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SINISTAR - Diary of an Arcade Employee Podcast

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The Diary of an Arcade Employee Podcast is a weekly podcast that dives deep into Arcade Life and takes a look back at classic coin-op games and arcade memories of yesteryear! The podcast is hosted by The Retroist's Vic Sage along with his arcade co-worker Andy Pickle. 




Sinistar video arcade game



This week's episode is about Sinistar, the 1983 twitch game released to arcades by Williams Electronics. Sinistar was developed by RJ Mical, Sam Dicker, Jack Haeger, Noah Falstein, Python Angelo, and Richard Witt. RJ Mical was also one of the "fathers" of the Atari Lynx and was more than instrumental in guiding the Lynx through its inception, development, software development, and release.





The player pilots a lone spacecraft, and must create "Sinibombs" by shooting at drifting planetoids and catching the crystals that are thereby released. Sinibombs are needed to defeat the game boss: Sinistar, an animated spacecraft with a demonic skull face.


Sinistar does not exist at the start of the game, and is continuously under construction by enemy worker ships. Though time is crucial, attempting to mine too quickly will destroy a planetoid without releasing any crystals. Enemy worker ships are also gathering crystals (often stealing them from the player) which they use to construct the Sinistar. Enemy warrior ships can directly attack the player's ship. The player is given a head-start before the enemy ships have enough crystals to begin construction. Game ends when the player's ships are all destroyed.






Sinistar homebrew games for Atari 5200



Once the Sinistar is completely formed, a digitized voice makes various threatening pronouncements, including "Beware, I live!" "I hunger, coward!" "I am Sinistar!" among other statements and various loud roaring sounds. The Sinistar has no weapon attacks, but if it contacts the player's ship while it darts about the playfield, the player's ship will be "eaten" and destroyed.


A total of 13 Sinibombs are required to destroy a fully built Sinistar, although an incomplete Sinistar can be damaged to slow construction. Each short-range Sinibomb automatically targets the Sinistar when fired, but can be intercepted by a collision with an enemy ship, enemy fire, or a planetoid.


The player moves from one zone to the next each time he defeats the Sinistar. A sequence of four zones repeats continuously after the first zone. Each is named for the most numerous feature of that zone: Worker Zone, Warrior Zone, Planetoid Zone, and Void Zone. Beginning with the first Worker Zone, a completed but damaged Sinistar can be repaired/rebuilt by the enemy ships by gathering more crystals, extending its "lifespan" if the player is unable to kill it quickly.



Sinistar arcade gameplay



255 Lives Glitch

Sinistar contains a bug that grants the player multiple lives. It happens only if the player is down to one life and Sinistar is about to eat the player's ship. If a warrior ship shoots and destroys the ship at this moment, it immediately takes the player to zero lives, and Sinistar eating the player subtracts another life. Since the number of lives is stored in the game as an 8-bit unsigned integer, the subtraction from zero will cause the integer to wrap around to the largest value representable with 8 bits, which is 255 in decimal.










Sinistar was not widely ported near the time of its release. Ports for the Atari 2600 and the Atari 8-bit computers were almost completed in 1984 but unreleased due to the aftermath of the video game crash of 1983.


Sinistar was commercially available in the mid-1990s as part of Williams Arcade's Greatest Hits for the Super NES, Sega Genesis, Sega Saturn, Dreamcast, PlayStation, and PC. It is also available as part of Midway Arcade Treasures released on multiple platforms in the 2000's.


Sinistar was the first game to use stereo sound (in the sitdown version), with two independent front and back sound boards for this purpose. It was also the first to use the 49-way, custom-designed optical joystick that Williams had produced specifically for this game.








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Here's what Vic Sage had to say about the episode:



Diary of an Arcade Employee Podcast – Episode 015 – Sinistar


View this episode at The Retroist


Welcome friends to the thirteenth episode of the Diary of An Arcade Employee podcast! Each show I will not only discuss a particular classic arcade game but share some behind the scenes information of what it’s like to work at a retro arcade. 


For this show I discuss Williams Electronics’ 1983 classic arcade game, Sinistar, I also share some of the more interesting history on the creation of the game as well as a few choice vintage video game commercials…and a special bit of vintage awesomeness at the end of the show.

If you have any suggestions for future games to cover or comments on the show itself you may email them to me at VicSage@Retroist.com. You can also contact me on Twitter and of course on Facebook. You can also keep up to date on what is going down at the Arkadia Retrocade by making sure to “Like” their Facebook Page.












Trivia: A group of students at The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia wrote and staged a musical production based on the game, called "Sinistar: The Musical," in the spring of 2009.

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I couldn't get enough of this game at Diamond Jim's Arcade!!!

Brian Matherne - owner/curator of "The MOST comprehensive list of Atari VCS/2600 homebrews ever compiled." http://tiny.cc/Atari2600Homebrew

author of "The Atari 2600 Homebrew Companion" book series available on Amazon! www.amazon.com/author/brianmatherne

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