by Randy Palmer

How to survive the most realistic space game of them all.

State-of-the-art computer technology provides videogamers with new, vivid graphics in Zaxxon, the incredible 3-D space game.

The player’s ship is seen from a vantage point slightly to one side and above the craft itself. Using only an outsized joystick — which is equipped with a missile-firing trigger that we suggest you ignore; see below — the player must attempt to maneuver the ship up, down, left, right, across, and through an enemy landscape. This is not your harsh but tame Apollo VIII vista, but one brimming with futuristic cannons, aircraft, and stone walls topped by electrical forcefields. Surviving that, the player must soar through space itself, where any aircraft not destroyed at ground level will pursue your ship. Then it’s back to th e airstrip where battle commences against a giant robot.

The joystick moves the pilot’s ship left and right as well as up and down. To ascend, pull back; to descend, push forward. It’s best to think of the joystick as gliding in "arcs" rather than in two-dimensional movements, since you’re playing in a spatial setting. The quicker you realize that your Zaxxon ship is flying rather than simply dodging, the better you’ll do.

A pilot's-eye view of the assault on the Fortress. A sequence from Segal/Gremlin's extraordinary Zaxxon TV commercial, complete with computer-generated graphics (see Videogaming Illustrated #1 for an explanation of this animation process).

Two versions of Zaxxon: the standup and cocktail table varieties. The joystick of the latter does not have a built-in trigger.

Assume that the joystick describes a circle. The top half or "forward arc" is used to move the ship left and right close to the ground, while the "rear arc" shifts you from side to side high in the air. Leaving the stick in a central position will fly you at a constant, medium altitude.

Always remember that the joystick in this videogame requires a light, deft touch — not sudden and jerky movements such as those used in Pac-Man and similar joystick games.

The trigger on the stick can be used to fire missiles. However, it is best to ignore it and use, instead, the left or right "fire buttons" on the control panel. They perform the same function but can be pressed at a faster rate. Obviously, it’s better to have more than fewer projectiles headed the enemy’s way!

Flight in Zaxxon can be gauged by three factors:

1. The altimeter on the extreme left of the videoscreen. This isn’t much help because you should be too busy following the action to glance over.

2. The shadow your ship throws on the terrain of the enemy fortress. This shrinks as you rise, an accurate indicator of how high or low you’re flying. Obviously, the shadow is useless while you’re jetting through space.

3. Using your missiles as yardsticks. They’re being fired straight ahead where they strike tells you your altitude exactly.

Remaining in flight is slightly more difficult than determining your height.

One everpresent problem is fuel. You run out of it rather quickly, and the only way to replenish is by raiding the storage tanks of your opponent. Do this by blasting the large red containers — taking care not to collide with them. Though these are sizeable targets, they are low to the ground and the ship will have to fly in quite low over the Fortress. An even greater danger is getting caught in the blast; make certain you pull up before the concussion hits.

Blasting a half-dozen fuel drums will ensure enough energy to propel your ship through the relatively brief jaunt into space. Should you begin to run short, the computer will sound a warning; assuming that you survive the space battle, make the oil depots your first targets upon reencountering the flying Fortress. But — we get ahead of ourselves.

Visible in this screen are the Fuel Tanks, Turrets, and laser barrier.
Your ship takes on enemy Shuttles, an Interceptor Missile, Fuel Tanks, and a laser barrier.

Zaxxon begins by sending your ship toward the enemy Fortress. A few orientational taps on the fire button will show you exactly where the ship is headed. If the missiles explode on the wall, move the Joystick so that they pass through the gap. This will ensure that you do the same.

Watching your shadow, descend immediately after it has cleared the wall and start firing by tapping the button repeatedly (Holding it down will get off only one shot; there’s no "rapid-fire" mode in Zaxxon.)

The green Turrets pointing across the Fortress won’t fire during round one, although they will have a go at you in succeeding rounds.

Shoot continuously while you navigate. It’s advantageous to do away with as many enemy aircraft as possible, since the number destroyed means that many less you’ll have to confront during the space battle stage of the game. You will increase your score for each ship downed as well. Only when you get the hang of the game should you defer shooting at enemy Shuttles for the high-point but non-lethal radar towers.

Zaxxon’s manufacturer, Sega/Gremlin, suggests in their "Combat Ace" cards which are distributed to arcade operators, that it’s a good idea to fly at a constant level. This simply isn’t so in the Fortress screen. The only benefit to be derived is from flying low, when the enemy won’t fire Homing Missiles your way. But there are collisions to even the score. In all, constantly ascending and diving or swerving is your best tack.

There are, of course, times when you must alter your pattern. Laser fields must be flown over, as well as Missiles taking off from their silos. You should try to destroy these, but if you can’t you must evade them. Care should be taken to avoid the fire spewing from the rockets’ tails as they launch, since the player’s ship can be scorched.

Since the player cannot control the ship’s forward speed, the vessel will automatically reach th e end of the Fortress before long. At this point, you will encounter the final wall and soar into space. Enemy aircraft will begin their attack while an occasional fuel tank satellite will zoom past. If you’re well-stocked, avoid these: best to concentrate on the Shuttles. If you’re low on fuel, strike the fuel tanks by positioning your craft at its highest level.

As in the Fortress mode, fire constantly during the space duel, moving out of the way if an enemy aircraft gets the jump and draws a bead on your ship. Zaxxon will warn the player when this situation has arisen: a "beep" sounds and a small "x" flashes on at the nose of your ship. Shoot if you have the chance, but if there’s any doubt get out of the way. Otherwise, here you can fly at a constant level, waiting for attacking Shuttles to reach your level and blowing them out of the skies when they take the bait. The second Fortress you approach will throw up several new laser barriers to block your flight path. These cannot be flown over. Instead, you must fly through the empty space between the wall and the force field. To accomplish this, fire missiles at the barrier to ascertain your height, then fire until they pass through the gap. Hold your joystick steady at this level.

After passing through the laser impasse, there will be several targets at which to fire. However, almost immediately a second laser field will force you to reposition your ship to pass through its gap. Until you’ve gotten very good, don’t bother with the targets: concentrate on the wall, or you’ll lose your ship.

Details of two Zaxxon obstacles: the laser barrier and Homing Missile.

After successfully negotiating a third laser barrier on the second Fortress, your ship will suddenly stop. The Zaxxon robot will approach, a monstrous machine with the uncanny ability to move from your line of fire.

You will be able to move as before with every advantage save forward motion. Do so as you try to strike not the robot but its guided missile. Six direct hits are required to neutralize the missile. Fire continuously as soon as the robot appears, even before the projectile leaves its hulking form. When you score a hit, the robot will jitter and flash red. Keep plowing it with fire no matter what histrionics ensue.

Unless you are extremely lucky — or extremely sharp — the guided missile will leave the robot’s metallic hide to seek you out. Luckily, the missile is slow, which allows you to hit at it; but because the missile can evade your fire, it’ll take quite a bit of hand-eye coordination to tag it in flight. Hold your ground rather than try to dodge the missile! Your chances of striking it are better than your chances of avoiding it.

If you manage to neutralize the missile, it will turn green. If you don’t, your ship will turn red and fly into a glittering rain of debris.

Once the player has managed to destroy the missile, Zaxxon moves on to the next difficulty level. It returns you to the first Fortress, with the exception that the Interceptor Missiles lift off more quickly, the Turrets are now active, and the enemy Shuttles will fire at you even before lifti.ng off from the Fortress. As if this were not trying enough, the space through which your ship can safely pass the laser barriers becomes progressively smaller, and fuel is consumed at a faster rate as well.

In short: always keep shooting, always be prepared to dodge, and always keep enough quarters on-hand in case all else fails.

ZAXXON Scoring

Enemy Shuttle on runway: 50 points
Enemy Shuttle in space: 100 points
Interceptor Missile 150 points
Gun Emplacement: 200 or 500 points
Homing Missile: 200 points
Fuel Tank: 300 points plus replenishes fuel
All Shuttles destroyed: 1,000 points
Radar Tower: 1,000 points
Robot: 1,000 points

(Note: refer to the first issue of Videogaming Illustrated for a look at Coleco’s home version of Zaxxon.)


The attract mode of Zektor shows a warrior-maiden beckoning would-be heroes to join her in defeating alien robots.

The z’s are taking over the arcade … and we don’t mean the kind of zzzzzzzs that cause one to snooze.

Now that Zaxxon is the top game in the nation, Sega/Gremlin has shipped Zektor to keep it company.

Zektor challenges the player to capture eight space cities which have been conquered by an evil cadre of alien robots. In order to liberate each city, the player must battle three attack waves of Enemy Fighters and Roboprobes, which fire murderous Zizzers at the player’s ship. There are also three types of Moboids which can bounce, spin, or explode your vessel.

The game boasts some interesting sound effects, including the whizz of speed_ing rockets, the "zzzt" sound of the Zizzers, the skidding sound of the Moboids, the sinusoidal wave sound of the revolving barriers, and the starburst sounds of robot neutralization.

Interestingly, arcade operators can have Zektor by using Sega/Gremlin’s Convert-a-Game process on old Space Fury or Eliminator games.

Less interestingly, there were twenty-six z’s in this sidebar. The invasion has indeed begun!

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