Paul Streifel is Destroying Gyruss Records Across All Platforms

Alex McCumbers,

July 2, 2018 12:20 PM

By truly learning to master the very first game he ever played on the same cartridge of his first owned port, Paul "ThePulseRifle" Streifel has been taking records of just about every port of the Konami classic Gyruss.

Every now and again, a player becomes absolutely enamored with a title, striking a chord within that resonates throughout their life. This is the case for Paul “ThePulseRifle” Streifel and the arcade classic Gyruss. Streifel has worked directly in the games industry, both for Obsidian Entertainment and a brief time at Activision, but he now works in IT. None of these opportunities probably would have happened were it not for that fateful day when he played his first video game, Gyruss. It’s a game that left a mark on him and now he is leaving his mark on the game.

In a triumphant sweep across several platforms, Streifel is quickly establishing himself as one of the best Gyruss players ever. Not only is he skilled, but he has an interesting story that goes with his love for this game and games as a whole. We reached out for an interview and were able to talk with Streifel all about this new energy, his past with the game, and his hopes for the future.  

For those unfamiliar with this hectic arcade shooter, Gyruss was developed by Yoshiki Okamoto, who later helped create Street Fighter II and Final Fight. The game was published by Konami and saw ports to just about every 8-bit system of the era and has remained a staple in Konami arcade re-releases. Players pilot a ship that flies in a circle around the screen, while enemies spiral in in a tube-like display. It's sort of like if view and control of fellow classic Tempest were given a Galaga coat of paint. Patterns can be chaotic, but with quick reflexes and a fast trigger, high scores can be reached.  

Back when we featured Streifel’s run of the Atari 800 version of Gyruss on the weekly Scoreboard Spotlight, the video submitted to the track showed him telling the story of a failed submission. While admins here at Twin Galaxies were going to let him re-submit, Streifel decided that it was time to take things a step further. “I can do better,” he said with determination into the camera, “and I will do better.” On that run, he was unable to beat that lost score, but he did create his place at the top of that leaderboard.

That score was 308,800, but little did we know at the time that there was much more in store for Streifel and Gyruss.

Not long after showing up in the Scoreboard Spotlight, Streifel was able to not only beat his record, but multiply it . . . by a lot. His next score was on the same version and the very cart that he has owned since childhood, reaching 1,602,750 points on the Atari 800. From here, multiple versions would be crushed with many still awaiting verification and with no signs of slowing down.

Encouraged by a Friend

Streifel wasn’t always set on striking gold here at Twin Galaxies though. For a while he was content with having his name at the top at a local machine. “It started because a friend of mine was encouraging me to start actually keeping score at the local arcade in Anaheim, known as Arcade 2084. I had their high score for a while, but they closed their doors last August,” Streifel explained.

“And for the longest time, I thought the only record for Gyruss was the Kanonarm record where he played for more than two days. Then I looked it up and saw that things were far more achievable.”

“Once I saw that some of the records were just really weak (aside from the 2600 record, which I have reservations about), I decided that I would set them all.”

A few years back, he was able to snag a cabinet for himself. “I've only owned a Gyruss cabinet since 2014, but have been playing it pretty much my whole life in one emulated form or another. It's an excellent hobby and diversion, and allows me to perform!”

Even homebrew games are not safe from Streifel’s mastery! “I even decided to take on the Wormhole homebrew port for the Vectrex because it was out there and available.”

A stack of Gyruss ports across multiple consoles.
A stack of Gyruss ports across multiple consoles.

When it comes to strategy, there is more at work than merely shoot the things and dodge the other things. “The strategy for Gyruss is pushing the patterns. You get a much higher score for knowing where things spawn and knowing when to kill. I did a run on the playstation that I called ‘The Gyruss Strategy Guide’ because it was two and three quarter hours of how I nuke the high score in that game.” While the long hours doesn’t necessarily equate a top score, the one he did for the GBA version was a little over five hours.

He says that gaming for the ridiculous hours is just not his style, as some players have been known to go well over a 24 hour period. “I have no stamina to stay up 60 hours, which is why the first record I went for was the arcade record for the Centuri board of Gyruss. I did THAT in an hour and a quarter.”

“I’ve come to understand that I average about 300k per loop of the game. It takes me just 13 minutes to loop the game once. So, maths + endurance = eventual world record again if I can somehow last four hours. And if I could do it in a single life at max difficulty, I would get that, too. Just a matter of practice.”

The faithful little Atari 800 had some solid games for the era.
The faithful little Atari 800 had some solid games for the era.

Streifel was introduced to gaming through Gyruss, so it holds a special place in his heart. “Gyruss was my first game. I practically cut my teeth on the cocktail cabinet at the Round Table Pizza within a city block of my childhood home. My parents stopped the bleeding by buying me the Atari 800 port. It taught me patterns. It taught me endurance and strategy. And it made me want to get into making video games. Which I did.”

Streifel did a lot of Quality Assurance and testing, even level designing. He started in Obsidian in 2006, went to Activision for a little while to work on Enemy Territory: Quake Wars, returned to Obsidian and was sadly laid off in 2009. His name can be found in the credits of Neverwinter Nights 2, NWN2: Mask of the Betrayer, and NWN2: Storm of Zehir, and Alpha Protocol. He was also a Game Master for Atlus Online, but he wasn’t much of a fan of that job.

For a lot of players, Obsidian Entertainment likely is ringing a bell for the beloved Fallout: New Vegas. Streifel had just missed being able to work on that title. “I'm good friends with Travis Stout, who wrote Lily and whoever the Ghoul was who was voiced by Danny Trejo.” Raul the ghoul mechanic was the character he referred to. Streifel was even the QA Lead for a cancelled Aliens RPG, one that was likely a much better Aliens game than Colonial Marines.

Streifel was the one to prove that a pacifist run of Alpha Protocol was possible.
Streifel was the tester to prove that a pacifist run of Alpha Protocol was possible.

As far as what the future holds for Streifel and his Gyruss records, he will be trying to top more ports and beat a challenge. “The ‘five lives challenge’ stuff is my next real hurdle. I've taken a very brief stab at the MAME records. Nobody had touched the records in some time, and most have been a case where I just throw it on and crush the record, so it's only now starting to get hard. The Colecovision port is rough stuff, for example. You lose double shot, and you will hit nothing.”

His collection goals are also coming to fruition. “I have most every system I could want, and the Krikzz carts (Flash Carts to allow the loading of roms into SD cards to play on original hardware) to match of course. That was a goal of mine, and I've nearly hit it. The only remaining goals to fill out are potentially a supergun/neogeo rig, and perhaps a Time Pilot PCB for the arcade cabinet.”

Aside from gaming, Streifel is also hoping to one day be a father. “My wife and I are trying for our first, so that's a goal, too!”

Being someone that is familiar with the various versions of the game, we asked him what his favorite port of Gyruss is and why.

“I've gotta go with my heart, and that's the Atari 8-bit port. It can be really unforgiving, but that has the greatest balance, I think. The 5200 is functionally identical to it, but with that awful controller. So, of the home ports, that's probably my favorite. For authenticity, it's Konami Arcade Classics on the PSOne. As home ports go, Konami Arcade Classics was the last one where they got the sound absolutely right (and, if you'd believe it, it actually sounds better than the arcade version because they added reverb). The Commodore 64 port gets props for trying to replicate the arcade sprites, but have you tried to watch it? Blink city.”

We are always fascinated to see if extreme skills in video games carries over to other aspects of life. For Streifel, he tells us that there are several skills that he owes to gaming.

“Patterns. I attribute my pattern recognition to Gyruss. Made me a great QA guy, makes me an excellent tech support guy, and an even better IT guy. Comes in handy when you work on games like Alpha Protocol, where you can say a thing in one conversation and have that one single choice affect something that happens five hours later in the game. Permutation nightmares.”

Streifel’s Gyruss scores are nothing short of incredible, but he is also making contributions to gaming history and giving back to the community. We now know what the game does after going through 100 levels, where it wraps to a ‘:0’ after 99. He is also a part of the Southern California Classic Collector’s group, one that has been bringing various players, collectors, and games enthusiast together for many years.

It was actually the founder of that group, Steven Hertz, that sold Streifel his arcade cabinet.

Gyruss and the childhood wonder it sparked has definitely helped shape Streifel as a person and will likely continue to do so for many years to come. Just how far these records can go is up to the players, whether that’s Streifel doing them or someone else stepping up to the plate. Either way, those into seeing the boundaries being pushed in games, should probably keep an eye on ThePulseRifle.


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