The Game: In a heavily armed space fighter, your job is pretty simple – ward off wave after wave of bird-like advance fighters and Phoenix creatures until you get to the mothership, and then try to blow that to smithereens. All of which would be simple if not for the aliens’ unpredictable kamikaze dive-bombing patterns. The Phoenix creatures themselves are notoriously difficult to kill, requiring a direct hit in the center to destroy them – otherwise they’ll grow back whatever wings you managed to pick off of them and come back even stronger. (Taito, 1980)
Memories: Phoenix is one of my two favorite games to emerge from the shooting game genre which emerged from the success of Taito’s own Space Invaders. Most shooter games involve chance, luck, and precious little skill, and very few of them give you the chance to try to work out any kind of strategy. Two exceptions I can think of are Midway’s Galaga and this game.
The weaving and dodging attack patterns of the various enemies leave you with no choice but to do some of the fanciest evasive maneuvers around just to stay alive. Sometimes you have to raise your shields and wait for them to blow themselves to bits trying to ram you.
Atari created a very playable, though ultimately nowhere near as nerve-wracking, Atari 2600 adaptation of Phoenix. The graphics were only slightly simplified, as the arcade game’s graphics were never terribly elaborate. The Phoenix license became a major legal issue, however, when Atari’s version was beaten to the punch by Imagic’s Phoenix-inspired Demon Attack.