TV Game


TV Game

Sometimes, when digging around the vast, seemingly endless vault of MAME, you will run into something interesting. Might be some unknown title that turns out to be incredible, and gets added to your “frequently played” rotation. Might be something so shoddy and barely playable that you have to study it. Might be something with hilarious and flagrant abuse of copyright law. It might just be something real weird.

Or, it might be something like SOS.

So what is SOS? It is a vertical shooter from 1979, where you are a large World War 2 era fighter plane shooting down an endless barrage of smaller World War 2 era fighter planes. Every time an enemy fighter passes the bottom of the screen, it adds 1 to a little counter on your HUD. Getting 100 is an automatic game over. However, every so often, a little Morse code “SOS!” will appear on one side of the screen, and touching that will take 9 fighters off of that tally. So the object of the game is to shoot as much stuff as soon as possible, easier said than done when you can only have one bullet on screen at a time, and answer the SOS calls to mitigate the odds against you.


That’s it. That’s the whole game. It’s very simple; nothing too different or deeper than something you could play on a Game & Watch within a year. It is also very, very boring. A slow, monotonous game where you shoot one enemy type forever. SOS lacks things that would make contemporary games like Space Invaders or Galaxian timeless stand outs. No formations, no enemy patterns, no hidden mechanics that get you more points or let you skip levels, nothing. Shoot until you lose all your lives from enemies colliding into you. Shoot until that number on the bottom hits 100. Shoot until you fall asleep from boredom.

Now, SOS is not a good game, but it has something very special, which justifies me covering it for this site. You see, every time you score 2000 points, the game will be interrupted, and you’ll be taken to a special screen. This is the “Coffee Break.”

You get rewarded with a bikini-clad woman in sunglasses. Now, you get this screen again at 4000 points as well. But what happens when you get to 6000 points?

Hachi machi…


Okay, okay. This is not enough for me. What happens if I go all the way to the big 10k?



Yes folks, SOS is a porn game. A porn game in 1979. A search online leads me to believe that this could very well be the very first erotic video game. If not, it’s one of them. SOS came out a year before Sierra Online’s Softporn Adventure. Two years before the PC-88’s library of erotic visual novels. This is actually a pretty important piece of history! Especially with the knowledge I am about to drop. I admittedly have been a bit cagey about posting the title screen or naming the developers, because I wanted to surprise you. This isn’t just a terrible shooter by some fly-by-night company that’s been out of business longer than I’ve been alive, this is a game by Namco.

Let me reiterate that this was 1979. Namco’s Galaxian came out the same year. Pac-Man would be released within seven months. In-between, here is this lo-fi, monochrome game with a nude woman in it. This might be a footnote in Namco’s history, or even arcade history itself, but it’s still a footnote worth pointing out. Not only is this probably the first erotic game, but it’s also Namco’s one and only outright pornographic game. There is no other information about SOS’ development, no interviews or the like, so there’s no real reason given as to how or why this game came to be. My current theory is that this is Namco experimenting with cheaper games with sex appeal just in case Galaxian turned out to be a financial failure.

Now that this is all out in the open, I can finally give the last reason why SOS is so fucking boring. Remember, I needed 10,000 points to see that woman without any clothes on. Shooting down enemy fighters gets you ten (10) points. If I wanted to see two dots and a Y-shaped line and let my imagination run wild from there, I would have to take out one thousand enemies. Granted, you can also get extra points from the SOS calls, but those only net you thirty (30) points. Getting the final Coffee Break for this entry took more than one try (this game does get pretty hard the closer you get to seeing the goods), and I contemplated setting up a save state in MAME and finishing the game the next day because I thought I was about to fall asleep.

So while SOS is a shitty game that has a unique historical significance, there is one positive I’ll bring up: the actual nudity itself. I need to bring up the year again: this was 1979. Game graphics were so rudimentary during this period; it’s illustrated in this game itself, with the fighter planes looking just enough like fighter planes that our eyes aren’t confused by what we’re seeing. Human-shaped graphics weren’t really a thing at this time, and the few games that did have humans in them, they were never more than stick figures (see example: Taito’s Lunar Rescue, also a ’79 release). Graphics had to be small and minimalist by necessity, as the hardware could not handle anything too complex; games were not too far removed from having to draw graphics directly onto on-board discreet circuits. There’s a reason why Pac-Man’s character design is that of a yellow circle. For Namco to have a character as large and as detailed as this woman is actually very impressive, at least on a technical level. As goofy as this may sound here in 2024, there was work and effort put into these screens. There is a nude woman that actually looks like a nude woman! I can only begin to imagine the headache of putting all this together. Plus the sprite itself actually looks pretty good. You’ll never jerk off to it, but it has a sense of style that’s honestly a little ahead of its time. It’s cool. I mean, the game is bad, but this one particular art asset is cool.