|John Seghers (Programmer) &
Courtney Granner (Graphics)
|Xari Arena was
never assigned an official 5200 part number.
Xari Arena is one of those games you look at and say, "What
the hell is going on here?" From the moment you turn it on
you're greeted by some of the coolest looking graphics the 5200
ever saw. At its core Xari Arena is Breakout in reverse,
but there's much more to it than meets the eye. Your goal
is to destroy all the Xari's that come out of the well in the
center of the screen before they can destroy all your blocks.
Sound easy? Well you're in for a few surprises.
Each player resembles a hollow paddle (like a
capsule), which you can move around your side of the screen.
Your paddle can catch and hold up to three fireballs (the
little star looking things that the Xari's shoot), and each stored
fireball allows you to destroy one Xari by running into it.
If you hit a Xari without any fireballs stored in your
paddle, it is temporarily stunned and you cannot catch or deflect
any shots for a few seconds. If you already have three
fireballs stored up, your paddle will start reflecting the
fireballs back at the Xari's (a great tactic for those hard to
reach guys that won't come near you) and at your partner (which is
not so good). You can choose to reflect shots even if you
don't have three fireballs stored up by pressing the bottom
If things start to get out of control you can
activate your fire extinguisher (using the top controller button)
to temporarily protect your blocks. The fire extinguisher
coats your blocks with foam and will destroy any shots that touch
it. the foam moves quickly down your blocks and only lasts
for a few seconds so you have to use it wisely (like when
fireballs get behind your blocks). You get one new fire
extinguisher each level, which can be stored for later use (trust
me, you'll need them).
Every couple of rounds you are rewarded by the
Xari's with a cute little choreographed dance (complete with
music). During these dances the Xari's form patterns that
increase in complexity with each level. It's simply amazing
how many objects John was able to get moving on the screen at the
higher levels. After they complete their dance all the
Xari's will self-destruct and it's off to the next set of levels.
After you complete all 32 levels the game will pick a random
level and difficulty, so the fun never ends. Interestingly
in the older version there was a ending message after completing
all 32 levels, it is unknown why Atari took this out.
There are a number of interesting play options that
add to the fun and keep the game interesting (as if it ever got
boring). You can play alone, with a friend, or with a
computer partner (if you have no friends). The computer's AI
isn't bad, but it only seems to use the fire extinguisher after
the fireballs have already caused massive damage. There have
been cases where the computer could have saved itself but chose to
hold onto the extinguishers "just in case". Still while the
computer isn't perfect it still usually manages to hang in there
until around level 21 or so.
Xari Arena's graphics are top notch; everything is
drawn with a fine resolution and there is ample use of artifacting
which produces a glowing effect that makes things really stand
out. One thing you'll notice right away is the cool font
that is used through out the game; it's one of those little
touches that really adds to the game. Another of Xari
Arena's little touches is that the Xari's actually score points
for each block they destroy. How many games do you know
where the enemy can score points like the player? The sound
gets the job done, mostly consisting of deflection beeps like you
would hear in Breakout and explosion sounds, but the best thing
about Xari Arena is the in-game music! There is a continuous
tune that plays in the background of each board that simply
rocks. You'll be surprised at how often you noticed the lack
of background music in many other 5200 games after playing Xari
Arena. It really makes the whole playing experience much
more enjoyable. Although you can play with a standard 5200
controller, you'll want to use the Trak-Ball controller for
maximum enjoyment as it makes playing the game a whole lot easier.
If more original games like this had been released
earlier in its life cycle the 5200 might have been the runaway
success that Atari hoped, but games like Xari Arena came too late
to help save the 5200 and ultimately went unreleased due to the
crash. Had Xari Arena been released it mostly assuredly
would have been a top seller with its mix of sharp visuals,
beautiful music, and innovative yet easy to learn gameplay.
||Early version with
||Almost complete (missing
||Xari.Rom 9/20/83 (Disk)
to 5200 Software