Friday, February 12, 2021

Matter of Import 033: Dai 3 Wakusei [Sun Electronics 1979]

Dai 3 Wakusei (The Third Planet Meteor) is a fresh take on the fixed screen formula that adds a nice bit of complexity to the game, coming to us from Sun Electronics – the company eventually to be known as Sunsoft.

At first glance the playfield is a cluttered mess, filled with colored ellipses, a large planet, a helpfully labeled BASE for the player, and a number of Invader-type aliens marching back and forth at the top of the screen.

Our ship has the ability to move the entire span of the screen, blocked only by the ellipses which I believe are the titular Meteors, able to shoot them to clear the way. We can likewise shoot in four directions, allowing us to flank our invaders as they descend.

In part the action reminds me of Williams's Centipede released the next year – the invaders stop and change direction when they hit meteors, which take the role of the mushrooms. Though, of course, in Centipede your gun can only fire upscreen, and the centipede can't shoot back at you.

A final new element we see here is damage to our ship – if hit, we don't die, but instead our engines are damaged, first slowing us and then preventing us from firing. To repair we need to retreat to our base for a short time to heal up.

Now for the negatives. The graphics, as you can see, are primitive... and presented in black and white with the simple "color band" screen overlays you expect to see in older games. I might have given Dai 3 Wakusei a pass if it'd been released in 1978, but technology moves FAST in the golden age of arcade games.

I'd still lean towards giving the game a B ranking on the strength of its innovations, but the game's pace is slow as well, and the action on the screen surprisingly minimal for its complex layout... other than the invader that happens to be shooting you, nothing much is happening over much of the screen's real estate. Part of this is the fault of the meteors – there's just no reason to clear a path to most of the play area.

I'm going to give Dai 3 Wakusei a C ranking.

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