Title: Sarge
Developer: Bally Midway
Date Published: 1985
Platforms: Arcade
Controls: Two player tank controls

Sarge was a Bally Midway arcade game with a military theme. You controlled either a tank or a helicopter and faced off against other tanks and helicopters. Sarge came out in 1985 which I have always considered to be one of the worst years for arcade games. Games that came out in 1985 were generally those that went into development after the Video Game Crash of 1983. Thus they were developed with reduced budgets on hardware that was often relatively archaic. This game was still running on an 8-bit Z80 processor on the same basic platform as their 1983 titles (which was itself only a minor upgrade of their original 1981 MCR hardware platform). Meanwhile the very next year 16 bit 68000 based systems became cheap and commonplace and made this title look dated almost overnight. Of course Bally Midway kept on pushing a variation of this dated hardware platform until 1987. Nintendo did kind of the same thing, although they were in some ways using their arcade division simply as an advertising tool for their console division, essentially releasing nothing but identical versions of their console games in the arcade.

Sarge was available in two formats, the most common was an upright dedicated cabinet with a 2 player control panel and full artwork on the machine. The second format was a conversion kit designed specifically to convert 4-player Demolition Derby island style cocktail cabinets. I still don't understand why that kit was ever released. Demolition Derby had only come out the year before and was still available in the Bally distribution chain. It was a big expensive game that could suck down quarters from 4 people at a time and it was a relatively high earning machine that appealed to a wide demographic. The Sarge kit took that expensive deluxe 4 player machine and turned it into a 2 player machine that had a worse game inside and appealed to a smaller group (and they just put a blank control panel on the side that normally housed players 3 and 4).

Sarge is emulated perfectly in MAME. You probably won't bump into a real machine out in the wild anywhere. If you do then it will probably be cheap. Sarge is one of those games that has a small cult following. It is the kind of machine that it is hard to even get $250 for, but when you do eventually find a buyer they are inevitably 1000 miles away and pay another $300 to have the thing freighted to them. If you are buying a Sarge machine, be aware that the circuit board in the cocktail version I described above is worth about twice what the machine is as it romswaps into 5 other titles and four of them are way more desirable than Sarge is. They are Discs of Tron, Tapper, Journey, NFL Football (laserdisc) and the 4 player Demolition Derby that the machine actually started out running in the first place.

I currently own a Sarge cocktail and a matching 4 player Demolition Derby cocktail, however I only own one set of circuit boards between them.