In 5200 Zaxxon, you fly a jet through a series of three levels -- the space fortress, then a free space dogfight, and then fortress 2, followed by a battle against the Zaxxon robot itself. You must shoot the robot before it launches its missile at you (and it does actually launch it! I was surprised). The 5200 version was released in 1984 (after much waiting by fans) by Sega Enterprises, and was coded by Ron J. Fortier. Mr. Fortier was one of about 14 Datasoft ASM coders back then, and he also coded Atari 8bit and C64 games including Bruce Lee, Alternate Reality (for Epyx), and Monkey Business.

Zaxxon holds a dear place in my heart. It was one of the most exciting games of the early 80's for me, and to this day I cannot pass up a Zaxxon machine to give it a try. Click here to check out my tribute to the coin-op version of Sega's Zaxxon. How did the 5200 version fare? Well, although this 5200 version was considered to be the best home console version (identical to the 16K Atari 8bit version) of the day, I'm going to take the role of the critic, so here are my complaints:

1. The ascending missiles have been omitted. (this was due to the game being stripped down to 16K size (or less). The Atari 8bit also had a 32K version with missiles).
2. In the space dogfight, your ship cannot change its altitude. (Again, the 32K Atari 8bit version is reported to have this option).
3. You can fly at top altitude within the fortress safely (although you will probably run out of fuel). In the coin-op version, a missile would attack high-flyers.
4. The force-fields make no sound.
5. The Zaxxon Robot battle itself is not dramatic enough. There is no sound made by the robot, and its missile attack and/or explosion is over far to quickly in a brief burst of pixels.
6. My firing finger and thumb cramp up from trying to fire constantly -- the game should have allowed auto-fire on the 5200.
7. No options!

Still, 5200 Zaxxon is very playable. The isometric (or, "3D" as we called it back in the 80's!) scrolling is flawless, although it is a bit too fast. This version boasts a good amount of detail in the graphics -- brick-lined walls; good looking forcefields; intricate radar dishes, jets, and cannons; 4-color enemy space jets; the Zaxxon robot itself; and, even the rippled edge of each fortress is there! I wish I had owned this game back when it was new, but to tell the truth I purchased it at the 2001 Philly Classic. I used to own the Atari 8bit cassette version, and my memory tells me it is mostly identical to this 5200 version.

Joystick control works fine with this game; I have no probems with control. However, having to fire all the time really kills my fingers and thumb. I suppose the biggest omission of this version has been in game sounds. The sweep of space and your ship's firing sound are the only sounds kept intact from the original arcade version; as I mentioned above, other important sounds such as the forcefields and the Zaxxon robot sounds, are silent, which does slightly disappoint me.

5200 Zaxxon commands a fairly high price these days, easily climbing to \\$50 or more on Ebay, but I do not think it is one of the top 5200 games; it lies somewhere in the middle as far as fun-factor goes, with cheaper games like Space Dungeon, Defender, and Joust being more enjoyable in the long run. Still, 5200 Zaxxon is a better port than some other Sega Coin-op games such as Buck Rogers or Congo Bongo and better than the Colecovision Zaxxon by most accounts.

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