I suppose I’m revealing my age here, but back when I wasn’t much taller than the tumbleweeds blowing through my home town, there was a store over on (not making this up!) Oddie Boulevard called "Grand Central:" it was sort of a precursor to to the Lowes and Home Depots of the world, but also offered sporting goods, outdoor gear, and things like fireplace logs and a nursery.
Anyway: my parents were mystified at my eagerness to tag along on a trip to Grand Central. The reason? Along the front-of-store aisle behind the cash registers was a lone Battlezone console game from Atari, featuring vector graphics and a very tacky version of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. I was freakishly good at Battlezone, able to consume the time of my parents’ entire shopping excusion using but one quarter and three tanks. I would often have to abandon a game in progress when my parents were done shopping—and, contrary to then-popular myth, no matter how long you drive towards the crescent moon, you do not pass through the distant mountains to an enemy city. Really.
So it’s with a sense of nostalgia that I note Atari has just released a BattleZone game for Sony’s PlayStation Portable (PSP) handheld gaming system. Atari’s new version doesn’t bear much resemblance to the 1980s arcade classic: in the new version, players control futuristic hover-tanks in close-combat arena matches with rivals in six common game modes: Deathmatch, Capture the Flag, Team Deathmatch, Hotzone, Knockout, and Fox and Hound. BattleZone arenas are located all over the globe, from Russia and China to Antarctica and the Canary Island. The game features lightning fast play, photo-realistic environments, eight customizable team vehicles, a selection of weapons, and multiplayer battles supporting up to four simultaneous wireless players. New weapons, upgrades, and vehicles can be unlocked as the game progresses, and extra game content is available via the game Web site, including an online level-builder so players can customize their own game maps.
"BattleZone for the PSP system is a modern day version of the immensely- popular classic property," said Stephen Baer, Atari Senior Product Manager. "BattleZone is a fast-paced and addictive game that capitalizes on all the PSP system offers. Just as the original set the standard for combat action in the arcades, BattleZone for the PSP system is armed to meet today’s generation of gamers anywhere they go."
BattleZone is rated E10+ by the ESRB and is priced at $29.95.
Oh: back to my story. Grand Central wasn’t far from another Oddie Boulevard retailer which would prove to be a far greater influence in my formative years: Bizarre Guitar.