The Homeworld has been invaded and overrun by powerful cyber terrorists. They have unleashed cybernetic warriors across the land and started building infrastructure and giant weapons installations to continue their campaign of subjugation.
You are Ranger X, a powerful mech with unique abilities. Alone you will fight against the cybernetic hordes to bring peace and justice to the world. Along the way your will find more powerful weapons to bring death to your enemies and remove the threat once and for all.
Ranger X takes place over several levels with each level having basically the same structure: there are several smaller targets that must be taken out before you can confront the boss at the end of the level. The smaller objectives are generally things like power convertors or weapons enplacements (though in level 5 they are giant sentry robots) that serve some strategic purpose in the overall war against the terrorists. The objectives appear on a radar display on screen so it is easy to find them, though the linear nature of most levels means that they are generally quite obvious. Once all the objectives are clear and you reach the end of the level there is always a large, screen filling boss that can be somewhat challenging.
Along with the basic laser beam Ranger X has access to several secondary weapons. These range from a flamethrower to a hawk that will attack enemies to a large, screen clearing positron beam. Secondary weapons are fired based on a separate energy meter that will recharge slowly while you are in sunlight; however, in level 2 you need to open holes in the cave to emit light and in level 5 you need to stand in the spotlights. Secondary Weapons will fire in whatever direction Ranger X is facing and typically do a lot more damage than your primary weapon.
In every level you are accompanied by one of two vehicles, called Ex-Ups, that will provide you with firepower and transport. By pressing down on the d-pad you can combine with the ex-up which provides both shelter and allows you to change your secondary weapon. Only one Ex-Up will be available in each level.
- Ex-Up Indra: The Indra is basically a motor bike that will follow Ranger X through the levels. You can stand on top of it to increase your speed or combine with it to access it's homing laser and use it for protection, however it has it's own life bar. If the the Indra explodes while you are in it you will die; it is invulnerable while you are outside of it.
- Ex-Up Eos: The Eos is a floating weapon platform that will occasionally fire a laser beam which can only really destroy the weaker enemies in the game. Other than being needed to switch your secondary weapon the Eos is much less useful than the Indra.
The controls are fairly simple, yet it is strongly recommended that the game is played with a 6-button controller. The A and C buttons fire left and right, respectively, and the B button is used to fire the secondary weapon. On a 6-button controller X and Z are used to control the Indra while you are not combined with it. This is especially useful since the Indra will fire its main weapon when Ranger X fires his, so you can attack two different enemies at once if using a 6-button controller.
Ranger X is also capable of flight; your boosters are activated by pressing up on the d-pad. As you use more booster your heat meter will increase. If it hits the top your boosters will cut out and only be available once you land. This is especially annoying in level 4, since this level involves flying up the side of a very tall building and killing enemies on ledges and in windows. On the easier difficulty settings there are floating platforms that will allow you to refresh your boosters; on the hard difficulty you have to climb the entire building without overheating or else you have to start all the way from the beginning.
Ranger X pushed the limits of the Genesis' color palette. Most levels are very colorfl and attempt to create depth to the levels by using perspective tricks or movement in the background to imply three dimensions. For example, in the first level the target is to destroy laster canons that are bombarding a nearby city. In the background you can see the city being hit by laser blasts which appear to travel a great distance.
Every level also begins with a flyby of the terrain and a description of the targets. This is done using vector graphics, and while rough, it was a fairly impressive feat considering the technology of the time.
Electronic Gaming Monthly gave Ranger-X the scores of 8,9,7 and 7. Danyon Carpenter awarded the highest score writing, "...it puts the many other action titles like it to shame -- and then some! The difficulty is high, but it's welcome in this day of way-too-easy games! The colors are simply brilliant, as well. The control can seem a little quirky at first however. The incredible variety of weapons, the non-stop action, and doses of strategy are pretty much unequaled by anything else".