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Arcade title screen shot.

Developers Amstar Electronics (Arcade)
Atari (Atari 2600)
Radica! (Space Invaders Plug and play)
Publishers Centuri (Arcade)
Atari (Atari 2600)
Radica! (Space Invaders Plug and play)
Systems Arcade
Atari 2600
Space Invaders Plug and play unit
Release Dates 1980 (Arcade)
1982 (Atari 2600)
2004 (Space Invaders Plug and play)
Modes Single player only
(Atari 2600, Space Invaders Plug and play)
Single player (Arcade)
Two players alternating (Arcade)
Media Cartridge (Atari 2600)
ROM file (Arcade, Space Invaders Plug and play)

Phoenix was fairly unique when it was released in the arcades in 1980 due to having five distinct stages, continuing music pieces playing during the beginning stage (which in-game music still wasn’t very common at the time), and an early video game boss during the final stage. Gameplay involved players shooting at a variety of birds of different sizes and attack patterns. Players also had a shield to protect their spaceship with temporarily, although it would be several seconds before the shield could be used again.

The game would later be ported to the Atari 2600, be included in the Space Invaders plug and play unit and what is assumed to illegally be a part of the emulated UltraCade cabinet (see Pirated versions, clones, ports, hacks and remakes section below).


The first stage of the game involved shooting several small Phoenix birds that quickly zig-zagged towards the player’s spaceship while dropping bombs. The birds could also "walk" from side to side and fly back up to their formation at a diagonal. The second stage had the same birds, although they were in a different formation and the player was allowed two shots onscreen at a time, rather than one shot at a time with all other stages of the game.

The third and fourth stages began with eight eggs floating about, which then turned into larger birds (blue Phoenixes the first time around, then pink Phoenixes on the next stage). The birds had to be hit right in the middle in order to be destroyed; hitting them anywhere else would cause a wing to be shot off, but it could grow back within a few seconds.

The final stage included a large spacefortress with a moving belt that had to be shot through in order to try to destroy the space creature that resided inside[1]. The fortress slowly moved down towards the bottom of the screen and many Phoenixes from the first two stages also appeared during this wave. If the player was able to kill the creature then the game would cycle back to the first stage.

Getting rammed by any phoenix or being hit by their shots would cause the player to lose a spaceship and the game would end when there were no more spaceships in reserve.


  • Move spaceship–left and right buttons
  • Fire–button
  • Force Field–button


  • Small Phoenixes–20, 40, 80, 200 or 200,000 points (depending on attack pattern; see Trivia section for the special 200,000 point bonus)
  • Eggs–50 points
  • Blue and pink Phoenixes–50, 100-500 points
  • Space creature–1000-9000 points
  • Special bonus–200,000 points

Officially licensed versions[]

Atari 2600[]

Although all stages were present, and most of the gameplay remained the same as the original, there were several changes made to the game, as the player had five spaceships instead of three at the beginning of each new game. The port was also for one player only, there was less time for the force field to recharge before it could be reused again, there was no scrolling background or music, plus no small birds during the final stage, along with the spacefortress traveling down the screen at a much faster rate than on the original. Scoring was also slightly changed, as well as some game terminology.


  • Start game–game reset or joystick button
  • Move laser cannon–joystick
  • Fire–button
  • Force field–down on joystick
  • Eliminate bird cries–left difficulty switch (A position)


  • Small Phoenix moving in horizontal pattern–20 points
  • Small Phoenix while attacking–80 points
  • Large Phoenix–100-500 points
  • Large Phoenix wing hit–20 points
  • Spaceship alien–1000-9000 points

Radica! Space Invaders[]

In this plug and play unit, the game was totally reprogrammed, as the sound effects differed from the original, the double shots were omitted from the second stage and the large phoenixes during the third and fourth stages would move very quickly during the first couple seconds of those stages.


  • Move spaceship–joystick
  • Fire–button A?
  • Force field–button B?

Pirated versions, clones, ports, hacks and remakes[]

Clones and pirated versions of the arcade original included Batman Part 2 (with no company name to be found during the game’s attract mode), Falcon and Vautour, the latter two seeming to be the same as the original version. Condor by Siddam, however, added a fuel level at the top of the screen, which diminished during a stage, but it would also recharge after a couple of stages were completed. The space creature was also not worth as much as on the original. Griffon by Videotron also has the same fuel level, plus the creature can be worth zero points (which can actually occasionally happen with Phoenix, although it is not noted on the scoring table, unlike with this version). Several pirated games were released, also titled Phoenix (with seemingly no changes), which were produced by IRECSA G.G.I Corporation and T. P. N. Corporation. Years after the UltraCade machine was released (containing dozens of arcade games), fraud charges were filed against founder David R. Foley for counterfeit games being sold on the platform. Phoenix was one of the many games originally included with the original UltraCade but was left off in later incarnations of the package.

Pheenix title screen for the ZX Sprectrum.

Clones also followed on the home computer front, such as Pheenix for the ZX Spectrum, although it had five difficulty levels to choose from. The first two stages played more like Space Invaders, as the birds moved from side to side for the most part, plus the player could move their spaceship even with their force field activated (originally, the player’s spaceship could still shoot, but not move while the force field was in use), along with being able to fire several shots from the second stage onwards, and the mother ship during the last stage did not advance downwards towards the player, among several other minor changes. Mega Phoenix was also released for the same computer by Dinamic, although differences included the small Phoenix birds in the first two stages moved more like Space Invaders (more side to side than dive-bombing). The double shots were engaged with the large birds, which could also transform back to their egg stage, plus there were also fewer eggs than on Phoenix. An additional boss would appear after the large bird stages, which took many hits to destroy, it dropped eggs and a POW power-up when destroyed, making players’ shots thicker and with additional cannons being added in the later stages. There was also a shield strength indicator at the top of the screen and not as many birds during the "Phoenixship" stage.

Eagle Empire was also released for the BBC Micro and Commodore 64, both of which had pretty minor changes for the most part, depending on the platform, as the Commodore 64 version allowed four shots during the second Phoenix and Emperor stages (the new name for the spacefortress alien), along with no music, nor small birds during that stage. The BBC Micro version had music during the first stage and a high score table that could hold up to eight names with many characters (rather than the usual three limit that many games have had in general).

Third Birds of Prey stage for the Vectrex.

On the Vecmania cartridge for the Vectrex, one of its included games, Birds of Prey, was a clone of Phoenix. Differences included the look of the game (since the majority of graphics for the Vectrex are wireframe vectors), the force field bug was fixed (see Trivia section), the graphics for the scrolling background for the first two stages was greatly simplified to just stars (as the original’s had comets, planets, etc. in the background), the phoenixes during the third and fourth stages did not dive-bomb the player much during the first cycle of the game, they started off as small birds, rather than being eggs, plus their wings could not be shot off. Finally, the creature during the fifth stage had an open area straight up the middle of the fortress that the player could shoot through in order to try to destroy it, although a lot more firepower was present during the stage as compared to Phoenix.

Along with several bootleg versions being released of the Atari 2600 port, several modern day hacks of that version also emerged years later as well, one of which included Demons!, making the birds look like the demons from Demon Attack; Poseidon, having an underwater theme, and Super Space Invaders, making birds look more like the Invaders namesake, plus the creature during the fifth stage could be destroyed with one shot, changing the gameplay mechanic where the player had to shoot through the moving belt first before the creature could be fired at (as all the other hacks were just graphical, not changing any gameplay mechanics otherwise).

Several modern day remakes were also created, such as one from Minion Software for the PC, featuring improved graphics and different sounds and music, although most of the gameplay remained pretty much the same. However, the double shots on the second stage were omitted, the game had three levels of difficulty to choose from, enemies would fire slightly differently than on the original, the player had five spaceships instead of three in a game, and a high score table complete with being able to enter 15 characters per score was also included. An online flash clone entitled Phoenix Revenge was also released, which looked pretty close to the arcade original, although the birds during the first two stages could cover a larger distance onscreen and in a quicker amount of time. They could also fly underneath the player's ship and destroy it, as they would disappear from the screen but could still be lurking underneath. The player could fire several more shots at a time, but the difficulty level was higher, especially with the shield glitch not being fixed.


  • The musical pieces during the first stage of the original arcade version include "Spanish Romance" (by an unknown composer) and "Für Elise" by Beethoven.
  • A secret bonus on the arcade original only occurs during the first stage, which involves the player shooting three Phoenixes flying away at a diagonal within only two seconds, which nets a 200,000 point bonus[2].
  • In the original arcade version, there was a force field bug where the player’s spaceship could be destroyed, yet the sound effect of the force field being activated could still be heard. This was fixed for the Atari 2600 version, as well as on most clones of the game except for Phoenix Revenge.
  • In the 1983 comedy movie Joysticks, two video game tournaments were held in the fictitious game room from the movie (known as Bailey's Video Arcade), complete with a marquee sign with a rendition of one of the blue phoenixes from the third stage of the game.
  • Phoenix was followed by the less successful sequel of Pleiades, also having several different stages. Waves of big birds returned where their wings could be shot off, although there were many differences, such as the final wave consisting of players having to pilot their ship down a runway, plus the force field was replaced with a warp function that would transport their ship to another part of the screen, among other changes.
  • Atari sued Imagic due to their Intellivision version of Demon Attack having a spacefortress-like wave, since the Atari port of Phoenix was an exclusive home title. Imagic settled out of court, and the game remained on the shelves.
  • With the release of the home version by Atari, their Atari Age publication included a free Phoenix poster in one issue. This would be replicated in the opening screen of the Minion Software remake.
  • Bootleg versions of the Atari 2600 game were released by Polygram, Tron and Video Game.
  • Qix, Colony 7, Space Invaders and Lunar Rescue were also included in the Space Invaders unit.


  • Arcade Museum page
  • Atari Age 2600 version page
  • Download Minion Software's remake here (archived)
  • Gamplay videos can be seen on YouTube for Phoenix (both the original and 2600 port), Pheenix, Eagle Empire, etc.


  1. From the arcade manual.
  2. How to Master the Video Games book, 1980.

This article was featured from May - June, 2018.