Thursday, May 23, 2024

Developer: Inter State Publisher: Naxat Soft Release: 12/11/92
Genre: Shooter
It is inevitable. When you have so many shooters on one platform eventually they will start to blend together. It does not help that most are content to use the same setting (space) and there is only so much you can do with that. But even as a fan of the genre growing up by the mid-90s I needed a break. However! When a game this good comes along I will always make an exception. Nexzr may look familiar but the insane degree of polish in every aspect of the game helps it rise above that to become one of the strongest shooters for the Turbo Grafx/PC Engine. In the year 2012 (hilarious!) Earth is under attack by an alien armada. The Space Federation is annihilated and disbands in the wake of their attack. The only hope left is the underground rebellion and their secret project, the Slasher. Two pilots are selected to pilot these ships, Randi and Shirdi. Unfortunately tragedy strikes when Shirdi is killed by a mysterious assailant, making this not just a mission to save the Earth but a mission of revenge as well. If you like elaborate weapon systems Nexzr will disappoint in that regard. The game focuses on simplicity. Your ship only has two weapons, a main shot and a sub weapon. There are only two options for the main cannon, rapid fire or a three-way shot that has massive gaps in its spread. The sub-weapons are a little more robust. You have homing lasers, crawl missiles that skim along any surface and my personal favorite, funnel pods that aggressively seek out every enemy, sometimes before they are even on screen. These pods also stick to their target like glue, making them the odds on favorite. There are no smart bombs and the staple shield only absorbs a single hit. While the selection may be disappointing in function they are more than adequate. The first level of Nexzr sets expectations high. As you fly through the battlefield with imperial warships fighting in the distance and smaller battleships and mechs warping in it is an impressive sight. There are smaller waves but for the most part you spend a good portion of your time dealing with star destroyers, asteroids and creative mecha. The game does a fantastic job placing you in creative scenarios. Stage four takes place along a massive corridor with turrets and robots that leave little room to move. It soon becomes a high speed tunnel chase leading up to its boss battle. Stage five is an assault on a battle ship with each section revealing more elaborate weapons. The sixth level offers a reprieve from space as you explore the heart of the alien’s mothership. Of course none of this is new but the degree of polish makes it feel fresh. Nexzr pulls no punches as it puts up a fight yet remains fair. Even though enemy waves are not as plentiful as other shooters they are aggressive with bullets. Bullets tend to blend in to the background and so your deaths can seem random. One hit equals death and the shield is not common. Checkpoints are spaced pretty far and the death spiral of shooters is prevalent here. Yet the game gives you the tools to succeed. The generous scoring allows you to rack up extra lives. Without even realizing it I had twelve lives by stage four! The end level bosses are pushovers and power-ups are common. You will still have to work for it; speaking of stage four that’s when the curve shifts. But compared to so many other shooters Nexzr nails its difficulty curve beautifully. There is no denying that Nexzr resembles the later Star Soldier games. The similarity is no coincidence, the developers also worked on Super Star Soldier and Star Parodier. But where most shooters impress with varied set pieces outside of one stage Nexzr takes place entirely in space. They do their best to vary it up with the occasional planet and star field but the game is not big on different environments. Instead it succeeds through its excellent mechanical designs and set pieces. As you fly through armadas and imperial class ships the scale is astounding. Of course I wish there were a few more locations to contrast the pitch black of space. But with its art direction, cutscenes and fantastic soundtrack Nexzr manages to impress without them. In Closing Nexzr flies under the radar but is one of the best shooters in the Turbo Grafx library. Personally it is in my top ten for the system. The gameplay is simple but the difficulty curve is near perfect and I enjoyed every moment of it. Sadly it is incredibly expensive but you will get your money’s worth out of it.

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