Fray CD: Xak Gaiden

Original Title
PC Engine
Micro Cabin
Official Website
Fray CD is the fifth and final version of Fray’s comical Xak side story; the game was initially released on the MSX2 and the MSX Turbo-R in 1990 then ported to the PC-98 and Game Gear a year later. The PC Engine release came in 1994, the same year the PCE also got it’s Xak III port.
Fray plays as an action/shmup hybrid, somewhat similarly to Taito’s Kiki Kaikai series – the player has to both shoot at oncoming enemies with her magical rods as well as negotiate jumps, moving platforms and angry crabs. While Fray can move freely around the screen and progress at her own pace backtracking is not allowed, once the play field has been pushed upwards Fray can’t retreat. Three levels mix up this formula – the first is a forced scroll vertical shmup, with it’s own unique collectable power ups, options and a flying fortress to defeat at the end, the second has Fray surfing downstream avoiding (or shooting) mines and other enemies and the third is a short forced scroll battle against a giant robot.
Between levels Fray visits towns to stock up on equipment and items as well as progress the plot. Fray is able to buy a selection of rods, each of which have their own unique attributes – basic forward shot, three way spread and more can be bought if funds allow. Spells are also available and work as Fray’s equivalent of the “smart bomb” – single use attacks that destroy everything on screen. Defensive and restorative items are bought from another store in town and help keep Fray alive; shields prevent her from receiving damage and a variety of foods and potions keep her health topped up.
In the first town Fray is given a teleportation spell which can be used at almost any point to either warp to safety or to return to a previous area. Levels that have already been cleared can be re-entered this way if the player wishes to earn some extra gold although the boss battles at the end of each stage are unavailable and any previously opened chests are now empty.
While the general gameplay and story are largely the same in each version of Fray the PC Engine port has a significantly different final boss compared to the others and some small differences to the plot.
The PC Engine version of Fray was recently released on Project EGG, you can visit (and buy!) it here.