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Mr. Brow

Phoenix and Early Animation

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So the arcade version of Phoenix came out in 1980 and looking at its contemporaries, the animation is surprisingly complex for a raster game.  For example, the large bird uses 14 distinct frames:

 

image.thumb.gif.fab561e0e0b37941967630ae7ed8b2d0.gif

 

I’ve been studying the game’s graphics in my blog:

 

https://raisingthevgbrow.blogspot.com/2020/01/the-animation-of-phoenix-part-1.html

 

Any fans of the game here?  Also, does anyone know of other raster games from 1980 or earlier that were doing animation like this?  I’ve seen some fancy stuff in vector games (I mentioned Warrior in a previous thread), but all of the raster games I’ve studied from this era were barely animated.

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Love Phoenix.  Prefer it over Galaga and Galaxian, which are actually rank significantly lower for me regarding classic shooters during the Golden Era of Arcades, despite their popularity.  Gorf comes in second (Satan's Hollow takes third).

 

Unlike Gorf though, which has seen a very good port under ColecoVision, respectable conversions for the 5200/8-bit and C64, as well as ported to the Atari 2600 and Vic-20, Phoenix saw hardly anything during the 8-bit heyday.  There is the one official port to the Atari 2600 - which is okay at best.  C64 has Eagle Empire, a fair rated clone.

 

Really would love to see a port to the Atari 7800.  I believe a port is coming to the ColecoVision leveraging the SGM.  That should turn out well.

 

Anyhow, thanks for taking the time for putting together and sharing that blog page.

 

*EDIT:  Part 2 is fantastic as well!  Thank you for it.  Looking forward to the last installment. 🙂

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Phoenix is one of my favorites as well, not just for the animation (which instantly hooked me), but for the in game sounds too.  This is a great shooter.  To this day, I still bob and weave when playing the arcade cabinet. 

 

*EDIT:  A 7800 port would be great!  I'll have to keep an eye out for the SGM ColecoVision port.

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The convenience store near me had a Phoenix so I played it quite a bit.  The big birds were fun, you hit them and their wing grows back.  And the mothership was a big surprise and figuring out how to defeat it was fun.  That mothership had me coming back.  I think the Atari 2600 version is excellent, one of my favourites on the system and better than any Demon Attack.

 

The 1979 Intellivision running man had eleven frames of animation.  It was remarkable for any videogame at the time.  The games were actually programmed in 1978.  What about Crazy Climber (1980).

 

Edit:

Phoenix might have had a hardware sprite mirror function, which would reduce the number of images it needs to store.

Edited by mr_me
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Thanks for the feedback!  Part 3 is finished.  It talks about the unique approach Phoenix took to the graphics, animating all of its enemies with tiles.

 

14 hours ago, Trebor said:

(Satan's Hollow takes third).

I had never heard of this game, what a cool concept!  Going to check that out.

 

Quote

Unlike Gorf though, which has seen a very good port under ColecoVision, respectable conversions for the 5200/8-bit and C64, as well as ported to the Atari 2600 and Vic-20, Phoenix saw hardly anything during the 8-bit heyday.  There is the one official port to the Atari 2600 - which is okay at best.  C64 has Eagle Empire, a fair rated clone.

 

Maybe the double-tilemap approach was hard to reproduce on other systems, explaining the relative lack of ports?  Most home ports of arcade games of this era are totally different games anyway, even when the graphics of the original were simple.  The 2600 version of Galaxian is... not Galaxian.  So being faithful to Phoenix?  Forget it.

 

7 hours ago, mr_me said:

What about Crazy Climber (1980).

Funny you mention it, that was actually the next game I was planning to study.  In addition to the graphics, it has a really interesting control scheme. 

 

The Intellivision running man is new to me... what game is it in?

 

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The intellivision graphics in the image below are from the NFL Football cartridge.  But there would be variations in MLB, NBA, NASL, Night Stalker, Tron Deadly Discs, and others.

colormanual-a-back.jpg

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On 2/10/2020 at 1:15 AM, Mr. Brow said:

Any fans of the game here? 

My local bowling alley got this one in and I loved it. I was kind of surprised this was released for the 2600 though because at the time it seemed like I was the only one that played it at the bowling alley.

 

Have you ever successfully executed the three bird trick that gives you 200,000 points? I've done it several times but for me it's difficult to execute.

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1 minute ago, VectorGamer said:

My local bowling alley got this one in and I loved it. I was kind of surprised this was released for the 2600 though because at the time it seemed like I was the only one that played it at the bowling alley.

 

Have you ever successfully executed the three bird trick that gives you 200,000 points? I've done it several times but for me it's difficult to execute.

Yes, but only using an emulator.  I have a special saved state -- in the level with the white-green small birds, the third time through the rounds.  It loads up just as ~10 of them are flying away, and even then I only get it about a quarter of the time.

 

What a strange quirk.  Is it known if this was an intentional game feature?

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18 minutes ago, Mr. Brow said:

Yes, but only using an emulator.  I have a special saved state -- in the level with the white-green small birds, the third time through the rounds.  It loads up just as ~10 of them are flying away, and even then I only get it about a quarter of the time.

 

What a strange quirk.  Is it known if this was an intentional game feature?

I wasn't aware of that in the latter stages. I've been doing it on the second board first time through.

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3 minutes ago, VectorGamer said:

I wasn't aware of that in the latter stages. I've been doing it on the second board first time through.

It's just easier in the later stages because they attack in larger groups.

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Love, love, love, LOVE Phoenix.

 

Played it in the arcade and found it heart pumping - I really got a buzz out of playing it. Graphically it was way ahead of anything at the time. It also feels a bit buggy but that only added to the mystique.

 

It was the first ROM file I tried when I got MAME running back in the 90s. :)

 

Still play it emulated.....would be a candidate for a dedicated cabinet if I had the room. :)

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On 2/10/2020 at 11:43 PM, Mr. Brow said:

Thanks for the feedback!  Part 3 is finished. 

 

I just realized that I gave the wrong link.  This is Part 3.

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So are sprites used for anything?  The missiles perhaps.  Tile animation is often used to get around the number of sprites limitation and if sprites are reuseable per scanline you could have lots of sprites with vertical separation.  I'm surprised they used tile animation rather than a sprite for the player ship.

 

And that 200k bonus score is obviously a bug.  Never knew about it; I might not have noticed as I was focused on defeating the mothership rather than my score.

Edited by mr_me

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1 hour ago, mr_me said:

So are sprites used for anything?  The missiles perhaps.  Tile animation is often used to get around the number of sprites limitation and if sprites are reuseable per scanline you could have lots of sprites with vertical separation.  I'm surprised they used tile animation rather than a sprite for the player ship.

As far as I can tell, they don’t use sprites for anything.  The player, the enemies, the bullets all appear in the tilemap.

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Phoenix was one of my favorite games on Taito Legends. I was surprised to learn that the game developed by a small game developer in Phoenix (ha ha), Arizona, because the game fits right up there with the rest of Taito's early 80s offerings in terms of quality.

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Loved Phoenix back in the day. doing the 200,000 point trick was something of an accomplishment, I think I only did it twice and one of those times was last year. I covered it on my podcast.

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