“Beware! I live!”
One of the fastest-paced, most challenging arcade games of the golden years, Sinistar also featured one of the era’s most memorable villains. The evil Sinistar itself was a gigantic, detailed metal face with flashing red eyes, silver fangs and an absolutely bone-chilling voice.
Players piloted a tiny ship set in the middle of a field of planetoids to mine Sinisite Crystals by blasting the rocky planetoids, shaking the glowing crystals free.
Somehow, the crystals were forged into potent Sinibombs, one bomb at a time. It wasn’t an easy process, especially since little enemy ships were constantly swarming around, trying to catch the crystals themselves. Warrior ships also buzzed about, firing off blasts from their top-mounted cannons.
Meanwhile, Worker ships were busy building the massive Sinistar, piece by piece. The unfinished beast was no threat, but once an evil “Beware! I live!” sounded on the speakers, it was time to put those Sinibombs to use.
When the Sinistar came in range, the player’s ship had to unleash a flurry of bombs, ducking away before the Sinistar sucked it into its black hole of a mouth. Once one Sinistar was destroyed, another would rise to take its place on a new level.
To make matters worse, your ship was the slowest on the screen. Even lowly Worker ships had more zip in their engines, and the Sinistar could seemingly appear out of nowhere (unless you had time to pay attention to the scanner at the top of the screen).
The only hope was to outmanoeuvre your foes with the game’s special 49-way joystick, playing a deadly game of fire and retreat.
Sinistar’s difficult gameplay made it a hard sell in 1982, but that very same factor has made it a cult favourite among expert game players and collectors. The rare cockpit cabinets actually featured stereo sound, an arcade first. All the better to hear that galactic terror-monger crying out:
“Run, coward! Run! Run! Run!”