Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Favorite Arcade Games

Recently, I've been browsing various Top-10-Arcade-Game videos and articles across the internet.  Sadly, my person favorites rarely make the cut or even get a mention.  Maybe my tastes differ from the norm.  Then again, I have a feeling that more than a few of these lists were composed by people who were too young to catch more than the tail end of the era.  Either way, I'd like to do a top-six list (I don't do that top 10 stuff) of my favorite arcade machines.  So, in no particular order let's begin.

This one stands out in my memory for three reasons.  First, I was a huge fan of "Kaiju" movies growing up so the concept of getting to play as one of those gigantic monsters held enormous appeal to me.  I usually played as Lizzie because she reminded me of Godzilla.  The second reason is Rampage wasn't a quarter eater like most arcade games.  You could actually last quite a long time provided you made an effort to devour those hapless little humans, an act that would restore a small amount of health.  This brings me to the third reason for liking this game, co-operative play.  With the help of up to two friends I was able to make a complete tour of all the cities (essentially seeing all the game had to offer) at the paultery cost of $2.25, or nine credits worth of gameplay.  Very few arcade games, before or since, have offered that kind of bang for your buck.

Operation: Starblade
I've discussed this game at length in another blogpost (here) so I won't go into a great deal of detail here.  In short, it was a sit-down rail shooter visually similar to Starfox (minus the anthropomorphic animals).  It had an exceptionally large display screen for the time (courtesy of an image reflection system) backed up by a surround sound speakers setup.  Needless to say, it was an immersive game with a few neat stylistic flourishes that reminded me of the space battles seem in Star Wars and The Last Starfighter.  I must have beaten the game half-a-dozen times growing up.

Eight-year-old me thought it was strange that this four-player top-down dungeon crawler/shooter was named after an armored glove when no such item ever makes an appearnce it the game.  It wasn't until a few years later that I learned the word "gauntlet" has another meaning which accurately sums up what it's like playing through the game.  As I recall, there were four different playable characters; a wizard, an elf, a barbarian, and a valkyrie.  I liked to play the valkyrie because her perk was a 30 percent reduction to damage. Each character also had their own kind of projectile weapon (fireballs, arrows, axes, and daggers respectively).  The dungeons themselves were maze-like structors populated by monster spawners that would spit out a trickle of enemies.  Ideally, ranged attacks would be used to defeat them, but it was also possible to take foes down in melee combat (doing so would incur damage to the player's character though).  Other than that there was treasure for scoring points and food for restoring health.

While interesting to a degree, I've always felt puzzle game like Tetris and Columns needed an extra layer of gameplay to make them truly shine.  Puzzle and Dragon did the latter right, but before that Atari did an excellent job of improving on the former.  Rampart is divided into three tightly timed phases.  The first, wall building, plays out similarly to Tetris except the idea is to make fully enclosed spaces around keeps rather than solid rows.  Doing so nets points which, in the second phase, grants the player cannons that they can place inside their castle courtyards.  The third phase is combat, in which the cannons can be used to bombard other players' walls and cannons.  The process then resets until one side can no longer maintain a castle.  There's also a single player mode that features ships attacking by sea, but to me the game was really only fun versus other players.

In order to maximize profits, most arcade games were brutally difficult with mechanics deliberately designed to discourage caution.  An exception to this design trend was Gladiator.  Essentially a 1-vs-1 fighting game, players were reward for systematically wearing down opponents by breaking their weapon, shield and armor until an opportunity to deliver a well timed killing blow presented itself.  Because the game allowed for this kind of methodical approach, I could last a ridiculously long time with just one quarter (oftentimes vexing friends and family in the process).  I rarely watched anyone else play this particular arcade game, but the few times I did it was horrifying to see players foolheartedly rush in mashing buttons with reckless abandon.  It was a tactic which, more often than not, resulted in the player losing, whereas well timed strikes, probing attacks and a fair amount of patience would almost always result in victory.

I said that this was a top six list so that means there's one more game I want to mention.  However, I want to go into detail on it and to do so here would make for a very long blogpost.  So instead I'll make a separate post on it next week.  Until then...

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