Retro Game Guy

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Xevious…

Xevious is a 1983 arcade game developed by Namco and released by Atari in the US.  Xevious is a top down, vertical scrolling space shooter developed by Masanobu Endo.  The game was designed to run on Namco’s Galaga hardware with 3 Z80CPU’s and a Namco sound chip. It was a monster hit in Japan, but never achieved quite the same success in the US.  Xevious was ported to a number of game and computer systems of the era including the Atari 7800, the NES, and the Commodore 64.  Versions were planned for the Atari 2600 and 5200, but never released.

In Xevious, you must pilot your ship called a Solvalou against various enemy air and ground targets, including tanks, stationary bases, flying mirrors, and black spheres (8-balls).   The Solvalou is equipped with both a zapper for air targets and a blaster for ground targets.  There are sixteen areas in Xevious and the game loops back to area seven, if you are able to clear all of the areas.  One of the cool things about Xevious is that if your are 70% of the way or better through an area and are ‘killed’, the game restarts at the beginning of the next area.  The terrain in Xevious varies from dense forests, to rivers and oceans, to developed areas.  This makes for a variety of background graphics and adds interest to the game.  Another interesting thing about Xevious is that you don’t really have to ‘kill’ anything to keep advancing.  If you can manage to fly your Solvalou through the game and not get ‘killed’, you can advance through the entire game without shooting anything.

2600 Version…

The 2600 version of Xevious never made it past the prototype stage.  Programmed by Tod Frye  of 2600 Pac-Man fame, it had the beginnings of a pretty good port.  Tod was able to accomplish the scrolling background (all be it with simplified graphics) and have multiple enemies on screen, with little to no flicker.  Of course the 2600 has only one fire button, so Tod had the CX-40 fire button do double duty and it fires both missiles and bombs.

Tod had managed to get four types of enemies programmed (discs, mirrors, 8-balls, & tanks) into his 2600 version before the plug was pulled by Atari, during yet another management shake-up.   Hopefully, one day, one of the 2600 homebrew programmers will develop a new version of Xevious.  With today’s cart technology, it should be possible to develop a great version of this classic for the 2600.  For more information on the 2600 version of Xevious, check out Atariprotos.com.

2600 Xevious Prototype

2600 Xevious Prototype

5200 Version…

The 5200 version of Xevious was programmed by Jim Huether in 1983, but never formally released by Atari.  Happily, the final prototype version has been preserved and made available to the gaming community.  It is really unfortunate that the 5200 version was never released as it is complete and it is a pretty good game.  Jim managed to program almost all of the arcade’s enemies and the sound effects are nearly spot on.  The two biggest complaints about the 5200 version are that the graphics seem a little ‘washed out’ and your bullets appear as ‘bars’.  Other than these two complaints, Xevious is an awesome game for the 5200.  It is a shame that Atari never formally released it, but thankfully, the prototype code was preserved and is playable on the Atarimax multi-cart.  For more information on the 5200 version of Xevious, check out Atariprotos.com.

Xevious for the Atari 5200

Xevious for the Atari 5200

7800 Version…

The Atari 7800 version of Xevious is the only officially released version for the Atari home console family.  Programmed by Tom Flaherty of General Computer Corporation, it was intended to be one of the launch titles for the 7800 (had it been released as planned in 1984).  Tom did an outstanding job porting Xevious to the 7800 and his version includes almost all of the enemies and features of the arcade version.  The graphics are extremely well done, colorful, and crisp.   Also, the sound is pretty good for a standard (non-Pokey) game.  The 7800 version of Xevious can be played with either the two button Pro-line joystick or a regular CX-40.  When using the Pro-line, one fire button controls the Zapper (missiles) and the other the Blaster (Bombs).  When using the CX-40, both missiles and bombs are fired at the same time, like in the 2600 prototype.  I had owned a copy of Xevious for nearly two years before I realized that it could be played with a standard CX-40.  This is not something that Atari included in the Xevious manual, but I think it definitely makes the game more enjoyable to play!

Xevious for the Atari 7800

Xevious for the Atari 7800

Overall thoughts…

The 2600 version is clearly an unfinished prototype and is interesting, but not really anything to get worked up about.  Both the 5200 and 7800 versions are excellent ports and deserve a place in your collection.  While you will need the Atarimax multi-cart to play the 5200 version, the 7800 version is easy to find and normally can be had for less than five dollars.  If you have a 7800 and don’t have a copy of Xevious, you should pick one up the next time you visit your local retro game shop!

@Atarigameguy

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