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Stories from the Past: Xexyz and the battle aboard Turtlestar Lobsterica


This story begins in a poorly lit independent video store in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The era of the NES has largely ended, replaced by 16 bits of SNES and Genesis goodness. On the shelves of an establishment called Front Row Seat lay a variety of videogames in mediocre to poor condition, littered with labels betraying their status as former rentals. As the majority of patrons browse through the new movie releases, one boy shuffles through cartridge after cartridge looking for something. What that something is, however, he does not know.

Suddenly, five space-faring capital letters stand out to him: XEXYZ. What is it? he thinks. Is it a word? Only God and the Japanese know. Yet there is something compelling about this box, including the fact that itís one of the only games that actually comes with a box and manual. The fact that it was insanely cheap may have also been a factor. So the boy picks the game up, pays for it with money that is not his, and departs the store, which would close its doors forever in just a few short weeks, making this a memorable and meaningful final purchase.

What followed can only be described as utter insanity.

So step with me into the world of Xexyz: a world of frog kings, naked hot springs fairies, and flying lobster rocket surfboards.

The chances that youíve already played this game, or even heard of it, are fairly slim. Basically, Xexyz (which is apparently pronounced zeks'-zees. WORDS.) is a combination of a side-scrolling platformer action game and a shmup. Basically, you alternate between play styles after each level: the game begins in action mode, switches to shmup, and goes back and forth through the gameís 12 stages.

Now, Iím going to be honest with you. I forgot entirely that this game had platformer levels until I began researching for this post. This may have something to do with the fact that I was fairly young when I picked the game up, but it may also have a connection to the fact that these levels werenít any fun. However, they were rather strange.

The oddest thing about the platforming sections is the fact that theyíre obsessed with balls (which, strangely, Iíve been writing about a lot lately). First off, the gameís currency is balls. Technically, theyíre energy balls, but still. Balls. Yeah, if you want to upgrade your weapon, youíd better show up with your pants full of balls. And what upgrades, you ask, can you purchase for your weapon? Balls. Whether itís a wave ball or a moon ball, youíll have your enemies tripping balls in no time.

Other than virtually drowning in all of the balls, much of your time is spent running, jumping, entering buildings, and fighting some weird ass shit. Flying beetle things soar overhead and, to the best of my perception, attempt to rain their feces down upon you. Spaceships drop manic robots at your feet. Ghosts inhabit treasure rooms where, for some batshit-insane reason, the chests are glued to the ceiling, and to access them you have to headbutt a ghost and send it careening into one of the four chests. My god. There are also a lot of fairies in the game, including one that bathes naked. Your reward for rescuing this naked fairy is, of course, balls.

Most bosses are just as weird. Minibosses in the game are these ridiculous, angry monk statues that fire (of course) balls of fire out of their mouths. The first real boss you encounter is some sort of green, horned floating head that makes mad dashes at you as an attack pattern. Its weakness is, naturally, the forehead, so your balls should be applied directly to the forehead.

Things only get weirder during the shmup stages. As a shooter game, thereís not a whole lot of impressive stuff going on here. The enemies donít really move all that fast, and theyíre not going to banish you to bullet hell. You canít move your character that quickly, so it doesnít have the frantic pace of many later shmups. What it does have, though, is crazy animal ships.

The first craft you get is actually a bit of a letdown: you stand upon a red platform. Youíre not even riding in a damn spaceship, and you have to fight standing up. Seriously, thatís just mean. Luckily, things quickly change in the later stages, at least giving you the opportunity to sit down.

What you sit down on, however, is questionable at best. The first of the animal ships looks a bit like a pink catfish. It fires balls, as if you didnít already expect that. Later, youíll come across some sort of blue thing with a horn that appears to be a cross between a triceratops, a dolphin, and a unicorn. Then youíve got this badass lobster and this even more badass flying turtle. And the last, most badass ship of them all? Itís this smarmy mother fucker with a bad case of snaggletooth. Seriously, why does this thing have eyes?

And where will your balls end up? In the face of one of the many boss robot ships, which are equally as crazy as the player characterís ships, but way, way more awesome. Take, for instance, this mean-looking bastard of a shark right here. Paging Hamza. Seriously Ė no shark in the universe could match up to this mechanized menace. How about a dual-wielding dragon with a jetpack and a big-ass rifle for a tail? Yeah, thatís in there. Cycloptic samurai spaceship? Absolutely. Lobster that pukes bubbles at you? Why not! Needle-shooting thing that is little more than a disgusting-looking eyeball and brain? Check. Frankly, Iím surprised that I didnít find a floating testicle with a flaming sword.

In all of this insanity, how is one supposed to find a story? It beats the hell out of me, but there was indeed a narrative of some sort going on. Xexyz is, apparently, the poorly chosen name of a new federation of island nations that popped up after the rest of the world got totally trashed in a nuclear war.

As if thatís not bad enough, invaders from outer space decide to colonize the remaining islands and build mechanical castles. For no apparent reason, the leader of the aliens, Goruza, decides to kill the king and kidnap his only daughter, which sends the main character, Apollo, over the edge. He vows to do battle and rescue the dead kingís daughter. Bro knows whatís important in life, apparently. Along the way, he rescues a lot of other princesses, but, like Mario, he doesnít give a shit about them. Personally, Iíd much rather give my balls to the naked fairy in the bathtub.

Xexyz isnít really a great game, but itís just the right kind of ridiculous. Itís hard, even many years later, to forget riding around on a lobstercraft and firing at ridiculous boss things.

But, to me, Xexyz is also a relic of a time that is long gone Ė a time where the used game market wasnít driven entirely by Gamestop and its questionable prices and policies. This little local store, Front Row Seat, offered me an opportunity to find gems like this at unbelievably reasonable prices. Perhaps itís a different topic entirely, but I really miss that store, and I really miss that era. So, as much as this game will always remind me of flying balls and cycloptic samurai spaceships, it will also remind me of a time when people could wander through the aisles of a small, local store and come out with something like Xexyz.

Credit goes to http://www.nesplayer.com/xexyz/main.htm for those character sprites.

I apologize that I talked about balls so much. Also, balls.
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About Andrew Kauzone of us since 5:10 PM on 04.30.2009

In loving memory: PAX 2009 (thanks ZombiePlatypus! And WalkYourPath, of course)

I'm Kauza, which is pronounced like cause-uh. My real name's Andrew Kauz, if you'd rather go for that.

I like talking to Dtoid people, so please add me on your favorite social networking site:
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/kauza
Gchat: santakauz[at]gmail.com.

Basics: I'm 25, and I write things.

Eternal thanks go out to Y0j1mb0 for the amazing header image you see above. So, thanks, sir!

Look at some of the things I've written.

Things on the Front Page:

Mass Effect, Metal Gear, Moon Unit, and more: An interview with Jennifer Hale
The Future: Demanding more from the voices of videogames
Love/Hate: A plea to play as a female Shepard
A warning: Regrets from a former life and experiences yet unlived
Top ten games for people who hate Thanksgiving
The wrong thing: Being evil should be more like sex
Staying dry in a sea of spoilers is a matter of building a boat
Lessons on taking games just seriously enough
Come, take your pilgrimage to gaming's one true mecca
Here's to you, random-JRPG-dialogue-writer-man
The forgotten: Crushing disappointment at the hands of Crash 'n the Boys
The people who have the power to change the world
Improving game communities: Enough with the negativity
The draw of exploration: Antarctica to Oblivion, Shackleton to Shadow Complex
I suck at games: BlazBlue and a slapdash attempt at fisticuffs
I, the Author: My Everest
Untapped Potential: The Gamer's Education
Other Worlds than These: Our World, Only Different

A series sort of thing about status effects
Toxic Megacolon and other fresh status effects
Curse you, status effects, stop confusing my heart
Status effects are poisons that turn my silent heart to stone
Also check out the related forum thread.

The Fall of the Titans (wherein I talk about dead or dying gaming companies)

The fall of the titans part 3: What once was shall be again
The fall of the titans: Sega died so that we might dream of the future
The fall of the titans: Why do the giants of gaming die?

Stories from the Past (a series about my experiences playing certain games):

Stories from the Past: Tobal 2, Tomba! 2, and console double-vision
Stories from the Past: Diablo and the Dark Ride
Stories from the Past: What the f*ck, mom?
Stories from the Past: Xexyz and the battle aboard Turtlestar Lobsterica
Stories from the Past: The One-Balled Man-Bear
Stories from the Past: The Battle of Olympus
Stories from the Past: Suikoden 2

Storytelling (a series about, well, storytelling):

Storytelling: The Problem of Genres
Storytelling: Mass Effect, Vonnegut, and the Fourth Rule
Storytelling: Doing Nothing in "The Darkness"
Storytelling: The Power of a Single Line (Yeah, it was my first post.)

Other stuff that is good:

Lessons on taking games just seriously enough
A consuming power: The demon and the borderlands
Can games transcend good and evil?
Nothing is sacred: We won't let you go alone, but we have made a tragic decision
How Destructoid single-handedly changed my motherís opinion of gaming
Why Tecmo Super Bowl is the greatest sports game of all time
Seven reasons that I will end you in creative ways if you don't play Folklore
Mother Nature and the Impending Death of the Gaming Spirit
Times Games Forgot: The Dark Ages
The Sins and Successes of In-game Collectibles
The Lock is Broken
When Music Surpasses the Game
Truckasaurus Rex and the Humor of Games
I Want to Cry (storytelling related, but not part of the series)

I have others as well that you can check out on my blog. You'll enjoy them or your money back.

Since it seems like the cool thing to do, here a list of my favorite games that is coming straight out of my ass and onto your computer screen, and in no particular order.

Fallout 3
Uncharted 2
Suikoden 2
Mass Effect / ME2
Metal Gear Solid followed by any number you can think of
Tales of Somethingendinginia (OK, and the Abyss)
Battlefield: Bad Company
Xbox LIVE:kauza
PSN ID:santakauz
Mii code:kauza


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