Format reviewed: Dreamcast
Publisher: NG: DEV.Team
NG: DEV.Team’s shoot-’em-up back catalogue has been somewhat inconsistent. While Fast Striker was a highly enjoyable vertical shooter that did a good job of capturing the halcyon days of early bullet hell shmups, its horizontal shooter, Last Hope, and Turrican clone Gunlord were less impressive offerings. It would appear that vertical shooters are definitely the developer’s strength, as NEO XYX proves to be a highly entertaining blaster that gives Fast Striker a great run for its money.
Perhaps the biggest success of NEO XYX is just how well it manages to captures the feel of classic Toaplan games from the late Eighties and early Nineties. The sprites are big and chunky, with gaudy looking bullets and colourful designs that instantly bring to mind out blasters like Tatsujin. The environments are equally enticing to look at, and while they’re abound with typical clichés of the genre, they remain crammed with detail, although they admittedly lack the sheer wow factor of Sturmwind’s incredible aesthetics. Interestingly, the bosses don’t quite have the same splendour as the rest of NEO XYX’s enemies. Sure they’re pleasingly large, often requiring to be dismantled in several parts, but they’re fairly generic looking and lack the variety of the mayors found in Sturmwind and other DC shooters.
Fortunately, while the bosses are rather bland in their styling and design, NG: DEV.Team has made them surprisingly satisfying to fight against. Attack patterns throughout are of a very high standard, and while bullet patterns can sometimes feel a little unfair, a good eye and plentiful use of NEO XYX’s Slow mechanic does reap rewards. There’s some inconsistency to the difficulty of the bosses and sub-bosses (later ones can be surprisingly easy to defeat compared to those found on the third level for example) but the challenge offered is otherwise good.
This in itself is an achievement, especially when you consider how barebones NEO XYX first appears to be. There are no different ships to collect and a complete lack of power-ups, initially giving the impression that NG: DEV.Team’s game is lacking in depth. It soon proves to be a satisfying score chaser however, partly due to the Slow mechanic we’ve previously mentioned, allowing you to carefully pick your way through difficult patterns and its enjoyable scoring system.
Collecting medals sees them slowly increase in value and providing you don’t miss any, your score will continue to climb. It’s a system that works surprisingly well with plenty of risk versus reward, as you’ll nip out to catch stray medals in the hope of sending your score into the stratosphere. A further nice touch is the ability to use your bombs to fling the medals back up the screen, allowing you to mop up those you might have otherwise missed. We found a few bottlenecks that made it insanely hard to keep your chain without resorting to a power-up, but for the most part the mechanic works extremely well and offers you plenty of replay value as you constantly try to beat your best score.
Due to the high intensity of the gameplay, you’ll find yourself frequently emptying your available bombs as you get to grips with NEO XYX’s high difficulty curve. Additional bombs come in the form of fragments though, meaning you can always obtain more providing you pick up enough pieces. The Slow button is also insanely useful as your ship moves extremely fast, far faster than many other games in the genre. At first it feels too twitchy and out of control, but you soon realise that it allows you to nip into dangerous areas with ease. It helps that your hit box is tiny, but it is amazing how quickly you get used to the initially over-sensitive control system.
Less impressive are the reports we’re hearing that NEO XYX isn’t quite as polished as it first appears to be. It would seem that a few players have experienced freezes and other little niggles, particularly while playing with modded peripherals. We’ve not experienced any of these issues ourselves, although there is an annoying little pause at the beginning of each boss fight. Most of the issues appear to be situated within a single screen mode, and as most seasoned players will play in tate mode, many won’t notice it anyway. They don’t appear in the original MVS version, making the anomaly more than a little disappointing for DC owners.
Ultimately though, many will feel that the wait for NEO XYX has been worth it. While it’s not the most imaginative shooter we’ve ever played, it does offer plenty of replay value and a robust scoring system. Yes the difficulty will irk some, but many will rise to the challenge and discover NG: DEV.Team’s best game in the process.