‘Tempest 4000’ Arrives on Nintendo Switch

Hungry for some more electric death? Well, Nintendo now has you covered with the recent release of Tempest 4000 for Nintendo Switch.

Tempest 4000 for Nintendo Switch (Image by Skip Owens)

You might be saying to yourself that Tempest 4000 isn’t new and you would be right. It was actually released in 2018 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Windows-based PCs. However, it wasn’t until March 22, 2022 that it finally made its way to the Nintendo Switch.

The original Tempest video game was designed by Dave Theurer and released by Atari as an arcade game in 1981. It was known for its innovative use of Atari’s Color-QuadraScan vector display technology as well as giving the player the option to start the game at various levels within the game (rather than always having to start on the first and easiest level).

Over the years, Tempest has found its way into pop culture. Most notably, it was featured in the 1982 Rush music video for “Subdivisions” and also played a significant role in the plot of the book Ready Player One. I wrote about Tempest here at GeekDad in the article “The Video Games of Ready Player One” and also reviewed the Replicade 12” 1/6-scale replica of the original Tempest arcade cabinet game.

The basic game of Tempest works like this. The video game has a spaceship called a “blaster” that travels around the outside edge of varying vector shapes and the enemies enter the game from the center of that shape and make their way outward. The goal is for the player to maneuver and shoot the “blaster” ship and destroy the enemies before they destroy you. The idea for the game came from the game designer’s nightmare, in which he dreamed there were monsters crawling out of a hole in the ground. It wasn’t until 1994 when Jeff Minter was authorized by Atari to create a sequel, Tempest 2000 and then in the year 2000 he created and released Tempest 3000. Both of the sequel games had the same basic premise but with Tempest 2000 you got updated graphics by adding bonus levels, power-ups and new enemy types and Tempest 3000 brought new web designs, webs that move and re-form, a missile fire option and bonus stages.

What Does Tempest 4000 Bring to the Table?

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Like the previous sequel versions Tempest 4000 brings new graphics (but this time in 4K resolution) and offers three different game modes: Pure, Survival, and Classic.

The soundtrack for Tempest 4000 is a mix of the original Tempest 2000 1990’s era techno music as well as some of the music from the TxK game (a game similar to Tempest but not considered a sequel and also developed by Jeff Minter).

Just one of the many songs available on the Tempest 4000 soundtrack that plays during the various stages (Image by Skip Owens)

Tempest 4000 Game Play

If you have ever played any version of Tempest over the years, then the game play will be very familiar as the Tempest 4000 game mechanics really aren’t that much different from the original. As mentioned earlier, there are three different game modes: Pure, Survival, and Classic. Pure mode is similar to the original Tempest arcade game where you start at Level 1 with 3 lives and play through the levels. Survival mode starts you out at Level 1, but with 9 lives instead of 3 and Classic mode lets you start at any level you have previously reached within the game with the number of lives you had at that level before you failed to progress. So the Classic mode is a good way to see all of the levels of the game without having to actually survive playing through all the levels in progression.

Fighting to stay alive within the Tempest 4000 game (Image by Skip Owens)

This version of Tempest, unfortunately, falls down where almost every version falls down and that is with the game controls. Tempest, when played on an arcade cabinet with a rotary controller, is fantastic. You can really fine tune your eye hand coordination because the rotary controller can instantly respond to controller input and the controls are incredibly intuitive. But that simply doesn’t translate well into a joystick or control pad inputs. Maybe I haven’t logged enough hours playing the game just yet, but especially on the closed shape stages I still have very small reaction delays when navigating 360-degrees around the edge of a shape with a control pad that only had up-down-left-right. Maybe it is just me and my middle-aged brain that has been spoiled with playing the original Tempest in the arcade.


Overall, despite the undesirable controls, I really do enjoy playing Tempest 4000. The graphics are fantastic and the retro soundtrack is a perfect fit for the cataclysm of visual input you get as you blast your way through each level. If you already own a copy on Tempest 2000 or 3000 on another platform, this may not be an upgrade you really need given the similar game play. But that being said, for me having the ability to play an updated graphics version of Tempest on the Nintendo Switch is worth the price of admission.

Tempest 4000 is available for electronic download from the Nintendo online store and retails for $19.99.

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This post was last modified on May 15, 2022 9:10 pm

Skip Owens

A rocket-scientist, father of 3, amateur astronomer, piano/keyboard player and soon to be sci-fi author who wears his geek badge with pride.

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