Nelsonic made a ton of these watches, and the design was ‘borrowed’ by a number of other manufacturers including Zeon, Piratron, Armitron, Caravelle, Tomy, Microsonic, Artron, Majestron, Alfatronic, Jupiter and others under names like Cosmic Wars, Martian Wars, Space Invaders, Alien Attacker etc.
You’d think that with that many people making them they wouldn’t be all that hard to find today, and they aren’t even some 35 years later, but like all game watches they’ve been played hard so expect to pay big $$$$ for one in working condition, not to mention one with an original box or manual.
Of all of them, the Nelsonic is the one to get if you possibly can though because of the one not-so-subtle difference between the Nelsonic watch and all the others – the music.
On the bottom left side of the watch you can see the word Music – on non-Nelsonic watches this instead says (rather cryptically) LR.
And the music really lifts this watch from being very cool (as the game is fun and quite challenging) to super cool as the melody mashes up the theme of The Twilight Zone and Star Trek (possibly even a little E.T. in there too, although that might be coincidental). The music doesn’t play during the game and it’s a bit random that it plays the first few notes for the hourly chime, but you can hold the bottom left button in to hear the whole tune, or while playing the demo, or when the alarm goes off.
The watch features time & date, alarm, game (actually two – A & B), hourly chime, auto-calendar and a light. It doesn’t have 24-hour time but has a PM indicator in the saucer graphic alongside the alarm symbol.
The chip inside the module hasn’t been covered by the black emulsion that most watches are so there are a lot of exposed wires, thinner than a human hair, that are prone to damage by the unwary having a poke around inside their watch. Battery acid and clumsy repairwork are the biggest killers of these watches, hence why a lot are irrepairable. The usual scenario is someone rediscovers a watch they were first given in 1982 that’s been languishing in a draw for 20+ years and when they open it to change the batteries, find that they’ve leaked everywhere.
If the acid hasn’t made its way to the chip and other key components they watch can be saved, but amateur repairers often pull the module apart, dive in with a cotton bud and isopropyl (or worse, a fibreglass brush, and hit the exposed wires without realising they are there and that’s the end of the watch. On the plus side, it means you can often find a good case if you have a working module but banged-up watch, but that’s not quite as good as having more working Space Attackers in the wild.
So to the game.
There weren’t many dual-LCD watches around in 1981-82 which makes Space Attacker quite unique. Selecting game mode (or demo mode) switches the LCDs around.
You control a fixed-cannon with three shooting positions. Pressing the left button rotates the cannon clockwise through the three positions. Pressing Fire, obviously, fires.
Invaders appear at bottom left and fly (at varying speeds) in a semi-circle around an outer circle at the top of the screen, sometimes firing. Some disappear when they get to the bottom right of the screen, others then fly in a semi-circular pattern anti-clockwise in an inner circle of the screen.
It gets faster, harder quite quickly and it doesn’t take long for you to sustain three hits and your game is over.
Game B is the same, but harder.
Fun game, great watch. Buy one if you can, but prepare to shell out USD100+ for a good working version.
If you want a real challenge, look for the Monster calculator version of the same game!