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  • Bally Midway
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  • 1982
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10  |  Greetings, Programs!
Darryl B. , 12/8/2005 10:18:08 PM
As Tron star Jeff Bridges said at one point during the Tron 20th Anniversary DVD extra disc, "Tron stands alone", that pretty much sums up that cult classic of a movie that had the first CGI graphics ever, way back in the early 1980s. Oh sure, the majority of the effects actually weren't computer generated, but it had a lot of very unique looks and ideas to it, resulting in one of the most original-looking, unique movies of all time.

However, Tron didn't do well at the box office, and adding to the mystique were the Tron video games outgrossing the movie! Sure, that happens more often nowadays, but even the wildly popular Atari Star Wars game (considered by many to be THE best vector graphic game ever), The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and the Indiana Jones coin-op cost Atari plenty in licensing fees.

So maybe Midway just got a good deal when they licensed Tron, perhaps? Because it was a pretty big hit indeed, as, like Gorf, having several games in one had proven before to make the quarters and/or tokens pour into the machines.

So, in honor of the 20th anniversary of Tron, one of the coolest movies ever made (to hell with the pundits who said the idea of shrinking someone into a computer was absurd, which meant it was a stupid, sucky movie: ummm, what section of the video store is this movie located? Right, Fantasy or Science FICTION! I mean, what do you EXPECT?) -- ok, so it was a few years ago, but I only just saw the DVD for the first time last month -- here's my review:

It all starts off with a player being given four areas/games to choose from; pushing the unique Tron joystick (although it was pretty much the same as Gorf's) would select and reveal a play area, which are:

LIGHT CYCLES--here you must race against a computer player as you try to encase it with a trail that your cycle leaves behind (which this is a faster, more dressed-up version of tons of games like this found before in the arcades, home computer and gaming consoles of back then) in THE trademark game scene of the movie. The button on the joystick will increase your speed, and in no time at all, more enemy computer Cycles are added to the playfield, plus they start going as fast as YOU as well (insert the "Wipeout" theme music here).

MCP CONE--slightly different from one of the last scenes in the movie, Tron (or is it Flynn?) gets a bunch of blocks to destroy that surround the MCP with before he can enter the cone, but touching any of them will "derez" (kill) a player. As more levels are cleared (a level is completed when a player has won every one of the four games before he or she can move on), the blocks get more numerous and move faster. Try not to move faster than your guardian disc can fly!

GRID BUGS--barely on the screen at all in the movie, the Grid Bugs make up for their brief screen time (maybe because they were horribly fake-looking? Oh well, it was cgi in the earliest days) by being major contenders here. A player will get 999 units of time to make his escape in the center (actually, with the first screen, I think it's 500 units); in the meantime, he or she will earn 50 points for each Grid Bug that is destroyed. So it's very much worth it to stay in this game for as long as possible and shoot as many Grid Bugs as possible for maximum points before leaving, and ending, the screen. And if you're lucky, on certain levels, the Solar Sailor from the movie will leave behind a beloved Bit that is worth a whopping 5,000 points if you pick it up. To quote the Bit: "yesyesyesyesyesyes!"

TANKS--due to breaking the speed limit and all traffic laws possible in the Light Cycle scene, a bunch of tanks are after you in this one. Each tank takes three hits to destroy, but only ONE of their shots to


will end a life. There's a bunch of blocks to hide in between to let your turret stick out so you can shoot at the tanks, plus a teleport in the center, should they get too close (but, like using Hyperspace in Asteroids or Defender, could put you in an even MORE dangerous place than before). As the waves continue, the tanks get more numerous and fire faster, and you even go up against the most loathed enemies of the movie, the Recognizers, which don't shoot, but move probably from three to five times faster than the regular tanks!

This game was so very well done, as the difficulty level is raised just a notch with every completed level, plus the graphics, control, sound, and music were all very good at the time (the latter of which you can hear throughout the movie, once you become familiar enough with it), and if that wasn't enough, there were also TWO versions of Tron out there at the time! That's right, there was a different chip in some machines that featured different Grid Bug, Tank and Light Cycle configurations (and probably MCP as well, but I don't recall), adding more, different levels to the game.

Pretty much everything in the game evolved around using patterns, though, as the tanks are programmed to appear in certain spots during each wave, there are certain paths you can take to ensure all the Light Cycles get destroyed, etc. Heck, back in the day, I literally got a million points once on this game (ok, 999,959, which I was on the Grid Bug screen, which shooting a Bug would've pushed me over a million, so I didn't do it, for fear of the score rolling over to zero), but once I got reunited with it a good 20 years later (at least) at the Houston H. A. A. G. convention in 2004, after forgetting a lot of the patterns, I couldn't even break 100,000! Pretty funny; Tron (from the movie) would smirk knowing how much better he was than I, but Sark (the villain in the movie, and absent from this game) would be pretty happy...

Unfortunately, due to the game having a joystick with a fire button AND a dial controller (to move and aim Tron's arms during the MCP and Grid Bug screens, and to swivel the turret in the Tank screens), this game never saw a home release, due to no consoles ever having that many, varied controls...and it probably never will, since the Tron license would have to be re-purchased, unless that Tron 2.0 movie sequel would eventually be written, filmed and released.

Us Tron fans can only hope. 10/10

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