Astro Fighter
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  • Sega
  • Gremlin
  • Action - Shooter - 2D (example - Thunder Force)
  • 1980
  • 1-2
  • high score save
  • 7
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7  |  Everybody Was Astro Fightin'...
Darryl B. , 5/13/2005 8:32:44 AM
Astro Fighter isn't a game that would get anyone to blink nowadays as they're immersed in their latest pre-rendered background, 3-D card accelerated, bitmapped this and that, networked first person shooter with their companion team that is scattered all over the world, working to rid some virtual battleground of enemy evil (by killing them all dead). However, Astro Fighter was a pretty good, break-the-mold game when it was first released.

Why? Because of the Space Invaders boom (or a more fitting term could be "invasion", I suppose).

Even though the elements of A. Fighter were obviously borrowed, it really expanded on the shoot from the bottom of the screen genre, as there were tons of Invader rip-offs that played exactly like Space Invaders, except the graphics and sound effects were different, and the number of onscreen aliens were changed, and that was about it for those rip-offs in general. Here, though, every time you clear a screen, a new set of ships with different mannerisms and attack patterns would emerge, kind of like what Gorf and Tron would later do.

The first couple of waves are pretty standard, as a few rows of ships descend downward while shooting. However, there's a few new wrinkles here already with the moment you start playing, one of which is that you have a fuel gauge. So don't waste too much time during a wave, or else the more and more fuel is sucked up; run out of fuel, and the game ends.

Also, if a ship reaches the bottom of the screen before you're able to destroy it, the wave will start all over, except your ship is bumped up an inch on the screen, giving you less time to react to everything. There are comets or something that come streaming down the screen from time to time as well, although in an old book of mine of How To Master The Video Games, they're supposedly "light bulbs"; yeah RIGHT! Forget comets and all, lets make the adversary of our new video game LIGHT BULBS! (Crewman: "Captain, our long range scanner has picked up a Light Bulb shower heading directly for us!" Captain: "The hell with Starfleet's orders then, we're not leaving spacedock with those ferocious Light Bulbs out there!")

Shaking things up near the end of a sector, though, are the most dreaded ships of the bunch, which look like green T. I. E. Fighters (mmmmm, green! Lovely!), which move at a 45 degree angle, then stop and reverse themselves, moving diagionally the whole time. These are difficult to anticipate which way they're going to go (granted, you'll SHOW them where to go with your ship's missiles, but...), and with the more ships you destroy during a wave, the faster the remaining ships become (which is kind of funny, as you didn't realize back then of the slowdown of the microprocessor of having to deal with several ships onscreen at once). Last is the "GS" (Gremlin/Sega) ship, which gives you a brief cinematic when you blow it up, extending down a line to refill your fuel tank with, and then the game starts over at an increased difficulty level, of course.

This game won't seem like much nowadays -- although at times you might find yourself pinned down by a few of those meteors/comets/whatever (they're NOT "light bulbs"!) and some nasty diagional shots from your enemies as well -- but it gave a good boost to the basic Space Invader principle (which the Activision game of Megamania plays a lot like), having pretty good graphics and all from back then, but one thing that lowered my rating on this were those CONTROLS! You press the left and right buttons, and they don't exactly respond at lightning speed, which is actually NORMAL, believe it or not: I played this game at several game rooms and theatre lobbies, plus my Video Games book also mentioned this, so nope, I wasn't playing one bad machine with slow-responsive controls, the game was designed that way, believe it or not. (But if it's not *emulated* like that, be thankful :P )

As much as I enjoy (but bore others ;) ) writing reviews on obscure coin-ops (dunno why I've been doing the less popular ones up to now), this one actually makes me kind of sad. The reason? Out of the very few video game companies that started out pretty much "in the beginning (or close to it)" of the gaming industry and are still around today -- like Atari (sort of), Sega, Nintendo, Electronic Arts, etc. -- those very few companies are nothing like they used to be, and probably not a single employee from back then is still with them (or very, very few of them are).

Not only that, but the companies have forgotten their histories for the most part, usually totally ignoring their coin-op past. It's been a while since I looked at the official Sega website, but they had no mention at all of their coin-op division. They made a lot of games back then that could fit very nicely onto a compilation cd for the home computer and current consoles that they're also making software for, including Astro Fighter. But this will probably never come to be, although there's always emulation.

Well Astro Fighter, even if tons of people either never experienced you or overlooked you over the years, I haven't forgotten your unique contribution to the Space Invaders-type genre. So thanks for the good times and memories.

Even though two-thirds of your controls sucked astro ass.

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