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Elevator Action

Page 2:
Elevator Action II / Elevator Action Returns
Elevator Action EX
Elevator Action: Old & New

Page 3:
Elevator Action 3D
Elevator Action: Death Parade
Elevator Action Deluxe
Mission: Elevator

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by Charles P. Gill, with additions by Burkhart von Klitzing and Wildweasel - June 25, 2007, updated on February 3, 2012

The Golden Age of arcade gaming was greatly significant in the world of gaming. Besides being a strong force that wasn't affected at all by the video game crash of 1983, some of gaming's most recognizable games came out from this era. In a time where all games were just destroy as many alien invading ships as possible as Earth's only hope was becoming stale and people started becoming creative with their game designs. During this time, games were starting to add skill and timing mechanics instead of just being all about twitch shooting.

With the evolution of different gameplay types, more and more games were developed with different themes that didn't fall under "space shooter". Games went everywhere in the spectrum of concepts, from delivering papers to yellow blobs eating dots being chased by ghosts. For a time, you could be sucked into a world of whatever you wanted to either vanquish evil or perform mundane chores that were peppered up to be more fun. Some concepts were taken from genres of movies, like spy movies. Midway's Spy Hunter was a vehicular combat game were you took the role of a spy to drive and destroy other opponents. While adding into the spy genre no problem, it only dealt with car chases and this wasn't enough. What about the actual art of spying?

Enter Elevator Action, one of the most popular titles from 1983.

Elevator Action puts you in the role of a spy, with only one mission: break into a building and acquire all documents. What are on these said documents? You never know, since it's not your job to look. The only thing you know is that you need to to safely retrieve them and get out of there. (Note: the only game where finding the documents isn't the forefront of the game is Elevator Action II / Elevator Action Returns, as you are dismantling bombs instead, but in the first mission, you have to find files that have the location of the bombs)

As the title implies, there's a lot of action that involves elevators - and they weren't kidding. Hell, the elevators can be a character within itself seeing how you'll spend most of your time controlling elevators, riding them to get from the top of the building to the bottom as you try to recover all the files.

While the style of the game is always changing, one thing is consistent with each release: each one tries to refine the game little by little. Some ideas are hits (multiple characters introduced in Elevator Action II, light bulb crashing temporarily making you undetectable to enemies in Elevator Action: Old & New) while others are complete misses (the use of the grenades in the Game Boy versions, limited bullets in Elevator Action: Old & New).

Elevator Action (Arcade)

Elevator Action (Arcade)


Elevator Action (エレベーターアクション) - Arcade, Amstrad CPC, Commodore 64, MSX, SG-1000, ZX Spectrum, Atari 2600 (Cancelled), NES, PC-8801, Game Boy, Saturn, Game Boy Advance, Mobile, Windows, PlayStation 2, PSP, Xbox, Wii Virtual Console, 3DS Virtual Console, Wii U Virtual Console (1983)

Arcade Flyer

Japanese MSX Cover

American Game Boy Cover

Japanese Famicom Cover

Japanese SG-1000 Cover

American NES Cover

You are Agent 17, codename "Otto". As a pompadour sporting Bond-type, you must collect all the secret documents (five documents in all) from a 30-floor building and escape hastily at the bottom where your getaway car awaits. It's not that finding the documents is hard or anything; each room where the files are located are practically advertised with a red door. What stands in your way are the countless black suited agents out to stop you at all costs.

Your enemies will constantly pursue you by coming out randomly from the collection of blue doors in the hall. Once out, they will persist in defeating you with out hesitation. They will constantly chase you by following you up or down elevators and escalators, shooting you if you're within sight. During later levels, they become smarter, being able to duck under your bullets - or worse, actually lay down and fire at your feet, making it impossible to shoot them, as you yourself can not lay down on your stomach. The longer you take to complete a level, the more enemies will come down chasing you.

With numerous enemies appearing from closed doors, it's a relief that there are numerous things you can do to rid yourself of these nuisances. You have a gun, so you can shoot down your opponents from afar. You can fire up to three bullets at a time before there is a pause between shooting, so you must keep this in mind while under heavy fire. If you're close enough, you can jump kick foes into submission, by simply pressing the jump button. Or for the true master, you can shoot one of the ceiling lights and have it drop on the unsuspecting enemy. You can only do this while riding an elevator, while at the right height to shoot at the light. Apparently all the lights are on the same circuit, for when you shoot one of them out the entire building blacks out for about five seconds. Killing with the light bulb is the holy grail of points, as it is worth more using that method then shooting or kicking them in the face. And for the highly skilled player or just from a stroke of luck, you can actually crush other spies with the elevator you're riding. Something more intriguing is the ability to avoid enemies. While enemies will fire at you, you can either duck beneath enemy fire or hop over the barrage of bullets if it's shot low enough.

The main mode of transportation other than just walking are the elevators and escalators strewn about the level. While in an elevator, you control its ascent and descent. When you aren't in them and are waiting for them, elevators move painfully slowly, for they hit each floor and pause for about one to two seconds. Usually elevators are located in the middle of the hall, and if you have to get to the other side, you can jump over the elevator shaft. However, if the elevator is below and you try to jump, the cable will block you and cause you to fall to you're doom. Also, if you're in the elevator shaft waiting for an elevator, you might want to move for you can be crushed by them as well. Escalators, while not as plentiful as elevators, can be used as well to move onto the building and avoid enemies.

Otto invades the building from the top and must go to the bottom to get out of there. The upper part of the building is the calmest, with only one elevator that you are immediately in and few enemies appearing from the halls. Once you've passed the first ten floors and have reached the bottom of the elevator shaft, the second part of the level is in play with players being forced to ride the escalators down to progress further. After five floors of escalators, it's darkness time as the hallways for the next five floors are completely dark save for your own character and the elevators (it's not hard to see the enemies, but this means that you can not shoot any lights for there are none). This is where the enemy output increases and the more you go down, the more that show up. From floor seven and downward, the elevators become complex and extremely difficult to get from one place to another. While trying to move down, you could be ambushed from other agents coming from other elevators. It requires fast paced thinking and even quicker reflexes to pass through the bottom part of the building. Once you've finished a building, you move onto the next one which is the same set up with either added walls in the escalator part or different elevator layout at the bottom portion of the level. As for the placement of the red doors containing the secret files, they are always randomly placed within the level.

While the game was a milestone when it was released, it certainly hasn't aged well at all with being that there is no real ending. It just gets progressively harder and harder each level and continues until you die, never knowing what those secret documents contain. One of the reasons the game was a hit was it's short yet catchy theme, created by Yoshino Imamura. It is one of the most recognizable arcade themes ever made.

Elevator Action

Elevator Action was ported to several consoles and computers. Sega reprogrammed the game for their SG-1000, and the system's extreme limitations are evident, as the graphics have been downgraded to the point where the characters look like they're wearing footie pajamas. But for being graphical inferior, it plays decently, although it's faster moving and your character jumps incredibly high which makes dodging bullets much easier. The MSX port is definitely the most faithful port compared to the other computer ports, with the only downfall being the graphics, which are still better than the SG-1000 and with a better color pallette (although the enemies don't appear to have skin and blend with the backgrounds, making them appear as though they're ghost inhabiting clothing).

The ZX Spectrum ports has random changes besides graphics, such as throwing more enemies at you at a time, starting you with three lives instead of two, giving you unlimited shooting capabilities instead of three at a time, and an incredible leaping distance. Strangely enough, you can shoot the lights but it won't drop, it'll just becomes dark. The Commodore 64 port is the worst looking of the lot, with a very small playing field compared to every other port and the graphics being awful to the point where the elevator looks more like a giant clam with it's mouth open. While this port also starts you with three lives, it takes a hit in gameplay with weird restrictions such as not being able to crush enemies with an elevator. The worst offense to this port? When you die, you start all the way back at the top of the building, making the whole ordeal more frustrating then it should be.

The Amstrad CPC port has more detail in the character graphics (such as having Agent 17 actually look like the arcade flyer with his blonde pompadour and wearing his red and yellow suit). Other details were added, such as when you shoot an enemy, blood will spill at the bottom of their bodies, or when you retrieve a document, you will pause for a second when you get it to basically strike a pose, although you will not get hit with bullets while Agent 17 is posing. Elevators are ridiculously fast when riding them, sending you down quicker then any other port of the game. Of special note, while the SG-1000 and MSX use the regular arcade theme, the Amstrad CPC and Commodore 64 ports have a new theme that is very action movie-style and is perfectly suited for the game as well. It was composed by David Whittaker, who's most famous work comes from subtune 21 of Lazy Jones, turning into the basis for the popular stadium/dance hit "Kernkraft 400" by Zombie Nation.

An Atari 2600 port was planned but was cancelled possibly due to the video game crash of 1983, but would resurface as a prototype in 2001 at the Classic Gaming Expo. The game was roughly 75-95% complete with incomplete physics (press up to jump and hold to float infinitely), incredibly slow moving elevators and no music or sound. It is however so incredibly close to the arcade original that it's stunning for the hardware. It could have been one of the best ports of an arcade game on the system.

The NES port has a very small color pallette compared to the original, but the graphics do look the same. The music is a depressing downgrade compared to the uplifting original. You run much faster than the arcade version and bullets seem to zip by at an alarming rate as well, but flickering is persistent as with most early NES games. This port is available on the Virtual Console in North America and Japanese territories for Wii, 3DS, and Wii U.

The Game Boy version released in 1991 is not technically a port. It took the basic fundamentals of the arcade game and added new gameplay mechanics, basically making a new game. While the first level is a tiny replica of the arcade (although missing ten floors), every level after that is new, with stuff such as ventilation shafts you can enter to fall down into different floors of the building. With these new levels, there is some back tracking involved to get some of the hard to get documents. The one thing added that greatly helps is the ability to take multiple hits instead of being killed with one scratch. The game introduces heart gauges that indicate how many times you can be hit before a live is taken. You can now jump down one floor and not get hurt at all, although fall more than one and you lose all your hearts.

The other new feature is that besides getting documents in "!" labeled doors (remember, this is on the black and white Game Boy, so no red doors here), you can now enter doors labelled with a "?". Within these doors are weapons or health power-ups that is dependent on what your score is. The weapons range from your regular pistol that you start with, a machine gun that fires two bullets at once and is the fastest gun, the shotgun that can clear an entire line of enemies with one shot, and the COMPLETELY USELESS grenades that is more of a nuisance for you can only throw one at a time and there's the possibility that it will not go off even though you threw it leaving you defenseless. There are now enemy dogs that will charge after you once they've seen you. The elevator cables are gone, so you can jump over elevator shafts without the fear of falling. And now, it's practically impossible to jump over bullets unless the enemy is ducking while shooting. The music is a mono form of the arcade original and while the graphics look good for a Game Boy, the game runs terribly slow, to the point where it feels like it is crawling. Something of a hilarious note is that when you or one of your enemies die, the Game Boy makes a horrendous squeaking noise that is unintentionally funny.

Elevator Action is also available in Taito Legends for PC, PS2, and Xbox in North America and Europe, Taito Legends Power-Up for the PSP, and Taito Memories Vol. 2 for the PS2 in Japan. The original arcade is a hidden bonus in Elevator Action Returns for the Saturn once you beat the game once. It is featured in Elevator Action: Old & New as the "old" version and was modified accordingly to fit the tiny screen (credits and lives are now on the same row as the scores instead of the bottom of the screen) and the music is slightly different with an added bass line, making the theme sound more funky. Finally, it was released as a stand alone title for Japanese PCs. This is pretty much just an emulation of the arcade game.

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Elevator Action (Arcade)

Elevator Action (Arcade)

Elevator Action (Arcade)

Elevator Action (Arcade)

Elevator Action (Arcade)

Elevator Action (Arcade)

Elevator Action (Game Boy)

Elevator Action (Game Boy)


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Comparison Screenshots


<<< Prior Page

Next Page >>>

Page 1:
Elevator Action

Page 2:
Elevator Action II / Elevator Action Returns
Elevator Action EX
Elevator Action: Old & New

Page 3:
Elevator Action 3D
Elevator Action: Death Parade
Elevator Action Deluxe
Mission: Elevator

Back to the Index