I'm so glad that I played a pirate copy of this game. Just look at this box art. Imagine THIS on the shelf at Gamestation:
It looks like a Fishmongers, on acid. Bad acid. I actually couldn't believe this was the box art for the game, as I had never seen it before. But it doesn't matter anymore, as what does matter, is that this was an INCREDIBLE game.
Before we start, I thought I'd tell an embarassing story, and what made me remember all about this charming game. My Uncle, the pirate king, used to hardly play any of the games he copied for me and my cousins. But when I used to go on holiday to visit them, he used to make an exception, and play Xenon with me. The game was prone to occasional crashing. My Uncle, the crafty git, capitalised on this, and claimed that if I didn't dance around the room whilst it loaded, it would definitely crash. Cue me dancing around the room, in a somewhat wild and erratic manner, desperate to get to the next level, with my family laughing.
I was 7. But to be honest, I'd still dance around the room today if I had a copy. You can't jinx these things.
Xenon was a space shooter. Gradius style, but scrolling upwards. Incredibly hard, but the cracked version had cheats. The game looked, for the time, amazing. Really crisp graphics, really sharp and really polished for the time. The game was made by Bitmap Brothers, who did a sterling job in crafting this. I even remember back then how good it looked.
The game was fantastic, if a little formulaic. But this isn't what the game is ever going to be remembered for. No, Xenon has and always will be nostalgically thought of as 'the game with the awesome music'. Even when I was 7, I had awesome taste. The intro is what EVERYONE remembers about Xenon, as it was a 8-Bit version of the track 'Megablast' by Bomb The Bass. And it sounded INCREDIBLE. I even think it sounds better than the original. Imagine, in 1989, loading up your Amiga, and hearing this:
In the time where it's closest competitor was Rainbow Islands twee version of 'Somewhere over the Rainbow', this was like nothing you'd ever heard before. I still get all giddy thinking about it, and these days I often have to restrain myself from jumping up, dancing around so that I stop people's games all over the world crashing.
And we've not even had chance to talk about the in-game money mechanic. Mid-way and at the end of every level you're confronted with Colin, the alien who bears more than a striking resemblance to Predator:
The power-ups you could buy looked fantastic, and added a real depth to the game. They were little floating satellites that attached to the sides of your ship, floating along with you and offering a variety of meaty lasers, rockets and all other manner of boy-hood sci-fi weaponry. Colin was also a cheeky scamp, being genuinely funny, and often insulting.
Once again, a great game is made even better when combined with my fond memories. The more I think about it, it's that it's purely the game that is shaping these experiences, making me remember these little silly things, as I cling on to my memories of fantastic computer games. Xenon served as a shining example of a game that can soar above it's humble parts, with a bit of style and some graphical polish.
And Peter Molyneux is a massive fan. If it's good enough for the creator of Fable and Dungeon Keeper, It'll do for me.