Lost Gems 7: Zaxxon
If there was ever a game that should've been remembered for it original and unique gameplay concepts, then hands down that game is Zaxxon. Zaxxon was an arcade space shooter released by Sega in 1982 and became quite popular. The big draw of the game was its isometric view which allowed the player to be immersed in a 3D realm. While other space shooters only allowed the player to move left or right, Zaxxon had a 3D stage setup that allowed you to move the ship in any direction.
This free range of movement is what made Zaxxon a hit in the arcades but somehow that got lost when it was ported when it was ported to home computers and consoles. First released for the Atari 2600 and intellivision, Zaxxon lost its isometric viewpoint and became a standard 2D spaceshooter due to the consoles limited hardware. It was then ported to several home computers and consoles that had stronger hardware and allowed Zaxxon to keep its view with only a loss to the games color palette.
In 1987, Sega released a version for their home console, The Sega Master System, titled Zaxxon 3D. Zaxxon 3D changed the view to a 3rd person, or over the shoulder perspective, and made use of the consoles 3D goggles to enhance the experience. The concept was an interesting twist to the game but sadly wasn't a big hit since the system's fan base was limited.
Zaxxon did however produce two sequels, Super Zaxxon and Zaxxon Motherbase 2000. Super Zaxxon was released later 1982 by Sega but did not meet the same success of its predecessor. Super Zaxxon ran on the same hardware as the first gameBesides new level layout and a slightly(and barely noticeable) color palette, Super Zaxxon had nothing new going for it.
Zaxxon Motherbase 2000 was released for the illfated and short lived Sega 32X. It was the first game in the series to fully use polygons while keeping its isometric view. Unlike Super Zaxxon, Motherbase 2000 had new gameplay elements. The major element of gameplay revolved around merging your with other ships(which resembled insects) for varying gameplay styles. The smaller ships were very fast and manuverable while the larger ships were slow moving but pack a punched. However, because of the poor sales figures of the 32X and poor reviews of the game, Zaxxon Motherbase 2000 quickly disappeared off the map.
Since then, Sega has not even attempted a resurrection of the series, although Zaxxon is one of the games on the recently released Sega Genesis Collection for the PS2. Throughout the years, there were imitators, clones and bootlegs. The first bootleg of the game came out the same year as Zaxxon back in 1982, called Jackson. The TRS-80 personal computer also had a clone called Zaksund. Sammy (who now owns Sega) released a game called Viewpoint which was released for the Neo-Geo.
Even though Sega chooses to ignore their forgotten franchise, their fans have chosen to keep it alive. A website called Zaxxon Retro-remake held a contest back in 2003 for indie game developers to make their own Zaxxon game for the PC. So even though Sega has easily forgotten the Zaxxon franchise(like so many others *cough*streets of rage*cough*) it is the community of indie developers and gamers that will keep it alive.
Images as they appear in order.
Zaxxon - Arcade
Zaxxon 3D - Sega Master System
Zaxxon - Commodore 64