Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Retro Game of the Day! Super Zaxxon

Retro Game of the Day! Super Zaxxon

Super Zaxxon by Sega. Ah. This game - you will hate this game. I take it back, you won't hate it because almost no one who reads this will ever even play Super Zaxxon. A game which appeared and disappeared in the blink of an eye, one that was an iteration of a relatively popular existing game but made to be so hard as to not even be any fun (now, you realize why Super Mario Bros. 2 was altered for American audiences - Super Zaxxon bombed!)

This game, according to online sources, released the same year as it's daddy, 1982. The original Zaxxon's game development history is a little bit shady (was not at all unusual at the time) - apparently a subcontractor firm named Ikegami Tsushinki had a good deal to do with this game's creation, they were more known for production of broadcast television equipment (cameras and the like) for the Japanese market, of all things. Hey, the guys who created Ms Pac-Man also made printers, okay? Anyway, these guys also have their fingerprints all over the original Donkey Kong software as well, and Nintendo and those guys settled out of court to figure out who was owed a little bit of royalty money. Not sure what all of that means, it could mean a lot - but fortunately or unfortunately, it is lost to history-

The game itself, never minding the drama, was a hell of a monster. The predecessor was sort of a stand-out trendsetter in graphics quality, and this iteration didn't do much to extrapolate on that (um, they replaced a robot with a.. space dragon). The artwork had a bit of an extra sheen on it, but otherwise this mostly seemed like a slight upgrade of the original. However, one note-

-the game was tuned with a new, evil difficulty. Obviously, the style of the day was to design games that only tweakers would enjoy playing mid-binge, and this thing is rotten difficult if the player doesn't fit that bill. You need to seriously nail some rapid pattern memorization here or you are toast. 25 cents gone in 16 seconds, counting the "are you ready?" prompt X3. Is this fun?

In hindsight, not really, but at the time, it was not bad. Games in the early eighties were all about pushing to see who could outlast who, which player was the best, the top scorer. In Super Zaxxon's case, it was about (gulp) who could successfully navigate to the end of the first round. Yeah, so the thing was stupid-hard, I guess you get the point. But it was cool. Zaxxon was stylish and fun, and though this follow-up effectively killed the franchise for a good 17 years or so, the two of them still left a lasting imprint on gaming. In 1982 this was hot stuff, a sign of things to come! I never played the C64 port, I assume they must have cranked down the difficulty a little or else I don't see who would actually want to own this. Time to check some YouTube I s'pose...!

1 comment:

  1. I had the original Zaxxon for the Atari 400 (via the good old Atari 410 cassette drive peripheral). It was pretty difficult to begin with. This thing would have been the bee's knees back in the day graphic-wise.