GIF: LGR (Youtube)

Holograms. The word immediately makes me think of cool sci-fi movies and not so cool real world tech, like reviving a dead musician and making them dance around a stage. But back in 1991 Sega was using holograms for a more noble purpose: Creating an arcade game about a time traveling cowboy.

Simply titled Time Traveler, also known as Hologram Time Traveler, is an arcade game that uses a Laserdisc and plays a lot like Dragon’s Lair. Which makes sense, Time Traveler was designed by Dragon’s Lair creator Rick Dyer. When it was released, Sega described the game as “The World’s First Holographic Video Game!”.

Similar to Dragon’s Lair, players watch a video and at certain points hit buttons to proceed. This is basically an early version of a quick time event. Unlike Dragon’s Lair hand drawn animation, Time Traveler used live action footage of actors wearing different costumes. The narrative involved a cowboy saving a space princess using time travel.

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Technically, this isn’t really a hologram. Instead Time Traveler uses an optical illusion to display what appears to be holograms. What’s actually happening is that a hidden CRT is reflecting onto a large curved mirror. Regardless, it looks remarkably crisp and cool. If I was a young boy with coins in my pocket walking through an arcade back in the 90s, I would have been excited to play this thing.

Unfortunately for Time Traveler and Sega, the arcade cabinet was expensive and at the time fighting games like Mortal Kombat were all the rage. Sega actually converted some Time Traveler cabinets into a holographic fighting game named Holosseum. This was one of Sega’s first attempts at making a competitive fighting game. Sadly both holographic games didn’t find much success. But they sure looked cool.