Atari’s Gauntlet is prided for being one of the first dungeon crawl arcade games that was multi-player. The game was in the fantasy ‘hack and slash’ genre and Atari sold an amazing 7,848 cabinets.
Up to four players could play this original game, with each player was able to choose between a Warrior, Wizard, Valkyrie and an Elf. Each character boasted their own strengths such as Warrior’s powerful hand-to-hand combat or Wizards brilliant magic. Alongside this, the game was set within a series of mazes, in which the players must have located and touched the exit in each level. Naturally, in each maze the player completed, the next one ascended in difficulty.
Additionally, monsters also appeared in Gauntlet. Ghouls, Ghosts, Grunts, Demons, Lobbers, Sorcerers and even thieves emerged within the game. Unusually, no boss appeared in the gameplay. Though the characterisation of Death was undoubtedly the most difficult foe to beat, as the character could also drain the player’s remaining life pretty quickly.
The game featured special items that could be collected along the way. These included the ability to increase players health, unlock certain doors, gain a higher amount of points and magic potions that destroyed all on-screen enemies.
Health featured prominently in Gauntlet as if a player was to lose all of theirs their character would die, however, if the player inserted another coin they would have been able to resurrect them. Two main factors could reduce health in the game, one being having had contact with enemies and the other being that the health bar was on a timer in which the player’s health would drop within a certain time frame.
It has always been suggested that the method in which to beat the game was to work as a team, mainly through sharing food and tactically fighting monsters in a group.
A narrator’s voice appeared in the gameplay which quickly became what Gauntlet was known for. With references in other pop culture being the line ‘(character name) needs food badly’.
Interestingly, the game was originally to be called ‘Dungeons’ after the lead-designer’s son interest in the popular game ‘Dungeons and Dragons’. However, this name legally became unavailable in 1985 so it was subsequently renamed ‘Gauntlet’ instead.
Gauntlet proved highly profitable upon launch, with the game reportedly earning one Californian arcade operator $15,000 in 16 weeks. Moreover, allegedly earning one Canadian operator a whopping $4,500 in only 9 days! The highly esteemed game won of the year and was a runner up for ‘Arcade Style Game of the Year’ at the Golden Joystick Awards.
Yie Ar Kung Fu (1985)
Konami’s masterpiece, Yie Ar Jung Fu, is said to have shaped the fighting genre. The player controlled the protagonist Oolong, who had to defeat 11 martial arts masters to become the ‘Grand Master’ and honour the memory of his father.
The player could perform up to 16 moves on three different levels of play. Male characters, when defeated, were seen to land on their backs and females were seen to fall on their sides. If a player earned an extra life, the saying ‘xie xie’ could be heard which means ‘Thank you’ in Mandarin.
Each of the 11 opponents had a unique appearance and fighting style, these characters are Buchu, Star, Nuncha, Pole, Feedle, Chain, Club, Fan, Sword, Tonfun and Blues. Buchu was represented as the wrestler Ab Dullah the Butcher. He was seen as a sumo wrestler, who was large and powerful when attacking, though this did make him slow. Buchu was one of the only characters who did not use a weapon to fight, and upon being hit in the crotch – his eyes would bulge and he was heard to say ‘ni hao’ (which is Mandarin for ‘hello’).
The next opponent Oolong would have to face was Star, a young girl dressed in Pink who threw Shuriken at the player, as well as being particularly fast. Nuncha would have been the next rival that the protagonist faced. Seen to be wearing yellow gi and as they were swinging nunchaku, the character was thought to be based on Bruce Lee’s role in the movie ‘Game of Death’. Further still, the player would have had to face Pole, a short man who held a bo. Pole would use the bo as a pole vault to attack Oolong.
Feedle was more of an endurance level rather than a single opponent. The player would have been surrounded by numerous enemies who would have continuously attacked. Chain was represented by a large man who was known to swing a giant chain with a claw-like attachment at the end. On the other hand, Club handled a giant spiked club and wore a shield on his arm to block oncoming attack. Another of the enemies that Oolong would have to face was Fan, a female warrior who would throw steel fans at the character. Sword pounced un-expectantly at the player. Tonfun was arguably one of the hardest characters to face, most players could not beat this character and would have had to deflect and dodge their hits. Finally, the player would face Blues – a mirror image of Oolong who matched the player move for move.
The game was a success throughout Europe, and was subsequently ported to many devices. There was even a sequel for the game created which never made it to the arcade.