Xevious is the original vertically scrolling shooter, and it was first released to arcades back in 1982. Since then, the genre has waxed and waned more times than we can count. Through thick and thin, Xevious has always stood out when compared to other arcade games from its era, and it's nice to have another accurate emulation of this classic out there.
In Xevious, you pilot a ship over a scrolling landscape. Your attack choices are to shoot, which takes out air-based targets, or bomb, which will knock out enemies on the ground. To facilitate bombing, a small cursor sits in front of your ship, showing you where bombs will land when dropped. Since some ground targets move, you'll occasionally have to lead your target a bit to score a hit. There are numerous enemies of different types, some more dangerous than others. The tiny rings that fly at you at the beginning of the game are relatively harmless. The black ball that floats onto the screen and explodes into a mass of bullets is decidedly harmful. Also, as you scroll along, you'll occasionally encounter a large mothership, known as an Andor Genesis, which you must carefully bomb to destroy. Beyond that, there are some hidden items that appear if you bomb the right spots, and some achievements are based on finding these items. There are no power-ups or anything like that in Xevious--this was 1982, after all. The scrolling field is technically broken down into 16 specific areas, though there isn't any fanfare or real pause in the action when you move from one area to the next. Upon finishing the 16th area, the game loops back to area seven, and you just keep on going.
Of course, if you were raised on more modern shooters, with their fancy power-ups and their death metal soundtracks, Xevious is going to seem positively ancient. But its bright graphics and maddeningly repetitive little song were pretty hot 25 years ago, and all of that is duplicated well in this Xbox 360 release. Like the other Namco Xbox Live Arcade releases, there are no new graphics or sound options in Xevious, which is disappointing, as a light facelift would have been interesting to see. There is also no online playability whatsoever. The only method of comparison is the game's leaderboard. Finally, the game does have 200 achievement points, much like other Xbox Live Arcade releases. Xevious' points are relatively simple for the most part, but there are a few in there that will take a bit of work.
There have been other versions of Xevious released over the years, and other emulations of the arcade version have been just fine. The most recent one is thrown in for free as the loading-screen minigame for Ridge Racer 7 on the PlayStation 3. But if you don't have any other version of the game, this one's most definitely worthwhile, as it's still very playable, as well as a solid exhibition of the way things used to be.