Tyrian - Box
Cover art
Developer(s) World Tree Games
Publisher(s) Epic Megagames
Version 1.10
Platform(s) Windows
Release date(s) 1995
Genre(s) Vertically-scrolling shooter
Media Floppy disk

Tyrian is a scrolling shooter computer game developed by World Tree Games Productions and published in 1995 by Epic MegaGames.

The game was officially released as freeware in 2004, and the graphics were made available under an open license in April 2007.

Tyrian was programmed by Jason Emery, illustrated by Daniel Cook, and its music composed by Alexander Brandon and Andras Molnar.


The game is set in the year 20,031. You play the role of a skilled terraforming pilot named Trent Hawkins, who is employed to scout out habitable locations on newly terraformed planets. His latest assignment is the planet Tyrian, which is located near the territory of the Hazudra, who are a lizard-like race.

One day, Buce Quesillac, a Hazudra and Trent's best friend, is shot in the back by a hoverdrone which quickly disappears into the sky. Buce lives just long enough to tell Trent that the attack was the work of MicroSol, the giant corporation who controls the terraformation of Tyrian. They want Buce dead because of his knowledge of Gravitium, which is a special mineral, unique to Tyrian, able to control the force of gravity.

Microsol want to use Gravitium to power their warships, which could result in them becoming nearly unstoppable. They will stop at nothing to eliminate anyone who knows of its existence. Trent is the next person on their hit list, and Buce implores him to try to reach Savara, a free world. With that, Buce dies. Trent manages to secure a small fighter, and departs for Savara.


Tyrian is an arcade-style vertical scrolling shooter. It was developed chiefly as a homage to the works of Compile, particularly their Zanac.

The player controls a space ship fitted with different weapons (front and back, linked to the same button, and up to two external pods with their own buttons) and other equipment. The game is mostly fast-paced but easily memorizable and it presents a variety of enemies (some flying, some fixed, some on rails) and bosses, with many occurrences of fixed and/or indestructible obstacles. Before the player's starship is destroyed it must take enough damage to exhaust several points of shields (which regenerate over time) and armor.

Tyrian's Full Game mode features a credit and equipment-buying system, and the shield/armor hit points which are similar to game mechanics in Raptor: Call of the Shadows, another PC game from the same period. Tyrian also features an Arcade Mode which has characteristics from coin-op arcade shooters, such as in-game powerups and extra lives.

Tyrian was a departure from the prevalent "serious" style of shooters like Raptor and Aero Fighters, due to the cartoon-like artwork and the abundance of silly (or at least strange) dialogue and content. The bonus levels in Episodes 1 and 2 were meant as a tribute to Galaxian or Galaga, where there are large formations of enemy ships that gradually break off one by one to attack the player.


There are several levels of difficulty to choose from: Easy, Medium, Hard, as well as the hidden options of Impossible, Suicide, and Lord of the Game. Hard difficulty and above employ enemies with more health as well as fire more bullets per second. Certain hidden levels are only available at hard difficulty, which provide ample opportunities for unique powerups and upgrades. In certain levels, the Hard setting also prevents the player from seeing enemies outside a conical line-of-sight. Upon completion of the game, the player receives a password for one of the several hidden ships, as well as the options for replaying the game at a higher difficulty setting.

Full Story ModeEdit

The main mode is the Single Player Full Story mode. This mode also includes storyline-related messages for the player to read, some are given in the shop at the start of the level while others can be picked up by destroying certain enemies to reveal more of the plot or get helpful hints. At certain points in the game, the player has a choice of levels to choose from which may suit the weaponry on their ship, such as Asteroids 1 (lots of big asteroids) or Asteroids 2 (few asteroids but lots of defensive turrets) in Episode 1.

The player begins with one standard weapon, which may be upgraded or replaced by a large variety of weapons, including weapons such as multi-directional cannons, lightning guns, beam lasers, heavy missiles, and homing bombs. The player's craft can accommodate a front and a rear gun; where front weapons are mostly limited to forward arcs, "rear" weapons often come with wider coverage including side and rear shots. In addition, some rear weapons have two selectable fire modes, focusing either mostly forward or mostly sideways/rearward. Both types of weapons have eleven levels, making them upgradeable 10 times, although higher levels cost exponentially more.

Further, the player can purchase up to two "sidekicks" which fly alongside the ship, and some of these can be fired independently of the main guns. Some sidekicks are intended to provide a very limited but extremely powerful firepower at a critical moment such as bosses (i.e. the plasma storm which causes extreme damage but has very low ammo), other sidekicks can be considered extra regular firepower such as the unlimited ammo Vulcan Sidekick, and many sidekicks fall between the two extremes. Some sidekicks such as the Charge Laser can be "charged up" (the player waits a few seconds before firing) to release a much more powerful burst.

Other upgrades include increased shields, more powerful generators which can increase firing rate as well as shield recharge, and ships with more armour and/or higher maneuverability.

The practical function of shops is not trade or forcing the player to carefully micromanage credits, instead letting the player build a strong ship on a budget with no penalty for failing and trying a different build. Any weapon can be upgraded in stores, even if not available for sale, and any item can be sold without loss. However, the player cannot obtain sold items again without reaching another level which offers them, in many cases a single secret level in the whole game may contain a unique weapon or equipment. The choice of the weapons and ships depends on personal style and level needs.

Arcade ModeEdit

In Arcade mode, the player picks up the front guns, rear guns, and sidekicks along the way, instead of purchasing by earning money. Front weapons are upgraded by picking up purple bubbles from destroyed enemies. The number of purple orbs required increases exponentially to advance to higher power levels. Front and rear guns can also be upgraded to the next level by picking up powerup pods, which are found by destroying a certain enemy (often a secret). There is also a limited variety of weapons, unlike the Full Story mode.

The ship, shields, and generators are not upgradeable, although the player is given a medium attribute ship.

Single player-arcade interchangeabilityEdit

It is possible to switch between the Single Player and (1 person) Arcade modes using a secret routine (not cheat codes). Since it is possible to find exotic weapons early in Arcade Mode (by contrast in Single Player, such weapons can only be bought at the end), using this switch will allow such weapons to be brought over to Single Player. Likewise, generator and shield upgrades from Single Player will result in a better ship for Arcade Mode.

Two PlayerEdit

In the two player (arcade mode only), the players control two different ships, known as the "Dragonhead" and "Dragonwing". Both players can combine their ships into one, forming the "Steel Dragon", with the first player controlling the combined ship, and the second player controlling a turret. Tyrian even enables the two players to be connected via modem.

Both ships had differing abilities. The Dragonhead has front gun powerups (with more variety than the Dragonwing's rear gun pickups), has better maneuverability, and a smaller profile making it easier to dodge enemy fire. It also controls the "special" powerup weapons such as the Soul of Zinglon or Repulsor.

The Dragonwing is larger and slower but more heavily armored. It picks up the rear up powerups (although unlike the equivalent Single Player rear gun, the Dragonwing fires it mostly forward instead of the side or rear), and also controls the sidekick weapons. The Dragonwing has a unique "charge-up" ability for its main gun, where if the player decides not to fire for a short period of time, the power of their blast will accumulate. This is visibly shown as 1) blue particles gathering in front of the ship, culminating with a blue sphere with two orbiting particles in the front of the ship, and 2) green lights moving in succession on the control board on the right of the screen. There are five charge levels for each weapon, and collecting the spherical purple powerups will give the Dragonwing the ability to charge-up faster, to the point where the maximum charge is reached within a second or two.

Timed BattleEdit

In this mode, available in Tyrian 2000 only, the player chooses from three levels to play in (Deliani, Space station and Savara). The game automatically starts and the player is given a set time to complete the level, while collecting power-ups, fighting off enemies and killing the boss. When the level is complete, the score is calculated depending on time, life, destruction and killed enemies.

Super ArcadeEdit

The game also features 7 (9 in Tyrian 2000) hidden Super Arcade modes (with specialized ships), requiring the user to type in certain codewords which are shown after beating the game. (The first code is given by beating the regular game, and each consecutive code is given after beating the mode which comes before it.)

Super TyrianEdit

This mode, which is enabled by typing "engage" at the title screen, disables all cheat codes and command parameters and sets the difficulty to Lord of Game (or Suicide if the Scroll Lock key is held down). The player possesses a Stalker 21.126 ship, along with a small shield and only one weapon, the Atomic Rail Gun. No other weapons are available; however the ship is able to generate many different weapons when the player performs particular sequences of movements and weapon-firing.

The "headlight effect" is always turned on in Super Tyrian, which can obscure objects that are not within a 90-degree field of view in front of the player's ship.



"Destruct" is a minigame concealed inside Tyrian, reminiscent of Scorched Earth, with human-vs-human and human-vs-computer modes of play. It can be played by typing destruct at the main menu screen.

Zinglon's AleEdit

In this game, players must try to gather as much ale as possible, while dodging wave after wave of bouncing enemies, and clearing the screen of enemies fully before advancing to the next level. If not cleared, the game continues infinitely while growing ever harder.

Zinglon's SquadronsEdit

A game similar to Galaxian or Galaga. Large formations of ships fly down to attack. Individual ships in the groups break off to fly down in various ways. Players must destroy the whole fleet to advance to the next fleet; basically, they must shoot everything possible.

Players must shoot all the small enemies to advance to the next level.

Zinglon's RevengeEdit

A giant ship projects a horizontal field of energy. Small enemies fall down from above and bounce around the edges of the screen and against the energy field. Touching the field or one of the small enemies means almost certain instant death.

Players must shoot all the small enemies to advance to the next level.


Tyrian was developed by a credited total of 11 people, with "three main drivers" — Alexander Brandon (composer and writer), Jason Emery (programmer and level designer), and Daniel Cook (artist and interface designer). For the aforementioned developers, Tyrian was their first commercial video game.[2][3]

The origins of Tyrian began as an experiment in 1991, with a young Jason Emery showing his friend Alexander Brandon the preliminary workings of a scrolling background. The two continued developing, and eventually decided the work could be shown to a game company. Brandon wrote a proposal document and sent it to the two leading shareware game publishers of the time, Epic MegaGames and Apogee. However, the game lacked any sound or music, and the graphics were "definitely not professional". As such, "neither got overly excited", but both showed interest.

The two developers thought they would never find a publisher. However, after a long wait, Robert Allen—head of Safari Software—considered Tyrian to fit perfectly with their company, which handled smaller scale projects. Robert Allen had word from Cliff Bleszinski that Tyrian was very similar to Zanac, thinking that it should be followed up.

Robert Allen gave leads to sound coders and artists, the first being Bruce Hsu who created interface graphics and character faces. Artist Daniel Cook was hired after composer Alexander Brandon showed interest in his artwork, which was—unbeknown to Cook—"sent around" by a friend. After he was sent a short list of levels, Cook created sample artwork on an Amiga 1200. It was met with praise by the other developers, who asked him to "make some more!". The artwork was completed in a 4-month period.[2][4]

After work began on graphics, the popularity of Tyrian rose at Epic MegaGames. Arturo Sinclair from Storm Front Studios joined to create rendered artwork for planets and character faces. The developers wanted a "simple and fun" interface, and changed it at least three times before deciding on a final design. At this point, Tyrian was almost complete; with the "Loudness" sound system, near-completed sound effects, and a marketing plan head by Mark Rein. At this time, Tim Sweeney approached the team and informed them Tyrian was to be published as a full-fledged Epic MegaGames product. It was later released in 1995.

Versions and re-releasesEdit


Version 1.0 was originally released as shareware, which consists of episode 1 of the game.

Version 1.1 includes following:

  • Support for DMA 3 and MIDI port 300
  • Control bug fix
  • Random lockup, runtime error fix
  • Level, ship fixes

Version 1.1 was the first published as registered version, consists of first 3 episodes. Registered version also included ship editor, which was later available as separate download.

Version 2.0 added following:

  • Additional Episode 4 (An End to Fate) in registered version
  • Two-player mode
  • New ships, weapons
  • New game modes: Super Tyrian
  • New game difficulty: Lord of Game
  • Level, shop item changes for prior episodes
  • New bonus games: Zinglon's Ale (episode 1), Zinglon's Squadron (episode 3), Zinglon's Squadrons (episode 4)

Version 2.01/2.1 has following changes:

  • keyboard bug fix
  • Christmas mode, triggered by starting the game in December

Tyrian 2000 (3.0)Edit

In 1999, Tyrian was re-released as Tyrian 2000, which includes an additional fifth episode and bug fixes.

Additional ships include Phoenix II, Storm, Red Dragon, Pretzel Pete Truck (from the Pretzel Pete video game published by XSIV Games). Datacube TRANSMISSION SOURCE: Epic Megagames game and was renamed to TRANSMISSION SOURCE: XSIV Games with Pretzel Pete game ad (however, other references to Epic Megagames titles remain).

Although it claims Windows compatibility, this is achieved using a .PIF file, not by building a native Windows application.

Game Boy releasesEdit

World Tree Games originally developed versions for the Game Boy Colo] and Game Boy Advance were in development, but after the then current publisher Symmetry Entertainment had closed business, the European publisher Stealth Productions, Inc. (Stealth Media Group, Inc.) obtained the publish rights, but it was canceled.

Both Game Boy versions were eventually released in compiled format.

In the Game Boy Color version, the Full Game incorporates a shorter stories (from Episodes 1-4) than the original DOS game, but planet Ixmucane core always gets destroyed at the end, and the levels were redesigned. The rear weapon from the DOS game is not available. The player can carry 2 Sidekick weapons at once, but only 1 is usable at a time. New game modes and items can be unlocked by purchasing Extras using credits obtained by completing a stage.

The Game Boy Advance version incorporates graphics from the DOS game, but the level layout and game play are based on the Game Boy Color game. Two Sidekick weapons can be fired at the same time. Super Arcade and audio are not included. New to this game is Challenge mode, where additional levels are unlocked by completing existing Challenge levels.


In February 2007 the Pascal source code for Tyrian was licensed for a small group of developers to re-write it in C, in a project named OpenTyrian, licensed under the GNU General Public License. There are no plans of releasing the original source code. Following that announcement, in April 2007 Daniel Cook announced the free availability of his Tyrian artwork (not including the later work for the Game Boy Color edition and for Tyrian 2000) under generic liberal terms.


The music of Tyrian was created by Alexander Brandon with additional music by Andras Molnar, and is in the LDS (Loudness Sound System) format. Tyrian 2000 CD includes 25 of the tracks in red book audio format. The red book tracks are omitted from the freeware version due to the download size.

Alexander Brandon released the music of Tyrian for free in August 2010.

References to other video gamesEdit

  • The data cubes found in the game's Full Mode contain various references to its parent publisher(s), including One Must Fall 2097, Jazz Jackrabbit, Pretzel Pete (Tyrian 2000).
  • The Pretzel Pete Truck and its weapon is a reference to the Pretzel Pete video game.
  • The graphics are similar to games of Compile (publisher) like Zanac and Blazing Lazers (pyramids, bubbles, brains ...)
  • The Music tracks ZANAC3 and ZANAC5 are reproductions of two songs from the old MSX/NES game Zanac.
  • The Music track One Mustn't Fall is a reference to One Must Fall 2097.


Tyrian was generally well-received, scoring 87% in PC Gamer (one percent below their Editor's Choice award) and 4 out of 5 stars in Next Generation. Computer Gaming World nominated Tyrian as "Action Game of the Year". The original developers Jason Emery and Alexander Brandon considered Tyrian's reception "far more" than their expectations.

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