Whatever it is, Xevious was another game created by Namco and distributed by Atari (like Dig Dug), where you must fly over a future earth and blow up land and air targets by pumping them up until they explode--oh, sorry, I'm thinking of Dig Dug again.
Seriously, this was one of the earliest scrolling shooters back in the early 80s when it came out, and had a passing resemblance to Scramble, although Xevious is a top-down, overhead-viewed scroller, whereas Scramble scrolled horizontally and was side-viewed (plus Scramble also allowed your craft to drop bombs and shoot lasers as well). Probably another thing that I always thought was kind of strange was how you obviously had entered a new sector in the game, due to different groups of targets appearing (a wave of alien ships will usually appear in groups, rather than being mixed), yet there's no indication onscreen (like with Scramble) that this has happened.
All kinds of other things are happening, though, on the air and on the ground, as there's tons of different aircraft throughout the game, all with different mannerisms, attacks and all: some ships will just fly from the top to the bottom of the screen, others stick to mainly the sides, the black (or eight) balls are the worst, as they'll blow up if you don't shoot them quickly enough, and one ship in particular splits into two, and stays perfectly mirrored on both sides of your ship, which moves as you move, so it can't be destroyed...then after several seconds, it merges back into one ship, and then flies off. Again, weird (but original).
Ground targets also come in all shapes and sizes, not all of which are a threat to your craft, so it's a good idea to bomb even immobile targets that won't open fire on you. See, the story is that this is earth in the future, and we weren't the first ones here, and the aliens -- uhhh, I guess that makes them "original inhabitants", come to think of it -- want their planet back...so, I guess that means that the REASON you get points for bombing *everything* is that you're decreasing the amount of real estate that the aliens can use! So ha ha on them, we're not giving "our" planet up! Go to Mars instead, as scientists and astronomers have been saying for a while that it's closest to earth out of all the other planets in our solar system, so maybe it'll BE like earth in only a few million years! After all, if they've waited THIS long...
Other target highlights (both land and air) include mirrors (or shields) that can't be destroyed, the Andor Genesis mother ship (very cool, aside from the battery of firepower it launches at you), buildings hidden beneath the surface that are worth big points if you can find and bomb (look for your bomb target site to turn red, then bombs away!), and there's even hidden flags beneath the surface here and there that, when you pass over them, grant you an extra ship.
This was ported around to a bunch of home game consoles after it's arcade run, although, ironically enough, it did NOT appear for the majority of Atari consoles, as Xevious never got past the prototype phase for the 2600 (no, I'm NOT kidding, look it up at www.atariprotos.com!) and 5200, but it was released for the 7800, and it was a pretty decent port, as I have it.
Speaking of which, nothing's more heartwarming than to introduce someone to the game that, for some reason, never played it in the arcades (?! As big a hit as it was?), and then he got hooked onto it when I abandoned my 7800 for my Sega Genesis (yes, I know, shame, shame on me), as a friend of mine did.
Then I told him about the flags one day.
Due to being someone who stayed up most of an entire night trying to figure out the guitar work on "Don't Fear the Winter" from Rage (no, not Rage Against the Machine, just plain Rage), he, yeah, ended up spending an entire night up trying to find them (can you say "obsessed", boys and girls?), and he ended up finding at least one, which is more than I ever could (I know there's one somewhere around the big phoenix that appears on the ground at one point in the game, since I saw a photo of one in a magazine once). Guess I need to pull an all-nighter.
In closing, the controls respond well, the sounds are good, although the annoying "music" that's constantly running can grate on the nerves, but the graphics were great then, with a lot of details on all the ships and buildings, and they all looked different, and the graphics hold up fairly well today. There were also a couple of 3-D updates to the game as well (Xevious 3D/G and Solvalou, the latter of which looks killer!!), but I've never played them.
Oh yeah: and what was probably the first ever TV commercial for a coin-operated game was also created for Xevious as well.
Now, that IS weird.