The second in the pair of X-titled games I discovered was Xybots. Like Xenophobe, this classic was released in 1987, and it too was far different than many other games from the time. Xybots was a very early 3D shooter, with a well-realized maze for two players to run around in. The lower half of the screen was split, showing the heroic space guys the players controlled as they shot dozens of robotic alien Xybots, bent on the destruction of humankind. Above, a detailed status window, as well as a handy dandy map, allowed players to navigate the maze as quickly and efficiently as possible.
The control scheme for Xybots was as unusual as its perspective. The joystick allowed for eight way movement, and the handle could be twisted left or right, similar to the one in Ikari Warriors. This twisting motion controlled the rotation of the maze. Two buttons allowed for standard fire and a zapper weapon. Using the joystick to maneuver through the bot-filled halls was a breeze. In between levels, money could be spent at a sort of galactic convenience store to purchase keys, energy, and other power ups.
I was quite shocked when I did the research Xybots' release date. The graphics are quite simply stunning. Moving from one square to another is not sluggish at all, a remarkable feat given the technology available at the time. Consider that this was a full five years before Wolfenstein 3D and six before Doom. Granted, the graphics are inferior to those two later games, but still, Xybots looks very good. The heroes are well animated, as are the enemy robots. There are many games with much more horsepower that followed that don't have nearly as much personality as Xybots does.
Playing classic video games is fun in any case, but the experience is always enhanced by memory. While I marveled at the innovative features and technical accomplishments of both Xenophobe and Xybots from a historical perspective, my friends just enjoyed playing the games that they remembered from their youth. When we play an old game we love, we are taken back, even if just for a moment, to a snapshot of our past. For a generation of gamers that grew up in arcades across the land, playing co-op classics like these is a powerful experience that calls to mind great times in our lives.