Astro Fantasia was an old arcade game released by Data East way back in 1981. This title was only released in kit format for pre-existing DECO Cassette System cabinets.

The story

The first time I played this title I was not very impressed. I played it using the MAME emulator with a gamepad for a controller. I just didn't think this title had much to offer. But, I decided to give it another try, and I loaded it up on my MAME cocktail table to see if it was any more fun with real arcade controls, and sure enough it was.

The game

This is a Galaga style vertical shooter with a few unique twists that make it interesting. You pilot a single fighter ship against an armada of enemies (sound familiar?). There are two different play screens that alternate, so I will describe them each separately.

The opening screen puts uses pseudo 3-D graphics and has a large red bit of what appears to be machinery (or perhaps part of a very large spaceship), as background on the bottom half of the screen. You can move your ship around anywhere on the red background, but the black area beyond is off limits. The game opens with a large mothership craft visible at the top of the screen, but your shots cannot reach it at this point. Red UFOs quickly begin attacking you, swooping in line formations from the top area of the screen. They actually scale in size as they get closer to you (a nice effect for a 1981 raster title). By moving around you will discover that the screen can scroll upwards quite a bit, and the enemy armada comes into view if you get near the top of your area. The armada consists of several rows of ships in classic Space Invaders style, except for the fact that they are tiny. You can quickly blast the armada away, as you have twin shots on this opening screen, and you can have several sets of them on screen at once (it really only takes a few seconds to take out the armada). After the armada is gone, the mothership begins spewing out groups of red UFOs (who make suicide runs at your ship), and a new green ship that actually fires at you. Be sure and shoot these green ships quickly, as they split into three separate enemies once they reach your movable territory. Eventually the mothership will stop spewing fighters at you, and the entire screen will scroll up (taking you completely away from your red "home base"), and the game will begin the second wave.

The second wave pits you against the mothership directly. You will find that your multi shot is gone, and you can only have one shot on the screen at a time. The mothership has three areas that must be blasted away (a "spark" on each side, and then the center which takes several more hits than the sparks do). The mothership does not flash, or otherwise provide any feedback on a successful hit, but just blast away, and eventually you will get it. I almost forgot to mention, the mothership fights back by spewing rows of fighters at you. Do not waste your shots on the fighters, as they will just fly off the bottom of the screen harmlessly (they are easy to dodge). Just concentrate on the mothership.

After killing the mothership the game will award you bonus points based upon how much fuel you have left (you have a fuel meter at the bottom of the screen, but don't worry about running out, I wasn't able to run out even when I tried), and then the game will begin again with increased difficulty.

The Machine

This particular title was only released on cassette tapes, and was made for the DECO Cassette System arcade platform (which is described in detail in its own node). The Astro Fantasia tape held 32K of data on a two minute audio cassette.

The marquee for this title shows an "Astro Fantasia" logo in a "space warp" type scene.

One other quick note. This title uses an 8-Way joystick, not a 2-Way joystick (despite what several websites may say).

Where to play

Your options are fairly limited when it comes to actually playing this title, as it hasn't been ported to any other platforms that I am aware of. MAME does support this game, but it takes two minutes to go through the boot sequence (you can speed this up a bit on a fast computer by pressing F10).

Real DECO Cassette System machines are hard to come by, so you may have a bit of trouble adding this to your arcade game collection. But if you are interested, then read the DECO Cassette System node for more details. One good thing about this title is that it is an easy (two minute), conversion to any other DECO title.

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