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Xevious

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Released: 1982

Genre: Shoot-’em-up

Format reviewed: Arcade

Publisher: Atari

Developer: Masanobu Endoh

Submitted by: Gabe McGrath

In the beginning, the battles were waged against the blackness.  The void.  The vacuum of space.

It was years before the stars appeared.  At first, just a few.  Then soon, many stars, colourful stars, moving down the screen.  And we were happy.   But we had no idea what was coming next.

Trees.  Not single trees, but a huge forest canopy, and our gaze glided over it.  The forest became a plain.  A plain crossed by a river, divided by a dirt path.  These visions we spotted in the demo mode of Xevious.  And then, we grabbed coins from our pockets…

Xevious pioneered the use of realistic-style landscapes, where a player could discern different features on the ground.  Scramble may have given us an impressionist’s version of a planet’s surface, but Xevious made things much more real.

The same philosophy extended to the enemy craft.  Rather than the garish simple tones of previous games, Xevious used mostly shades of grey, giving the air and land-based attackers a genuine “metallic” feel. And boy, were there a lot of them.  Twentysix – according to the Classic Gaming website.  Ranging from simple “silver rings” early in the game, to indestructible “rotating mirrors” that must be avoided.  And then – there’s the boss.

Andor Genesis.  Yes, it even had a name. Phoenix invented the “boss” spaceship 2 years earlier, but this thing really attacked you. Rather than wearing it down with bullets (like most boss craft ever since) you had to employ a bit of “Star Wars skill”.  Evade the enemy bullets, then shoot a bomb down the exhaust port.  Yaaaaahooooo!!

Xevious featured a number of secrets – which you’ll read about elsewhere. But it also included a hidden innovation… way, way ahead of it’s time.  Adaptive difficulty.

If you started killing too many of enemy “X”, it would start sending other enemies instead.   If your score surged ahead, it would start throwing more baddies your way.  This was a particular work of genius, that quietly made this classic game more fun – for all players.

The current price for a Xevious PCB is around £25/US$45.

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