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Thexder Neo HD (PlayStation 3) artwork

Thexder Neo HD (PlayStation 3) review

"Enemies come at you fast, but luckily your laser beam has homing capabilities, so you needn’t even aim to bring them down. Being successful is more a function of edging forward gradually enough to bring the enemies onto the screen slowly enough for the beam to melt the bad guys before they reach your face."

Editor-in-chief, webmaster and supreme being Jason Venter knew that I was the perfect reviewer to tackle side-scrolling robot shooter Thexder Neo HD. He absolutely knew. Because I’ve become something of a shoot-em-up review expert.

Alright, fine, that’s B.S. Venter likely knew I was the only reviewer old enough to have been around at the time of the original Thexder’s release. Yup, I'm a relic. And yup, this is remake. Of a game from 1985. (This is vitally important, more on why, later.)

And as remakes go, it’s very faithful – a gift and a curse, but mostly a curse. The main gameplay mode shows off ‘classic’ Thexder gameplay with today’s snazzy graphics. Besides that, it naturally includes the original Thexder, which is a lovely thing. What is more lovely is that the original game is immediately available from the title screen – so its availability is not contingent upon your performing some time-consuming task in the new version to ‘unlock it’.

Thexder was kind of a big deal when it first came out in Japan, selling a trillion or some odd copies of its various iterations, before arriving stateside in NES and PC format among others, where it went on to sell another trillion. I actually played the PC version; I remember installing the 50 or so 5 ¼ floppies and having a go. I remember being suitably impressed.

This time ‘round, however; I was not impressed. Because Thexder’s greatest appeal is that you get to play a transforming robot.

Seriously, that’s the sell. And back in ’85, that was good enough. Just pulling off the transformation and letting loose the laser cannon was more than enough cool factor to keep you playing – who had seen anything like it before?

By now, we’ve seen a lot of games like it, and any one of those games (any Macross game, for example) is a lot more engaging. Thexder’s gameplay is exceedingly rudimentary: as a Gundam-esque robot, you run – mostly rightward – keeping your finger on the fire button, blasting waves of colourful shapes. That’s probably the best way to describe the enemies.

Enemies come at you fast, but luckily your laser beam has homing capabilities, so you needn’t even aim to bring them down. Being successful is more a function of edging forward gradually enough to bring the enemies onto the screen slowly enough for the beam to melt the bad guys before they reach your face.

Where Thexder remains unique, even today, is that all of this shooting occurs in a sort of maze, where some corridors are more narrow than others. It is in these tight spots where transforming to plane mode with the touch of a button, is useful to keep it moving – but at no other time. And that’s because once you change to plane mode, your craft won’t stop its forward motion (unless you turn around completely!). Which of course, goes directly contrary to Thexder’s Number One Rule for Success: which is to avoid barrelling forward.

If you’re interested in playing the original for nostalgia’s sake, or just because you favour the far uglier graphics, you need to know that the original Thexder is difficult. It only has ten levels, but it’s hard going by virtue of the fact that enemies absorb a lot of laser beam fire before falling, meaning they’ll be in your face draining your energy quite a bit. This is exacerbated by the fact that this is one of those games where just moving around drains your energy. THIS, in turn is exacerbated by the fact that this is one of those games where just SHOOTING drains your energy. Thankfully, the NEO version has an easier mode, which features the same enemies, but with less vitality.

And what update would be complete without exploring online multiplayer? I really wanted to test this mode, and I tried to. But the result was perhaps more telling than it would have been had I been successful – nobody was online playing this game! And... perhaps nobody offline is playing it either.

Masters's avatar
Staff review by Marc Golding (March 22, 2010)

There was a bio here once. It's gone now.

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If you enjoyed this Thexder Neo HD review, you're encouraged to discuss it with the author and with other members of the site's community. If you don't already have an HonestGamers account, you can sign up for one in a snap. Thank you for reading!

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Felix_Arabia posted March 23, 2010:

Cool words, Ken.
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WilltheGreat posted March 23, 2010:

Magnificent fable, Masters.

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Masters posted March 23, 2010:

Thanks Felix.

Thanks Will... I think. Are you doing what right?
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Felix_Arabia posted March 23, 2010:

No, prob Masters. I found this to be a nice little read. I especially enjoyed the conclusion. I think it could apply to so many games obscure and barren games. I thought my knowledge of games was well-rounded, but I had never heard of Thexder until now. It makes one wonder, sorta like how Sho does in his Final Fantasy VIII review/fiction.

BTW, Will is striving for alliteration thanks to my unprecedented opening opinion.

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aschultz posted March 23, 2010:

Good thing you didn't play the NES version. I remember being similarly impressed--Transformers were big then--but it just didn't hold up.

Too bad it still doesn't, even on a remake.
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bloomer posted March 23, 2010:

Apple IIGS Thexder is 'da bomb', as the kids would say.

You can read a nauseating amount of technical information as to why that particular port went so well here, which is also a handy crash course on the Japanese PCs of the 80s.
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Masters posted March 24, 2010:

Thanks for reading, fellows.

Bloomer: have you played Thexder recently, incidentally? Do you still think it's the bomb, or did you mean that it was when you played it back in the day?

I checked out your link; I remember liking Silpheed a good deal more than I did Thexder, and Ys was on another level from the two entirely.
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bloomer posted March 24, 2010:

On the game of Thexder per se - I still think it's pretty cool, but I always found it too hard. Remember that I don't play a lot of shooters, so something older like Thexder is about my scale. And I liked the discrete combo of something that looked like a platform game but was really more a shooter.

On DA BOMB comments - that was more about the IIGS version in particular being a superb game. Killer ingame sound fx and music, plays Moonlight Sonata over the title page. Just looks, sounds and plays great.
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EmP posted April 05, 2010:

Who, aside from Masters, makes a Robotech reference? I half expect Ruder to turn up and start singing about the ludicrous amounts of days apparently included in the month of June.

I think you tackled this review well, though. It's clear that you understand the game's roots and you approuch it with respect, but aren't afraid to point out how its time in the spotlight is over, and the remake doesn't do enough to make it relevant. This earns an EmP-like thumbs up.

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Masters posted April 05, 2010:

Why, thank you Gary.

Nice to have you back... more. Or something. =)
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zigfried posted April 23, 2010:

This is a great review, except that you actually liked Thexder way back when. What's up with that? You should have played that Sega Master System game with the transformable robot instead!

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Masters posted April 23, 2010:

Thanks Zigfriend. Which game is this, if not Zillion 2?

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