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CONSOLE: Game Boy DEVELOPER: Nintendo/Argonaut Software PUBLISHER: Nintendo
RELEASE DATE (JP): May 29, 1992 GENRE: Puzzle/Platformer
// review by EscapeRouteBritish

A game as cold and unforgiving as the vast reaches of outer space...

Quite often I see the 1992 Nintendo Game Boy title, X, romanticized about on the Internet. "It was unique", they say, "an impressive feat on the Game Boy", as if it being an impressive achievement somehow makes it a fun game. It doesn't. X is one of those games you might have on a list of Japanese imports you're thinking about buying, and if it is, take it off the list. Not only is it rarer than the waste product of a wooden rocking equine animal, you've also been suckered into buying a game that has little to no actual redeeming content.

The game is called X because the graphics are reminiscent of the ZX Spectrum; no, scratch that, the graphics are worse than the ZX Spectrum because at least that could display color. I raise this not to besmirch X for the failings of the hardware it was designed for, but rather to point out that a wireframe 3D game would probably benefit a barrel load from having some kind of color in it to help create the illusion of depth. Otherwise, it just looks like lines.

X was actually developed by Nintendo EAD with heavy assistance from Argonaut Software, a British games development studio, and also the programming brains behind the Super FX chip and Star Fox. In other words, over time they improved dramatically, or rather, their vision was able to appear on hardware capable of achieving it.

In X, or "Ekkusu", you are driving a space tank named the "VIXIV". The year is XXXX — wow, not even going to try coming up with a year? At least you're not completely dating yourself there. (How would one date themselves — buy yourself flowers? I hate flowers.) The missions range from "get item to location" to "destroy enemies", or even "get item to location" — damn it, all that effort spent on 3D, and none on creative mission ideas? Either way, the main story is basically about defeating alien forces that are shooting down cargo ships carrying your priceless "Power Crystals". I think this story comes straight out of "Let's Write a Sci-Fi Plot".

So the game takes place in a first-person wireframe view, and you complete missions in the slowest most crawling-est gameplay on the original Game Boy. Beating them quickly and well enough gives you stars, which can be used as continues further through the game should you get defeated — I gave up long before that. I bet this was amazing in 1992, but damn is it near unplayable now.

When this guy talks, I have no choice but to listen.

Very quickly: the A Button shoots lasers dead ahead, the B Button uses a stronger weapon which is limited, Start pauses the game, and the Power Switch is a great way to turn the Game Boy off and minimize the risk of brain damage posed by playing X.

The soundtrack is perhaps the only saving grace in X; supposedly, it is the first soundtrack ever composed by Kazumi Totaka, the voice of Yoshi. No, seriously, he is. X garnered a lot of attention around 2006-2007 when the search for the elusive "Totaka's Song" was in full swing. A 19-note song first discovered in Mario Paint by literally everyone and then in other games. Luigi's Mansion, Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, Mario Kart 8... MARIO KART 8? Since when!? Holy crap, it's there all right. Jeez, this song gets around a bit. Oh, the discovery was in January of this year, so I don't feel too stupid for not knowing.

Three things I think X really could have benefited from... First of all, an English-language release. If I didn't have to poke and hope through the kanji, I think this game would be infinitely better. The game also needs to be somehow sped up; it's clear the Game Boy is having a very hard time rendering 3D, it makes me wonder, "why bother"? Some Game Boy Advance games are the same: they run far too slow. Perhaps shooting for more than the hardware could handle wasn't a good idea?

And lastly? A decent musical score. I know that the whole intention with X was for the soundtrack to be atmospheric and foreboding, but the game uses the same instrument set as the later released Link's Awakening and Kaeru no Tame ni Kane wa Naru... both games have excellent music, and the "Tunnel Scene" from X shot up in popularity thanks to its inclusion in Super Smash Bros. Brawl. Imagine how much more respect this soundtrack would deserve if it contained more of these catchy themes? I dunno.

Look, I bet there's probably quite a fine little game hidden somewhere in X, but I'm not going to look any harder for it. Let's just give this a meaningless number and be done with it.

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