Aztarac was a beautiful and extremely low production arcade game made by Centuri back in 1983. The legend says that only 500 of these things were made. This game ran on 16 bit hardware and was designed by the late Tim Stryker. This game used vector graphics, instead of the usual raster (or bitmap), graphics that most games used.

The game

Aztarac had some really impressive graphics. The title screen in particular was a stunning rendition of a pulsing planetoid with an "Aztarac" logo superimposed over it. The actual game has you piloting a little space tank. The tank and its turret are controlled independently, which allows you to move in one direction while shooting in another. In this game you aim with a spinner. I personally prefer the dual joystick method that Robotron 2084 uses, but the spinner does allow for finer control.

Your mission is to guard various space outposts from hordes of incoming enemy ships. Each level will have several outposts all clustered together in the center. If an enemy ship touches an outpost, then the outpost is destroyed, Outposts can also be destroyed if they are shot too many times (by you or the enemies), or if you simply run into them too much. You can activate a long range scanner by using your second button. This allows you to locate enemies before they get close, that way you can fly off and get them before they even have a shot at the outposts. The only problem with this however is that sometimes more than one wave of enemies will be approaching from different directions. So you might fly off and take out one group, only to have another group sneak up and ram one of your bases.

The game in the plastic bubble

Aztarac was only available in an upright dedicated cabinet. You might remember this title as the game that had a round plastic bubble over the monitor. Basically the monitor bezel stuck out towards the player. This provided a nice "warp" effect on the center area of the game. The marquee simply had a yellow "Aztarac" logo floating over a blue grid. The control panel had similar grid graphics and featured an analog joystick that had two buttons, along with an optical spinner. The joystick is a particularly hard to replace item. No one makes the exact stick anymore, but you can cobble together a suitable replacement that looks original by using two different replacement sticks available from Happ Controls. Use the handle and buttons from a 50-9975-00, which is an 8-Way flight stick that looks nearly identical to the original, combine that with the base from any available analog stick.

The sideart on this title was a painted Aztarac logo, along with a geometric spaceship, and a whole bunch of stripes. This sideart is easily repaintable due to the simple design.

Internally the game used a Wells Gardner 19K6401 color X-Y monitor. This monitor was prone to early failure, as were all X-Y monitors. The game code itself ran on an 8 Mhz 68000 processor, and had some really good vector hardware that was capable of drawing solid vectors.

Where to play?

You can play this title on the MAME emulator. But controls are going to be sort of a problem. What works rather well is a flight stick that has a few extra buttons on the base, or a directional hat. Or if you prefer gamepads, then you will need one that has shoulder buttons, so you can control the little turret on your ship. The actual arcade setup of spinner and analog stick cannot be properly used, because MAME currently has the spinner implemented incorrectly.

There are very few real Aztarac machines around. A low production run, combined with the high failure rate of vector hardware has made this a fairly uncommon game. A real machine is going to probably run you around $2000. This is one of the more enjoyable "rare" vector titles, it is certainly a lot better than Sundance or Barrier. But for that same $2000 you could have Dig Dug, Pac-Man, Turbo, Kangaroo, Arkanoid, and Street Fighter 2 all lined up in a row. So basically, this game just isn't worth the cost of admission.