|Publisher: Sega, Bally Midway (US)|
|System(s): Sega LaserDisc Hardware, MSX|
Astron Belt is an arcade game released by Sega in 1983. It is notable for being the first LaserDisc arcade game to be released, a format that would later gain greater traction with Dragon's Lair and Space Ace. It is a shoot-'em-up, where the player controls a spaceship which must destroy on-screen enemies and avoid obstacles.
The laserdisc technology could mean that very detailed background scenes could be created with high quality sound, though the player's sprite and HUD are rendered separately. Though laserdisc games look and sound better than non-laserdisc games of the era, gameplay is very limited, with the player only being able to move around the screen and fire. Unlike most laserdisc games however, Astron Belt is not quite as linear as the scenes are generated at random depending on the player's actions.
Astron Belt is the first known example of a LaserDisc arcade to be demonstrated to the public, however despite being announced first, it was not released to the public until after Dragon's Lair, which often takes credit for being the first of its kind.
Astron Belt was demonstrated at Amusement Machine Show 1982 (September) and AMOA 1982 (November), and although the game drew crowds, the build was said to be buggy and noticeably incomplete. A protracted development schedule meant that Astron Belt was not released until the Autumn of 1983. The early showing is thought to have hindered the game, as at the time, rivals were able to copy ideas and produce competing games from scratch in a matter of months.
Though most of the background scenes were created specifically with Astron Belt in mind, some are borrowed from movies such as Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Battle Beyond the Stars and Message from Space.
Astron Belt only saw one release outside of arcades - a port to the MSX computer range through the laserdisc add-on. It is virtually identical to the arcade version, as the laserdisc itself is identical.
Astron Belt was followed by Galaxy Ranger which was also a laserdisc shooter. The two arcade games can be interchanged by swapping the disc, game ROMs and sound board.