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Categories: Raiders of the Lost Arcade

Raiders of the Lost Arcade: Astro Blaster


Astro BlasterPilot your lone Blaster through enemy sectors shooting down wave after wave of glowing, shifting alien ships in the rarely-seen Sega/Gremlin classic, Astro Blaster from 1981!

Answer the game’s call for fighter pilots, and put your quarter in to save the galaxy. Don’t hesitate! You must quickly destroy several formations, fly through the outer asteroid field and dock with the mother ship before fuel reserves run out. Aim carefully, too: your ship’s laser temperature increases with each firing and can temporarily overheat after too many wasted shots.

To aid you in battle, your ship is equipped with Warp drive that temporarily slows down enemies and their weapons for easier targeting, and a speaking computer that audibly updates you on fuel status, laser temperature, seconds of Warp time remaining and other conditions throughout play. Earn secret bonuses by meeting conditions like not wasting a single shot, destroying all enemies before they leave the screen, or docking with the mother ship without using movement controls. There are more hidden bonuses to find, too!

Astro Blaster is one of the earliest shoot ’em ups, coming out after Space Invaders and Galaxian but predating Galaga. It scored “best video game speech” in several gamers’ magazine polls of the time, and its sound effects and synthesized speech are still impressive today! Atari gamers may remember a stripped-down version called “Megamania”, but this cabinet is the only way to experience this underrated shooter in its original form!

Raiders of the Lost Arcade: Bust-A-Move

Bust-A-MoveBub and Bob from the arcade classic Bubble Bobble take their bubble-bursting action to a new game with Bust-A-Move, the 1994 puzzle game from Taito that kicked off a successful series.

Bust-A-Move actually debuted earlier in Japan as Puzzle Bobble (a title that actually makes a lot more sense), but when it hit US arcades as a Neo-Geo title, it sported a new title and the requisite “Winners Don’t Use Drugs” message. The game play is simple: Bub and Bob are at the bottom of a playfield full of colored bubbles with a cannon that shoots, you guessed it, bubbles! Your goal is to clear the playfield by strategically shooting bubbles to match colors. Attach three or more colored bubbles and they’ll pop, taking all of the bubbles hanging from them along. As the level progresses, the ceiling lowers, heightening the pressure to make the right shots. Let the playfield overfill with bubbles and it’s game over! Don’t think for too long, either – the game will automatically shoot the next bubble if you don’t make a decision quickly enough.

Once you’ve got the basic bubble bursting down, get creative and try to clear more bubbles by dropping, not popping. Dropped bubbles (the ones that fall down along with matching popped bubbles) are worth more points, and try to beat a level in 5 seconds or less for the maximum time bonus! Of course, you can play a competitive 2-player game as well. Clear a large group of bubbles and you’ll send more to your opponent’s screen, making it even tougher for them to win!

Bust-A-Move’s addictive gameplay led to several sequels and spin-offs, and you can certainly see its influence in modern hits like Peggle. The arcade cabinet’s artwork also proudly advertises the imminent Super Nintendo and Game Gear ports, unsurprising considering console gaming was coming on strong as near arcade-perfect ports were possible in the 16-bit era. Fortunately, the charm of playing a classic game in its original form still holds true to this day, so don’t just stand there – Bust-A-Move!

Raiders of the Lost Arcade – Tetris: The Grand Master 3 – Terror-Instinct

Tetris:  The Grand  Master 3 - Terror-InstinctThe inexplicably titled Tetris Grand Master 3: Terror-Instinct is the latest in a series of Japanese tournament style Tetris arcade games. While there are many modern iterations of Tetris in play today, the Grand Master series takes the competitive aspect to a whole new level, and commands the true skill of a high level twitch player.

Someone best acquainted with those timeless editions of Tetris from the NES or Game Boy will be familiar enough with the basic Tetris gameplay here, but the levels of speed with which the “tetriminos” drop is on a different scale. Instead of the basic level up scheme found in the older games, the Grand Master series employs a much finer set of levels, from 1 to 999. Additionally, these speed increases occur often, at just about every move the player makes. The result is an incredibly fast, hyped up Tetris game with the blazing speed and high skills found in the Japanese arcade scene.

The player also earns a grade, something not unlike a chess rank or a bowling average, for competition placement and bragging rights. The highest grade in the game, and the ultimate goal, is that of Grand Master. At the time of writing, only six people in the world have ever achieved Grandmaster, and witnessing one of these runs is a sight to behold.

It doesn’t take long to get used to this new, crazy fast type of Tetris, and suddenly your old school game will feel antiquated and slow. That’s a good thing though, as a good round of Tetris Grand Master is a rush intense enough to make this classic feel like a whole new game!

Did You Know?

  • Achieving Grandmaster involves a quick round of invisible Tetris, where the pieces fall at their highest speed, and become invisible when they land! Geez.

Raiders of the Lost Arcade: Congo Bongo

Congo BongoThis month, we’re featuring a rarely-seen Sega classic: 1983’s Congo Bongo!

Each of the four levels in Congo Bongo provides some variety to make up a fun, interesting title. While obviously influenced by Donkey Kong, Congo Bongo also draws from Sega’s own Frogger, and arranges it all in a 3D type platformer, with a perspective similar to a game like Marble Madness.

When starting the game, the player is treated to a short cinema of a mischievous monkey pranking our hero with a “hot foot.” This kicks off the gameplay where a vengeful explorer must ascend a mountain ridge, dodging coconuts hurled by the gorilla foe. Smaller monkies, snakes and rhinos join the fray, each of them difficult to dodge. By the fourth stage, the Frogger influence is very obvious, where our hero must traverse a busy stream, populated by logs and hippos. To finish his journey, the player gets revenge, returning the fiery favor from the opening screen.

Difficulty increases as the game progresses, bringing us back to the first screen to start the adventure all over again. Congo Bongo is a playful, amusing title that was early to utilize the isometric perspective, in a time before such a scheme was more common. Fans of Donkey Kong, Frogger, and the colorful classic appeal of Sega’s arcade titles should feel right at home in this wacky jungle adventure!

Raiders of the Lost Arcade: Metal Slug Multi-Cabinet

multislug-IG-promoThe fantastic Metal Slug series is one of the highlights of the Neo-Geo platform, and one of the best run and gun games around! Metal Slug has a distinctive style to it, mixing a fun, cartoonish flair with some surprisingly graphic violence, and a persistent sense of military parody. There are seven entries in the lineup, with a few remakes, console and handheld ports mixed in for good measure. Ground Kontrol has arranged the best four Metal Slug titles into a Neo-Geo cabinet filled to the brim with comical warfare! Below are some details for each of the games available in our rapid-fire collection:

Metal Slug (1996): This is the original title, and the one that introduced most of the Metal Slug tropes that would stick around for the rest of the series’ run. Players run and gun through a classic jungle war setting, rescuing POWs and upgrading weapons along the way. The ability to jump in a tank (the titular Metal Slug) was introduced here in the very beginning, and is an awesome addition to the action!

Metal Slug X (1999): Metal Slug 2 was a good game, but far from perfect, suffering from some slowdown issues (that admittedly can give you a chance to breathe while the screen is full of enemies and action). Metal Slug X is a remake of 2 that fixed these problems, and upgraded that good title into a truly great one. Here, we’re introduced to a science-fiction influenced theme, along with a few new weapon upgrades and a ramped-up difficulty. Also introduced in this title are special status effects a player can be afflicted with – certain items will afflict the player with the detrimental “mummy” or “fat” modes!

Metal Slug 3 (2000): The military from the original title and the martians from the 2nd team up for another wacky installment of Metal Slug, this one a true favorite among fans. Introduced here are a host of new vehicles, some updated weapons, and a system of branching paths that really adds to the replay value. Each path has its own difficulty level, and coming back to try them all is a great way to take on the variety found in Metal Slug 3.

Metal Slug 5 (2003): Metal Slug 5 pits the heroes against the Ptolemaic Army, who have stolen a disc containing secrets of the Metal Slug project. You can take them on with three new vehicles, including the Slug Gunner, a mech-like vehicle that can even punch enemies in close-combat or transform into a tank! The tone of Metal Slug 5 is less humorous than the rest of the series, with an emphasis on challenging gameplay. But don’t worry – even when you’re facing a steady stream of bullets, try the new slide-dash maneuver, allowing you to travel under many projectiles while shooting in a move that would make John Woo proud.

Get down here and give ’em heck in one or all of these action-packed arcade shoot ’em ups!

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!