Japan has a fixation on giant robots. They have brought their obsession for them to America time and time again. In this review, we’ll take a look at one such example in Xardion. The U.S. box art looks spectacular. Is the game the same?
In a Galaxy Far, Far Away…
Xardion takes place in the distant future in a galaxy that’s not our own. In 2178 AD, The Alpha 1 solar system consisting of three planets are engaged in a seven month old war amongst each other.
During their war, a foreign enemy from the experimental planet NGC-1611 begins attacking all three planets in Alpha 1. The three planets, Hollowsphere, Oceansphere, and Fiera decide to put their differences aside and fight a common foe. Each planet sends a robot with pilot to stop the attacks and eliminate the root cause of the problem in NGC-1611. They are also charged with locating the legendary cyborg robot Xardion! Sounds like the perfect plot for an anime series, doesn’t it?
Controls and Gameplay
The controls work for the most part. The select button takes you to the menu screen. Pressing the select and start button simultaneously displays the map and your location in it. The A and R buttons will allow you to use special weapons when you have them equipped. The B button makes your robot jump. The X makes your character use a power-up, and the Y button fires off your standard weapon.
The only flaw in the controls is in the menu selection screen. It’s confusing, even if you have the instruction manual. There are three different menu sections. Pressing the A button will take you to the next section. It is often unclear if you have switched to the menu you were aiming for. You hear a beeping sound when pressing A, but looking at the screen it looks like nothing has changed. Eventually I was able to get the hang of it, but there will be people who won’t stick around long enough to figure out the weird menu selection screen.
In terms of gameplay, it mixes side scrolling with RPG elements. You can switch between three robot warriors at any time. Sometimes it’s necessary to use a specific robot to reach a special area in a stage.
Each robot is a little bit different. Triton is the best overall robot because he can shoot overhead. Alcedes is similar to Triton except he cannot shoot overhead. Panthera is useful because he can get really low and get into spots the others can’t. I must say though, until you can use Xardion, the character you will be using the most is Triton because he gives you the best chance at winning.
When I first played the game I noticed all of the robots were really sluggish and couldn’t jump very high. My initial impressions were “oh no, they messed up on player movement.” As it turns out, each time you destroy an enemy, you gain experience points. These points are accumulated to make your character more powerful. The robots can gain special attack moves by finding them in the various stages. Each character has four different special attacks. They’re like magic spells in RPGs. You’ll need energy in your ammo bar to execute them.
After you level up your characters, they become more enjoyable to control. They can jump a little higher, move a little faster, pack a bit more punch, plus the health and ammo bar gets a little longer each time you increase in experience level. The max power level is 12 for any character, including Xardion.
The leveling up aspect of this game is interesting for a side scroller, but also tedious. The game requires a hefty amount of grinding to progress further. As an example, the first level boss is nearly impossible to defeat unless you level up at least one of your robots. I kept dying over and over again and I thought this sure is tough for a level one boss! I soon realized if I maxed out Triton’s experience level, the first boss is a breeze.
Speaking of Triton, here’s a pro tip: If you grind on the first stage to max out Triton’s experience level to 12, you’ll pretty much dominate the game until you can attain Xardion. It’s not necessary to max out the other two robots.
Once you attain Xardion, you’ll have to max out his experience level to reach the end of the game. That’s another 20 minutes or so of grinding added to the gameplay. In addition, you will do some backtracking to completed levels to collect items for Xardion.
The game has only one difficulty. It’s not particularly hard, but if you have a tough time getting through a stage, that means you need to grind to raise your power level.
You’ll get unlimited lives. When you die, you will be directed to the map screen where you can go back to the stage you died in, or any one before it. It’s also worth pointing out you can re-visit any stage you’ve already completed at any time by going to the map screen and selecting it.
The biggest flaw in this game is the length. I completed the game on my first playthrough. Took me about 2 1/2 hours! I feel bad for anyone who brought this game full price back in the day. This aspect alone screams rental.
Graphics and Sound
The graphics are nothing to write home about unfortunately. They look very much like a NES game except more colors are used. Sprites are small for the most part. The only exception are the bosses. The movements of many of your enemies don’t look as fluid as they could’ve been. I realize this game was released in 1992 in the USA, but even Super Mario World’s graphics look better by comparison!
One strong point I will say for the graphics are some of the backgrounds and effects. The scrolling clouds in Fiera and the fog effects in Hollowsphere (this stage eerily reminds me of a stage in Super Ghouls and Ghosts) particularly stand out. At least those don’t look like the NES!
The music in this game is also nothing special. They are tinny sounding and reminiscent of NES games instead of a Super Nintendo game. No tune in the game is particularly memorable, save for the first stage’s. It’s not memorable because it’s good, I only remember it because I spent most of my time there leveling up my robots!
Sound effects are decent. I liked as my robots got stronger, you could hear their footsteps and their main weapon sounded more robust as it shot out. Nothing else really stands outs in this department though.
This is an early SNES game. It shows. Graphics and music are very NES-like. The game has a save feature, but it is pitifully short, lasting me no more than three hours of gameplay through six stages. It’s not a great game by any means, nor is it terrible either. It’s a average game and I only recommend it for hardcore SNES collectors or gamers who must play every game. Three stars.
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