by Midway, 1987
A few years ago I started a thread on my BBS entitled "The Top 100 Games of All-Time." I would not normally start a thread with that pretentious a title, but it gave the denizens plenty to talk about before I actually started posting updates to that thread. I was buying time or something. I had most of the list figured out, but I was still wrestling with a few at the end.
Xenophobe was one game I had on the list, at #94, if I remember correctly. I had played it when I was a teenager, as it was on location in Rochester at some arcade or restaurant or something. There have to be more pizza parlors per capita in Rochester than any other city in America, and with parlors come arcade cabs.
I had also dorked around with Xenophobe through MAME. It's a great three-player game, but we'll get to that in a second.
I was trying to get Crystal Castles fixed when I happened upon a guy selling Xenophobe. I only had one machine at this point (CC) and it was a cocktail machine, meaning I could stick it almost anywhere. I ended up needing a new "big blue" capacitor for CC, but in talking to the guy who recommended me getting the cap I saw an ad of his saying he had a Xenophobe he wanted to sell for $1000.
Now, I am not the sort who just goes out and blows a grand on a cab, and in fact I have not paid that much for one since. (And I doubt I would, unless I got into the running for either Discs of Tron or Major Havoc. But hey, I want to put in a hot tub before any of that.) You know what, I'll go ahead and say it: that was too much money for what is supposed to be a salvage-and-restore hobby and I learned my lesson.
But the thing was, I had just sold my old Neon R/T for a thousand bucks through craigslist. It had well over 100,000 miles (I think 130,000) and I was happy to get a grand for it. I basically traded the car for the game.
And the thing is, having researched Xenophobe prices over the last three years... man did I get screwed! I'm not bitter and I do enjoy having the game, but the going rate for a Xenophobe is around three hundred bucks. So telling you all this is just a way for me to say, man, I'm an idiot douche bag. Don't do what I did, heh.
The cab is in great shape, however. Xeno doesn't have side "art" - it's just a couple of orange stripes - but they were really well-maintained. The monitor has a tiny bit of burn-in that's not noticeable during gameplay. All three controllers work great, the sound is responsive and it's clean. Let me put it this way: paying three time's a game's market value is pretty frigging dumb, but at least I did it for the best Xeno cab I've ever seen in person, or pictures of on the net.
When we got the game we were still living in the apartment. I had recently had knee surgery, so I wasn't going to be able to take it up the flight of stairs. Yeah... we were on the second floor. I should mention something about Xenophobe: it's frigging enormous, easily the heaviest one in my collection.
I ended up calling around to find movers to get the thing up the stairs. I took a half-day from work and two guys showed up from Muscle Movers, Wyatt and Patches. Man, I have to give those two credit: they got that frigging thing up the stairs without it's immense awkwardness killing anyone. Honestly, I was prepared for anything: the cab to get dropped, the cab to slide down the stairs, the cab to go nuclear and take out the city block, anything. But what it comes down to is the fact that those two guys were professionals, and I can appreciate that in all lines of work.
(I hired the same company when we moved out of the apartment. Wyatt got the thing into our house and at the end he said, "I never want to see that thing again!" I hear him. Xenophobe comes with the house if we ever sell.)
Xenophobe is a lot of fun when there are other people over and everyone hops on the thing at once. To be honest, it really lacks otherwise. It gets stupid-difficult and is basically a quarter-eater. There are lots of things to like about it, but there is no high score support. Xenophobe essentially made me create a rule for these things: I wasn't going to get any game that didn't save high scores, or have an installable high score mod. There is the occasional exception, sure: I don't think Discs of Tron saves, but that's OK because it wouldn't fit on our property in the first place. But with MAME having great hiscore.dat support (for the version I run with) I just can't get motivated for a game that doesn't give me something to shoot for. If it means invalidating the board for Twin Galaxies or something, I'm cool with it: I don't have the skill to set a record on any game, so I'd rather have one that was modified for something I consider to be critical for the arcade experience.
I've listed Xeno on craigslist a couple times, but nothing has come of it. I don't mind keeping it and I imagine I'll have it going forward. Which is cool: it's a great party game, and I'm pretty sure my favorite multiplayer quarter eater, Gauntlet II, would not fit down the stairs. So we're cool, Xenophobe and me. We're cool.
(It's also nice having a game from 1987 that's built like a tank and has absolutely no maintenance issues. Just being near it I feel like running over Chinese students.)