James V. Trunzo
Requirements: Apple IIGS with 512K RAM (reviewed here); IBM PC, XT, AT or true compatible with 256K RAM; IBM PS/2, supports MCGA color mode; Amiga.
While "Buy American" is a laudable suggestion and one worth heeding on most occasions, that isn't the case here; if IIGS owners wish to purchase the best arcade games for their machines, they've got to buy Japanese. From Game Arts of Japan via Sierra On-Line (via California) comes the first true arcade game for the Apple IIGS: Thexder.
A runaway best seller in Japan, Thexder has been converted to American machines and is certain to gain a following here. Its theme is certainly popular with the younger set: The Thexder is a super-assault vehicle—a hyper dual-armor Robot-Jet transformer that mimics the popular cartoon and toy Transformers. A single keystroke changes the Thexder from a powerful robot into a sleek jet, and in either form, it can fire heat-seeking lasers at its foes.
When the game begins, the only Thexder in existence—piloted by you, of course—is trapped inside a heinous alien complex. Twenty different enemy creatures are doing their best to be sure you don't traverse the 16 levels of play and make it to the central computer. They have good reason to want to stop you: If you make it to the computer and destroy it, you'll not only escape, you'll end the alien's only means of reproduction.
Thexder, a best-seller in Japan, is now available for U.S. machines.
Thexder is the standard shoot-'em-up arcade space game: A powerful good guy must destroy even more powerful bad guys. It's far above the standard in graphics, animation, control of the central character—the Thexder vehicle— and challenge. The screens are beautifully drawn, and the scrolling is seamless and unobtrusive. Graphically, Thexder delivers on its promise to be the game by which all others of its type will be judged, mainly due to its attention to details. Control of the Thexder is through the use of the numeric keypad (or the top number keys, if you prefer) with no mouse or joystick option. This should not be considered a drawback, however, because the keypad system works quickly and efficiently. Actually, it's similar to the multiple-button control panels of many popular full-size arcade games.
One Life To Live
As for the challenge of play, be forewarned. Thexder is not an easy game, and in my opinion, it can be very frustrating—especially for younger children who have short attention spans. It takes a while to get the hang of maneuvering the Thexder and even longer to figure out strategies. These features can be pluses for ardent gamers, but work in an opposite manner for the casual or younger gamer. Also, if the Thexder is destroyed, game play starts over, but at least it starts over from the beginning of the last level completed. In Thexder, you only live once.
The 20 different opponents out to thwart your mission are a paradox: Each of them is unique in its overall appearance, yet many of them are so similar in shape, they can confuse the player during early play sessions.
It's important to know which alien form is a Tribar as opposed to an Arbalest, for example, because some aliens provide you with needed energy when destroyed, while others do not. Because you use energy when destroying aliens, fleeing or outmaneuvering aliens is a good strategy at times, especially if the aliens are not energy providers.
Booting Thexder on the GS is an experience. It requires that you use both the Thexder disk and your System Master each time you play. I can only hypothesize that there is so much code on the Thexder disk that the System info couldn't fit; or possibly it had to do with licensing agreements. In any case, it's a minor annoyance to have to go through a three-disk swapping procedure to begin play.
Thexder is one of a growing number of games that allows you to make a back-up copy but requires that the original be used at some point during the loading process. Because it is an arcade game, I can't quibble with this scheme: It gives the player a chance to protect his master, yet it prevents mass copying and distribution of copyrighted material.
[Ed. Note: The IBM version of Thexder is hard-disk installable, requiring the use of the master Thexder disk as key disk during boot-up. Incidentally, Thexder is, according to Sierra On-Line, the first game to support IBM PS/2's MCGA color mode.) Finally, don't be alarmed at the paucity of instructions that come with Thexder. At first glance, especially after experiencing initial problems in playing the game, I thought that what appeared to be a lack of documentation was a major problem. However, it was patience that were lacking, not instructions. The six panels of instruction and the walk-through map of the first several levels provides you with the information needed to play the game; and comparing it to the instructions given on arcade machines—which Thexder ???parallels in all other phases—the directions are more than adequate.
Overall, Thexder jumps into the past to grab a theme that was the rage in the boom days of video arcades, and it leaps into the future with 16-bit computer technology. If you like hot-and-heavy combat action coupled with great graphics and sound, Thexder is sure to satisfy you while giving you excellent play value for your dollar.
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Amiga version distributed by:
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