am in love with a machine that doesn’t
Most arcade games, even most “classic”
arcade games, don’t stand the test of time that well, they
really don't. We look at Pac-Man these days and all we see is
endless repetition of the same basic patterns. Space Invaders
holds a special place in many memories, but in real terms that’s
where it should stay – play it today with our jaded twenty-first
century gamer heads on and it's flaws quickly become apparent.
Frogger, Galaxians, Scramble, Asteroids… The list goes on.
Great games for their time sure, but bring them forward 20 years
and they simply can’t stand up to scrutiny without relying
on the crutches of nostalgia.
But there are some game exceptions that can
still take-on modern expectations and win. The classic Williams
line-up of Defender, Stargate, Robotron, Joust & Sinistar
can still go toe-to-toe with the Playstation generation, and come
out on top. Galaga manages to just about retain its crown as the
archetypal shmup, despite receiving a bit of a kicking from the
likes of Ikaruga and DoDonPachi. Mr Do was, is and always will
be the only clown worth taking seriously and then there is Tempest…
If only this came in cocktail
cabinets too. Atari's Tempest 3000.
Better known for Jeff Minter’s brace of
excellent updates than in its original form, Tempest is a game
that--through the twin challenges of a vector display and it’s
decidedly non-standard spinner controller--still eludes the vast
majority of attempts to emulate it successfully.
So, when I was given the chance to pick up an
original Tempest cocktail cabinet, I jumped at the chance with
nary a thought of cost, space or spousal approval. Space in Arcade
Nirvana is strictly limited but if I hadn’t gone for this
I’d be kicking myself well into the next century. I won’t
dwell on the acquisition process itself but one week into the
New Year I borrowed the car, drove up to deepest Hertfordshire,
with WotR's own Fuseball, and returned,
several hours later, with a Tempest cocktail in the boot.
Cocktail (or tabletop) cabinets hold a special
place in my heart. For me, real arcade gaming will always be two
people facing each other over the surface of a table - the reflections
of phosphor bathed faces, the players poised for battle, the space
to rest your drink during your turn and the time to observe the
tactics of the other player during theirs. There is an intimacy
about playing games in this manner that eludes other and more
traditional gaming formats. This intimacy has led me to concentrate
on cocktail machines in my arcade collecting life, I can’t
help it - it’s an obsession.
Mmmm, smell the beer and fags. Go on,
drink it in, that's the smell of gameing perfection that is.
The monitor in this one doesn’t work.
It can stand about ten minutes of use before a fuse goes “pop”
and the lights go out.
Notwithstanding, I have spent hours over the
last few weeks playing this mostly dead hulk of a machine. Starting
games, spinning the controller and playing it blind, because even
with a dead monitor the game is still running inside there somewhere
– I can feel it, it can feel me and it is beautiful.
It won’t stay dead for long. I am mostly
technically inept, but I have contacts. People who understand
the inner workings of vector monitors, POKEY chips, resistors
and the other semi-magical forces which power the lost games of
our youth. People who understand the power of The Book, people
not afraid to get down and dirty with twenty-year-old Atari PCBs,
people who can give this machine another life.
And then. Then all I need to do is learn how
to play the game again…
RODENT CASH RATING -
"The original, and still the best."
Here. (It's working again)
Things to 'Make' and 'Do'.
Find out more
about Tempest at the ever-wonderful KLOV.
Add to your rampant paranoia
by learning about the Tempest Project.
Book a holiday chasing tornados
with Tempest Tours.