Sega Master System / Mark III / Game Gear
XENON II • IMAGE WORKS • £29.99 • OUT NOW
Many years have passed since the last Xenite invasion. The Earth has partially rebuilt its defences and is once again prosperous. The Xenit?s, however, were well-peeved that their last invasion didn’t work out quite as planned. If it hadn’t been for one meddling Earth fighter, it would have been a walkover. The Xenites are once again casting their jealous eyes over the Earth, but this time they have come up with a new plan.
A warped scientist has discovered the secret of time travel and the Xenites have used this power to travel back through time and plant time bombs in each major era. When these bombs are detonated, they will cause a series of natural disasters that will devastate the planet and leave it ripe for plundering. You have been called up to travel back through time and destroy the bombs... and anything else that happens to be around. Buckle up, kid, time is running out.
If you’re looking for a slick, stupendous, striking shoot-’em-up for your Master System, then X truly does mark the spot. If you’ve seen any other versions of Xenon, you will find it hard to fault the first 8-bit console version. From the title screen to the level guardians to the character set, the graphics are virtually identical to all the other versions. In fact, you have to keep reminding yourself that this is just the MS version, and the 16-bit version won’t be available till early next year.
The title screen sets the scene for this simple, yet fiendishly addictive blast. Your only option is to choose whether you want David Whittaker’s soundtrack blasting out of the speakers or not. (Personally, I believe a thumping soundtrack always increases the fun.)
Into the game, the first impressive thing is the graphics. Slap-bang identical to the original, yet still smoothly animated - even when you change direction very quickly. The only thing missing is the ornate backgrounds, which will appear on the Mega Drive version, but this isn’t to the MS’s detriment. Just like in the original, the enemy sprites start off simple but get uglier the further you get. However, if you do happen to encounter a large swarm of alien intruders, the screen tends to slow down a bit, although this doesn’t hamper the play. The only time you really notice it is when you let go of a smart bomb, which will clear the screen and miraculously increase your speed two-fold.
At the end of each flying stretch, you get to see the guy who’s been dispatching all these aliens. The massive blob at the end of the first level is quite easy, so it’s a shame to see the blob man repeated at the end of level three. After getting rid of this guy, you enter what is probably one of the most fun parts of the game: the shop. There’s plenty of decent weaponry available, in fact everything from the original has been included. You can pick and choose whatever suits your style of play, but always go for at least one Super Nashwan which only lasts for a few seconds but gives you every weapon available, all at once! Not bad.
The slick gameplay and presentation is sadly let down by the poor collision detection. Many a time I cursed the day I discovered the joypad, when my fighter seemingly exploded from hitting the side wall which was actually miles away. Iit’s fortunate that every other aspect of Xenon II is perfect. It’s great to see a classic game like this being perfectly translated onto the Master System. With the arrival of Xenon II, at last there’s a great vertical scroller on the MS -even if it is only five levels long.
To kill the first level guardian, you must hit the eye in the centre of his body - but only when the body of the tentacle is completely out of the way. The best way to draw his fire is to wait at the top right or left of the screen and when he fires at you, dive down underneath him and blast away.
Make sure you pick up the first two speed-ups at the beginning of level one. Completing the level is practically impossible without them.
Okay, so there aren’t that many levels - just five - but the amount of frustration that has to be endured is unbelievable. This is all due to one thing: poor collision detection. If it weren’t for you mysteriously exploding or having your energy sapped, then Xenon II would be a, albeit very easy, delight to play. This doesn’t just occur in the run up to the end of the stage, it also happens when you’re facing the big guy himself. The first one is particularly annoying, with hits very rarely registering. Still, this could all be to the good of the game because Xenon II would be a real doddle otherwise.
The Z icon floating around is a smart bomb. When you touch it, all enemies on the screen will get vaporised - but their shots won't so look out.
Moving through this narrow trail, note how the shots go under the scenery. This is useful for taking out aliens on the other side of the rocks, but beware as they can fire at you through the scenery, too. In fact, some will actually come through the scenery themselves in their desperate attempt to turn you into space dust.
With your full metal jacket on - Super Nashwan Power - nothing stands in your way (for ten seconds, at least).
What do you call a nun who becomes a Buddhist?
A Xenon (Zen-nun?).