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Old 08-09-2011, 07:54 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Retronauts: Tales of Thexder Part II

How could you go wrong with a video game starring a fifty-foot tall robot that spits out more lasers than a planetarium and transforms into a fighter jet with the flick of a switch? It's more likely than you'd think if it's your first release, as GameArts discovered when it debuted Thexder in 1985. While it gave players a chance to test drive a Transformer, the unforgiving gameplay made that ride a whole lot bumpier than they expected. It's likely that everyone who took a joyride in Thexder returned to the lot with the robot's remains swept into a dustpan.

Everyone's entitled to a few mistakes, though, especially when they're first getting started in the business. It's why pencils have erasers, and banks have costly government bailouts. It took the company a few years, but GameArts finally did Thexder justice when it released Fire Hawk: Thexder the Second Contact in 1989. The face of gaming drastically changed in the four year gap between the two Thexder games, and Fire Hawk took advantage of the trends that moved the medium forward.

The improvements in Fire Hawk hit you in the face the moment you start the game. Along with a flashy title sequence, there's a gorgeous cinematic introduction straight out of a top-notch Japanese cartoon. The stages look more stylish as well, with caverns made of rock rather than stacked Lego pieces and parallax scrolling for a more convincing illusion of depth. Even the characters have a shinier metallic sheen, giving Fire Hawk the look of a big-budget Japanese console game.

The gameplay still has some of the issues that dogged the first Thexder. Carefully inching across the playfield is a must if you want to nail your enemies before they have a chance to latch onto you and leech away your energy. However, now that you've got two buttons, switching on the shield that grants you some protection against their assault is a whole lot easier. You can also launch heat-seeking missiles (a Thexder first) and scan the black boxes of downed aircraft, giving the storyline more presence and urgency.

Sadly, the novelty of transforming robots had started to wear thin by 1989, so Fire Hawk didn't get the publicity or the market saturation that its predecessor had in the mech-crazed mid 1980s. While the original Thexder was released for nearly a dozen different home computers and game systems, Fire Hawk had to settle for IBM PCs and the MSX2, an almost-but-not-quite-16-bit computer that was popular in Japan. There were no console releases at all' but considering the sorry state of Thexder on the Famicom/NES, that was probably for the best!

If Fire Hawk was the future of Thexder, the game covered in the final installment of the series could be considered its past. Stay tuned and you'll find out why.



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Old 08-13-2011, 04:09 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Retronauts: Tales of Thexder Part II

Firehawk is excellent. Contrary to what the text seems to say, the MSX-2 version is far superior to PC one in graphics and sound quality.
Anyway, the PC version is very charming, too.

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Originally Posted by Robot View Post
(...) and the MSX2, an almost-but-not-quite-16-bit computer that was popular in Japan.
Blasphemy!

---------- Post added at 05:09 PM ---------- Previous post was at 04:14 PM ----------

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Originally Posted by Enemy Ace View Post
Blasphemy!
Hmm... Actually, no. MSX-2' CPU is really 8 bit.
I mistook the model with MSXturboR, what appears to be the only 16 bit MSX. My unforgivable flaw.
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