Atari 7800

Review by Bruce Consolazio



Graphics: 9

Sound: 7

Gameplay: 9

Overall: 9

"Are you devious enough to beat Xevious?" So the Atari commercials asked us back in 1983.

An Atari arcade game, Xevious was an overhead scroller in which you controlled a fighter defending Earth from ruthless alien invaders who had actually managed to establish a beachhead on our planet. Your task, of course, was to destroy as many of them as possible while avoiding destruction yourself.

Your fighter was equipped with guns to take out air-based opponents, and a bombing mechanism to destroy ground-based targets; a bombing scope in front of your fighter indicated where a bomb would go. Your fighter was able to move up and down, as well as to the sides.

Several things made this game a standout when it appeared: first and foremost, the remarkable graphics. You actually flew over detailed fields, forests, bodies of water, and alien military complexe s. The ships, tanks, and installations were an impressive metallic-grey. There was also a good deal of nicely-done animation: for example, ships would spin, barrel-roll, and flip, all in a realistic manner.

Then there was the variety of enemies. There were a number of enemies both in the air and on the ground, each with its own unique characteristics. From crawling tanks that fired at you from time to time to indestructible spinning metal plates, from swift attack craft to shiny red and black air bombs that burst into almost a dozen deadly energy bolts, there was plenty to keep even a veteran gamer on his toes!

Finally, there was the "Andor Genesis Mothership," a gigantic enemy that appeared from time to time, and was quite possibly the first of such "boss" enemies. You disabled the technological monster with bombs; either with one in the central exhaust, or by bombing all four of its cannons...not an easy task!

As a result of all of this, Xevious caused quite a stir back then, and it soon proved to be extremely popular in the arcades, all the while being billed as the "game you can't play at home." About a year later, though, the Atari 7800 was announced in various video gaming magazine, and, sure enough, one of its first games was a home version of...Xevious!

Unfortunately, it was at that time that the Tramiels (grr!) took over Atari, and eager gamers would have to wait several years before seeing either the 7800 or its version of Xevious in the stores. During that time, later Xevious-style games came out, but with power-ups and even more action and variety. Couple this with the Nintendo Entertainment System dominating the latter half of the 1980s home gaming scene and having some of those later games, and it was plain that what would've been one of the Atari 7800's strongest selling points- a home version of the then-recent and innovative game Xevious- was by then a bit dated. Adding irony to this was the fact that the NE S also had a version of Xevious, making the 7800 version a bit moot!

Which was rather pathetic, because the Atari 7800 version remains one of the best and most playable.

Everything from the arcade version has made it home here. All of the enemies. The graphics. The Mothership. Everything, it's all here, right down to the hidden 1-UP flags and fortresses that you must find and blast with your trusty bombs (your bomb scope turns red when it's over any target!).

Graphics, while not quite as sharp as the arcade or NES versions, are excellent. The playfield is colorful and detailed, complete with the characteristic landmarks that made it so unique and appealing. The scrolling is as smooth as the arcade version ever was. The various enemies have been faithfully reproduced, being multi-colored and suitably metallic-looking. Some of the animation has been lost, such as the apertures on the tanks that open to release energy bolts, but, overall, this version does mana get to capture the unique look of the arcade version. It should also be mentioned that the 7800's ability to handle vast amounts of on-screen motion is showcased here: even when battling the huge Andor Genesis Mothership, with it's hordes of smaller escorts and with shots flying everywhere, there's nary a flicker in sight, and the scrolling remains as smooth as ever. The NES, and even the more advanced Sega Master System, cannot make such a claim.

Sound is actually nicely done, although several key effects are noticeably weaker. That strange, distinctive background noise of the arcade version is reproduced faithfully, the ground explosions are very satisfying, and when you consider that the 7800's sound chip is the same as that of the 2600, the overall effort is remarkably accurate.

Gameplay is superb. It's every bit as good and challenging as the arcade version, and maybe a bit better because of the difficulty options this version presents you with. What's more, a flick of the A/B difficulty switch can allow either firing button to fire both bolts and bombs, or independent firing- a choice that many arcaders, who had trouble with keeping track of both weapons, will most certainly appreciate!

The only real flaw is the cheap instruction booklet. It has a list of the strange-sounding names of the alien vehicles and their point values, but no illustrations, leaving you to guess at what some of them are. And that A/B firing option, a strong selling point, isn't even mentioned!

Overall, this is a good, faithful version of the arcade classic, with all of the appeal and challenge Xevious fans fondly remember. It's also proof that, had the Atari 7800 only been given some decent software support during those few critical years, it would have easily been a match for both the Nintendo and Sega systems.


Go to Digital Press HQ
Return to Digital Press Home

Last updated: Wednesday, December 10, 2003 02:37 PM