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Xena: Warrior Princess (PlayStation) artwork

Xena: Warrior Princess (PlayStation) review

" Two travelers hike along a winding road, heading toward some unknown destination when suddenly, the first stops, looks around, and tells her companion to wait. The traveler is Xena, the mighty warrior, destroyer of men, bringer of justice. Her companion is Gabrielle, best friend to the invincible warrior. Yet at this time, something is about to happen that neither expected… something that will turn an innocent hike into one of the largest searches ever conducted by none other than Xena herself,..."

Two travelers hike along a winding road, heading toward some unknown destination when suddenly, the first stops, looks around, and tells her companion to wait. The traveler is Xena, the mighty warrior, destroyer of men, bringer of justice. Her companion is Gabrielle, best friend to the invincible warrior. Yet at this time, something is about to happen that neither expected… something that will turn an innocent hike into one of the largest searches ever conducted by none other than Xena herself, for Gabrielle is missing. And it’s up to you to find her.

Xena the game sets you off near the town of Oebalus where smoke rises from various houses above, and Xena discovers her friend dying near the main gate. This is but the first step on the road to Gabrielle. Yet this simple beginning leads to far more complicated, though somewhat predictable plot twists. And as the plot turns, so too does Xena’s travels, bringing her to areas as far-reaching as an Amazon jungle (literally) to a snowy mountain village to the deepest pits of Hell. The areas, though diverse, are less than expected, and the way the game is set up, it will leave you in one area for at least three different levels.

The levels are set up like this: the plot takes you to an area, from which you face challenges in each of the three corresponding levels. The third of these often is a character boss beatable by simply attacking it. The fourth in the series is strictly a boss level with a complicated means of defeat. After this, Xena is taken to a new area, with three new levels plus the boss, a system which only lets up after fifteen of the twenty-one levels. Afterwards, the levels are in systems of threes, with the same character boss at the end of each third. The only exception to this is the final three levels, which are all boss levels with the final being the evil goddess who got you into this mess in the first place.

Perhaps the greatest part of the game is the requirements in beating each level. Each level has a different means of beating it, whether it’s collecting a key to open the main gate, saving a certain number of hostages, or releasing a switch or lever to open the gate for a certain boss. Almost never will you simply have to just defeat all your enemies and get to the end of the level. The game designers seem to have specifically designed the game to have some sort of requirement, no matter how simple, just to make each level more interesting. Further adding to this are the various power up items and hints distributed throughout each level. Xena can acquire a total of four defense and attack power up items, all of which are hidden in various levels, as well as pick up two hints (in the form of scrolls) per level. Collect all the scrolls and unlock a secret ending! Xena can even go back to previous levels and pick up the power up item again, so if you haven’t found one of your power ups, you can go back and repeat a level where you know where it is. However, this is not advised unless you have just beaten that level because once you save, all future levels you have completed will be erased. However, the game will remember that you had picked up the power ups and scrolls in future levels, so you’ll not have to worry about picking those up again. Still, this can be quite unfortunate when say… you had almost beaten the game. So, don’t let the acceptable plot, semi-decent background graphics, diverse level requirements, and hidden pick-me-ups throw you off. And even a secret ending can’t redeem all the game’s worst qualities. This game presents a challenge all its own – that of the controls.

Yes, the controls. These bothersome character manipulation devices, although not complex in the slightest, (at least in this game) can prove most difficult in traversing dangerous areas. Need to cross a narrow bridge over a large expanse of deep water? You can count on the shaky, super-sensitive controls to get you across safely! …Or not. Even when using the analog stick, the slightest touch in the desired direction sends the character bounding forward. So, best you keep your finger off the L1 button, lest Xena accidentally get one foot off the bridge’s narrow planks. Yes, walking seems to be the only safe way to traverse dangerous distances, a fact which can prove devastating when trying to reach or run away from an enemy quickly. Of course, directional control can’t be the only problem. No. There are at least two other poor control factors that turn a relatively easy game into a tedious venture of tortured frustration.

The second difficult control feature is jumping. Ah, jumping, probably the most important aspect of gaming save combat. Jumping can get you to secret areas, across gaping gorges, to certain levers, switches items, or other game material otherwise inaccessible by normal means. It is one of the driving forces in game play – at least to the games that feature it. But somehow this game manages to ruin it. First of all, the normal, stationary jump acts as a forward jump, not a vertical jump controllable by slight forward movement like in most games. No. This one is a forward jump, but not only that, it’s a fixed forward jump, meaning you’d better be several feet away before jumping to that potion perched precariously on a narrow ledge over a cliff just inches past said ledge. But perhaps the fixed jump is a good thing. The running jump – the walking jump is the same as a stationary jump – is also a fixed jump, so at least you don’t have to worry about pressing the forward direction too far or too short of a critical jump. Still, this is not the last of the control grievances.

The third problem may be trivial, and in most cases, not critical to survival, but it is very annoying. This is the simple matter of your Chakram aim. Xena’s trusty throwing weapon often results in instant death to all it touches save zombies and bosses. However, aiming it requires pressing and holding the R1 button – something which in normal circumstances would be quite easy, except that the game’s sensitivity makes it difficult. So, if you’re not firmly pressing the button, you will either lose the hard work of aiming the deadly weapon before release or you will lose the flight control of the weapon after release. Both can prove rather frustrating, especially when Xena is returned to the direction and camera angle she originally stood before aiming. Though this too may have fortunate consequences, for it certainly is a good thing to release the aiming feature when you are suddenly attacked by man, beast, or undead. Also, most Chakram use is at a distance, so such occurrences are few and far between. In fact, the only good control seems to come from the three combat buttons, all of which have proven no difficulty whatsoever. Even so, these few redeeming factors cannot redeem the atrocious camera angles.

Xena: Warrior Princess has to have some of the worst camera angles in gaming history. Like in most games, the camera is designed to follow your character; however, unlike most games, the camera lags in its efforts to keep you oriented and sometimes it doesn’t even function at all. Often times, the camera will not orient you when Xena is running back the way she had come, leaving you to stare at her frontal image while at the same time, waiting for your slow camera to adjust to her new direction and wondering just what you’ll run into next.

Overall, the game is not the greatest game for the Playstation out there. Its few redeeming factors don’t make up for its many control and camera glitches. The game is still easy, albeit frustrating because of the controls, and once you get used to them, you can get through the game quickly enough. But who knows? Maybe all these control misfortunes I had may not have been the game at all, but the mere work of my lack of coordination. Perhaps others who’ve played this game will think differently, and find things – good or bad – that I’ve missed. But even so, opinion is opinion, and in this review, my opinion is all that matters. The game was probably the most wasted week of my gaming life, but even so, the game’s redeeming features made it worthy of a 5. Or maybe I just don’t have the heart to give it a lower rank. Either way, I wouldn’t recommend this game unless you were looking for a way to torture yourself for a few days. So, to those of you who love to torture yourselves, buy this game, and best of luck! You’ll need it.

wolfqueen001's avatar
Community review by wolfqueen001 (August 23, 2006)

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