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Phoenix
Phoenix

Arcade Phoenix title screen shot.

Developers: Amstar Electronics (Arcade)
Atari (Atari 2600)
Radica! (Space Invaders Plug and play)
? (Ultracade)
Publishers: Atari (Atari 2600)
Polygram (Atari 2600)
Tron (Atari 2600)
Video Game (Atari 2600)
Centuri (Arcade)
Radica! (Space Invaders Plug and play)
? (Ultracade)
Genre: Shooter
Release dates: 1980 (Arcade)

1982 (Atari 2600)
2004 (Space Invaders Plug and play)
? (Ultracade)

Number of players Single player (Atari 2600, Space Invaders Plug and play)
1-2 players alternating (Arcade, Ultracade)
Input methods 2-way Joystick, 2 Buttons (Arcade, Space Invaders Plug and play, Ultracade)
2-way Joystick, button (Atari 2600)
Platforms Arcade Game, Atari 2600, Plug and play, Ultracade

Phoenix was fairly unique when it was released in the arcades in 1980 due to having five distinct stages, continuing music pieces playing during the beginning stage (which in-game music still wasn’t very common at the time), and an early video game boss during the final stage.

Gameplay involved players shooting at a variety of birds of different sizes and attack patterns. Players also had a shield to protect their spaceship with temporarily, although it would be several seconds before the shield could be used again.

Gameplay/stagesEdit

The first stage of the game involved shooting several small Phoenix birds that quickly zig-zagged towards the player’s spaceship while dropping bombs. The birds could also "walk" from side to side and fly back up to their formation at a diagonal. The second stage had the same birds, although they were in a different formation and the player was allowed two shots onscreen at a time, rather than one shot at a time with all other stages of the game.

The third and fourth stages began with eight eggs floating about, which then turned into larger birds (blue Phoenixes the first time around, then pink Phoenixes on the next stage). The birds had to be hit right in the middle in order to be destroyed; hitting them anywhere else would cause a wing to be shot off, but it could grow back within a few seconds.

The final stage included a large spacefortress with a moving belt that had to be shot through in order to try to destroy the space creature that resided inside[1]. The fortress slowly moved down towards the bottom of the screen and many Phoenixes from the first two stages also appeared during this wave. If the player was able to kill the creature then the game would cycle back to the first stage.

Getting rammed by any phoenix or being hit by their shots would cause the player to lose a spaceship and the game would end when there were no more spaceships in reserve.

On the officially licensed side, the game was ported to the Atari 2600 in 1982, being for only one player and having several minor changes, although the majority of the gameplay remained intact.

In 2004, the Space Invaders (Plug and play) unit was released by Radica!, which, along with Space Invaders, Qix, Colony 7 and Lunar Rescue, also included a version of Phoenix. Phoenix also was included in the Ultracade, which included dozens of games in an arcade cabinet, although the current version as of 2013 does not include the game in its pack.

Officially licensed versionsEdit

Atari 2600Edit

Although all stages were present, and most of the gameplay remained the same as the original, there were several changes made to the game, as the player had five spaceships instead of three at the beginning of each new game. The port was also for one player only, there was less time for the force field to recharge before it could be reused again, there was no scrolling background or music, plus no small birds during the final stage, along with the spacefortress traveling down the screen at a much faster rate than on the original. Scoring was also slightly changed, as well as some game terminology in the instructions, and setting the Difficulty Switch in the A position would eliminate the bird cries heard throughout the game.

Radica! Space InvadersEdit

In this plug and play unit, the game was totally reprogrammed, as the sound effects differed from the original, the double shots were omitted from the second stage and the large phoenixes during the third and fourth stages would move very quickly during the first couple seconds of those stages.

Ultracade versionEdit

This version is pretty identical to the original arcade version, although the screen ratio differs a little from the original.

Pirated versions, clones, ports, hacks and remakesEdit

Clones and pirated versions of the arcade original included Batman Part 2 (with no company name to be found during the game’s attract mode), Falcon and Vautour, the latter two seeming to be the same as the original version. Condor by Siddam, however, added a fuel level at the top of the screen, which diminished during a stage, but it would also recharge after a couple of stages were completed. The space creature was also not worth as much as on the original. Griffon by Videotron also has the same fuel level, plus the creature can be worth zero points (which can actually occasionally happen with Phoenix, although it is not noted on the scoring table, unlike with this version). Several pirated games were released, also titled Phoenix (with seemingly no changes), which were produced by IRECSA G.G.I Corporation and T. P. N. Corporation.

Clones also followed on the home computer front, as Pheenix for the ZX Spectrum had five difficulty levels to choose from. The first two stages played more like Space Invaders, as the birds moved from side to side, plus the player could move their spaceship even with their force field activated (originally, the player’s spaceship could still shoot, but not move while the force field was in use), along with being able to fire several shots from the second stage onwards. Mega Phoenix was also released for the same computer by Dinamic, although differences included the small Phoenix birds in the first two stages moved more like Space Invaders (more side to side than dive-bombing). The double shots were engaged with the large birds, which could also transform back to their egg stage, plus there were also fewer eggs than on Phoenix. An additional boss would appear after the large bird stages, which took many hits to destroy, it dropped eggs and a POW power-up when destroyed, making players’ shots thicker and with additional cannons being added in the later stages. There was also a shield strength indicator at the top of the screen and not as many birds during the "Phoenixship" stage.

Eagle Empire was also released for the BBC Micro and Commodore 64, the latter of which version again allowed many shots to be fired during the second stage, not all eggs changed into birds at the same time on the third and fourth stages, plus they had different flight patterns, and there were no birds during the spacefortress stage.

Several hacks of the Atari 2600 port were also created years later, one of which included Demons!, making the birds look like the demons from Demon Attack; Poseidon, having an underwater theme, and Super Space Invaders, making birds look more like the Space Invaders namesake, plus the creature during the fifth stage could be destroyed with one shot, changing the gameplay mechanic where the player had to shoot through the moving belt first before the creature could be fired at (as all the other hacks were just graphical, not changing any gameplay mechanics otherwise).

Birdsofprey

Third Birds of Prey stage

On the Vecmania cartridge for the Vectrex, one of its included games, Birds of Prey, was a clone of Phoenix. Differences included the look of the game (since the majority of graphics for the Vectrex are wireframe vectors), the force field bug was fixed (see Trivia section), the graphics for the scrolling background for the first two stages was greatly simplified to just stars (as the original’s had comets, planets, etc. in the background), the phoenixes during the third and fourth stages did not dive-bomb the player much during the first cycle of the game, they started off as small birds, rather than being eggs, plus their wings could not be shot off. Finally, the creature during the fifth stage had an open area straight up the middle of the fortress that the player could shoot through in order to try to destroy it, although a lot more firepower was present during the stage as compared to Phoenix.

A modern day remake was also made by Minion Software for the Personal Computer, featuring improved graphics and different sounds and music, although most of the gameplay remained pretty much the same. However, the double shots on the second stage were omitted, the game had three levels of difficulty to choose from, enemies would fire slightly differently than on the original, the player had five spaceships instead of three in a game, and a high score table complete with being able to enter 15 characters per score was also included.

TriviaEdit

  • The musical pieces during the first stage of the original arcade version include "Spanish Romance" (by an unknown composer) and "Für Elise" by Beethoven.
  • A secret bonus on the arcade original only occurs during the first stage, which involves the player shooting three Phoenixes flying away at a diagonal within only two seconds, which nets a 200,000 point bonus[2].
  • In the original arcade version, there was a force field bug where the player’s spaceship could be destroyed, yet the sound effect of the force field being activated could still be heard. This was fixed for the Atari 2600 version, as well as on Birds of Prey.
  • Phoenix was followed by the less successful sequel of Pleiades, also having several different stages. Waves of big birds returned where their wings could be shot off, although there were many differences, such as the final wave consisting of players having to pilot their ship down a runway, plus the force field was replaced with a warp function that would transport their ship to another part of the screen, among other changes.
  • Atari sued Imagic due to their Intellivision version of Demon Attack having a spacefortress-like wave, since the Atari port of Phoenix was an exclusive home title. Imagic settled out of court, and the game remained on the shelves.
  • With the release of the home version by Atari, their Atari Age publication included a free Phoenix poster in one issue. This would be replicated in the opening screen of the Minion Software remake.
  • Bootleg versions of the Atari 2600 game were released by Polygram, Tron and Video Game.

LinksEdit

  • Arcade Museum page
  • Atari Age 2600 version page
  • Download Minion Software's remake
  • Gamplay videos can be seen on YouTube for Phoenix (both the original and 2600 port), Pheenix, Eagle Empire, etc.

ReferencesEdit

  1. Arcade manual.
  2. How to Master the Video Games book, 1980.

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