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Developer: Syrox Development OPTIONS: S.SHOT
No.1   No.2   No.3
Distributor: Activision 1-2 Player
Game Type: Shoot-em-up Memory Card
Review Date: November 1998 Dual Shock/Analog Compatible

Setting the Scene

When I heard the first rumblings of the possibility of Activision
bringing an updated version of the classic Asteroids game to the
Playstation my mind immediately snapped back to my misguided youth.  I
can remember the first time I laid eyes on an Asteroids machine, it was
on the boardwalk of Sleazeside Park in Jersey at a crowded arcade.  As
usual, I had smashed a few parking meters, had some spare change to burn
and was ready to play Space Invaders when I saw a crowd of delinquents
gathered around a new game.  Naturally, I kicked, punched and shoved my
way to the front, it was then that Asteroids first caught my eye.  With
its clean vector graphics and smooth moving objects I was immediately
hypnotized...I had to play it.  After some "gentle" persuasion, I took
my place in front of the game and promptly proceeded to dump my newfound
fortune into the cabinet.   


When you talk about Asteroids, you are talking about a game that
virtually created a genre all on its own.  Asteroids is a 2D shooter
with 3D graphics that will virtually leave your trigger finger numb with
its non-stop action.


We're talking a major facelift here in the graphics department, people.
The ships, asteroids and other space faring objects are now delivered to
you in 3D polygons.   This means that asteroids look like asteroids and
spaceships like spaceships.   

The backgrounds now actually contain something when compared to the
original get planets, black holes and other beautifully
rendered scenes all set within the blackness of space and the twinkling
of stars.

The overall impact of the imagery is quite startling when compared to
the rather sterile graphics of the original Asteroids game.  There is an
abundance of particle effects and light-sourching used to depict
explosions, solar flares, flames and weapons.   

I felt that the graphics gave the game a fresh new excitement and
compare favorably with other 4th generation titles.  Very nice indeed. 

Sounds and Effects

A nice sedate musical score drones on in the background creating a
constant tug to your twitch muscles.  Smooth synthesized melodies drape
the scenes with warm, spacey music that compliments the frenzied action
surprisingly well.

The sounds are a huge step up from the bleeps found in the original
title... about the only thing that vaguely resembles the original game is
the occasional constant bass thump in some of the levels that seems to
beat in sync with your heart.  Get ready to enjoy tasty weapon sounds,
futuristic space noises and scorching explosions. 

There is also some nice voice intros at the beginning of each zone that
lay out the scenario before you jump in and begin your assault.


The main appeal of the original Asteroids game was of course the
gameplay.  Hell, that's about all the games of that time had to offer!
It was with some trepidation that I popped the new Asteroids disc into
my Playstation, worrying to myself "had they sapped the soul out of the
original game to bring it into the '90's"? 

The premise of the original game was a simple one.  Pilot your little
ship through space, destroying asteroids.  Of course it wasn't really
all that you fired on an asteroid it would break apart into
two smaller pieces.  Each of these asteroids would then break into two
even smaller chunks when fired upon.  With each shot you would also send
the flight path of the new, smaller asteroid into a different direction.
The little guys were also faster and a lot harder to hit.  Oh, there
were also space ships that would appear at certain times in the game.
These enemy ships tended to have pin point accuracy when firing upon
your craft.  The game was devilishly addictive.

The new game opens with a nice little CG rendered FMV that sets the
scene for what's to come.  You are then plopped into the menu screen
where you get to select from one or two players, load a saved game, set
the difficulty (normal, expert or hardcore!), music and sound effects
volume, screen adjustments and ship selection.  

I was pleased to see that multiple ships could be chosen each one with
its own specialty.  Some have better shield while others are more
maneuverable.  This adds a nice personal touch to the game as some
players will prefer a quicker ship with good shield while beginners may
wish to have a ship with great shields and better handling.  

It was also nice to see support of analog control as well as the dual
shock feature.  The analog control allows for precision movement while
the shock feature adds an addition element of immersion into the game
itself.  I do however feel that the shock feature could have been used a
bit more effectively throughout the game though.

After having selected everything to suit my tastes, it was time to test
drive the actual and see how it lived up to my fond memories of the
original.  The game drops you into Zone 1, the Sigma Delta quadrant.
Your goal is simple; clear the area of asteroids while avoiding enemy

Right from the start I immediately realized that everything the original
game had to offer and more was available in the new Asteroids.  The
simple yet heart-pounding gameplay was still intact, but now you really
get a sense of scope and feeling of being in space.  The ship movements
still consist of the basic 360-degree turning radius and afterburner
ignition to set your ship in motion.  Being in space, any push forward
sets your ship in perpetual motion that can only be resolved by turning
your ship in a new direction and firing up the engines again.  The
results normally set your craft off in an entirely new direction...often
resulting in the gamer colliding with a stray asteroid or other foreign
object.  This simple yet nail biting control scheme is one of the things
that makes this game so challenging.  To avoid an imminent collision,
you will often send your ship hurtling through space, off one side of
the screen, only to appear on the other side...with another asteroid
dead ahead in your path.

Your default weapon is still the same gun that spits out tiny
projectiles that stream through space.  The faster you are able to press
the controller button the more ammo you can spew forward.  The shots
also still leave one side of the playing field and appear on the other.
This simple little twist has gotten me out of more than one tight spot
in the heat of battle.  The game also features a slew of power-ups that
appear in form of glass vials, floating through your region of space.
Carefully pilot you ship into one and you receive its special powers.  

Power-ups consist of shield recharges, free ships, bonus points, and
some outrageous super weapons.  These wildcard weapons include homing
missiles, plasma swords, mines, lasers and a good deal of others.
Picking up a GunSet will activate a rotating satellite that spins around
your ship and shoots a steady stream of destruction.  Getting Armageddon
will enable you to wipe out a slew of stuff as your ship spins and fires
off laser blasts.  Of course with weapons of such great destruction
there is often penalties to pay.  Using some of these super weapons will
cause your ships power to drain...once spent you are momentarily
defenseless until your ship recharges.

Each zone consists of multiple levels (14+) and has its own theme
associated with it as well as its own objective.  Some zones require you
to clear rubble to make way for friendly cargo ships all while avoid
being sucked into a black hole, while another has you protecting earth
from an onslaught of asteroids.

There is also a lot more to avoid and destroy in this version of
Asteroids.  In additional to breaking up and destroying asteroids and
blowing away enemy spaceships, you now have to deal with new crystal
asteroids that can regenerate if you don't destroy them fast enough.
There is also a ton of space debris, fireball comets and asteroids that
simply cannot be destroyed.    The enemy encounters have also been
increased for this game.  Now players will have to contend not only with
simple ships firing at you but ships that will now divide into two even
more potent enemies.  Ships that leave a dangerous nuclear exhaust trail
that you will need to avoid and even Kamikaze craft that will nose-dive
right into your hapless little ship.

Got a friend handy?  You will be happy to know that Asteroids also
features a solid two-player mode.  Grab a buddy to help you clear out
the assigned regions of space...just be watchful for stray fire!

Wrapping things up, I am pleased to announce that I felt this new
version of Asteroids offers all of the classic gameplay elements of the
original while adding a whole new depth of play that was previously
absent from the original.  It still retains the same frenetic pace but
now adds super spiffed up graphics and sounds effects to enhance the
overall experience even further than the first title.  I found it quite
literally a blast a blast to play...thank you Activision for staying
faithful to the original Asteroids while bringing the game forward with
a natural progression in technology.

Value for Money

The game features 5 zones (missions) that each includes up to 15 levels
of steadily increasing challenges.  Each zone is also more difficult
than the last one, with increased enemies and more difficult objectives
to meet.

I was also pleasantly surprised to find that hidden somewhere in the
game is the original version of Asteroids!  Yep, keep your eyes open
while you are out in deep space because there is a way to unlock this
little gem.  Guess what though... aside from its nostalgic appeal you
will ultimately find yourself much more enthralled with the new
version... it's that good!
GRAPHICS: 18/20 If you are a fan of "twitch" shooters, Asteroids is a dream come true game. The action is non-stop and will often leave you breathless and frustrated as you helplessly sprawl into an oncoming object. Perhaps that's not fair to pigeon hole the game though...its timeless gameplay elements will most certainly appeal to a mass market of people both from the "older" generation of game players and new gamers alike.

The graphics and sound effects are splendid and add a whole new depth to this re-release of a classic. It will leave little doubt as to why this game was originally so popular...its "grace under pressure" style will have you hooked right from the word "go"!

Okay, I just gotta say it, "Asteroids rocks!"....
SOUND: 8/10
VALUE: 17/20


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