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The recent release of Thexder Neo for the PS3 ignited a bit of retro gaming nostalgia for me, but unfortunately this new game is a hot mess of annoying controls and insufferable difficulty. If you like extremely fast-paced and challenging arcade style games, you might like this one. I think most gamers will give up out of frustration before they even finish half the game. It is also available for the Sony PSP.
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I distinctly remember playing the original Thexder back in the late 1980’s on my old Apple IIgs computer. It was a side-scrolling action game involving a flying robot guy who shot lasers and blew stuff up. This wildly popular game originated in Japan and was such a huge hit that it found its way stateside and was released by Sierra. It was made available for pretty much every PC type that was available at the time, and was a big hit with computer gamers. A sequel, called Firehawk, was released in 1989 and then Sierra re-released a remake called Thexder 95 for Windows, but none of the sequels every scored the success of the original game. It has been more than a decade since we last heard from this flying robot.
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Thexder is more or less a Transformer in how he can turn into a jet and fly or walk around like a robot. Either way, he’s shooting laser beams at various targets. Who doesn’t like robots that blow stuff up with lasers, right? Pretty much all you do in this game is blast your way through a variety of extremely difficult levels while switching back and forth between forms. It is one of the most challenging reflexive arcade style games I’ve seen on the PS3.
When I am playing a shooting game like this, I like to occasionally run into easy targets. By that, I mean there should be some basic stuff that explodes with one shot. When I have to shoot and then keep shooting every single thing I run across, it adds to the tedium of the game. It also makes you feel like Thexder is a complete wimp when he’s steadily facing down floating objects that can absorb several hits before they die. Why is Thexder so underpowered? That’s no fun when your hero is in serious need of a weapon upgrade.
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Graphics and Sound
One major improvement that Thexder Neo has over the original game is in the graphics and sound department. Although the map levels are pretty basic with lots of square corners and linear layouts, the hyperactive animations and flashing colors are pretty to look at. This is a very busy game with lots of action, so the screen will always be filled with moving objects that explode in an array of colors and effects. The design of the game is obviously a tribute to the original Thexder, though it isn’t much of an improvement where it really counts in gameplay. The PS3 version of this game looks noticeably better than the PSP one.
I was extremely happy that the developers of this game chose to leave Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata as the end-level music because that’s what appeared in the original game. It’s a synthesized version that sounds exactly as I remember it, and I really liked that classic touch to the game. It’s funny how it doesn’t even fit into the game’s genre in any way, yet that music is the one thing I remember above else when it comes to playing Thexder.
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The control system in this game is kind of confusing and there is practically a learning curve toward getting the movement system down. Thexder can walk along the bottom of the screen like a giant robot and shoot at the various things he encounters. He can also turn into a jet and fly around to reach other areas. The problem is that both forms seem sluggish and don’t control the way you’d expect. For me, one of the biggest problems was how the jet has to make a circle in midair just to turn around. When enemy targets are literally flying circles around you, this turns into a dizzy and frustrating experience. On the original Thexder, it all worked so much better. Having to shoot everything repeatedly also adds to the tedium.
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It doesn’t look like Thexder Neo is going to be gaining any new fans for the Thexder series. Even if you’re tempted to revisit your youth and give this game a shot, I urge you to at least first download the free demo and see what you’re in for before committing $9.99 to buy the full thing. I do enjoy a good gaming challenge, but this game was not much fun.