Phoenix (video game)

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Phoenix arcade flyer
Publisher(s) Centuri, Taito (Arcade)
Atari, Inc. (Atari 2600)
Platform(s) Arcade, Atari 2600
Release Arcade
Atari 2600
Genre(s) Fixed shooter
Mode(s) 1-2 players alternating
Cabinet Upright, cocktail
Display Vertical raster, standard resolution

Phoenix is an outer space-themed, fixed shooter video game similar to Taito's Space Invaders and released in 1980. According to Centuri's Joel Hochberg, the game was licensed from "a smaller Japanese developer."[1] Amstar Electronics (which was located in Phoenix, Arizona)[2] licensed the game to Centuri for manufacture in the United States. Taito released the game in Japan.[3][4] Atari, Inc. released a port of Phoenix for the Atari 2600 in 1982.[5]

The Phoenix mothership is one of the first video arcade game bosses to be presented as a separate challenge.[6] This was before the term boss was coined.


The player controls a spaceship that moves horizontally at the bottom of the screen, firing upward. Enemies, typically one of two types of birds, appear on the screen above the player's ship, shooting at it and periodically diving towards it in an attempt to crash into it. The ship is equipped with a shield that can be used to zap any of the alien creatures that attempt to crash into the spaceship. The player cannot move while the shield is active and must wait approximately five seconds before using it again.

The player starts with three or six lives, depending on the settings.

Each level has five separate rounds. The player must complete a round to advance to the next.

  • Rounds 1 and 2 – The player must destroy a formation of alien birds. While in formation, some of the birds fly down kamikaze style, in an attempt to destroy the player's spaceship by crashing into it. Hitting a bird flying diagonally awards a bonus score. The birds are yellow in round 1, pink in round 2. The player's spaceship is given rapid fire for round 2, where the birds fly somewhat more unpredictably.
  • Rounds 3 and 4 – Flying eggs float on the screen and seconds later hatch, revealing larger alien birds, resembling phoenices, which swoop down at the player's spaceship. The only way to fully destroy one of these birds is by hitting it in its belly; shooting one of its wings merely destroys that wing, and if both wings are destroyed, they will regenerate. From time to time the birds may also revert to the egg form for a brief period. The birds are blue in round 3, pink in round 4.
  • Round 5 – The player is pitted against the mothership, which is controlled by an alien creature sitting in its center. To complete this round, the player must create a hole in the conveyor belt-type shield to get a clear shot at the alien. Hitting the alien with a single shot ends the level. The mothership fires missiles at the player's ship, moves slowly down towards it, and has alien birds (from rounds 1 and 2) protecting it. Defeating all of the birds will produce a new wave.

The game continues with increasing speed and unpredictability of the bird and phoenix flights.



A 1981 Italian model of the Phoenix arcade cabinet. (Mfr: Amtec)

Phoenix was available in both arcade and cocktail cabinets. A DIP switch setting allows the game to be moved between formats.

Most Phoenix games are in a standard Centuri woodgrain cabinet, but several other cabinets exist, due to this game being sold by multiple companies at the same time. These use sticker sideart (which covers the upper half of the machine), and glass marquees. The control panel is made up entirely of buttons; no joystick is present in the Centuri version, except for the international models and some cocktail versions. The monitor in this machine is mounted vertically, and the monitor bezel is relatively unadorned. Phoenix uses a unique wiring harness, which isn't known to be compatible with any other games.

Circuitry in the Centuri version:

  • CPU: 8085 at 5.5 MHz.
  • RAM: 4 kB (8 2114 1k x 4 chips.)
  • ROM: 16 kB (8 2716 2k x 8 chips.)
  • Audio: Matsushita MN6221AA chip, along with discrete circuitry.
  • Video: discrete circuitry, utilizing 4 more 2716 2k x 8 EPROMs, as well as 2 256 x 4 bipolar PROMs.[7]


There are two pieces of music featured in the game:


When the player shoots 3 birds in a row very quickly as they fly upwards, the total score is set to a value in the vicinity of 204,000 points.[8]

The player's force field works unreliably.[citation needed] The ship might explode when coming in contact with an enemy or a shot fired although the shield was activated.


Review score
AllGame5/5 stars[9]

Bill Kunkel and Arnie Katz of Electronic Games called Phoenix "perhaps the finest invasion title ever produced for the 2600!", praising its "fantastic graphics, unexcelled play-action and more".[5] The game received a Certificate of Merit in the category of "1984 Best Science Fiction/ Fantasy Videogame" at the 5th annual Arkie Awards.[10]:42



In 2005, Phoenix was released on the Xbox, PlayStation 2, PSP and the PC as part of Taito Legends in the US and Europe, and Taito Memories II Gekan in Japan.


  • Griffon was released by Videotron in 1980.
  • Falcon was released by BGV. in 1980.
  • Vautour was released by Jeutel in 1980 in France.
  • Condor was released by Sidam in 1981.
  • Pheenix was released by Megadodo for the ZX Spectrum in 1983.
  • Eagle Empire was released by Alligata for the BBC Micro in 1983.
  • Firebirds was released by Softek for the ZX Spectrum in 1983.

The Imagic game Demon Attack for the Atari 2600 closely resembled Phoenix which Atari owned the 2600 rights to. Atari sued Imagic, who settled out of court.


  • Phoenix was released by T.P.N in 1980.
  • Phoenix was released by IRECSA, G.G.I Corp in 1980.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Joel Hochberg (Centuri Inc, Nintendo, Rare Inc) Email Interview - 13th February 2006,
  2. ^ p. 163, Racing the beam: the Atari Video computer system, by Nick Montfort and Ian Bogost, MIT Press, 2009, ISBN 0-262-01257-X.
  3. ^ Phoenix at the Killer List of Videogames
  4. ^ Phoenix at AllGame
  5. ^ a b Katz, Arnie; Kunkel, Bill (June 1983). "Programmable Arcade". Electronic Games. pp. 38–42. Retrieved 6 January 2015. 
  6. ^ Sterbakov, Hugh. (2008-03-05) The 47 Most Diabolical Video-Game Villains of All Time. Gamepro. Retrieved on 2008-04-28.
  7. ^ Phoenix service manual, Centuri, Inc., #364-62-0100 A.
  8. ^ Hodges, Don (January 22, 2018). "Phoenix's Scoring Bug Analyzed and Fixed". Retrieved 7 November 2016. 
  9. ^ Weiss, Brett Alan. "Phoenix - Review - allgame". AllGame. Archived from the original on November 14, 2014. Retrieved February 21, 2016. 
  10. ^ Kunkel, Bill; Katz, Arnie (January 1984). "Arcade Alley: The Arcade Awards, Part 1". Video. Reese Communications. 7 (10): 40–42. ISSN 0147-8907. 

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