Gauntlet series

Gauntlet series

Retro Coin Op Synopsis

“Elf needs food...badly.”

Two of the early 80’s biggest pop culture fads—the video arcade and fantasy role playing games—finally joined forces in 1985’s Gauntlet. Designed by Ed Logg (the man behind Asteroids), Gauntlet was a multi-player adventure unlike any the arcade had seen before. For the first time, players could choose from four different characters, each with different abilities, and all four could play at the same time. Presented in an overhead view, the game was set in a series of large mazes, and the four fantasy heroes battled monsters and other baddies as they searched for a way out.

“Shots do not hurt other players…yet.”

The team was well-balanced in terms of strengths and abilities: Thor, the Warrior, was the strongest, but his manly bulk made him the slowest-moving member of the party. Questor the Elf, on the other hand, could zip through the passageways faster than anyone on the screen, but he was hampered by a lack of upper body strength. The Valkyrie, Thyra, fit somewhere between those two extremes, delivering a fair balance of strength and speed. The last member of the group, Merlin, was completely out of his league in physical battle, but as the team’s Wizard, he compensated with extraordinarily powerful magic.

Together, the intrepid foursome entered dungeon after dungeon, battling Ghosts, Grunts, Demons, Lobbers, The Thief and even Death itself. The enemies became incredibly numerous as the levels wore on, but you could help turn the tide of battle by destroying strategically-placed “monster generators,” keeping the creatures from expanding their armies any further.

“Remember, don’t shoot food.”

Each game lasted until each player ran out of health points, which ticked down slowly even if no monsters were attacking. Players were free to join in at any point in the game, and extra health could be purchased for additional coins. If you didn’t feel like spending the extra money, food would also restore several points of health, but supplies were limited and went to whomever could grab it first (blasted little Elf…).

Also strewn about the dungeon’s bowels were several treasures, from gold to magic potions (enhanced armor, more shot power, temporary invisibility, etc.) Again, the spoils went to the speedy, but a good team always gave the potion to whomever was best suited for its powers.

“Wizard needs food, badly.”

With its groundbreaking characters, graphics and gameplay, Gauntlet was an instant smash, helping to pull the arcade industry out of its mid-80’s slump. The only drawback was that if your favorite character was already taken, you either had to wait for the next game or accept a lesser hero. Atari fixed that with a sequel, Gauntlet II, released one year later. Each player could now choose from any of the four characters, allowing parties of four Valkyries, three Wizards and a Warrior, or any other combination. Color coding kept things from getting too confusing.

In addition to the new character options, Gauntlet II added new monsters (including an exit-guarding dragon), new magic potions (including a monster repellant) and several secret rooms. The extra features kept Gauntlet II in vogue for years to come, earning a very devoted cult of players.

“Warrior is about to die.”

After more than a decade, Atari decided to update the classic game with the latest 3-D capabilities. The result was Gauntlet Legends, which revolutionized gameplay while still staying true to the original’s concept. Now, players actually had a purpose to their quest. The evil mage Skorne threatened the safety of the realm, and only by collecting 12 rune stones and defeating Skorne’s four lesser bosses could the dreaded one finally be vanquished.

Not surprisingly, there were dozens of new powers and enemies in Gauntlet Legends to go along with the improved graphics, but the game added an even more compelling twist. Now, players passed through a level system as they gained experience. For example, after 10 levels, the Archer (now a female) became a Scout, the Warrior became a Hero, the Valkyrie became a Guardian and the Wizard became a Mage. Strength, speed, armor and magic each increased as the players moved up the experience ladder, eventually arriving at level 99, “Legend.” Players could save their progress with a special password feature, allowing them to pick up where they left off at the start of their next game.

Gauntlet Legends was another hit in the classic line, bringing back devotees of the original while at the same time earning a new crowd of fans. Midway Games West (the former Atari Games) decided the keep feeding the fan flames with Gauntlet Dark Legacy, an even more elaborate sequel. The new game added four new characters—Sorceress, Knight, Dwarf and Jester (don't laugh; he had a pretty nifty bag of tricks)—along with multi-player combo moves and new realms to explore and conquer.

Both Gauntlet Legends and Gauntlet Dark Legacy have become classics in their own right, blending action and role-playing with all the capabilities of the modern arcade. The Gauntlet series remains one of the most famous titles in arcade fantasy, more than earning its self-given title, “Legend.”

Arcade Machine Release History

1985 - Gauntlet
1986 - Gauntlet II
1998 - Gauntlet Legends
2000 - Gauntlet Dark Legacy

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