Arcades today are a hollow shell of what they once were. Game companies have been taken over by bottom-line-watching weenies who compete for your money by copying whatever was popular last year, as row after row of dancing, shooting, racing, and fighting games attest. But in the mid-'80s, companies tried clever ways to earn your quarters. It wasn't enough to copy what was popular; you had to make it better, or at least unique.
Exerion is a perfect example. It's a simple Galaxian-style shooter with a compelling twist: rather than sitting on the bottom third of the screen, waiting for your enemies to attack, you move around the entire playing field while flying across the ever-changing surface of a planet that unfolds beneath you.
Gameplay: Your spaceship is outfitted with two weapons: a single-shot, rapid-fire cannon with limited charges, and a double-shot cannon you can fire as often as you like. (Guess which one is more effective?) The action gets so frenzied that by the time you reach some of the higher levels, you may want a double shot of another kind.
Could be mistaken for: Space Harrier, Galaxian, Moon Cresta
Kids today might not like it because: The parallax motion and inertial drift across the planet's surface can lead to Doom-esque motion sickness.
Kids today might like it because: Appearing to fly across the surface of a planet while shooting down Xs and avoiding hydras is one 808 State track away from the greatest rave they think they remember attending.
Enduring contribution to gaming history: In 1984, Jaleco licensed Exerion to Taito, which marketed it as a conversion pack for its less-popular games. Now you know why the Exerion in 7-11 had Alpine Ski cabinet art.
Wil Wheaton isn't going anywhere with you until you take off that stupid hat and put down the pacifier.