Here is just one of many mini bosses in this game. "Yeah, this is only a mini boss!
"Like most shooters this game has no real in game storyline, you just control a advance star ship on a mission to conquer 8 worlds filled with tons of vicious enemies. When I mean tons of enemies, I mean 'TONS' of enemies. There is barely a moment where the game's isn't filled with air and ground bad guys ready to take you out with all the firepower they can muster. Sure, the game starts off easy enough with some weak ships in deep space but by level 3 you'll be begging for mercy as you're attacked from behind and laser beams home in and bounce off the walls. You have worry about several troublesome shots like slow bullets, quick bullets, lasers, massive bursts, and even solid walls. Fortunately for you, that ship of yours is a very small target and can only be killed by having the center rectangle get hit, so it can possible survive a huge brutal onslaught which is a nice change of pace from the usual large air crafts of other games (like in Einhander or Twin Cobra).
The game play is a strange mixture of classics like Raiden and M.U.S.H.A. There is no Power Up system unlike in other popular vertical shooters like Raiden but you do get a choice of 2 of 6 unique weapons before the game starts. The first weapon is the three Bots options that follow your ship like the options in the Gradius series. The second gun is the super powerful particle laser, this weapon is a little uneven but it can really cut through enemies and bosses. The third weapon is the game's only full screen spread gun although it's a little on the slow side but its range is great. The forth weapon is the missiles; I don't like this gun because the missiles only shoot forward instead of hunting their opponents like real missiles should. The fifth weapon is my favourite; the Implosion, this gun is not only powerful but it can also lock on to bigger enemies. The last weapon is the Plasma storm shots that look similar to the Implosion but there is no lock on effect and the shots move more freely. You also start the game with three electro sphere bombs that not only protect you from most enemy shots but they can also bounce their shots back at them to add insult to injury.
I count about 37 shots here alone.
Although this game looks good for the most part there are some problems about the graphics in XOP. A good example of this is in the first level where the colours of the plated space fortress are an ugly blight green and grey. There are lots of other examples where the colours don't blend well at times (kind of like a look pastel if you know these fancy Art terms) and some the enemies may lack shading but it's no big deal. Despite that there are lots of good things about these graphics like the 3D effects in crystal level and awesome transparency effects in the water level. The game also as some cool looking bosses like the gigantic stage 8 guardian that has to be seen to be believe.
Although the graphics have some issues the sound effects and music were simply amazing! Each stage has its own theme music fitting to its stage and sometimes the levels are so big that there are even 2 soundtracks per stage. XOP even does this cool thing were the music actually speeds up into some high energy techno music right when the game speeds up like mid way in the level 5 Sky Fortress. Very clever! The sound effects are sharp as well; just listen to the loud glass breaking crystal enemies of stage 3. "Everything sounds incredible here."
XOP really impressed the heck out me! This game could have been a shooting disaster like the horrible Trevor McFur in the Crescent Galaxy (Atari Jaguar) or Zombie Nation (NES) but thankfully Toast Soft knows what it takes to make a great shoot em up. The game has a lot to offer diehard old' school arcade fans and I actually prefer the game play in XOP to Square's acclaimed Einhander. The replay value is also high in this game because you can always try the Score Attack and unlock some more goodies including an option to run the game at 80 frames per seconds. XOP could have used more weapons besides the regular 6 special guns and I would have loved another spread type gun to help clear the screen of your many opponents but hey that helps add to the game's difficulty. XOP is intense, looks and sounds good, easy to control, and with only 3 continues this game is a real challenge unlike the Giga Wing series for the Dreamcast. There's barely a dull moment in XOP!
If you follow the link below, there is a free demo of XOP you can try out. If you want the complete 8 mission game than it's only $14.95 and that's a real good deal for a shooter of this calibre.
XOP overall rating: 87/100
For 1 player only
233 MHz Pentium or higher
16 MB RAM
4 MB disk space
Video card capable of displaying 800x600, 256 colors
SB compatible soundcard
DirectX 6 or higher
Chris's other fan site, no wonder XOP turned out
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