Discs of Tron has been one of my staple games for years, ever since I
first discovered it at a local theater. Fortunately for me that same theater
still has it, so as you might imagine I have become an excellent player.
After all this time playing, I still find Discs to be as great as when I first
started. Does this mean I canít write a balanced review? Of course it
doesnít. So letís take a look at one of the greats of the 80s.
For those who didnít know, Discs was originally slated to be part of the
original Tron arcade as one of the mini-games. Due to time and budget
constraints, the Discs mini-game found itself on the chopping block. However,
the designers took what they had and expanded it into a wholly separate game,
released the following year, which devotees like myself have been thanking
them for ever since. You are Tron, and Saark is out to defeat you. You have
a set of ring platforms in the foreground, and Saark has an equal number in
the background. The goal is to kill Saark in each arena by either knocking
him off his rings or derezzing him with a direct hit from one of your discs.
Movement and initial aim are independent of each other, but once you throw a
disc its trajectory can be influenced by your movements. Saark tries to bring
you down with discs, bombs, and tracking seekers. Some can be repelled by
hitting "deflect", others must be hit with discs (and thereby destroyed) or
evaded. In later levels the platforms move up and down (requiring a vertical
aim adjustment) and may sometimes be derezzed if hit by a disc. Discs of Tron
was released in three versions: the normal upright, an "environmental" version
(basically a cockpit version except the player is standing instead of
sitting), and a rare hybrid of the two (which I know nothing about).
Graphically DOT isnít bad for 1983 (though a little lacking in detail),
but it was still 1983. You either love it or you donít. The environmental
had one extra graphical touch; the screen flashed when you died. The sound is
well done, with various music bites from the movie soundtrack, and speech in
the environmental version, namely a few of Saarkís movie quotes.
So what does Discs lack? Simultaneous two player support has to be the
most glaring omission. The upright allowed two player alternating play, while
the environmental was one player only. The game was quite popular as it was.
Adding a competitive mode could have potentially elevated its popularity to
the heights of only a select few games. Another thing I miss is the ability
to take on more than one opponent at a time. When Next-Generation magazine
put DOT on its "100 greatest video games of all time for all platforms"
(computer, console, arcade, etc.) list (9/96) they mentioned in the capsule
review that "later levels featured multiple opponents who coordinated their
attacks" but I have scored over 300,000 and have yet to see this. It would be
nice if itís there, but right now I mark the game down for lacking those two
Also playing Discs emulated is difficult. The arcade setup works very
nicely, with a trigger joystick that has the deflect button on the front of
it, and an aiming knob that pushes down and pulls up for vertical adjustment.
The best that can be managed through emulated controls is a compromise setup.
I use the mouse for the aiming knob, fire, and deflect, and I use the keyboard
for movement and vertical aim adjustment. Of the two emulators supporting
DOT--MAME and Retrocade--I prefer Retrocade because it doesnít map the
vertical aim to the mouse like MAME does, which I find extremely annoying. My
play control rating reflects the glaring weakness of using computer controls
to play Discs, for the real arcade machine play control rates a solid 10.
The best feature of DOT is its AI, which for the time is incredibly well
done. Remember how I said you can affect the trajectory of your discs by
moving? The computer is a master at this. Saark is almost frighteningly
smart sometimes, usually knowing exactly where to move so that his discs will
threaten you each time they bounce off a wall. He is also smart enough to
recognize when your discs are going to hit him and gets out of the way. Later
levels can require some serious ingenuity (or a bit of luck) to kill the
bugger, but it never gets so hard that it stops being fun.
Discs of Tron is a very enjoyable game, with a richly deserved place in
arcade history. Do give it a try if you havenít already, but my
recommendation is to play it at an arcade somewhere. This game just isnít the
same without the real controls and a blacklight under the monitor. Though
itís still good, it takes the arcade to make it great.
|Game:||Discs of Tron||Company:||Midway|