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In a time when arcades reigned supreme, few titles stood out from the pack as being industry leaders in bringing people together to tackle foes. Before the likes of Turtles in Time or The Simpsons arcade game, there was Gauntlet. With its massive 4-player cabinet, it towered amongst the competition with fast and frenetic action as you delved deep into a never ending dungeon with friends and strangers alike. It melded masterfully the art of cooperation and competition in a way so few do even in modern games. It was a sight to behold. So this month, we take the time to honor the legend of Gauntlet.
Released in 1985 and developed by Ed Logg, known for his work developing Centipede, Asteroids and so much more, Gauntlet was a revolutionary arcade game. Inspired by the dark subterranean mazes of Dungeons and Dragons, Gauntlet created an experience like no other. They were one of the first to widen the control panel to accommodate up to four players simultaneously, a move picked up by a plethora of beat ‘em ups in the future. They featured a fast run and gun play style that clearly inspired modern games like the Diablo franchise. Few games brought people together like Gauntlet as it became a staple in every arcade for decades with every sequel.
The rules of Gauntlet are simple. Players take the role of an Elf, Warrior, Wizard or Valkyrie as they battle torrential floods of enemies that spawn from various hives that dot each maze-like level. With you is an arsenal of weapons and magic that help you clear out your foes with ease and, depending on your character, determined your strengths and weaknesses in battle. The goal of the game is to collect as much treasure as possible and find an exit that will lead to the next stage.
That may seem simple enough, but the greatest enemies are not those you battle with swords and spells. Instead, you are in a race against the clock as your health is constantly being drained by time, only to be refueled by food found in the mazes. What compounds this problem is that every player is in competition for food to keep playing and it can take just a single selfish person to cause trouble by either eating the food for themselves or destroying it with a stray shot.
It was this competitive and cooperative mashup that was the bulk of the magic that made Gauntlet so special. Players would pick their battles wisely, leaving others to fight off enemies while they gathered treasure, or rush off to the exit for bonus points and to leave their companions to die. Rules would change from time to time and friendly fire would be turned on, allowing for swift retribution, or for a traitor to show their true colors and want glory all to them. Only the stalwart of teams could truly succeed, but even then, time always wins.
Although Gauntlet featured many revolutionary game-play mechanics, it still kept with the old school arcade mentalities. There was no real end to the original and no matter how hard you fought; you were only looking to win points and the honor of being the last man standing amongst your companions. The joy of the original title is not in claiming ultimate victory over the game, but in having the highest score and that was no easy feat.
To say that Gauntlet was accessible to the masses is an understatement. It can be found on almost every system made and in a bevy of compilations. The original can be played on the NES, MS-DOS, the ZX Spectrum, the Sega Genesis (as Gauntlet IV in the states, but is a port of the arcade original with added modes and features), the Amstrad CPC, MSX, Apple II, Commodore 64, Sega Master System, Amiga, MSX, Atari ST, Atari 8-bit Family and Atari Lynx. Gauntlet can also be found in a variety of compilations such as Midway Arcade Treasures for Playstation 2, Gamecube, Xbox and PC, Midway’s Greatest Arcade Hits Volume 2 for Sega Dreamcast, Midway Arcade Origins for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Xbox One, Arcade’s Greatest Hits: The Atari Collection 2 for the Sony Playstation, as well as Gauntlet/Rampart for the Gameboy Advance.
The series also saw numerous sequels which were also ported on a bevy of consoles. Gauntlet II can be played in the arcade, as well as the Nintendo Game Boy, NES, Playstation 3, ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64, Amiga, Atari ST, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, MS Dos and was included in the Midway Arcade Origins for PlayStation 3, Xbox One and Xbox 360.
Gauntlet III: The Final Quest can be found on the Amiga, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum
Gauntlet Legends was released in 1998 for the Arcades as well as Nintendo 64, Sony Playstation and Sega Dreamcast with a sequel,
Gauntlet Dark Legacy available for Playstation 2, Gamecube, Xbox and Game Boy Advance.
Gauntlet Seven Sorrows was released for the Playstation 2, Xbox and Xbox 360.
Finally, the 2014 reboot of the series simply entitled, Gauntlet was released for Playstation 4 and Windows.
Join us on the forums to enthuse about the franchise, as well as compare high scores and organize online co-op sessions to once and for all prove your worth inside the gauntlet!