A hot new series about complaining about free things
Every now and then, if my PS3 is turned on and for some reason not occupied by Fallout or BlazBlue, I like to log into the PSN Shop and see what I can get free demos of. It’s a good way to test out the latest big name ti-who am I kidding, I own a current gen console and still devote most of my interest to remakes of old stuff or indie games of varying quality. For crying out loud, you want to know what my current PC desktop is? It’s a GameBoy Micro. Well, I’m kind of pleased to say that Thexder NEO seems to carry on many design choices of the NES era. Sadly, they’re choices that probably should have died already.
So yeah. You are Thexder, I guess. In this remake of the classic that nobody I know personally has actually played, you control a transforming robot that flies around and murders aliens and other kinds of robots with his death lasers. Sounds pretty sweet, doesn’t it? You don’t even have to aim. The death lasers hate life so much they automatically lock on to the closest possible killable thing. Robots are pretty cool on their own, naturally, and transforming robots only kick it up a notch. So why did I hate the demo so much?
For starters, the game measures your life out with a simple ‘Energy’ gauge. This gauge depletes when you take hits. Duh, right? Well, they also have your weapons tapping the same source, so if you go around recklessly using your death rays, you can run your battery down to nil and kill yourself. So even though the levels are pretty wide open and you can fly about (kind of) freely, your steadily depleting life battery forces you to figure out not just the way out of the stage, but the most efficient way out. I’ve played a few dungeon crawlers and roguelikes, so I can kind of get the appeal of managing your resources for survival’s sake and pushing just a bit further on, but in those games, you have time to consider your moves, whereas in this one, you’re in control of a large hunk of metal hurtling chaotically through the air with a leaky battery. Now, you do have a shield that lessens the damage you take from enemies. It does add a bit more in your favor since you can power on your shields before taking on a cluster of enemies, and you can pick up more juice by killing them. I still kept reaching a point where I would need to blast a block to move on, then keel over dead from energy loss.
Enemies are of the classic “Ok, so what’s that thing?” stable that plagued old games, especially anything involving aliens. I guess having alien species around lowers the bar for recognizable, believable enemy designs. I recall the point where I gave up was about the time I ran into a small dark hallway patrolled by a pair of spinning, colorful dildo things that seemed pretty much invincible and ran directly at you, and lingering too long to let them pass usually lead to small, endlessly respawning ‘thingies’ coming for you.
You know what Thexder needs? A fucking extension cord. It worked in Evangelion. You could even make puzzles around ‘how the hell do I get past this section when my cord hangs up on the sofa?’
At one point I thought I had found a princess or something to rescue. She morphed into a hideous death beast and killed me for my trouble. Women.