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Author Topic: Astro Invader  (Read 5092 times)

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Zobeid

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Astro Invader
« on: February 10, 2008, 10:19:33 pm »
The first arcade I ever walked into had an Astro Invader machine.  I have to write a little about this game, because it seems full of contradictions.

Astro Invader was the first video game from Stern Electronics, and it was clearly an attempt to cash in on the Space Invaders craze.  The name alone told you that, right?  But here's the problem. . .  In some ways it seemed like an even less advanced game than Space Invaders, because the aliens simply dropped through vertical slots clearly marked on the screen.  The premise didn't even make sense: since when does the sky have vertical slots?  The aliens didn't even shoot at you, they just tried to drop on you.  Nor did they respond in any way to the player's actions, aside from dying when shot.

This might have been forgivable. . .  except that Galaxians had already come out the year before.  The multi-colored Galaxians swooping down in formation, while firing, in front of a scrolling starfield looked like the future.  Astro Invader looked like the past.

So, Astro Invader was the runner-up.  If you couldn't play Galaxians at your local arcade because of the mob surrounding the machine, you could always walk across the room and plunk your quarter into the lonely Astro Invader machine.

Why did Stern release a game that was clearly behind the times?

Then there's the color issue.  It's been a lot of years, but I thought Astro Invader was a black-and-white game with a color overlay -- sort of like Space Invaders.  According to Wikipedia, it was a color game.  It plays in color with MAME.  And yet, if you play the game in MAME you'll notice the color is applied in a very overlay-like manner.  All game objects are monochrome and they change color as they move through different regions of the screen.  Which is right: Wikipedia or my faded memories?

Next issue: Scarcity!  Wikipedia offers this:

Quote
An Astro Invader machine appears in the music video for the Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers song You Got Lucky. The band finds a working one buried under some junk in an old barn, and eventually Petty knocks the machine over. Although not commented on at the time, this has retroactively caused some lament among arcade fans because Astro Invader machines were not produced in large numbers to begin with, and intact, working specimens are now fairly rare.

Back in the early 1980s, in the region of rural Texas where I lived, there was no shortage of Astro Invader machines.  The two arcades I most often frequented both had one.  Maybe my area was freakish, maybe it was a dumping ground for games nobody wanted.  They were also among the first arcade games that I ever saw coming up for sale the public -- for cheap!  The use of an Astro Invader machine in that Tom Petty video made perfect sense to me when I saw it on MTV.  "Aha!  They used the cheapest, most unwanted arcade game they could find."  It was already obsolete.

If the machines are fairly rare today, I suspect it's because so many were unceremoniously dumped into landfills around 1982.

However. . .  I don't want to give the impression that I hated the game.  It may not have wowed me the way Galaxians did, but I probably put more quarters into Astro Invader than I ever did into Space Invaders and Galaxians combined.  That was partly due to availability, as I've previously alluded. . .  but there was something else.

I've heard some people talk about the hypnotic qualities of Space Invaders.  They talk about getting into the rhythm of the game and finding an almost trance-like state.  I never got that out of Space Invaders, but I have experienced something like it when playing Astro Invader.  The aliens fall into their slots at a fixed rate, your gun fires at a fixed rate, and you have move and fire into slot after slot to the beat of the game.  It could be -- briefly -- fascinating.


IG-88

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Re: Astro Invader
« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2008, 03:29:38 pm »
Nice review. I like the game myself. In fact I'm gonna go play it right now. Keep 'em coming.
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rohan

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Re: Astro Invader
« Reply #2 on: June 14, 2009, 04:05:07 pm »
Great review, Zobeid.  I didn't know how rare this game has become until I looked for parts to restore my own machine.   The game is now restored, and it has become one of my favorites just due to its great level of difficulty.  It really does have a hypnotic quality despite its shortcomings.
It doesn't matter if you win or lose....it's how you play the videogame.

Ummon

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Re: Astro Invader
« Reply #3 on: June 14, 2009, 07:49:29 pm »
When you review a game, I suggest putting up a snap of it. Maybe images of the cabinet, too. Or at least link klov or something.
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People often confuse expressed observations with complaint, ridicule, or - even worse - self-pity.

bosco

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Re: Astro Invader
« Reply #4 on: July 09, 2009, 06:05:16 pm »
Quote
Great review, Zobeid.  I didn't know how rare this game has become until I looked for parts to restore my own machine.   The game is now restored, and it has become one of my favorites just due to its great level of difficulty.  It really does have a hypnotic quality despite its shortcomings.

Rohan I believe I've discussed this with you on the Mame boards.  Is the current emulation correct?  In Mame the little boogers still make the screen flash when they hit the floor.  I don't remember them doing that. 

Would it be easy to record samples from it? Mame uses Space Invaders samples which I believe (correct me if I'm wrong) are inaccurate.

Thanks



rohan

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Re: Astro Invader
« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2009, 03:47:30 am »
                According to MAWS ->http://maws.mameworld.info/maws/ Aaron Giles fixed the flashing issue in MAME .122u6.  I don't know how accurate the emulation is, because I'm still using an older (MAME .120) version.  As for samples, I don't have an easy way to record them directly from the speaker output with my electronic equipment.  It can be done, but it may be a while.  A gameplay recording using a decent mic was made and posted by me in the MAMEWorld.info forums some time ago...Someone with a little more expertise than I could probably use that recording to make a better sample set than the current Space Invaders .wav files. 
               My contention with the history and classification of Astro Invader is that the Stern version is considered a clone of Kamikaze (Leijac 1979).  I don't know if this is correct.  I thought Stern's first videogame was their own and not licensed from anybody else.  It may be that Leijac was a subsidiary of Namco (which licensed a few games to Stern), but I can't find much info on this company.  The cabinet pic on MAWS is a Karateco cabinet taken from it's Kamikaze flyer which shows screenshots that it's actually a clone of Galaxianhttp://www.arcadeflyers.com/?page=flyer&db=videodb&id=2952&image=1...The plot thickens...I've tried to correct the record with little luck, and have given up. You would think an owner of such a rare game would be given some credibility ::) Maybe you'll have better luck.
« Last Edit: July 17, 2009, 04:05:24 am by rohan »
It doesn't matter if you win or lose....it's how you play the videogame.