Fantasy

FantasyThe Game: As an unnamed but cartoonishly cute little hero, you are powerless to watch as your girlfriend Cheri is abducted by a boatload of pirates. Only then are you inspired to act, chasing after the heavily armed pirate ship in your defenseless balloon. You dodge cannonballs as you try to reach the pirate ship’s landing pad (what is it, an aircraft carrier?!). Then you have to battle those nasty pirates on the deck of their ship while still dodging that pesky cannon, until you do away with them all and get to Cheri. A bird then scoops her up, leaving you to take a treacherous balloon trip, climb a tree teeming with dangerous critters, avoid tigers in the jungle, and take on an entire tribe of natives (who seem to be in cahoots with the pirates, who now have helicopters and artillery!) to rescue Cheri. Then, of course, she goes and gets herself kidnapped again. (Rock-Ola [under license from SNK], 1981)

See the videoMemories: Why do I like this game? Hmmmmm…I don’t know. I only ever saw one Fantasy machine, at the game room at Gaston’s fishing resort on the White River in Arkansas. I think one of the game’s best qualities was the “continue” feature, which allowed you to pop another quarter into the machine and pick up where your previous game left off within 30 seconds. Continue reading

Vanguard

VanguardThe Game: Your Vanguard space fighter has infiltrated a heavily-defended alien base. The enemy outnumbers you by six or seven to one at any given time (thank goodness for animated sprite limitations, or you’d be in real trouble!). You can fire above, below, ahead and behind your ship, which is an art you’ll need to master since enemy ships attack from all of these directions. You can’t run into any of the walls and expect to survive, but you can gain brief invincibility by flying through an Energy block, which supercharges your hull enough to ram your enemies (something which, at any other time, would mean certain death for you as well). At the end of your treacherous journey lies the alien in charge of the entire complex – but if you lose a life at that stage, you don’t get to come back for another shot! (Centuri [under license from SNK], 1981)

Memories: Very much like another SNK-originated game from this period, Fantasy (which was licensed out to Rock-Ola), Vanguard was an early entry in the exploration game genre. Sure, shooting things was fun, but this game made it clear – through the “radar map” of the alien base at the top of the screen – that there was a clear destination to be reached. And if you weren’t good enough to get there with the lives you had, you could continue the journey – for just a quarter more – again and again, until you got there. Continue reading

Pioneer Balloon

Pioneer BalloonThe Game: This is a game about the rough-and-tumble history of the taming of the North American continent, as told by someone who’s never been allowed access to any kind of reading material at all. You pilot a balloon across a scrolling landscape, avoiding (or blasting) birds and bombing a convoy of covered wagons. After conquering this level, you move on to a village of boomerang-throwing natives (and hey, early America was just thick with those puppies, wasn’t it?), followed by coconut-hurling gorillas (another prominent feature on the landscape of the early United States). A brief stage follows in which you must evade a series of random tornadoes, and then you have more wagons to bomb. At least they got something right – there are tornadoes in the U.S. (Rock-Ola [under license from SNK], 1982)

Memories: Before I launch into my tirade on this game, let me just remind you that the team of Rock-Ola and SNK was responsible for my all-time favorite coin-op, Fantasy. Continue reading

Marvin’s Maze

Marvin's MazeThe Game: Marvin built a maze on two levels, with habitrail-style tunnels to take him from the first floor to the second and back again, and all was well until the Robonoids moved in and took over. Now they’re out to evict Marvin from his own turf! It’s up to you to guide Marvin through his maze, using cunning one-way bridges to escape from the Robonoids and find the power-ups he needs to zap them. Marvin moves on to See the videothe next maze (and the next level of difficulty) only by clearing this maze of power-ups and dots. (SNK, 1983)

Memories: I hadn’t heard of this one before, and now I wonder why. In a way, there’s more than a passing resemblance to Crystal Castles, but there’s also a little bit of an homage to Pac-Man‘s power pellets and a little bit of shooting too. So now it’s like Crystal Butt-Kickin’ Castles. With cute character designs that are worthy of Q*Bert. Continue reading

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