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Gun Fight (Arcade) artwork

Gun Fight (Arcade) review

"Introduction and History 


Introduction and History 

Gun Fight was the first to accomplish several tasks. Gun Fight was the first game released by Midway, Bally's new division designated to produce video games, as opposed to Bally's normal pinball games. Gun Fight was also the first video game to use a microprocessor, as opposed to simple circuits. Gun Fight was the first Japanese title released in the United States. 

Prior to 1975 Bally produced Pinball games only. Seeing the success of Atari's games in the United States, Bally decided to create and dedicate a division of their company named Midway to the production of video games. Midway needed time and money to correctly research and design new games, so to temporarily curtail this dilemma, Midway licensed and redesigned Gun Fight from Taito, another new company in the video game arena. While Gun Fight was Midway's first production, it certainly was not the last and Midway would soon become as much as a household name in video games as Atari. Gun Fight was so popular in Japan it caused a coin shortage. 

Gun Fight was also at this point the most violent video game produced. Realistic looking humans shot each other with pistols for points, not exactly the most wholesome of activities. Tank, the previous leader in game violence, has only implied violence: tanks blow up but no obvious humans are killed. 

Being the first Japanese game to make it to the States, Gun Fight introduced the first badly translated phrases. Classic gems like ''HEY PARDNER ! YOU HAVE CREDIT . PUSH BUTTON'' paved the way for masterpieces like ''ALL YOUR BASE ARE BELONG TO US.'' in the Sega Genesis version of Zero Wing. 


Usage of ROM chips for graphic data and the two megahertz Intel 8080 CPU allowed Midway to make unparalleled imagery for Gun Fight. No more bricks and blocks, Gun Fight features realistic cowboys, trees, cacti, and even stagecoaches. Gun Fight's graphics are still single colored, however, though the detail more than makes up for it. 

An excellent added touch is the cowboys' animations. The legs move as they walk, and the arms pivot as the player takes aim. The covered wagon merely slides up and down the screen, though. 

Being the first game with a CPU, Gun Fight is also the first game with CPU related ''slow down'', a notorious problem that crops up in video games for decades to come. Slow down results from a processing bottleneck in the system. In Gun Fight's case, the CPU is not fast enough to manipulate multiple objects at full speed. The cowboys' movements are noticeably slower when both are moving as opposed to one. Add the wagon and Gun Fight's frame rate decreases even more. Even in the worst situations, however, Gun Fight remains adequately fast and capable of delivering good play experiences. 

Graphic complexity ends at three moving objects and three stationary objects. Moving are the cowboys and wagon, and stationary are the trees and cacti. 


Unfortunately, I never heard the audio from Gun Fight. In fact, I am not sure if there is sound. If sound exists, the audio is almost certainly contained in the gunshot sound effects, which are most likely simple beeps, or perhaps, with the help of the processor, a rapid scale of beeps or maybe even a modulation of a square wave. 

Controls and Mechanics 

Gun Fight features a pretty lame intro where a cowboy comes out from the left side of the screen, takes a single shot at the ''INSERT COIN'' text at the bottom of the screen, and retreats back where he came. This sequence repeats about every ten seconds. 

Gun Fight is probably the most complicated game up to this point in history, beating even Atari's Tank. Two players positioned on opposite sides of the screen shoot each other for points. The objective is to kill the opposite player as many times as possible in the (adjustable) time limit; the player with the most points wins. However, the guns are angled and obstacles lie between the two players. At first the obstacle is a lone cactus, but additional cacti and trees join the fray as well as the moving covered wagon. 

Gun Fight may be the first game with separate movement and aim controls. The digital joystick accomplishes movement while the analog paddle aims the cowboy's gun. The joystick supports eight directions of movement, and the player may move vertically the entire span of the screen and horizontally about a third of the screen. The column of unwalkable space in the center of the screen is reserved for obstacles. A total of seven aiming positions are possible. A player may take two shots at a time up to six shots. Shots that hit the top or bottom of the screen ricochet and bounce back into play. 

Trees and cacti are about identical in function: they both block shots but can be destroyed. That means if the tree blocks the first shot, part of it disappears and the next shot from the same position may hit the opposite player. The wagon cannot be harmed or eliminated, however. 

If one player expends all his ammunition, the battlefield resets in ten seconds. Until then, the player with the empty gun must evade the second player's shots. If both players empty their guns, the battlefield resets instantly. Upon successfully contacting the other player with a shot, he keels over and says, ''GOT ME!'' 

One of the more annoying aspects about Gun Fight is the instant start feature: as soon as you put in a quarter, the game begins. Gun Fight has a start button, but it only functions if there are credits after the first game. 


As with most games of the early to mid 1970s, Gun Fight relies solely on the players' skill to generate challenge. Gun Fight's complexity allows for some challenging fights, however, though the short time limit puts a damper on some of the longer battles. The limited ammunition also forces conservation, which wastes time; though the cowboys are large and slow and seem easy to hit, doing so is quite difficult when moving all over. 


Finally games became so large that obscure and random bugs arose. Occasionally, shooting the wagon generates an artifact, a few pixels on the screen, that block shots. This error is not readily reproducible and occurs randomly. 


Like Tank before it, Gun Fight is fun to play because of aggressive two player competition. Lots of strategies, great controls, and advanced technology make Gun Fight a fun two player game; the 4 kilobytes of ROM, a huge amount for 1975, allow a great amount of detail in the game. The time limit is a bit of a drag, though, and can kill one's desire to play the game often. 


Gun Fight made a bang, so to speak, with its United States introduction and proved that Japan was a force to be reckoned with in video game competition. Gun Fight was just the beginning.

whelkman's avatar
Community review by whelkman (May 26, 2008)

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