Radar Scope

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Radar Scope
Arcade flyer of Radar Scope.
Promotional sales flyer.
Developer(s)Nintendo R&D1
Designer(s)Shigeru Miyamoto
Composer(s)Hirokazu Tanaka[1]
  • WW: December 1980[2]
Genre(s)Fixed shooter
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer (alternating turns)
CabinetUpright, tabletop
CPUZ80, i8035

Radar Scope[a] is a 1980 fixed shooter arcade game developed by Nintendo R&D1 and published by Nintendo. The player assumes the role of the Sonic Spaceport starship that must wipe out an enemy race known as the Gamma Raiders before they destroy the player's space station. Gameplay involves clearing each formation of enemies while avoiding them and their projectiles. The Sonic Spaceport can sustain multiple hits from enemy projectiles, which will deplete the "damage meter" located at the bottom of the screen. The game is situated at a third-person perspective.

Radar Scope was one of the first projects given to Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto, featuring music composed by Hirokazu Tanaka. It has gained infamy for being a commercial failure in North America and putting Nintendo of America in a financial crisis because of it, despite being a massive success in Japan. Out of 3,000 arcade units shipped to the United States, 1,000 of which were sold and the rest sat in a Nintendo warehouse. Nintendo of America president Minoru Arakawa pleaded to his father-in-law Hiroshi Yamauchi over providing him a game that could be used to convert existing machines, leading to the creation of Donkey Kong. Retrospectively, critics have praised Radar Scope for its unique gameplay and design, with one critic labeling it one of Nintendo's most important games for inadvertently creating Donkey Kong and Nintendo's eventual shift towards console production.


Game screenshot.

Radar Scope is a fixed shooter video game, often described as a cross between Galaxian and Space Invaders.[3] The player pilots the Sonic Spaceport starship and must defend their space station against enemies known as the Gamma Raiders. Gameplay involves clearing each stage of the Gamma Raiders without colliding with either them or their projectiles.[4] Each stage has the Gamma Raiders in a set formation of 48, and will swoop down towards the player in an attempt to hit them. The Sonic Spaceport has a "damage meter" situated at the bottom of the screen, which will deplete when the player is inflicted with enemy fire.[4] Once the meter is empty, the player will lose a life. Gameplay takes place in a third-person perspective over a gradient-blue background.[5][3] Three types of arcade cabinets were produced, a standard upright, a tabletop version, and a rarer sit-down cabinet.[3]

Development and release[edit]

Following the widespread success of Taito's Space Invaders in the late 1970s, Nintendo, a then-producer of toys and playing cards in Japan, began delving into the expanding video game industry after the 1973 oil crisis made the cost of manufacturing toys too expensive.[4] They had briefly experimented with electro-mechanical gun games such as Wild Gunman and the Laser Clay Shooting System, before producing games such as EVR-Race, Sheriff, Space Fever and the Color TV Game line of dedicated home consoles.[6] Radar Scope was created by Nintendo Research & Development 1 (R&D1), with music composed by Hirokazu Tanaka. Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto assisted in the game's production as one of his first video game projects, however his role in development is often debated — some claim he designed the graphics, while others say he simply created the arcade cabinet artwork.[4] David Scheff's book Game Over claims that Miyamoto found it "simplistic and banal" after it was completed.[4]

Radar Scope was released in North America and Japan in December 1980,[2] although some sources claim it to be released towards the end of 1979.[7][4] In a desperate need for a hit game, Nintendo of America president Minoru Arakawa boldly spent the company's entire budget on 3,000 Radar Scope arcade units.[8] It was an underwhelming failure in North America and put Nintendo of America in a financial crisis. Arakawa pleaded with his father in-law and Nintendo CEO Hiroshi Yamauchi to provide him with a new game that could be used to convert Radar Scope cabinets.[8] The end result was Donkey Kong, completed in 1981 and designed by Shigeru Miyamoto.[8][6] The conversion kits were shipped to Nintendo of America and installed on over 2,000 Radar Scope machines.[8]


Review score
AllGame2.5/5 stars[9]

Radar Scope was an unprecedented success for Nintendo in Japan, reportedly one of the most popular games in Tokyo and second only to Pac-Man in the nation for some time.[10]:35 It was a commercial failure in North America by comparison with Japan, due in part to Arakawa's large order of units months after the success in Japan. Out of an estimated 3,000 arcade units shipped to the United States, 1,000 were sold and the remaining 2,000 sat in Nintendo's warehouse.[8]

In a 1998 retrospective review, Earl Green of Allgame said the 3D perspective was a unique idea for the time, and was one of the better Space Invaders-type games released.[9] Shack News writer Greg Burke liked the game's colorful visuals and interesting gameplay, saying that it helped make it stick out from games like Galaxian and Space Invaders.[7] 1UP.com criticized the lack of "tight design" as found in Galaxian, and for blaring and annoying sound effects. They said the third-person perspective was a unique innovation, imitated years later by games such as Konami's Juno First and Activision's Beamrider.[11]

In 2014, Jeremy Parish of USGamer said that Radar Scope "belonged to the better class of Invaders rip-offs". He greatly applauded the 3D perspective for providing a unique twist on the traditional gameplay established by games like Space Invaders and Galaxian, and for adding a sense of progression and depth.[4] He expressed disappointment that the game was not more widely well-known given its rough history and scarcity, writing: "Sadly, Radar Scope tends to be brushed under the rug as a matter of no real significance: A failed game whose only positive contribution to gaming history was providing an opportunity for something better to come along. In truth, though, Radar Scope wasn't a poor game by any measure; its crimes were instead a simple matter of timing, and of being the focus of Nintendo's ill-conceived ambitions."[4] He said that Radar Scope serves as an important game in Nintendo's history, as it inadvertently led to both the creation of Donkey Kong and Nintendo's eventual shift to producing home video game consoles.[4]


  1. ^ Japanese: レーダースコープ Hepburn: Rēdā Sukōpu?


  1. ^ Vacuum, Works|Sporadic. "Nintendo Archive - Works|Sporadic Vacuum". Hirokazutanaka.com. Retrieved September 16, 2017.
  2. ^ a b Akagi, Masumi (13 October 2006). アーケードTVゲームリスト国内•海外編(1971-2005) (First ed.). Japan: Amusement News Agency. ISBN 978-4990251215. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  3. ^ a b c "Radar Scope - Videogame by Nintendo". Killer List of Videogames. Archived from the original on 25 September 2019. Retrieved 9 December 2019.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Parish, Jeremy (21 January 2014). "35 Years Ago, Nintendo's First Brush With Video Disaster". USGamer. Archived from the original on 2 May 2019. Retrieved 9 December 2019.
  5. ^ Stanton, Rich (2015). A Brief History Of Video Games: From Atari to Xbox One. Little, Brown Book Group, Hachette Book Group. p. 114. ISBN 9781472118813.
  6. ^ a b Kent, Steven L. (2002). The Ultimate History of Video Games: The Story Behind the Craze that Touched our Lives and Changed the World. New York: Random House International. ISBN 978-0-7615-3643-7. OCLC 59416169. Archived from the original on June 24, 2016.
  7. ^ a b Burke, Greg (22 June 2017). "Shack's Arcade Corner: Radar Scope". Shack News. Archived from the original on 23 June 2017. Retrieved 9 December 2019.
  8. ^ a b c d e Nix, Marc (14 September 2010). "IGN Presents: The History of Super Mario Bros". IGN. Archived from the original on 9 November 2019. Retrieved 9 December 2019.
  9. ^ a b Green, Earl (1998). "Radar Scope - Review". Allgame. Archived from the original on 14 November 2014. Retrieved 9 December 2019.
  10. ^ Kohler, Chris (2004). Power-Up: How Japanese Video Games Gave the World an Extra Life. Indianapolis, IN: BradyGames. ISBN 0-7440-0424-1.
  11. ^ Ragan, Jess (2011). "Where Were They Then: The First Games of Nintendo, Konami, and More". 1UP.com. p. 2. Archived from the original on 17 October 2012. Retrieved 9 December 2019.