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Xexyz Review Rewind

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On 12/06/2013 at 12:00 PM by Jamie Alston

The space action adventure you couldn't pronounce -- until now!

Worthwhile for anyone willing to overlook the somewhat loose controls and difficult boss battles.

Now and then, game developers like to mix it up a little and create a game that pitches together several genres into one. Xexyz (pronounced “zeks-zees”) on the NES is one such game. It's a rare attempt to blend elements from the platformer and shoot 'em up genres, with just a pinch of RPG thrown in there for extra measure.  Released by Hudson Soft in 1990, Xexyz proved that fusing three genres can work quite well. 

The story takes place in the year 2777 on a post-apocalyptic Earth.  Only five islands remain in existence, forming the new nation known as Xexyz.  Eventually, it comes under attack by Goruza -- a fortress from another world.  Forced to surrender, Xexyz now turns to the space warrior Apollo (that’s you) in hopes of being freed from the tyrannical rule of Goruza.

Most levels are divided into three parts: the outside area, the Mechanical Castle, and the boss for that level.  Most of the platforming elements take place in the outdoor areas.  Along the way, there are various rooms that Apollo can enter and do a variety of things.  Most rooms feature shops, weapon upgrades, or life refills. Some rooms contain advice-giving fairies.  Occasionally you’ll enter a room with a fairy being held captive by a floating creature.  If you destroy the enemy and free them, you’ll be rewarded with additional money you can use in the shops.

The castle sections are similar to the outdoor areas with several differences.  First, you can explore different parts of the castle via air vents found in either the ceiling or floor.  And secondly, you'll need to pilot an armored aircraft so you can get to the second half of the castle.  This is where the shoot 'em up elements kick in.  These sections are pretty decent.  As you're flying through the area, you can pick up capsules that help to speed up your ship (S), or you can collect another capsule that increases your firepower (P).  At the end of each shooting section is where you'll face off with the boss enemy of that castle.

No mistake about it, Xexyz is a challenging game.  A big chunk of the difficulty is in bringing down the boss of each area.  First and foremost, it always serves you well to have just about any weapon other than your standard hand beam.  Even the first level’s boss can be a tough one to break if you're only using your standard gun.  Thankfully, you can usually purchase a better weapon (if you don't have it already) from one of the shops within the castle, just before you go off to the big battle.  If you don't have enough money, it would be best to hunt down enough foes to fill your wallet, which can also be a real chore to do if you're in a hurry to complete the area.

But even with the right weapon, you'll still be in for a very tough fight with a few of the later bosses who have shooting patterns that are sometimes impossible to dodge.  Also, enemies’ bullets take down a wealthy chunk of energy with each hit.  This all adds up to a rather annoying element that is all too common in shooter games: near-impossible odds, perhaps too soon in the game for some players.  It doesn’t render the game unplayable, but it can sometimes discourage you from even attempting to come up with a strategy when you can’t work past the barrage of attacks.

There’s also this added gimmick of choosing which path to take as you reach the end of specific shooter segments.  If you chose poorly, you'd be forced to repeat that section. It's hard to see why the developers saw it necessary to have this feature, but maybe they were looking for a way to prolong the game a bit.  Whatever the case may be, you have a 50/50 chance of choosing the correct door.

The controls aren’t too bad, but they still needed some improvements.  While Apollo moves quite nicely on the ground, the frustrating moments kick in when you're jumping to other platforms, especially later in the game.  The problem is that Apollo feels a bit loose when he's in the air, which makes it tricky to dodge the onslaught of enemies.  It's equally annoying to take hits while in mid-air because you'll usually end up getting knocked straight into a chasm after getting bounced around a bit.


In the shooter areas, Apollo feels a little sluggish at first.  Collecting the speed-up capsules will help out a lot if you can gather enough before more obstacles start showing up.  The downside is that you might be prone to pick up every speed-up capsule in the area, which may result in your craft moving a little too fast for you.  This can be a hassle when trying to dodge enemies, as you may end up smacking into them or their projectiles.  As with most shooters, good reflexes are your best friend with this game.

The graphics are very well done and stand out from many other NES games of its time.  For the most part, the main character, supporting characters, and enemies are all well-crafted and quite detailed.  The game's backgrounds and overall colors are bright and lush, giving Xexyz a relatively upbeat look, considering the game's plot.  The boss characters are usually big and imposing, not to mention ugly in that evil sort of way.  The sea creature design of many of the bosses reminded me of the Darius series.  If you’ve played any of the Darius games, you know what I mean.


The music is one of the absolute best parts of the game.  It has a very '80s sound to it.  All the tunes are spacey in that 8-bit kind of way, and some of them almost make you feel like you're in a dream.  The sound effects are just as good, sounding unique and a little bouncy.  All these things give the game a lite, happy feeling.  The only time that changes is when you’re fighting one of the bosses.  That’s when the music gets a little sinister, yet it's still not too "heavy" either.  It isn't easy to describe just how good the music is, but it makes up for the game's less appealing aspects.

Even with its problems, Xexyz is still a game that's worth experiencing at least once, especially with the lovely music and all.  It could have used a little more polish with the controls and difficulty, and it'll take time and patience to progress past the middle of the game, but it's time well spent.  If you're into both platformers and shoot 'em ups, then you must make sure to have this in your NES collection.  Just don’t go into it expecting the precision of Super Mario Bros. or Gradius.

Review Policy

In our reviews, we'll try not to bore you with minutiae of a game. Instead, we'll outline what makes the game good or bad, and focus on telling you whether or not it is worth your time as opposed to what button makes you jump.

We use a five-star rating system with intervals of .5. Below is an outline of what each score generally means:

All games that receive this score are standout games in their genre. All players should seek a way to play this game. While the score doesn't equate to perfection, it's the best any game could conceivably do.

These are above-average games that most players should consider purchasing. Nearly everyone will enjoy the game and given the proper audience, some may even love these games.

This is our middle-of-the-road ranking. Titles that receive three stars may not make a strong impression on the reviewer in either direction. These games may have some faults and some strong points but they average out to be a modest title that is at least worthy of rental for most.

Games that are awarded two stars are below average titles. Good ideas may be present, but execution is poor and many issues hinder the experience.

Though functional, a game that receives this score has major issues. There are little to no redeeming qualities and should be avoided by nearly all players.

A game that gets this score is fundamentally broken and should be avoided by everyone.




12/06/2013 at 12:29 PM

This game sounds pretty cool. I don't think I played any NES games that started with a X. Luckily, there were only four of them lol. The mix of shmup and platforming kinda reminds me of Air Fortress. Apollo's ship looks awesome! Cool

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

12/06/2013 at 07:56 PM

This game perplexed me when I first saw the cartridge in the game store. But after buying it, I was glad I did. I think this was the only NES game beginning with an "X" that I had in my collection.


12/06/2013 at 01:47 PM

Yea, this looks cool.

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

12/06/2013 at 07:56 PM

It's more fun than a barrel of monkeys.

Matt Snee Staff Writer

12/06/2013 at 04:16 PM

hmmm I missed this one back in the day too.  Looks pretty creative, even though I guess it's a little rough around the edges.  The choosing the path and having to redo stuff sucks though. 

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

12/06/2013 at 07:58 PM

Yeah, I could have done without the path choosing thing. But thankfully, the shmup sections are fairly short.

The Last Ninja

12/06/2013 at 08:27 PM

Creative NES games like this are rare indeed. Funny you should mention Gradius; I've been playing it all week and am preparing to write about it for a blog post tomorrow. It's a good game, but crazy hard!

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

12/06/2013 at 09:53 PM

Oh really? I look forward to reading your post about Gradius. It's one of my favorite series.


12/06/2013 at 10:05 PM

I have this game  complete and in box.

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

12/06/2013 at 10:18 PM

Seriously? I wish I could say that. Have you played it yet?


12/07/2013 at 08:17 AM

For real. I will post a pic for you later.

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

12/07/2013 at 06:37 PM kept in mint condition I see.  Good stuff!

Cary Woodham

12/07/2013 at 01:02 PM

I rented this a couple of times as a kid.  I found it surprisingly playable.

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

12/07/2013 at 06:38 PM

Hey Cary.  Yeah, you called it right when you said "surprisingly".  Some people are quick to badly rate this game because they don't give it a chance.  Usually, they point to the controls and says it's awful.  But the game really isn't that bad.


12/09/2013 at 06:40 PM

The Guardian Legend and Sigma Star Saga are two more worthwhile shooter/RPGs. Hadn't heard of this one, though. Sounds interesting. 

Jamie Alston Staff Writer

12/10/2013 at 02:17 PM

I enjoyed The Gaurdian Legend as well.  I want to play more of it though; I never got anywhere near the end of the game.  I think I remember Sigma Star Saga, but I'm not sure.  I'll have to research that one.

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