Thursday, September 23, 2021

Matter of Import 69: Sky Base [Omori Electric Company 1982]


Sky Base is a fixed screen shooter released in 1982 by Omori Electric Company. Players control their ship with a two-way joystick and two buttons - one for the main guns, one for a pair of missiles.  These attacks travel at the same speed and only differ significantly in a few stages.

In the first stage players face a simulated raster 3D tunnel from which enemies emerge, attacking as they do so - bugs and purple diamonds that get bigger as they near the edges of the screen to approximate a depth effect. It brings to mind Atari’s 3D vector shooter Tempest, but in a much less effective and entertaining way, as the player is still anchored to the bottom of the screen and the raster sprites can’t capture the same sort of intensity.

Sky Base’s audio isn’t great, but it’s worst in this first stage where it sounds like nothing more than a glitching sound chip.

After that’s been endured long enough, the second stage brings the player to a meteor shower, where space rocks zig zag towards the bottom of the screen accompanied by classic “falling object” sounds. The meteors are hard to hit despite their size, due to their rapid movement.

Stage Three pits the player against a small number of space dragons like enemies that take multiple shots to drop. Once you do, they’ll descend with rapid speed, destroying you if they come into contact with you. Note that in this phase you do not have the use of your missiles.

The final stage pits the player against the eponymous Sky Base, taking the form of a slowly descending curve at the top of the screen from which missiles drop as the player passes below them. Avoid getting struck long enough and it’ll have lowered to the point where various targets are visible - missile launchers and a shielded vulnerability point that opens and shuts. While your main cannon cannot penetrate to strike it, your missiles can, and if you hit the point enough times the structure will start changing color.

Do enough damage and you’re given some bonus points, and a round end screen where your ship flies off into the distance, at which point you start over in the first stage.

Sky base is a hard game, with a lot of enemy fire on the screen and fast moving foes to contend with. Given how few controls your ship has - left, right, missiles, gun - you don’t have a lot of options to engage with it.

Still, the variety in the levels works together better than in many of the shooters we’ve covered.

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