The Game: As the commander of a sleek Solvalou fighter, you’re deep into enemy territory, shooting their disc-shaped fighters out of the sky, bombing ground installations and artillery nests, bombing tanks, and trying to destroy the mothership. As you progress further behind enemy lines, heavier aircraft and more versatile and Buy this gamedeadly ground-based defenses become the norm. Also look out for tumbling airborne mirrors – they’re impervious to your fire, but you’re toast if you fly right into them. (Atari [under license from Namco], 1984)
Memories: The original arcade Xevious was no pushover, but like several of its Namco stablemates, it was possible to outwit the machine by using some of its own pattern-based programming against it. With Super Xevious, this was more difficult, because the game’s internal A.I. was adaptive and could throw more at the player based on his demonstrated skill level. But some players had discovered a solution to this adaptive enemy intelligence, and games lasting more than ten minutes on a single quarter were not uncommon.
Super Xevious disrupted those patterns that experienced players were exploiting to rack up massive scores, and sped things up considerably. There were also tempting new targets (worth fairly hefty bonus points) that lad even the most experienced Solvalou pilots astray. Or, in the more business-based view of arcade operators, it threw experienced Xevious masters off their game, which left them with two options: put in another quarter and play again, or vacate the machine while scratching their heads and wondering why they’re not “in the zone” anymore, leaving the machine open for the next person to put a quarter in. Either way, it meant another quarter in the coin box at the end of the day, something that couldn’t be accomplished with master-level players hogging the machine for long periods of time. (The same philosophy was behind Pac-Man enhancements, both authorized and otherwise – again, a Namco-originated coin-op whose patterns could be exploited by keen-eyed players.)
Cosmetically, the two games were virtually indistinguishable. Super Xevious was a “stealth” update; the arcade cabinets and marquees did not necessarily sport updated artwork.