Xeno Fighters R has a long development history starting in 1998. Since then, it has had six different game names, undergone four different development platforms, and experienced numerous ship roster changes and gameplay revisions.
Inspiration and design direction
The inspiration for what would eventually become Xeno Fighters R is Raiden Fighters, an arcade top-down shoot 'em up made by Seibu Kaihatsu in 1996. The game was first encountered in 1997.
Raiden Fighters' manic gameplay and roster of ships set the foundation for the design direction of the game, which was, and still is, a tribute fangame to the Raiden Fighters series.
The first-ever incarnation of what would become Xeno Fighters R was called Kamikaze, and a prototype was made in 1998 on a game-making software called Klik 'n Play, an earlier precursor to Multimedia Fusion. It never got past the prototype stage due to the difficulty of making a game styled after Raiden Fighters on the software. The game was put on hold for two years.
V.A.F. Squadron / Xeno Fighters (2000-2002)
In the year 2000, a new game called V.A.F. Squadron (V.A.F. stood for Video Arcade Fighters) was created from scratch in Multimedia Fusion v1.2.
V.A.F. Squadron began with a roster of six ships. The first ship is the original ship, the Amada Vipros, created and named by early contributor Isotoxin. The other five ships were guest fighters from other games. The Raiden mk-II and Judge Spear were included, as they are part of the Raiden Fighters guest roster. The other guest fighters are the two player ships from the 1987 Tecmo shmup, Gemini Wing, named Gemini Blue and Gemini Red, and the Solvalou from 1982's Xevious by Namco.
When the name of the game was changed to Xeno Fighters, it was decided to add more original ships. Three new original ships were created and named by Isotoxin as well. They would replace three of the V.A.F. Squadron guest fighters. The Gemini Blue was replaced by the Phyxius, the Gemini Red was replaced by the Zaiva, and the Solvalou was replaced by the Xelcor. The Raiden mk-II and the Judge Spear remained as guest fighters, and the Vic Viper was added later. A fourth guest fighter was the second incarnation of the Solvalou, given new weaponry.
This was V.A.F. Squadron's backstory, verbatim. It was written to justify the existence of the guest fighters:
It is the year 2005. All the Earth's population is at peace. The peace is kept by a fleet of an advanced spacecraft called the Amada Vipros. The Earth was so confident that peace was permanent that all of the Amada Vipros space fighters were being decommissioned and disassembled. One day, a hostile race of aliens attacked Earth without warning. The aliens captured Earth's military forces for their own use. By this time, all but one Amada Vipros ship was disassembled. The Earth's best fighter pilot was immediately called to pilot it. The Amada Vipros is the Earth's most advanced ship. However, just one against the alien armada and Earth's captured military will be a death warrant. Military officials consulted inter-dimensional researchers as to what spacecraft to import from other dimensions to aid the lone Amada Vipros. An unusual conclusion was reached: Video Arcade Fighters! It was discovered that fighter ships in video arcade games were given outrageously powerful weapons. Inter-dimensional scientists scoured the dimensional realm of video games for ships they can use. They found five powerful space-capable fighters. Now, a new fighter squadron is formed of ships that spans dimensions, human imagination, and different video game eras.....
Xeno Fighters EX (2003)
The "EX" part of the name was added after difficulty levels were implemented (from the word EXpert).
Xeno Fighters EX introduced the Ultima-X, which was was the result by the developers of designing a purposely overpowered ship.
The game's aesthetics underwent an overhaul to be more in-line with commercial arcade shoot 'em ups. V.A.F. Squadron's bright background graphics, which made the bullets hard to see, were replaced with lower-contrast backgrounds. Bullets were also made larger and brighter. Bosses had battle damage added to them.
Xeno Fighters EX transitioned from MIDI files to external MP3s for its background music.
The final version of Xeno Fighters EX was released in 2003.
Xeno Fighters EX-R / Xeno Fighters R (2009-2011)
In 2009, remake of Xeno Fighters EX in Game Maker 7 Pro was started, taking on the name Xeno Fighters EX-R initially.
New guest fighters
Game Maker afforded the opportunity to add more guest fighters to the roster. For the first time since the V.A.F. Squadron days, the Gemini Blue and Gemini Red return to the roster as the Castor and the Pollux, respectively, with all-new weapons based on attacks found in Gemini Wing.
Summary of new features
This is a summary of new features introduced in the remake:
- Horizontal panning, a feature found in many modern vertical shmups that allow for a wider playfield, is implemented.
- Slave powerups from Raiden Fighters. Some cameo fighters have their own unique Slave sprites.
- Autofire, a much requested feature in the original.
- New Game modes:
- Conquest Mode: Play through a stage of your choice and score as high as you can.
- Boss Rush: Fight all bosses one after another.
- Raiden Fighters Jet's bonus chaining and score multipliers.
- All-new EX stages, which consist of original stage themes and game-themed stages used to unlock certain cameo ships.
- Guest bosses from other games (like Black Heart from Battle Garegga)
- 100% customizable music soundtrack, with multiple audio formats supported, including OGG Vorbis and MP3.
- Branching, non-linear stage progression, which takes players to different stages based on fulfilling certain stage objectives.
- The Fairy bonus item from the Raiden Fighters games is in.
- Bosses now have Cave-style lifebars, with markers denoting the amount of damage a boss takes before being sent to its next attack form.
As more features were added, the project became more of a reboot of Xeno Fighters EX. In light of this, the game's name was changed to Xeno Fighters R, and development was moved from Game Maker 7 Pro to Game Maker 8.0 Pro/8.1 Standard. The final public version of the legacy Game Maker Xeno Fighters R was released on October 2011. The project was abandoned after this due to extenuating circumstances.
Xeno Fighters R Game Maker Studio port (2019-present)
BPzeBanshee, a long-time Xeno Fighters collaborator, began a port of the Game Maker 8 source code base to Game Maker Studio in mid-2018. After dealing with the initial porting issues, he finished its first iteration on December 2018. According to BPzeBanshee, a lot of work has been done on the backend to fix long-standing issues from the GM8 version. Alluro (having since retired that username) has returned to work with BPzeBanshee on the Game Maker Studio port.
Changes and improvements
- Autofire is now standard. Manual fire has been removed.
- Arcade Mode has been renamed to "Story Mode".
- Ship roster finalized to 23 ships. Every one of the 23 ships has undergone major rebalancing and adjustments, as well as fixing poor gameplay designs (like the heavily criticized Pollux and Xelcor).
- Ships that were once alternate skins of another (Hoplon from Gyaraga, and Kevin Walker from Michelle Heart) were made separate ships and diverged with completely new abilities and weapons.
- Zapdos has been changed to Tengai (Samurai Aces).
- Greatly improved the music-playing subsystem, eliminating in-game stutter when a song changes in the middle of gameplay.
- Even more customizable music options. Do you want your favorite boss themes to play on all bosses in the game? Do you want Stage 1 not to play a boss theme, like in Xeno Fighters EX? Now you can!
- Boss healthbars redesigned and made part of the HUD. They seamlessly appear and disappear when the right situation calls for it. They also have pips to denote multiple boss phases.
- Path Mode: This mode presents the player with seven predetermined stage orders to select from. Story is disabled in this mode, allowing for a more arcade-style pace of gameplay with no story events. Included is a Path that recreates the 2003 Xeno Fighters EX stage order.
- Ability to show a wallpaper image in full-screen mode.
- The music test feature in Xeno Fighters EX's options menu returns as "Radio XF." The Radio XF feature fully supports user-made soundtracks.
- The Solvalou returns to the roster for the first time since 2010, thereby representing the original V.A.F. Squadron ship roster in its entirety (Amada Vipros, Raiden mk-II, Judge Spear, Castor (Gemini Blue), Pollux (Gemini Red), and Solvalou).
Xeno Fighters R timeline
A timeline of development of the current Xeno Fighters R in Game Maker software since late 2008. Public version releases and major development milestones are in bold.
Remake in legacy Game Maker (2009-2011)
- November 30, 2008: The Xeno Fighters EX remake in Game Maker 7 was announced.
- January 17, 2009: Slaves introduced to the game for the first time.
- January 24, 2009: Miyamoto created, making him the third-ever "ship" made for the game.
- January 31, 2009: v0.1, the first ever public version, released.
- June 2, 2009: Black Heart introduced as the first cameo boss in the game.
- June 19, 2009: v0.2 Release Candidate 1 released.
- July 11, 2009: Game name changed to Xeno Fighters EX-R.
- September 5, 2009: Design documents for Stage 4-B (2035 Iceland) and Stage 5-C(Ravaged Earth) posted.
- September 13, 2009: v0.2 Release Candidate 2 released.
- December 7, 2009: Gyaraga added.
- December 16, 2009: Fairy bonus added.
- December 29, 2009: Slave formations implemented.
- January 5, 2010: All four original ships (Amada Vipros, Phyxius, Zaiva, Xelcor) completed.
- January 22, 2010: DESTROYED AT A TIME bonus implemented.
- February 2, 2010: Second game name change to Xeno Fighters R.
- It was at this point the game was not a straight remake of Xeno Fighters EX, but a complete reboot.
- February 7, 2010: v0.6 Release Candidate 1 released.
- So much had been added from v0.2 RC2 that it skipped four minor version numbers.
- February 8, 2010: v0.6 Release Candidate 2 released.
- February 10, 2010: v0.6 Release Candidate 3 released.
- February 11, 2010: Xeno Fighters R v0.6 Beta Final released.
- October 15, 2010: Castor and Pollux, then named Gemini Blue and Gemini Red respectively, added.
- November 23, 2010: Stage F-C (BRES Colony), then numbered as Stage 9, announced.
- November 26, 2010: Horizontal wobble (camera panning in stages wider than the width of the screen) implemented for the first time.
- January 9, 2011: Difficulty selection implemented.
- January 30, 2011: v0.10 released
- April 1, 2011: v0.11a released with many new features (APRIL FOOLS).
- October 22, 2011: v0.11 released.
- This is the final public version of the legacy Game Maker Xeno Fighters R project.
Revival in Game Maker Studio (2019-present)
- January 1, 2019: First announcement by BPzeBanshee and his port of Xeno Fighters R to Game Maker Studio 1.4.
- February 17, 2019: First video of gameplay of the Xeno Fighters R GM Studio port.
- December 25, 2019: v0.191 RC4 released.
- January 23, 2020: Soundtrack remaster, ship select screen revamp, Zapdos sprite-swapped to Tengai.
- March 7, 2020: The first new stage in 9 years, Stage EX-5 (Lair of the Leviathan), announced.
- April 9, 2020: First public announcement and demonstration of Path Mode.
- April 15, 2020: First demonstration of Story Mode cutscenes and cinematics. First story path ending at Stage 5-C (Ravaged Earth) completed.
- June 24, 2020: v0.200 RC1 released.
The project has undergone multiple design paradigm changes in the 20 years it has been developed.
Certain sprites, such as the Raiden mk-II and Judge Spear, have undergone changes over the years. The Raiden mk-II's base was originally the Raiden ship from the Sega Genesis version of Raiden Trad. Later versions of the Raiden mk-II were based on the sprite from the arcade version of ther first Raiden. The Judge Spear started as a modification of the Raiden mk-II.
Once the first screen captures of the Raiden Fighters games became available on the internet, the Judge Spear sprite got as close to the original sprite possible at the time. At the time of Xeno Fighters EX's development from 2000 to 2002, the Raiden Fighters games were unemulated in MAME. Photographs of the games from actual arcade cabinets were rare, and were the only source of images of Raiden Fighters games on the internet at the time.
When the Raiden Fighters games were emulated in MAME with proper graphics starting in 2004, actual Raiden Fighters versions of the Raiden mk-II and Judge Spear sprites were possible, making their way into Xeno Fighters R in 2009.
An alternate reshaded set of Raiden mk-II and Judge Spear sprites have been provided by Herr Schatten.
Ship select screen
High score table
Raiden mk-II Bend Plasma weapon
The Raiden mk-II's Bend Plasma weapon has undergone the most revisions out of any ship weapon. It uses an algorithm that is still being figured out as of April 2020. It started in V.A.F. Squadron as a guided version of the straight blue Laser from the original Raiden. The Bend Plasma's first incarnation was made in V.A.F. Squadron and behaved like an erratic snake with no actual lock-on capabilities.
It took a Multimedia Fusion extension that allowed WHILE-style looping to make a passable algorithm for the Bend Plasma in the original Xeno Fighters EX.
Game Maker's more advanced math functions and C++ style scripting allowed for an even more fluid algorithm in Xeno Fighters R. Constant adjustments are being made as new stages such as Lair of the Leviathan are made to stress the Bend Plasma algorithm and implementation.