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Astrothunder!

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I believe this came out in 1986 at Radio Shack. It's a pretty cool little tabletop. It reminds me of Radar Scope mixed with Star Strike and a little bit of Street Racer & Speedway on Odyssey 2. I got this about a year ago and haven't played in a while. I'll have to put the batteries back in at some point. I remember it being pretty fun. Did anyone have this? Sorry if the picture is a little blurry and bad. It's the big one in the center.image.jpg.1462ce704a84b8d0040453a181450d7d.jpg

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I cracked this bad boy out again today. This was actually the first retro gaming item I got CIB. It's quite a fun game and has lots of variety, more so than many 2600 games. Game play reminds me a lot of Solaris on 2600, though simplified a tad.

I did a bit more research on this unit. The Radio Shack version (AstroThunder, the one I have) was released in 1986. However, that wasn't the first time the world was blessed with this game. Grandstand, a UK and New Zealand based electronics company, released FireFox F-7, a near identical game, all the way back in 1983. Aside from the design printed on the tabletop, the two units are indistinguishable. Grandstand was known mostly for its Pong consoles and other tabletops, like Caveman, though they did release a pretty nifty Channel F clone.

So yeah, AstroThunder and Firefox F-7. It's nice to know that both Travis Scott and Mozilla both had 1980's VFD games. 

This is the Radio Shack version, however. My original post here is painfully lacking in description, so I will try to fill you in. Earth is under attack by alien invaders and you have been sent to destroy their base before they invade our planet. You're mission is to destroy the Gond--I mean, the enemy power base. You do this by infiltrating the City of Myst--er, the enemy base. If you couldn't already tell, it's a lot like a third person Vanguard mixed with elements from Galaga, Solaris, and the Star Wars trench run. It even has the Vanguard/Flash Gordon music in it! There are six phases to the game. 

  1. You're in a trench shooting enemy spacecraft (which the manual stupidly refers to as "planes")
  2. Ah! Magnetic storm! Don't try to touch the magnetic field, or you'll lose energy. Shoot the fleeing enemy "planes". In order to hit something, you'll have to line it up with you're sights, which you can see above you're health and score bars
  3. This phase is just a standard shoot-out featuring some plagiarized Star Wars music. What it lacks in theme it makes up for in a steep difficulty spike. Watch out! You must shoot over 8 "planes" within 70 seconds or you'll have to repeat the level. But beware--they can shoot back! I should mention that all these stages last about a minute, give or take.
  4. You approach the enemy base and view the world's shortest cutscene. Aside from the background and the enemy patterns being a little different, it's the same as the last phase.
  5. You enter the enemy base and fly through another trench! The planes are very aggressive and the walls will quickly drain your energy if you come in contact with them. Later in the level, the walls get narrower.
  6. Finally, you made it to the enemy power base. Destroy this thing, and earth is safe for the time being. But the alien invaders have one last trick up their sleeve: they've outfitted the power base with a deadly, zig-zagging laser gun! You only have a few seconds to land eight hits on the power terminal. Destroy it and KABOOM! The alien base is destroyed and Earth is safe! You can get bonus fuel if you destroy it soon enough.

You can also shift into high or low gear. Higher the gear, higher the points per enemy shot. You have a select amount of fuel in the game and no lives. Run out of fuel by taking damage, you're game is over. The digit on the left of the screen represents your score in units of 100, the digit on the right is your score in units of 10. The awkward bar on the left is your score in units of 1. Some interesting things about the system include its stereo sound (you can silence either channel if you so wish) and almost 3D screen filter.

Upon watching @Willie!'s video, I learned a bit more about the game. Apparently there were many more variations of the unit I was unaware of. I'll link it here. 

Like many vintage VFD games, AstroThunder is a C-cell battery hog, though you do have the option of using a 6 volt AC Adapter. The manual recommends using one from Radio Shack themselves, though I did find a plug in the basement that fit the jack and was the proper voltage. The system got power, but only sound effects played with a blank screen. No worries, though; I did happen to have some C batteries on hand just for this purpose.

If you ever come across AstroThunder or one of its 89 variants, do try to check it out! It's a really fun game.

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On 10/4/2020 at 12:20 AM, HDN said:

I cracked this bad boy out again today. This was actually the first retro gaming item I got CIB. It's quite a fun game and has lots of variety, more so than many 2600 games. Game play reminds me a lot of Solaris on 2600, though simplified a tad.

I did a bit more research on this unit. The Radio Shack version (AstroThunder, the one I have) was released in 1986. However, that wasn't the first time the world was blessed with this game. Grandstand, a UK and New Zealand based electronics company, released FireFox F-7, a near identical game, all the way back in 1983. Aside from the design printed on the tabletop, the two units are indistinguishable. Grandstand was known mostly for its Pong consoles and other tabletops, like Caveman, though they did release a pretty nifty Channel F clone.

So yeah, AstroThunder and Firefox F-7. It's nice to know that both Travis Scott and Mozilla both had 1980's VFD games. 

This is the Radio Shack version, however. My original post here is painfully lacking in description, so I will try to fill you in. Earth is under attack by alien invaders and you have been sent to destroy their base before they invade our planet. You're mission is to destroy the Gond--I mean, the enemy power base. You do this by infiltrating the City of Myst--er, the enemy base. If you couldn't already tell, it's a lot like a third person Vanguard mixed with elements from Galaga, Solaris, and the Star Wars trench run. It even has the Vanguard/Flash Gordon music in it! There are six phases to the game. 

  1. You're in a trench shooting enemy spacecraft (which the manual stupidly refers to as "planes")
  2. Ah! Magnetic storm! Don't try to touch the magnetic field, or you'll lose energy. Shoot the fleeing enemy "planes". In order to hit something, you'll have to line it up with you're sights, which you can see above you're health and score bars
  3. This phase is just a standard shoot-out featuring some plagiarized Star Wars music. What it lacks in theme it makes up for in a steep difficulty spike. Watch out! You must shoot over 8 "planes" within 70 seconds or you'll have to repeat the level. But beware--they can shoot back! I should mention that all these stages last about a minute, give or take.
  4. You approach the enemy base and view the world's shortest cutscene. Aside from the background and the enemy patterns being a little different, it's the same as the last phase.
  5. You enter the enemy base and fly through another trench! The planes are very aggressive and the walls will quickly drain your energy if you come in contact with them. Later in the level, the walls get narrower.
  6. Finally, you made it to the enemy power base. Destroy this thing, and earth is safe for the time being. But the alien invaders have one last trick up their sleeve: they've outfitted the power base with a deadly, zig-zagging laser gun! You only have a few seconds to land eight hits on the power terminal. Destroy it and KABOOM! The alien base is destroyed and Earth is safe! You can get bonus fuel if you destroy it soon enough.

You can also shift into high or low gear. Higher the gear, higher the points per enemy shot. You have a select amount of fuel in the game and no lives. Run out of fuel by taking damage, you're game is over. The digit on the left of the screen represents your score in units of 100, the digit on the right is your score in units of 10. The awkward bar on the left is your score in units of 1. Some interesting things about the system include its stereo sound (you can silence either channel if you so wish) and almost 3D screen filter.

Upon watching @Willie!'s video, I learned a bit more about the game. Apparently there were many more variations of the unit I was unaware of. I'll link it here. 

Like many vintage VFD games, AstroThunder is a C-cell battery hog, though you do have the option of using a 6 volt AC Adapter. The manual recommends using one from Radio Shack themselves, though I did find a plug in the basement that fit the jack and was the proper voltage. The system got power, but only sound effects played with a blank screen. No worries, though; I did happen to have some C batteries on hand just for this purpose.

If you ever come across AstroThunder or one of its 89 variants, do try to check it out! It's a really fun game.

Its one of my favorites in my VFD collection 🙂

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I have loved LCD/LED/VFD/etc. games for a long time. I remember seeing the Coleco tabletop arcades on YouTube when I was little and yearning for them. A little later I saw Frogger and Pac-Man at an antique store for $60 and $70 respectively. Too much and my parents wouldn't let me get them, and I can see why. They did have batteries in them and I got to play them both. I don't remember Pac-Man being good in the slightest, but I stood there and played Frogger while the rest of my family looked around the store for a half hour or so. I thought it was cool when Basic Fun brought back the mini arcade in an LCD form, but I didn't buy them until 2018 where I got a little collector crazy. I prefer the ones with the segmented displays rather than the NES on a chip ones.

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