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Radar Scope[a] is an early cabinet arcade game developed and published by Nintendo in December 1979. It is a shooter that can be viewed as a cross between Taito's Space Invaders and Namco's Galaxian. It was released in three types of arcade cabinets: upright, cockpit, and cocktail.

Radar Scope
Arcade flyer of Radar Scope.
Arcade flyer of Radar Scope.
Developer(s)Nintendo R&D1
Composer(s)Hirokazu Tanaka[1]
Platform(s)Arcade game
Genre(s)Fixed shooter
Mode(s)1 to 2 players, alternating turns
CabinetUpright, cockpit, cocktail
CPUZ80 @ 3.072 MHz,
i8035 @ 400 kHz
SoundDAC audio
DisplayRaster (vertical),
full-color Sanyo monitor,
224×256 resolution,
521[4] out of 768[5] colors

Prior Nintendo games include EVR Race (released only in Japan), Computer Othello (released only in Japan), Sheriff (released in the U.S. by Exidy as Bandido), Space Fever (released only in Japan), and Space Firebird (released by Nintendo and Gremlin Industries in the U.S.).

Radar Scope is the first game for which Shigeru Miyamoto took a role as codeveloper, beyond the role of graphic artist as with Sheriff.



Emulated Radar Scope, with blue background gradient missing.[4]

As captain of the Sonic Spaceport, players must defend their station against enemy spaceships called Gamma Raiders, which attack with vengeance and swiftly retreat to formation. The object of the game is to destroy 48 enemy Gamma Raiders before the total disintegration of all of the player's Spaceports.

Players can counterattack with the Rapid-Fire Laser Blaster which zooms the lasers over the three-dimensional-esque field of curving vectors, while it intercepts enemies. The lower on the radar screen that you destroy a Gamma Raider, the more points will be earned. If exploding decoys damage the Sonic Spaceport, the Laser Blaster's firing speed will reduce. The Laser Blaster's "Damage Meter" will light up as damage is incurred and when fully illuminated, will weaken the Laser Blaster's offensive powers. To reverse this, the players must attack and destroy all remaining Gamma Raiders.

Players are given a wide range of flexibility in controlling the difficulty levels of the game. Extra Spaceports are awarded at 7,000, 10,000, 15,000 and 20,000 points, as determined by the players. The initial number of Spaceports may also be pre-programmed at 3, 4, 5, or 6. When the required number of spaceships is destroyed, players receive an extra point bonus.

Conversion to Donkey KongEdit

Following multiple failed American releases of Nintendo's Japanese-developed games, the three year old subsidiary Nintendo of America desperately needed a hit game. The parent Nintendo's Radar Scope was very popular for a short period in Japan, so president Minoru Arakawa boldly spent the subsidiary's entire budget on 3,000 Radar Scope arcade cabinets.[6][7]:35 After almost four months of shipping by boat to the target market of New York City, the buzz surrounding the game had dissipated. The game's high pitched chirp sounds annoyed some gamers.[citation needed] The American arcade operator market was unimpressed with the particularly expensive and lackluster Space Invaders clone. With only 1,000 cabinets sold, Nintendo of America had 2,000 unsold units sitting in the warehouse. Facing financial disaster, Arakawa pleaded with his father-in-law and Nintendo CEO in Japan, Hiroshi Yamauchi, to provide him with a new game to convert the useless Radar Scope arcade machines.[6][7]:35

Yamauchi asked all Nintendo employees to present original ideas for a new game that could be designed to reuse Radar Scope's hardware.[citation needed] He chose Gunpei Yokoi and his apprentice graphic artist Shigeru Miyamoto.[8]:157 Miyamoto based his debut original game on Popeye but the character's license was suddenly canceled, so he continued developing it within Radar Scope's hardware profile to become Donkey Kong.[6] The project's total development cost was US$100,000.[9] In 1981, conversion kits for the new game were then created, shipped to America, and installed on 2,000 Radar Scope units by a small team including Arakawa and his wife.[6] The converted units can be identified by their red cabinets. Donkey Kong went on to become a huge success.


Radar Scope was highly successful in Japan, reportedly one of the most popular games in Tokyo, and second only to Pac-Man in the nation for some time. It was only a modest success in North America.[7]:35


Radar Scope serves as the debut contribution from the video game design career of Nintendo's young graphic designer, Shigeru Miyamoto. Its mostly unsold American cabinets were then targeted specifically as conversions into his debut original game and industry breakthrough, Donkey Kong.[6]

The game's key innovation is its three-dimensional third-person perspective, which was imitated years later by shooters such as Konami's Juno First and Activision's Beamrider.[10]


  1. ^ Japanese: レーダースコープ?


  1. ^ Vacuum, Works|Sporadic. "Nintendo Archive - Works|Sporadic Vacuum". Retrieved September 16, 2017.
  2. ^ "Radar Scope arcade video game pcb by Nintendo Co., Ltd. (1979)". Retrieved September 16, 2017.
  3. ^ "The Arcade Flyer Archive - Video Game Flyers". Retrieved September 16, 2017.
  4. ^ a b "Radar Scope". Retrieved September 16, 2017.
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on October 8, 2014. Retrieved October 31, 2014.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ a b c d e McLaughlin, Rus (September 14, 2010). "IGN Presents The History of Super Mario Bros". IGN. Retrieved April 9, 2014.
  7. ^ a b c Kohler, Chris (2004). Power-Up: How Japanese Video Games Gave the World an Extra Life. Indianapolis, IN: BradyGames. ISBN 0-7440-0424-1.
  8. ^ Kent, Steven L. (2002). The Ultimate History of Video Games: The Story Behind the Craze that Touched our Lives and Changed the World. New York: Random House International. ISBN 978-0-7615-3643-7. OCLC 59416169. Archived from the original on June 24, 2016.
  9. ^ Copyright law decisions. Commerce Clearing House. 1985. Retrieved February 26, 2012. An English translation of the Japanese term Donkey Kong is "crazy gorilla." Nintendo Co., Ltd. expended over $100,000.00 in direct development of the game, and Nintendo Co., Ltd. hired Ikegami Tsushinki Co., Ltd. to provide mechanical programming assistance to fix the software created by Nintendo Co., Ltd. in the storage component of the game. The name "Ikegami Co. Lim." appears in the computer program for the Donkey Kong game. Individuals within the research and development department of Nintendo Co., Ltd., however, created the Donkey Kong concept and game.
  10. ^ "Where Were They Then: The First Games of Nintendo, Konami, and More (Nintendo)". Retrieved September 16, 2017.

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