Cold War memories from arcade’s past – Agent Super Bond

This very simple flyer said everything on the front and provided conversion instructions on the back involving the replacement of a Z80 CPU along with a number of EPROMS (erasable programmable read only memory). Sold as a conversion kit, it was a cost saving upgrade for arcade owners enabling them to recycle existing cabs. But despite mentioning Taito’s Elevator Action, Agent Super Bond (or sometimes just referred to as “Super Bond”) had very little in common with it.

The Cold War was still in full swing when this kit rolled out from Signatron USA in 1985. Targeting cabinets running Super Cobra and Scramble (both Konami games), a few tweaks and chip replacements later would turn them into this espionage action game that had a number of surprisingly advanced ideas.

Agent Super Bond cast the player as “Super Bond”, super agent extraordinaire, and sent him into the top floor of a building teeming with bad guys, traps, weird glowing balls, and tons of furniture to presumably search (if only by running over them). There were also hostages that he could rescue as he cleared each room of goodies to add to his score eventually making it out of the building at the very bottom. Each “room section” shown at the start of the game consist of two interconnected screens, though the floor itself can consist of several of these sections. Moving down a floor is as simple as finding a small “nook” at the bottom of the screen in one of the rooms to get there.

superbond_1

Starting out at the top with two rooms, a lot more on many other floors to go.

Our hero's the guy running from the buzzsaw thing in the upper left corner. Bullets can eventually wear holes through walls, but Super Bond's Zap can tear through them like paper. Desks and file cabinets reward points and sometimes give ammo (for an immediate refill) or extra Zap uses.

Our hero’s the guy running from the buzzsaw thing in the upper left corner. Bullets can eventually wear holes through walls, but Super Bond’s Zap can tear through them like paper. Desks and file cabinets reward points and sometimes give ammo (for an immediate refill) or extra Zap uses. The exit to the next room is that open door in the lower right.

Gameplay takes place in a sort of “maze” or “top down” view with 2D figures, furniture, computer, and other icons displayed as potential targets to blast or grab for points. Super Bond will automatically shoot in the direction he’s running in and pause for a second or two to reload when the clip runs down — the amount of ammo left in a clip is actually shown at the top of the screen. Players can also freeze his movement and keep him shooting in whatever direction they point the stick at.

He also has something called “Zap” which is a kind of localized explosion that can blow open vulnerable walls and take out bad guys within his personal space. He only has so much Zap, but the game will offer the player opportunities to buy more with quarters when he gets to one of the “special” rooms with a big point bonus in the form of a computer in a protected room and an exit to the next floor.

The white walls can't be shot through or blow up with Zap. Super Bond will have to actually use the doors this time after dealing with the one enemy agent lurking in front of them.

The white walls can’t be shot through or blow up with Zap. Super Bond will have to actually use the doors this time after dealing with the one enemy agent lurking in front of them. And it’s hard to see, but the little nook in the middle of the bottom wall is actually the way to the next floor.

The game also randomized the room layouts from a select set of predetermined ones — after awhile, I just got used to seeing certain rooms over and over again — which was easily seen if you went back and forth through one of the doors.

Different enemies consisted of mines, turrets that looked like mines, those spinny sawblade things that could also shoot, enemy terrorists, and other enemies that could actually pass through walls. All of them could be hosed down with lead but they had infinite spawns whereas Super Bond only has a limited number of lives. The game also came with a continue system — players would pick up in the room where Super Bond had finally run out of lives and go from there, keeping their progress and even their score which was unusual for the time in arcades.

Super Bond was innovative in other ways. Though doors existed, if the player had enough bullets and Zap, they could just carve their own path through its destructible walls. Collecting desks, computer consoles, and file cabinets added an adventure feel to the game along with the maze-like layout of some of the rooms. Buying power ups was also an interesting twist to getting players to spend more in-game as an early type of microtransaction as opposed to simply kicking them from the machine. And it came with a goal — finding the hostages — which made searching all of the rooms add even more time spent in playing the game. This was a lot like an adventure game where one might be more at home in saving their progress than as something that would be found in the arcade. With what it had, it was only a few degrees away from being the kind of game that might be more at home on personal computers.

Unfortunately, the game is pretty unknown as is the company whose name is apparently attached to it — Signatron USA. The company only has one other game that’s associated with it, Orbitron in ’82. After these two games, they seem to have dropped off the map. Then again, Super Bond might have been a tad too advanced for an arcade audience of players just looking for something quick to play and not quite as exciting as the games that it was meant to replace which arcade owners were probably loathe to switch out.

However, it hasn’t been completely lost to the ages. If you want to try it yourself, the Internet Archive’s Arcade project has preserved it along with many others allowing anyone to try it out in their browser running a port of the popular MAME emulation software. It’s really not that bad a game, but the arcade was probably not the best place for this piece of Cold War history in gaming. Thanks to efforts like that of the Internet Archive, however, Super Bond’s adventure is still around to fight the good fight.

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One response to “Cold War memories from arcade’s past – Agent Super Bond

  1. Pingback: Spiders Everywhere – Lost Tomb | World 1-1·

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