Gun Fight was released in 1975 on arcade cabinets everywhere within the US. Prior to that, however, Gun Fight had an interesting history. It was originally entitled Western Gun in Japan and was designed and programmed by Tomohiro Nishikado, of Space Invaders fame. It was published by Taito and released in Japan and Europe. The decision was made to then adapt it for Western audiences. This would be the first time a Japanese game was licensed for release to America. The title was changed to Gun Fight because it was thought that American players may find the current title odd or confusing. Dave Nutting and Tom McHugh of Dave Nutting Associates adapted the game for its new audience, making a few changes along the way.
Tom McHugh programmed Gun Fight a little differently than Nishikado—his programming and architecture called for the game to use an Intel 8080 computer microprocessor. It was the first arcade game ever to use a microprocessor, and the smooth frame rate and crisp graphics caused others, including Nishikado, to use microprocessors to their advantage in the future. Visually, Gun Fight was nice to look at—it ran at 60 frames per second at a resolution of 265 x 224 pixels. It made use of a black and white raster monitor with a yellow screen overlay, allowing the characters to look a bit more colorful than their counterparts in competing cabinets.
Gun Fight calls for two players to enter a duel with one another. Both players take to a desert-like environment with nothing but their guns in their hands. The game places the commands “Get Ready” and “Draw!” upon the screen. Players then aim and shoot—if a bullet connects with the opponent, the opponent falls to the ground and exclaims, “You got me!” Another round is then initiated. Players gain a point for each round they win, which are displayed up at the top of the screen. Players do not have unlimited ammo—they are restricted to whatever is displayed on-screen at the bottom of the pay area. There are two time limits located up at the top of the screen—the one closest to player one indicates how much time is left in the current round and the one on the left indicates how much time is left in the whole game for both parties. Players are restricted to wherever they are on-screen. What makes Gun Fight interesting is the ever-changing scenery that constantly presents both new obstacles and new visuals for the players through the duration of gameplay. Wagons will pass by, obstructing bullets and providing coverage. Cacti and trees provide visual interest and a brief hiding place. The microprocessor allowed for more dynamic objects on the screen, thus creating a more involving gameplay experience. A brief look at the game can be seen here.
In addition to being the first game to utilize a microprocessor, Gun Fight was the first game to allow two players to simultaneously play on the same screen at the same time. The character’s directional movement was controlled by a joystick in the player’s left hand, and the character’s aiming and shooting was operated by a gun grip and trigger in the player’s right hand. Gun Fight also introduced the idea of using different controls to move a character directionally and to have that character shoot. To say this game impacted the industry and the way games were designed, programmed, and controlled would be a completely accurate statement.
Gun Fight was received fairly well, spawning multiple ports across several different platforms– and allowing Dave Nutting Associates to be acquired for a fair sum by Bally. It was a big hit amongst arcade-goers, cited as being extremely fun and progressive. It became very popular and even gained the attention of director George Romero, who went on to include Gun Fight in a scene for the 1878 release of Dawn of the Dead. Boot Hill, another Dave Nutting Associates-developed and Midway-published game released in 1977, was viewed by the arcade-playing public as a spiritual successor to Gun Fight. It is now no longer as popular as other games such as Space Invaders, but there is still a fairly large fan-following and there are at least thirty-seven collectors who currently own Gun Fight arcade cabinets. It does rank, however, pretty low as far as desirability among collectors goes.