Welcome back to the Rotten Ink Arcade. For our second update of 2016, we are going to take a look at Yars’ Revenge, the super popular game from the early 80’s created by Atari! Like most kids of the 80’s and 90’s, I loved to go to the arcade and hit the toy stores and video game stores, playing video games and shopping for the next pixel quest I could embark on. One of my favorite video game stores was Funcoland, a cool mall chain store that used to sell regular Nintendo games for dirt cheap. I can remember me and my friend Jason Gilmore going to the mall just for this store and leaving with handfuls of NES games as well as Playstation ones. It’s such a shame that Funcoland was bought out by Game Stop (as was EB Games) who closed all the locations and became one of the biggest soulless video game stores in history, that overcharges for used games and drives up the prices on games to warp the market. I can also remember for years going to the arcade in the Dayton Mall with my brother Bryan and playing all types of games from WWE Wrestlefest to Guns n Roses Pinball and having a heck of good time a our arcade of choice, Crazy Cats, by this time sadly had been put out of business by the fine folks who run Kettering, Ohio who gave that poor arcade a hell of a time cause they didn’t want teenagers hanging out in front of Krogers who shared the strip mall with them. Nowadays arcades are making a comeback here in the Dayton area with Hole In The Wall bar, Retro-Media Arcade and Scene 75 to name a few of those popping up and sharing the digital arcade love. Game Swap in Kettering also has its fair share of arcades, and I am proud to say that I spearheaded that and even in my own little way helped bring this popular style of gaming back to the area. Game Swap has many different machines up for play like Donkey Kong, Pac-Man, Ms. Pacman, Donkey Kong Jr., Popeye, Captain America and The Avengers, Super Contra, Hydra, Centipede, Superman, Marvel Superheroes and so many others! Sometimes, if I get to Game Swap early and get things done and have a pocket full of quarters, I will play of few of the arcade machines before open, Most of the time I play Superman or Street Fighter II Championship Edition. I miss the days of the classic arcades but thanks to places like Game Swap and Arcade Legacy, the retro arcade will live on for a new generation of gamers to play. Below are some of the arcades that are at Game Swap, so check out the selection and connect with your inner gamer.
In 1982, Howard Scott Warshaw created a video game for the Atari 2600 that was the console’s top selling original title for the whole run of the 2600, and this game was called Yars’ Revenge. The game started as a licensed port of a game called Star Castle, and after so many changes to the code, it took on a life of its own as Warshaw ended up just making a new game he called Yars Revenge! One video game urban legend says that Warshaw named the game’s home planet Razak basing it around the C.E.O. of Atari, Ray Kassar’s, name and that he did so to see who would be a snitch and rat him out to he boss! The game’s plot has you playing a Yar who must get past a force field and pin point the base of your enemy who must be killed by a giant cannon. The first time I played Yars’ Revenge was at Bard Burn’s house, a neighbor who lived across the street. I can remember being very bad at the game but trying like hell to win. When I was an early teenager, I can remember playing the game again at my Grandma & Grandpa Brassfield’s house and doing a little better while my cousin Nathan watched me play. Now as an adult and thanks to Game Swap, I got the game as well as an Atari 2600 and have relived playing the game many times. When it came out, the game was a hit with fans but many critics were not too kind to it calling is boring and comparing it to a sleeping pill! But love it or hate it, Yars’ Revenge has made it’s mark on the world of Video Games and remains a classic title from the days of cart games.
Besides the Atari 2600 video game and Warner Brothers promo comic, some other merchandise was made around Yars that includes a record that had a radio drama based around the game as well as the game’s “theme” song! A lunch box was made that showcased Yars alongside Missile Command and Warlord among others. Also a Ben Cooper Halloween costume was made allowing kids to become a Yar themselves. Over the years ports, remakes and reboots have been made for consoles like Game Boy Advance, Atari Flashback and Xbox 360. I have even heard stories of fans creating their own Yars arcade machine! So while Yars’ Revenge might not be a household name for modern gamers and also might be forgotten and not yet discovered by others, one cannot downplay its impact on the world of home console gaming as it sparked some cool merchandise.
Back in the 1960’s, America and Russia had a race to see who could send a human to space and bring them back alive to share what they saw and to have bragging rights on what nation was the first to do so. Many failed attempts were made that cost the nations money, time, machines, lives and lots of poor primates were lost in the unsuccessful attempts. Also in the 1960’s, amateur radios were very popular and many people spent time trying to pick up the messages used by both sides. The Judica-Cordiglia brothers from Italy did just that on the Russian side and captured the last broadcasts from many of the poor souls who were sent into space and never returned. They heard many sad broadcasts from astronauts who sent out SOS signals as they drifted out into deep space, ones running out of oxygen and suffocating. It’s sad to think about these poor people who died in a space race between two nations who had a beef with each other. The one audio broadcast that really got to me was recorded in 1963 and was the voice of a female Russian astronaut who was in a shuttle heading back to Earth as it’s catching fire and breaking apart in the atmosphere and she is calling for help and talking about seeing fire and how hot she is inside her metal death prison. Her words are in Russian but her panic frantic tone of voice lets you hear the fear in her voice and makes me sad to think how scary and terrible her last moments alive were. I put myself in her place and a shiver went up my spine as you think about the feeling of being alone and helpless and knowing that your fate was moments away. I should also share that while many people think this recording is real, it does have its detractors who claim that the woman’s voice clearly has an Italian accent and that the brothers hired a woman to make the recording to keep up the local and national fame they got from sharing these broadcasts with the news. I for one don’t know if this recording is a fake or not and will end it by saying if it was real I hope this poor woman’s soul has found rest.
Moving away from depressing radio use, let’s take a look at a CD that a friend picked for me to listen to. My friend Garrison Kane is a fan of Nintendo and collects all types of products from the games to mini figures based on their characters. With this update being about a video game, I figured that this would be a good time to listen to a CD that he picked for me to listen to from his favorite band and his favorite album by them, that’s Asia with their 1982 self title release. The first song of this disc was Heat of the Moment, the only song I really knew from the band as it is played on local soft rock radio stations to this day. This was a nice way to start this listen to this album as this song is pop rock fun with a hint of bands like Alan Parsons Project and Toto. What follows for the next eight tracks is soft rock goodness that is sure to please the ears of those who like catching lyrics and smooth melodies of rock stars who know what they are doing when playing their instrument of choice. The music to the song Time Again is really good and was caught in my mind after hearing it. The lyrics are okay though a little cheesy, but I would say that this is one of my favorite songs off the CD alongside Sole Survivor, Heat Of The Moment and Cutting It Fine. To be honest, none of the songs on this one are bad, and I really enjoyed listening to it while I wrote this blog as I felt it was great background music that made focusing a lot easier than having a heavier band’s CD on. I should also say that some songs like Wildest Dreams have messages about war and the way TV covers such events, or at least that’s what I got out of the song! Steve Howe is a very solid guitarist, and I find that his work on these tracks holds up, as does the piano work of Geoff Downes. I will say Garrison picked a really good CD for me to listen to as I enjoyed almost all the tracks and will listen to this one again for sure.
I wonder if Atari in 1982 ever thought about putting music by Asia in one of their games or at the least making a game based around them like they did with Journey in 82. Wait, Yars’ Revenge, Asia’s self titled album and the video game Journey Escape all came out in 1982…what a year that must have been! Well we are at the point of the update where we will be taking a look at the comic book based on the subject, and I must thank a customer from Game Swap Kettering for giving me this comic to review. That was super cool of him, and this update is for you, my good sir! I want to remind you readers that I grade these issues on a star scale of 1 to 4 and am looking for how well the comic stays to the source material, its entertainment value and its art and story. So let’s plug in our Atari 2600, grab a trusty joystick and see what Warner Brothers has in store for us with this promo comic based around Yars’ Revenge!
Yars’ Revenge # 1 **1/2
Released in 1982 Cover Price Free Warner Brothers #1 of 1
A new Yar recruit enters the office of his commander who decides to give him a history lesson of why they are at war and who they really are. You see their race comes from normal houseflies that hitched a ride on a spacecraft that later crashes in the Razak solar system where those houseflies mutated into Yars. Now this young recruit gets his mission to attack their enemies, The Qotile, and try to bring down their force field so that they can blast them with a Zorlon Cannon and take back their lost land and live peaceful lives once more. It ends with the Commander Yar hoping that this war will come to an end soon and no more lives of his people will be lost.
This war in a galaxy far, far away was not fought by Luke Skywalker or even Captain James T. Kirk and his crew but was fought by a race of super flys called Yars. The plot of this 9 page comic is super simple and is just the plot of the video game for the Atari 2600 as we find out that the Yars, who are mutated Earth houseflies, are at war with an unknown race called the Qotile who blew up one of their planets as well as made a base near it to keep attacking the Yars. The issue ends how the game begins and has you going out into space and trying to fight their base and its force field. The Yars who are this the comic’s main characters seem like a peaceful race until they are pushed to fight, and when they are pushed they put on metal armor and blow stuff up with the help of their massive cannon. The humans, who have a cameo at in the issue, seem clueless and are just fill-ins to show how houseflies made it into space. The Qotile who are faceless and are not seen at all seem like a bunch of buttheads who love war and destruction and seem to be the bullies of that galaxy! I really wish more modern game companies would get behind giving the player a comic based on the game they had just bought. I mean imagine getting a comic book based on the newest Assassin’s Creed game or one for horror games like Until Dawn or Summer Camp! While comics based on video games are being made, they are full size issues that pack a $3.99 or $4.99 cover price and are coming out via companies IDW and Dark Horse. While these are fantastic comic series with top notch stories, they are not a free promo comic inside the video game you just bought as I feel most modern game companies are pushing for giving the buyer less with their digital only agenda. The cover for this comic is classic and is taken from the box art for the game. The inside art and color is fantastic and is done by the team of Frank Cirocco, Ray Garst and Hiro Kimura who make this little mini comic shine for what it’s suppose to do and that’s teach the player the back story of the game. Over all to sum it up, I would say worth a read for fans of the game.
Atari giving out promo comics might be a thing of the past as are video game companies giving away any cool promo stuff with the game you bought without getting a more expensive edition that they can charge you for. But while things always change, it’s the excitement of what the future holds that keeps this video game player, music listener, comic reader, movie watcher and Horror Host maker & fan hyped for the unknowns of those creative media worlds. Thanks for reading this quick little update as our next update will be about Marvel Comic character Black Goliath! So make sure to come back for that one so until then make sure to play a video game, read a comic or three and as always support your local Horror Host!