Zaxxon - Christopher Tupa

Retro Arcade Art By CTupa: Zaxxon (1982)

No doubt about it, friends. Zaxxon, the isometric Sega space shooter from 1982 is a classic. As well as being an incredibly challenging arcade title. Furthermore it was the first arcade game to use axonmetric projection. Which is of course how Zaxxon got it’s name and helped it stand out in arcades!
Zaxxon - Arkadia Retrocade

Christopher Tupa has done a remarkable job of selecting games for his Retro Arcade Art project. Twenty-eight pieces of retro inspired art that focused on a classic arcade title. Many of them were quite unknown to me until I saw his work. It has been my pleasure to present the basics of the game to showcase his artwork for the last 28 weeks. Zaxxon happens to mark the last offering in CTupa’s Retro Arcade Art, however he certainly chose an important game to finish on.

Very much like Crystal Castles and even Q*bert, the isometric viewpoint takes some getting used to. In fact with it being the first arcade title to use it, it adds to the difficulty of the game by quite a bit. Players must attempt to pilot a spaceship through an enemy fortress, dodging many defenses and finally facing off against an evil robot, naturally named Zaxxon!
Zaxxon - Zaxxon Robot

Like many of the classic arcade games, that is easier said than done. Especially when you take into account the need to slip over and under electrical barriers. Thankfully the Player does have an altitude meter on the left hand side of the screen.
Zaxxon - Altitude Meter

Although for myself, I certainly used the shadow under the spaceship and where my shots were hitting to judge if it was safe to pass under a barrier or opening in the fortress wall.
Zaxxon - Spaceship Shadow

In Zaxxon when assaulting the space fortress, a Player will need to avoid a multitude of threats. Missiles launching from the fortress floor. Turrets firing towards your spaceship, stationary objects too, like radar dishes, fuel dumps and grounded spaceships. Obviously if you come in contact with any of these, you are treated to a fiery explosion and lose a life. Add to the mix that you must keep an eye on your fuel gauge and you can see why this game can be very tough.

Of course you can fill up your fuel meter by picking off those red fuel depots. Actually, I have always thought the hardest part of the game is after you clear a fortress. Because that is when you take on an opposing fleet of spaceships. I have a very hard time actually landing a shot on the enemy without getting hit myself. While crosshairs will appear when you have an enemy within your sights, I suppose I’m just not quick enough and get picked off.
Zaxxon - Enemy Planes

After making it through both the heavily armed fortress defenses and attacking fleet. Players will arrive at the headquarters of the villainous Zaxxon robot. Which is basically just another space fortress but at the end of that…awaits that deadly robot. Six direct hits upon the evil automaton’s missile is needed to defeat your foe.
Zaxxon - Zaxxon Robot Hit

Ready to see Zaxxon as well as Super Zaxxon in action?

[Via] Old Classic Retro Gaming

As always with CTupa’s Retro Arcade Art project, you can purchase the artwork featured in this post. The originals are ink and watercolor and are 5″x7″ on 8.5″x11″ size paper. You can hop on over to Christopher’s Official Site to contact him as well as check out more artwork from his project!

I hope you won’t forget to check out CTupa’s previous entries in his Retro Arcade Art project as well!

Furthermore, I would like to remind you that I have covered Zaxxon in the Diary of an Arcade Employee podcast as well.

Ready Player One review - Poster

Vic’s Ready Player One Review (Non-Spoilers)

What would be the easiest way for me to express my feelings for a Ready Player One review? Go see the movie and remember that Steven Spielberg is a Director of some renown? Sure. I feel you will be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t make it out to an actual movie theater and see it? Maybe. Nostalgia is not the be all and end all for the film? Definitely a truth, and in addition a valid point. No, the easiest way for me to sum up a Ready Player One review is that Spielberg has delivered a very fun film.

Obviously as I have already stated in previous posts, I admit I am one of the target audience. Of course I would be woefully inept if I didn’t mention the Retroist summed up the problems facing the film better than myself. But the truth is this. Ready Player One while not a perfect film is the closest we’ve come to seeing the Spielberg that brought us some genre-forging films. Similar to the likes of Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.

Furthermore, I truly feel that not only Spielberg but Zak Penn have taken the core of Ernest Cline’s 2011 novel. I don’t want to stay improved it, but perhaps brought other elements of the story to the forefront. Case in point, Art3mis, wonderfully played by Olivia Cooke. Many critics have lashed out at Cline…and with reason…that her role in the book is something akin to a prize to be won. I am happy to say that in the film version that couldn’t be further than the truth, yes, it’s still a love story but no one is being ‘won’.
Ready Player One review - Olivia Cooke

Tye Sheridan does a very good job of portraying the main protagonist of the film, Wade Watts aka Parzival. To be fair the film’s beginning might be considered a little heavy on the exposition. On the other hand this is a case where the audience needs to get caught up on the fly. So I think it’s honest to say that the filmmakers didn’t make a mistake in this regard. Lena Waithe, Ben Mendelsohn, Philip Zhao, Win Morisaki, as well as Simon Pegg do great jobs with their roles too. Although I felt that Mark Rylance stole the show, in his scenes as the creator of the OASIS, James Halliday.
Ready Player One review - James Halliday

Of course as has been seen in the trailers, in fact too much so, is the pop culture celebrated by the film. In that superior post by the Retroist, he wisely mentions that the marketing for the film. Had indeed slightly missed the point of the film itself. The nostalgia that those of us of a certain age will feel while watching the film…isn’t the film. It would however be fair to say that it is used as something akin to window dressing. In fact Cline’s 2015 follow up novel Armada goes way, way too far with the nostalgia. I want my main takeaway from this Ready Player One review to be this. In no way is the pop culture nods or nostalgia ever rammed down your throat or the like. It is most CERTAINLY celebrated but Spielberg yet again knows this isn’t what the movie is about.
Ready Player One - Bigfoot

Naturally since this is my Ready Player One review, I reckon I better tell you the synopsis. It is 2045 and Wade is like practially everyone on the planet. Just trying to find some relief from the oppressing life he was born into. It does appear that every Man, Woman, and Child find escape by way of a staggering virtual reality universe known as the OASIS. Which had been created earlier by Halliday and his best friend Ogden Morrow (Pegg), before a falling out saw Halliday becoming sole owner of the technology. The creator of the OASIS was literally loved by the World…and why not?
Ready Player One review - Parzival and Art3mis

This virtual reality paradise, assuming you can afford it, lets you do anything. With the right equipment you can even have physical contact, for good or ill. Many aspects of pop culture have been given literally their own planets. For example, Planet Doom, which appears to be a free-for-all. Especially when artifacts are up for grabs. Think of these as incredibly rare and powerful power-ups, to be used and hoarded by those throughout the OASIS.
Ready Player One review - Planet Doom

James Halliday has died several years before the start of Ready Player One. While the World mourns the loss of such a genius, the eccentric has a little game to play still. That is the fact that he has created the greatest Easter egg hunt. Somewhere in the overwhelming vastness of the OASIS are hidden three keys, the player that finds them will inherit Halliday’s fortune. As well as the OASIS itself I should add – which would make them the most powerful person on the planet. Which is of course why the IOI, an telecommunications empire wants to make sure they are the ones who find Halliday’s Easter Egg.

Obviously, Wade and his fellow Gunters, those who hunt for the keys and aren’t employed by IOI – find themselves in the crosshair of that powerful corporation. It becomes a race to see who will gain control of the OASIS…and Halliday’s dream of a better world.

Ready Player One, friends…it is an incredibly entertaining film. A joyride that sums up why I so dearly love movies. Many of those films that I hold so dear, were of course directed and produced by Steven Spielberg. It is an absolute blast to see him rekindle the ‘spirit’ of some of his earlier work. A film which understands the delights of all pop culture and most importantly, has a lot of heart.

That 80’s feeling is helped by a score composed by the legendary Alan Silvestri. So the last thing in this Ready Player One review is the opportunity to hear the main theme from the film. Enjoy!

[via] WaterTower Music

Flicky - Christopher Tupa

Retro Arcade Art By CTupa: Flicky (1984)

For this week’s Retro Arcade Art project, Christopher Tupa, has chosen another favorite of mine. Sega’s Flicky, which was originally released to the arcades in 1984. However if I am being honest, I in fact didn’t know anything about the game until we managed to get the cabinet for the arcade. This was a couple of years back now and one thing is for sure. Flicky has one of the cutest cast of characters you have ever seen.

While Flicky was developed by Sega it was released in the states by Bally/Midway. The game is a side-scroller in addition to being a platformer. Think Super Mario Bros. or even 1980’s Space Panic. The goal of Flicky is heartwarming as it is simple. Players guide the titular hero around the stage to pick up her lost chicks, which are called PioPios or chirps.

Furthermore, the PioPios that the Player comes in contact with will trail behind their Mother in a row. The end goal being to get all those little chirps to the exit on the level.
Flicky - PioPio Chain

This is easier said than done of course, as you must also be wary of the cats on the prowl. If they manage to snag a PioPio as you are racing around the level, the chirp will be left behind. Not eaten I thankfully need to add, but you will have to attempt to pick the chick back up. Which can easily result in a loss of your life as the cats are trying to leap up and take Flicky out.

Our protagonist does indeed have a way to defend herself. That is thanks to the many items scattered about the stages. Telephones, coffee cups, flower pots as well as bottles. You pick up these items like you do with the PioPios. Just come in contact with them, however when you jump you will toss them in front of you. When an object hits a prowling cat they will be knocked end over end, hopefully buying Flicky enough time to reach the exit before the cat returns!
Flicky - Cat Knocked Over

Besides the constant menace of the cats. The Player will have to be careful of the green iguanas to boot. This threat can also be dispatched with a thrown object. It can become a bit much to say the least. Attempting to keep those chirps together so you get a better score while avoiding the enemies.
Flicky - Iguana

There are bonus rounds in the game, I think that are designed to show you how rotten the cats are. Flicky is given a net and must attempt to catch the chirps that have been catapulted into the air!
Flicky - Bonus Round

Enough of the basics of Flicky, ready to see the game in action?

[Via] Dangorou Nishida

As always with CTupa’s Retro Arcade Art project, you can purchase the artwork featured in this post. The originals are ink and watercolor and are 5″x7″ on 8.5″x11″ size paper. You can hop on over to Christopher’s Official Site to contact him as well as check out more artwork from his project!

I hope you won’t forget to check out CTupa’s previous entries in his Retro Arcade Art project as well!

Red Quarters

The Mystery Of The Red Quarters…Solved!

When I originally thought of writing about red quarters, I had three examples ready to be photographed as accompanying artwork.

However, when you have a young son who is fascinated with arcade games, ticket redemption machines and all manner of gumball dispensers, keeping quarters handy is difficult.
Red Quarters

So, just imagine that this is a photo of a real red quarter taken on my dining room table, and not one I grabbed online this morning.

Have you ever sorted through your change and found an older quarter painted red, or the remnants of red paint that has been worn away during a few decades in someone’s pocket or change jar? Congratulations! There is a good chance that you are holding a piece of arcade history.

First of all, let me point out that there are a few alternative origins that are possible – but, not as neat as the arcade connection. Red quarters are also used for free laundromats and the occasional jukebox at the local tavern, but with change machines more available in 2017, and the increasing prices of these services, dollar bills are used much more often.

Red quarters are known as “shills” or “house coins.” When I managed an Aladdin’s Castle arcade back in the early 1990s, I called them “freebies.”

Arcade machines are amazing pieces of technology. From the start button, to the circuitry, to the joysticks, to the screen and speakers, millions of bits of high-tech electronic signals are bouncing around inside that pressboard cabinet before “Ready Player One” ever appears in colorful, pixilated glory to you.

But, before the credit button can ever be activated, the quarter has to make its way from your pocket through a series of mechanical twists and turns before the game recognizes your offering as a legitimate form of payment. Along the way, there are many places for your quarter to become lodged or even fall through to the coin collection box without giving you a credit to start the game.

If your arcade didn’t have an attendant back then, you usually just kicked or beat the coin door in a futile attempt to make it either accept the quarter – or generously return it to you. This usually never, ever worked.

Arcade attendants were the best people that minimum wage could hire at the time. While many could be trusted to open the front doors on time, most arcade owners did not trust their minions with keys to the coin doors or collection boxes.

When a customer complained about not receiving credit for their coin, an attendant would use a red-painted quarter in the slot to make the game work. If it did, the customer could then play their game and smile. If the game still did not work, an “Out of Order” sign would be placed over the screen until a repair technician could render first aid.

When it came time to count the game’s coin box each week, the red quarters would be sorted out from the silver ones and returned to the attendants to use again. They wouldn’t be counted as income and the arcade owner’s accountant would celebrate and rejoice at the reduction of paperwork.

At Aladdin’s Castle, we also used painted quarters, but only for the Rowe change machine or crane game. Our attendants had access to the coin mechanisms because tokens were used to credit the machines instead of cash – and our accountants rejoiced at the reduction of paperwork.

Why the red paint? Red paint stands out better in a sea of silver coins in the automatic counter, and in many cases, it’s also the only shade of nail polish that a female employee had handy at the time.

The next time you spot a red quarter, and the date on it is from before 1992, there is a very good chance that it was used to make someone’s arcade experience a happy one. Keep the cycle going and use it to credit-up the next video game you come across!
Retro New Year's Eve - 2016