Arcade / Stern Electronics 1980


“Berzerk” is a classic arcade game developed by Stern Electronics and released in 1980. The game is known for its pioneering use of speech synthesis, featuring synthesized speech for the robots and other effects. In “Berzerk,” players navigate a character through a maze-like layout filled with robotic enemies. The objective is to destroy robots while avoiding their shots and collisions with them or the electrified walls of the maze. The gameplay is simple yet challenging, with the addition of an indestructible enemy called “Evil Otto” that relentlessly pursues the player, adding a sense of urgency to the game.

The development of “Berzerk” was led by Alan McNeil, an employee of Stern Electronics. McNeil’s inspiration for the game reportedly came from a dream about a black-and-white video game featuring shooting robots. “Berzerk” was one of the first video games to use speech synthesis, which at the time was a novel and highly innovative feature. The game’s voice synthesizer could generate about 30 words and phrases, which gave personality to the game and was a significant draw for players. This feature was groundbreaking, as it was one of the earliest examples of computer speech in a video game.

Upon its release, “Berzerk” was well-received in arcades and became one of the most popular games of its time. Its success was attributed to its addictive gameplay, challenging levels, and the novelty of its speech synthesis. The game appealed to a wide audience and is often remembered for its distinctive robotic voice effects, which were a significant technological achievement at the time.

“Berzerk” was ported to several home gaming systems, including the Atari 2600 and Vectrex. The Atari 2600 version was particularly well-received and is considered one of the console’s classic titles. A sequel to the game, “Frenzy,” followed in 1982, featuring new level designs, more speech synthesis, and additional gameplay features. “Berzerk” and “Frenzy” have influenced numerous other games in the shooter and maze genres.

In terms of rarity and collectibility, original “Berzerk” arcade machines are considered rare and sought after by collectors. The production numbers for the game are not well-documented, but it is known that the game was quite popular, which could imply a significant number of units were produced. However, due to the age of the game, finding an original machine in good working condition can be challenging. The value of a “Berzerk” machine varies based on condition and originality, with fully functional and well-maintained units fetching higher prices.

The hardware specifications of “Berzerk” include a Zilog Z80 CPU, which was common in many arcade games of the era. The game’s distinctive speech synthesis was powered by a Votrax SC-01 speech synthesizer chip. Key components for repair and maintenance include the CPU, the speech synthesizer chip, the game’s ROM chips, power supply, control panel with joystick and fire button, and the CRT monitor. Due to the age of these components, maintenance often involves replacing capacitors, reflowing solder joints, and repairing or replacing old wiring. Finding replacement parts can be a challenge and often requires sourcing from other non-functioning arcade machines or specialized suppliers who cater to vintage arcade restoration.

Arcade Video Game Price and Field Guide:

Dedicated Upright, Cocktail
Genre: Shooter, Maze, Run and Gun

Upright (17,000 +/- Manufactured)

Lower – 800
Average – 1100
Higher – 1350

Cocktail(Estimated 2,000 +/- Manufactured)

Lower – 750
Average – 925
Higher – 1100

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