The Legacy of Tron (updated)

Pixelcade on Thursday, 16 December 2010. Posted in Retro Game of the Week

Editor's Note: I wasn't alive when Tron came out, but Pixelcade's youth was touched by both the original film and the many games it spawned. Check out this detailed run-down of the franchise, which is fused as always with a personal history. -mossy_11

1982 -- Robotron 2084 was driving people crazy fighting the hordes of robots bent on our destruction, Men at Work were asking “Who Can It Be Now,” and a young programmer/hacker named Kevin Flnn (Jeff Bridges) decided to hack into ENCOM. This would be the start of a great adventure into 3D graphics in film and a franchise that has a huge niche market around the world.

The movie Tron started as an animated feature, but cooler heads prevailed and Lisberger Studios pushed for live action and 3D technology well ahead of its time. It was all about sucking the player into the game and virtual world -- something today's viewing audience takes for granted. On July 9, 1982 Tron earned over $33 million -- in the U.S. alone -- and spawned what we are starting to see come back full circle this December 16th.



tron-posterThe basic concept of the movie Tron is simple. *SPOILERS* Kevin Flynn is sucked into the computer mainframe. As a program. Each program is represented by a person. The programs believe the users are gods. However, the main antagonist Sark is forcing them to lose this belief and instead worship the Master Control Program (MCP). Through gladiator style games, programs fight -- with the losers “de-rezzed” (killed).

Flynn refuses to fight and is able to escape using the famed light cycle and a hole in the arena, which formed from the crash of another cycle. If you saw the very early trailer for this movie you’d have noticed the player escape the other cycle through a cracked hole in a wall at the end of the course. I believe this is the same hole, but there is nothing to back that up. Flynn befriends another program called RAM, who winds up dying. He is persuaded to take down the MCP. Using his light discs, he is able to destroy the MCP and Sark. I/O towers light up across the Tron world, allowing programs to communicate with their users and thus breaking the hold of the MCP. Flynn comes out of the game world and the movie ends... or does it?

From this one movie we were given a soundtrack and two books -- one of which is an outstanding art book for the movie. About 2005 or 2006 I believe there was a short comic book series known as Tron: Ghost in the Machine. It takes place after Tron 2.0, which I talk about below. We were also given many video games from this one single movie and many cameos across the ages. Atari was going to produce the game in the movie Flynn programmed called Space Paranoids. But the video game crash shut this idea down.

However, at a promotional event for the movie, there were many full sized arcade cabinets for this game working and playable in a replica of Flynn's Arcade at 2009 Comic Con. (Oh how badly did I want to be there for that.)


Tron (the arcade game)

tron_menu_screenWho has not seen this game? It’s an iconic cabinet! Neon blue, light up controller, artwork from the movie, many games in one, and, at times, hard as hell.

The games included the I/O Tower, MCP Cone, Battle Tanks, Light Cycles, and Recognizers. At the completion of each game you would be given a keyword to say your level of play. As a kid seeing that game, hearing the music and basic sounds sent me over the edge. It just somehow made me put quarters into it only to die about 2 minutes later. Be grateful most of you won’t have to keep shelling out your allowance for it.

Discs_of_Tron_FlyerIf that didn’t get you pumped, imagine an immersive cabinet with neon blue that you sat in and went head to head with other programs throwing your disc’s. Yes, the one and only, often duplicated on home systems, Discs of Tron game. Again, money just fell from my pockets into this environmental cabinet.

As I said these games were ported home on many systems -- such as Atari 2600, Commodore 64, and Intellivision. But they just couldn’t hold up when my local arcade was down the street. From my discussions with many other classic gamers, it seems the Intellivision version of Discs of Tron is the best out there. So give it a try if you have the means.

Tron 2.0

2003 has come and gone, but to the Tron fan it left one thing that is part of the overall lore: Tron 2.0. It was a first-person shooter. I have not played this game as I wasn’t and still am not a fan of FPS games, but reading about it makes me want to just play through to see what happens. A new person is pulled into the world to fight a computer virus. The virus is named the Corruptor. From what I’ve read, it includes light cycles, battle tanks, and recognizer battle modes. There are also tons of mini games and the original Tron and Discs of Tron games.


Tron's presence in video games from then on was mostly in the form of cameos. Kingdom Hearts II features a world known as Space Paranoids and is set in the Tron world. My friends that have played the game said the level was a let-down, but none of them were Tron fans. What are your thoughts?

There was also a Tron Game Grid released for the Wii. This game crushed my faith in the franchise marketing. The game looks like a Nick Jr. game, with everyone smiling, and it contains horrible renditions of the original games.


Video games aside, lets talk about some toys!!! The original licensed toys were very basic plastic on a grid like backer card. I have a sealed SARK on my wall right now and a yellow light cycle on my shelf.

As I write this, I look up and remember a simpler time when I didn’t need batteries to light up a toy -- make it from a translucent plastic and let the light in the room do it! There were not many toys for this line. It just didn’t ring with the kids the way I thought it should have. They re-released them all in the early 2000s in the same packages and at about the same price. Nowadays, if you go to any store you will probably see ten thousand Tron toys. They light up, make sounds, come in interesting packages, and cost… ohhhhh… $10-$30.

This is a rant for another day, though, my dear readers. I can’t even afford to buy a new Clu or Flynn at that rate.

Tron: Legacy

11:55 p.m. December 15th. Here I sit in a theatre waiting for the biggest movie of the year in my geek mind. The theatre has a good crowd; I arrived early to ensure a good seat with my friend. Half appears full of true fans -- I get confirmation when I yell "Flynn lives" and they respond. The rest sit there with a blank look in their eyes, as if to say, "who the hell is Flynn?"

The row behind me is filled with 7 late teen girls doing the OMG thing. Having to see every movie that there is a trailer for. I can see in their minds they're thinking, "this is gonna be like the matrix with neon right?" Yes, yes it is, ladies. The rest are here because the trailer looked cool and they must not have had anything else to do.

The movie was shot in 2D and 3D and the transition between the two is unreal when it happens. I'm not a fan at all of 3D movies but no movie deserves it more than TRON. There were no cheesy things thrown at the viewer or things to show the viewer, "hey this is 3D! Thanks for the extra $2.50 on the ticket."

I'm not going to go into the movie except to say I enjoyed it. It was midline. Neither good nor bad, but it sure did tie up loose ends and had some really interesting effects.

I'd love to do a review but it just hit and I don't want to go into detail with what I saw or the nerd stuff that most people probably didn't pick up on.

Later all.

So tell me, do you remember Tron? Did it impact your Sci-Fi life? Are you excited to see the new one (as I am)? Speak up people!

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