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Categories: Raiders of the Lost Arcade

Raiders of the Lost Arcade: Star Wars – Return of the Jedi

Star Wars: Return of the JediWhile not as common as the classic 1983 vector Star Wars or its sequel Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi is a classic in its own right, and an excellent bit of Star Wars gaming! With well-crafted full color graphics, the player goes through a variety of “shoot and steer” gameplay settings. These involve speederbikes on Endor, an AT-ST marching segment, and an exciting turn at the Death Star run.

Set in a three quarters angle that is very similar to the Sega classic Zaxxon, Return of the Jedi offers a variety of difficulty levels, allowing the player to choose at the beginning. Each mode is rather difficult, however – from a time when arcade games truly challenged a good player!

Of particular note is the large amount of digitized speech included in the soundtrack. Each quote is straight from the film, covering just about every major character. The classic Star Wars score is well translated here as well, with a particularly satisfying version of the Ewok celebration song at the Game Over screen.

Return of the Jedi is fun to play, and an atypical sight in the arcade. For Star Wars fans, it’s a must play – and for everyone else, it’s an excellent shooter with plenty to see and do!

Raiders of the Lost Arcade: Jungle King

Jungle KingJungle King (Taito, 1982) is a rather innovative title from a time when side-scrolling games weren’t nearly as common as they would later become. With four different modes of gameplay, there’s a good amount of variety in this easy to pick up, yet still rather challenging title.

The first mode has the player, who is basically Tarzan (the game would later encounter some legal problems with this), swinging from vine to vine – a task that takes careful timing. After that, our hero dives into the river, and swims upstream against vicious crocodiles. This second part is the only section where the player has some defense, and can knife the vicious fish. The third section involves running up a hill and avoiding a bevy of boulders. This bit sort of resembles Donkey Kong, as the player will control their speed to duck or jump over the bouncing boulders. The final section is a rather challenging single frame, where our hero must avoid a pair of spear-wielding cannibals, who have a lovely lady dangling over a boiling pot. Successfully contacting this jungle queen leads to a rather charming win screen, complete with its own graphics and music, before the game starts over and the difficulties are all increased.

Jungle King has an impressive soundtrack, with a song complex and melodic enough to belong in a Mega Man title. It’s definitely a memorable tune, and will set the stage for many a jungle adventure! Unlike just about every side scroller before or since, Jungle King goes from right to left, which really does feel like a change of pace.

From the barely-audible Tarzan yell that kicks off the gameplay, to the hard-earned win screen, Jungle King is a great example of early side-scrolling, and a lot of fun to play!

Raiders of the Lost Arcade: Mr. Do

The latest classic featured in our Raiders of the Lost Arcade series, Mr. Do is a truly fascinating game from the Golden Age of Video Arcades that combines aspects of Pac-Man and Dig Dug to create its own unique and charming title. Like Dig Dug, players dig through a maze and can drop heavy objects on enemy monsters. And like Pac-Man, the monsters generate from the middle of the screen, and the player completes a stage by collecting items, in this case – cherries. Collecting these cherries generates a “do-re-mi” tune that’s a defining sound bite of Mr. Do!

You’re not just limited to digging pathways and collecting cherries, however. Mr. Do can also attack his enemies with a “magic ball” that bounces wildly through the tunnels. Taking out every monster completes the stage for big points. Additionally, with every 5,000 points earned the playfield is joined by the Alphamonster and his minions. Taking out the Alphamonster five times to spell E-X-T-R-A is an advanced method of finishing a level!

Known for its memorable music, bright colors and unique gameplay, Mr. Do is a bit less common these days, but definitely a game worth getting to know. It’s a great example of a time when games required finesse, skill, and maybe just a few extra quarters!

Raiders of the Lost Arcade: Blasteroids

BlasteroidsThis month, we’re featuring a neat update of a landmark title! In the late 80s, arcades began to see throwback efforts and sequels, resurrecting old franchises with varying degrees of success. With home consoles now a viable option for gamers, the game development scene was starting to diversify and vary a lot. Around this time, Atari released Blasteroids, a psuedo-sequel to one of the most popular games ever: Asteroids.

While retaining the basic gameplay of Asteroids, Blasteroids introduced plenty of new elements, and took its sci-fi theme quite seriously. Players are treated to an immersive universe of spacey music and galaxy maps, complete with colorful planets and nebulae. Of course, there are asteroids, and they’re well-rendered here, looking realistic as they spin through each sector. Players clear sectors and select the next one to invade, contending with a field of rocks and a variety of enemy spaceships along the way. After clearing enough sectors, one must then contend with Mukor, a talkative green alien ghoul who floats menacingly much like Sinistar! He taunts the player and launches projectiles, but with enough shots to his tentacles he’ll escape to the next galaxy. Eventually, the player can defeat Mukor for a satisfying game completion screen.

Along the way, several powerups can upgrade the main ship’s shooting power, energy duration and speed, adding new elements to the game. A two player simultaneous option is also available, built in to the game’s unique cabinet. Blasteroids takes a cornerstone of classic arcade gameplay and updates it for the late 80s, complete with a top-of-the-line soundcard (for the time), and modern graphics. Give it a shot, you’ll find the sector selection screen strangely addictive!

Raiders of the Lost Arcade: Defender

35440103Hop in your high-powered, weaponized spaceship and explore an unknown planet, fighting scores of alien foes and rescuing stranded astronauts. It may not sound like a revolutionary concept now, but in 1980, Defender was a landmark title for Williams Entertainment and the video game industry as a whole!

Not only was Defender the first original video game produced by Williams, it was now-legend Eugene Jarvis’ first video game creation. Jarvis had previously worked on pinball programming, and was chosen to head development of this title with a lot of creative freedom.

Defender is a side-scrolling shooter with a “wrap-around” level design, a neat trick for increasing the size of the game world with limited resources, as you can fly to the left or right off-screen and enter new areas of the level. Defender’s controls were fairly advanced for the time, with a joystick to move left/right and up/down, a button to control the thrust of your ship, a standard fire and a “smart bomb” attack, an unpredictable “hyperspace” warp, and last but not least… reverse! Once you take stock of the control panel, you must begin protecting your human allies from alien abduction. If they’re abducted by a ship and you don’t recover them in time (be careful not to let them fall to their doom!), they’ll return as deadly mutants and attack your ship. When you rescue a human, drop him off on the surface for bonus points, and keep firing at enemies. Not only are you tasked with protecting the humans, you need to wipe out the aliens to advance to the next level. Check the “scanner” at the top of the screen to track enemies. Move quickly and strategically – sometimes reverse is your best friend, especially against marauding mutants – and save your smart bombs for special occasions!

Featuring higher-res graphics than other games of its era, Defender also featured memorable audio effects with sizzling laser sounds and great explosions along with a stark, stylized space landscape and gameplay that really does feel like the intended combination of previous arcade hits Asteroids and Space Invaders. Defender is a very challenging game, but like Eugene Jarvis’ later creation Robotron, it masters that “just one more quarter” feeling that keeps you coming back for more, despite the difficulty. Upon its release, Defender drew crowds and more than a few coins, reportedly outperforming Pac-Man in 1981. Credited as the first horizontally-scrolling side-shooter, Defender’s impact was not only felt financially at Williams, it rippled through the entire video game world, leading to a popular sequel called Stargate and inspiring games like Choplifter. Jarvis would of course go on to create even more classic games (like Smash TV) and currently heads Raw Thrills Entertainment, one of the few companies producing successful modern arcade games.

Whether you’re a hardcore fan that’s eagerly awaited the return of this classic or you’re a new recruit who’s never played the game, you owe it to yourself to take on the alien forces of Defender at Ground Kontrol!

Raiders of the Lost Arcade: Lady Bug

Lady BugThe runaway success of Pac-Man did more than inspire a few copycats; it basically initiated an entire genre of games – the maze category. The trick with developing these myriad games was adding an element that differentiated them from Pac-Man enough to make something new, or at least distinctive enough to justify an all-new marquee.

Universal Games eventually struck gold in the maze genre with Mr. Do! in 1982, but along the way they created Lady Bug, a very interesting title with a fun insect aesthetic and enough tweaks to make it worthwhile. The big element in Lady Bug that sets it apart from other maze titles is the use of the spinning walls. In each maze, the player-controlled ladybug can pass through rotating walls that really act as gates, changing the shape of the maze. Some real strategy can be employed here when it comes to enemy evasion, and the skillful player will create a path constantly considering these walls. It’s a good thing to have that kind of flexibility too, because unlike Pac-Man, the player cannot attack the enemies at any time. Instead, a few stationary skulls are situated throughout the playfield, which are lethal to both the player and the four or so enemies giving chase.

One element that started with Lady Bug and was kept for Mr. Do! involves the collection of “SPECIAL” and “EXTRA” letters. It’ll take a few stages, but the careful completion of these words can reward the player with either a “special” additional credit or an “extra” life.

Things start off simple enough, but Lady Bug speeds up quickly and quickly becomes an experience of its own. Fans of Pac-Man, Mr. Do!, or really just anything Golden Era will enjoy Lady Bug for its tense yet strategic gameplay, and a pleasing suite of maze-based action!

Raiders of the Lost Arcade: Wizard of Wor

Wizard of WorWizard of Wor is an unforgettable classic from the “golden age” of arcade games. With a unique mix of sci-fi and fantasy themes, the game takes after the popular maze-type games of the era, with some added shooter elements. Two players, who can choose whether or not to cooperate, contend with corridors filled with a variety of monsters. Taking out each class of enemy brings out the “heavyweights,” which are tougher enemies as the game progresses. Proper termination of these foes allows for double score opportunities, and a chance to zap the Wizard of Wor himself. A few of these higher-tier monster types have the ability to turn invisible, and the player must rely on the radar, seen below the maze.

Wizard of Wor was an early game to use speech synthesis, and this feature is used mainly as a way for the Wizard to taunt the player. The list of taunts is impressive for the time, as the Wizard has over sixty remarks in his vocabulary! His tormenting phrases add to a particularly engrossing aural experience, as Wizard of Wor’s music is bold, loud, and evocative. It all adds up to a rich, well-themed experience, and a combat maze game like no other!

NARC busts into the arcade!

NARCNow playing as the newest Raiders of the Lost Arcade title! When NARC first landed in arcades in 1988, it definitely raised a few eyebrows. From Eugene Jarvis, the innovator behind Robotron: 2084 and Defender, NARC was immediately noticed for its high level of violence and controversial subject matter. In this entertaining side scrolling action game, one or two players clean up the mean city streets to take down drug kingpin Mr. Big.

Complete with an imposing black cabinet and blood-spattered marquee, the game went all the way with its gruesome aesthetic in a time when video games were often censored and marketed to kids. Players confiscate contraband and currency in each level that is completed with a character-driven boss battle. All of the criminals and dealers are members of the drug gang K.R.A.K., led by the repulsive Mr. Big.

NARC was also notable for its innovation in graphical style. Sporting a higher resolution than most arcade games, it made use of video and photographed sprites, a presentation that would later be popularized with Mortal Kombat. In addition, the game sports some great audio, with recorded speech and screams.

Grab a friend and blast your way to the headquarters of Mr. Big – and remember, Winners Don’t Use Drugs!

Raiders of the Lost Arcade: Carnival

CarnivalAt first glance, one might think this obviously ancient game is just a Space Invaders clone, with that basic shooting mechanic. However, there is a lot more happening in Carnival (released by Gremlin-Sega in 1980), and certainly enough to set it apart! Taking after the classic shooting galleries from the carnival midways of the past, the player has a gun at the bottom that shoots up towards a series of moving targets, and can move left and right. Yeah, a lot like Space Invaders! But to make things more interesting, the player has a finite amount of bullets, and depleting them ends the game. This places a real emphasis on accurate shooting. There are some dastardly ducks as well that can swoop down and eat some of your precious ammo, so taking them out first is a priority. There are a few other things to shoot at, including letters to spell B-O-N-U-S, and ammo packages. The player can also shoot out the music notes, to toggle on the love-it-or-hate-it soundtrack.

True to history, Carnival lifts its music from that venerable amusement park landmark the carousel. Coming into popularity around the turn of the century, carousels were outfitted with air-powered Wurlitzer “fairground organs” playing popular tunes of the day on pipes, drums, and glockenspiel. The song featured in Carnival is called Sobre Las Olas, or “Over the Waves,” published by Mexican composer Juventino Rosas in 1888.

Carnival is a relic of arcade history, and an amusing one at that! Give it a shot, but remember to keep an eye on those bullets!

Raiders of the Lost Arcade: Dragon’s Lair

Dragon's LairDragon’s Lair is an essential piece of arcade history, and a fond memory for anyone who ever played it. Upon its release, it was a very memorable game, to say the least. In a time when arcade games were the cutting edge of video games, everyone was used to the kinds of graphics you’d see in a Pac-Man or Defender-style game. But when Dragon’s Lair arrived, with its totally unique cartoon-that-you-play mechanic, gamers were blown away! Unfortunately, because of its laserdisc technology that allowed the hand-drawn graphics to spring to life, original cabinets of Dragon’s Lair did not have a long life span, and for most people Dragon’s Lair exists only in memory. Ground Kontrol figured out how to get one working, though!

The classic adventure sees players in control of Dirk the Daring, a chivalrous knight who always appears to have a bit of a headache. Using the single joystick and attack button, players take visual cues and time their moves just right to keep Dirk on the correct path, away from countless dangers. There is some amount of memorization involved, but being able to run through Dragon’s Lair without dying is a certain distinction few players can honestly brag about.

The Don Bluth Company is responsible for much of the game’s existence, and supplied all of the animation. Other great efforts from that company include the films “The Land Before Time” and “An American Tail”. That distinctive animation style is on full display here, with a fun, personality-filled medieval theme.

Whether you’re re-living precious Dragon’s Lair memories or stepping into Dirk’s shoes for the first time, this is a rare opportunity to play this important – and most importantly, FUN – game!