The Story of How Tomohiro Nisikado Revived the Early Coin-Op Industry and Inadvertently Helped Save Atari’s Home VCS Console
In the late 70s, PONG clones were running amok and the market was so saturated that the coin-op industry was in a real slump. The release of Space Invaders shook things up, turned the industry around, and made video games a staple of entertainment from that point forward.
In Space Panic, a very vulnerable astTo fully understand the origins of Space Invaders, some of Tomohiro Nishikado’s previous projects should be examined. His first mechanical game was Sky Fighter II, a carnival-like shooting game that used a model airplane, mirrors, and a bit of technical trickery to conjure the illusion of a plane hovering about atop a scrolling cloud backdrop. It was an impressive feat for 1971 that, at its heart, was a shooting game, as was Western Gun, another popular title he created in 1975. During the period in-between, Atari released Pong and kicked off the early video game era as video games slowly replaced traditional mechan- ical-driven fare. Pong influenced Nishikado to make his first video game, Soccer, and eventually Western Gun, which Midway altered and improved upon by introducing a microchip when they brought the game to America as Gun Fight. After seeing how integrated circuitry could leapfrog old-tech, in 1975 Nishikado re-created the Sky Fighter II combat flight simulator mechanical game as a video game using microchips, and renamed it Interceptor.
As a more seasoned video game designer, Nishikado started on his next project. The working title for the game was originally Space Monster, pulling “monster” from a chart-topping song at the time by Japanese female pop music duo Pink Lady. Since the cabinet artwork was designed during this period of development, it featured colossal human-like monsters that are absent from the actual game. Management stepped in and professed that “monster” was out, and that “invaders” were in!
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