Monday, January 19, 2015

I finally beat Zaxxon!

You might have heard about the Internet Arcade that Internet Archive fired up a few months ago.  All of those arcade games that we (or at least some of us) used to feed quarters into?  Well, almost 700 of them - as in the originals, not home console ports - are available to play for free in your web browser!  Which is a great thing because these games are a considerable part of computer technology history and Internet Archive is preserving them for posterity.

Well anyhoo, last week I visited Internet Arcade for the first time.  And something occurred to me: that maybe I could see if Zaxxon was in the collection.

Bit of info: Zaxxon was a game that Sega came out with in the early Eighties, and it's arguably the first video game to attempt a 3-D feel for the player.  As you fly your fighter jet/spaceship/thingy you can adjust the altitude, which you're gonna have to do because otherwise you'll smash into walls, energy barriers, homing missiles and the like.  The object of the game was to fly across one big space fortress loaded with obstacles, then a segment in space as you take on enemy planes, and then another fortress.  At the end of which is a robot that you have to destroy before it destroys you.

This is what Chris has been obsessed with
for more than thirty years.
The boy needs to get outside more.
That is Zaxxon.  And I had been trying to take out that @%#$ robot since 1983.  Except that I haven't even been able to approach the droid, much less shoot his missile-arm to make him self-destruct.

Well, Zaxxon wasn't very hard to find at all.  After going through the instructions on how to play through the emulator, and a few mis-steps that required restarting the game, I was finally off again.  It's been at least fifteen years since I've found a Zaxxon machine to play on, so I was a little rusty...

...but on my third try, I got through to the robot.  For the first time in my life I got to see it after getting to it with my own efforts.

He destroyed me.  I played through again.  Still got to him, this time he retreated off the screen.

It was on my fourth trip through the fortresses that I blew up the missile before he could fire it.

It had taken more than 31 years but at long last, I beat Zaxxon.

The game re-started after that, with more difficult fortresses to fly through.  More aggressive obstacles like rockets and turrets aiming at me.  But by that point, I didn't care.  I had destroyed the robot and that's all that mattered.

(There was a sequel, Super Zaxxon, that was much more difficult and had the robot replaced with a dragon.  I never found that game anywhere, much less played it.  The original classic is more than enough.)

Maybe this is a sign or an omen.  You remember how Mister Miyagi told Daniel in The Karate Kid that a man who can catch flies with chopsticks can do anything?  Well, that's what Zaxxon has been to me: a fly that I've been doing my darndest to snatch out of the air for more than three decades.  And now I've done it.  Perhaps it's an indicator of things to come.

Or perhaps it just means that I've been sadly obsessed with a video game for all this time...