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Crossing Over: XIII
June 2, 2012 | Justin Ancheta

Click to enlarge

The new splashscreen from the unofficial community 1.5 patch.
Game: XIII
Release Date (Windows): November 18, 2003
Release Date (Mac OS): June 5, 2004
CrossOver Profile: Read Here
WineHQ AppDB entry: Read Here
IMG Review: Read Here
Test Platform:
MacBook (Mid-2007/Late-2006; GMA 950, 10.6.8, CX 11.03)
Price: $5.99

"I've got a Class A hero mission to offer you…"

Sometimes a good game, like a good movie, book or TV show, just doesn’t get the chance it deserves. One of my favourite movies, Gainax’s "Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise" (1987), was one such film. It was plagued by an overambitious development team, an overindulgent budget, and a frankly awful North American adaptation that was followed up by a pitifully low-quality DVD release. The movie itself boasted a budget of USD $1 million, an unprecedented amount at the time for an anime film. Extensive research was done for the characters and settings, including a trip to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., and the creative team behind the movie would be the same minds who would end up creating a little-known and obscure anime series called Neon Genesis Evangelion. The film itself was a critical success among Western critics. Yet, sadly, upon release, the film was a commercial failure. When Pioneer rereleased it on Blu-Ray/HD-DVD and DVD in 2007, fans were horrified that the long-sought remastered DVD could only be had when purchased with Pioneer’s overpriced HD version.

I’m mentioning this seemingly unrelated fact because this week’s trip down GOG’s memory lane is a game that, in my mind, inhabits the same general realm as Wings of Honneamise. It was based off of a graphic novel, in fact, one of the best graphic novel series made outside of North America, and the story of its development parallels Wings of Honneamise in many ways. Much like Wings of Honneamise, this game was released to largely good reviews, and stood out as a serious attempt to be a genuinely innovative, being a new product in a genre flooded with me-too clones of every other popular game on the market. Like Wings of Honneamise, it carried a considerable amount of promise: it used a tried and tested graphics engine (Unreal 2.0) to drive a highly stylized cell-shaded aesthetic. You weren’t just playing an FPS with the trappings of a comic book — you were actually in a real comic book, right down to the glorious three-panelled head shot effect.

It also boasted an impressive voice cast, starring David Duchovny, Adam West, and R&B singer Eve. Sadly, however, it ended up being an underappreciated gem that simply was ignored in the raft of hype surrounding games like Half Life 2, and Doom 3. UbiSoft’s attempts to promote the release of XIII ended up leaving gamers with overinflated expectations, for while the game’s stylish presentation, and dynamic 1960’s-ish funk soundtrack made XIII clearly stand out, its overly linear level design, poor voice acting and clichéd plot left many disappointed - and then of course, there was the massive cliff-hanger that left some crying foul. This was made all the more insulting by the fact that despite the considerable franchise potential of XIII, and the amount of material that the 15-volume comic series could provide for future games, a sequel was never made.

A year after the release of XIII on Windows, Feral Entertainment released the Mac-native port of XIII, to generally good reviews by those in the Mac press. The Mac release of XIII was arguably the definitive version of the game; Feral included some beautiful high-res desktops made by Brad Custer (of Inside Mac Games’ Custer’s Corner fame) as well as the soundtrack in the form of Redbook CD audio tracks. Feral even went to the trouble of releasing the Mac version with additional multiplayer modes seen only in the XBox/PS2 version, and also included higher-resolution graphics for the distinctive in-game comic panels. Sadly, this was all left behind with the great Intel switch, as Feral never released a Universal Binary patch for XIII. The game does supposedly work surprisingly well in Rosetta, and it is available on eBay for decent prices, but with current Macs moving forward into Lion and beyond, running a PPC binary in Rosetta will soon no longer be a viable option. Thankfully, in March of 2011, GOG re-released XIII as part of its Ubisoft catalog, and while it doesn’t quite match the original Mac release, GOG's release of the original PC version of XIII runs well enough within CrossOver, even on the anemic GMA 950 powering the original generation MacBook and Mac mini.


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