In the late 80s and into the 90s, thinking of what technology the future would hold and how we’d entertain ourselves was certainly a topic for discussion. Between far out claims we’d be doing stuff like making space colonies and using flying cars, there were some more grounded claims like people carrying computers in their pockets. And though the premise of William’s’ arcade action fest Smash TV was off in many regards, the basis of entertainment revolving around normal folks doing stuff on TV for other normal folks to watch was spot-on.
Anyway, let’s talk about the video game! Smash TV was a pretty ahead of its time arcade game. Released in 1990, it was a loud, colorful twin stick shooter that had you (and a co-op partner) moving from room to room killing bad guys, avoiding bullets, and picking up loot to increase your overall score. Set as a futuristic television show in 1999, the concept and the presentation worked well and made for a unique arcade experience. It was also one that didn’t feel near as impressive on home consoles. The SNES version was cool and all, but didn’t nearly compare to the impact and visuals of the arcade big brother!
The gameplay borrowed heavily from other games. To me, it felt most like an improved Robotron mixed with the gamey-ness and silliness of titles like Arch Rivals. Though it didn’t really resonate with me while growing up, decades later I think I could appreciate the game for being some different in the arcades. It was most fun with a second player, and if you had unlimited quarters it was something that would be quite fun to play through.
Smash TV’s arcade cabinet is pretty recognizable, especially the side art. The presentation of being a TV show with 80s/90s tropes included on the cabinet itself and in the game’s attract mode further solidified this motif. The whole American Gladiators look was very in-time too!
This is an easy one to recommend to anyone that hasn’t played it before. I think the gameplay holds up fairly well. I’d highly suggest playing the game on freeplay or in a compilation disc where you don’t have to keep pumping in quarters, because this one can get pretty cheap late game. And if nothing else, it’s worth looking back at jokes and tropes from the late 80s and early 90s and also what developers jokingly thought we’d be doing in just 10 years time.
Thankfully, the arcade version of this game saw a few relatively cheap reprints. I’d recommend the Midway’s Arcade Treasures option, as you also get decent versions of other arcade classics. Or if you like Mortal Kombat, go with Midway Arcade Treasures 2, which has this game’s spiritual successor Total Carnage on disc. Also worth noting, Smash TV was popular enough to still be around in some arcades and bars in either stand alone cabinets or combination retrocade machines. Your options are nearly endless!
Played at Galloping Ghost Arcade in Brookfiled, IL 2019