Astrosmash (Mattel Intellivision)
Here is a game that represents an amalgam of Asteroids crossed with Space Invaders, and it was fantastic. As a child, anything that had space ships and lasers demanded my attention. Astrosmash had both of these elements, and it went on to become one of the Intellivision's best selling games. Astute watchers of the popular T.V. comedy, The Big Bang Theory, may have noticed the character Sheldon wearing an Astrosmash T-shirt on more than one episode. It's good to see the classics still hold a special place in our pop-culture consciousness.
Black Belt (Sega Master System)
This is a game, along with Alex Kidd and Miracle World and Golden Axe 2, I used to rush home from school on a daily basis to play in an effort to beat my speedrun completion time. I knew every enemy spawn point and A.I. behavior in every level of the game. Originally, this game was based on the anime, Fist of the North Star, but in an example of the prosaic nature of American localization at the time, the game's theme was changed to something more generic to cater to the Western sensibilities. Although I remember this title fondly, the game itself isn't what carries significance with me. Black Belt left me yearning for a title that focused on one-on-one martial arts combat. For years I looked and waited for a title which encapsulated my hope to come to fruition until a little title by the name of Street Fighter 2 released in 1991.
Dungeons & Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin (Mattel Intellivision)
I didn't know it at the time due to my youth and inexperience, but Dungeons & Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin was the first RPG I had ever played. This title was a remarkable achievement; it was a second console generation video game characterized by first-person 3D dungeon crawling and rudimentary character progression. Although there was no level system in the game, players were able to strengthen their character by exploring the dungeon for loot and weapons of varying degrees of power. An item's power was determined by its color, as were the power levels of the various monsters lurking the hallways. The endgame goal was to find and procure the treasure hidden within the bottom level of the labyrinthine dungeon by defeating the evil Minotaur monster guarding it.
Ys: The Vanished Omens (Sega Master System)
Dungeons & Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin may have been the first RPG I had ever played, but Ys: The Vanished Omens was the first story-driven RPG I played with a more modern design. This title was very difficult to beat in just one sitting due to its length, and as a result, it had a back-up save system, which is an uncommon amenity for its time. Ys: The Vanished Omens had players visiting taverns, patronizing shops, talking to townsfolk, and doing side-quests on their behalf. Environmental exploration was as important as level grinding, and finding and retrieving items was necessary to the game's progression. Ys: The Vanished Omens is a true classic JRPG, and it is a title that has spawned an enduring franchise gamers around the world still play to this day.
I loved space ships when I was growing up, especially space ships that shoot things. Zaxxon had it all; space ships that shoot things, tons of things to shoot, and incredible graphics. The arcade version was, obviously, the best version, but the ColecoVision version was an incredible, authentic port. It retained the same isometric perspective of the arcade original, and the same classic gameplay. I was very fortunate that my older brother owned a ColecoVision and would let me play with it. This title is an example of the many faithful arcade ports to be found in the ColecoVision's library.
Wizard of Wor (Commodore 64)
What happens when you take Berzerk and combine it with Pac-Man? Well, the answer is obvious, you get Wizard of Wor. Based on the arcade classic, the Commodore 64 interpretation of Wizard of Wor still stands as one of the best home versions of this bizarrely entertaining title. Memorable for its hauntingly eerie soundtrack and sound effects, medieval science-fiction graphics, and fun gameplay, Wizard of Wor is a title that engenders some good, sentimental nostalgia in the recesses of my memory. Too bad the Commodore 64 hardware couldn't produce the digitized voice of that jerk that taunts and laughs at you in the arcade version.
Tron: Deadly Discs (Mattel Intellivision)
Like any child with a fascination with science-fiction and video games, I found TRON a veritable dream come true. The movie about a computer program manifest as a video game spawned a series of actual video games on the Intellivision, and Tron: Deadly Discs was the best of the bunch. This title offered players the opportunity to engage in a primitive video game's interpretation of the “Deadly Disc” arena battles from the movie. What made this game stand-out were the controls. The Intellivision used a nine digit keypad on the face of its controllers. Playing this game requires pressing the button of the keypad that corresponds to the direction the player is aiming. For example, pressing the number 2 on the keypad represents firing at 12 o'clock, and pressing the number 8 represents firing at 6 o'clock. Mastering this control scheme was both rewarding and gratifying. Also, nothing could compare to the thrill of facing one of my favorite science-fiction vehicles, the Recognizer.
Star Wars Arcade
My friend Mike chose Star Wars Arcade 32X for his list of Top 10 Childhood Games, the more modern version of the arcade classic which used 3D polygonal graphics. My choice is for the classic arcade game original which used vector graphics to sublime effect. I, too, owned the 32X version of Star Wars Arcade and it was great, but it didn't match the thrill of the specialty sit-in arcade cabinet that had players pretending they were taking the controls of a Rebel X-Wing Fighter. Infused with the spirit of Star Wars with its authentic digitized reproduction of the legendary theme song, voices of the iconic characters, and science-fiction sound effects, players were taken on a journey through the famous, climactic scene of the first movie – the Death Star Battle. At a price of 3 or 4 quarters per play, Star Wars Arcade was a little expensive, but it was well worth the ride.
Space Shuttle: A Journey Into Space (Commodore 64)
This one required me to do a little research to recall the title. As you may have already figured out by now, I like space ships. As a child, I was well aware that Star Wars space ships weren't real. However, the Space Shuttle was the closest thing I could get to a Colonial Viper or X-Wing Fighter. Space Shuttle: A Journey Into Space enabled players to live their dreams and blast off into space with the goal of repairing a wayward satellite, then return safely to Earth. Although I mastered being able to successfully complete my mission, every attempt at landing my shuttle ended in a blazing ball of fire. After many hours of fantasizing about being a Space Shuttle commander, I never was able to land my craft. Space Shuttle: A Journey Into Space was a simulation game, and as a consequence, it was very complex. Nonetheless, this title kept me captivated. Now if only I could have mounted some lasers on my Space Shuttle...
Now it isn't surprising that someone who grew up in the '80s playing video games would have Pac-Man on their list of Top Childhood Games, but my focus wasn't on the arcade classic. One of the most popular games on the Atari 2600 was a horrible port of the original Pac-Man. I didn't own an Atari 2600; I owned a Mattel Intellivision, and my system had a fantastic port of one of gaming's most important and pivotal titles. The graphics and sound effects closely resembled the original game, making the Intellivision version one of the better ports of the 2nd console generation. I was very excited when this game came into my possession, and very devastated to learn my parents had given it, and all of my Intellivision and Commodore items, away to charity after I moved away from home. Every time I think of my erstwhile video games and consoles, my sullen thoughts always wander back to my Pac-Man game for Intellivision.
10 Games that Define My Childhood