When I was around 10 years old, my father brought me to the firing range and gave me the opportunity to fire his .45 Colt 1911. That day on the range, it has cemented my fascination with anything and everything about firearms. Thankfully, when I was growing up, there was such a peripheral called the “Light Gun” that scratched my gun toting itch.
One of my first encounters with the Light Gun, a.k.a. “The Zapper” was with my cousin’s. One summer morning, I stepped into their living room and was surprised to see a cowboy-pistol looking thingamajig attached to a wire that was connected to the Famicom. My curiosity was instantly piqued and I wanted to go at it right away! So my cousin sat me down first since he can tell I was excited while I was doing gun sound with my mouth. he hooked up the Famicom to the TV and got the game ready, and while he was inserting the tape, I saw the title “Duck Hunt”. And once everything was powered up, the obligatory title screen flashed “DUCK HUNT” and instinctively, I pointed the light gun to the TV and pulled the trigger. A satisfying “click” resonated from the plastic gun peripheral and simultaneously a flash on the TV screen occurred, and the game started.
I was presented with blue skies, tall grass and that iconic dog that we all love to hate. Suddenly, ducks were flying everywhere and I desperately tried to shoot them. They all flew away unfortunately and obviously that fucking dog came out laughing to mock me for doing poorly. I of course also shot that dog in frustration (and who didn’t), but nothing happened. Then the next round started. I did fairly well after hitting some of ducks and this time, the dog will be holding up the dead ducks by its neck while a satisfying melody would play. Okay, I was getting in the groove now. So I shot more ducks as fast as I could until I couldn’t keep up and eventually got to game over.
Fast forward to the mid 90’s when the arcades were still popular and booming. I would usually frequent the cabinets with light guns attached to them. 90% of my tokens would go to a game called Time Crisis. It was the hotness during that time since everything about it was very innovative. At a glance, Time Crisis was your standard light gun arcade game where you shoot bad guys as fast as you can before they shoot at you. The difference is, you can control when your character will pop in and out of cover by physically pressing a foot pedal on the base of the machine. The light gun would also simulate recoil (but it was very very light) by moving the slide while you were pulling on the trigger (like how a real gun would, but instead of firing bullets, it’s firing invisible infra red signals). The whole experience was great and Time Crisis was always my first stop whenever I would go to the arcade with my friends. Eventually, I was able to finish the whole game when I went crazy with a mound of tokens inside my pocket.
I would say the 90’s was really the golden age for light gun games in the arcade. Here are some more notable games that I enjoyed playing back in the day:
- Point Blank
- House of the Dead Series
- Police 911 (That Japanese police shooting game where you had to literally move your body into cover)
- Ghost Squad (came out at mid 2000’s but had to be mentioned nevertheless)
It’s too bad the light gun is becoming a dying peripheral. There were some attempts to bring it back during the PS1 and PS2 days, but all have failed. Arcades haven’t been faring too well either. I haven’t seen an arcade light gun game that was more innovative than Time Crisis to this day. Sad to say (and this is very hard to admit), but the golden era of light guns have come to pass. I for one feel very fortunate that I was still able to experience the light gun era. Even though these peripherals were plastic, I’ll never forget that first time, holding that plastic six shooter up, shooting at some ducks and twirling it around feeling like a 10 year old badass.