Did a vigilante ROM leaker go too far to “preserve” a lost Atari ROM?

Enlarge / Your mission… should you choose to accept it… (credit: Paramount Pictures / Aurich Lawson)

Earlier this month, the digital preservationists at The Dumping Union made an important announcement in the world of arcade game emulation. The collective had gotten its hands on a ROM image of Akka Arrh, an extremely rare Atari arcade prototype and one of the most prominent remaining cabinets that had, to that point, never been available through emulation.

That alone would have been notable news in the world of gaming history—the Dumping Union suggested as much by titling their forum announcement “Sit down on the toilet before reading this or else you will shit your pants.” But the story might require another round of toilet sitting, because what started as a rare-game reveal has turned into a credible “heist” tale, perpetrated by an alleged MAME vigilante, no less.

A bit of history

The story of Akka Arrh (also known as Target Outpost during development) dates back to 1982, when the game was created by Atari’s Dave Ralston and Mike Hally, who would go on to work on plenty of well-remembered arcade games for the company (the title is supposedly a mangled initialism for “Also Known As Another Ralston Hally”). After a small test-market release in 1982, Akka Arrh‘s rotational take on Missile Command‘s trackball targeting was reportedly deemed too complicated for the masses at the time. So even though Akka Arrh was practically complete and had its own unique cabinet art and design, wide release was scrapped in favor of more promising Atari titles.

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