Aug 22 2009
In 1982, the arcade industry, flush with the success of games like Galaga, Frogger and Scramble, was taking risks with games like Moon Patrol, Q-Bert and Robotron but they were also developing existing genres with games like Sinistar, Time Pilot and Zaxxon.
One of the first vertically scrolling shoot-em-ups it introduced the concept of a dual playfield. Bombing ground targets and shooting airborne craft added tactical depth. With action happening on two ‘layers’, the player had to be on guard all the time. Bombs had to be accurately targeted while waves of airborne enemies were trying to blow you into next week.
The player’s craft, called a Solvalu was both small and manoeuvrable and, though the game lacked any kind of power-ups, the difficulty was pitched accurately. Dispassionately challenging. The game is divided into sixteen ‘areas’ each separated by a forest, if the player dies before reaching 70% of the area, they are restarted at the beginning of the level.
Graphics were startlingly clear compared to its peers, Namco used a pseudo-rendering technique using shades of grey to give the enemy ships, tanks and installations a burnished, metallic look. The pseudo rendering is particularly noticeable in the indestructible, flipping, black shields which rotate end-over-end toward the player.
Ground enemies are a combination of both stationary bases and moving vehicles, most of which fire slow-moving projectiles. Placing a bomb evenly between two ground targets would cause the destruction of both targets. No extra points were awarded for this but it was oddly satisfying.
Periodically a gigantic floating fortress appeared, usually ending the game of less experienced players, but a bomb to its core would destroy it.
At the end of Area 16, the game would loop back to Area 7, the score maxed out at 9,999,990 which expert players could easily achieve, those gamers then competed to see who could max out the machine the fastest.
The game was licensed by Atari for release in the US but failed to capture gamer’s imaginations despite being a massive success in Japan. Xevious was ported to most home systems at the time and has featured in a number of compilations. Many references to the game are also present in Namco’s later games – particularly the Ridge Racer series.
There are four flags hidden throughout the game. These flags occur in areas 1, 3, 5, and 6. All flags are along a horizontal line across the terrain. The only way to uncover a flag is to bomb it so you will have to lay a string of bombs along the entire horizontal line. This basically means moving up quickly, dealing with enemies quickly, and dropping your bombs quickly. Once a flag is uncovered, you must fly over it to get the benefits from it.
Sol Citadels :
These structures require you to bomb them once to cause them to surface. They look like large storage tanks or grain silos. You then need to bomb them again to destroy them. You have a potential to collect several hundred thousand points by taking out these structures. They come in groups of 1, 4, or 8. Unlike flags, these structures are always in the same place. There are six sets of Sol Citadels.
FLAG 1 : The first flag is located in the first river you encounter after you start the game. Look for the three Grobdas in a row. Just above them is a river that cuts horizontally across the terrain. Just bomb the river from left to right and around the bank closest to you. The flag should appear.
FLAG 2 : After you get past the plates, look up and to the right. There is a little lake with a small river feeding into the ocean. Start in the middle of the lake and bomb toward the little river. The flag should appear around where the river dumps into the ocean.
FLAG 3 : When you cross the first ocean, you will eventually see a dock/harbor at the top. The flag is located around the horizontal line that the longest pier projecting out is part of. You will need to quickly bomb that entire length to find and get the flag before the bottom scrolls your Solvalou too far up.
FLAG 4 : You will see a big bird picture on the desert. At the lowest point of its tail-feathers (in the lower right corner), start to bomb horizontally from right to left. The flag will appear.
FIRST SET : One in area 2. When you see the three Grobdas in a row on the road, start laying bombs in the area around the cul-de-sac below the last tank in a right and diagonal-down point. The citadel will be even with the cul-de-sac.
SECOND SET : One in area 3. When you see the Garu Bara, go to the left of the Garu Bara and start bombing. This is also the area that the second flag can be found.
THIRD SET : Four in area 9. There is a clear area right before you tangle with the second Andor Genesis Mothership. Where the road splits around the woods, start to lay bombs a little below the bottom edge of the road that goes to the right. You should uncover four Sol Citadels.
FOURTH SET : Eight in area 13. At the point the desert ends, there is a little grass, then the air field starts. Use the birds leg as a reference and fly straight up. When the bomb-sight glows, start bombing. This will be the lower left Sol Citadel of the group which is arranged in two rows of four citadels. You will be hard pressed to get all eight citadels.
FIFTH SET : Four in area 14. After the plates roll by, look for where two roads merge into one road. At the top edge of the slanted right hand road, start dropping bombs to uncover some more citadels.
SIXTH SET : Four in area 15. Look for a forest on the left side. There will be a small clearing and then a river. Bomb the small clearing to bring the citadels up. There will be very intense ground fire in this location so be especially watchful.