Arcade Rarity: The Unreleased “Vertexer” by Taito.


I’ve written at great length before about my love for sprite scaling pseudo-3D arcade games. The simple fact is that early polygonal 3D looked like garbage. These sprite scaling games like Sega’s Super Scaler series or Taito’s System Z games gave the sensation of speed and 3D movement, but retained the tried and true aesthetics of 2D pixel art.

Vertexer is one of the last games of this type. It came too late in fact, ultimately canceled before release. It’s a shame too because of how ambitious it was. By the looks of it, evidently it was an attempt at F-Zero X or Wipeout style gameplay without a single polygon in sight.

On top of all that, it was going to utilize the IDYA motion cabinet system, which would move the player in sync with the action on the screen (similar to the sit-down versions of After Burner and Galaxy Force II)

As you can see, the cabinet fully enclosed the player. Ever been on Star Tours at Disney World? Imagine that, but for one person, and interactive. Are you hard yet? I already was when I began writing this. In the 1990s there would’ve been little else as immersive as this.

Today only 20 PCBs of this game are in the wild, four of them owned by Japanese collectors. As yet, no Mame compatible rom dump has been released, so us plebeians will have to wait some time yet before we’re able to fire up Retroarch and play this baby. Until then, feast your eyes on this gameplay video from actual hardware:

That sprite art! That speed! Some day I hope these motion cabinet games can be accurately simulated in VR. There’s just so many historical gaming oddities like this, lost to time, that we now have the power to re-create in fascimile.

Though conceptually ambitious, Vertexer wasn’t the most visually advanced sprite scaling game. In some ways it looks simpler than Slipstream, or even Power Drift. Maybe it’s just the allure or the forbidden, as it’s unreleased and only accessible to a small number of collectors. Vertexer, I’ll get my hands on you one day!

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