It’s time to shine a spotlight on another title that is coming soon to arcades via the Exa-Arcadia EXA platform, this week I’ll be looking at one of the oddball titles that is a reboot of an obscure early 80’s arcade game. That title is Cosmic Digger 3671.
If you missed a previous Closer Look post, then click on any one of these links if they sound interesting to you: Vritra Hexa; Bayani; Blazing Chrome. You can also go here to read more about the Exa-Arcadia system in case you missed it.
As mentioned, the title that is at the focus of this week’s showcase is a bit obscure for us Westerners, particularly as it did not receive wide recognition or distribution outside of Japan. The original title is better known as Heiankyou Alien, released to arcades in 1980 as the one and only video game by a company called Denki Onkyo. Distribution and later the IP seems to have been handled by Nichibutsu (Data East). While obscure, this game did introduce a game mechanic that would be adapted by Namco a couple of years later to much wider success, namely the concept of digging in a video game.
As you can see from this emulated footage above, you control a man (a police officer of Heiyankyou, the old capital of Japan, now known as Kyoto) who must stop the aliens invading the city by digging a hole, then burying them inside. With a stronger focus on strategy than action, it becomes one of those games that may not be everyone’s ‘cup of tea,’ but it is something unique and different. It also reminds me a little of Lode Runner, a game that was released in 1983, but also has a strong fanbase in Japan.
New versions of Heiyankyou Alien would be released on the Nintendo Game Boy and SNES, but otherwise little attention was given to the concept until a reboot was launched in 2017 by Mindwave that you can grab on Steam for Windows PC. Mindwave is also responsible for the upcoming Exa version.
The Arcade Version
I had an opportunity to play the Exa/Arcade version at California Extreme 2018, where it was found in a 2-player Vewlix cabinet. As the video below mentions, it’s like a cross between Lode Runner and Amidar, as you have to claim all of the squares/rectangles on the board by walking around them completely. Once claimed, you move onto the next level. As you progress, the action speeds up, but you’ll also encounter power-ups to help make things more exciting. The graphics also pull some influence from Jeff Minter, who is famous for his psychedelic reboots of games like Tempest (although Cosmic Digger doesn’t get quite as crazy as a Minter game does). I didn’t get a chance to play it multiplayer, but I did watch a couple of guys play it where they did have fun.
While overall it’s a little weird, I liked it, but I’m a little bit of a sucker for games like this. I could certainly see where it would have found a good home on an Atari or Commodore computer back in the 80s. But the challenge I see for it in today’s arcade (excepting Japan), is that casuals will not probably take to it. That said, it always depends on location; where retro games are still embraced, it has a good chance of being noticed. There is also supposed to be a special 4-player cabinet for EXA that will launch in the US. Depending on how that looks can help people overcome the age problem I’ve found at my location, where most customers ignore anything that looks old that they aren’t familiar with by name or a quick look.
I do recall hearing that this would have a unique game mode for the EXA version, but unfortunately it’s still not entirely known all of the differences this will carry compared to the Steam version.
The official page for this on the Exa website also mentions that they will only make one run of carts for this(no mention of how many), meaning that it will also be rare. It also is a companion game to the even more psychedelic title Alien Field 3671(that one definitely looks to capture more of Minter’s PIXELS IN YOUR FACE style all of the time).
What do you think about Cosmic Digger 3671 so far?