The Game: An evil sorceress, in her plot to destroy the gods, needs to sacrifice a mortal queen – and decides that Gabrielle will do, since the bard is also the Queen of the Amazons. Xena must fight her way through numerous obstacles to challenge the might of the sorceress and defeat her – the world, and Gabrielle’s life, depend on her success. (Electronic Arts, 1999)
Memories: Xena is a natural property for a video game, and indeed, there have already been games on earlier platforms that explored the Xenaverse. But this multi-level, first-person fighting game is the first to attempt to match the scope of the television series, offering individual “episodes” to fight your way through en route to the final goal.
I got this game for my future wife, who happens to be a Xena fan, and to be honest, she’s spent more time playing the Xena game than I have, and could probably tell you more about it. But what time I have spent playing it has told me that the game is sometimes difficult to control, though there are about a couple of dozen very impressive moves that one can trigger.
Where I get so frustrated with Xena is literally a matter of perspective. The game is played out from a strange kind of Steadicam-hovering-somewhere-behind-Xena perspective, and the movement can become quite distracting, almost dizzying at times, a problem shared with the Star Wars Episode I game.
Another question many die-hard fans will have is: is Xena the game true to Xena the series? Yes, it is, with the possible exception of casting Gabrielle in the role of a defenseless gadfly who needs to be rescued. More and more, especially during the present season during which Lucy Lawless has been pregnant, Renee O’Connor’s character has already met her butt-kicking quota for the entire year. Then again, perhaps this game could be excused by placing its events somewhere in the first or second season of the show, in which Gabrielle wasn’t quite so adept at defending herself. Another gripe I have is Xena’s figure – this is supposed to be Lucy Lawless, not Kate Moss. The dimensions of the character are way off: no waist, big breasts, you figure it out. Though Ms. Lawless (a.k.a. Mrs. Tapert) has quite a large fan following based on her appearance and her costume alone, I doubt anyone would think that this pixellated Xena looks very much like her at all. She also swings her entire body to and fro very uncharacteristically when preparing to throw the chakram.
The music and voice work – though obviously not Lucy and Renee’s voices, nor Kevin Smith’s in Ares’ brief cameo in the game – are fairly true to the show, and the game even takes that trademark Raimi-style camera work into account: when you throw Xena’s chakram, your perspective suddenly changes to immediately behind the spinning weapon for the duration of its flight. Certain battle moves will also trigger samples of Xena’s famous “yi-yi-yi-yi!” battle cry. There’s also one area in a fishing village where a shark is strung up. Try hitting it with your sword a few times and watch as surfboards and other objects are coughed up. There’s no question that there was at least one fan of the Raimi school of filmmaking involved in this game’s development…