Tag Archives: arcades

Retronauts Episode 91: A survey of SEGA’s arcade work, 1980-85

It’s Monday morning, and you know what that means. Yeah, it’s time for another Retronauts episode.

Specifically, it’s time for another Retronauts East episode. Ben and Benj join me once again in my still-in-development home studio to sit and jaw for a couple of hours about a rarely explored video game topic: SEGA’s arcade games.

“But wait,” you say. “SEGA is a beloved arcade game creator and always has been! Its arcade hits are a known quantity!” And that is true indeed. However, we’re not really looking to the company’s hits; we’re digging further into its past, to the coin-op titles SEGA produced before the ones you know and love. Specifically, we’re focused on their 1980-85 lineup.

 

As you can see from the art above, we certainly do touch on some fairly famous games: Congo Bongo, Zaxxon, Pengo, and of course Space Harrier. They’re the exceptions. For the most part, SEGA’s output in the first half of the ’80s remains fairly obscure; their work from 1986 and on is far better known here in the U.S. SEGA does a better job of preserving and republishing its later games, allowing the likes of Flashgal and Super Locomotive to vanish into the realms of the unknown and unavailable-through-legitimate-means.

This unfortunately makes for a slightly dicey episode at the beginning. We’ve all played some of these games, but certainly not all of them, and a lot of what defines them is the arcade experience. Sure, you can emulate Pro Monaco GP or Zoom 909, but an emulator doesn’t include the funky LED readouts and gauges next to the screen. Stick with it, though, and you’ll find that the conversation comes into focus as we move into SEGA’s prime days. (We also concoct some pretty decent on-the-fly theories about why SEGA’s arcade output improved so significantly around 1985 or so.)

Despite some audio bugs we’re still trying to iron out of the Retronauts East setup, and the fact that we’re taking the Retronauts name seriously by exploring somewhat unfamiliar territory here, it’s a pretty solid episode overall. And a long one, coming in at more than two hours in length! We had actually planned to take this conversation up through 1987 but literally ran out of time. But that’s OK. That just gives us an excuse to reconvene again in a few months and explore SEGA’s work in the latter half of the ’80s.

Episode description: Ben Elgin and Benj Edwards reconvene with Jeremy to explore the first half of SEGA’s arcade output. Like the games we’re discussing, the episode starts off a bit shaky, but everything is awesome by 1985. Pengo! Zaxxon! Space Harrier! Hang On! And more!

MP3, 56.8 MB | 2:03:59
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Music in this episode comes from Space Harrier (except where noted in the show), because honestly there wasn’t really all that much music worth noting in SEGA’s output from this era. That’s just a sign of the times, though. Once arcade games got to 1985 or so, their soundtracks improved exponentially. Our next SEGA arcade episode will have the opposite problem: There’ll be so much incredible music to pick from we won’t know where to begin…

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Retronauts Pocket 13 Takes the “Retro” Thing a Little Too Far

Apologies, citizens, as we appear to have taken our remit as “retronauts” a little too seriously this time around and set the Wayback Machine so far that we don’t even really talk about video games. Instead, in another “Retronauts roots” episode, we talk about the precursors of video games — the various electromechanical amusements that established arcades as an entity before the idea of using room-sized computers to control the movement of a dot around a tiny phosphor screen ever existed. Think of this as the Silmarillion to episode 13‘s Lord of the Rings.

As such, the conversation is a bit more dry than would be ideal. Whereas the previous episode featured us talking passionately and at length about things with which we had personal experience in our formative years, the concept of a pre-video arcade exists strictly in a museum sense for us. Because we’re not 60 years old, and therefore can’t speak about these things with the sort of intimate familiarity with which we went delved into classic video arcade games. Still, there’s some learnin’ to be had.

And my apologies if the theme sounds a little weird. I was trying to go for a cracklin’ 78rpm sound, as if “His Master’s Voice” was secretly playing Anamanaguchi, but I’m not sure it quite worked out. Oh well! Put on your carny jacket and bark at passersby as you listen to us poke and prod at video game prehistory.

Incidentally, this episode marks the halfway point of our Kickstarter-funded podcast journey. Crazy.

Retronauts 13 Pocket cover

It’s the most retro Retronauts ever as we look at the roots of video games in the form of pre-video arcade games. Ski-ball! Kinetoscopes! Electromechanical target galleries! Even WE aren’t this old. Sam Claiborn joins Jeremy, Ray, and Bob.

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