The Game: Earth is under attack, but due to defense spending cutbacks (how much planetary defense can you buy for a quarter?), you’re the pilot of the only vessel responding to the emergency. Try to fend off several darting waves of alien ships which are attempting to bomb your base. Some of them may briefly land, wreaking even more havoc, and as you may have guessed, all of them will be firing at you. After you’ve secured Earth, you blast off into deep space to take on a wave of larger, more vicious attackers, and then an assault on a heavily armed alien mother ship. Once you’ve vanquished this foe, you’ll be called back to Earth again – it seems the aliens can’t take a hint. Once you’ve maneuvered your way through the landing runway and lined yourself up to fight the next wing of invaders, the battle begins anew. (Centuri [under ilcense from Tehkan], 1981)
Memories: A rather obscure shoot-’em-up, Pleaides (or Pleiads, as the game proclaims on its monitor, at odds with the cabinet artwork) almost looks like a sequel to Phoenix, though Pleiades originated from a different company. It’s a safe bet that the part of the game best remembered by arcade-goers back in the day is the final stage before the game begins again, the runway screen. You can’t shoot anything, you can only avoid it – and let’s face it, it’s pretty embarrassing if you get yourself splattered in a situation where you have no enemies.
Whereas Phoenix was ported to the Atari 2600, Pleiades was left in the arcade, and perhaps that’s not surprising. In late 1981, games like Pole Position, Robotron and Tron were just around the corner, and when they arrived the following year, visually simpler games like Pleiades fell by the wayside. By comparison, Pleiades, while it has a certain low-tech charm, was yesterday’s news in that environment.
Incidentally, the game’s name is misspelled in the game itself, though whether this is intentional or not is unknown; the marquees on U.S. machines spelled the name correctly. The Pleiades in Greek mythology were seven sisters, the daughters of Atlas and Pleione, and the name was also given to a tight cluster of relatively young, bright blue stars in the constellation of Taurus.