By Joe Sigadel / July 10th, 2015
|Release Date||June 5, 2015|
Shoot ’em ups are a very niche kind of genre. That wasn’t always the case; back in the heyday of arcades at malls, plazas, and tourist traps, you could find at least one cabinet sitting tucked away in a corner. The most common shmup I’ve seen was Strikers 1945, which happens to be my all-time favorite top-down vertical shmup game, with Raiden II being a close second. I pumped a lot of quarters into these machines to reach the end. I was a determined young pup, egged on by the incredible music and visually striking bosses that changed form every time you destroyed their parts until they got blown away in a huge explosion. XIIZEAL is a strong reminder of a time gone by, a time when shmups graced these halls of video games alongside beat ’em ups and fighting games.
Unfortunately, that also includes the limited credits, which honestly makes no sense to me.”Arcade perfect” shouldn’t have to mean that you take the bad parts of the arcade with you. My PC doesn’t have a slot to insert quarters last I checked, so XIIZEAL ends up being a pretty short experience. With practice, I suppose you could make it last 30-45 minutes on a single playthrough. The game has four difficulty modes: Easy, Normal, Hard, and Very Hard, but you can only get to the leaderboards if you play on Normal or higher. You will die a lot in this game; keep in mind that this is a direct port of a game from 2002, and we all know that arcade games are designed to be unfair so that you put in more quarters.
The silver lining is that you have a couple of tools to help you get by, which are unique to this game. First off is a weapon that lets you attack enemies from the side, and this is something you’ll want to use as much as possible in addition to your regular vertically-firing lasers. It has three benefits: it protects you, it does quite a bit of damage, and it adds up to a 12x multiplier to your score if you can keep it going. Sometimes hordes of enemies will swoop in on both sides of the screen making that the ideal time to make use of it. The other feature unique to this game is the way bombs work. Traditionally, bombs in vertical shmups are used as a last resort to blow away particularly tough enemies that won’t go down easy. But the bombs in XIIZEAL have another feature: when they detonate, they produce force fields which will protect you from everything for a brief time. But these have a very limited use and don’t spawn often, so they are best used sparingly when you’re in a really bad spot. When you have only three credits to work with, and no way to continue beyond that, that’s going to happen more often than you’d like.
XIIZEAL has several different graphics options, but only maxes out at a 720p resolution. That doesn’t do it any favors, the game still looks like it’s much older than its original 2002 release date, and the filtering option makes the pixels appear blurry and muddy. You can rotate, move and resize the screen if you wish, but that’s about it. Aesthetically, it looks like the bare minimum was done on the opening menu screens; it’s not very pretty to look at. You only have one ship to choose from, so you literally just press start and have a go at the game. There’s no story, no rhyme or reason for anything, just shoot down all the enemy ships and the boss and move on. If you clear a stage, you can go back and do a score attack on it. The music in this game is alright, but nothing memorable. It’s basic, electronic ambience. Lasers and ship explosions don’t sound as good as they could, they come off a bit muffled to me.
I have to say it, but I’m disappointed with XIIZEAL overall. I was expecting a short, fun arcade shmup to pass the time blasting enemies away. While there’s nothing technically wrong with the game (it’s functional, at least), the fact that it’s so bare-bones and puts limitations on your play keeps it from being more enjoyable. Publishers should take note that “arcade perfect” doesn’t have to be taken literally. If you’re going to charge $11.99 for this on Steam, the least you could do is allow free play. As it is, I would advise you to wait for a Steam sale before making a purchase.
Review copy provided by publisher