Here’s a continuation of one of the more popular features I ran last year ‘The Art of the Arcade Marque‘ with a further selection of 12 primary coloured beauties. First of all a quick refresh on what an Arcade Marquee actually is, basically it’s the flat, often illuminated panel at the top of an Arcade Cabinet. The above examples date from the late 70’s through to the early 90’s, essentially this was the golden age of Arcade / Coin-op games, this era faded quickly as the power and playability of Home Console/PC gaming began to catch up and supersede the majority of the arcade experience. When you think back even the full on 3D Games of the Mid 90’s such as Sega Rally or Ridge Racer are now well into their respective teens, an eon in terms graphics and processing technology.
Fast forward to 2011 and the ‘Age of the App Icon’. With potentially 100’s of games on just your phone alone the concept of giant power hungry cabinet capable of playing just one game over and over seems pretty antiquated, leaving most cabinets to exist today as retro curiosities, often long forgotten. But though the bright neon days of the 80’s may have dimmed, retro culture plus legions of devoted fans and collectors empower that the magic still lives on. As a total ex-arcade nerd myself I’m doing my bit here to bring a bit of past graphical wizardry back to the fore.
Right then, before I start with the run down of each of the featured examples I’ll just point out a couple of valuable resources and where I’ve actually collected the artwork from. First up is KLOV or ‘Killer List Of Video Games’ essentially this is Wikipedia for Coin-Op’s, it’s amazing. Secondly I’ve also heavily referenced Emdkay.net who specialise in ‘Authentic & Reproduction Arcade Artwork, Arcade & Mame Marquees, and Home Arcade Bartop Cabinets’. If your after purchasing any of this artwork then Emdkay might be the best place to start.
Here’s the notes on the images, from top to bottom.
Space Odyssey (Sega/Gremlin) 1981.
An early vertical Shoot-Em’-Up that looks like it alternates and also plays horizontally, for the time probably something of a novelty. KLOV ranks is it as scare, and I confess that I’ve never heard nor seen it… The monochrome red marquee with it’s spindly space ship and black hole is fab though, so It gets a special mention here!
Space Invaders (Taito / Bally-Midway) 1978.
From a rarity to the game the started it all, Tomihiro Nishikado’s Space Invaders caused a temporary shortage of 100-yen coins upon it’s release in Japan and Guiness World Records still ranks it as the top arcade game ever. This marquee, from the US Bally Midway version will surely jog you memory as to what the cabinet looks like, I’ve never been too sure where exactly the Yeti type alien appears exactly in the actual game but as it’s earned Taito over $500 million dollars in the last 32 years or so, it’s hardly my place to be picking holes!
Super Qix (Taito) 1987
A fairly common fantasy themed puzzle game from 1987, not one I’ve seen myself but the graphic is certainly striking and slots in here’s nicely next to the other dragon themed marquees.
King of Dragons (Capcom) 1991
This scrolling swords &s ocery beat-em-up is one I do remember playing, basically a more sophisticated Golden Axe type game which supported up to 3 players. Another lovely graphic, reminiscent of Gauntlet but sadly missing a scantily clad, amazonian type warrior babe.
Castle of Dragon (Seta) 1989.
A side scrolling platform fighter, this is another one I’d not heard of till researching this post, and judging by the scarcity rating on KLOV, It’s not just me that missed it. In truth it looks pretty average, and I wonder if it even made it’s way to distant British Shores. Marquee’s cool though.
Bubble Bobble (Taito) 1986
Another massive Taito classic that was ported across the board to pretty much all systems of the time. Bub & Bob (as featured here) are actually twin ‘Bubble Dragons’ there in game mission; to save there girlfriends from monsters… Is it me or does that sound somewhat familiar?
Outrun (Sega) 1986
Whilst 1986 saw the release of the immensely playable Bubble Bobble amongst others, nothing made jaws drop like Outrun, an Audio/Visual feast delivered with the help of pioneering sprite scaling technology that gives a real sense of speed. Despite now being 25 years old IMHO even today it’s a driving game that still looks and plays fantastic. Quick note on the marquee itself, whilst it’s obviously an instantly recognizable classic, but I’m wondering, is the perspective ever so slightly out? the truck looks a little too elongated.
Galaxy Force (Sega) 1988.
Another Sega game to employ Outrun’s sprite scaling technology was Galaxy Force, a pseudo 3d space shoot-em-up very similar to Afterburner, though far less common. This is one that used to fascinate me, not because of amazing playability (in retrospect it was more of a tech demo) but rather just because of the sheer size of the moving cabinet! have a look over at at KLOV…
Warp Warp (Rock-Ola Mfg Corp) 1981
One more game I was completely unfamiliar with till composing this article, Warp Warp looks as if it plays as a hybrid of the more popular game types of it’s time, though since I don’t have Mame installed I can’t confirm. The marquee is interesting in that it kinda reminds me of the work of Ian Anderson’s Designer’s Republic though it predates there formation by at least 5 years, still I wonder if Ian ever saw this?
Nemesis (Konami) 1985
Nemesis was an immensly playable side scrolling shoot-em-up which featured (for it’s time) a revolutionairy weapon’s power up system, again as with Outrun it’s something that still plays great today. A further note on something that’s always slightly confused me, the game is better known ‘Gradius’ not quite sure why the name swap happened for different regions, anyone know why?
Life Force (Konami) 1986
More name swapping trickery here from Konami, Life Force is also known as Salamader it’s an indirect sequal to Gradius/Nemesis apperently set in ‘the same universe’. The game features one of those great lost in translation arcade moments, the second playable craft is known as “Lord British” but due to ambiguity of Japanese-to-English romanization is often referred to as “Road British”.
Splatterhouse (Namco) 1988
Though predating by approximately 8 years ‘Splatterhourse’ is undoubtedly a spiritual precursor to the Resident Evil series, It’s a horror themed linear side scrolling beat-em-up featuring some fairly gory graphics and somewhat questionable content. When ported to home consoles the game featured a ‘parental advisory warning’ on the box art. The marque itself is rendered in a classic B-Movie esque style.