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Polaris Built on Space Invaders Gameplay

Polaris was a super addictive arcade game in which you took command of a nuclear submarine and had to fire missiles to destroy your enemies. It was basically a side-scrolling shooter with blocky graphics and simple gameplay. There were a lot of games with the same control system and mechanics but it seemed especially suited to a submarine shooter.

Taito released this as a stand up cabinet back in 1980, there was also a cocktail table version released later and it was ported for the Atari 2600 as well. It featured colour graphics with simple blocky backgrounds and very basic enemy submarines, boats and planes. The sound effects were simple explosions and a kind of mock underwater sonar submarine sound that is always used in any scene featuring submarines. There were also wee tunes between each level.

You controlled the action with a four way joystick and had a button for firing off missiles into the air. You’d start each level on the surface and submarines would fire at you from below, boats would dump depth charges into the water and planes would fire missiles from above. You basically had to avoid the depth charges and missiles and take out as many enemies as possible.

The gameplay was pretty addictive and represents a development in the world of fixed shooters. These games were all inspired by the Space Invaders gameplay and they really just added an up and down dimension to your movement and allowed your enemies to attack from below as well as above. Despite the simplicity it is still quite a fun wee game.

The two squadrons of planes would fly across the screen in formation to kick things off and you could destroy the bombs that they fired. The submarines would slide in below and you could go beneath them and destroy them if they weren’t right on the bottom. They fired very slow moving red bombs. The boats would skim along the surface and drop three depth charges in a row. The big trigger to end each level was a big plane that would fire a heat seeking missile at you. You had to take these out quick because the missiles would drop vertically then go horizontal to hit you.

Each enemy was worth a different amount of points and reaching a total of 5,000 earned you one bonus life. The levels just went on and on until you died, I don’t think there was any kind of ending. It had a two player option but it just made you play turn about so for all intents and purposes it was a single player game.

Polaris was released as part of Taito Memories Vol 2 for the PS2 and there is a mobile phone version of the game as well. In real life the Polaris missile submarine entered service in the US in 1961. These long range nuclear missile equipped submarines allowed countries to theoretically strike anywhere with speed and were developed as part of the Cold War. They were certainly famous enough to spawn a game about a submarine with the same name. Although you could have definitely used one with all those enemies, you never got to use a nuke in the game.