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Before arcades became stocked exclusively with first person shooters, ride-on racing games, and Dance Dance
Revolution, they were truly amazing places, filled with such a variety of dazzling and unique games that, for the
typical kid with a crumpled five-dollar bill clutched tightly in his sweaty little palm, it was too much to take in all
at once. New games were always coming in while older ones were rotated out. Where to spend that first
? The X-Men
four-player? Dragon’s Lair
? Game designers had their work
cut out for them: how to attract a young customer’s attention among such stellar company? Numerous gimmicks
were employed: innovative cabinet design (Tapper, Sinistar, 720 Degrees
), unique graphics (Space Ace,
), or special controls (Crossbow, Paperboy
). What first caught my
eye about Bally Midways
was its tripartite split screen that allowed up to three people to play simultaneously, without
needing to be in the same area within the game itself. Player 1 could choose to stick by the other players, or he
could go exploring in a completely different direction.
Like most arcade games that were ported to the NES, Xenophobe
remains largely similar, though it
inevitably suffers in the details. You’re now limited to two players (the screen is split horizontally like Spy Vs
), with three characters to choose from instead of the original nine. The three button controls were
reassigned to fit the NES’s two button controller. The graphics may be the biggest let down, not because they’re
particularly bad by Nintendo’s standards, but because the arcade game had set such a high bar. The colors that
were so crisp and varied, and the highly detailed backgrounds, were really knocked down. The variegated color
palette is now limited to a couple colors for the background (primarily a washed out blue and orange), a couple for
your character, and a couple for the enemies. Music is strangely absent--the only time it appears is between levels.
While still a fun game, at least half the joy of the original was picking out all the lovingly-rendered details (“wow,
I’ve never seen this
before!”) of this side-scrolling, darkly humorous cross between Star Trek and Aliens.
The levels and enemies here all appear about the same from round to round, making prolonged play more of an
endurance exercise, a la Rampage
. It’s cheap enough if you can find it, as befits a game I rate a 5 out
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