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Old 08-05-2011, 07:25 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Retronauts: Tales of Thexder Part I

As you may have already read on 1UP, Takeshi Miyaji, lead developer of the Grandia series and brother of GameArts co-founder Yoichi Miyaji, died last month of unspecified causes. It's always a tragedy when one of the unsung heroes of the video game industry passes away, but this was an especially bitter pill for me to swallow. Miyaji was one of the brightest creative minds at GameArts, and I've been an avid fan of the small but scrappy publisher from the beginning.

My first GameArts experience was also the company's first release, Thexder. The game was brought to the United States by Sierra On-Line in 1985, and they couldn't have picked a better time for it! Shape-shifting robots were huge in America thanks to the Transformers toy line and the Voltron animated series. Computer gamers, mostly young and entirely nerdy, were eager to climb into the cockpit of one of these mighty morphin' mechs, and Thexder gave them the first chance to live out that fantasy.

Switching forms with a tap of the joystick wasn't just incredibly cool' it also brought depth to the gameplay. Thexder has the most firepower as a robot, spraying his enemies with auto-targeting lasers, but transforming into a jet is the only way to squeeze through tight corridors and fully explore each stage. As an android or an aircraft, Thexder isn't a fuel efficient model, and will burn through his limited supply of energy if he doesn't stop to blast the power-ups hidden in each stage.

That energy depletes even faster when Thexder is attacked, leading to the game's most frustrating flaw. Massive swarms of attack drones lurk outside the edges of the screen' once they're scrolled into view, they cluster around the droid and tear into him like hyenas on a rotting corpse. There's no way to escape these ambushes' either Thexder must blast his way out or sit there as the drones take him apart piece by piece. It won't be a long wait' they usually do the job in three seconds.

Thexder was a rough start for GameArts. However, they'd do the concept justice in a sequel, as well as a later game heavily inspired by the company's premiere. I'll cover them both in a future installment.
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