Sega Turns 55 – Let’s Remember Their Electromechanical Games

arcadehero June 3, 2015 6

It is anniversary season – combine Summer with a year ending in 5 and that seems to do the trick. Today is an anniversary for a company very important to the arcade industry, as indicated in part by the amount of time they have been around – Sega at 55 years. Here is the image shared to their Facebook page this morning:

sega55

I had thought that the date was June 6th, 1964 but perhaps not. The company existed as a vending machine distributor/producer before 1960 but was reorganized to begin developing entertainment products. For a majority of that time, Sega (also known in this business as Sega Amusements, which is a different division from the home console side that many still associate the brand with) has been an amusement company, developing content for out-of-home entertainment such as arcade machines. I have done various retrospectives that have included Sega before, including Simulators, 40 years of Arcade Games (Part 1; Part 2). So I was thinking about what to cover for the 55th, and thought, why not look at the games that Sega was producing 55 years ago, their Electro-Mechanical (EM) games.

Admittedly I have come across very few of these in person. I find them fascinating as the level of ingenuity needed to make an entertaining game without the use of a a video display is something we don’t come across too often anymore. Images and info gathered via: KLOV.com , System16.com and Pinrepair.com. For categorizing these, I will do it by year. Also I will exclude pinball, pachinko, medal games, air hockey, basketball, ticket redemption and crane machines since those tend to fall into their own snug categories (and would take far too long to compile).

1962 – Punching Bag – The first Sega made game used a concept that had already been around for many decades – the coin-op punching bag strength tester. These types of machines are still popular today in bars/pubs or state fair events.

segapunch

 

Early 1960s – Space Ace – Chances are if you search for Sega Space Ace, you’ll get a majority of hits for the animated Don Bluth arcade adventure that was released on the Sega CD Long before that existed however, Sega had a Space Ace of their own, an EM gun game (which were very popular in the day) that was a miniaturized shooting gallery in a box. The better your accuracy at shooting the sci-fi themed targets, the better your rank. [Image via Pinrepair]

spaceace1

Late 1960s –Mini Futbol – An variation of foosball that still pitted two players against each other in a match of soccer, with field players taking up an entire vertical row as oppsoed to being lined up horizontally.

minifutbol

1966Basketball – This dome basketball game featured an odd-looking playfield, where that ball would fall into a numbered funnels and the player would have to push one of the correct 15 buttons on their side to launch it towards the hoop. It only charged 10¢ per player.

segabasketball

 

1967Rifleman – Billed as “not just another gun” game, the player would look in through the scope (this is about 30 years before Konami’s Silent Scope) where they would see some bottles with targets with targets on them. Some saloon doors would move around to provide some challenge. This also would record where the player would hit and print out a card showing their shots.

rifleman

Here is an overview of the hardware:

1968Drivemobile – Driving games were not out of the question with EM play, which would often use artwork on backlit conveyorbelts to simulate a moving driving scene. Sensors were also in place to detect whether or not the player car would ‘collide’ with one of the cars shown on the road. While the imagery would repeat very quickly, the player could accelerate to get more points, increasing the challenge of dodging the on-coming vehicles. As far as I know, this is Sega’s first driving game.

segadrivemobile

Motopolo – The only thing I can think of to compare this to is air hockey but it is a unique idea. With a goal per player at opposite ends of the cabinet, two players face off on motorcycles as they can capture a ping pong ball and launch it towards the opposing goal. The mechanism to make them appear to move around the playfield almost by magic, was similar to how a crane machine works and a magnet.

motopolo

 

Here is a vasoline-resolution video of it in action – the bikes can move quite smoothly around their area of the playfield.

Periscope – Using a periscope controller that the user would look into, fire torpedoes at the enemy ships. A light trail would show you where it is going, combined with different speaker effects would show you where you hit. Sega also produced a massive 3 player version of this game, pictured here:

periscopemulti

 

Helicopter – Fly your helicopter from one international city to another, gaining more points for precision landings. Given the love of drones that our modern culture has these days, I’m surprised we haven’t seen something these days that has a contained drone in a box to play a game like this.

1969 – Duck Hunt – Yep, Sega had a Duck Hunt, long before Nintendo. While it was EM, they managed to create an animated flying duck effect. Like Rifleman, it also featured a score ticket that would be printed for the customer.

segaduckhunt

 

Missile – Video games were just around the corner but technological improvements created some interesting games whose special effects could almost be mistaken for a video title. In Missile, you first aim your lighted missile and then fire with the joystick. The joystick does allow you to move the missile after firing.

Grand Prix – A racing title like Drivemobile but with a Grand Prix focus instead of standard streets. What you have to appreciate about these was the usage of realistic meters and steering wheels, quite unlike what we have had with video arcades in most cases since the 90s.

segagrandprix

 

1970 – This is the year that Sega’s EM developments really started to take off, as indicated by the number of different games they produced.

Combat – This took a page from their Periscope game but with a focus on controlling a tank turret instead. Like Missile, the special effects on this one are pretty neat.

Gun Fight – As a kid I had a lot of fun playing Outlaw on the Atari 2600 and while that had a bunch of variations to change things up, had I come across this I might have been mesmerized. Like an animatronic shooting gallery, this has items like the cacti which will break when ‘shot’ and the cowboys can fall over in two different ways.

Soccer – Another variation on table soccer, this had a team of six on each side with a slope and the joystick was used to control the teams slight movement and ability to kick the ball.

segasoccer

 

Dodgem Crazy – Another conveyor-belt racing game, this was essentially Chase HQ almost 20 years before that game existed. The cabinet was like a pinball machine with a huge steering wheel on it and your objective is to ram into the other car to knock it over for points.

segadodgem

 

Stunt Car – Using the same cabinet, this game dropped the conveyor belt idea to have you use the car as a kicker to launch balls into holes in the playfield. In a way this reminds me of Breakout.

Jet Rocket – Bomb the enemy targets in a night run from a jet fighter. Using a conveyor belt, lighting effects and paints, this puts on a video game like display for what it is. In 1971 Sega also released a similar game in ’71 called Dive Bomber and in ’72 a game called Air Attack.

Jumbo – You control the trunk of a circus elephant that blows air. You try and get the ball into one of the moving hoops to land into one of the holes in the back. Interesting game variation. A simpler version of this game was released called Dan-bo.

segajumbo

Night Rider – Not the David Hasselhoff and Kitt Knight Rider, but this was a driving game with a focus on driving your motorcycle at night (which Atari would turn into a video title six years later). To stand out, this game offered two different race tracks, a Novice and Expert track along with realistic handle bar controls.

seganightrider

1971

Astrodata – This was a fortune teller machine that had various switches to input your birthdate and a palm sensor to ‘read your palm’. There was also a “Friendship Button” if you were asking for a friend. 😀 Sega also released a game called Love Tester in ’72.

segaastrodata

 

Monte Carlo – another racing game but now your car had turn signals that would light up and a three lane road.

1972 – Late in this year, video games would appear on the scene and change out-of-home amusement forever, but that didn’t stop EM manufacturers from making their games…at least right away. Sega had quite a few games to offer this year.

Grand National Race – Using similar hardware to other EM racing games, this conveyor racer was simplified down to making it so the player just had to push the jump button for the horse to jump over the hurdles. Sega would also release some pachinko like machines with a derby theme in the 70s, such as Jockey Club.

Invaders – Not Space Invaders, just Invaders. Similar to Missile from a few years prior, just with an aliens theme.

Killer Shark & Sea Devil – JAWS wouldn’t hit the silver screen for a few years but that didn’t stop game makers from using underwater creatures for inspiration. Killer Shark and Sea Devil are pretty much the same game, there is just a manta ray in the latter title. Use your gun to take out the beast when it is in the right spot. This video shows some of the insides of a Killer Shark, along with the game in action.

Match Lock – Gun game where you are defending a castle from some attackers. Cool gun prop

Monster Gun – Long before Golden Gun was Monster Gun. Fire the plastic balls at the moving targets, which are mostly dinosaurs.

Pro-Bowler – Basketball might have been a little odd to attempt as an EM game but not bowling. This straightforward game allowed you to control the bowler figurine rolling something like a pinball down the lane to hit the pins. Similar to older bowlers-in-a-box, this did have some technical/maintenance problems.

Sand Buggy – Who needs stereoscopic 3D when an EM game can give you real 3D depth? In this conveyor-racer, drive your buggy over dunes (which actually did protrude out of the belt) and other obstacles to cover as much distance as you could within the time limit. Also watch out to keep you buggy from tipping over.

Sonar – An underwater themed game where the player attempts to blow up the subs which scroll across the back of the viewing area.

1973 – Attack and Lunar Rescue – These two games had different themes but used the same cabinet design. In Attack, you control a tank and have to drive into the targets that would light-up. In Lunar Rescue, drive your rover into the lit-up space wrecks.

Moto Champ – Finish in first in this cool conveyor racer that had a focus on speed.

1974 – Cowboy – Westerns were still money makers back in the 70s and as such we would get more games following that theme. This was an evolved concept for games like Killer Shark or Jet Bomber, with a cool backlit rotating lasso device. A bull model would run around and you would push the button at the right time to ‘throw’ your lasso to grab it.

1975 – Red Baron – Old school dogfighting game, I can’t find anything on this one other than the flyer. The cabinet size indicates an EM game though, and was one reason why operators were likely keen to move onto smaller video titles, since EM games often were enormous and heavy.

Soccer – The Basketball game made a reappearance almost ten years later and  with a soccer theme. The brighter art and addition of a few players on the field also livened this one up.

1976 – By this year, video games were really catching steam and Sega was shifting more development resources towards those, but there were a couple of EM games left for them to try out.

Plinker’s Canyon – This was a compact shooting gallery style game with support for up to four players. Targets would move and animate when shot.

1978 – Heli-Shooter – This one used a CPU to control many aspects of the game, which still featured an enormous EM style cabinet and used projection to convey the action:

Unknown 1970s – For some games, no one is really sure when they were produced, apart from it being somewhere in a particular decade. This is often true for EM games where documentation or existing specimens might be very hard to come by.

El Alamein – Probably made to capitalize on the 1969 film The Battle of El Alamein. Machine gun enemy ground units, special effects provided by EM technology of the time. This was also billed under the “Segasa” name.

Fox Hunt – Two player gun game where you try and be the first to hit the fox which will pop up at random. Sega released a similar game called Safari.

The 80s and beyond – Sega did not completely throw EM gaming out the window – as mentioned at the top, the company has been involved in the development of a wide variety of games across the amusement spectrum.

As one example, here is the flyer of their Bull’s Eye “SWAT Trainee” EM game (1988):

bullseye

 

1966 Basketball was revived in the early 90s for Speed Shot Soccer and Speed Basketball (the use of the LED lighting makes this one look like it would fit in with any of the recent EM/redemption games)

For a number of years Sega has included ticket redemption mechanical games as a part of their line-up and at every trade show they always have several of them to show off. Among those they have recently dabbled with shooting galleries once again, first with Sideshow 1889 and a little more recently, Captain Black(pictured).

CaptainBlack

 

With Sega hitting 55 years in business, what is your favorite game from their line-up of hundreds of titles?

 


6 Comments »

  1. Alfred June 3, 2015 at 3:13 pm - Reply

    Sega really came in like a breath of fresh air. From what I could tell from machines, and flyers during that time, things had slowed down design wise. Most games were similar, and tons of old ideas had been lost. It was really cool to see how much Sega helped things out.

  2. arcades4ever June 4, 2015 at 8:15 am - Reply

    I really couldn’t say as there are so many for different reason. Favourite driving game Daytona and gun game the house of the dead original.
    I do hope that sega find their feet again as they just seem to be going down hill business wise with only one game coming out per year now. Sega’s better than this, come on sega, give it your all like you once were.

  3. Nicky June 5, 2015 at 10:28 am - Reply

    EXCELLENT ARTICLE!!
    I love these older electromechanicals. I have 8 machines in my home arcade but it is the electromechanical ones that people get the most use out of. Fun stuff.

  4. bertodecosta July 24, 2015 at 1:59 am - Reply

    Very informative article, thanks for writing this !!! So before this Tembo The Badass Elephant, turnout SEGA had another elephant before, Jumbo. LOL.

  5. dave August 12, 2015 at 5:23 pm - Reply

    I love this kind of articles, thanks for sharing.
    Also note that “SEGASA” brand comes from Sega S.A. (Spain). It started since around 1968.

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