Arcade cabinet marquee
|Mode(s)||Up to 2 players, alternating turns|
|Cabinet||Standard, cockpit, and Duramold upright|
|Display||Raster, standard resolution (used 240 × 292) (Vertical)|
Sinistar is a multi-directional shooter arcade game developed and manufactured by Williams Electronics. The game was released in 1983, though the in-game copyright notice reads 1982. Sinistar was created by Sam Dicker, Jack Haeger, Noah Falstein, RJ Mical, Python Anghelo and Richard Witt. In addition to the game's roaring antagonist, Sinistar is known for its high difficulty level.
The player pilots a lone spacecraft, and must create "Sinibombs" by shooting at drifting planetoids and catching the crystals that are thereby released. Sinibombs are needed to defeat the game boss, Sinistar, an animated spacecraft with a demonic skull face. Sinistar does not exist at the start of the game, and is continuously under construction by enemy worker ships. Though time is crucial, attempting to mine too quickly will destroy a planetoid without releasing any crystals. Enemy worker ships are also gathering crystals (often stealing them from the player) which they use to construct the Sinistar. Enemy warrior ships can directly attack the player's ship. The player is given a head start before the enemy ships have enough crystals to begin construction. Game ends when the player's ships are all destroyed.
Once the Sinistar is completely built, a digitized voice (recorded by radio personality John Doremus and played through an HC-55516 CVSD decoder) makes various threatening pronouncements: "Beware, I live!", "I hunger, coward!", "I am Sinistar!", "Run! Run! Run!", "Beware, coward!", "I hunger!", "Run, coward!", and a loud roaring sound. The Sinistar has no weapon attacks, but if it contacts the player's ship while it darts about the playfield, the player's ship will be "eaten" and destroyed. A total of 13 Sinibombs are required to destroy a fully built Sinistar, although an incomplete Sinistar can be damaged to slow construction. Each short-range Sinibomb automatically targets the Sinistar when fired, but can be intercepted by a collision with enemy Workers, enemy Warriors, or a planetoid.
The player moves from one zone to the next each time they defeat the Sinistar. A sequence of four zones repeats continuously after the first zone. Each is named for the most numerous feature of that zone: Worker Zone, Warrior Zone, Planetoid Zone, and Void Zone (the Void Zone is especially difficult because it has very few planetoids). Beginning with the first Worker Zone, a completed but damaged Sinistar can be repaired/rebuilt by the enemy Workers by gathering more crystals, extending its "lifespan" if the player is unable to kill it quickly.
255 lives bug
Sinistar contains a bug that grants the player many lives (ships). It happens only if the player is down to one life and the Sinistar is about to eat the player's ship. If a warrior ship shoots and destroys the ship at this moment, it immediately takes the player to zero lives, and the Sinistar eating the player subtracts another life. Since the number of lives is stored in the game as an 8-bit unsigned integer, the subtraction from zero will cause the integer to wrap around to the largest value representable with 8 bits, which is 255 in decimal.
This bug cannot be exploited if the AMOA ROMset is installed in the game. This version of the game was hurried for the 1983 AMOA Trade Show. In this version of the game, the player's ship does not spin out in the Sinistar's mouth when caught, but instead explodes. Therefore, a player cannot die twice.
Sinistar was the first game to use stereo sound (in the sitdown version), with two independent front and back sound boards for this purpose. It was also the first to use the 49-way, custom-designed optical joystick that Williams had produced specifically for this game.
There were no contemporary ports of Sinistar. Versions for the Atari 2600 and the Atari 8-bit family were in progress, but not completed. Sinistar was commercially available in the mid-1990s as part of Williams Arcade's Greatest Hits for the Super NES, Sega Genesis, Saturn, Dreamcast, PlayStation, and PC. It is also available as part of Midway Arcade Treasures, which was released for the Xbox, Nintendo GameCube and PlayStation 2 in 2003, and for the PC in 2004; part of Midway Arcade Treasures: Extended Play for the PlayStation Portable, in late 2005; and part of Midway Arcade Origins for the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360. Sinistar is part of Midway's Greatest Arcade Hits on the Game Boy Advance.
Deathstar is a Sinistar clone for the BBC Micro and Acorn Electron published by Superior Software in 1984. It was originally developed as an official port to be released by Atarisoft, but they decided to abandon the BBC platform while a number of games were still in development. Sinistaar (1989) is a clone for the Tandy Color Computer 3. Xenostar (1994) is a public domain clone for the Amiga.
Some of Sinistar's quotations have been included in unrelated video games. In Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos the Undead DreadLord hero says, "I Hunger!" In the game Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, the neutral hero Firelord's birth sound is him saying "Beware, I live." World of Warcraft paid tribute to the same quote: The boss enemy Reliquary of Souls shouts it when freed. In Team Fortress 2, the Heavy class says the phrases "I Live!" and "Run, Cowards!" The phrase "Run coward! I live!" occasionally appears as splash text on Minecraft.
Sinistar is the primary focus in Sheena Easton's music video for her ballad, "Almost Over You," which peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1984. In the video, Sheena sings into the video game console as it reminds her of her recently departed partner.
The film We Are the Strange uses "Beware, I live", "I hunger", "Run, coward" and Sinistar's roar. The British computer game review series BITS used "Beware, coward" as the ending flourish to the opening titles of every season.
Sinistar makes several appearances in the webcomic Bob the Angry Flower, and also appears as the title of one of the print editions of the comic. Sinistar appears in the DVD version of the South Park episode trilogy Imaginationland.
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- Burnham (2003) p. 320
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