Hail the Gorfian Empire!
Jay Fenton, designer of the Bally Professional Arcade home videogame for Bally/Midway, makes arcade game history with his 1981 coin-op Gorf, who’s chipset is adapted from the company’s home console. While the play in the arcade game’s multiple levels on their own is hardly original, they are nonetheless the first ever featured in a video game. Gorf also sports the Quark Laser, which allows the player to cancel a missed shot by firing again, and Gorf also allows the player’s ship to freely roam the bottom one-third of each playfield. The storyline deals with an invasion by the Gorfians, a murderous robot empire intent on the conquering of Earth. The player must defend his planet through five levels in all – a Space Invaders knock-off with the added feature of a flickering protective barrier stretched over the player, two Galaxian clones (one of which adds laser ships that send a deadly line of energy down at the player), a warp sequence where enemy ships come swirling out of a void, and a final level against the dreaded Gorfian Flag Ship. When the flag ship is destroyed in a spectacular conflagration, the game restarts at a harder difficulty level.
A Gorfian Doom
Gorf is also on the vanguard of synthesized human speech, utilizing a speech synthesis chip by Votrax. Emulating a human voice by use of speech patterns called phonemes allows for lesser memory requirements than using actual digitized phrases. The Votrax chip offers a much higher quality voice than Stratovox along with an astounding 25 available sentences. In fact, the brutal taunts that the game throws out at players become infamous, including such memorable lines as “I devour coins!”, “Your end draws near” and “You will meet a Gorfian doom!”. Jay Fenton apparently creates a sequel called Ms. Gorf in 1982, but the game appears to be extremely rare. Another big hit for Midway, Gorf prompts the usual flood of translations of the game for home systems such as the VCS. In particular, the ColecoVision port is a real standout, faithfully reproducing the game, sans the first Galaxian screen and any speech.