#745 – Xexyz

                                                   

                                                                                               But wait, there’s more!

 

                                             

                                                                                                 Just another day on XEXYZ.

 

PLAYERS: 1

PUBLISHER: Hudson Soft

DEVELOPER: Hudson Soft

GENRE: Platformer/shoot-em-up

RELEASE DATE: April 1990

 

Just so we’re all clear, a “XEXYZ” (pronounced zeks-zees) is a series of five worlds turned into one nation; at least according to the official Xexyz manual written by Hudson Soft. Why XEXYZ and not “Five World Nation” or “Cinco-tastic” or anything else other than XEXYZ? The name lends the game a sense of mystery, as does the sparse box art, but it’s not essential to understanding the plot or playing the game. Get past the introductory awkwardness, though, and you have a fantastic platformer/shoot-em-up hybrid that relishes in surprising the player.

 

Xexyz starts as a traditional left-to-right platformer, with your main goal seemingly to take out the swarms of enemies. Right away, however, you notice doorways littered throughout the stage. Each one of these rooms holds something important, whether it’s in-game hints, weapon/magic upgrades, mini-games. Unlike a box of chocolates, you truly never know what you’re gonna get when you enter these rooms. One room had an evil flying dog’s head and an empty stone basin. Once I defeated the dog’s head, the basin filled with water, and a half-naked fairy (no nudity – this is Nintendo, after all) popped out and thanked me for rescuing her. And a good day to you, ma’am! In order to gain access to the “Mechanical Castle” (the second part of the stage), find a hidden doorway and beat a mini-boss to acquire a Force Star. The hidden doorway’s location is usually given via hints in one of the rooms, but it’s never very hard to find. Once you’ve entered the castle, it’s more maniacal platforming until you reach an empty room with just a ship. Hop into the ship and the shmup portion of Xexyz begins in earnest.

 

From a gameplay perspective, the horizontally-scrolling shmup portions are standard. Your weaponry can be slightly upgraded/sped up via ‘S’ and ‘P’ power-ups, but there’s not the type of depth that, say, Gradius brought to the genre. At the end of the first shmup section, you’re given two exits to choose from. Head out the wrong exit and you’ll have to play the same section over again. Head out the correct exit and you’ll blast through another shmup section before having to choose between two exits again. Picking the appropriate exit leads you to another room where you ditch your ship and head back on land for more platforming. I appreciate the idea that each mechanical castle is so vast and widespread that the space warrior has to use a ship to reach certain sections. Even though the sections themselves are short and button-mash-erific, the thought behind their placement in Xexyz‘s overall structure is well done.

 

Once you beat the boss of the mechanical castle, hop in the castle’s ship and take to the skies for a complete shoot-em-up level. The shmup stages are always shorter than the platforming ones, but they’re more fully realized than the sections in the castle. You’re away from the castle’s confines, flying in the fresh air. The enemies are more aggressive, but there’s more space for you to maneuver your ship. Once you get closer to the boss, day slowly turns to night, Xexyz speeds up, and you only have time to avoid enemies and obstacles, not to shoot. Like so many elements that Xexyz throws at the player, the sudden change in speed surprised and delighted me the first time it happened; so much so that I laughed out loud when it was happening. I can’t remember the last time a game imbued me with such joy, and over a feature so small and seemingly inconsequential.

 

It’s difficult to encapsulate all I appreciate about Xexyz. Its graphics are colorful and detailed, the music is energetic with just the right touch of melancholy, its controls are almost pitch perfect. The platforming stages are usually odd-number (stage 1, 3, 5, etc), while the shmup stages are even-numbered. You’re never fatigued by any one style of play. Indeed the game doesn’t play by any rules other than its own. Some weapon upgrades, like the ball that bounces at a 45 degree angle, almost seem like downgrades until you learn how to use ’em and realize their brilliance. I loved using the Mirror magic where another spaceman is placed on top of your existing spaceman, doubling your firepower. If it weren’t for its clumsy (if not intriguing) name, Xexyz might be mentioned among the NES heavy-hitters – Ninja Gaiden, Contra, Castlevania. For now, it’s a cult classic begging to be rediscovered.

 

A-

 

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Latest posts by Dylan Cornelius (see all)

  • I remember wanting this game just from a screenshot of a boss that I saw in a hint book, never got it through. I gotta remember to give this one a try sometime.

  • Mateo

    This game looks pretty cool, weird I've never heard of it. You should make a top ten list or some sort of 'sort by rank' once you get done. You have 9 left? (according to wikipedia)

    • DylanCornelius

      Yup, 9 left. And lists will be forthcoming afterwards.

      • Mateo

        I'll definitely buy your book if you make one 🙂

        • DylanCornelius

          Thanks! I hope I'll be able to get it out.

  • Guest

    More like a top 50 or top 100 list. 😉

  • This game was one that I wound up owning, and loving, as a kid. It certainly gets fuckin' hard later on, but it's also just a lot of fun. Cool power-ups, cool mix of platformer and shoot em up. Just a weird, quirky game, and one of many reasons why I really, really miss Hudson Soft.

    • DylanCornelius

      Yeah, Hudson Soft was definitely one of a kind. I miss them too, and I'm ashamed that it took me this long to discover Xexyz.

  • Arcane

    Like I said on the Rockin' Kats post, this is both one of my favorite games and another underrated NES gem, along with River City Ransom, The Guardian Legend, and…The rest are in that post lol Xexyz has a weird, techno-future-meets-magic atmosphere that works well, and the gameplay, while somewhat spastic when it comes to making and receiving hits in both the platforming and shooter segments, is very good, as well.

    • DylanCornelius

      Techno-future-meets-magic… I like that description

  • Sleepyweasel

    Only rented this once, but even then I still have a great memory of playing and thoroughly enjoying it. A deserving grade if you ask me.

    9 left?! Ack!

    You must to SNES. Simple as that.

    • DylanCornelius

      Don't worry, there's another quest coming. It's on a much grander scale too.

  • x_loto

    Have you seem the Japanese cover for this? And the title translates to Grateful Turtle: Urashima Legend. I always thought this looks cool from Nintendo Power, but never played it.

    • DylanCornelius

      I have not seen the Japanese cover.

      And Grateful Turtle, eh? I suppose that makes as much sense as Xexyz.