Sinistar is an arcade game released by Williams Electronics in 1982, belonging to a genre of the day known as "twitch games" (along with Tempest, Defender and Robotron: 2084). The game was developed by RJ Mical, Sam Dicker, Jack Haeger and Noah Falstein, with sound direction by Python Anghelo, and the title character's voice was supplied by radio personality John Doremus.
The player pilots a lone fighter ship through a quadrant of the galaxy, attempting to mine crystals called Sinisite from nearby planetoids by shooting them. Enemy ships are also attempting to mine crystals (worker ships) or shoot the player (warrior ships). The enemy ships use the crystals to create the skull-like boss Sinistar, while the player uses them to create Sinibombs, the only weapon they can use to damage and eventually destroy the Sinistar.
Destroying the Sinistar is necessary to advance to the next level, but is by no means easy. The Sinistar is surrounded by twelve segments of armor, and the player must destroy all of them before delivering the final blow. At the same time, the enemy ships are gunning for the player, throwing themselves in the Sinibombs' path, and/or still mining and collecting crystals in order to repair damage to the Sinistar. And the Sinistar itself is hunting down the player's ship, taunting the player with such one-liners as "Run, coward!" (which, due to the crude sound chip, sometimes sounded like "Ron Howard!", earning the game a Fan Nickname of Opiestar).
Sinistar has a reputation of being really difficult in the later levels, partly due to its development being rushed at the cost of gameplay adjustments that would have made the difficulty curve a bit easier.
In 1999, a PC remake was released called Sinistar Unleashed, which retained the difficulty of the original game, but since it was in full 3D, the player's range of vision was limited, making the game even harder.
Sinistar is referenced heavily (to the point of the Sinistar voice being used as the voice and name of a main character) in the 2007 animated (and surprisingly non-drug-influenced) film We Are the Strange.
Sinistar has examples of:
- Antagonist Title
- Attract Mode: It was one of the first games in the market to sport a voice synthesizer chip (actually, CVSD-based sample playback chip, a HC-55516 according to MAME. As noted above, the samples were recordings of John Doremus), and uses it to full effect by taunting any passer by!
- Boss Battle: Sooner or later, those workers are going to build Sinistar, who will make a bee line for your vessel.
- Cap: Scores roll over upon hitting the 10,000,000 scoring threshold.
- Collision Damage: Averted. Excluding the Sinistar, running into any planetoid or enemy craft will simply see the player's ship just bounce off it.
- The Computer Is a Cheating Bastard: No matter how many warriors you destroy, you will get no reprieve. Not unless you go crazy with sinibombs in addition to regular shots but you need those for Sinistar.
- When Sinistar chases you and appears on the screen, the angle he swings in on may be incredibly fast and nearly impossible to dodge.
- The Determinator: Sinistar will not stop no matter how damaged he gets.
- Drought Level of Doom: The recurring "void" levels, which have very few planetoids.
- The '80s: In case you missed it in the above description, this was about as advanced as video game sound got in the era.
- Eldritch Abomination: Almost nothing is known about Sinistar itself (other than that it hungers), but its existence is definitely outside of any of our notions of life. Since it's built, it may also be a Mechanical Abomination.
- Endless Game: Played for Horror. As explained in this article, Sinistar uses this convention seen in contemporary games to construct a Cosmic Horror Story that instills hopelessness in the player: no matter how many times the player character destroys Sinistar, his followers will quickly resume in rebuilding him elsewhere in the galaxy, and so the player character is thus always doomed to fall at the hands of Sinistar.
- Every 10,000 Points: Played with. On the game's default settings, the first extra ship is awarded at the 30,000 threshold, but the gap between each subsequent ship increases by 30,000explained .
- Evil Sounds Deep: Combined with Badass Baritone. Just listen to Sinistar's voice.
- Failure Is the Only Option: The only way to proceed to the next level is to kill the Sinistar, which in turn requires the Workers to completely finish building it so it can awaken and come after the player.
- Incoming Ham: BEWARE, I LIVE!
- Jump Scare: If the player goes into this game having no idea that Sinistar talks, the sudden shouting of his voice has the potential to be this. To say nothing of that roar...
- Lightning Bruiser: Sinistar. Holy shit, Sinistar.
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: Sinistar.
- Nintendo Hard: Check the work description up at the top where it says "Destroying the Sinistar." In fact, some players didn't even know there was a second level.
- The player has to "milk" planetoids to make sinibombs. Too many shots too fast blows them up and you get nothing. (Players sometimes let the enemy ships mine the asteroids then killed them to claim the booty.)
- The 1999 reimagining Sinistar Unleashed remade the game in total 3D, putting the game into SNK Boss difficulty.
- Sinistar moves extremely fast, and if you're unlucky, he'll one-shot you as soon as he appears.
- The widening score gap between each extra ship doesn't help matters.
- It was a Moment of Awesome when one episode of Starcade showed host Geoff Edwards managing to beat the game after a taping.
- Oh, Crap!: Basically the response a player had the second Sinistar announces "Beware, I live!"
- Overflow Error: If you get hit by a projectile and touch an enemy simultaneously while on your extra life, the game will subtract two lives, rolling backwards over 0 and reading it as 255 lives remaining.
- Pop Culture Osmosis: Homestar Runner has Vector Strong Bad, who resembles Sinistar and speaks in short phrases too ("Your Head Asplode").
- Punny Name: Just change one letter in "Sinister".
- Regenerating Health: The workers will mine the asteroids for crystals, and they will repair any damages you have already incurred on the Sinistar.
- Shoot 'em Up: Unlike most, you can fly into most objects to no ill effects - and you likely will, in your quest to mine for SiniBombs. You will still likely die a lot at first thanks to the relentless warriors, if not Sinistar later.
- Synthetic Voice Actor: Actually averted. It was one of the first games to have speech, but it was also one of the first few games to use digital recordings instead of a synthesizer chip.