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The Video Challenger was made in 1987 by Takara. It is a light gun system which uses games stored on VHS similar to the Worlds of Wonder ActionMax and the Mattel Captain Power system. I reviewed both of these systems in previous episodes. The Video Challenger was distributed outside of Japan by Bandai and Gig.
The Video Challenger is powered by a four AA cells located in the handle of the gun. On the back is a display which shows the current score. The gun has built in speakers. The back sight is a transparent window with a black circle. This circle is aligned to the triangular front sight in order to aim. When hitting enemies a red explosion icon will appear on the back sight surface. If the player gets hit a yellow LED inside the front sight will light up.
The hit detection works similarly as with the Captain Power system: Different kinds of objects flash at different frequencies. This flashing is made less obvious to the eyes, by using stripes. By using different frequencies the gun can distinguish various point and punishment categories. As punishment points are subtracted from the score.
Eight different games were release for the system. Sky Wars and Space Challenger were made from the ground up for the Video Challenger. Then there are two Godzilla games which reuse segments form Godzilla movies and a Turtles game which does the same thing with the TMNT television series. Finally there are the arcade ports of After Burner II, Road Avenger and Cobra Command. The variety of kinds of used full motion video is very wide: There is recorded game play footage, life action footage, hand drawn animations, and rendered objects put on top of life action footage.
Apart from the released games the intro of the television series Transformers: Headmasters is playable with a Video Challenger starting with episode 14. The gun itself appears in a number of episodes:
E21 Find Scorponok’s weak spot
E23 Mystery of the space pirate ship
E29 The Master Sword is in danger
E30 The Zarak Shield turns the tide
E31 Operation destroy the Decepticons
E32 My friend Sixshot!
E35 The final showdown on earth, part two
Personally I really like the Video Challenger. From the three VHS based systems I have shown, I would say this one works the best. Compared to the hand drawn Captain Power games and to the Ron Brody made ActionMax games with their outstanding looking video overlays, the production value of the Video Challenger games seems inferior to me. Nevertheless I found especially the Data East games and After Burner II pleasing and I recommend them.
I like the box design, which shows a VHS tape. I think it manages being exiting while vaguely hinting what the device is capable of.
My acknowledgement goes to Japanese science fiction novelist Kousaku Akano, who lend me his copy of Road Blaster in order to make this review.