The thing about arcade gaming that people often forget is that you were totally at the whim of your local arcade operator. If they decided, for whatever reason, not to buy in a particular cabinet, then that was that. You never got to play with it. And such was the case with Tron, a game that my befreckled early '80s self was never exposed directly to. This makes reviewing Tron on Xbox Live Arcade in 2008 trickier than it might be, but I suppose it also means I'm less blinded by the inevitable ingrained nostalgia that easily deflects critics from fairly re-evaluating these relics.
Released in the middle of 1982 to general acclaim, Tron was, lest we forget, based on the futuristic Disney movie of the same name, and was available to show off for arcade operators in a particularly lavish cabinet, complete with stylish fluorescent back-lights that aped the look of the movie. It was also a stylish, atmospheric-looking game, and one which evidently had a mystique and an allure about it which helped it to stand out from the crowd. Such simple trickery to tempt gamers into parting with their loose change was all part of the experience, but shorn of such opulence, Tron in 2008 is left to impress us on its gameplay charms alone. And, sadly, those charms ill-befit the term.
Microsoft has spread clarity on our toast and told us Tron and Omega Five will be on Live Arcade tomorrow.
Not only was Tron a landmark fashion event for fans of skin-tight circuitry wear, the accompanying arcade game was probably the first overwhelmingly successful film license. Indeed, it's rumoured that the game took more money than the film itself. An early exponent of sub-games based on key cinematic scenes - later to become the standard (and extremely tired) method of movie-conversion - the game was a genre-shaping release.
Tron occupies a niche place in history. Its glorious art design and execution were bolstered by the fervour of the arcades, giving it an unusual opulence for the period. Its cultish appeal lies with those who were there, who experienced that "era," and crave a chance to relive those days.
The title's four sections provide a stern challenge, requiring a sustained battle through light cycles, tank patrols, "Master Control Program" attacks and spider hordes. Moderate aid is available through the designated control method, a large, Gorf-like joystick for movement and spinner for aiming; but that's about the only help you'll get, and the precision must be mastered in order to survive.
Disney Interactive has decided to celebrate 25 years of Tron by releasing the retro classic on Live Arcade.