Monday, November 21, 2011

Video game of the week: Zaxxon for Colecovision

When Sega released Zaxxon to the arcades in 1982, it had a huge affect upon gamers' expectations of graphics. Colorful but two-dimensional graphics had been the norm for a couple of years at least, but now Zaxxon brought along isometric graphics, basically giving the gamer three-dimensional graphics thought of a relatively rudimentary sort. Zaxxon was the first game to bring isometric graphics, and those graphics remain popular today in many games, including Diablo and Fallout.

Zaxxon was popular enough that versions for the home consoles of the time were rushed to market. Unfortunately, at first Zaxxon did not transfer well to the home systems. Because of limitations of the consoles, the versions of Zaxxon for the Atari 2600 and the Intellivision, the two most popular home systems of the very early 1980s, could not be produced with the isometric graphics. Which meant Atari and Intellivision players were stuck with a 2-D version of Zaxxon, and to be honest it did not look very much like Zaxxon.

In 1983, there would be a quality version of Zaxxon for the Atari 5200 system, but that was a year away.

What were true Zaxxon fans to do?

Buy a Colecovision.

Yes, Coleco released the Colecovision in August of 1982, just in time for its improved graphics to take advantage of such a game as Zaxxon.

For the first time, home gamers could play Zaxxon away from the arcade and it actually looked and played like Zaxxon.

If you're not familiar with Zaxxon, the game's plot in similar to many arcade games of the late 1970s and early 1980s. The player pilots a ship across a screen while blowing away enemy ships, rockets and other potentially dangerous objects. The big difference is the viewpoint, that three-dimensional isometric view. Whereas before most space shoot-em-up games had a flat view, in Zaxxon it looked as if you were flying an actual spaceship through space and across the top of an enemy mother ship or base.

If the player made it far enough, he or she actually got to duke it out with Zaxxon itself, a giant enemy robot.

If not for the Colecovision, it's possible this awesome game might not have made it to the home market until years later.

As for the Colecovision version of Zaxxon, it plays much like the arcade version. The basic gameplay is the same as are most of the levels. It might take a few tries to become familiar with how the Colecovision controls work with the Zaxxon game, but it's not all that complicated.

Zaxxon was a classic arcade game, and rightfully so. This game was also quite popular for home consoles, and the Colecovision had a lot to do with that.

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