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Xevious - The Atari Times


Here's a shooter that really shines
by Joey Kay

September 10, 2001
Another of the original batch of games ready for release in '84, Xevious for the Atari 7800 is a shining example of the brilliance of Atari's pre-Tramiel game programmers when translating arcade titles to this system. Although slated for release for all of Atari's systems (2600, 5200, 7800, and 8-bit), the 7800 version is the only one to have seen the light of day. Having played the 5200 prototype ROM on emulator and assuming the 8-bit version would be very similar, it is safe to say these versions would not have came close to 7800 Xevious. As for the 2600 prototype - well, it was nothing short of awful. According to the manual's storyline, the ruthless Xevions were the original inhabitants of Earth, and have came back to reclaim it. In a Raiden-type downward scrolling setting, the object of Xevious is to destroy the aliens who have taken over our planet using Earth's powerful new Solvalou fighter.

Xevious features over 20 different, unique, and beautifully animated enemy forces. Each Xevion ship or ground force has a unique method of attack. Airborne forces such as the Toroid Fleet Ship may just fly by, not firing or specifically heading towards your ship. Others, such as the Terrazi Destructor will explode into a deathly circular wall of enemy flak. The ground forces are a bit easier to deal with. Various domes and defense stations, along with mobile Grobda Tanks and Domogram Rovers cover the earth. The Rovers and some land stations will fire at you, while the tanks and Detector Domes are harmless to the Solvalou fighter. Tanks will not move until you bomb them, and, unlike the predictable routes of the Domogram Rover, can move back and forth in unique ways to avoid destruction. Some of their quick moves will surprise you!

At the end of each wave, the Andor Genesis Mother Ship is encountered. One well placed bomb in the ship's central reactor will destroy it.And, unlike almost all games with "bosses", if you are unsuccessful in destroying the mother ship, but survive all of it's fire, it will move on and the game continues.

And a boss is not the only surprise (by early Atari standards) for this game. Various hidden underground Citadels and flags pepper the landscape. Your blaster target will turn red when flying over one of these hidden bonuses - drop a bomb and either a Sol Citadel or Flag will rise from the ground. Bomb the citadel again to destroy it for extra points, or fly over the flags for a bonus ship. 

The Solvalu's firepower is controlled by the left and right 7800 fire buttons. Left fire drops a bomb from your Blaster, while right fire shoots your Zapper. With a 2600 controller, both the Blaster and Zapper are activated by pressing the one fire button.

Graphics on Xevious are arguably the best of the early CX780x 7800 games. Beautiful, busy animation accompanied by LOTS of independently moving objects and a smooth scrolling screen provide plenty of eye-candy for 7800 gamers.

The sound is decent, with a looping backing track (that cuts out every time the two sound channels are needed for game action) and some excellent sound effects, such as when your fire hits the metal spinning walls. It really sounds like metal deflecting fire. My only complaint about the sound, aside from backing track cutting out (although it's less noticeable than in games such as Dig Dug), is the lack of a huge variety of sounds. Destroying large enemies, such as a Mother Ship or Garu Derota Mega-Station result in the same exploding sound. However, since this game is a near perfect port from the arcade, the blame really falls on Namco's shoulders, not Atari's.

Xevious is another example of why I'm still amazed that Atari chose not to incorporate the Pokey sound chip on the 7800 motherboard. I can't think of a single 7800 game that would not have benefited from 4 sound channels, and sticking chips in individual cartridges when need be is not very cost-effective. Mind you, were any of Atari's pre-Tramiel days focused on cost-effectiveness? Xevious, in this reviewer's opinion, is the most accurate arcade port available for the 7800.Almost nothing has been lost from the conversion. I can only identify three things as different from the arcade version:

1) the screen is narrowed to accommodate the sideways monitor view in the arcade version, thus shortening the distance ahead the player can see

2) the distance from your Solvalou fighter to the target sight is smaller due to the shortened screen.

3) and if I really want to be picky, unlike the arcade, the title screen doesn't "sparkle" the name Xevious

That's it! Otherwise, EVERYTHING from the arcade version is preserved. The speed of the game, the graphics and sounds, and the location of all the ground forces, airborne forces, and hidden underground bonuses are 100% perfect! Other "perfect" ports on the 7800, such as Ms. Pac Man, still have a few (albeit minor) fundamental differences. With the exception of the screen's length - which Atari could do nothing about unless they programmed the game to make you put your TV on it's side - Xevious is the only absolutely perfect port I have seen on the 7800.

Xevious is a top-rate, although dated, shooter for the 7800 system. If you're big into arcade ports, this is your game. However, Xevious is not for everybody. If straight-up shooters are not your thing, more fun can be found in games such as Pole Position II, Dig Dug, or Food Fight... but at the cheap price you can find this cart today, there is no reason not to add Xevious to your 7800 library.

No sparklies on the title screen? Bah! What's the point of playing then!
Hit this structure in the center for a nice blast.
The infamous rotating walls. I wonder who thought up this idea?
You've go to nail this boss in the center quickly!
System: 7800
Publisher: Atari
Genre: Shooter
Graphics Score: 90%
Sound & Music Score: 80%
Gameplay Score: 95%
Control Score: %

Final Score: 85%

Reader Comments for Xevious

Xevious by Jose Lee on 2009-01-31 20:33:12
I got a copy of Xevious on CD-ROM for the PC and I have to commend all the people involved in porting an exact replica of the arcade game. Wow! I cannot believe that after all these years this game still holds me captive since today we have such sophisticated hardware and games that in actuality makes this game ancient; however, reliving my youth- pumping quarters into the machine honing my skills to destroy the Andor Genesis (I never knew it had a name). It is all here, the exact coin-op version on a PC; the sounds, colors, frustration at getting my tail whipped. This game does things that amaze me (like the flying walls). The programmers were ahead of their time when they wrote the source code for this timeless gem.
Long live Xevious!!!

Every bit as good as the NES version by Randy Johnson on 2014-07-24 19:09:13
My brother owns this game for both the NES and the Atari 7800. While I've never been a Xevious fan, the 7800 version is every bit as good as the NES Xevious. This proves that the Atari 7800 and the NES are equal.
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