Sunday, November 11, 2012

Zaxxon 3D For Sega Master System

The Master System, Sega's 8-bit also-ran, had an interesting trick up its sleeve when it was released to compete with the NES. Among its handful of accessories was a pair of SegaScope 3D goggles, which plugged into the card slot on the front of the console. 3D wasn't entirely unheard of on the NES, as Rad Racer sported an anaglyph 3D mode. However, Sega's goggles created the 3D effect without screwing with the games' colors... all 32 of them. Only 8 3D games were released, one of which is Zaxxon 3D.

The original Zaxxon was an arcade space shooter released by Sega in 1982. Played from an isometric viewpoint and already sporting pseudo-3D graphics, Zaxxon was a logical choice for a full-3D makeover. Zaxxon 3D is more of a remake than a proper sequel. It keeps much of the original's gameplay intact, but moves the view behind your ship. Like the arcade original, you fight off waves of alien fighters in space, and then assault the aliens' base. At the end of each level, you fight a boss. The fuel gauge also makes an appearance in Zaxxon 3D: you die if it runs out, but it can be refilled by blowing up fuel tanks scattered around the alien base. The only real change to the game is the addition of additional weapons and power-ups. The weapon upgrades increase your rate of fire and the damage you can do per shot, but at the cost of increased fuel consumptions. Power-ups grant you bonus lives and increased maneuvering speed, but again at the cost of faster fuel consumption.

Zaxxon's biggest failing unfortunately makes its way to Zaxxon 3D. Your ship moves at a snail's pace around the screen, making dodging enemy fire and obstacles an exercise in frustration. The speed power-up is a welcome addition, but it comes up too rarely and it sucks your fuel tank empty in a hurry. The weapon upgrades don't do much to help matters, either; I barely noticed a difference between them in terms of effectiveness. The lack of detail in the alien bases is a distinct step down from the arcade original. Zaxxon sported an alien base built on an asteroid and loaded with intricate turrets, missile silos, tanks, and energy barriers. Zaxxon 3D lacks most of these details, instead flying you over an abstract, rectangular blue trench occasionally occupied by a green wall or a handful of very basic-looking enemy sprites. Maybe the extra overhead of creating a 3D environment meant Zaxxon 3D's graphics had to be scaled back, but frankly I've seen more impressive-looking Intellivision games. Finally, the 3D effect isn't very convincing. The goggles use LCD shutters to block out light to the left & right eye in sequence with the image displayed on screen. Unfortunately, the shutters can't block enough light to completely obscure the TV screen, so bright objects appear blurry and doubled. If you've ever wanted to know what playing a videogame with a concussion looks like, Zaxxon 3D's your game. Pressing the pause button at the title screen brings up a hidden options screen wherein you can disable the 3D effect.  Doing so strips the gimmick away, leaving you with a thoroughly mediocre shooter and a poor follow-up to an arcade classic.

Thanks for reading my review! Up next, another Sega-powered 3D shoot fest, Missile Defense 3D!

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