Xardion
by Scott



"You are with a doubt, the worst pirate I have ever heard of."

"But, you have heard of me."

-Commodore Norrington & Captain Jack Sparrow Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl


If there is any discussion of obscure games, then it's required by law to discuss Xardion. A game that flew under everyone's radar. Hell, digging up info on the company that made this game is even harder. It seems like this is the only game that they made that managed to make it over here to the states. No wait, the Alien vs Predator beat 'em up for SNES was also made by them (Jorudan). For a real mind blower, this company is still making games.

That didn't stop Nintendo Power from giving this game a full coverage. Granted, this game is rather short, and it was given average scores overall. I can't disagree with those scores, Xardion is a rather average game, but one that strangely manages to overcome its own mediocrity with some rather interesting elements.

I am proud to say that I was able to play this game when it was first released. I didn't play it for very long, and I played it with two other people (my brother and a friend of his). One of the main "hooks" was that you controlled three different robots, and each one of us picked one and passed the controller back and forth whenever we switched. So of course we only made it up to the second boss. In our defense, he was rather hard. So the main thing I was looking forward to was being able to control all robots, and actually beating the game this time around.


Let's get started! The Characters!

I know, I know, I should be talking about play control, graphics, or story. But screw all that. Talking about what the game is all about, the characters you play as, perfectly frames this game, and some of the odder moments later on.

Triton



The main robot, who looks suspiciously like a gundam. Which raises and interesting side note. When this game was first made (1992), Gundam had not yet reached our shores. Barring, of course, people who could get VHS tapes of the Japanese broadcasts. The first Gundam show to be broadcasted on American television, thus bringing it to the masses, was in 2000, 8 years after this game came out (Gundam Wing on Cartoon Network, I think). To really put this in perspective, Ghost in the Shell (the first movie) was released in Japan in 1995 (with the English released a year later), and the mother of all mass-media reaching anime: Dragon Ball Z and Sailor Moon both not airing until 1995. Dragon Ball had lots of false starts, but that was the first try.

So we stupid Americans only had Transformers for all of our giant robot references. Today, It's easy to write off Triton as a copy-cat character, but back then, he seemed rather unique.

As a character, Triton is easy the best of the three you start with. He moves quickly, can duck, and has the awesome ability to shoot up. Don't be surprised if you use him throughout the whole game. The planet Oceansphere is his home.

His special abilities are:

Act-Plasma: A short ranged electrical beam.



Grenade: A single shot missile (worst named power ever).



Shield: A shield that protects you from all projectile attacks (but only from the front).



Reflex: A laser beam that reflects off walls. Think Gemini Beam from Mega Man 3, but not as sucky.




Alcedes



I'll always have a soft spot for this robot, since this is the one I got stuck with as a kid. Alcedes is a very strange robot. I can't think of anything that looks like him, from an anime or toy line. He's got four arms and he attacks by using that whip like thing on the top of his head.

No really, he does.



Alcedes big ability is to jump higher. Yes, he's the Luigi of Xardion. For a trade off, he can't duck as low as Triton. He's from the planet Fiera.

His special abilities are:

Bl-Force: It freezes all enemies on the screen, and then they explode.



SI-Force: Just like Grenade, it fires a projectile, except this one doesn't explode massively when it hits a wall. Seeing as how it's ice.



Black Hole: It summons a black hole that sucks in all enemy projectiles. Might be useful, depending on the circumstances.



N-Barrier: Invincibility. Yes, really.




Panthera



I'm betting that most of you headed off to wikipedia to double check my facts up there when I talked about Triton, with some of you changing the dates just to prove me wrong. You bastards. The truly observant of you will say "Where the hell is Zoids?" Well, the anime was released in 1999, but the toy line was around since the 80s. Hell, I still own my battery operated Zoid (Hah!). So if Triton's a Gundam, than Panthera is a Zoid.

Panthera is the hardest robot to control, seeing as how he's half the size and twice the length as the other two. Still, Panthera is useful by being able to fit into tight spaces, despite the fact that there's only one of these spots in the whole game and it's in the first level. Way to make that a well built feature, guys. You'll also use Panthera to hit short enemies, because none of your robots can fire down. That comes up more often then you would think.



His home is Hollowsphere.

Panthera's abilities are:

Torch: Yet another projectile weapon. Come on developers, show some creativity!



Scorch: A flaming jump attack with pitiful range.



Inv-Shield: Yet another invincibility. I guess Alcedes and Panthera need a game-braking ability to put them on par with Triton.



Wait, that's Alcedes! Yes, because you don't need another picture to show of something that can't be pictured easily. Burst: Another. Freaking. Projectile weapon. Only this time, you have to charge it and it automatically fires!



Panthera, you suck.


Xardion

Xardion is the hidden super robot of the game. He controls like Triton, can jump like Alcedes, and can fire up. He also does more damage and takes less than the other robots. So getting Xardion makes all your other robots obsolete, but you don't get him until the final stage, and you get him at level 1. Oh yeah, there's experience in this game. I forgot to mention that. Just one of the many crazy things put in here.

Getting back to Xardion, there's an interesting backstory made about him. He was designed to be the ultimate weapon, nothing can stand against him, and I, or rather my crushed enemies, can attest to that. But instead of being used, he was given to the opposing side as a gift of peace. Plus there's no pilot, it runs under a complex A.I. I don't think I ever came across a fantastic-super-mega-awesome weapon in a game that was made not to kill things.



On another side note, just before you find him, you are chased by a wall of hydrochloric acid. I wish I could make that up.



Psst, what's the difference between those last two pictures? Ohhhhh, spoilers!

Xardions abilities are:

Hyper Beam: You know, I'm beginning to think the developers where in love with projectile weapons.



Lightning: On of those-damage-everybody-on-the-screen type weapons.



Sphereon: 2 to 3 spheres fly out and randomly attack enemies. I stress the word randomly.



L-Arrow: The ultimate weapon. It has to be assembled in three parts, one on each planet. The Onceansphere one is found when you defeat the two headed boss in the second stage.



The Hollowsphere one is at the end of the first stage.



And the Fiera one is in an alcove when you drop down the hole.



What is it? Haven't you guessed it by now? It's a projectile weapon! A slightly bigger projectile weapon! And you must have it to beat the game (use it on the glowing thing in the final level).




Screw this, onto the main game!

Now that I've covered who you'll be controlling, it's time to talk about the game itself. If you noticed, each of the three robots come from a different planet. Before the game begins, these three planets have been at war with each other for seven months. Suddenly, a new enemy appeared and laid waste to the armies of each planet. In a last ditch effort, they each send their best pilot to face this new enemy coming from a planet only known as NGC-1611.

I wish I didn't know that from memory, but each time you turn the game on, you have to sit through a text intro explaining that, with no way to skip it.



Every.


Single.


Time.

I also wish that was the only thing that repeated. Every time you enter a stage, it repeats the dialogue between the three pilots (until you reach NGC-1611). While none of them are very long, it won't be long before it reaches the "shut the hell up navi!" levels. It's also funny they talk about the first boss every single time you enter the first stage, long after you killed it. What also holds this game back is its very stiff controls that take a little time to get used too. The graphics are also rather basic, the music and sound is forgettable, and to be real honest, Xardion feels like a NES game.

This isn't very surprising. Many early games for the SNES were made in the mindset of making a game for the previous system, and merely took advantage of the increase in graphical and sound capabilities. In fact, the same could be said for all new consoles. Most games that come out during the first few years of the console's lifespan never use the full potential of the system. See virtually all Wii games.

But, damn. I get distracted easily. There are some interesting little things that stand out.

The first stage

The first stage is important for any game. As the first impression that gamers have with it, it make sense for companies to sink the most money into this segment. Xardion goes the extra mile, however. It has an impressive piece of music (perhaps the only one in the game), a nice little intro, an all important life tank, and the aforementioned button in a place only Panthera can reach.



It's also the best place to build levels, as it's filled with the most enemies. You can even get XP from missles.

The Second Stage Boss, the Water Sprite (?!)



Yes, you just read that right, the second boss, unlike the rest of the bosses in this game, which have a mechanical/biological mix to them, is a mythological creature. It's also a wake up call boss. It will kick your ass repeatedly, since it fires shots that are very hard to dodge.



Good thing you have infinite lives and you save your exp when you die. The life and ammo of the mech that died is also refilled, so feel free to keep trying. If you want to head back to an earlier level, hold start and then push select. I'll never get used to pushing select to bring up the status/inventory screen.

Secondly, to get through the barrier to reach this boss, you have to use Panthera's spin jump to destroy the energy...box under the boss room. Yes, you jump at a box to destroy it.



And no, Panthera's spin jump is not an attack and this is the only time this happens.


The Second Planet

The second planet you head to is creatively titled Hollowsphere, no further explaination required. Well, a bit more. The surface is a frozen tundra, and the inside is a tropical jungle.



Just wait, it gets better. The jungle is growing upside down, and you can fall off, suffering no damage beyond going back to the beginning of the stage.



The second stage on this planet is even more over the top: you climb up a long spire just because it's there (the pilots even say that) and fight a boss.



Then you fall back up. Yes, I just said back up, since gravity reverses at that point.



And that's why the whole second planet is here.


Who you're fighting on Fiera

Okay, I just want one thing explained to me. If Fiera's being invaded by strange alien forces, then why are humans jumping down and attacking you?



I mean, you can't kill them with any of your attacks. I thought you were fighting to save them. What the hell is going on?


Fiera's bosses

The first boss you fight on Fiera is some sort of warship, taken over by a huge mass of flesh. An impressive boss fight, as it drops bombs that track you out, missiles, bullets, and even a laser. Triton is the one best suited for this match, as he can fire upward and has just gotten his shield power. Still, it's probably the best boss fight in the game.



The second boss is rather impressive, pulling out a large array of weaponry, but pulls a Restaurant at the End of the Universe and swiftly dies.



Obscure references to the max!


The final planet

The final planet, NGC-1611, is a real trip. First, the background starts attacking you.



And what's up with this line?



After fighting your way through the surface, you'll fall down into a living center. Sweet!



Hah! Here's the picture of Panthera using Inv-Shield!

It's just like Abadox! Why did I go with Abadox instead of Life Force? Because Abadox is a much better game. Yeah, I just went there.

And, seriously, what's up with this boss? First it's faces that are spitting at me then it's...a worm that shoots fetuses in a bubble?! I didn't even know what it was until I screen captured it.




The final boss and ending

The final boss is one long battle. You'll have to use Xardion to defeat him.

The boss itself has, count 'em.



Five



Different



Never



Ending



Forms!

And the third form takes forever to die (you have to hit its head)! Wow. Take a look at that last form, is that his brain on his chest?

Still, it's the ending which is the real mind blower. I still don't know what it was going for, you'll just have to watch it for yourself and make your own decision. Since the game's rather short and can be finished in a single afternoon.



Or you can just go watch it on youtube. It's there.

As a final parting note, if you watch the credits closely, you'll notice a certain company was involved in the making of this game.



That's right Gainax. I don't know how much they were involved with, but it has to be quite a bit.

Pros:
Good blend of Platformer and RPG
Multiple characters to control
Each robot is unique and easy to use.

Cons:
Short
Stiff controls


Overall:







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