As I’ve mentioned a few times in passing, my day job for the back end of the 1980s and half the 1990s was selling home computers; for a lot of that time it was primarily the Amiga range since the indie company I worked for called Computerworld was a specialist, but we shifted a fair few Commodore 64s, Atari STs, DOS and later Windows PCs and games consoles as well during that time. But today’s ramble is about the Amiga and more specifically an event which occurred after original manufacturers Commodore rather unceremoniously disappeared beneath the waves.
Some machinations followed, with the rights eventually being sold to ESCOM and, after what was a quite frankly agonising wait whilst assorted ducks were organised, eager Amiga dealers in the south of the UK were invited to a presentation about the re-launch of the A1200 under the new Amiga Technologies brand. This took place at the Sheraton Heathrow Hotel in London with the dealer event happening on the 17th August 1995; I was there and during the event they handed folders of promotional materials… and my copy has somehow survived the intervening years pretty much intact, which is how I’m “remembering” so much detail. The folder itself is a bit battered but looks like this…
…and the contents can be viewed as a PDF (11.2Mb). The enclosed literature includes transcripts of a couple of speeches which were delivered during the event, a potted history of the Amiga and a couple of double sided, glossy information sheets about the Amiga 1200 and the M1438S – a multisync monitor with stereo speakers – which are somewhat reminiscent of the ones that Commodore used to supply dealers with. One thing worth noting is that, although the paperwork all sports the new Amiga logo with the red square, that isn’t present on the hardware in any of the cheesecake shots.
So there you go, a teensy slice of Amiga history that possibly won’t be archived online already; the text is rather dry, but that’s pretty much how I remember the presentation being overally, despite what the Amiga was capable of. And for any Amiga fans or archivists who might be reading, if you’d like to host a copy of the PDF please feel free.
The first demo I remember seeing on Commodore’s wonder machine the Amiga was Doctor Mabuse Orgasm Crackings’ Demons Are Forever, running on a display machine at the local independent computer shop and it was something of a revelation compared to what little I and the shop’s other teenage hangers on had seen from the 16-bit generation to date as well. With the Atari ST for example, the graphics had unsurprisingly improved from what we were used to on 8-bit systems but sound hadn’t noticeably moved on at that point.
Demons Are Forever pushed the quality bar upwards by quite a distance with well drawn, colourful graphics, detailed animations, fluid 50FPS sinusoidal movement and an amazing, bespoke Soundtracker module from composer Frog which matched the on screen action well, something that wasn’t commonplace in demos of the time. There were already loads of demos with sprite sinuses so this wasn’t a first – the same developers’ previous release Spaceship did something similar but far less involved, relying on the Amiga’s hardware sprites rather than blitter objects – but Demons Are Forever stood out for beefing up the presentation, offering lots of potential movement patterns for the objects and by having those beautifully drawn transitions between the balls and titular winged creatures.
Because of all that attention to detail, Demons Are Forever is fondly remembered by demo watchers to this day and its influence on the scene at the time can’t be underestimated either; it spawned a couple of fairly direct clones for the Atari ST and C64 for example and was at least a partial template for many demos which followed.
And just because I can, we’ll finish on a bonus video of the aforementioned Spaceship demo from DOC; it was called that because… well, it’s got a whacking great bias relief spaceship scrolling past with hardware sprites swirling around over the top, Amiga rainbows on some of the playfield colours, a starfield in the background and SLL’s excellent “Hymn To Yezz”, a tune I’ve “covered” a couple of times over the years.
Published on the Amiga by an arm of CRL called Actual Screenshots, Sirius 7 is a no-nonsense, horizontally scrolling shoot ’em up where the player’s small craft flies through some quite pretty backgrounds whilst turning smaller enemies into space dust and, at the end of each stage, taking on a boss which needs more of a kicking to defeat. But despite being released in 1990, there aren’t any power-ups to collect from downed nasties; instead there’s a choice from four fully armed ships at the start of each stage, with each having its own statistics for speed and firepower so figuring out which is best suited to both the player’s style and the current barrage of enemies is part of the challenge.
There are a lot of things waiting to be shot as well to the point where it might initially seem overwhelming, with the player being relentlessly peppered by attackers for the majority of the time and often having to weave through small gaps between enemies, their bullets and passing landscape features. And whilst it’s tempting to constantly strafe up and down to spray the entire playfield with bullets, there are times when it proves more sensible to stop moving almost entirely and let the guns do their job, merely nudging the controls occasionally to reposition when a stray bullet gets too close for comfort.
There are better looking shoot ’em ups than Sirius 7 on the Amiga – it isn’t ugly by any metric, but at the same time doesn’t stand out – and it certainly can’t be considered to be an innovative game by any stretch of the imagination, but there’s lots of thud and blunder to enjoy in there and, for me at least, it offers better difficulty balancing than some of the more popular Amiga shooters out there. Blair Zuppicich’s soundtrack is brilliant as well, I’ll occasionally leave a couple of Sirius 7 tunes and the titles music from Cybernetix playing in the background whilst working.
Oh, and that glitched chunk of background in the video is, I’m assuming, down to the cracked version used for the recording in some way;- I need to get WinUAE properly configured for WHDLoad again…