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X-Perts

Genre: Action Developer: Abalone Publisher: Sega of America Players: 1 Released: 1996

Eternal Champions is one of my absolute favorite fighters of all time. It was very popular when it was released; spawning a sequel on Sega-CD, a comic book series, and even a cartoon was planned at one point. But did you know that there were also two spin-off games from the Eternal Champions series? One was called Chicago Syndicate for Game Gear, starring Larcen fighting the mobs of New York, and the other is X-perts. Starring Shadow Yamato as part of an elite team of agents working for Janus in the ’90s, a team of three secret agents are trying to take down some terrorists who have taken over an underwater research lab called AQUA. Sounds interesting? Well read on and find out how this game really is.

X-perts is basically a platformer with puzzle, adventure, and beat-’em-up elements. You basically fight henchmen and reprogram machines to complete different missions objectives assigned to you by Janus. There are three different characters you can play as: Shadow Yamato (misspelled as “Yamoto” in the game), a former Black Orchid Gang Member, Zachary Taylor, a computer programmer, and Tashile Claudel, a robotics engineer. They form the team known as X-perts, who go on a mission to stop terrorists in the underwater research lab AQUA from blowing the lab up.

Yeah, there is a backstory in this game, but it’s written in very complex English. In fact, with the way most of the information in this game is displayed, the developers must have thought that only college graduates with Ph.Ds were going to be playing this game. Reading L. Ron Hubbard’s Dionetics is probably easier than trying to figure out what the text on the screen says in this game. The mission briefing screens are set up very confusingly as well. They tried to go for a computer screen feel, but the way the menu controls are set up and different options are placed, getting started can be rather confusing for most people. I actually had trouble exiting the mission briefing screen. And once I figured out how to exit, I couldn’t figure out what to do next. The game only tells you one objective at the start, to enter the complex and then get your next objective. Why couldn’t you just tell me the objective after that? Do I really have to walk through an airlock just to press start and waste more time on finding out what to do next? What a waste of time!

The gameplay in this game is really just downright awful. Just for reference, the game can only be used with the six-button controller. You can kick, punch, and shoot with a gun, block, and program machines. You can move up, down, left, and right in a sort of 3D manner. Controlling your character off the bat is absolutely horrible in this game. It feels like there’s a second or two delay between you hitting the button on your controller and the character actually moving on-screen. There’s even a delay between turning the character around!

Moving is really sluggish too, characters walk awkwardly, and sometimes you can’t really tell if you’re in front of an enemy or not, with the way the game is designed. It may look like you’re in front of an enemy, but really you’re just a little bit above them, making your button mashing useless while they shoot you down. It’s like trying to play a 3D environment, but you only have one camera angle. It just doesn’t work out. And to top it off, some moves need to have a directional button pushed in conjunction with an attack button, making them very difficult to pull off. So you could be trying to do a high-kick by pressing kick and up at the same time and end up moving up the platform instead. It’s really just bad design. The up and down movements should have never been in this game.

Furthermore, the gun itself is just horrible. Whose idea was it to make it that you can’t move while using the gun? You already have a limited amount of bullets, why can’t you just move and shoot? The developers instead made it so that you have to waste a few seconds to whip out your gun and the enemy moves off the screen so you have to put the gun away and walk up or down a little, only to waste another second and whip it out again. This game suffers from some really bad design.

The missions in this game are a whole other story. The first thing I don’t like about the game is that certain characters have to do certain objectives. For example in the first mission, you must first play as Zachary Taylor and flush out the systems by using the first console, then hack the elevator system. Then you can finish other objectives with the other characters. Why couldn’t I start with one of the other two characters? Does the game’s story have to tie in with the gameplay THAT much in that the missions are specialized to that extent?

Another gripe I have about mission completion in this game is that the machines are so subtly-colored that they look like part of the background. It’s tough to tell what’s a machine you need to use and what isn’t when the screen that tells you about the machine only comes up when you are close and directly in front of the machine. So you could walk right by the machine without the prompt coming up and not even know that it is the spot your first objective, only to wander around wondering what to do when you can’t get through the elevator at the end of the platform. Again, trying to play in a 3D world with a 2D camera angle doesn’t work out.

The graphics in this game are so-so. X-perts uses that same technique used in Sonic 3D Blast where you render a figure in 3D, and then convert it into a sprite, but this game doesn’t look nearly as good as Sonic 3D Blast does. The player models don’t look too bad, but they’re a bit grainy. Backgrounds in this game are really bland looking; expect to see a lot of the colors blue and gray. Enemies also look very out of place on top of it. They look like something out of a ’50s space-flick. And the sound in this game is virtually non-existent. There is absolutely no music whatsoever, and the only sounds that are in the game are the annoying robotic voice of the mission briefer, and the sound of henchmen dying. It’s really just bizarre.

In conclusion, stay far, far away from X-perts. It should receive an award for one of the WORST video games out there, let alone Sega Genesis games. I wouldn’t even recommend this game for Eternal Champions fans; it’s just a complete and utter mess. Thankfully this game was released late in the Genesis’ lifetime, so most people didn’t have to suffer through this game. And now that you’ve read this, you won’t have to either.

SCORE: 1 out of 10

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