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'82 in Review: The Year That Wasn't
By Roger C. Sharpe

Depending on your perspective, 1982 in the coin-op field proved either to be a banner year or at least a bit disappointing.  Manufactures hit it big, producing more machines than ever, as video games began to show up everywhere- restaurants, laundromats, grocery stores.  Operators, on the other hand, went through some rough times: As more game rooms opened to milk the coin-op market, the old-timers had to settle for a smaller piece of the pie.

But for the game-freak slipping quarters into the machines, there were real triumphs - notably the three-dimensional graphic innovations in Subroc 3-D and Zaxxon and the pure fun of playing Donkey Kong.  Even so, this game player, for one, could not help but feel a little let down with the new diet of coin-op games he was asked to feast on.  Those of us seeking real video challenges continued to hunger for better game play and action that really capture the incredible sights and sounds of space.  The problem here is cold feet.  The speed of technological change in the arcade is plodding and methodical because the industry is afraid to disrupt the success-formula of previously released games.

Of course, 1982's biggest trend was the effort to cash

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Sega's Subroc 3-D, the showstopper of the season.

in on the Pac-Man phenomenon.   Maze game variations arrived in the arcades to the point of overkill as we were offered Round-up, Jack the Giantkiller, Pepper II, Thief, NATO Defense, and Tutankham, to name just a few.  But none of these machine rip-offs reached the heights of the game that spawned it, and so, in the end, Ms. Pac-Man walked off with the Kewpie doll.  It was more fitting that it did.

One game that did break the mold was Donkey Kong, even if it wasn't revolutionary.  All you had to do was just get Mario up the beams

or elevators to the top of the screen and avoid the rolling barrels and fireballs.  The controls were simple enough, consisting of a single button for "jumping" and a joystick for maneuvering.   But the game's appeal was in its charming story line - "a damsel in distress" - and its lovable cast of characters.  At a time when every new game seemed like a rehash, Donkey Kong was fun, qualifying it as one of the video hit sensations of the year.

But the best thing to happen in '82 turned out to be the emphasis on improving and expanding the scope of game

graphics.  The real pioneer in this area was Sega, a company that thumbed its nose at what seems to be the unwritten agreement among manufactures to perpetuate certain design formulas as long as possible before moving on to the next plateau.  Sega was rewarded for its boldness.  If scored big with Turbo and Zaxxon, games that added a startling new dimension to the visuals of a basic racing game and an outer space battle, respectively.

Not content to rest on its laurels, Sega one-upped itself by introducing Subroc 3-D.  In this game it utilized a viewing system devised in concert with Matsushita, a Japanese company known for its electronics expertise and such product lines as

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Sega made TV history with this spacey Zaxxon ad.

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