Xevious

Name:
Xevious xevious_1
Company: Atari
Model #:
CX-2695
Programmer:
Tod Frye
Year: 1984
Released?
No
Notes:
A very early version with completely different graphics was shown in an internal Atari marketing video

 

It's dangerous, it's devious, it's Xevious.  Never before has a tag line so perfectly summed up a video game.  Xevious was one of the first (if not the first) in a new genre of arcade games: the scrolling shooter.  While we make take such games for granted today, back in 1982 such a concept was unheard of.  Most games of the time had only one non-scrolling screen, which seriously limited their creativity.  One screen shooter like Galaga and Galaxian were ok, but players hungered for something different.  Xevious satisfied that hunger.

xevious_2

 

It's a nightmare, but it's true.  Scientific research has determined that we are the actual aliens on Earth and the evil Xevions are the original inhabitants.  Now the Xevions want Earth back, minus the humans! Earth's last hope is an experimental fighter plane known as the Solvalou.  The mission is dangerous, success isn't guaranteed, and odds are this is a one-way trip.  But at this point it's do or die!

xevious_3

 

As Earth's last hope, you must successfully defeat the Xevion assault fleet before they reclaim earth.  However this won't be an easy task, the Xevions have had over a millennia to develop the biggest, nastiest, and most destructive ships Earth has ever seen.  Thankfully the Solvalou is armed with the latest in weapons technology which will cut through the Xevion hordes like a hot knife through butter.  The Solvalou has two main weapons, a laser blaster for taking out air targets, and a photon bomber for destroying ground targets.  Over the course of the game you'll run into numerous enemy types which can only be destroyed using the appropriate weapon, so mastering the dual shot (air and ground) technique is vital.

xevious_4

 

Toroid Fleet Ships toroid These round rotating objects are the first and most common enemy encountered in Xevious.  Gliding in from the left or right, a small squad of Toroids come towards your ship before darting away from whence they came.  Thankfully Toroids don't pose much of a threat unless you happen to be distracted by something else at the time.
Torkan Scout Ships torkan Torkan Scouts are similar to Toroids except if they see your ship they will change color and fire.  They also have a bad tendency to ram your ship. 
Jarra Spinners jarra Jarra Spinners tend to move faster than Torkan Scout Ships, but they also move in a more straight forward pattern.   As the name implies they appear to be spinning as they move.

Mirrors (Bacura Shields)

mirror
Mirrors are the single most annoying enemy in Xevious.  These large rotating squares appear in large swarms at various points in the game.  Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but they are INDESTRUCTABLE!  That's right, all you can do is avoid them and hope one doesn't go smashing into your cockpit.  Thankfully Mirror swarms are fairly uncommon.
Zoshi Death Squad
These odd shaped UFO’s are encountered in the later areas.  As the name suggests, Zoshi Death Squads are quick and deadly.  Take great care when attempting to engage them
Giddo Spario
These tiny balls of energy are quick and hard to see.  Unless you’re careful these will wipe your ship out in no time.
Zakato Energy Launcher
Zakato Energy Launchers (also known as Black Balls) are on of the deadliest enemies in Xevious.  Appearing out of nowhere, Black Balls self-destruct into a fast moving bullet which will then launch itself at you.  While one or two are easy to avoid, Black Balls like to swarm and appear right next to your ship making them all the more deadly.  Black Balls tend to herald the arrival of Andor Genesis, so when they start to appear you know Andor isn't far behind.
Andor Genesis andor
This is the big one, the Mother Ship!  Andor Genesis is a hulking air fortress armed with four laser cannons just dying to blow you out of the sky.  The only way to defeat Andor Genesis is with a direct hit on the rector core with a photon bomb (think Star Wars), however getting close enough to Andor Genesis without being hit is a major challenge.  Destroying the rector will cause Andor Genesis will cause it to flee and prepare itself for another attack.
Domogram Rovers rover
As the name implies Rovers spend their days roaming along the ground just taking pot shots at your ship.  Rovers move quite fast and can be difficult to bomb
Logram Sphere Station logram
These sphere shaped structures appear to be harmless although they will occasionally shoot a bullet towards your ship.  Be on your guard.
Derota Defense Station
These square pyramid shaped structures are the most common defensive structure that you'll encounter.  Derota Defense Stations will often shoot a quick moving energy bullet at your ship.  Take them out quickly before they become a problem.
Batra Energy Station barra
These square pyramid shaped structures provide power for the Xevion assault fleet.  They'll take pot shots at you if you get too close.






 

When Ray Kassar was fired as CEO of Atari in 1983, James Morgan was hired to take his place.  Jim put all projects on hold for 30 days while he reviewed what had been going on during Ray's "reign of terror".  Since the 7800 was deemed high priority, most 2600 and 5200 projects were put on hold or outsourced to GCC.  It was originally assumed that Xevious was one of the 2600 titles that were killed off during this time, but recently a nearly complete version of the game was found proving that it survived at least until early 1984.

xevious_5

 

While the gameplay in the 2600 version is amazingly accurate, some corners still had to be cut.  One of the 2600's biggest problem was that it only had one fire button, making many arcade conversions difficult.  Tod got around this problem by having the fire button serve double duty as your fire and bomb button.  Pressing the fire will shoot a shot and drop a bomb that slowly arcs to where the targeting sight is.  The enemy AI also got a bit of a lobotomy so they all generally act the same instead of having distinct attack patterns.  Amazingly Tod was able to implement a scrolling background as was seen in the arcade version.  While this background wasn't as detailed as it's arcade cousin, it was still a major accomplishment for the 2600.  Not only was Tod able to get the scrolling background implemented, but he was able to have multiple enemies appear on the screen at once with little or no flicker.  In fact the only thing that flickers in the entire game is your ship which is actually made up of two missile graphics to keep more sprites free (hence the funny shape and flickering).  This odd design also makes your ship almost twice as large as it was in the arcade (making it harder to dodge enemy shots).

xevious 7

Although Xevious appears to be just about complete, there are a few bugs still present in the code.  The 2600 version of Xevious has an option for controlling the scrolling speed with the difficulty switches (a feature not found in any other version).  However when the game is put in fast mode (A=Slow, B=Fast) the scrolling gets rather choppy and non-uniform making it hard to play after a while.   There’s also a glitch in one of the animation frames of the boss (Andor Genesis) due to the game accidentally reading sound code rather than graphics code.  Scoring seems to be a bit generous in this version making it easy to rack up extra lives, but it is unknown if this would have been changed before release.  The code is also unoptimized which wastes a lot of space that could have been used for other improvements, however since code optimization is one of the last things that is done to a game before completion this is not unexpected.

xevious_8

Unfortunately as good as Xevious was, it didn’t stand a chance against the deadliest of enemies ‘collapsing market’.   The 2600 version along with the 5200 version were canceled with the 7800 version being the only one to see the light of day.  This is a shame because it’s obvious that Tod was a highly skilled programmer who could push the 2600 to its limits and Xevious is an amazing looking game.  The remaining bugs could have probably been squashed with just a few more weeks of work with code optimization taking a little longer.  Had it been finished Xevious probably would have been a mainstay in the 2600 library and a big hit, but it appears that Atari wasn’t willing to wait. 


A prototype box can be seen in this picture (third row, second box)


Version Cart Text Description
5/25/83 Xevious 5/25/83 Early version with jumpy display
8/2/83 Xevius 8-2 Mid level WIP
9/12/83 Xevious Cartridge 9-12-83 Same as 8/2/83
1/18/84
Xevious 1-18-84
Nearly complete

 

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