Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Juno First

Yet another game you likely haven't played, Juno First. Released into arcades in 1983, it was Konami's first attempt to mimic the frantic shoot 'em up gameplay styles first seen in the likes of William's Defender, Robotron 2084 and Sinistar, but it also draws inspiration from the likes of Nintendo's Radar Scope in the sense that gameplay is made to look as if it is inclined at an angle. Aren't pixels clever?

The result is essentially Defender without anything to defend, but because it's at an angle and it's named after a Roman goddess who was "protector and special counselor of the state" it's ever so slightly more clever. It's not a terrible game but one of the main problems it encounters is the fact it's not quite as good as William's classic... despite being released three years later... and having a clever title. Part of the blame can be put down to the fact that though you can move forward and reverse, you can only shoot in one direction, making it essentially Galaxian with added special effects.

But Konami did try and spice things up a bit. There's a button that will make you invisible and invulnerable for a few seconds, perfect for if you're being ambushed. There's also more enemies and a few strange powerups, so the frantic-ness of the William's games is still present. I suppose it didn't do itself many favours being released in 1983, because by this point people were probably hoping for some background graphics rather than the standard pitch-black space shooters that had haunted arcades since 1978. If it had managed to get out of the door before Defender I think the game would have been more respected and acknowledged throughout the video gaming community, but sadly it disappeared into obscurity fairly quickly and hasn't been touched much since.

But it did get some love for the first few years. Ports showed up on the Atari 800, Commodore 64 and MSX. There's also been a fan-made port recently (2008) to the Atari 2600 which is good news. Amazingly though, despite all the Konami collections, remakes and re-releases, it's never shown up on anything official since the mid-80s. A sad fate when you consider how many times the likes of Urban Champion has shown up to waste space on Nintendo systems. Give it a go sometime. Oh and no, there was never a "Juno Second", but word on the street is it inspired parts of the Super Nintendo's Axelay.

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