Xevious: Fardraut Saga - MSX2 (1988)


Japanese Cover


Xevious: Fardraut Saga


Xevious: Fardraut Saga

The next version worthy a mention is Xevious: Fardraut Saga (MSX2), released in 1988. Developed by Compile, it features both a "Recon" and "Scramble" mode. The Recon mission is just a port of the arcade original. There's not much to say here, except that it controls very smoothly, and it overcomes the scrolling issues that are prevalent in other MSX shooters. After all, this is Compile we're talking about. In fact, this one ranks among the best shmups available for the MSX2, and certainly the best Xevious available on home computers.

Scramble mission is a new 16 area-lasting game where you're initially given five different crafts each with different arsenals (as well as their own musical theme). Besides the original Solvalou there is Solgrado (comes with spread shot), Zeodalley (odd twin back fire good for scoring I guess) and Gampmission, a huge combination of the previous three with massive firepower and the beloved big lock-on from "Gamp no Nazo". You can assign each craft to one of your lives. However, the better ships you choose to take with you, the more points you'll have to score to get an extend life; not only that, but enemies will become increasingly stronger as you power up during the game. Destroying targets during Scramble will reveal powerups which increase the Zapper's width and even its rate of fire. In exchange for all this additional firepower, the Scramble mode is much tougher than Recon since the very beginning.

Although you don't get to see Compile's logo in the end, the staff, led by Compile's legendary Moo Nitani, had fun to name some of the new enemies with some funny in-jokes: you'll fight the "Pilecom", the "Mootani" and even the "Alestan"!

Xevious: Fardraut Saga

Xevious: Fardraut Saga

Xevious: Fardraut Densetsu - PC Engine (1990)


Xevious: Fardraut Densetsu


Xevious: Fardraut Densetsu


Xevious: Fardraut Densetsu

The previous game ended with the message "See you again next game -Episode 2 Final Weapon" and so Compile kept the promise: Fardraut Densetsu, despite the name, it is not a mere port of the MSX2 version, but rather a whole new game. You still can choose between an original mode (a flawless port of the arcade which stands as the best conversion of the pre-Playstation era) and a four stages "story mode" that's even nastier than the MSX2 one. The story, which sees you again "Gamp Replica", is told via cutscenes and quite interestingly you don't get to pilot the Solvalou until stage three: although Solgrado, Zeodalley & Gampmission are nowhere to be seen, you'll pilot a small craft in the first stage and what resembles an enemy Tarken scout ship in the second. Once again the game reacts to your strength a little too effectively, perhaps: you'll begin to wonder if it's worth to pick up powerups, as enemies become merciless quickly. The graphics in this one are pretty much of arcade quality, if not better. The music is quite dramatic for a Xevious game, especially the third stage's tune, a reprise of Fardraut Saga's ending theme.

Xevious: Fardraut Densetsu

Solvalou - Arcade (1991)


Solvalou


Solvalou


Solvalou

In 1991, just like Gradius: Solar Assault, Xevious fell into the 3D trap with an arcade game titled Solvalou. It's a first-person on-rails 3D shoot-em-up very similar to Namco's Starblade. Although the polygons are very simplistic, you get to see classic Xevious enemies modeled in 3D, which is kinda cool. Only certain older versions of MAME run it (it works on 0.89) although some of the graphics seem a bit messed up. Hopefully, if the recent trend continues, we might end getting it as a loading game bonus in Tekken 6.

Solvalou

Xevious Arrangement - Arcade/PSOne (1995)


Xevious Arrangement


Xevious Arrangement


Xevious Arrangement

Xevious Arrangement should be in manuals under the voice "how to successfully remake a classic game". The game was originally included in Namco Classic Collection 1, a multi-game arcade board which also featured revamped versions of Mappy and Galaga. While playing mostly the same, Arrangement deals with some issues that made the original not aged too well. First is the repetitiveness of the music: instead of just one tune that loops endlessly for the entire game, now each area sports a different music, although they all blend together in a long medley. Second, the game was given a proper end at area 16, and the landscapes now alternate classic southamerican forests with metallic Gamp bases (vaguely reminiscent of Capcom's Exed Exes), to differentiate a bit. Three uber-hard extra areas are availble as well for gamers with superhuman reflexes that manage to complete the game. The Andor Genesis have been under complete facelift as well, and they are all different each other now. Compared to the audio/visual update, the gameplay remains mostly unchanged. The most welcome addition is the 2 simultaneous player mode. Some enemies were added from the 8bit systems ports, like the horizontal flying Bacuras. The Solvalou can pick up a power-up item which increases the Zapper's fire, although it's sparse to get and the game retains the "no powerups" feel of the original. All in all, it's a nice update, especially pleasing to play due to the quality of its electronica soundtrack.

Xevious Arrangement

Xevious 3D/G - Arcade/Playstation (1996)


American Cover


Xevious 3D/G


Xevious 3D/G

Xevious 3D/G is the latest Xevious incarnation, released in arcades in 1996, and shortly thereafter on the Playstation, under the title Xevious 3D/G+. The graphics are again 3D (which are pretty bland, despite the use of high-res which was uncommon for the time), but the formula returns to traditional vertical shooter, instead of the first-person viewpoint of the arcade game Solvalou. You can now choose between some very powerful weapons, including a massive laser and a homing electric tentacle, which targets both air and ground enemies. You can still bomb the ground in search for SOL towers and such, but much of the original's charm is gone: the game is more of a nostalgic homage, and doesn't feel like a real sequel. Still, it's hard to complain when the music score is composed by Ayako Saso and Shinji Hosoe. Faithfully to Xevious' legacy, the game was filled by Namco with easter eggs, from the signature hidden messages to cameo appearances of Pooka (Dig Dug). Best of all is the cheat which transforms the Solvalou in either Paul or Heihachi of Tekken fame. They were even given their own hilarious ending FMV. The Playstation 3D/G+ pack comes with the original, Super and Arrangement versions as well, so it's pretty much all a Xevious fan needs these days.

Xevious 3D/G

Other Xevious Stuff

It's common between hardcore gamers to hear that all that matters in a game is gameplay. That's not entirely true: rather, it's all that matters for a game to be perfectly fun and enjoyable, but it needs something else to be remembered as a true classic. One thing that strikes you about Xevious, after all these years, is that the game was given a very detailed background by his author. This alone would be uncommon, since we're talking about a shoot'em up, and yet Endo did wrote an entire sci-fi novel around it. It was published in 1991 by Futabasha and has been recently reprinted, for the joy of whose among you is fluent in Japanese.

But there's more The Xevian were given a fictional language, complete with alphabet and numbers Of course, not much is known about their language, except for some names of their military vessels: i.e. Solvalou stands for "phoenix" or, literally, "Sun-Bird". A little more is known about their number system: scientist have discovered that it goes by hexadecimal base, which makes just sense for a civilization controlled by a huge computer. You'll find the Xevious characters on a variety of products, from cds to guidebooks: far from being meaningless, they correspond to our letters and have been deciphered. You can even find the font for download on the net if you wish to write in Xevian. One cool thing about the MSX2 Fardraut Saga is that the credits at the end of the game are written both in Latin and Xevian alphabet, which makes of Fardraut an invaluable Rosetta Stone! In case you were wondering, Fardraut apparently means "fourteen thousand years" in Xevian. It's the timeframe Gamp needs to clone itself on another planet.

Xevious was also groundbreaking in regards to music. As minimalistic as Yuriko Keino's three tunes and twelve sound effects score may appear nowadays, it played a big role into the very foundation of video game music releases. The LP "Video Game Music" released in 1984 is the first VGM album to be ever released, arranged by renowned musician Haruomi Hosono. Xevious got the honor of the first track (not to mention the cover): the catchy, hypnotic game's main tune just seemed the ideal base for an electronica dance piece. Bass player and leader of the famous electropop group Yellow Magic Orchestra, in which Ryuichi Sakamoto also used to play, Hosono composed several arrangements for the original Xevious main tune. One of these remixes, dubbed "Super Xevious - Gust Notch Mix", actually opens up with a 15-to-0 countdown Spelled in Xevian!

Finally in 2002 (twenty years since the coin-op) a Xevious movie went in theaters in Japan it's an animated feature entirely done in CG, running for 75 minutes. As interesting as it may sound, I wasn't able to locate any evidence of a domestic release and all there was to satisfy my curiosity were a couple of screenshots.

Xevious is often avoided by gamers today, even dedicated shooter fans, mostly due to its pace. Still, it is remembered fondly, and it's one of those classics you'll feel the urge to play once in a while, if only to hear that tune again. Next time you do, learn from the Solvalou and try to see below the surface of things you'll discover a game that still has a lot to offer.

Many thanks to Kurt for the much needed proofreading and editing, and to the fellows at Shmups for the support. This article is intended to be awiki of course feel free to send corrections, suggestions and feedback!

Links

Masanobu Endo's Official Page. 'nuff said!
Game's Studio Homepage The software house he actually leads.
XEVIOUS One of the best japanese fansites, still updated. Has screenshots with exact location for SOL towers and Special Flags. Several pictures taken from here.
Noriaki Ozawa's page Used to be the best place for Xevious info, but nowadays is mostly offline.
Wikipedia Japan Xevious' excellent entry at Wikipedia Japan
NAMCO's '70- 80s VIDEO GAME MUSEUM The names says it all.
How to Win at Arcade Games - Xevious A nice introduction to the arcade's gameplay basics.

Xevious 3D/G

Xevious (Atari ST)

Xevious (Commodore 64)

Xevious: Fardraut Saga

Xevious (X68000)

Xevious (Apple II)

Xevious (Atari 7800)

Movie Promo Image

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