Zaxxon (ザクソン) is an arcade shoot 'em up video game released by Sega. It is named after its groundbreaking use of axonometric projection (though more specifically, it uses isometric projection) and was released for bespoke arcade hardware in 1982.
Zaxxon was the first video game to use an isometric perspective, a graphical style which would see widespread use in the years which followed. It was an early attempt at adding three-dimensional depth to the shoot 'em up genre.
Zaxxon stands as one of Sega's earliest video game successes, and is also notable for being the first arcade game to be advertised on US television, with a commercial being produced by Sega's then-owners Paramount Pictures for $150,000.
In Zaxxon, the player controls a starship which continuously moves towards the top right of the screen - a "diagonal" sidescroller, as opposed to the horizontal or vertical shooters more commonly seen. The basic idea is to shoot at and destroy enemies within a space fortress to rank up points, while avoiding obstacles and enemy fire.
What made Zaxxon unique at the time was the ability for the player to adjust the ship's height as well as move the craft left and right, essentially creating one of the first three-dimensional shooters (though the player can still only move in two dimensions, as he/she cannot stop the ship from moving forward). With this comes the task of navigating scenery - Zaxxon has levels which take part in space stations, and the player must duck and dive to avoid crashing into objects. Furthermore missiles can be launched upwards from the ground (similar to Scramble by Konami), and the player must obtain fuel to stay airbourne.
Zaxxon stands as one of Sega's first big successes in the arcade video game market, and was subsequently brought to a plethora of home systems during the early 1980s, being one of the most widely ported Sega games in history. The hardware behind the game also went in to fuel other isometric arcade games, such as Congo Bongo and Future Spy.
The Atari 2600 and Intellivision versions of the game (published by Coleco) are the most radically different, opting for a third-person "behind the ship" view rather than an isometric one, presumably due to hardware limitations. It has been suggested, however, that Coleco purposely dumbed down these versions for competition purposes - their ColecoVision port was for many years the most accurate home copy of the game, however skipped a few levels due to cartridge restrictions (something later fixed with Zaxxon Super Game for Coleco's Adam computer).
For a while, Datasoft had the rights to computer cassette and disk versions of the game in North America and Europe, producing ports to the Apple II, Atari 8-bit computer line, Commodore 64 Dragon 32, TRS-80 and TRS-80 CoCo. Zaxxon was among the first licensed TRS-80 (and TRS-CoCo) video games to be released - up until this point few major video game developers supported either of Tandy's machines, so it was more common to see unofficial clones (and indeed many clones of Zaxxon would emerge in the following years, such as Zaksund and Z-89).
As well as Datasoft's version, another official port of Zaxxon produced for the Commodore 64 and released on cartridge. The cartridge version has more accurate visuals but is generally regarded as less playable. U.S. Gold also published versions of Zaxxon for the ZX Spectrum, while an MSX version was published by Pony Canyon (on cartridge) in Japan and by Philips (on cassette) in Europe. Also released was an IBM PC version in the "PC Booter" format. An Atari 5200 version similar to the Atari computers copy was also released.
Amsoft picked up the rights for an Amstrad CPC version of Zaxxon for release in 1986, but no such port materialised.
As one of Sega's first success stories, Zaxxon was also turned into a board game by Milton Bradley in 1982. Bandai and Coleco also released VFD and LCD versions of the game, in the form of a tabletop Zaxxon, FL Zaxxon and a handheld Zaxxon. Curiously, Sega of America, through its blog, has erroneously laid claim to several other versions of Zaxxon - a homebrew Commodore Amiga version from 1995, and a version for the Dragon 32/64 computer (based on the TRS-80 CoCo version), whose legitimacy has yet to be verified.