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Zaxxon (ザクソン) is a 1982 isometric shooter arcade game, developed and released by Sega, in which the player pilots a ship through heavily defended space fortresses. Some sources[12][13][14] claim that Japanese electronics company Ikegami Tsushinki also worked on the development of the game.

Zaxxon flyer.jpg
North American arcade flyer
Coleco (ColecoVision)
Datasoft (Atari 8-bit)
Synapse (C64)
Katsuhiro Hayashi
Platform(s)Arcade, various
Genre(s)Scrolling shooter
Mode(s)Up to 2 players, alternating turns
CabinetUpright and cocktail
Arcade systemSega Zaxxon hardware
CPU1 × Z80 @ 3.04 MHz
DisplayRaster, 224 × 256 pixels (Vertical),
256 out of 512 colors

Zaxxon was the first game to employ axonometric projection, which lent its name to the game (AXXON from AXONometric projection). The type of axonometric projection is isometric projection: this effect simulates three dimensions from a third-person viewpoint. It was also the first arcade game to be advertised on television,[15] with a commercial produced by Paramount Pictures for $150,000.[16]

The world record on Zaxxon is 4,680,740 points scored by Vernon Kalanikaus of Lā'ie, Hawai'i, on March 15, 1982, according to the Twin Galaxies Intergalactic Scoreboard.[17]


Gameplay of the original arcade version

The object of the game is to hit as many targets as possible without being shot down or running out of fuel—which can be replenished, paradoxically, by blowing up fuel drums (300 points).[18] Blowing up satellites or gun turrets score 200, 500 or 1,000 points.

There are two fortresses to fly through, with an outer space segment between them. At the end of the second fortress is a boss in the form of the Zaxxon robot. Destroying robot with rocket with six hits before firing scores 1,000; otherwise, 200 for surviving the ordeal. In the outer space scene, destroying 20 ships scores 1,000 points.

The player's ship casts a shadow to indicate its height.[19] An altimeter is also displayed; in space there is nothing for the ship to cast a shadow on.[20] The walls at the entrance and exit of each fortress have openings that the ship must be at the right altitude to pass through. Within each fortress are additional walls that the ship's shadow and altimeter aid in flying over successfully.

An extra ship is awarded usually at 10,000 points; thereafter, no more lives. And, after 19 levels are completed, a "Give Up" will appear in the lower right corner of the screen.


Between 1982 and 1985, Zaxxon was ported to the Apple II, Atari 8-bit family, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, MSX, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Dragon 32, ColecoVision, Intellivision, IBM PC compatibles, Sega SG-1000, TRS-80 Color Computer, and TRS-80.[21]

The Atari 2600 and Intellivision ports were noticeably different because they used a 3rd-person, behind-the-ship 3D perspective instead of the isometric graphics of the other versions. The ColecoVision version, programmed by Coleco staffer Lawrence Schick, was the first home version to use the isometric graphics.[citation needed]

In 1983 Coleco released a table top version of Zaxxon with a double-panel VFD screen.[22] Bandai[23] released 2 Zaxxon handhelds: one VFD table top for the European and Japanese market, and an LCD card game sold worldwide.


Review scores
AllGame      (Arcade)[24]
CVG39 / 40 (MSX)[26]
Arcade Express9 / 10 (ColecoVision)[27]
Home Computing Weekly      (Spectrum)[28]
K-Power8 / 10 (TRS-80)[29]
Tilt       (ColecoVision)[30]
Arcade Awards (1982)Best Science Fiction/Fantasy Coin-Op Game (Certificate of Merit)[31]
Arcade Awards (1983)Videogame of the Year (Certificate of Merit)[32]
Arkie Awards (1984)Stand-Alone Game of the Year, Computer Game of the Year (Certificate of Merit)[33]
Electronic GamesHall of Fame[34]

Video Games in 1983 called the ColecoVision version of Zaxxon a "coup for this new system".[35] Video magazine also praised the ColecoVision version in its "Arcade Alley" column, describing it as "one of the most thrilling games available", and noting in passing that the only "serious criticism" of the arcade original was that "many players felt they needed flying lessons to have even a ghost of a chance of performing well".[36]:26 K-Power rated the Color Computer version with 8 points out of 10. The magazine praised its "excellent three-dimensional graphics", and concluded that "Zaxxon is a game that can't be praised enough".[29]

Softline in 1983 called the Atari 8-bit version "a superb three-dimensional computer game ... Not since Choplifter has a game looked so impressive". The magazine also liked the graphics of the Apple II and TRS-80 versions despite those computers' hardware limitations, and predicted that Zaxxon would be a "long-lived bestseller".[37] In 1984 the magazine's readers named the game the fifth most-popular Apple program, the worst Apple program, and third-worst Atari program of 1983.[38]

II Computing listed Zaxxon fourth on its list of top Apple II games as of late 1985, based on sales and market-share data.[39]



In 2006, Zaxxon games were included as bonuses on the Sega Genesis Collection for Sony's PlayStation 2 and PSP consoles. The original Zaxxon is the game included on the PS2, and Super Zaxxon is the one available on the PSP. Zaxxon was also included as an unlockable arcade game in Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.

The arcade version was released on the Wii Virtual Console in Japan on December 15, 2009,[40] the PAL region on March 5, 2010 and North America on April 12, 2010.


Zaxxon spawned an arcade sequel: Super Zaxxon. The color scheme is different, the player's ship flies faster (making the game more difficult), and the robot at the end of the second fortress is replaced by a dragon. It did not do as well as the original. Future Spy was released by Sega in 1984, which uses the same hardware as Zaxxon and has very similar gameplay but with a more realistic military theme.[41]

In 1982 Milton Bradley made a Zaxxon board game.[42][43]

In 1987 Zaxxon 3-D was released for the Master System. This console variation made use of its 3-D glasses add-on for extra depth perception. As with the Atari 2600 and Intellivision ports, it was forward-scrolling rather than isometric. In October 1993,[44] Atari Corporation filed a lawsuit against Sega for an alleged infringement of a patent originally created by Atari Corp. in the 1980s,[45] with the former seeking a preliminary injunction to stop manufacturing, usage and sales of hardware and software for both Sega Genesis and Game Gear.[46] On September 28, 1994,[47][48] both parties reached a settlement in which it involved a cross-licensing agreement to publish up to five titles each year across their systems until 2001.[46][49][50][51][52][53][54][55][56][57] Zaxxon 3-D was one of the first five titles approved from the deal by Sega in order to be converted for the Atari Jaguar, but it was never released.[46]

Zaxxon's Motherbase 2000 was released for the Sega 32X in 1995. It is the first Zaxxon game to incorporate polygon graphics. The game bore the Zaxxon brand only in the United States, as the Japanese version was named Parasquad and the European version was named Motherbase. U.S. gaming critics generally remarked that the game was not similar enough to Zaxxon to justify the use of the brand.[58][59]

Zaxxon Escape was released on October 4, 2012 for iOS and Android devices. The game was criticized for having little resemblance to the original.[60]


A bootleg was released in the arcades in 1982 called Jackson.[61]

Unauthorized adaptations of the game were published for the TI 99/4A (as Arcturus), Amstrad CPC (as Zaxx), BBC Micro (as Fortress, 1984), and the TRS-80 Color Computer (as Zakssund, 1983).[62]

Hostile All Terrain Encounter (H.A.T.E.) is a Zaxxon clone developed by Vortex Software for several 8-bit and 16-bit computers and published by Gremlin Graphics in 1989.

In popular cultureEdit

In 2012, Zaxxon was shown at "The Art of Video Games" exhibition at the Smithsonian.[63]

A home video game console port of Zaxxon was shown in the music video for the New Order track "Blue Monday".

The character Tommy Jarvis, played by Corey Feldman, in Paramount's feature film Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter can be seen playing Zaxxon during his character's introduction.[64]

Zaxxon was a featured plot device of the 1986 independent feature film Hollywood Zap!.

Zaxxon was seen numerous times in a video gamed-themed storyline of the show Remington Steele episode "Steele Waters Run Deep".

The NPR podcast "Pop Culture Happy Hour" holds its hosts to the "Zaxxon Rule," wherein they are forbidden to bring up topics which are unrelatable to the audience, such as events in one's personal life.

In the Season 1 episode "Up Your Alley" from the ABC sitcom Home Improvement, Randy plays Zaxxon at a bowling alley, attempting to set a record while a bully tries to stop him from playing.


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External linksEdit