Review by TIDQ
"This is how we do 3D in the 80s, yo."
Zaxxon may be the game which can be credited with putting Sega on the map. Moreso the arcade version, but Zaxxon was successful enough to port its way to many systems in the 1980s.
What sets it apart from other space shooters is the fairly impressive incorporation of 3-dimensional steering and landscapes. The speed of your craft is constant, while the directional buttons control movement both left and right, as well as increase and decrease in altitude. It sounds like a tricky process for the time period, and indeed it's not perfect, but it still manages to work pretty well.
When you're trying to position yourself and dodge objects while floating in mid-air in an isometric view, the nuances of the game help you learn where you are. The height meter on the side of the screen is numbered precisely from 0 to 7, and changes as you adjust your altitude. The shadow you create on the ground helps line up with or avoid objects in your path. Vertically placed objects, such as force fields, can be felt out with your gun blaster. Find a spot where your bullets fly through easily, and you'll know your plane can fit as well. It's a really fairly well-designed system for its day, and a breath of fresh air.
The problem with feeling out your location occurs more when you leave the land area, and start battling other spaceships in space. It's very hard to try and figure out where the enemy ships are located, and the fact that they're continually changing their own height doesn't help much.
Another aspect of the game that I would have preferred to avoid is the fuel gauge. I am not a fan of games where you have to worry all the time about fuel, and this game in particular really emphasizes it. You have to break open fuel silos to recharge your ship, and you have to have enough to last through the space portions of each level, or you'll crash. It's not something I would prefer to worry about when I have space aliens on my tail, but it's manageable.
The level design is not too shabby. The 3D landscape gets changed up a bit to keep a little variety, and the space portions and boss fights also keep things progressing. The atmosphere when going through the dark tunnel areas also helps to give the settings some personality.
Appearance-wise, this is definitely one of the better SG-1000 games. It's not fantastic, and it's not the best-looking of the Zaxxon ports, but it's enough to be decently pleasing to the eye. The sound is somewhat forgettable, but at least it's not ear-wrenching.
It would be a mistake for someone exploring the SG-1000 library to skip Zaxxon. It isn't Earth-shatteringly great, but it's original, it's unique, and it's one of the better games for the system.
Reviewer's Score: 7/10 | Originally Posted: 11/22/06
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