Thexder was a fairly simple 8-bit action game from the mid 80's featuring a robot that could transform into a jet. Literally out of the blue Thexder NEO has arrived. This update to the original game is published by Square Enix, developed by Zereo and is only available for purchase through the PlayStation store.
Thexder NEO is a game that is rare in our modern age, there are no story elements, none at all. The only inkling to a story is the listing on the PSN showing the background of the game as:
'During a routine survey, the interstellar weapons platform Laevina detects Nedium, an asteroid of unknown origin, and soon finds itself in the grip of the planetoid's ultramagnetic field. Shipwrecked atop an impregnable fortress of rock, the starship turns to its last resort – the Hyper Dual Armor prototype Thexder.'
None of this is referenced in the game, there are not even static cut scenes or information screens. When you start the game you are presented with an option to select Easy or Normal then the action starts. This is a true throwback to the twitch games of the 80's where high scores where all that was important. Unfortunately by today's standards it just makes the game very simple and not one you grow terribly attached to.
Thexder NEO is an incredibly simple game from a design standpoint. You can move, jump, shoot, raise a shield and change to a ship with simple button presses. Controlling Thexder is seamless and intuitive, moving and jumping around is animated well and controls are responsive.
When you fire lasers in your robot form you automatically track and hit enemies and objects in your view, there is no manual aiming at all. As a ship you can only fire straight ahead, but you have full movement in any direction as the fast flying ship to quickly get enemies in front of you.
There is also a shield you can toggle off and on at will as long as you have energy. This shield protects you from all damage and destroys enemies it touches when in place but drains a large amount of energy. Your energy bar powers your shots and shields, your health bar is just below that. As you destroy enemies and objects they release green and red orbs, green for energy and red for health.
The need to watch health and energy are the key dynamics of Thexder NEO and why it is so challenging to complete in Normal mode. See in Easy you have unlimited continues, in Normal you have just one life and that can go away very quickly.
At it's heart Thexder NEO is a very simple action platforming game. The levels are designed to encourage quick swaps between robot and ship as you evade or destroy enemies to reach the end of the level. After each level your health and energy bar gets longer, but the amount remaining stays where it was when you finished the level. Getting to the last level there is a large boss creature, then nothing. The game simply ends with as little story as it began with.
The game is a very short one, playing though on easy I blew through the entire game in 40 or so minutes. On hard I have tried it seven times and have yet to complete it. The game is truly tough and completing with no continues is a true challenge, not a fun one, but very tough.
There is, believe it or not, an infrastructure mode that lets you play online with other PSP owners. The mode is simple allowing up to six players to try and reach the end of a level in the quickest time. I have managed to play one multiplayer match despite trying to find and hosting a room at least a dozen times. The match was short, I lost, but at least the action was fairly smooth.
Thexder NEO is a relatively simple game but at least it is crisp and colorful. The models for the enemies and especially the Thexder unit look great. There are some nice explosion effects and the lasers look bright and effective.
Animation is handled very well, especially the transition from robot to ship. Jumping, flying and blasting things to bit is smooth and well represented. If anything it is a nice looking game, not much variety, but what is there looks good.
Basic but effective is the best way to describe Thexder NEO's audio. In a nice touch when you select the game in your XMB the classic Thexder music plays. Unfortunately that is nowhere to be found in the main game, but the inclusion is nice. The music in the game is nice but forgettable and is very reminiscent of 8-bit game sin it's style.
The effects in the game are also quite basic but serviceable. A subtle audio cue is used for transformation and the lasers have a distinct sound. Explosions are not terribly loud, but are effectively handled.
The Final Word
Thexder NEO is a competent action game that is hampered by wildly varying difficulty levels, basic gameplay and worst of all no soul. If some effort had been made to add some depth to the title it could have been something to watch as a potential franchise. As it is Thexder NEO is just a below average, but pretty, game.
Thexder NEO is rated E (Everyone) by the ESRB for Fantasy Violence.