X - Namkid.com
Developer: Nintendo EAD, Argonaut Software
Argonaut Software. Surely if you've studied the history of Nintendo the name should at least ring a bell; probably their most famous work is Star Fox, a classic SNES title and the first ever game to use the Super FX chip, allowing for 3D polygons on a 16-bit console in layman's terms. Although a bit dated today, back then it was mind-blowing to see such a thing on a home platform. But even as impressive as this was, a year earlier Argonaut managed to accomplish a similar feat on a smaller, technicologically-inferior platform, although sadly remaining Japan-exclusive. That title is simply called X.
Also known as X Ekkusu and having zero relation with Egosoft's space combat simulator series of the same name (original, isn't it?), this 1992 first-person shooter (FPS) game was developed by both Argonaut and Nintendo EAD for the Game Boy in Japan. American-French publisher Mindscape originally planned to publish it, under the name Lunar Chase, however Nintendo soon took over the project - then-president Hiroshi Yamauchi gave the game its final title.
Of course, this is a port of the NES/Famicom version, not the arcade version. This may seem like a nobrainer to many, because it is, but there's still people online that share their disappointment that it isn't the arcade version. Morons. Anyway, graphics are obviously a downgrade, due to the hardware limitations of the Famicom, and compared to the Namco Galaga arcade system the original ran on. But it's passable, and must have looked quite impressive for an early Famicom game. The sound effects are quite close to the original, still retaining the jagged and clanky sounds (can I even use those as verbs? Hard to tell.) when blasting away enemies, and is still oh so satisfying bombing ground targets. Even with the (definitely understandable) visuals not being nearly as impressive as the original, Xevious is still as tough as it ever was, and will absolutely kick your ass if you're not paying attention. This port still packs in all the Andor Genesis fights and Sol towers the arcade game did, and then some, and is still a very fun game to play. Sure, your ship moves at a pretty slow pace and the chopped-off screensize can lead to enemies and bullets sneaking up behind you, but the gameplay is terrific.
A problem that others have with the Classic NES Series titles, myself included, are the lack of extras. Some might not care and just wanna play the game, but for a port that originally retailed for $20 at release should have included some extra bells & whistles to make it worth more. I'd say save states could be a pretty cool inclusion, so that you don't need to play the game over, and over, and over, and over, and over again just to get to that one damn level you're stuck on - if both the ports of Zelda and The Adventure of Link were able to accomplish this, I'd say having the others use a sort-of save-state feature would be a very nice feature. Another issue is the squashed screen-size, thanks to the GBA's own screen not being tall enough for playing these games in their original aspect ratio - where as other games simply stretch the game to fit the whole screen, Xevious instead chops off a bit of the screen from both the top and bottom - while this fixes the screen-size issue, it also makes you vulnurable to enemies and bullets sneaking up behind you from the bottom, which in later sections can be rather frustrating.
Other than those setbacks, it's just Xevious. You're still the pilot of the Solvalou, you're still blasting air and ground enemies, those spinning Bacura boards still looks as cool as they ever were, the almighty Andor Genesis is still intimidating, and the secret Special Flag bonuses and Sol Citadels are still there. The same six-second loop also drones on. Levels have been perfectly recreated from the original, as were the placements of the secret bonuses, so if you're the best Xevious player in the world you'll have no trouble with this one. Again, this is just a straight 1:1 version of the NES/Famicom version many like myself grew up with.
To match all other Classic NES Series games, the game cartidge was painted to match the original color of the NES cartridges, and it's really adorable. The game box also matches (mostly) the original description the back of the 1988 Bandai version has - good attention to detail, Namco/Nintendo. However, it's the Famicom Mini version that trumps the NA/EU version - it comes in a very nice "window" box that contains a miniature version of the original game box. Opening it up will reveal a fold-out manual matching the original instruction sheet from the back - and where's the game cartidge? Inside the tiny box. It's such a cute way to package the game and I'd honestly recommend getting the FCM version just for that, if you can find it CIB obviously.
Despite the downgraded visuals and sound effects compared to the arcade original, this port of the Famicom release of Xevious still retains the tooth & nail difficulty that made the original so successful, and is a pretty well-done port for an early FC title. It's still just as fun as it was nearly 30 years ago and one of the few early shmups that still holds up after all this time. The absence of any extra features is a bit of a disappointment, but the emulation quality is spot-on, especially for the Game Boy Advance's squashed screen-size. If shmups are your sorta thing, or you just want to pack along another classic for the road, Classic NES Series: Xevious makes for a worthwhile inclusion to your GBA library.
Last updated 2019.6.10