Gauntlet is a fantasy-themed hack and slash arcade game which can be played by one to four players simultaneously, unique for arcade games of its day. Released during the emergence of popularity of role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons, the game was a sensation, being the first true dungeon crawl arcade game.
A player may control either Thor the Warrior, Merlin the Wizard, Thyra the Valkyrie or Questor the Elf. The hero being controlled is dictated by the player's position on the cabinet. (There is only one of each hero.) Each hero has a unique specialty/advantage: The Warrior is strongest in hand-to-hand combat, the Wizard has the strongest magic, the Valkyrie has the greatest armour and the Elf is the fastest in movement.
Players must cooperate to traverse the perils of a dungeon via a top-down view. The game has no actual goal. The only way to stop playing is to either die, or wait for the health timer to go down to zero. The NES version does, however, have an end (after 100 levels).
The players traverse the dungeon levels controlling their assigned heroes, attacking monsters and collecting treasure, food, and potions. The monsters of the first Gauntlet game included ghosts, grunts, demons, lobbers, sorcerers, and thieves. Each kind of monster was generated in specific houses spread in each level. A special enemy, "Death", was able to drain the life force of the four heroes. The players must cooperate by sharing food and luring monsters into places where they can be engaged and slaughtered more conveniently. The heroes continuously lose health during gameplay, regardless of what they are doing—even if they are just standing still. Heroes lose even more health when attacked by monsters. Besides finding food in the dungeon, players can add health by depositing more coins. Gauntlet was thus notorious for being a money gobbler when it first appeared, since players desperately shoved in handfuls of coins in order to avoid being ejected from the game and sometimes waiting hours in line in order to play again.
One of the game's features was the narrator's voice, which was produced by a Texas Instruments TMS5220C speech chip. The narrator would frequently make statements repeating the game's rules, including: "Shots do not hurt other players (yet)," "Remember, don't shoot food!", "Elf—shot the food!", and "Warrior needs food—badly!" Occasionally, the narrator would encourage (or mock) the players in the thick of battle by saying, "I've not seen such bravery!" or "Let's see you get out of here!" A memorable statement of the game occurred when a player's "life force" points fell below 200: "Your life force is running out" or "Valkyrie is about to die!" Some of the game's statements are humorously ambiguous due to limited memory, such as "You are full of bombs and/or keys." This referred to the fact that a player could only carry a limited total number of bombs and keys; if there were more doors in the level than the player had keys, the game was programmed to unlock all of the doors if the player rested for a certain period of time, during which his or her health timer would tick down. A similar feature turned all of the walls into exits, although the players had to wait without moving for a much longer period.
To accommodate up to four players, the cabinet is wider than other standard uprights. Each player had a joystick and two buttons, one for "Fire" (to attack) and one for "Magic". The Magic button also started the game. After Gauntlet's release, other games started using this design, so it was a popular conversion target for newer games after it had its run.
Controversy came after the release of this game in the arcade and subsequently ported to the Nintendo NES system. Ed Logg, the creator of Asteroids and Centipede is credited for Original Game Design of Gauntlet in the arcade version, as well as the 1985 NES release version. After its release, John Palevich threatened a lawsuit, asserting that the original concept for the game was from Dandy (later Dandy Dungeon), a game for the Atari 800 computer written by Palevich in 1983. The conflict was settled without any suit being filed, with Atari Games doing business as Tengen allegedly awarding Palevich a Gauntlet game machine. Logg is taken off this credit in versions subsequent to the 1985 NES release. While he is credited as "special thanks" through 1986, his name is entirely removed from credits on later releases. Logg currently claims no involvement in any of the Gauntlet series. The game Dandy which was the basis for the threatened lawsuit was later reworked by Atari and re-published for the Atari 2600, Atari 7800 and Atari XE as Dark Chambers in 1988, subsequent to the release of Gauntlet II in 1987. (Wikipedia)