If you played arcade games in the 1980s, then you probably remember the quarter-sucking craze of laserdisc games which were led by the juggernaut of Dragon's Lair. Enough small fortunes were lost to that game to start a small media empire, which is just what creator Don Bluth tried to do. He followed that swords and sorcery game up with Space Ace, which had the evil Borf trying to take over the Earth with his dreaded Infanto Ray that could turn adults into mewling kids. And now we've got the whole secret history of Space Ace for your reading pleasure.
Here's how the game went: You spent your hard-earned allowance on the game controlling Dexter, the teenager that Ace reverts into, and tried to rescue your bitchy girlfriend Kimberly. Who just happened to look an awful lot like the buxom Daphne from Dragon's Lair. Now for the back story.
- Besides creating Dragon's Lair and Space Ace, Don Bluth was a chief animator at Disney, and also directed The Secret of NIMH, An American Tail, The Land Before Time, All Dogs Go To Heaven, and Titan A.E., among others.
- Space Ace appeared only four months after Dragon's Lair, and was offered in a standalone cabinet, or as a conversion kit. You just popped out the Dragon's Lair disc, popped in Space Ace, changed a few stickers and the control panel and bingo.
- Space Ace was promoted as if it were a movie, with movie-style promo posters and press kits. Bluth even did interviews with film journalists to promote the game.
- Just like they did with Dragon's Lair, to save money Bluth's studio didn't hire actors for the voices of the characters, but used employees to provide them. Bluth himself is the voice of the evil Borf.
- The animators made actual physical models of Ace's ship, the Star Pac, his motorcycle and the tunnel seen in the dogfight for the game. These were filmed and then rotoscoped to provide a more realistic look.
- The original concept for the game was based on the Billy Batson / Captain Marvel comic book model. Dexter would be able to turn into super space hero Ace at different times in the game. However, since they were marketing the game to teenagers, they thought they would relate to an adult better. So that model was reversed.
- Unlike Dragon's Lair, you could choose your difficulty setting when you popped your quarters in: Cadet, Captain, or Ace. At the Cadet level you'd only see roughly 50% of the game, and you'd need to choose the Ace setting to see it all.
- The game also offered multiple paths for the player to choose from, rather than having to follow one course of action in each scene. At different points in the game the player had the opportunity to slap the "Energize!" button to turn Dexter back into Ace, which would result in the scene being played differently. You could complete the scene as either character.
- At one point in the game a decoy Kimberly turns into Hexter, an evil version of Dexter, and you have to do battle. He then turns into a mega-giant evil Ace, and you have to shoot him in the mouth. Ouch.
- Although Borf wanted to take over the Earth with his weird de-aging ray (and who wouldn't mind being a teenager again?) he sure spent a lot of his time trying to kill Ace/Dexter with laser beams, giant drilling robots, and massive traps.
- In 1984 twelve Space Ace episodes were produced for the "Saturday Supercade" of shows on CBS that featured other video game cartoons like Pac-Man and Frogger. Nancy Cartwright, the later voice of Bart, provided the voice of Kimberly.
- The game didn't anywhere near the popularity that Dragon's Lair did, and it's high cost sent the laserdisc game fad into a tailspin that it didn't recover from. In 1991 Space Ace II: Borf's Revenge was released for the Amiga and PC platforms, but quickly faded into obscurity.
- Although it's been on DVD before, in April a high-definition version of Space Ace will be out for HD-DVD and Blu-ray players. You play the game with your remote, which sort of sucks. However, there's a ton of extra material on the disc, including the ability to just watch the game all the way through. It's one way to relive the time you spent in the 80s, without rolls of quarters in your pocket.