You play as Apollo (Urashima in the Japanese original), a warrior in a white spacesuit with a visor that looks like a duck's bill, as you make your way from island to island in a post-apocalyptic Earth, fighting off bizarre aliens and robots and rescuing a bevy of princesses from their clutches. A variety of special weapons help you on your journey, while aircraft called "cyborg riders" take you from one locale to the next as you try to rescue Princess Maria Star from the alien Goruza. Along the way, you meet fairies, disembodied heads, the spirit of King Xu Star, friendly frog-ladies, robot shopkeepers, and giant women in hot tubs. The kingdom of Xexyz depends on you!
Needless to say, it's a bit strange.
This game provides examples of:
- Achilles' Heel: Every boss has a weak spot of some sort.
- After the End
- American Xexyz Is Hardcore: The game's title screen, and a few character and enemy designs, were changed from the Japanese version to the US version to take on a less whimsical, more sci-fi appearance. The flying saucer Apollo rides to combat each platform-stage boss was originally a flying turtle, and the Gradius-like ship used to finally destroy Goruza's fortress originally had a turtle motif to it. Compare the differences.
- Betting Mini-Game: You bet 20E, and while the Japanese version allows you to win as little as 5E, in the American version the minimum payout is 30E; you always come out ahead.
- Big Bad: Garuza, the leader of the aliens.
- Boss Rush: One of the secret passwords allows the player to challenge all odd-level bosses in back-to-back battles.
- Bullet Hell: Many of the bosses' attacks were like this. Fortunately, you could counter it with some Pause Scumming, though in Horrza's case, it moves too fast for that to work unless you have a slowmo controller.note
- Distressed Damsel: The queens of each island, in addition to fairies trapped by enemies.
- Fairytale Motifs: Aside from rescuing princesses, the game was apparently inspired by the Japanese fairytale of Taro Urashima, a fisherman who saves a turtle, goes to a magical undersea palace, comes back to find that a hundred years have passed, and suddenly dies of old age. The connection to the fairytale amounts to a preponderance of undersea-themed enemies and a turtle-shaped spaceship you ride near the game's end. Well, that and the Bad Ending.
- Giant Space Flea from Nowhere: Every dang boss.
- Multiple Endings: The Japanese version ended with a simple choice between three endings, one of which is a Bad Ending.
- Nintendo Hard: Apollo moves fast, both vertically and laterally, making him difficult to control. Also some bosses can kill you in less than 5 hits, even near the end of the game when your life bar is close to or is already at the max.
- No Pronunciation Guide: The American commercial for the game pronounces the title "ZEX-iss", though other variants ("ZEX-eez") may be heard.
- Our Monsters Are Weird: Up to and including worms with rocket launchers strapped to them.
- Pause Scumming: Almost a necessity for some of the faster Horizontal Scrolling Shooter levels and the Bullet Hell boss attacks.
- Pinball Projectile: The 45B Ball weapon bounces off surfaces and into enemies.
- Sequential Boss: Goruza has three forms.
- Unexpected Gameplay Change: The levels alternate between Platformer, Metroidvania, and Horizontal Scrolling Shooter.
- When All Else Fails, Go Right
- Word Purée Title