Just before the end of the first videogame boom, right before everyone thought that "fad" of going to arcades and hooking up interactive video machines to your TVs was just about dead, along came Sinistar, a game designed to instill fear in the minds of children, young adults, and grown-ups alike (or designed to allow you to destroy the greatest entity of evil so-far discovered in the universe; whichever). The game has certainly been ringing in my ears ever since. And I hadn't even been born at the time.
Now, when speaking of "things I just can't do," I'm referring to two very important senses of the human body: sound and touch (thank goodness technology prohibited the scent of Sinistar's eager appetite for U.S. quarters). Let's get touch out of the way, as we all know what sound(s) play an important role in the world of entertainment (even more so than that Wilhelm scream found in every Star Wars movie / videogame / television show / comicbook / cardgame).
Sinistar was the first game to use the 49-way joystick. Holy cow. Fourty-nine ways. I tried really hard to think of any more directions than the standard 8-way joystick already provided that could benefit the player's maneuvering through a starfield. A little Googling and it turns out it's just a 7x7 grid that's more accurate in reading the standard 8 directions. Still nifty. Anyway, the only upright cabinet experience I have available at the moment is in one of those 5billion-in-one machines that seem to think splotching together marquee art from every game into one hectic collage of action is a great marketing strategy to get people to come over and play. Regardless, it uses one kind of joystick to allow control for a wide array of different games. I think it's only a four-way stick, as I can't seem to move diagonally in any game that should allow it (thank you, Galaga, for restricting me to one dimension of movement). For those keeping track, that's 45 ways of direction I'm being deprived of when playing Sinistar. Needless to say, for a game designed around precision movement, being able to move in only four directions makes for some challenging play. I doubt it's just me that's causing almost every sinibomb to collide with a planetoid instead of that glass-jawed mechanical life vaccuum.
And now onto sound.
There's really only one other scream in my life I can't get out of my head that makes me just feel bad on the inside whenever I hear it, that being the howl of becoming a wolf in Altered Beast. It might have been the sudden drop of music for the audio clip, or how the transition animation was just a flickering bird-in-cage setup to make me think the human and wolf were one-in-the-same. Regardless, the event was a positive one, as it meant the player had maxed out his or her powerups and was ready to go beat the life out of Fester Addams.
So, there may be seven very notable quotables to come out of Sinistar's planetoid hole, but the one I speak of is the yell he emits upon eating your ship. It's offensive; it's evil; it's blood-curdling; it's perfect. It makes me want to blow his face up (I love how grammatically incorrect that sounds, yet veterans may have trouble putting it any more accurately). His death call is even in stereo, another feature first seen in Sinistar. There's some dandy fansites out there, as well as an ingenius article titled "The Philosophical Revelations of Sinistar," referring to the character itself, though I must give credit to Noah Falstein for the work he did overseeing the game's completion.
And speaking of Noah Falstein, this here videoclip from ages past refers to an easter-egg hidden in the game. Deep in the game. So deep, in fact, that it isn't really documented anywhere that I can find. Well, anywhere except for an informal interview with Noah from sometime in the (I presume) 90s where he says, "There's an easter egg hidden in the attract mode, triggered by an odd combination of button presses that we've all forgotten, but soon I may have the chance to rediscover it..." I'm sure he's been bugged about this time and time again, but I feel the need to ask once more (because I have a good feeling he's reading this right now) - What is the easter-egg hidden within Sinistar?
There's a good chance this one will never be surfaced, much like the quest to find out what the common thread was between all of those Half-Life 2 teaser videos from 2003-04. It wasn't "the presence of broken toilets," and Gabe Newell's certainly not spilling the beans, so if anyone finds out, please do me a favor and fill me in.
Instead of just showing gameplay to the video, I'll link to a bunch of things - all surrounding Sinistar culture (yes, it's out there).
- Some gameplay (love those explosion sounds)
- The Seven Phrases of Sinistar
- Drum n Bass mix
- and another mix
- Sheena Easton music video where her boyfriend plays Sinistar?
And Noah, if you're reading this:
On the contrary; It was you who made my day.
[cross-posted on Gamasutra]