Atari 5200

Review by Dave Giarrusso



Graphics: 7

Sound: 7

Gameplay: 8

Overall: 8

wpe27.jpg (7099 bytes)Three things immediately spring to mind when I think of the Atari/Namco arcade game Xevious: "Starcade", Xevious' background tune, and, the somewhat-slightly-ahead-of-its-time-space-age-metallic look to the whole thing.

Remember "Starcade"? Even as kids, we couldn't escape the fact that the lamer than lame host was incapable of coherent thought, the gaming questions they asked were beyond ridiculous ("What makes Ms. Pac-Man different from Pac-Man? A) a wig, Lee press on nails, and an American Express Gold Card or, B) a bow" They actually asked questions that were this bad!), and even the announcer was awful, but, well, damn. You still just HAD to watch it despite all of its shortcomings and condescending emcee to see all the cool video games that didn't make it into your local game room.

It was through Starcade that I first witnessed Xevious. One look was enough to make a lasting impression on me, not unlike seeing the ducks outside your office 'frolicking' during your lunch break for the first time. Xevious was so cool, in fact, that Starcade even took the liberty of lifting the infectious background music and playing it during the show’s commercial break bumpers and brief "news segments."

As pilot of the Solvalou, you must bomb and shoot the various enemies that stand between you and the dreaded Andor Genesis mother ship. Xevious employs a bombing sight that is located just ahead of the Solvalou and is reminiscent of the crosshair from Missile Command. When targets are in range, the sight glows red, signaling the player to bomb the hell out of the landscape. Initially, the designers planned to include a computerized voice that would have actually said, "target in range, please bomb the hell out of the landscape," but technology constraints at the time led them to the similarly effective "red flashing targeting site" technique instead.

The various craft that attack from the air are constructed from some sort of space age metal, but, brother, it isn't adamantium - one shot from your cannon is enough to eliminate any of them, with the exception of the "Bacula Resistor Shields." Since people usually think of "Quantum Leap" or "Murphy Brown" immediately upon hearing the mention of Bacula, we'll call them "mirrors." The mirrors are indestructible, and spin around as they fly toward your ship in a manner that, as one noteworthy critic pointed out, "looks really, really cool."
After a while, you’ll reach the mother ship, a hulking metal thing hovering right there in the middle of the screen. As you approach it, it begins to back away, so the best strategy is to try to get the jump on it and bomb the center port while it is briefly moving toward you. While trying to eighty-six this technological behemoth, hundreds of really obnoxious black-lacquer balls attack you unmercifully, and often succeed at thwarting your attempts to destroy the mother ship. Huh-huh, balls. A good rule of thumb for Xevious is: the less phantomy or menacing an enemy looks, the more menacing it typically is. Convoluted looking exhaust ports? Harmless. Boring old silver ball? Deadly.

Xevious contains no powerups, but does contain several "hidden flags” that can be found by systematically dropping bombs everywhere and accidentally hitting one. Picking up a flag tacks an extra life on to your reserve.

Here's an interesting, fact - the tanks in Xevious are Grobda tanks. Wow, interesting, right? It's interesting because it's sort of a Namco crossover deal, since Grobda is another game produced by Namco. Betcha never thought you'd ever read the words Grobda and Xevious and Namco so many times in one paragraph, didja?

The first home version of Xevious appeared on the 7800, and is an excellent port. 2600 and 5200 versions have surfaced in prototype form, and while Tod Frye’s 2600 version is incomplete, much like his “completed” 2600 Pac-Man, the respectable 5200 version appears to have been finished. Xevious also turned up on the NES, but relenquished its title of best home version when the original arcade game turned up on Namco’s Playstation emulation compilation.

Snatch up a copy of Xevious and plug it in to your platform of choice. Warning: you may get so involved in the game that you lose all touch with the outside world and constantly walk around in a daze while quietly humming that background music. After a while, your friends and co-workers will learn to ignore you. Trust me. Doo doo dee doo, doo doo dee doo, doo doo dee doo, doo doo dee doo...


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Last updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 02:36 PM