Cabal (video game)

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Cabal arcadeflyer.png
Japanese arcade flyer of Cabal.
Developer(s)TAD Corporation
Composer(s)David Wise (NES)
Platform(s)Arcade, Amiga, Amstrad CPC, C64, ZX Spectrum, MS-DOS, NES
ReleaseSeptember 1988[1]
Genre(s)Shooting gallery
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer
CPUMotorola 68000

Cabal (カベール, Kabēru) is a 1988 arcade video game originally developed by TAD Corporation and published in Japan by Taito Corporation and in North America and Europe by Fabtek.[1] In the game, the player controls a commando, viewed from behind, trying to destroy various enemy military bases.[2] The game was innovative for the era, but only a mild success in the arcades, and became better known for its various home conversions.[1]


Arcade version screenshot.

Cabal offers one player and two-player-simultaneous modes of gameplay. Each player assumes the role of an unnamed commando trying to destroy several enemy military bases. There are 5 stages with 4 screens each. The player starts with a stock of three lives and uses a gun with limitless ammunition and a fixed number of grenades to fend off enemy troops and attack the base. The commando is seen from behind and starts behind a protective wall which can be damaged and shattered by enemy fire. To stay alive, the player needs to avoid enemy bullets by running left or right, hiding behind cover, or using a dodge-roll. An enemy gauge at the bottom of the screen depletes as foes are destroyed and certain structures (which collapse rather than shatter) are brought down. When the enemy gauge is emptied, the level is successfully completed, all of the remaining buildings onscreen collapse, and the player progresses to the next stage. If a player is killed, he is immediately revived at the cost of one life or game overs if he has no lives remaining. Boss fights, however, restart from the beginning if the only remaining player dies.

From time to time, power-ups are released from objects destroyed onscreen. Some power-ups give special weapons such as an extremely fast-firing machine gun or an automatic shotgun with a lower firing rate and larger area of effect. Others grant extra grenades or additional points.

The arcade cabinet is a standard upright.[1] Each player uses a trackball to move their character from side to side and move the crosshairs about the screen. On later board revisions, a joystick was installed instead[1] with an optional sub-pcb for use with a trackball. With a trackball, dodge-rolling is done by pushing the trackball to maximum speed.

Cabal was somewhat innovative in that it featured a 3D perspective in which the player character was situated in the foreground with an over-the-shoulder camera view, similar to modern third-person shooters. Although it is sometimes compared to contemporary games such as Commando and Ikari Warriors,[citation needed] it differs in that the player cannot move forward of his own volition; an area first needs to be cleared of enemies before the game automatically advances. Players cannot move the character while firing (holding down the fire button gives players control of the aiming cursor), and when moving the character to avoid incoming bullets, the aiming cursor moves along in tandem. This creates the need for a careful balance between offensive and defensive tactics, separating Cabal from run-and-gun shooters which relied more on reflexes.[citation needed] Advanced gameplay involves destructible asset management in balancing dodging (which gets riskier as the number of enemy projectiles on screen increases) with the safer alternative of taking cover behind a protective but limited durability wall.

Ports and related releases[edit]

Front cover of the Amiga port.

Cabal was ported to several home computers of the era, including the DOS computers, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, Atari ST and Amiga. It was also ported to the Nintendo Entertainment System console by Rare. The quality of these ports varied based on the target system's capabilities. A version for the Atari Lynx was previewed and even slated to be published in April 1992, but it was never released by Fabtek.[3][4]

When converting the game to the Nintendo Entertainment System, Rare were given a Cabal cabinet but did not have access to the game's source code, so they had to play the game over and over and redraw the graphics from memory.[5] To accommodate the many layers and sprites of the arcade game, programmer Anthony Ball used a common coding trick: swapping sprites from left to right every other frame. This has the negative side effect of causing the sprites to flicker when they reach the console's limit of eight per line, but Ball, like many programmers of the era, found this an acceptable trade-off for including all the game's content, and in a 2016 interview he said he is happy with the quality of the conversion.[5]

Cabal was followed in 1990 by Blood Bros., though the sequel had a western theme as opposed to Cabal's Vietnam-era theme.[1]


In Japan, Game Machine listed Cabal on their November 1, 1988 issue as being the eighth most-successful table arcade unit of the year.[6]

The game won the award for best advert of the year according to the readers of Crash.[7] The game's success inspired many "Cabal clones," such as NAM-1975 (1990) and Wild Guns (1994).[1][8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Carroll, Martyn (December 2016). "Ultimate Guide: Cabal". Retro Gamer. No. 163. Future Publishing. pp. 38–43.
  2. ^ "Cabal". The International Arcade Museum. Retrieved 6 Oct 2013.
  3. ^ Pac, Classic. "1992 Lynx Catalog". AtariAge. Retrieved 2018-04-09.
  4. ^ "Atari (UK) – Lynx Log 2 - 1992". Atarimania. Retrieved 2018-04-09.
  5. ^ a b Carroll, Martyn (December 2016). "Developer Q&A". Retro Gamer. No. 163. Future Publishing. pp. 38–43.
  6. ^ "Game Machine's Best Hit Games 25 - テーブル型TVゲーム機 (Table Videos)". Game Machine (in Japanese). No. 343. Amusement Press, Inc. 1 November 1988. p. 25.
  7. ^ "Crash Reader's Award Ceremony". Crash: The Online Edition. No. 75.
  8. ^ "Wild Guns". Hardcore Gaming 101. Retrieved 24 April 2012.

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