Scramble (video game)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
North American flyer
  • NA: GCE
  • EU: Compu-Games A/S
Platform(s)Arcade, Tomy Tutor, Vectrex
Tomy Tutor
Genre(s)Scrolling shooter
Mode(s)Single-player, multiplayer
Arcade systemKonami Scramble

Scramble (スクランブル, Sukuranburu) is a horizontally scrolling shooter arcade video game released in 1981. It was developed by Konami and manufactured and distributed by Leijac in Japan and Stern in North America. It was the first side-scrolling shooter with forced scrolling and multiple distinct levels,[4] and it established the foundation for a new genre.

It was Konami's first major worldwide hit. In the United States, it sold 15,136 arcade cabinets within five months and became Stern's second best-selling game. Scramble was not ported to any major contemporary consoles or computers, but there were releases for the Tomy Tutor and Vectrex as well as dedicated tabletop/handheld versions. Unauthorized clones for the VIC-20 and Commodore 64 used the same name as the original. The BBC Micro clone was called Rocket Raid, marketed by Acornsoft from 1982 and primarily within the UK. Scramble's sequel, the more difficult Super Cobra, was released later that year. Gradius (1985) was originally intended to be a follow-up to Scramble.


The player controls a futuristic aircraft, referred to in the game as a jet, and has to guide it across scrolling terrain, battling obstacles along the way. The jet is armed with a forward-firing weapon and bombs; each weapon has its own button. The player must avoid colliding with the terrain and other enemies while simultaneously maintaining its limited fuel supply, which diminishes over time.[5] More fuel can be acquired by destroying fuel tanks in the game.[6]

The game is divided into six sections, each with a different style of terrain and various obstacles. There is no intermission between each section; the game seamlessly scrolls into the new terrain. Points are awarded based on the duration of survival, as well as for destroying enemies and fuel tanks. In the final section, the player must destroy a "base". Once this objective is achieved, a flag indicating a completed mission is displayed at the bottom right of the screen. The game then repeats, returning to the first section with a slight increase in difficulty.


  • Per second the jet is in play: 10 points
  • Rockets: 50 points on ground, 80 in air
  • UFO ships: 100 points
  • Fuel tanks: 150 points
  • Mystery targets: 100, 200, or 300 points
  • Base at ends of levels: 800 points

The player is awarded an extra jet for scoring 10,000 points, and none more thereafter. A jet is lost upon contact with anything. Once the final jet is destroyed, the game is over.

Development and release[edit]

The United States Court of Appeal states the following regarding the game's development and release:

In January 1981 at a London trade exhibit Stern became aware of "Scramble," an electronic video game developed in late 1980 by a Japanese corporation, Konami Industry Co., Ltd. The audiovisual display constituting what Stern alleges is the copyrightable work was first published in Japan on January 8, 1981. Stern secured an exclusive sub-license to distribute the "Scramble" game in North and South America from Konami's exclusive licensee, and began selling the game in the United States on March 17, 1981.[2]

Handheld versions[edit]

A dedicated Tomytronic version of Scramble was released in 1982.[7] A second electronic tabletop version of Scramble was released the same year in the UK by Grandstand[8] under licence from Japanese firm Epoch Co., who sold the game in Japan under the title Astro Command.[9] Gameplay differs from the arcade version as no scenery is rendered and the ship has no need to refuel. A handheld compact LCD version known as "Pocket Scramble" was released the following year. Scramble was also made available on the 2006 Game Boy Advance cartridge, "Konami Collector Series Arcade Advanced", this version is a very close port of the original game in the arcade cabinet.


Scramble was commercially successful and critically acclaimed. In its February 1982 issue, Computer and Video Games magazine said it "was the first arcade game to send you on a mission and quickly earned a big following".[10] In the United States, the game sold 10,000 arcade cabinets worth $20,000,000 (equivalent to $64,000,000 in 2022) in sales within two months of release in 1981,[11] and it topped the US monthly RePlay arcade charts in June 1981.[12] It sold 15,136 arcade cabinets in the United States within five months, by August 4, 1981, becoming Stern's second best-selling game after Berzerk. Its sequel, the more difficult Super Cobra, sold 12,337 cabinets in the U.S. in four months that same year, adding up to 27,473 U.S. cabinet sales for both, by October 1981.[1] In Japan, Scramble was tied with Jump Bug and Space Panic as the 14th highest-grossing arcade video game of 1981.[13]

The Vectrex version was reviewed in Video magazine where it was praised for its fidelity to the original arcade game and was described as the favorite among Vectrex titles they had reviewed.[14]: 120  The game's overlays were singled out, with reviewers commenting that "when you're really involved with a Vectrex game like Scramble, it's almost possible to forget that the program is in black-and-white".[14]: 32  David H. Ahl of Creative Computing Video & Arcade Games reported in 1983 that no test player was able to get past the fourth level of the Vectrex version.[15]

In 1982, Arcade Express gave the Tomytronic version of the game a score of 9 out of 10, describing it as an "engrossing" game that "rates as one of the year's best so far".[16]

Scramble made the list of Top 100 arcade games in the Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition. In 1996, GamesMaster ranked the arcade version 60th in their "Top 100 Games of All Time."[17]


According to the Nintendo Game Boy Advance Gradius Advance intro and the Gradius Breakdown DVD included with Gradius V, Scramble is considered the first in the Gradius series. However, the Gradius Collection guidebook issued a few years after by Konami, lists Scramble as part of their shooting history, and the Gradius games are now listed separately.

An updated version of Scramble is available in Konami Collector's Series: Arcade Advanced by inputting the Konami Code in the game's title screen. This version allows three different ships to be chosen: the Renegade, the Shori, and the Gunslinger. The only difference between the ships besides their appearance are the shots they fire. The Renegade's shots are the same as in the original Scramble, the Shori has rapid-fire capabilities triggered by holding down the fire button, and the Gunslinger's shots can pierce through enemies, meaning they can be used for multiple hits with a single shot.


In an interview with RePlay magazine in January 1990, Konami founder Kagemasa Kōzuki (Kaz Kozuki) stated that he considers Scramble to be Konami's most important game. He stated that Scramble was the company's first major hit that "launched Konami into world prominence."[18] The game also served as a foundation for the horizontally scrolling shooter sub-genre.[19][20] While not the first horizontally scrolling shooter (it was predated by Defender two months earlier), Wayne Santos of GameAxis Unwired notes that Scramble and its sequel Super Cobra "created the side-scrolling shooter that progressed to the end of a level, rather than having a self-enclosed level that warped on itself in an infinite loop, like Defender."[20]

Konami's Gradius (1985), the first title in the Gradius series, was originally intended to be a follow-up to Scramble, with the working title Scramble 2. It reused many of its materials and game mechanics.[21] Game designer Scott Rogers named Scramble as well as Irem's Moon Patrol (1982) as forerunners of the endless runner platform genre.[22]

In other media[edit]

Scramble gameplay is featured during the opening credits of the 1982 Spanish film Colegas by Eloy de la Iglesia, along with some other arcade games of the era like Defender, Monaco GP and Missile Command.



The Atari 8-bit family games Airstrike[23] (1982) and Bellum[24] (1983) are both Scramble clones. Skramble (1983) is a clone for the Commodore 64.[25] Whirlybird Run (1983) is a TRS-80 Color Computer clone.[26]

Legal history[edit]

In Stern Electronics, Inc. v. Kaufman, 669 F.2d 852, the Second Circuit held that Stern could copyright the images and sounds in the game, not just the source code that produced them.[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Stern Production Numbers and More CCI Photos". 1 May 2012. Retrieved 21 July 2013.
  2. ^ a b Stern Electronics, Inc. v. Kaufman, 669 F.2d 852 (2nd Cir. 1982)
  3. ^ Akagi, Masumi (13 October 2006). アーケードTVゲームリスト国内•海外編(1971-2005) [Arcade TV Game List: Domestic • Overseas Edition (1971-2005)] (in Japanese). Japan: Amusement News Agency. p. 27. ISBN 978-4990251215.
  4. ^ Game Genres: Shmups[permanent dead link], Professor Jim Whitehead, January 29, 2007, Accessed June 17, 2008
  5. ^ "Arcade Archives Scramble". Nintendo. 26 September 2019. Archived from the original on 14 August 2020. Retrieved 22 October 2021.
  6. ^ "Scramble - Retro Gamer". 16 February 2009.
  7. ^ Tomytronic Scramble game. 1982.
  8. ^ "Grandstand Scramble". Retrieved 20 February 2014.
  9. ^ "Grandstand Scramble". Retrieved 20 February 2014.
  10. ^ "Home page of Arttu". Retrieved 5 January 2018.
  11. ^ Seaberry, Jane (4 April 1982). "Maker of Pac-Man Claims Asian Firms Cheating at the Arcade". Washington Post. Retrieved 20 April 2023.
  12. ^ Kubey, Craig (1982). The Winners' Book of Video Games. New York: Warner Books. p. 118. ISBN 978-0-446-37115-5.
  13. ^ ""Donkey Kong" No.1 Of '81 — Game Machine's Survey Of "The Year's Best Three AM Machines" —" (PDF). Game Machine. No. 182. Amusement Press, Inc. 15 February 1982. p. 30.
  14. ^ a b Kunkel, Bill; Katz, Arnie (October 1982). "Arcade Alley: The First Portable Video Game System". Video. Reese Communications. 6 (7): 32, 118–120. ISSN 0147-8907.
  15. ^ Ahl, David H. (Spring 1983). "The Vectrex Arcade System". Creative Computing Video & Arcade Games. p. 56.
  16. ^ "The Hotseat: Reviews of New Products" (PDF). Arcade Express. 1 (1): 6–7 [6]. August 15, 1982. Retrieved 3 February 2012.
  17. ^ "Top 100 Games of All Time" (PDF). GamesMaster (44): 76. July 1996.
  18. ^ "A Conversation With... Kaz Kozuki: the Konami chief who put TNT into video's arsenal with TMNT". RePlay. Vol. 15, no. 6. March 1990. pp. 201–2.
  19. ^ "After Pong". ACE. No. 6 (March 1988). February 4, 1988. pp. 29–32.
  20. ^ a b Santos, Wayne; Lip, Khang (October 2006). "Twitch on Live: Xbox Live Arcade Games". GameAxis Unwired. No. 38. SPH Magazines. pp. 30–1.
  21. ^ "Machiguchi Hiroyasu Gradius Interviews (Translated)". Shmuplations. Archived from the original on 29 July 2019. Retrieved 8 December 2019.
  22. ^ Swipe This!: The Guide to Great Touchscreen Game Design by Scott Rogers, Wiley and Sons, 2012
  23. ^ Salm, Walter (February 1983). "Airstrike". Electronic Fun with Computers & Games. 1 (4): 64.
  24. ^ "Bellum". Atari Mania.
  25. ^ Skramble at Lemon 64
  26. ^ Boyle, L. Curtis. "Whirlybird Run". Tandy Color Computer Games.
  27. ^ Brandon Rash. "Case: Stern Elec. v. Kaufman (2nd Cir. 1982)". Patent Arcade. Retrieved 2006-09-16.

External links[edit]