Phoenix was an old arcade game released by Amstar way back in 1980 (this title was licensed to Taito in Japan, while in the United States it was licensed to Centuri and several other companies).

The story

It is far in the future, and it is up to you to pilot a lone ship against an armada of spacecrafts and "Phoenixes", before finally facing off against the alien mothership. Your only weapons are your trusty laser cannon, and shield generator.

The game

Phoenix is a vertical shooter with many similarities to Galaxian and Space Invaders. You pilot a lone ship (that can only move back and forth at the bottom of the screen. Your normal enemies are small bird-like spaceships that fly in formation, and attack just like the ones in Galaxian. But this is not just a Galaxian clone, as Phoenix adds to the basic formula by including large multi-part enemies (the Phoenixes themselves), a "shield" button, and a large mothership level.

All that extra gameplay is obviously going to have a bit of a price tag attached, and Phoenix paid that price with the graphics. Phoenix has much simpler graphics than Galaxian, and the ships move in a very mechanical fashion (making Galaxian look better, even though they are equally fun).

The Machine

Most Phoenix games will be in a standard Centuri woodgrain cabinet, but several other cabinets exist, due to this game being sold by multiple companies at the same time. These use sticker sideart (which covers the upper half of the machine), and glass marquees. The control panel is made up entirely of buttons, no joysticks are present. The monitor in this machine is mounted vertically, and the monitor bezel is relatively unadorned.

Phoenix uses a unique wiring harness, which isn't know to be compatible with any other games. This means you can't do a plug and play conversion of a Phoenix machine, you will have to do at least some rewiring. But, the unique harness has made replacement PCB boards for Phoenix a bit cheaper, as no one is buying them to stick into other cabinets.

Where to play

The ColecoVision and Atari 2600 ports of this title are both fun, and easy to acquire. Or if you have a personal computer, then you can download either the MAME or Vantage emulator, and play Phoenix that way (both emulators support this title perfectly). There is also a free version available for the TI-8X series of calculators.

This is a great title to add to your arcade game collection. This is one of the least expensive "classic" shooters that you can readily find. It is quite fun, but most people would rather have Galaga or Galaxian, so copies of Phoenix go for much less (as the average collector will rarely buy more than one game of the same general type). The parts to this game are not particularly expensive, so it is possible to cheaply "restore" an old Centuri cabinet with Phoenix for only $100 or so in parts (although a full restoration will of course cost more).