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Phoenix (arcade game)

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Title: Phoenix (arcade game)  
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Subject: TI-89 series, Star Raiders, Golden age of arcade video games, Demon Attack, Imagic, Video game clone, Public information film, Xcade, Atari Force, Centuri
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Phoenix (arcade game)

Phoenix arcade flyer
Developer(s) Amstar Electronics
Publisher(s) Centuri, Taito (Arcade)
Atari (Atari 2600)
Platform(s) Arcade, Atari 2600
Release date(s) 1980 (Arcade)
1982 (Atari 2600)
Genre(s) Shoot 'em up
Mode(s) Up to 2 players, alternating turns
Cabinet Upright, cocktail
Display Vertical raster, standard resolution

Phoenix is a shoot 'em up arcade game developed by Amstar Electronics (which was located in Phoenix, Arizona) in 1980,[1] released by Centuri in the United States and by Taito in Japan.[2][3] Bootleg versions of Phoenix were released by TPN and others. Atari also ported the game to the Atari 2600 console in 1982.[3]


Like many arcade games of that era, Phoenix is a top-down outer space-themed fixed shooter similar to Taito's Space Invaders.[3] The player controls a spaceship that moves horizontally at the bottom of the screen, firing upward. Enemies, typically one of two types of birds, appear on the screen above the player's ship, shooting at it and periodically diving towards it in an attempt to crash into it. In addition to the missiles, the ship is equipped with a shield that can be used to zap any of the alien creatures that attempt to crash into the spaceship. However, the player cannot move while the shield is active, and must wait for a short period (approximately five seconds) before using it again.

Phoenix was one of the first full color arcade games, along with Galaxian, so at the time it stood out. Also, it has distinctive shooting sounds that have become very familiar to fans of the genre. Most importantly, the Phoenix mothership was one of the first video arcade game bosses to be presented as a separate challenge.[4] Furthermore, it was available in both arcade and cocktail cabinet chassis formats (a DIP switch setting allows the game to be moved between formats).

Phoenix is a 3 to 6 lives game, depending on the settings.


Each level has five separate rounds. The player must successfully complete a round before advancing to the next one.

  • Rounds 1 and 2 – The player must destroy a formation of alien birds. While in formation, some of the birds fly down kamikaze style, in an attempt to destroy the player's spaceship by crashing into it. Hitting a bird flying diagonally awarded a bonus score. The birds are yellow in round 1, pink in round 2. The player's spaceship is given rapid fire for round 2, where the birds fly somewhat more unpredictably. These rounds are highly reminiscent of Galaxian.
  • Rounds 3 and 4 – Flying eggs float on the screen and seconds later hatch, revealing larger alien birds, resembling phoenices, which swoop down at the player's spaceship. The only way to fully destroy one of these birds is by hitting it in its belly; shooting one of its wings merely destroys that wing, and if both wings are destroyed, they will regenerate. From time to time the birds could also revert to the egg form for a brief period of time. The birds are blue in round 3, pink in round 4.

  • Round 5 – The player is pitted against the mothership, which is controlled by an alien-like creature sitting in its center. To successfully complete this round, the player must first fire away at the hull and a conveyor belt-type shield to get a clear shot at the alien. Destroying the alien – only one shot is required – ends the level. The mothership fires missiles at the player, moves slowly down towards him and has the alien birds (from rounds 1 and 2) protecting the ship. Defeating all of the birds will produce a new wave.

The game continues, with the difficulty increasing per level. The main increase in difficulty centered on the increasing speed and unpredictability of the bird and phoenix flights.


There are two pieces of music featured in the game:


  • Griffon was released by Videotron in 1980.
  • Falcon was released by BGV. in 1980.
  • Vautour was released by Jeutel in 1980 in France.
  • Condor was released by Sidam in 1981.
  • Pheenix was released by Megadodo for the ZX Spectrum in 1983.
  • Eagle Empire was released by Alligata Software for the BBC Micro in 1983.
  • Various games titled Phoenix are available for many graphing calculators.


  • Phoenix was released by T.P.N in 1980.
  • Phoenix was released by IRECSA, G.G.I Corp in 1980.


The official sequel to Phoenix was called Pleiads (onscreen) or Pleiades (on the Centuri manufactured marquee) and was developed by Tehkan in 1981, and licensed to Centuri for US distribution. Pleiades featured more enemies attacking at once, balanced by the fact that the player could now have two shots on the screen at one time instead of one.

The Flagship level in the Midway game Gorf has been compared to the boss stage in Phoenix.


Most Phoenix games will be in a standard Centuri woodgrain cabinet, but several other cabinets exist, due to this game being sold by multiple companies at the same time. These use sticker sideart (which covers the upper half of the machine), and glass marquees. The control panel is made up entirely of buttons, no joysticks are present in the arcade version (some cocktail versions do have joysticks). The monitor in this machine is mounted vertically, and the monitor bezel is relatively unadorned. Phoenix uses a unique wiring harness, which isn't known to be compatible with any other games.

Circuitry in the Centuri version:

  • CPU: 8085 at 5.5 MHz.
  • RAM: 4 kB (8 2114 1k x 4 chips.)
  • ROM: 16 kB (8 2716 2k x 8 chips.)
  • Audio: Matsushita MN6221AA chip, along with discrete circuitry.
  • Video: discrete circuitry, utilizing 4 more 2716 2k x 8 EPROMs, as well as 2 256 x 4 bipolar PROMs.[5]


Richie Knucklez holds the official record for this game with 1,007,115 points recorded on the 9 March 2011.[6]


Atari later bought the home video game console rights to Phoenix, which it released for the Atari 2600 in 1982.[3] The Imagic game Demon Attack closely resembled Phoenix, so Atari sued Imagic, who settled out of court. The home version of Phoenix is one of the more accurate arcade ports of the time.

Taito appears to currently hold the worldwide rights to the game - in 2005, Phoenix was released on the Xbox, PlayStation 2, PSP and the PC as part of Taito Legends in the US and Europe, and Taito Memories II Gekan in Japan.


External links

  • Phoenix guide at StrategyWiki
  • Killer List of Videogames
  • Arcade History Database entry
  • Arcade Database
  • Java Version (pseudo SFX and too-fast gameplay) (broken applet)
  • Twin Galaxies High Score Rankings for Phoenix
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