Tempest is a 1981 arcade game by Atari Inc., designed and programmed by Dave Theurer. It takes place on a three-dimensional surface, sometimes wrapped into a tube, which is viewed from one end and is divided into a dozen or more segments or lanes. The player controls a claw-shaped spaceship (named Blaster) that crawls along the near edge of the playfield, moving from segment to segment.
Tempest was one of the first games to use Atari’s Color-QuadraScan vector display technology. It was also the first game to allow the player to choose their starting level (a system Atari dubbed “SkillStep”). This feature increases the maximum starting level depending on the player’s performance in the previous game, essentially allowing the player to continue. Tempest was one of the first video games to sport a progressive level design in which the levels themselves varied rather than giving the player the same layout with increasing difficulty levels.
Brutal yet fun, Tempest probably needs a real control dial rather than the emulated options of a mouse or buttons to rotate Blaster precisely enough to do well at the game. This game and Asteroids are the two that first come to mind when I think of vector graphics games, and the technology served this game very well.
The emulation also sort of dulls the vector graphics a bit, making it a bit more difficult to see, while the original was sharp and brilliant. There are emulation options in MAME (what I used to emulate the game in) to adjust the vector graphics, but I didn’t bother since I would have had to spend longer tweaking than actually playing…
So yes, honestly, this is one of the few games where I wish I had the original hardware rather than having to emulate it. Emulation is very nice and in many cases is just as good as playing the original, but not this time.