Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Totally the same, and yet totally not the same

So I found this page, probably stumbled upon it, I am not certain. But I found this page: Midway Arcade and on this page they have, for sale, some thirty or forty arcade games of my youth.

Which is cool.

What is cooler is that they have totally free versions of some of the games too.

This is what Defender looks like most of the time when I am playing. You can see the remnants of my ship boiling off into space. Damn.

The adaptations to Flash are 100% faithful. The graphics, gameplay, and sound are identical to what I remember from the 7-11 I rode my bike to in order to waste quarters. In as far as the game is concerned, the only difference is the form factor of the controls. You don't have the cabinet or the spread out buttons at home, and they've merged the up down joystick with what had been the reverse button - but there's still the fire button that's easy to find and the hyperspace and smart bomb buttons that are impossible to find when you need them.

Much better than most of the more recent games which have one button that says "action."

The store I rode my bike to had a Space Invaders, an Asteroids, and a Defender. Eventually the Asteroids machine went away and we got a Tempest machine (Atari has a great Tempest port to windows - although it makes me wish I had a paddle instead of a joystick). I think for a while the store had a Missile Command too, but I was never really a Missile Command guy.

Finding and playing Defender at home is fun (they have Joust and Defender II as well, and Tapper, and that incomprehensible Robotron 2084). But I do think there is something different about the gameplay, and I wonder if the gameplay that the current Playstation generation is getting is cheating them of something.

I think I might have played Defender something less than 50 times in my life up until two days ago. Defender was hard. Back in the dawn of video games there was an economy involved. You knew a quarter into Asteroids or Space Invaders would be good for maybe five minutes - longer if you played well. I once played Galaga for almost an hour on vacation in Florida. Defender might be over in 15 seconds. My dad gave me a quarter to play Defender at an arcade at Cannery Row in California. We had been watching this huge black guy play for maybe 15 minutes, he was real good. He had a bunch of quarters up, but let me in to play my game, and as I was dying he was shouting at me "reverse! reverse! SMART BOMB!" and then I exploded, again, and the game was over. With me standing there wondering why if I was just going to smartbomb why I needed to reverse. The three ships might have lasted 20 seconds.

Since I found this page a couple of days ago and dug out the paddle I got to play NBA 2004 I think I have blown up maybe 60 ships. The concept of being able to practice this game is so totally foreign to me. The norm for Defender would be to drop the quarter, blow up the ships, get the 4150, and then go look for Star Castle or Ms. Pac-Man or even a pinball machine - anything that would stretch the dollar a little bit further. Play Defender twice in a row? That's a waste.

Defender 10 times in a row? That's insane. There's a lesson there somewhere, but I am not sure what it is, and having learned it long ago I'm not sure I care. Now if I could only clear the second stage...

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