The Game: As the lone pilot daring enough to breach the defenses of Zaxxon’s space stronghold yet again, you take on a fleet of perimeter fighters, some of whom helpfully leave power-ups behind when destroyed. Then it’s into the space base once more, bristling with gun emplacements, fuel tanks that gas up your fighter when they’re shot (we haven’t quite worked that one out either), and walls that you can run face-first if you’re at just the wrong altitude. Just beyond the walls of the base lies the new and improved Zaxxon itself; if you survive that encounter, you begin again. (Sega, 1987)
Memories: With so many major Japanese game makers committed to the Famicom and NES, the Sega Master System didn’t have quite the impressive array of arcade titles in its library. But one thing it could have that everyone else couldn’t was Sega’s own in-house games and updates thereof – hence, this updated, almost-first-person remake of the groundbreaking Zaxxon.
Oddly enough, Zaxxon 3-D resembles the dead-on-arrival Atari 2600 and Intellivision ports of the original Zaxxon – well, in its play mechanics only. Those games, unable to recreate the three-quarter isometric view of the arcade game, moved the viewpoint to above and behind the player’s fighter, and this is also the case with Zaxxon 3-D; the major difference is really that Zaxxon 3-D doesn’t blow big space chunks, and with the addition of 3-D glasses and a special selectable graphics mode, could just about reasonably approximate primitive 3-D effects.
Still, in the end, this new take on Zaxxon just isn’t as graphically elaborate as its namesake. It may play better than the aforementioned ports, but it looks only marginally better, and doesn’t even begin to approach the level of detail in the arcade game despite a few years of technological advancement. When that “look” was a huge part of Zaxxon‘s enduring appeal, Zaxxon 3-D feels like it’s missing something.
This was Zaxxon‘s last gasp in 8-bit form; Sega revisited the game again on the 32X with Zaxxon Motherbase 2000, but since then, surprisingly, we haven’t heard from the big robot at the space fortress again. Considering how much technology has advanced, why hasn’t Sega scheduled a rematch?