i had heard about namco’s classic early shooter xevious but didn’t have much interest in it until a 3-D version of it was ported over to the 3DS. in preparation for tackling that version i spent some time getting acquainted with the version of the original that appears on namco museum megamix for wii.
the game has a unique feel due to the distinction between enemies in the ground vs. the air, and hardcore gaming 101 notes that “it was the first vertical scrolling shooter to have backgrounds graphics that weren’t a simple starfield”. they also point another of its unique features, which is that:
- Xevious is programmed to react to the player’s behavior. If you’re too proficient at killing a certain kind of enemy, the AI will send other kinds. Similarly, when your score increases, the waves of enemies intensify. Bombing a nearby Zolbak will reduce the enemy forces’ aggressiveness for a while, making this otherwise harmless object a priority target for survival.
they also note that “Another fine example of Xevious’ well implemented difficulty setting is its sophisticated checkpoint system: if you get through more than 70% of an area and die, you’ll start your new life from the next one, thus reducing frustration,” and that “The massive enemy flying fortress Andor Genesis is considered one of the first bosses ever in the history of videogames.”
putting historical appreciation aside, from a modern perspective i found the game to have some major drawbacks. the single boss character is difficult to get past, and there’s one set of enemies in particular (called zakato apparently) that explode almost on sight and i found almost impossible to avoid. the version on namco museum megamix provides a stage select which was welcome, but otherwise the game feels like it was designed to munch quarters. i don’t see the point in the randomly hidden bonuses, and the controls felt a bit sluggish, although that could’ve been in part due to the version i played. i did enjoy the interplay between the air vs. the ground enemies and the enemies’ unique behaviors in general. the seamless transition between stages is noteworthy, but when combined with the “skip a stage if you die more than 70% through it” it did make tracking my progress a bit difficult.
all in all not my favorite arcade game, certainly, but enjoyable enough and a historically interesting early 2-D shooter.
take a shot at these xevious links:
- hardcore gaming 101 provides an overview of other entries in the series
- entry at strategywiki.org with images of all the enemies and the game’s elaborate backstory (not sure where the story comes from, though, since this was an arcade game)
- guide to all the hidden SOL towers
- racketboy’s recent “Games That Defined the Shmups Genre” article highlights xevious as an influential early classic
- entry at wikipedia
- a “let’s play” video series at 8bitcity.blogspot.com