Space Invaders aka Astro Battle (Bally Pro Arcade, 1979)
Okay, my research on this is sketchy, but as far as I can tell:
Bally-Midway distributed Space Invaders in the arcades in the United States. The rights to do so, I assume, were purchased from Taito, the company that owned the game and distributed it in Japan.
Since Bally has this Professional Arcade for the home it only makes sense that they'd do a home version of Space Invaders for it, since it was the single most popular arcade game of all time, if you don't count past 1978.
Fast forwarding a little bit, Atari, in January of 1980, released their home version of Space Invaders and apparently they went directly to Taito to get the rights to do so.
So then, I'm guessing, this was why Bally had to change the name of their home Space Invaders to Astro Battle.
*shudder* Okay, that's enough of that. I should probably avoid talking about the history as much as I should avoid talking about the technology.
The other home version of Space Invaders released in 1979 was Space Destroyers for the APF MP1000.
(Bally is on the left, APF is on the right)
So, the immediate differences we see here are different sprite colors for the Bally and less columns (8 compared to 11) and less rows (4 compared to 5) than the APF version.
APF's version is great if you're looking for an "as close to the arcade" experience as possible. However, there is something to be said about adding variations to the home videogame experience simply because one couldn't get that variation on a single cabinet in the arcade. Bally attempts this by offering four skill levels: Novice, Amateur, Intermediate and Professional. The differences between the levels are simply increasing speed and enemy firing rates. The effects of such are that anyone in your household could play long enough, at least on Novice, to decide whether or not they enjoy the game. Beats the heck out of being destroyed repeatedly and quickly in Professional, Intermediate or even Amateur mode.
I should mention that, to me, the Bally controller with Space Invaders is a little annoying. Maybe it is just the particular controller I use, but that pistol grip fire mechanism becomes really uncomfortable to keep firing after a few rounds of invaders. If there's ever a game that requires rapidly firing a weapon with this controller, it's gonna hurt.
Bally Space Invaders limits the player to six screens of invaders. After screen six, they've invaded and it's Game Over for you, earthling. Perhaps since I'm used to the arcade style of playing until death, it seems odd to me to do it that way.
This is what it looks like when they've invaded.
The reason I include that shot, is that you don't get to see the Game Over message for very long. Once it's "Game Over", the Bally gives you a second-and-a-half to check your score and then it dumps you back to the game selection screen. It's very annoying, especially if you have a score of which you wanted to take a picture. This is one of those games you'd better be running through your VHS or Betamax if you want to be saving any screenshots of your high score. By the way, this is a one player only cart -- no alternating two-player play mode. Having a buddy with you, keeping an eye on your score, is a good way of actually finding out what your final score was.
I never thought about this before, but could Space Invaders be considered the first game with a continuous soundtrack? It isn't much, musically, but it certainly sets a tone. Here, again, the Bally's sound capabilities really come through as the audio output of the "invader march", the base explosions, the saucer -- all sound great. The Bally Professional Arcade just seems to have this ability to produce rich deep bass tones that I'm not getting from the Channel F, VCS or Odyssey^2.
So, to sum up Space Invaders for the Bally Pro Arcade: yay for color, yay for difficulty levels, yay for audio, boo for ADHD Game Over screen, meh for controller. Overall, it gets a happy face.
Next entry we'll look at Star Battle. 11067