Exile (1988 video game series)
|Genres||Action role-playing game|
|Publishers||Telenet, Working Designs, Renovation Products|
|Platforms||MSX2, PC88, Mega Drive / Genesis, Sharp X1 Turbo, Turbo Duo, TurboGrafx CD|
|Platform of origin||MSX2, PC88|
|First release||XZR: Idols of Apostate
|Latest release||Exile: Wicked Phenomenon
Exile, known as XZR in Japan, is an action role-playing video game series developed by Nihon Telenet. The first game in the trilogy, XZR: Idols of Apostate, never saw a release outside of Japan. The sequel, Exile, had two different versions. The TurboGrafx CD version was released in English by Working Designs, and the Mega Drive / Genesis version was released in English by Renovation Products. Working Designs also were in charge of the English localization of the third game, Exile: Wicked Phenomenon.
The Exile trilogy centers on Sadler, a Syrian Assassin, who is the main character of each game in the trilogy. The series is controversial and notorious for featuring various references to religious historical figures, modern political leaders, iconography, drugs, and time-traveling assassins.
XZR: Idols of Apostate
Released in 1988 for the MSX and PC88 in Japan, XZR introduces the anti-hero and protagonist of the series, Sadler, a Syrian Assassin (a Shia Islamic sect) on a journey to kill the Caliph, his father. This is the only game to never receive a North American release and therefore does not have Exile in its title. The gameplay included action-platform elements, switching between an overhead perspective and side-scrolling sections, while the plot has similarities to the present-day Assassin's Creed video game series.
The game centers on Sadler and his mission to assassinate the Caliph. The intro sequence briefly covers the history of the Middle East from 622 CE, the first year of the Islamic calendar, including a brief description of the Hijra, up until 1104 CE, the year of Sadler's birth. The game then starts in Baghdad, where Sadler rescues Rumi, and follows Sadler to Persia and then Babylon, where he must defend the Euphrates River from pollution by an oil magnate, encounter the Assyrian queen Semiramis and Babylonian goddess Ishtar, and visit the Tower of Babel in search of unicorns, before heading to Alexandria, becoming baptised in a Jewish village, and searching for Ouroboros. Eventually, Sadler makes his way back to Baghdad and murders the Caliph. It is then revealed that the Caliph was his father and they were separated when Sadler was kidnapped as a baby by the Assassins. The game then switches focus and enters a subplot about a Mongol invasion before Sadler is warped to the 20th century, where he must assassinate Russia's General Secretary and America's President, ending the game.
Originally released as XZR II for the PC-88 and MSX2 in 1988, Exile received a full 16-bit remake in 1991, featuring cutscenes and a brand new Red Book soundtrack. Renovation Products handled the Genesis version, whereas Working Designs localized the Turbo CD version. The dungeons were less difficult to navigate in the 16-bit versions; the original MSX2 version's were maze-like, so it was easier to lose one's way. The game's soundtrack was composed by Shinobu Ogawa and Tenpei Sato.
The plot of the game detailed the further adventures of Sadler, taking place after the events of XZR. Now living in the time of the Christian Crusades, Sadler makes an attempt to unite the world under one God and achieve world peace. Along the way, he performs a Masonic ritual in an attempt to revive Mani, and slaughters many Hindu and Buddhist deities. Sadler meets the head of the Knights Templar, Hugues de Payens, and helps him search for the Holimax, a holy artefact. Sadler travels to several different countries, including France (where Rumi is kidnapped), India, Cambodia, and Japan. In a Cambodian temple, Sadler resurrects the Manichaean prophet Mani. In Japan, Sadler rescues Ninkan, who in real life was head of Japanese sex cult Tachikawa-ryu. Afterwards, Sadler travels back in time to Eden and meets Bacchus. Sadler also murders Hiram Abiff, a Masonic figure. After defeating Jubelum of the Three Ruffians, Sadler receives the Holimax. Although the console versions end there, the computer versions continue the story, having Sadler warp to present-day Manhattan, where he fights skateboarding punks and zombies.
The localization by Working Designs was the closest to the original Japanese and remained uncensored. The Genesis version removed scenes deemed inappropriate, such as a burning village and instances of naked women in the later areas. However, Working Designs was asked by NEC to change some of the names in the game, concerned about the religious and drug-related elements. "Hence, the Christian Crusaders became the Klispin Crusaders. Given the rules from NEC, it was a pretty sensitive subject, so direct references had to be changed", explained Vic Ireland, who worked closely with the game's localization. The Genesis version also features instances of swearing not present in the Turbo CD version. In Japan, Telenet changed the names of several of the drugs in the Mega Drive version of the game. A town of crucified heretics being burned alive was left in the American Turbografx release, but removed from the American Genesis version.
Exile: Wicked Phenomenon
The last game in the trilogy was released for the Turbo Duo in 1992, and translated by Working Designs in 1993. It was released in North America on July 31, 1993. It was published by Nihon Telenet in Japan. Although Sadler returns as the main character, this was the only game in the series that allowed the player to use other characters. Although the previous games featured heavy religious elements, Sadler is now striving to defeat chaos and solve the mystery of an ancient tower. Characters who perished in earlier games were revived with little or no explanation. The game was also considerably shorter than the previous entries in the series.
The game's cover art featured a photograph, a rarity for North America, of the game's final boss, handcrafted. Vic Ireland commented on it, saying that "The Exile 2 cover is polarizing. People love it or hate it. It's basically aping a style of diorama that was really popular to advertise games in Japan. NCS/MASAYA did quite a bit of it, and I wanted to bring that to the US as well. So, I chose Exile 2 as the game to try this on. The practical effects guy who did the little models on the set in the ad, had done FX work for movies like Tremors and has since done work for WETA in Australia. The smoke was a time exposure to give it a thickness and glow. When we ran the ad, EGM or Gamepro (I can't remember) sent us a survey they did months later with their readers that had that ad listed as the 'most remembered' ad from the whole magazine, which, I think, justified the experiment. We tried it again for Vasteel, but the results weren't that great, so we only used part of one of the space scenes on the back cover of the jewel case."
The main character of all three games is Sadler, a young assassin from Syria. He is depicted as someone who fights against oppression, seeking world peace in Exile. Upon realizing world peace is unattainable, he wanders off into the desert. He is seen smoking a cigarette, except in the Japanese Megadrive and American Genesis games, where it was removed. The pink-haired Rumi is Sadler's main love-interest. She is repeatedly kidnapped and dies in Exile, although she returns in the next game, where she becomes a playable character. Rumi is fast and can use knives. Fakhyle is the party's skilled magician who teaches Sadler how to use magic. An elderly man, he often leaves the party to sleep. His face is covered by a veil in the console ports of the games. Kindhy is a large and strong man and must be bought from a circus. He is often silent and is Syria's civilian militia leader.
Each game in the trilogy is an action role-playing game. The player controls Sadler from a top-down perspective and is able to explore towns and other environments. There is no fighting in the top-down segments. Side-scrolling areas are where the player combats the games' enemies. By fighting enemies, Sadler gains experience points, which increase his attack power and hit points. The player can also purchase items or find them in chests. In addition to hit points and magic points, two more statistics are represented on screen: AP (Attack Power) and AC (Armour Class), which are represented by two wavy lines that move and undulate like a heart monitor. These lines are a visual representation of the randomisation during combat, in contrast to later action RPGs such as The Elder Scrolls series where the randomisation is invisible.
One notable aspect of the series is Sadler's usage of drugs. Instead of potions, medical herbs, etc., Sadler uses narcotics such as hashish, coca, opiates, LSD, marijuana and peyote to heal himself or increase other attributes. The player's AP and AC statistics, represented by a heart-monitor, are also affected by the drugs. In Exile, there were side-effects, including death. The side effects were eliminated in the sequel, but were again present in the third Exile game, and the drug names were changed for the Western releases. Opiates were changed to "Heartpoisons".
Exile was named one of "Renovation's Top 10 Games" on IGN. Levi Buchanan of IGN stated that "the translation in the Genesis edition is pretty bad, but that has little effect on the breadth of the adventure itself." The game was also featured in a positive light in the book The 8-Bit Book – 1981 to 199x by Jerry Ellis.
Exile: Wicked Phenomenon was given a decent review from John Huxley at defunctgames.com. He wrote that "Exile is a solid game that successfully marries action and role-playing", but said that it was not as deep of an adventure as Ys I & II. He also mentioned that the voiceovers are "terrific", only complaining that the graphics in the cutscenes are "a little thin."
- Szczepaniak, John (2009-04-11). "Hardcore Gaming 101: Exile / XZR". Hardcore Gaming 101. Retrieved 2009-08-10.
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- Leo Chan, Sunsoft scores Telenet Japan franchises, Neoseeker, December 10, 2009
- "XZR II PC-8801 Original Soundtracks". VGMdb. Retrieved 22 August 2012.
- "Exile (1992) at IGN". IGN.com. Retrieved 2009-10-06.
- "Telenet Japan at IGN". IGN.com. Retrieved 2009-11-06.
- "Exile: Wicked Phenomenon IGN". IGN.com. Retrieved 2009-11-06.
- Buchanan, Levi (2008-06-17). "Top 10 Renovation Games". IGN.com. Retrieved 2009-11-06.
- "The 8-Bit Book – 1981 to 199x". Hiivebooks.com. 2008. Retrieved 2009-11-06.
- Huxley, John (2008-01-13). "Exile - Wicked Phenomenon". defunctgames.com. Retrieved 2009-11-06.