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Classics and Clones: Retro-gaming for the iPhone: 1978

Coming off of its biggest year in its history, the video game industry was gaining momentum, but a split had developed between the then traditional arcade experience and the new home video game console.  By 1978, families could spend a few hundred dollars on a home console that provided countless hours of game play for everyone.  Although arcade games at the time far exceeded the computational capabilities of any home system on the market, the benefit of endless gaming at home drew much of the market away from the bars and bowling alleys that had helped spawn this revolution.  Arcade developers needed an ace up their sleeve.

Although owning an Atari was less expensive in the long run, true gamers found the graphical limitations of home gaming to be a bit of a letdown.  Many gaming fanboys owned an Atari, but several were coaxed back to the arcade experience when better games arrived.  In light of original Star Wars shattering all movie box office records a year before, it probably comes as no surprise that 1978 saw two great space games for the arcade; both are available on the iPhone.

Space Invaders- TAITO’s Space Invaders was THE game of the year.  This deceptively simply, bottom-up vertical shooter is a quintessential classic that has recently seen new life on the iPhone.  Rows of aliens descend upon Earth.  As they shower down bullets, the player fires back at the onslaught to protect its home.  The original along with countless clones are available on the app store, but contemporary gamers may enjoy its update: Space Invaders: Infinity Gene.  Custom made for the iPhone by the legendary TAITO, this re-imagining keeps the original spirit of the shooter alive by adding seemingly endless but clever mutations on the same theme.  Not only have the graphics been updated for the modern gamer, the gameplay has been greatly improved versus its now-clunky predecessor.  This may be the best reborn retro game on the iPhone.

Space Invaders on the iPhone: original (left) and update (middle and right)

Asteroids- To a lesser degree, another space shooter named Asteroids found it’s own way into the hearts and minds of fans.  This top-down space shooter gave gamers a different view of space largely due to its vector-based graphical presentation.  Instead of designing numerous dots to represent characters on a screen, vector uses a series of points to draw lines.  This allowed developers to design better graphics within the computational limitations of processors at the time.  The outcome was a monochromatic draft art style that became iconic for video games of that time.  Vector-based games mostly died out in the 80’s, but the technology is still used in many illustration applications today.  For those wanting to experience vector in all its glory, check out roids79 or Tractor Beam for the iPhone.  For those seeking the gameplay without the old school graphics, check out Advanced ROX, a visually stunning top-down space shooter.

Left: original Asteroids Middle: iPhone's Tractor Beam Right: iPhone's Advanced ROX

Check back with us every so often for more gaming history with our continuing series Classics and Clones: Retro-gaming for the iPhone.  For more in this series, click here.



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