Tuesday, July 11, 2017


Oddly enough nobody wears white in the actual game
My last blogpost ended on a bit of a cliffhanger in that there was a sixth and final arcade game that I consider one of my all-time favorites.  One of the neat things about arcade games is their malleability.  Because each machine is dedicated to playing a single game (Neo Geo aside), it allows for a variety of non-standard control schemes; driving games with steering wheels and pedals, air combat games with flight sticks and seats that shift when the player banks and turns, Paperboy even featured a pair of handlebars for controlling the on-screen bicycle.  By far the most common kind of variation was the light-gun game.  When asked which is the best of the bunch, I imagine most people would reply Time Crisis, Terminator 2 or Revolution X, but for me the standout game was the rather generically named Space Gun.

Right away I think most people will pick up on the Aliens film parallels, industrial environments infested with hostile organisms, sometimes cocooned human survivors in need of rescue, and sci-fi military hero characters representing the player(s).  Like most light gun games it plays from the first person perspective.  There are a few instances where players can choose from one of two paths, as well as the ability to backup via a foot pedal, but for the most part the gameplay is on-rails, shooting whatever happens to pop up in the FOV.  The guns are fully automatic and have several different secondary consumable ammo types that freeze, shock, blast or burn targets.  The alien creatures themselves are a purple/green mixture and come in a few different humanoid shapes.  The most common has three eyes and four arms!  It's possible to shoot off limbs or even the head.  Combine that with the basic plot structure which features the player(s) exploring a spaceship, then a base on the planet it's orbiting around, and one can't help but wonder if Space Gun indirectly influenced the original Dead Space.

"Watch your fire and check your targets"
The last chapter also features the obligatory rush to escape while a self-destruct timer counts down.  The end boss battle emphasises one of Space Gun's more defining features, the player has to be mindful of where and when they shoot.  Obviously, they don't want to gun down fleeing humans (or "hostages" as they are called for some reason...), but in addition to this, targeting incoming projectiles or monsters winding up for a melee attack also serve as examples of skilled gameplay.  Additionally, the guns the players use deplete an ammunition reserve when fired, but refill when allowed to idle.  Hence, shooting non-stop will cause the weapon to "chug" at a reduced rate of fire.  In the aforementioned final battle (which takes place onboard an escape shuttle) players must do their best not to hit the control panel in the background while dealing with the last boss.  If the ship takes too much internal damage during the battle it will be unable to take off, dooming the player characters and anyone they had rescued up to that point.  In other words, being too gung-ho nets you the bad ending.  It wasn't a gameplay feature unique to Space Gun (even at the time of its release), but in my mind the emphasis on player restraint did help set the game apart from the pack.

FYI, Alien 3 had one facehugger,
 one chestburster, one xenomorph,
and no guns, Sega
Other than that, there are a few distinct variations on the standard type, automated sentry turrets, flying enemies resembling giant insects or manta-rays, and a few snake-like mini-bosses.  There's also a motion tracker display at the bottom of the screen that tips-off players to potential dangers (not to mention further reinforcing the Aliens analogue).  Three years later Sega would copy the format of Space Gun when they introduced Alien 3: The Gun to arcades using a fairly similar rendering engine and gameplay interface.  Apparently, the developers over at Sega completely forgot the plot of the Alien 3 movie though...

Weird film to video game adaptations aside, Space Gun is the sixth and final entry in my top six arcade games list.  Due to an itchy trigger finger, I never got the good ending, something I found very frustrating at the time, but in hindsight makes me respect the designers for trying to evolve the genre despite having a fairly unoriginal premise...oh and the arcade cabinet was really cool looking too.

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