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Cult Video Game Essentials: Scramble (1981)

Scramble aka Sukuranburu is a 1981 side-scrolling shoot ’em up arcade game. It was developed by Konami, and manufactured and distributed by Leijac in Japan and Stern in North America. It was the first side-scrolling shooter with forced scrolling and multiple distinct levels. The Konami Scramble arcade system board hardware uses two Zilog Z80 microprocessors for the central processing unit, two AY-3-8910 sound chips for the sound, and Namco Galaxian video hardware for the graphics.

The game was a success, selling 15,136 video game arcade cabinets in the United States within five months, by August 4, 1981, becoming Stern’s second best-selling arcade classic after Berzerk. Its sequel Super Cobra sold 12,337 cabinets in the US in four months that same year, adding up to 27,473 US cabinet sales for both, by October 1981.

The player controls an aircraft, referred to in the game as a “Jet,” and has to guide it across a scrolling terrain, battling obstacles along the way. The ship is armed with a forward-firing weapon and bombs; each weapon has its own button. The player must avoid colliding with the terrain and other enemies, while simultaneously maintaining its limited fuel supply which diminishes over time. More fuel can be acquired by destroying fuel tanks in the game.

The game is divided into six sections, each with a different style of terrain and different obstacles. There is no intermission between each section; the game simply scrolls into the new terrain. Points are awarded based upon the number of seconds of being alive, and on destroying enemies and fuel tanks. In the final section, the player must destroy a “base”. Once this has been accomplished, a flag denoting a completed mission is posted at the bottom right of the screen. The game then continues by returning to the first section once more, with a slight increase in difficulty.

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