To let you in on a little behind the scenes information, I have a big ol' list of these games, including what their primary format is, whether I've already played them, notes and memories of playing them and so on. I know so little of Juno First that I've actually written it down as Juno Fist, which goes some way to explaining why I couldn't find it anything on Wikipedia.
I did see my error though (I didn't flatten all the vowels but I threw the 'r' away), corrected it and was very pleased to find out that it was a space-themed space shooter. Huzzah. I love space shooters, so I hoped with all my might that Juno First had done something different, something truly out of this world in order to stand out amongst the many, many other space shooters.
It did not disappoint...
Look at that. That's my ship respawning after losing a life. It's a spectacle and you've not even seen it in motion yet. It is safe to say the graphics make Juno First stand out. You don't see a star filled background, but channels of lights denoting two important things for your gameplay: the horizon, and your place on the playing field. Watch it in motion below, paying attention to how those lines move as your ship moves left and right.
It may be faux-3D, but that subtle illusion of depth makes Juno First pop out. It's a simple enough visual trick - my phone wallpaper has that kind of effect to give an illusion of 3D, it's not sorcery - but one that makes for a more visually interesting game right from the off. But lights alone don't make for a great game; the gameplay must hold up too.
Being a space shooter, you're not going to have a hard time working out that you can shoot alien spacecraft who will shoot you. That much is a given. You probably won't work out that there are astronauts trapped inside asteroids, and busting them out and collecting them will give you a few seconds of bonus points each time you eliminate an enemy, but if you're shooting everything in sight you'll come across one in no time at all, it really isn't a tough concept.
Also in your power is the ability to warp, where you ship explodes, but doesn't, then reforms after a second or so, allowing you to get yourself out of a tricky situation when movement isn't an option. You get three warps per level, so they're there to be used.
Standard movement comes in four directions, so you've got more freedom to approach your targets. They're in constant motion, as you can see at the top of a screen with a radar-like view, and you'll be able to get a heads up as to which blob is the bigger threat to you by which blob is closer to your horizon than the others. With a playing field that wraps around like a cylinder, having any kind of radar to know the whereabouts of the last enemy is welcome.
That's basically all there is to Juno First. It looks good, sounds alright, you move and you shoot and then you do it all over again. If you die, you get a neat little light effect, partially seen above, but neat little light effects only go so far, so the lasting appeal of the game is really down to whether you like it or not.
I was impressed with it, and glad I could play, but haven't found myself playing endlessly. It's easily possible, feeling speedy enough to give you some challenge but not so fast that you lose control by moving too far.
Juno First should be played, and you'll look back and wonder what other space shooters would look like in the same style. The look is the winner here, more than the feel, but that's not to say it feels bad. It feels good, but is it good enough for you?
There was an unofficial port of Juno First for the Atari 2600, which sounds fairly ambitious. I wonder if it was any good.
Juno First, developed by Konami, first released in 1983.
Version played: Arcade, 1983, via emulation.