Tool-assisted game movies
When human skills are just not enough

Submission #4802: dwangoAC's Coleco Zaxxon in 01:55.89

Console: ColecoVision
Game name: Zaxxon
Game version: unknown
ROM filename: Zaxxon (1982).col
Emulator: BizHawk 1.11.1
Movie length: 01:55.89
FrameCount: 6965
Re-record count: 443
Author's real name: Allan Cecil
Author's nickname: dwangoAC
Submitter: dwangoAC
Submitted at: 2015-08-21 06:48:44
Text last edited at: 2015-08-25 05:22:41
Text last edited by: Spikestuff
Download: Download (5877 bytes)
Status: published
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Author's comments and explanations:
Zaxxon, first released in arcade form in 1982, 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 simulated three dimensions from a third-person viewpoint. It was also one of the first video games to display shadows, to indicate the ship's altitude above the surface. The ColecoVision version, designed by Coleco staffer Lawrence Schick, was the first home version to use the isometric graphics.

Game objectives

  • Emulator used: BizHawk 1.11.1
  • Plays on hardest difficulty (level 4)
  • Defeats Zaxxon as quickly as possible


I decided to TAS this game because many years ago my brother-in-law and I were given a free Zaxxon arcade game in exchange for some computer repair work we did. I still remember trying to figure out how to get it in my station wagon to get it home and hauling the heavy cabinet up a flight of stairs. The game was in rough shape and the joystick was pretty messed up but the cabinet art was intact and I enjoyed the feeling of having an arcade game at home. I figure it's high time I paid tribute to the game, so here's a TAS of it.

I chose the ColecoVision port of Zaxxon largely because it has the least ambiguous goal choice because this particular port allows you to set the difficulty when starting the game. This causes many in-game elements to immediately start at their hardest difficulty, such as force fields and gun turrets as well as the number of shots required to defeat Zaxxon. Information on the ColecoVision port's rules can be found in the game's manual courtesy of the Internet Archive. General information on the arcade variant (which contains a flag mechanic that increases the difficulty every time you defeat Zaxxon rather than allowing you to set the difficulty at the start) can be found at the Zaxxon StrategyWiki page. In this port, defeating Zaxxon on the hardest difficulty level does not appear to have any impact on enemy patterns in future levels and the manual does not make any reference to the difficulty increasing further so this appears to complete the game.

The ColecoVision port has rather slow redraw rates for the background but foreground objects can move much more smoothly. There is substantially less detail than the arcade equivalent and there are some minor tweaks to the rules (such as requiring you to hit Zaxxon two more times than the current difficulty level, i.e. 6 times on difficulty level 4) but overall it is a very faithful port in comparison to the vastly different Atari 2600 and Intellivision ports.

The game is logically comprised of three sections described below.

First platform

The first portion involves flying over obstacles and firing at ground-based turrets while avoiding launched missiles. Luck manipulation is used to prevent some missiles from firing at all and others to blow up while causing no damage. I show off some of the odd ways you have to look at the things you are firing at by hitting distant objects before hitting closer targets and by moving around somewhat to demonstrate the range of movement.

Outer space

At the end of the first platform the first fighter plane appears. It's difficult to judge where you need to be in the 3-dimensional space when playing normally (especially in outer space where there's no shadow to help guide you) but of course this is trivial in in a TAS. There are several waves of fighters with each wave taken down using different methods. The last wave demonstrates an odd property - all of the planes fly in at the same angle and as long as you shoot them before their shots hit you their shots won't kill you.

Second platform

The second platform has far more challenging obstacles and includes walls you have to fly over and force fields you have to fly under (at the same time). There are flying saucer type enemies in groups of three that are easily dispatched as well as a few stray fighters. At the end of the second platform is Zaxxon; this is the only part of the run that can be shortened so I put some time into sorting out his movement. I move toward the bottom of the screen at the lowest altitude to manipulate where Zaxxon appears then move in-line with the rocket and fire 6 shots in two groups of three which allowed the fastest way to end input.

Other comments

Overall I'm happy with how this turned out, although the movement is somewhat jerky due to the hardware limitations of the console. I've observed that TAS's tend to be a bit more "digital" in movement and it's especially noticeable in this game, especially near the beginning of the first platform. I tried to move in ways that would be typical of realtime play where possible and I also tried to make several close calls for entertainment. The rerecord count is somewhat low as I did testing in another file prior to making this movie but this game is short enough that it's not worth bothering over. If other ports have an obvious conclusion like this one does I might run through those as well, especially if feedback is good. Enjoy!

ars4326: Judging!

ars4326: Hi, DwangoAC. To begin, I went ahead and removed 'hardest difficulty' from the branch name since I believe that will be sufficiently understood by the sub category (uses hardest difficulty). Also, to address the brought up issue of triviality, I uncovered a decent general playthrough which demonstrates that this game does require a considerable level of skill; and thus, makes an optimized TAS look that much more impressive, by comparison.

As for the movie itself, it was an enjoyable watch for what it was. I liked how you included in the little things for added entertainment value, such as luck manipulating the missile silos, and manipulating fired shots in the asteroid field to just miss your ship. All in all, a good clean-looking run of an old arcade classic. Nice work!

Accepting for publication to the Vault!

Spikestuff: puts on earmuffs

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