Robert J. Mical
|Mode(s)||Single-player, 2 players alternating|
Sinistar is a multidirectional 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 mines drifting planetoids and catching the crystals which are released. Shooting a planetoid too rapidly destroys it without releasing any crystals. Each collected crystal turns into a "Sinibomb", which is 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, but is constructed by enemy worker ships. Enemy worker ships collect crystals which they use to construct the Sinistar. Enemy warrior ships can directly attack the player's ship, shoot planetoids to mine crystals, and guard the Sinistar while it is being built. It takes 20 crystals to create the 20 pieces of a completely built Sinistar.
Once the Sinistar is constructed, a digitized voice makes threatening pronouncements while chasing the player's ship: "Beware, I live!", "I hunger, coward!", "I am Sinistar!", "Run! Run! Run!", "Beware, coward!", "I hunger!", "Run, coward!", and a loud roar. The Sinistar has no weapons, but it destroys the player's ship on contact. A total of 13 Sinibombs are required to destroy Sinistar. Each Sinibomb automatically targets the Sinistar when fired, but can be intercepted by Workers, Warriors, and planetoids.
The player warps to a new zone each time Sinistar is defeated. The unnamed first zone is followed by the Worker Zone, Warrior Zone, Planetoid Zone, and Void Zone, then it cycles back to the Worker Zone. Each zone emphasizes a particular game feature, with the Void Zone having fewer planetoids. In all but the first zone, a completed but damaged Sinistar can be repaired by enemy Workers, extending its lifespan if the player is unable to kill it quickly.
Sinistar was the first game to use stereo sound (in the sit-down version), with two independent front and back sound boards for this purpose. It was also used a 49-way optical joystick that Williams produced specifically for this game.
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.
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 and Saturn, Dreamcast, PlayStation, and Microsoft Windows. 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 Windows 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.
In popular culture
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. In League of Legends, Dark Star Thresh may say "Beware, I live" upon respawning after a death, while Final Boss Veigar may say "I hunger!" while moving around the map. The original Escape Velocity game also had rare guest appearances of the Sinistar, including some of its catchphrases.
Sinistar is also referred to in various non-video-game media. The Cage song "Grand Ol' Party Crash" samples Sinistar. The film We Are the Strange uses "Beware, I live", "I hunger", "Run, coward", and Sinistar's roar. 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". The sound bite "Beware, coward" was used in the theme tune to the British Channel 4 video-game TV show Bits. The audio version of podcast IGN Game Scoop uses the sound bite "Beware, I live" in its theme tune.
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