1978 Greats #02 – SEA WOLF II

Year: 1978
Platform: Arcade
Developer: Midway
Genre: Timed Shooter

Sequels are almost never as good, right? Common Knowledge. So, if a sequel matches or improves on the original we can all celebrate.  I think Sea Wolf II is a great example (for this era) of improving on an original formula and making a better game.  Just like in the first game, you look through a periscope and time your torpedoes to hit targets of varying point values. It was fun before, its even more fun now, with snappier gameplay, great sound effects and a few new items like the 1000 pt submarine that is submerging quickly as it moves across the screen.  But the real innovation that puts this game on the list is it’s extensive use of in-game color.

Red, Yellow, Black and Blue… multiple shades no less… all without smoke & mirrors.

Yeah, I know… this kind of graphic imagery does little to excite our modern sensibilities. But for mid-1978, this was rather striking.  All these colors on screen were being generated by the microprocessor itself — no color overlays, no reflected screens, none of those smoke & mirror tricks the arcade makers had used previously.  Oh sure, COLOR had been used in a game in the past, just never this way, and not with this much variety at once.  Galaxian (1979) was going to take color to a new level soon enough, but that’s a story for a future article.  For now, just stare in awe at that screen cap in all its color glory.

As far as a game, Sea Wolf II is quick paced and fun to play.  It combines timed shooting with a unique stand-up cabinet experience.  You look into a simulated periscope to aim your target, and while you’re playing the game you develop a terrible rash of unknown origin on your forehead.  Was Purell popular yet?  How about disinfectant wipes at least?  No?  I think people had much stronger immune systems back then.  In any case, if you do well enough in your regulation play time, you get that magical “extended play” bonus time to rack up a higher high score.  The extended play time also seemed to have more frequent appearances of the high-point submarines, but I don’t have definite proof on that front.

All in all, I’m also giving a shout-out to this game as being one of the only really fun games to play in 1978.  It was a year pre-Space Invaders… a wild variety of odd and strangely boring types of games.  Fairly slim pickings in 1978 overall, but things are about to improve drastically as the years march on.  If you’re at all interested in Videogame History, however, make sure to take a brief gander at the Sea Wolf II exhibit for its mixture of technical progress and gameplay, and a sequel that didn’t suck.


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