Thursday, May 19, 2011

Xevious: Fardraut Densetsu

Namco / Compile

Xevious and I didn't happen to cross paths during the game's heyday; in fact, it wasn't until I picked up this PC Engine rendition that I got to experience the "classic shooter" for myself. I really wish I had kept my distance, as this is as bad as vertical blasting gets on the PCE. Five seconds into my first session, I was actually grimacing, such was my displeasure. That the visuals are terribly antiquated wasn't the primary problem; I mean, I expected them to be hideous coming in. Splotchy forests, motionless waters, and silly dirt sketches didn't do nearly as much to repel me as did the "music," which consists of an incredibly brief string of high-pitched notes played over and over again. The sound effects are just as irritating, particularly the obnoxious blare that accompanies bomb drops. You'll make those drops and fire away with a boring two-stream pea shooter in an effort to annihilate small, dull "circle-with-a-dot-inside" adversaries. I've waged war against cooler enemies in Atari 2600 games, so let's establish this right now regarding where Xevious' designers went wrong: technological limitations were not the issue; lack of creativity was. And primitive certainly needn't mean repulsive or annoying.

It would've taken some great action to offset all those shortcomings, but Xevious doesn't toss a lot of bullets at you for quite some time, and only in brief bursts even then. There really isn't any reason to endure the monotony for long, as the game eventually enters a stretch of eternal looping. If you decide to continue on for the sake of achieving a high score... well, chances are you won't do that, as you're unlikely to find anything here that'll hold your interest.

But hey, I've been focusing thus far on the "Arcade" mode, the faithful-down-to-every-last-dull-moment replication of the original. There's also a "Fardraut" mode, a purportedly advanced rendition of the should've-stayed-retired oldie. With Fardraut came hope; after all, other over-the-hillers like Galaga and Space Invaders emerged from the upgrade operating room in acceptable-for-16-bit forms. And this Fardraut not only has a set number of stages rather than looping interminably but also tells a story as you play through it--a story conveyed via text and, well, some lame cinematic stills.

I couldn't help but smirk upon first witnessing those plot-detailing wastes. The smirk was wiped right off my face by the stages themselves, which pissed me off outright... what they serve up is pretty much the same crap that's delivered by the horrible original version of the game. The music resembles normal game music a little more, but it's still repetitive racket. You can grab icons that do not-so-thrilling things like granting you additional bullet streams and vaporizing enemy-fired projectiles. And there are what I suppose we can consider bosses and mini-bosses that appear at certain points during the dragged-out four-board journey.

So, what's there to say for Xevious? Fans anxious to paint it as a pioneer quickly point to its "innovative" dual-weapon scheme: you use cannons to take out aerial threats and bombs to eliminate terrain-based foes. Well, that's wonderful. Bravo, Xevious. Thanks to your groundbreaking efforts, other games have been able to employ such systems in contexts that actually don't repel players at once. I think I'll go play Cyber Core now.

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