I like Tempest X3 for what it is -- loud, flashy, and 80s arcadey. It's "close enough" to the Jaguar version for my tastes, but many people say my tastes are terrible.
Here's Jeff Minter's review of it.
12 Jan 1997: Once More Into the Web What follows is the text of the Tempest X3 review that I posted to rec.games.video.sony, followed by some additional comments. You might find this review to be a bit more critical than my usual reviews, but there is a good reason for this - I happen to have designed Tempest 2000, the game upon which Tempest X3 is based, so I am intimately familiar with the implementation of the gameplay, and the game is close to my heart, so I am inclined to be a bit picky. Where it has been changed in a way that I feel is detrimental to the game, I tend to rant about it. But don't get me wrong - I think TX3 is a mighty fine game, and I'm just being opinionated about the way I think things should have been done. I am also mildly miffed that I was not included in the test/tweak endstage of TX3's design, since I could have prevented at least one major glitch getting into the original T2K mode and maybe offered some suggestions for enhancements to the original design for X3 mode. Oh well, I'll address those things when I do Tempest 3000...
Okay, here it is: Tempest X3 - The Definitive Review I finally got ahold of this game this morning, and I've just taken it up to a million odd and have seen enough of the game that I feel qualified to offer comment.
The game is basically Tempest 2000 with extra PlayStation-oriented graphics effects, plus a few extra enemies (that I've seen so far, I'm at level 47) and some subtractions, which I will get to later. The Webs are rendered with translucent, warping textures in the panels instead of the Gouraud shading of the original, and shots fired down the Web light up the textures in a most pleasing manner. The whole game scene is rendered in a persistance/blur field, which is cranked up at certain times (such as firing your Superzapper) and which makes everything go a bit psychedelic, which is what we would expect in any game based on T2K :-). There is also a mild plasma around the edges of the screen that is subtle but tasty.
The pixel-shatter explosions and effects in the original have largely been replaced by polygon-based effects, which, combined with the aforementioned blur field, look very nice indeed, and when the going gets hectic and lots of things are blowing up (as they should be in any good game) the display becomes agreeably trippy. The "2000" and "Excellent" messages are now rendered in a translucent plain font - which looks OK, but I think I still prefer the shattering originals.
The Webs themselves are a variety of different shapes, typically less angular than the T2K webs - and there are more of them. Whilst having more webs is nice, I think that on the whole the web shapes are a bit tamer than in T2K - I would have liked to have seen more of the folding-onto-themselves type that were such bastards in T2K. So far I haven't come across any "hate webs" - in T2K every now and again you'd come across a web that was such a bastard, you'd always say to yourself, "God, I hate this bloody web!" and it'd often be a sticking point, and you'd get a most excellent feeling of relief when you got by the sucker. I kinda miss the hate webs. Mind you, maybe I'll discover some above level 47 :-)
The audio is of course improved from the original T2K, being as the choons are now delivered from the CD-ROM, allowing the use of the upgraded versions that were on the T2K audio CD. Those tunes still kick ass! Can't beat a nice drop o' techno for a game like this. Some of the audio FX have been changed, and by and large the new FX are good - nice solid meaty samples. The only noise I don't like too much is the noise that the Pulsars make - I reckon it should be much more deep and threatening
Okay, on to the gameplay. Now, I am going to make some criticisms here, but don't get me wrong, I think they've done an excellent job on TX3 and I like it a lot, and indeed I rate it as one of my 3 fave PS games (Wipeout XL and Robotron X being the other 2). I'm bound to be a little hypercritical of some things, because this is more or less my game with some embellishments and changes, and hey, you gotta love your own :-).
Your claw looks a bit nicer IMO than the one in T2K, and moves nice and responsively just like it should. The lasers are now more colourful polygon objects - the Particle Laser in particular is a lot beefier-looking than in T2K. The basic gameplay is exactly as in T2K - blast enemies coming up the Web, collect powerups to get points, goodies, and access to one of the three Bonus Rounds.
The powerups come in the usual T2K sequence, starting with the Particle Laser. There is one extra powerup beyond the Warp Token - something called a Super AI Droid. And speaking of the AI Droid, at this point I am going to have my first moan.
They've lobotomised the AI Droid! The poor thing has no "I"! Instead of targeting enemies on the Web, the poor enfeebled thing just follows you around and hovers over your ship with no autonomy of its own! This ruins one of my favourite strategies in T2K - when you got the Droid and knew how it behaved, you could more or less leave it alone to handle one part of the Web while you concentrated on defending another part. It was a great comfort to know it was there looking after your ass. Now, you have to lead it by the nose everywhere you go - which makes it perfectly useless in one of the situations where the old Droid used to be so useful - if you are trapped in a corner with enemies at the top of the Web and you don't have Jump Enabled yet. The old Droid would pick the enemies off the Web rim for you and hopefully buy you the space and time to get ahold of that Jump powerup. The new Droid just sits and wibbles over your head, and the baddies march in and get you!
I think he may get some of his brain back if you get the Super AI Droid powerup, but by then you're usually near the end of the wave anyway, and don't really have time to feel the benefit before you're done on that Web. As it is, I miss having a smart Droid terribly, and it's taken the fun out of "Yes, Yes, Yes!" powerups. I'd rather have my Particle Laser straight away than that useless droid. I'm sorry, guys, but minus points for an AI droid that isn't I. :-/
The usual crop of enemies are there and on the whole behave as they should. The Demon Head has been replaced by a similar enemy that fires a blue thing at you when shot - I actually preferred the look of the Demon Head though, but that's a minor quibble and largely a matter of personal taste. There's another enemy that looks a bit like a delta-wing aircraft that takes several shots to kill. Fuseballs are now rendered as squiggly kinda white things - I would have liked to have seen each arm of the squiggle be a different colour, like in the original, but again, that's a matter of taste. However, and I'm going to have another bit of a rant -
They've emasculated Pulsars! In T2K, when a Pulsar reaches the lip of the Web, it splits in two and the pieces hurtle around the lip - a real sphincter-tightening occurrence if you had Jump, and certain death if you did not! The X3 Pulsars just behave like Flippers when they reach the top (which is what happened in original Tempest, but which is a bit boring). A Pulsar or Pulsar Tanker nearing the top in T2K used to be a source of abject terror for the player, and dealing with them early was a major impetus to the gameplay. Now, they are not to be feared at all, so long as you don't get caught in the lane when they pulse. I miss that terror, and I get a little nostalgic twinge whenever I see a Pulsar getting near the top and I don't get scared at all. I don't really hate Pulsars like I used to, and I think that's a shame.
Another difference in the gameplay is in the behaviour of the Particle Laser and Spikes. In 2K, the Particle Laser makes very short work indeed of Spikes, eroding them almost instantly. In X3, it has no discernable increase in efficiency over the standard laser when shooting Spikes. This means that Pulsars over a spiked lane become a lot more dangerous. Now, I can see that maybe they wanted to deliberately make Spikes more of a bother in X3 - fair enough. But it's a big flaw that the same thing now happens in 2000 Mode - the Particle Laser does not kill Spikes like it should. I sincerely hope that they haven't made the same mistake in the other versions of the game for the Saturn and Windows, because those are being sold as straight T2K, and the fact that the Particle Laser doesn't nail Spikes properly alters the balance of the gameplay considerably. (This is the reason I wish that they had shown me the conversions prior to release - I could have trapped silly errors like this).
The Bonus Rounds are as in T2K, although I find them a bit more difficult (I think the tail in the Particle Tube sequence disappears waaaay too fast when you're off the track, and it also doesn't look quite right - it should taper more). One oddity is that in Bonus Round One, the Jupiter texmap sequence, the background starfield is for some reason drawn on top of the texmap instead of behind it, which looks a little strange. The feedback effects in Bonus Round Three (and, indeed, throughout the game) are a lot faster and smoother than on the Jag - but I found the rings a bit harder to see in BR3 than they were on the Jag.
Overall, though, despite these cavils, the gameplay rocks along at a blinding pace just as it ever did, and it's even more spectacular than before, and benefits from having less slowdown when there are a lot of enemies onscreen than the poor old Jaggi did. Anyone who is familiar with T2K will settle right in and score a good half-mill first time out. Those who missed out on the joys of Jaguar ownership and missed T2K can now find out what all the fuss was about and enjoy some nice extra eye- and ear-candy into the bargain. As I said before, TX3 now ranks in my top 3 PS games ever, and if you want one of the hottest, most intense blasting games out there, nip out straight away and score a copy. As ever, best played in a dark room with the stereo cranked whilst under the influence of the stimulant of your choice.
Other, minor things that bugged me:
They took out my rotating yak-head and replaced it with boring corporate logos! Boo! Hiss! hehe...
They took out my yak-head Web! Waaaa!
2K mode should not have been hidden. And the code for accessing it - I could have understood some bovine or ungulate reference, but "yiff!"? That sounds like a dog with a cold doing a wet sneeze! Wassap with that??
Only minor silly things really. The only things that really annoy me are the new uselessness of the AI Droid, the less-than-terrifying Pulsars and especially the Particle Laser not shooting Spikes properly in 2K mode - that one was a big "oops".
As I hope you can tell, I actually like the game a lot, and I hope I haven't appeared overcritical. I do think that I have isolated some of the reasons why some Jag T2K diehards have been a little critical though - it's not all just sour grapes; there are some significant differences that alter the balance of the gameplay in a way that may not be to everybody's taste. I would say that that's fine, there's a 2K mode for those that prefer it - but the particle laser/spike anomaly shifts the balance of the gameplay in that mode too, which is definitely not how it should be.
Moans notwithstanding, a fine variant on the Tempest/2K theme, that looks and sounds wicked and which will have your thumb aching and your retinas smoking :-)
(:-) - Y a K
Okay, you may be thinking, Yak is pissing and moaning about odd little things, and not offering any constructive criticism. Well, here's my two cents' worth (jeez, I have been in America too long!)...
There is a lot to like about TX3. The implementation is nigh-on flawless - I really like all the new graphics FX, fast and funky feedback and blurfields, textures in the Webs, and lack of slowdown when there's a lot going on on the screen. The coder's done an excellent job. My only criticisms are based on the modifications to the gameplay.
It's understandable that the designers wanted to make a game that had extra gameplay features, above and beyond T2K. I think I can see the direction they wanted to go with it, and I'll go through the modifications that they made, and offer my suggestion as to how they might have achieved similar things without impacting the gameplay so much:
They wanted to add more Webs. Yes, of course, I totally agree that adding more Webs is an excellent thing to do. I do think that they should have left in some of the "milestone" Webs from T2K in the appropriate places - like that bloody little 4-pointed star that was always such a bastard! - and then, yeah, add new Webs up the wazoo. I like the fact that the first 16 Webs are the original Tempest ones - I wish I had had a working Tempest game when I wrote T2K!... "Hate Webs" were major milestones in one's progress through T2K - I would often get email or meet people who would proceed to curse me roundly for some Web or other - "that bloody bleedin' level 63, you sadist!" kinda a thing. Gave the game a bit of character. As it is, the Web shapes are quite nice, but I am up to level 55 now and not one is particularly burned into my brain yet.
They wanted to make Spikes more significant. Okay, I can see why they might want to do this - Spikes are hardly an issue in T2K once you have the Particle Laser, whereas in Theurer's original they are a lot more of a problem. Now I happen to like the mastery over Spikes that a Particle Laser gives you, and I would have made the transition to "hard" Spikes happen more gradually as you progress through the game. In the early levels Spikers would produce normal "green" Spikes that the player could mash easily with the PL, as per usual. As the player progresses up the Webs, there would be an increasing probability that a new Spike created by a Spiker would be a "hard" Spike - of a different colour - which would be slowly eroded even by the PL. This would have brought Spikes back into the equation more, but provided a more gentle transition from the original T2K style of gameplay.
They wanted an extra AI Droid powerup. Fine, yes, I agree! But doing it by actually destroying the function of the original Droid is, I have to say it, just cheap. I would have made the extra Droid powerup give you just that - an extra, second AI Droid that fought alongside you and the existing one! I'd have also made each enemy launched into the Web from then on actually be two enemies, to tweak the difficulty up a bit to balance your improved firepower, given that the PSX can sustain a lot more baddies on screen without slowdown. Getting to the extra AI Droid powerup would then be a pile of fun, coz you'd be kicking major ass and things would get well busy with things exploding everywhere, plus you'd be rewarded by more points because there'd be twice the enemies to kill until the end of the wave. You'd finish the wave in a blaze of glory and exploding baddies with a big smile on your face screaming "Eat that, suckers!" at the screen. As it is, if you get that second AI Droid powerup, all you get is a minor feeling of relief that at least your AI Droid now works like it should have done in the first place. Ho-hum.
They wanted to make Pulsars less intimidating! The only reason I can think of that they did this was to balance the fact that they have arbitrarily hardened all the Spikes. This makes it harder to nail Pulsars and Pulsar Tankers before they reach the lip, and maybe they thought that it was then too much to have Pulsars be such a threat at the rim. In my scenario with the gradually-increasing amount of hard Spikes, I'd have left the Pulsars fully functional, and okay, they'd be even more terrifying at the higher levels - all well and good :-). In fact I would have emphasised the terror of a Pulsar reaching the top - with a meaty audio effect when they split at the top, a nice big lens-flare-type explosion, pulse that fuckin' blur-field... WHUMP! - flash - extreme psychedelicness - terror... and I'd have had the sparks running around the top rendered with some wicked blur or translucency effect... and you'd be jumping and yer sphincter would be twitchin' and then when you nailed the sparks there'd be a big adrenaline rush and feeling of "YES!!"... hehe... that terror/relief/rush cycle is part of what gives the game its bollocks and keeps you locked in.
In conclusion, I can see that they wanted to make some additions to the gameplay, but I reckon they should have done it by having the T2K gameplay as a subset, and then enhancing certain elements, as I have outlined above. Altering the game by "wussifying" elements and then, in the case of the AI droid, getting an extra powerup in there by just restoring things to how they should have been in the first place, strikes me as a bit of a cop-out. I am truly disappointed that I was not allowed to be involved with the final tweaking and balancing of the gameplay - TX3 is an excellent game as it is, but I feel with a few more tweaks we could have made it into the best Tempest ever, which is what it should have been. I can't understand why I was not involved even to a small degree - I wouldn't have asked for any extra money to give advice, since I'm getting royalties anyway it would have been in my own best interests to help make the game as good as possible. If you're going to make a game based on someone else's design, it just seems like common sense to consult with the original designer, especially if it isn't going to cost you anything except a couple of CD-R disks and a bit of email.
And I could have fixed that bug in the 2K mode. I was looking forward to playing what should have been the best 2K around too - smoother, less slowdown! - but due to the spike anomaly, it doesn't play quite right. And why no hiscores for T2K? C'mon, all you had to do was feed in another data structure...
Oh well... TX3 is still a very good game, and one of my top 3 PSX picks. It's definitely the smoothest, best-looking Tempest yet, and still highly recommended. I can't help thinking that it could have been the best Tempest ever though...
Never mind - I keep thinking that a new version of Tempest would be a most excellent showcase game for That Which I Am Working On Right Now. I haven't mentioned it at work yet, but I'm sure we could work out some kinda deal with what remains of Atari... Tempest 3K... now I've got an idea or two about that I can tell you