Thexder has some interesting ideas to contribute to the shooter genre but the pieces just don't come together. Gameplay is nearly as much platform-based as shooter but the game fails to meet the mark as either. The only factor that saves Thexder from oblivion is the fact that PC shooter standards are lower than those of Arcade and console shooters in my opinion.
There are many things wrong with the shooter aspect of Thexder's gameplay. The first, as most experienced shooter fans will notice, is the homing laser. Other shooters have used homing weapons before with good results but Thexder makes the homing laser your primary weapon.
In some cases this can actually be helpful as you simply hold down the shoot button and let it auto-target incoming enemies for you. However, when you're in more complex areas with floors or walls separating you from some enemies, the auto-targeting programming proves to be inexplicably flawed.
Oftentimes you find yourself futilely shooting at a wall because your laser has auto-targeted an enemy halfway across the screen, separated from you by that very same wall. Meanwhile, a bad guy right next to you who isn't separated by a wall pokes you to death.
The only way to get the laser to re-target is to move backwards until you can no longer see the far-off enemy that was the focus of the auto-target. Of course, you're taking damage every step of the way from the bad guy right next to you. In some areas, this makes the game annoyingly unplayable.
Another problem is the lack of variety in gameplay. There are far too few enemy designs and most of those available are just half-hearted collections of basic circles and rectangles. That, combined with the bland level designs, makes for a fairly monotonous gaming experience.
Thexder can't look to its platforming aspect to cover the substandard shooter gameplay since it has problems of its own. Although you can jump remarkably high as a robot, the game doesn't place you in many situations where you need to exercise any platformer style jumping skills.
Your robot does have the interesting ability of being able to transform into a plane at any time but that's also sadly under utilized in the level designs. Because it is more difficult to accurately control your robot in plane mode, the only reason you have for transforming is to get through the narrow half-height passages the game occasionally puts in your path.
The visuals comprise some of the few positive aspects. Graphics are quite good with decent coloring and scrolling that is just a touch short of being smooth. In contrast to the lame enemy designs, the robot itself has been designed quite well. Its walking animation is decent and the transformation sequences to and from plane mode are remarkably smooth.
Conversely, the sound and music aren't quite as good. Starting from the high point of playing a rendition of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata, the game quickly drops off into some uninspired music that repeats all too frequently.
Few shooters have explored the possibility of transformable robots. Thexder squanders the chance to show the rest of the genre how it's done because of a variety of gameplay problems. First impressions of the game are good, due to the intro music, good graphics and transformable robot angle. But after playing the game a bit, you start to notice the problems.
As a PC shooter Thexder may be decent but, when compared to good quality Arcade and console games of similar style, it just doesn't stand up.
Graphics: Clean graphics with decent coloring. Thexder's robot animation sequences are quite good but are offset by some pretty lame enemy designs.
Sound: Good opening music followed by flat and repetitive in-game music.
Enjoyment: The flawed auto-targeting laser weapon makes the game almost frustratingly unplayable. You'll frequently find yourself dying from a nearby enemy while your laser targets a faraway enemy and shoots at it futilely.
Replay Value: Long and monotonous pre-scripted levels mean nothing new during replays.
A platform shooter from Japan, Thexder offers many levels and diverse enemies that gradually increase in difficulty. You pilot a Battletech-style robot capable of switching from a 'mech into a jet at any time. Your weapon auto-aims, but uses up a fixed amount of rechargeable energy; if you run out of this energy, you'll have to wait a few seconds before you can fire again. Your 'mech also contains a shield that can be activated to protect you from harm, but this lasts for a few seconds and uses up some of your life energy.
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