Retro Coin Op Synopsis
One of the first arcade games to feature distinct levels of play, Phoenix took a few basics from Space Invaders and Galaxian, then added a style all its own. With its bright pastel graphics and multi-stage challenges, the game managed to rise above the hordes of Space Invader clones to score with gamers.
The early stages of Phoenix played much like Galaxian, but with one major change. Menacing aliens still dove down to strike your spaceship, but this time, you had a defense. In addition to the standard blaster, Phoenix gave its players a temporary shield, which would protect your ship from enemy shots and fry any space birds that flew into it. The shield would drop without warning, however, and it took a full seven seconds to recharge.
Later stages brought bigger birds—big enough to take more than one shot. A direct center hit would still drop the enemies with a single blast, but a wing shot would only take off (you guessed it) a wing. And true to the game’s title, the birds could regenerate themselves, Phoenix-like, if you gave them enough time. The easiest route (but also the lowest-scoring) was to take out the big birds while they were nothing more than flying eggs. Once they hatched, they started firing back.
Phoenix’s final stage put your small ship up against the alien mothership itself. The saucer-like craft had a thick underbelly which had to be knocked out a piece at a time, cutting a big enough hole to get a clean shot at the purple-headed alien in the cockpit. Making this even tougher, a swarm of small birds flanked the mothership, swooping down to drive you off. Once you blasted the big baddie to smithereens, the game would start over at a higher skill level.
Phoenix was very popular in its heyday, but an explosion of new and different games like Pac-Man, Missile Command, Centipede and Defender kept it from a long-lasting success. Still, the game managed to earn its name one more time, rising from the ashes again in 1985 as Pleiades, a rare sequel. Much of the gameplay remained the same, but the final stage now involved landing your ship on a very crowded interstellar runway. The game made little splash at the time, ending the series at two games, but when it comes to comebacks, you can’t ever count out a Phoenix.
Arcade Machine Release History1980 - Phoenix
1985 - Pleiades