thought, with it being Super Mario Month, let’s start back at the very beginning of the history of Mario- when he was known as Jumpman! That’s right we’re talking Donkey Kong! Now, this is the first of three podcasts devoted to the big gorilla- next is Donkey Kong Jr. (one of the greatest sequel games of all time) and of course, my personal favorite- Donkey Kong 3!

SHOW NOTES-

Check out Donkey Kong VCS!  an ARCADE PERFECT port on the Atari 2600!

By Joe Musashi

Get the roms to play this game on your Stella- the Atari 2600 emulator

Click HERE to get the latest rom!

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To pick up a copy of The First Quarter click HERE.

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To get a copy of The King Of Kong- A Fistfull Of Quarters click HERE.

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To rent or buy a digital copy of Chasing Ghosts- Beyond the Arcade click HERE.

Check out Donkey Kong 2- Jumpman Returns!

To purchase the roms for your DK PCB, click HERE.

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Keep Playin’ Like It’s 1981!

Lets Compare Donkey Kong!

Hey Arcaders!

With the Arcade Archives podcast almost here- I thought, RayGunn- why not whet the appetite a bit and and look at all the ports of Donkey Kong- everything from the arcade to the ZX Spectrum!

Thanks to wingnut4427 and The Gaming History Resource for this amazing video! And be sure to go to their YouTube channel check out more great games!

What versions did you own and/or  play on?

Let us know in the comments section, or on our Facebook page!

Keep Playin’ Like It’s 1981!