Review – Thexder Neo
Developer: Game Arts
Release Date: January 28th 2010
Price: $9.99 | £6.29 | €7.99 | ¥1500
Players: 1 (2-6 player online races)
What I liked:
- Graphically impressive
- Does every game I get to review have epic music?
- Fairly stocked package for $9.99
What I disliked:
- The ‘Neo’ version is tough
- The Classic version is too tough
- ‘Neo’ version has only 10 levels
Thexder was originally released in Japan in 1985 for the NEC PC-8801, a platform I have never heard of. 2 years later, Game Arts licensed it to Square, who developed a version for the NES. Thexder is a unique game in the sense that it combines side-scrolling platforming with side-scrolling shmup…ing. Let me explain: You play as a mech who can run and jump and shoot, but who can also transform into a jet at the tap of a button. Overall, it’s a very cool concept. The problem is that it doesn’t play as well as it could have. The classic mode is extremely difficult. The ‘Neo’ version of the game is an HD, remastered version of the original. It’s graphically overhauled, something akin to the treatment given to Bionic Commando: Rearmed, and, like BC:R, the music has been recomposed to match the graphical updates. So, what will this game net you for $10?
A Classic Mode: From what I can tell, a direct port of the original game. It still plays like an old game, with a lot of old game symptoms. For one, it gets really hard, really fast (and yes, that’s what she said). There are 16 levels to play through, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but good luck passing level 5 within your first 30 tries. Another elderly ailment comes in the form of some poor level design that leads to frustrating deaths. The aiming system is clumsy: You’ll aim and shoot at a destructible object only to have your shots blocked by indestructible objects. The flying in the jet mode is also a bit off at some points. If an enemy gets into one of the tight corridors, you’ll have an annoying time getting past it, as hitting it will cause you to automatically change direction or transform into the mech mode. The gameplay is relatively nonstop, as the levels scroll into each other, which is a nice, arcade-y touch.
A new, ‘Neo’ version of the game: While the new version of the game is incredibly faithful to the original, it also fixes some of its predecessor’s problems. The levels are slightly tweaked, fixing the poor designs of old. The aiming system is fixed, so you won’t be shooting a wall of blocks for 3 minutes. You’re no longer allowed to deploy your shield while a previous shield is still up, meaning you’re going to take some damage in between shields. I’m not sure why the shield-stacking was dropped from the new version of the game. It’s something I rather liked in the classic version, as it kept me alive. I beat easy mode in about an hour and twenty minutes of relaxed play, getting 100% destruction on all but level 7. It was nice to see a boss at level 10, even if it took all of 2 minutes to dispatch it. The problem with the ‘Neo’ version is that there are only 10 levels. After level 10, the game repeats, the only difference being the difficulty of the level 10 boss raising each time you reach it. There are trophies for beating 50 consecutive levels and 100 consecutive levels, but they’re hardly worth going after.
A Multiplayer Mode: I was unable to find a game at all, which isn’t too surprising, so Chris K jumped on and we played a few levels. The multiplayer mode is essentially a time trial. The first person to reach the end of the level wins. There’s an option to add flags that need to be destroyed before completing the level. The structure isn’t great, and the multiplayer just isn’t fun, really.
I remember playing the demo back when this game released and wondering what it was exactly that made me shy away from it. It looks good, sounds good, and drips of old-school relentless gameplay, but something was a bit off. I think the game’s controls (not control scheme, which can be remapped), combined with its difficulty makes for a slightly frustrating experience. I’m not whining about how hard the game is; I’m saying it’s going to take you a while to get used to how to play it (constantly deploying the shield, constantly hesitant of what the next room will throw at you, etc). Even after surmounting the steep learning curve, I found myself frustrated and feeling cheated at every other death. The ‘Neo’ version of the game takes a lot of steps towards fixing this problem. For $9.99, you’re getting a good amount of quality content. I do like the game, but I recommend you try the demo before buying, as this game is not for everyone.
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