When people talk about old-school games, they are usually looking back with pretty thick rose-tinted glasses. Thexder NEO
is a product of a long-forgotten age in gaming history that is seeing a bit of revival lately, but unlike many other remakes, Thexder NEO
is sticking to its guns by not moving out of the past.
This is as basic as many games can get. Thexder NEO is a game about piloting a robot that can transform into an airship through a series of admittedly difficult levels. If there was a story, you wouldn't know because like the old-school games of the past, Thexder NEO has ZERO story elements, which means the only concern is survival and blasting away at everything that moves on the screen. The only hint of a story that I could find is on the PlayStation Network which says: "During a routine survey, the interstellar weapons platform Laevina detects Nedium, an asteroid of unknown origin, and soon finds itself in the grip of the planetoid's ultramagnetic field. Shipwrecked atop an impregnable fortress of rock, the starship turns to its last resort - the Hyper Dual Armor prototype Thexder." This is just a really long way of telling you why the bad guys are bad, and you should shoot them!
Like Xevious and Galaga before it, Thexder NEO throws you into battle right away with little to no time to learn the controls. As the robot, you run around shooting your laser at the enemies and pick up shield and health orbs that restore their respective meters. An overshield protects you from attacks for a brief time, but also deals damage to any enemy that touches you. At any time, you can transform into the airship and fly around each of the ten levels, still shooting a solid blue laser. The levels are designed to incorporate both forms often and frequently have you switching back and forth within seconds of one another. The action is quick, tight, and intense.
A serious problem that Thexder NEO faces for the modern gamer, however, is that every action the robot makes drains energy. Shooting the laser incrementally drains one point of energy every second, so shooting in quick bursts becomes necessity instead of strategy. Activating the overshield costs ten points of energy, and although the maximum energy capacity increases after each level, it is possible to be in a situation where it is impossible to activate a much needed shield. While the system isn't broken, it is incredibly frustrating because you must seek out certain enemy types that drop green orbs that restore energy.
For the select few that play their PSP online, Thexder NEO supports competitive play styles by allowing up to six players to compete in the same level for the best completion time against each other in a real time race. It also sets up flags that must be destroyed before the level is complete to add an extra level of friendly competition, but I don't see this feature really catching on. Something that I would have liked to have seen is any sort of level editor. A level-editor would go a long way to giving Thexder NEO more replay value if you could download and play other people's custom levels. As it stands, though, the online play scrapes by with the bare minimum.