Codex Gamicus

Scramble is a horizontally scrolling shoot 'em up arcade game released in February 1981.[1] It was developed by Konami, which distributed the game in Japan, and was manufactured and distributed by Stern in North America. It was later ported to the Vectrex. It was followed by a sequel called Super Cobra.


The player controls an aircraft, referred to in the game as a "Jet," and has to guide it across a scrolling terrain, battling obstacles along the way. The ship is armed with a forward-firing weapon, and bombs; each weapon has its own button. The player must avoid colliding with the terrain and other enemies, while simultaneously maintain its limited fuel supply, which diminishes over time. More fuel can be acquired by destroying fuel tanks in the game.

The game is divided into six sections, each with a different style of terrain and different obstacles. There is no intermission between each section; the game simply scrolls into the new terrain. Points are awarded based upon the number of seconds of being alive, and on destroying enemies and fuel tanks. In the final section, the player must destroy a "base". Once this has been accomplished, a flag denoting a completed mission is posted at the bottom right of the screen. The game then continues by returning you to the first section once more, with a slight increase in difficulty.

Player(s) controls a ship that must infiltrate the five levels of the Scramble system and destroy the Base in the sixth. The first level has the player over a decidedly hilly terrain. Players must dodge or destroy enemy missiles shot from the ground. There are also bases that can be destroyed for points and fuel tanks that will increase the player's fuel level. The second level is inside a cavern. The quarters are not tight, but the swarms of enemy saucers make maneuvering difficult at best, and the same targets of bases, rockets and fuel tanks are found on the ground from the first level.

The player exits the cavern and is assaulted by a storm of fireballs in the third level. The fireballs are fast and indestructible and must be manically dodged and the same ground targets from the first two levels are also present. The fourth, or City level flies the player over a large metropolis. Missiles fired at the player from the tops of buildings again become a threat and there are the usual ground targets present as well. The fifth level sends the player into obnoxiously tight machine tunnels. Pilot error is the only (though formidable) enemy and the only targets this time around are the fuel tanks.

The final level has the player make an attack run on the Base, defended only by its position in a deep valley. After the destruction of the Base, the player begins again.

Gameplay is further complicated by the player's ship's consumption of fuel. If the player's ship runs out, it crashes into the ground below. Fuel is replenished by the destruction of the fuel tanks that liberally dot the ground during the levels. Each time the player destroys the Base, the ship's fuel consumption increases, dramatically increasing the challenge. Players can also shoot four missiles at a time in the air and drop up to two bombs at a time at ground or air targets and there are a few skill levels to choose from.


Scramble was cloned to many of the computer systems and game consoles of the time. Its direct sequel was the helicopter arcade game Super Cobra, and the somewhat modified Fort Apocalypse.

An updated version of Scramble is available in Konami Collector's Series: Arcade Advanced by inputting the Konami Code in the game's title screen. This version allows three different ships to be chosen: the Renegade, the Shori, and the Gunslinger. The only difference between the ships besides their appearance are the shots they fire. The Renegade's shots are the same as in the original Scramble, the Shori has rapid-fire capabilities triggered by holding down the fire button, and the Gunslinger's shots can pierce through enemies, meaning they can be used for multiple hits with a single shot.

According to the Nintendo Game Boy Advance Gradius Galaxies intro and the Gradius Breakdown DVD included with Gradius V, Scramble is considered the first in the "Gradius" series.

However, the Gradius Portable guidebook issued a few years after by Konami, lists Scramble as part of their shooting history, and the Gradius games are now listed separately

Scramble was included on Konami Arcade Classics in 1999.

Scramble joined the Xbox Live Arcade library for the Xbox 360 on September 13, 2006, its release having been delayed from September 6, 2006 due to bugs.

Scramble made the list of Top 100 arcade games in the Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition

Scramble was made available on Microsoft's Game Room service for its Xbox 360 console and for Windows-based PCs in March 24, 2010.

Legal history[]

Scramble was the subject of an important court case in the field of Intellectual Property, specifically copyrights. In Stern Electronics, Inc. v. Kaufman, 669 F.2d 852, the Second Circuit held that Stern could copyright the images and sounds in the game, not just the source code that produced them.[2]

Notes and references[]

  1. Scramble at the Arcade History Database
  2. Brandon Rash. Case: Stern Elec. v. Kaufman (2nd Cir. 1982). Patent Arcade. Retrieved on 2006-09-16

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