The Game: As commander of the three-stage fighter rocket Moon Cresta, your job is to ward off endless varieties of evasively weaving space attackers. Every time you knock out two consecutive screens of assailants, you’ll have an opportunity to dock your ship to another one of Moon Cresta’s three stages, until all three portions of the ship are combined to create one bad-ass weapons platform. But you can also lose stages very quickly, ending your game – a bigger ship makes a bigger and easier target. (Sega/Gremlin [under license from Nichibutsu], 1980)
Memories: Moon Cresta had a very cool idea which was ripped off by a handful of its contemporaries – instead of giving the player a set number of “lives,” players had three rocket stages. Losing even one stage could seriously hamper your life expectancy in the game in later levels, and you could lose a stage to anything from enemy fire to not lining your stages up correctly during docking. This actually made Moon Cresta a very challenging game – but also a very fun one.
Taking its “strafing aliens” cue from Galaxian, and beating Galaga to its kamikaze dive-bombing alien punches, Moon Cresta offered plenty of innovations on the slide-and-shoot front aside from the three-stage rocket. The aliens’ darting, unpredictable attack patterns, and ability to apparent vanish off the bottom of the screen only to loop around and literally bite the player on the ass, were picked up by Galaga, though that game slowed things down considerably. A good player might actually reach a couple of thousand points at Moon Cresta – and that’s probably about it.