Thursday, June 02, 2005

Recommended Gaming: MAME GP32

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Aaaaaah, good old Zaxxon. It's one of those '"Where were you when.." kind of games. Truly groundbreaking when Sega released it back in '82, it's a great space shooter and highly addictive. Every decent arcade had a few Zaxxons and interest never really waned, even years later it was still popular. The use of an isometric perspective created a true 3 dimensional playfield, offering up a variety of ways to complete the level. You could take it easy, flying high and staying (mostly) out of trouble or zip along nice and low, trying to shoot every red radar dish to score big. Zaxxon rates in my top 5 games of all time, and being able to play it on the run is a dream come true!
There's not a lot of secrets to playing Zaxxon. Controls are simple enough, an 8-way joystick controls your ship (keeping in mind the Y-axis is reversed, flight-simulator-style) and a single fire button shoots straight ahead. If you're unfamiliar with the game it may take a few plays to get familiar with the joystick setup, but it'll come, and it'll be worth it. The game really rewards the player who can control his ship with pinpoint accuracy. Notice the altitude gauge on the left of the screen, you need to keep an eye on this in the deep space section (this comes after you've traversed the enemy base section). During the enemy base section (where you start) you can gauge your altitude by firing constantly and noting where the bullets hit. Also note your shadow, straight below your ship at all times, so you can line yourself up on the x and z axis. Also note that fuel gauge at the bottom! The game takes a leaf out of Scramble's book, in that you need to destroy fuel tanks (liberally dotted around the enemy base sections) to top off your own supply. How this works is a mystery! There are a number of things to watch out for on the base. Gun emplacements shoot horizontally (at ground level) at you, missile silos fire their missiles vertically as you approach (you're warned though, the silo spits flames just before the missile is launched), electronic barriers and walls are placed in your path (use your bullets to gauge a safe path around or through these), runways contain enemy planes (secret: shoot as many of these in your first time through the base, you'll then encounter fewer in the deep space section. You'll know how many are around by keeping an eye on their numbers at the bottom right) and there are a few red radar dishes (though harmless, shoot as many as you can for big bonuses. Shoot them all for a giant bonus!). If you fly too high for too long an air to air missile will home in on you, and he's a tough customer. requiring 6 shots to destroy, so if you're new to the game and just want to get through this section stay around halfway up the altitude gauge, dipping down to pick off easy fuel tanks. Keep an eye on that fuel gauge, if you run out you'll crash! Once through the base section you'll be in deep space. Without a shadow it's difficult to gauge exactly where you are, so treat this section defensively. I place my ship on the far left and about 2/3 of the way up the altitude gauge. Just keep firing away, you'll note that when the enemy planes are at your altitude a small cross-hair appears for you to aim with. The real prizes here are the satellites, yielding good points. When you destroy planes or satellites your ship will be jolted by the shock, and you'll need to adjust your altitude back to that magic 2/3 area again. It's really worth trying to get as many planes as possible here, again you'll have fewer to deal with later. Once through deep space you're back over the base, but it's a lot trickier this time with a big helping of electronic barriers and walls to negotiate. Use that fire button! Once you're firing through the holes you can follow that line with your ship. At the end of this second base section Zaxxon himself will appear. He's a giant robot that fires air to air homing missiles at you. As soon as he enters the playfield start firing and keep it up. You'll need to hit the red missile mounted on the right of him 6 times, taking him with it. It's really not that hard once you've done it a couple of times, but you need to get it over with fast.
And that's it for Zaxxon. It's a really great game that you'll come back to time and time again. You'll find it in the Sega folder on MameGP32, it's quite processor intensive, so turn off the sound and give it frameskip 1. Enjoy!

Reviewed by: Alyinsanfran


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great review once again !

Could you tell me where to put the sound samples in mameGP32 to get sound to work ?

Thanks !

Thu Jun 02, 01:36:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They're not yet supported in MameGP32. We may see that at a later time but at at the mo' a few games have to be played with the sound off. This is a big deal for some people but it's never really worried me, there's more speed without sound anyway!
Thanks for the kind words, it's good to know folk out there are as enamoured with the classics as I am.


Thu Jun 02, 07:27:00 PM EDT  

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