Astro Blaster

screenshot

The [Coin-Op] Arcade Video Game by Sega Enterprises, Ltd. [Tokyo, Japan]

 
DESCRIPTION
 
[Coin-Op] Arcade Video Game

Astro Blaster © 1981 Sega.


Astro Blaster is a 1- or 2-player game in which players must advance through squadrons of alien ships in an attempt to dock with the mother ship. Players move their ship left or right and shoot at attacking squadrons. A special time warp allows the player to slow down the alien space ships and their laser fire, while maintaining his own ship and laser fire at normal speed.

As players go through the game play, each step is directed by the voice of mission control. Mission control keeps players informed of fuel status, provides a countdown on warp, keeps track of the number of ships remaining, and monitors the player's laser temperature.

As players enter each new sector they encounter a different number of alien squadrons. Players must destroy all ships in each squadron to pass through the sector. One squadron of rockets is extremely difficult to destroy, but players can pass through this squadron by hitting a few enemy ships. Once a player has destroyed all the squadrons in that sector, he enters an asteroid belt. He must maneuver and shoot his way through the asteroids to reach the mother ship. If fuel is critically low when the player enters the asteroid belt, he can receive extra fuel by shooting the red fireballs interspersed among the asteroids. After passing through the asteroid belt, the player's ship docks with the mother ship and refuels.

There are 29 different alien squadrons players encounter as they move through the different sectors. Every new sector increases in difficulty with different numbers of squadrons in each sector. Each alien ship has its own individualized sounds, movements and firing capability.

During their game, players must keep track of fuel consumption. As the player's ship moves through the sector, it consumes fuel. The player must ensure he has enough fuel to advance through the sector and dock with the mother ship. Extra fuel can only be obtained by shooting red fireballs or docking with the mother ship. The screen also displays the laser temperature. As players fire, the laser temperature rises. When they cease firing it cools down. If the laser overheats, players lose their laser fire until it cools down.

By depressing the warp button, players slow down the enemy ships and their laser fire while maintaining his own at normal speed. Players receive one warp per ships and are awarded one warp upon docking, if he has used his warp in the previous sector.

Each alien ship destroyed carries a different point value. Players also receive double points for destroying an alien ship when their fuel is in the red. To add further excitement, there are 25 tasks that a player performs during the course of the game and receives a secret bonus. Players do not know what these tasks are, but a good player will keep track. The 25 tasks are consistent throughout the game. Players also receive a bonus for any fuel they have left when they dock with the mother ship.

With a two-player game, players alternate at the conclusion of each sector, not after each ship. Players receive 3 to 5 ships, which is operator adjustable. The game is over when a player runs out of fuel, loses all his ships, or crashes while attempting to dock with the mother ship. The top three scores are displayed and the game ranks players from 1 to 99.

PLAY INSTRUCTIONS :
1. Shoot enemy space ships for points.
2. Shoot fire balls for extra fuel.
3. Use warp to slow down enemy ships and bombs (only once per sector or ship).
4. Discover how to earn secret bonuses for extra points.
5. Dock with mother ship to refuel after each sector.
6. Game over when you run out of ships or fuel.
7. Laser will not fire while overheated.
TECHNICAL
 
PICTURE :
1
Astro Blaster machine
Click to enlarge (members only)
Sega G80 Raster hardware

Main CPU : Z80 (@ 3.867 Mhz), I8035 (@ 208 Khz)
Sound Chips : Discrete circuitry, SP0250 (@ 3.12 Mhz)

Screen orientation : Vertical
Video resolution : 224 x 256 pixels
Screen refresh : 60.00 Hz
Palette colors : 64

Players : 2
Buttons : 4 (LEFT, RIGHT, FIRE, WARP)
TRIVIA
 
Astro Blaster was released in March 1981.

Astro Blaster was one of the big contributions from Sega/Gremlin. Utilizing speech synthesis, the game attracted players by stating 'Fighter pilots needed in sector wars, play Astro Blaster'. During game play, the game gave you different advice such as 'Alert, alert, invaders in sector 1, player 1 to battle stations', 'Fuel status marginal', or 'Warp activated, 10, 9, 8,...' to name a few.

Astro Blaster wasn't the first game to introduce speech synthesis in a game, that honor goes to Taito's "Stratovox". Astro Blaster, though, challenged the player to go through seven sectors with a varying amount of waves within each sector. Astro Blaster was an extremely challenging game, it developed a solid following. It wasn't as popular as "Frogger", which was released later on, but it still had a solid showing and redefined how space shooters could be made more challenging. Other notable games released in this year were "Donkey Kong", "Galaga", "Vanguard", and "Wizard of Wor".

The bonuses in this game were actually bugs that would appear if certain events took place. Rather than 'fix' the bugs, Gary Shannon changed them to bonus 'features'.

Gus Pappas holds the official record for this game with 299,100 points on November 20, 1982.

In Sega's Dreamcast 1999 video game 'Shenmue', an Astro Blaster cabinet can be seen in the YOU Arcade in Dobuita, but it has an 'out of order' label on it and is not playable. Its possible it was originally playable and had to be removed for some reason, but it is perhaps there simply for the sake of realism; Shenmue is set in 1986/87, so even then it would be considered an old game.
UPDATES
 
Three versions of Astro Blaster were released. The first version was deemed too difficult to play. Version 2 was released to remedy this situation and to be a little more descriptive in the games instructions. Version 3 was basically the EASY version of Astro Blaster. All 3 versions had some things in common :
1) All the different alien spacecraft were in all of the versions, it was just their order of appearance that made a difference.
2) The secret bonuses were common to all three versions. Just because a sector had different waves didn't mean the bonuses for specific events were changed.
3) Each had a high score table that held the 99 top scores.

It was easy to spot a version one machine. The instructions were displayed on the screen. When you inserted your money, you just had to press the 1- or 2-player button to start the game.

On versions 2 and 3, after you inserted your money, a blue screen came up and basically told you to press the 1- or 2-player button.. It also explained some of the rules while in attract mode. The order of the alien attackers is what determined version two and three.
SCORING
 
NOTE : During fuel status critical, everything in the game is double points.

AMOEBAS : 70 Points
BLUE&RED DISCS : 70 Points
BLUE&RED SPIRALS : 110 Points
BLUE&RED TRIANGLE : 100 Points
BLUE DIAMOND : 110 Points
BLUE DISC : 60 Points
BLUE OVALS : 120 Points
BLUE HEXAGON : 110 Points
BLUE UFO'S : 160/80 Points
BLUE X's : 90 Points
GALAXIANS : 70/110 Points
GREEN DOUBLE ARROWS : 90 Points
METEOR : 60 Points
ORANGE&PURPLE SPINNERS : 80/110 Points
ORANGE ARROWS : 100 Points
ORANGE CRYSTALS : 110 Points
ORANGE DART : 40/70 Points
ORANGE SAUCER : 50/100 Points
RED-RINGED GLOBES : 100 Points
RUBBER BANDS : 70 Points
WHITE BLOCK : 70 Points
WHITE BOATS : 90 Points
WHITE SQUARES : 100 Points
WHITE WINGS : 60 Points
YELLOW BIRD : 70 Points
YELLOW DOUBLE DIAMONDS : 80 Points

You also get 100 points per asteroid you take out at the end of the sector.
You also get a bonus for fuel remaining when you dock with the mother ship.

You get a bonus for fuel remaining when you dock with the mother ship, awarded at 10 points per pixel of fuel.

Secret Bonuses :
Number 01, bonus 2000 points. Complete the asteroid field without missing any fireballs.
Number 03, bonus 1000 points. Shoot all enemies without missing.
Number 04, bonus 700 points. Shoot all enemies before they wrap around to the other side of the screen, during waves that have the enemies that fly horizontally or diagonally.
Number 09, bonus 500, 700, 900, 1000 or 1500 points. Don't move at all when docking with the mother ship (1000 points for a PERFECTLY centered approach, 1500 points for 'the paint scraper', when you brush a docking clamp of the mother ship).
Number 12, bonus 700 points. Shoot all enemies before any escape the screen through the bottom (certain waves only).
Number 13, bonus 500 points. Shoot all enemies in proper order in sector 1.
Number 14, bonus 1000 points. Shoot all enemies in proper order in sector 2.
Number 15, bonus 1500 points. Shoot all enemies in proper order in sector 3.
Number 16, bonus 2000 points. Shoot all enemies in proper order in sector 4.
Number 17, bonus 2500 points. Shoot all enemies in proper order in sector 5.
Number 18, bonus 3000 points. Shoot all enemies in proper order in sector 6.
Number 19, bonus 3500 points. Shoot all enemies in proper order in sector 7.
Number 22, bonus 600 points. Never get laser temperature critical during the sector (awarded before docking).
Number 25, bonus 500 points. Not dying during the sector (awarded before docking).
TIPS AND TRICKS
 
When you start the game, your star ship will be in the middle of the screen. The computer voice will state 'Alert, alert, invaders sector 1, player 1, battle stations'. With that, you are ready to rock and roll. Before you start your game, be sure of what version machine you are playing so you can get yourself prepared. Since each version alters the order of the aliens, it's not good to be prepared for one attack and a totally different attack comes along.

Although the computer voice can be annoying at times, it also gives you very valuable information. This will actually help you to concentrate more on destroying aliens then constantly looking at your gauges. Some helpful things the voice will tell you are :
1) When your fuel status hits marginal and critical.
2) When your laser temperature is approaching critical.
3) The countdown after you activate warp.

Fuel is a very precious commodity in this game. If you run out of fuel, your game is over regardless of how many star ships you have left. Learn how to maximize your fuel usage because in the later sectors that have a lot of waves, you will be running on empty. Some other fuel facts :
1) When you activate warp, only the enemies on the screen slow down. Your fuel supply continues to burn away in REAL time.
2) When fuel status marginal is announced, you have approximately 25 seconds of fuel remaining.
3) When fuel status critical is announced, you have approximately 8 seconds of fuel remaining.
4) Shooting the fireballs in the asteroid wave will get you 3 more seconds of fuel.
5) You score double points during fuel status critical.
6) At the end of each sector, you will be re-fueled when you dock with the mothership.
7) Losing a star ship doesn't replenish your fuel supply.

The warp button can be a blessing or a curse depending on how you use it. You only get one warp per sector or one per star ship. This works fine on the lower sectors that only have a few waves. On the higher sectors, though, you must plan (if possible) the best place to utilize it. Some tips :
1) If it is used on an enemy that goes across the screen, wait until they are halfway across before activating the warp. This way, you can get them all before your warp time runs out.
2) If used on the diagonal flying aliens, again, wait until a lot of them are out before activating.
3) For other aliens, make sure they are mostly on the screen. Sometimes, these aliens disappear off screen and if you activated your warp too early, it will be wasted while they hang around outside of the playing area.

There are no safe places in this game so you must always be on the look out for not only the aliens dropping on you, but also their laser fire.

Speaking of laser fire, your ship is equipped with a powerful laser cannon. There is no limit to the amount of shots you can fire, but there is a catch. The cannon heats up with each shot fired. It will overheat if you fire too many shots too quickly, and you will have to wait about eight seconds for it to cool off before you can fire it again. Some ways to prevent overheating :
1) Make your shots count. Don't hold down the fire button to take out the aliens. Shoot to kill, not to warn.
2) If you must do multiple shots, do it in short bursts. Your laser heats up much faster then it cools down.
3) If you do overheat, just avoid the aliens and their fire until your laser is operational again.

Docking is the easiest way to get a lot of points. You need to set yourself up after the last of the asteroids in order to get those points. Moving your ship during docking procedures will prevent you from getting any docking bonus. The most points are from the 'Paint Scraper' method : Line up your left engine over the C in SECTOR. It will look like you will collide with the left docking arm but you will barely squeeze by. Thus, you now have 1,500 points.

Also, if you destroy your star ship during docking, your game will be over regardless of the number of men you have left.

Always expect the unexpected in this game. Sometimes the aliens will do things or make moves you haven't seen before. The best way to counter this is to always be on guard.

After sector seven, the sectors repeat again. Also, the score 'rolls over' at 99,990. Many players will intentionally get themselves killed when they get close to this score in order to claim the number one position on the board.
STAFF
 
Designed & programmed by : Gary Shannon, Barbara Michalec
PORTS
 

Consoles:


Sony PSP usa (November 11, 2006; "Sega Genesis Collection [Model ULUS-10192]") : Unlockable, see note below.
Sony PSP europe (February 2, 2007; "Sega Mega Drive Collection [Model ULES-00556]")
Sony PSP [AU] (February 8, 2007; "Sega Mega Drive Collection [Model ULES-00556]")
Sony PSP [AU] (October 15, 2008; "Sega Mega Drive Collection [Platinum]")
Sony PSP europe (January 16, 2009; "Sega Mega Drive Collection [Platinum]")
Sony PSP [PSN] usa (September 30, 2009; "Sega Genesis Collection")
Sony PSP [PSN] europe (October 8, 2009; "Sega Mega Drive Collection")
Sony PSP europe (July 7, 2010; "Sega Mega Drive Collection [PSP Essentials]")

NOTE: To unlock the game on the Sony PSP, complete "Comix Zone Episode 1".
SOURCES
 
Game's ROM.
Machine's picture.
F.A.Q. by Kevin Butler A.K.A. War Doc

Page last modified on May 06, 2013
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