By ShellShock
Revised on 09/27/08



Space Gun

Players: 2
About: On-rails shooting
Courtesy of: Taito
Back in: 1990
Originally on: Arcade
Also on: Xbox, PS2, Master System, Amiga, Amstrad CPC, C64, ZX Spectrum, Atari ST, PC


The future. The age of space exploration is finally a reality, and groups of human colonists are assigned to distant planets all over the galaxy. Lo and behold, one of these colonies suddenly stops picking up the phone. Companies worry about assets, people worry about relatives. A search party is sent. They arrive at the base only to find no power, abounding silence, and the interior designer's questionable choice of blood over wall paint. No colonists in sight...
We all recognize this scenario from blockbuster Aliens and their many space-horror movie clones. In Space Gun, the movie's unofficial arcade game, you are sent out in a S.A.R. (Search And Rescue) unit aboard a drifting ghost ship only to find that alien life forms have taken over, eliminating most of the crew and taking the rest hostage. Armed with a mean light-gun rifle, four kinds of grenades, and a precarious radar; your main priority is to retrieve anybody who is still alive and escape the facilities.

Japanese arcade flyer
The endless ripoffs... Princess Leia is saved from an alien.

Space Gun follows the format Taito's legend Operation Wolf helped establish years before in the arcades and later in home computers: cabinet-mounted light-gun in hand, the screen automatically scrolls left to right through each level while players shoot down swarms of enemies and collect power-ups until reaching the boss. However, Space Gun takes it a step further by throwing in four types of grenade launchers, each with their own effects: incinerating, explosive, freezing (which lets you shatter frozen aliens Sub-Zero style), and lastly a cut and dice switch-blade shot. These are scattered in suspiciously high numbers throughout the levels, which means they come in play as a secondary weapon instead of a last resort screen wipe.

How would you like your alien entity, sir?

Other power-ups are a gun sight for easier aiming, invincibility, and your typical health pack.
Still, the game's most original features are the ability to choose different paths, as well as briefly backtrack. By using the cabinet's mechanical pedal, any player can scroll the screen in the opposite direction and force aliens out of view, avoiding damage or just slowing down the natural pace of the game. There isn't time to spare, however, so retreating techniques must be used only in critical situations in order not to run out of time.

Space Gun's appeal relies heavily on its shameless semblance to James Cameron's big-screen classic Aliens. Not only is the plot embarrasingly similar to the one in the Alien series (the last stage's objective is to nuke the entire base from orbit, and the final battle is a one-on-one fight to the death inside the small escape shuttle's cockpit), but the haunting feeling of solitude, suspense, and endless darkness that made the first two movies so memorable are perfectly represented in Taito's 1990 title. It is details like rotten corpses, damaged walls, and specially the nerve-racking beeping of the radar (wandering silent, barely lit corridors listening to this sound keeps you on your toes) that recreate the movies' atmosphere like no other officially licensed game could at the time.

Arcade cabinet

Most of the more obvious ripoffs are instantly identifiable: face-huggers, humans in cocoons, APC vehicles, aliens in glass containers, and alien eggs.
One might think all this is enough to get Taito in court. But unlike the well-known Street Fighter II Vs Fighter's History case, Space Gun somehow got away with it even though Konami's official Aliens arcade hit the streets 7 months earlier.

Considering originality and innovation in the game's development process are close to non-existent, its creators still managed to pull out an above-average but still difficult light-gun title that somehow (and more often than not) happens to be widely regarded as outright mediocre. Graphics are very well defined, there's a decent amount of appreciable background details, sprites are huge, and the hardware's scaling (although clunky now) looked quite nice back then. Surely animation isn't very smooth by today's standards, but trimming off extra alien limbs and body parts with a potent machine gun in a shower of bloody guts makes up for this and any other minor flaws Space Gun has.

The final encounter has you fending off this hulking beast inside the escape shuttle's cockpit. Be sure not to destroy the ship's controls or you won't be going home anytime soon.

Sound effects are great. The screeching of aliens being torn to pieces, elevators humming, and electronics beeping sound very similar to the films'. The music, although very low profile, does its job of adding to the suspense when it has to, but also curiously mutes at predetermined points to intensify the suspenseful atmosphere.

Arcade flyer

There were ports for the usual home computers of the time, Amiga's version looking the best. But the only home console to sponsor Space Gun at the time was the Master System, most likely with the only purpose of expanding the limited amount of light-gun titles available to the system.
Taito also released its compilation "Taito Legends" with Space Gun included for the Xbox, PS2 and Windows-based PCs back in 2005.

Home computer advertisement
In case you haven't noticed yet, this game is about ripping off a certain space horror movie.

Space Gun is 16 years old and still looks great. It's not too long, levels are varied enough to keep one interested, and above all isn't as hard as most light-gun titles. The game throws lots of easy to find grenades and power-ups at you, and after memorizing each boss' attack pattern you can beat it with just a few credits. If you are a fan of early light-gun titles like Operation Wolf, Beast Busters, or Steel Gunner, you'll love this Taito shooter.




Space Gun - Arcade
Space Gun - Arcade
Ripoff counter 1: APC vehicule
Space Gun - Arcade
Space Gun - Arcade
Space Gun succeeds in honoring Aliens' atmosphere as
good as it can with the technology available at the time.
Space Gun - Arcade
Ripoff counter 2: Face-huggers
Space Gun - Arcade
NNevermind I'm being chewed on by that purple bastard, the hostage I was supposed to rescue is not having a good day either. er
Space Gun - Arcade
Space Gun - Arcade
Space Gun - Arcade
Space Gun - Arcade
Space Gun - Arcade
Ripoff counter 3: Human cocoons
Space Gun - Arcade
Corporal Hicks: I say we take off and nuke the entire site
from orbit. It's the only way to be sure...
Space Gun - Arcade
Space Gun - Arcade


Version comparisons


Master System

Commodore 64

Commodore Amiga