Videogames Speak Up
Speech comes to videogames in Taito’s 1980 release of Galaxian knock-off Stratovox, developed by Japanese game development house Sunsoft under the title Speak and Rescue. The point of the game is to try and prevent the abduction of planet colonists by marauding aliens, who for some reason have chosen a sombrero as their choice of ship design. Speech synthesis requires massive amounts of memory to execute, and the hardware used to emulate the male human voice is a full 1.5 MHz chip (about half the speed of the the Z-80 running the rest of the show), but the alien taunts and pleas from kidnapped colonists are still highly distorted and limited to four phrases. Cries of “Help me!” come when an alien grabs one of your men, who then congratulate you with a “Very good” if you mange to shoot his captor. Shouts of “Lucky!” accompany each colonist saved during the tally at the end of a screen, and a very Arnoldesque “We’ll be back!” is said when an alien is destroyed. I remembered playing this game at my local arcade as soon as I fired it up in MAME, and it appears to have been a particular success for Taito in North America.
Sources (Click to view; inert links are kept for historical purposes
Associate-manuel-dennis. “Taito America Bows First Talking Video Game.” Cash Box, 6 Sept. 1980, p. 41. Internet Archive, archive.org/details/cashbox42unse_15/page/n43. With its new “Stratovox” model, Taito America introduces the first talking video game.
Associate-manuel-dennis, comp. “Chicago Chatter.” Cash Box 25 Oct. 1980: 47. Internet Archive. 26 Sept. 2016. Web. 9 Oct. 2019. <https://archive.org/details/cashbox42unse_22/page/46>. Mike Von Kennel, national sales manager at Taito America, happily items that the factory’s “Stratovox” video is doing superbly well – as expected.
Farmington Daily Times, “Pinball’s Electronic Wizardry”, by George Johnston, pg. 3, Jan. 1981
The Arcade Flyer Archive – flyers.arcade-museum.com/?page=home
Stratovox – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stratovox
Looking Forward to It, by Stephen Elliot, pg. 106, macmillan 2004