Retro Coin Op Synopsis

Exidy’s Crossbow turned a Dungeons & Dragons-type adventure into a very different kind of shooting game, complete with a crossbow-shaped light gun. Unlike most shooting games, your job was not destruction, but rather protection, guiding a party of warriors and magical beings toward a climactic battle with the Master of Darkness.

As your party crossed the screen from left to right, you played the part of a crossbow-toting sniper, firing at any threats in their path. The party members—ranging from a warrior to a wizard to a dwarf and more—could all defend themselves at times, but it was always safer to eliminate the danger before they even faced it. Sometimes, the path itself had to be cleared by your crossbow, firing at rocks to make bridges across molten lava, knocking out chains holding up a drawbridge, etc.

As the levels progressed, the enemies grew in number and in speed—rolling rocks, scorpions, bats, ghosts, falling icicles, arrows, coconut-throwing monkeys, fireballs, etc.—but luckily, your party gained “New Friends” at the end of certain stages. As long as one character reached the right side safely, your party got another chance to move on toward the Master of Darkness’ castle.

At the start of the game and after every stage, it was up to you to decide which color-coded path to take: red, green or blue. Eight different scenes were available—Village, Desert, Volcano, Cave, Bridge, Jungle, Castle Exterior and Castle Interior—and there were multiple ways into and out of every area. The paths didn’t change from game to game, but neither were they clear until you’d taken them once, causing many players to take their parties in frustrating and dangerous circles before finally finding the right way into the Master of Darkness’ dungeon lair.

By combining the best of the adventure and shooting worlds, Crossbow became a crossover hit, appealing as much to action lovers as it did to part-time Dungeon Masters. The game failed to inspire a wave of quest-based shooters, as games like Vs. Duck Hunt and Operation Wolf shifted the emphasis either to quick-draw marksmanship or out-and-out mayhem, but the 90’s picked up the torch that Crossbow had lit, igniting an ongoing wave of hits like Time Crisis and House of the Dead.

Arcade Machine Release History

1983 - Crossbow

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