Friday 22 April 2011

Space Launcher

In 1979 Nintendo released Space Launcher. Nobody cared. It's now 2011... and we still probably don't care, if we even have the knowledge of Space Launcher's existence. Luckily for you, if you don't have that knowledge, here it comes in the form of a blog post. Hurray.

Space Launcher is an extremely simplistic game, and it's not its appeal has diminished greatly over its thirty-two years of existence. I've reviewed early Nintendo games for kicks in the past, but this is the oldest yet, and it's not pretty.

The player controls a "Space Launcher" with extremely limited movement. Pressing fire launchers a rocket, which has less limited movement, and the object of the game is to avoid obstacles and enemy firepower and dock into one of the four... docks at the top of the screen. Once this occurs, the rocket will reverse and you'll have to land it, again avoiding obstacles and enemy fire. Rinse and repeat, speeding things up, adding more bullets and increasing bonus points each round.

The player is mostly defenseless, however if he or she gets towards the top of the screen, a shield will automatically form which allows you to crash into enemy ships. It won't deflect bullets, but it's a handy tool to get rid of some of the ever spawning aliens which make your life a misery.

So in some respects, a bit like Space Invaders but in reverse. But of course, Space Invaders in reverse has some issues to contend with, namely the fact that the aliens, which fire randomly, are impossible to avoid can fire right are in your face at the very last second, whether you're shielded or not.

And this is the tedious part of Space Launcher - it becomes a game of chance rather than one of skill, because there's no way to predict which alien is arming themselves up to fire. There's also no way of destroying the moving mines further down the field, so cheap deaths are plentiful.

The sound is predictably squeaky and annoying, the graphics... barely qualify as graphics as their palette is altered depending the Y position, and it certainly lacks any of the Nintendo charm you see today. However, MAME classifies this as "GAME NOT WORKING" (even though all these screenshots come from MAME and it seems to be fully playable) so perhaps emulation is to blame.

So as you'd expect from such an old and simplistic title, there's not a great deal that can be said for Space Launcher. It certainly doesn't represent the pinnacle of game design, but it's not too shabby for a 1979 release if you remember it was born in 1979. The chances of you finding an Space Launcher arcade machine in the wild are slim, but it doesn't hurt to give it a go and see how Nintendo performed in the early days of video games.

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