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
", 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.