Obscure games also attract high score players

Although the spotlight often shines on the classics of the ’80s when it comes to high scoring, when you dig past the surface, you’ll find plenty of talented gamers hungry for top scores in even the most obscure game titles.

One of Galloping Ghost Arcade’s recent score wars saw multiple gamers vying for the title in the lomblack1w-key release Metal Black. The game was released in the United States in 1991 by Taito and was even quietly tucked away in the Taito Legends 2 compilation package released roughly 15 years later for home consoles in the previous generation. A horizontal shooter in the same vein as Taito’s own Darius series, the title’s outstanding mechanics include building up weapon power to unleash a massive beam and an impressive-for-its-time bonus stage that has players locking on to enemies.

“The game itself isn’t very far off from other side scrollers like Salamander, R-Type, etc., in that they have a variety of enemies, and the sheer number that can come and attack you at one time,” said Galloping Ghost Arcade regular Brian Kita. “Trying to figure out the patterns of how to attack that in certain levels is half the fun.”

Another arcade regular, Matt Walters, said the powerup system gives Metal Black a very unique spin.

“What fascinated me about Metal Black was how unique the shot and bomb mechanisms were,” he said. “By collecting Newalone, little particles scattered all over the screen as you fly through the levels, you can widen your beam’s shot, which is crucial because so much of the game requires you to scrape baddies with a wider beam while vertically moving quickly enough to avoid a massive enemy buildup. When you hit the bomb button, your beam depletes back to level 1, and you must collect Newalone to widen it again. However, this mechanism is a bit deeper than just that, for your ship actually is most powerful at the level 3 beam, but widest at the level 5 beam. Thus, you’re required to make choices about where and how to power up. I always felt that was an amazingly unique choice in design.”

When Doc Mack wheeled the Metal Black cabinet on to the floor, he never expected it would lure in such a dedicated fan base that would snowball as players achieved more in the game.

“There were three guys that rotated on it the first night,” he said. “Twin Galaxies never took scores on the game, so that recognized our arcade’s scores as the world record. Those players were here four times a week and it eventually got our regulars into the game. First it was a race to finish the game (on one credit), then it was a race to beat 500,000 points and now the players are just trying to top each other. It’s such a cool thing for such an obscure game to get so much attention.”

Kita said the clean slate the game had coming into the arcade was a launchpad for him to get competitive with the arcade’s high scoring crowd.mblack2

“Well, I was at the Ghost when the game debuted and what made me gravitate toward it initially was, one, it was a side-scrolling shooter – a genre I love – and, two, it gave berth to my mentality to go after high scores and world records since it had no records at the time,” Kita said. “The regulars like Fred DeHart, Matt Rocco and Matt Walters seemed to be attracted to it in the same way I was, in that it was a new game to try and be the best at. I’m sure the fact they too love the sh’mup genre piqued their interest at playing the game and trading off the high scores between us.”

Currently standing at the top of the mountain is Kita, who has the Aurcade world record in Metal Black as of May 4, clearing the game on a single credit with 518,800 points.

“To me it is a great representation of putting in the hours of hard work and occasional frustration to say that you are the best at this game,” Kita said. “I certainly hold no grudges against anyone that wishes to try and beat the score I have set and I, in fact, have encouraged it since I started playing the game. It was nice to see Fred, Doc, Walters and many others get into this game from that.”

The current accolade doesn’t have Walters too discouraged at this point, as he feels the chase for each of the milestones brings out the best in the players.

“After a month or so of playing it, I caught up with Brian’s level, and we ended up trading the score back and forth since about March,” Walters said. “Brian is a fantastic player who has really set a lot of fantastic scores on several machines at the arcade this year. The last few times we’ve traded it, neither one of us had actually gotten all the way through the game, so I think both of us were eager to complete the game on one credit. I actually was able to do it first, but knew that my score represented a relatively minimal aggregate total for the achievement. Brian was recently able to raise the standard by not only beating the game on one credit, but eclipsing the 500,000 point mark. I’m eager to dedicate some time to raising that bar a little higher very soon, but I know that his mark is going to be very difficult to attain.”

Mack said there are many communities and message boards where high scores are posted, but they are undocumented. Mack acts as a verified referee through Aurcade to ensure the accuracy of the dip switch settings and the validity of the scores. He said such an official capacity attracts people and keeps them motivated. Recently, someone traveled to the arcade from Canada for a week, racking up a whopping nine world records during his stay.

“Scoring gets people interested,” Mack said. “It motivates the players and it gets arcades involved. Scoring can get people into the scene and it’s a positive for so many reasons. Too many arcades operate without realizing how beneficial scoring is.”

“I think so too,” said Kita. “I believe no matter how big or small an arcade is, they should all have that opportunity to give players a chance at being recognized locally, nationally or quite possible even internationally. Having a site like Aurcade in existence definitely helps those players in their goals.”

“I think, like all gamers at Galloping Ghost, I have somewhat of a competitive streak,” Walters said. “At the Ghost, we have a very healthy, encouraging atmosphere of competition where we encourage each other to progress further and take down each others’ scores. I love to see my scores go down – it means that the score just wasn’t high enough yet. To make our community the very best it could be in the nation, and in the world, we have to be able to hone those scores to their maximum among our ranks locally. It’s exciting to have records. It encourages me to strive for the best in other areas of my life as well and not settle for less than what I know I can do.”

Mack said Walters is planning another attempt at the record and Walters said he hopes to set the bar higher for this obscure shooter release. With player determination and a competitive community, Metal Black may shine in the spotlight a little longer.

“I had remarked a month ago that I felt the score should be at 530,000,” he said. “Brian currently has his at 518,800. We’ll see if I can meet the goal I set for myself. I see the top score as a benchmark. Getting to a certain point first. Setting the standard feels great, and it demarcates a level of skill at the same as the other top players at the arcade.”

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Categories: GemuBaka Interview


Arcade enthusiast and game collector. Affiliate Twitch retro streamer and games archive writer at Gemubaka (http://gemubaka.com). For business only: gemubaka at gmail


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