There’s sometime a lot of talk about people buying games just based on graphics, cover art or a licence. However, I have bought a game based on nothing more than the name. Try to pronounce this: X – E – X - Y – Z. According to Wikipedia it is either pronounced “zeks-zees” or “zeks-iz” (I go with the second one). If you’re like me, you just gotta find out what type of game lies behind the name. Let’s find out in this review of Xexyz for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
This review was chosen for Valentine’s Day so there is a damsel in distress. However it feels very tacked on and unnecessary here. I mention this now, because it doesn’t come up in the following summary.
So by the title Xexyz, have any of you guessed that this was a sci-fi game? Taking place in the year 2777, the earth has been changed to the point where only five islands exist. Together, they form the nation of… Xexyz (yay for title explanation)! Not only is Xexyz home to humans, but it also fairies and other spirits, all under the rule of a king. One day Xexyz is attacked by an alien named Goruza (who I assume is related to Garuda from Shadow of the Ninja). Goruza sets up a mechanical fortress on each of the 5 islands, kidnaps each of the island’s queen, kills the king of Xexyz and kidnaps the king’s daughter (damn, normally bosses only one of those). You play Apollo, a battle-soldier fighting back in a “space battle suit” (because it’s not sci-fi unless you needlessly put space in front of something).
Again, the romance doesn’t play much of a part in the story, but the game IS named after the setting. That’s where I feel was the focus here: the world you’re in. It actually creates a neat theme of balancing the old ways (the peaceful but defenseless fairies) and the over bearing but powerful technological future. Apollo, who lives with the fairies but enhances himself with technology, walks the line between the two. Or maybe I’m over thinking a game with a last second romance shoved in there.
The game play of Xexyz is an interesting mix. For the most part it’s a platformer adventure type thing comparable it to Zelda 2, but not quite. You’ll walk around the main area jumping and shooting monsters to get money in order to buy upgrades and better weapons (essential in later stages). You also can’t just walk left to right and get the boss: there is some exploring that needs to be done. As previously mentioned, each island has a fortress. To get into this fortress, you need a star. In order to get a star you need to find the proper room and beat a sub boss. In order to find that sub boss, you must find the correct star block (there are many in a stage) and shoot it five times. All that, THEN you’re ready to enter the castle, and NAVIGATE your way around it to find the boss.
However, that’s the main part of the game play. In between platforming levels, you’ll have side scrolling shoot ‘em up ones, which seems very inspired by Gradius. It’s pretty much your typical shoot things before they hit you affair. While they have their own level numbers, they’re done much faster and pretty much just serve as a means to get you to the next island and mix up the game play. But if you think this change feels jarring at all, then you’d be wrong. You know how modern games have physics, and you can take its engine, put it in a different game and it still feels the same? Yeah, that’s what these sections are like. While the game play is switched, it still feels like the same game.I was pleasantly surprised by Xexyz. While it can come off as a space rip-off of Zelda 2, the game play works really well and it does make it more engaging than a typical side scrolling platformer. The graphics and music/sounds aren’t anything to rave about (in some cases, kind of bad) but for the world that developer Atlus and publisher Hudson Soft tried to create, it’s fitting enough. There are also some moments where it can get pretty frustrating, like when you need to start collecting money for an upgrade you lost while dying, finding the right star blocks and navigating the castles. But all together, Xexyz is one game where my curiosities about it really paid off, and it comes recommended for any NES collection. I give Xexyz for the NES 8 levels out of 10.