Thursday, April 29, 2010

Fray~Xak Gaiden

Micro Cabin
Super CD-ROM

I found Xak Gaiden utterly charming the first time I played through it. Much of its appeal was attributable to Fray, its spunky young protagonist, who was at that point the most adorable game character I'd ever come across. Her goofy facial expressions and funny antics helped make the entire affair extraordinarily entertaining. I've experienced the brilliant Madou Monogatari since then, and the incomparable Arle annihilates poor Fray on the adorability meter. But make no mistake about it: Fray is a cool little character, and getting the chance to make her acquaintance should be reason enough for players to give this Xak side story a try.

But if you're thinking about purchasing the disc, do NOT expect it to deliver an action-RPG in the vein of Zelda or Ys. Despite the visual similarities, this game is nothing at all like those titles. Here, you walk forward and shoot things. Picture a wacky, cartoony Final Zone II with platforming and occasional town scenes thrown in and you've basically got this Micro Cabin product.

There are parts where Fray gets wings and takes to the sky to battle airships and demons, not to mention a mining-cart ride and a surfboard stage.

The graphics are quite nice and colorful, as is evident from screenshots. And if you like the Neutopia boss bunch, you might like the giant-monster gang here as well, as similarities exist between the two groups (though Xak Gaiden's goons are larger and more charismatic).

What you might not like are the sloppy controls. Fray is kind of chubby and limited, and she doesn't play like a superstar when the screen gets crowded or there are tricky leaps to make.

Still, the game is very easy and ridiculously short. I'd feel better about recommending it if it were showing up more often in the $20-30 price range than in the $40-50 one. But if you're willing to live with its sloppiness and you aren't expecting it to be a true adventure title, you'll likely find it endearing, colorful, and worthwhile.

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