Tron Xbox Live
As film follows game, it so goes that game follows film as in 1982 Bally Midway decided to produce an arcade game based on the seminal computer animation movie Tron, produced by Walt Disney. For many 30 somethings it was a classic movie in a classic time. A time just before Atari’s demise and when every new video game released was practically a new genre. Games were not just about their graphics, but their cabinet housings. Trons cabinet housing itself was somewhat unique for the time as it was lit up with 2 blacklights and fluorescent blue/red lines painted on to resemble the circuit lines used in the film. This effect was also matched on the illuminated blue joystick. This is used to control Tron, and a spinner controls either his arm or a tank gun. The menu gives you the usual options of single or multiplayer, plus settings for screen size (width and height settings) and an ‘enhanced’ version of the game featuring ‘amazing graphics and sound’. Leaderboard viewing options complete the menu. In the game, you play Tron over 4 sub-games and are given the choice to play any one of them from the start. An initial attraction was the fact the sub-games are random. This meant if there is one sub-game you were struggling with, you wouldn’t know where it was and risked losing a life as a result. This feeling of jumping into the unknown had sadly been lost in its XBLA emulation as it won’t cost you money. A fault of translation, sadly, but the games themselves stay fairly true to the arcade.
The 4 sub-games are MCP Cone, where you have to shoot a moving wall similar to breakout. The I/O Tower, where you have to destroy or avoid masses of grid bugs, which multiply to enter the tower before a timer runs out. Battle Tanks, whilst not related to the film as such (although the tanks are) in which you move about a map with a series of tanks. Each tank must be hit 3 times with rebounding lasers. Finally, there’s the infamous Light Cycle game that spawned a mass of clones and remains a fairly cool, albeit basic multiplayer game. You progress through each of these games once before moving up a level, of which there are 12. Later levels see the MCP wall speed up, or more enemies appear, or game speed increase. Tanks are replaced with recognisers (or stompers) who home in on your player and still require 3 shots.
Graphically the game stays faithful to the original arcade, although the enhanced mode does little. Rather then use the typical “Sal2x” filter (which makes blocky games look sharper) as seen in every other emulation, Digital Eclipse appears to have re-drawn the background graphics in the computer graphical neon style, somewhat closer to the film. Sadly, as ever, there’s no scan line emulation. Filtering is used to emulate the scan lines of Jamma monitors used in older arcade games. It’s so frustrating to see this omitted as this simple filter would improve the look of not only this, but any 2D arcade game. Even more frustrating is the sound. Midway used ditties from the original Wendy Carlos electronic score but for the original version of the game the music has been altered and slightly slowed down. As such, if you’re a Tron fan, you won’t be impressed. What’s even worse is the enhanced version of the game DOES feature the arcade sound, but it has been sampled – seemingly with a microphone rather then taken from the roms themselves. As such, it sounds awful and the added background noise adds nothing to the overall feel. Worse still, is that whatever method they’ve used to play the samples – they’re all wrong. Play for any length of time and the music or sound FX just drops out. Mame’s emulation doesn’t do this and it sounds better and cleaner as well!
Finally, onto the controls. The right analogue stick is used in place of the spinner and on its default setting it’s appalling – left and right are meant to rotate your player’s arm or gun but it’s a little inconsistent at times. The good thing is that you don’t have to hold the stick in the direction to fire, so it’s more comfortable. The downside is fast movements (required for tanks and I/O tower) take time, being much slower then a spinner would be. The alternative method of control is known as direct control – move the pad in the direction of the arm. This gives you slightly better control but you have to hold the pad in the direction and as I said earlier, this is not always comfy – but it is better. That said, movement of the arm in both settings is askew as the analogue stick is not mapped properly. It shouldn’t pose too much of a problem as for the most part it works but later levels DO require deft use of control to have any chance of beating them.
I would hazard a guess that anyone who is a fan of the original arcade game, and who don’t have Mame, will have some fun with this – but someone new to gaming will certainly not. It’s a classic game, no doubt, but only if you’re over 30 or thereabouts. The sad fact is if you’ve not heard of Tron then you really won’t care.