|By Good-Evil Contributor||Monday, 9 Jun 2008|
Contributed by Matt Gburek, our senior correspondent in Japan.
Alien Solider may potentially be my favorite platformer of all time, though this changes like the wind blows, so it would largely depend on my mood and/or the current phase of the moon. At any rate though, I’m hard pressed to think of a game that manages to be both challenging and remain an involving experience for the player. It wouldn’t be out of the question to call Alien Soldier a boss fest, but it is drawn together in such a cohesive manner that the whole game really just feels like one, long level that doesn’t let up for a second until the bitter end. The game starts in an airport and ends in a dramatic outer space battle with a giant mechanical lion with almost no pause in between. The bosses themselves are often grotesque, but beautiful, and well-animated. There’s even a cameo by Seven Force (of Gunstar Heroes fame!) as a major boss in a later stage.
The game’s title screen bears the words “VISUALSHOCK! SPEEDSHOCK! SOUNDSHOCK!”, Which seems like basic Engrish, but there’s definitely some meaning behind those words. In an interview I read with Treasure CEO Masato Maegawa, their goal with the game was to “go as far as we can possibly go” with the Genesis/Megadrive hardware, and it shows. The quality of the sprite animation is second to none for its time, there is no slowdown whatsoever despite the high amount of objects on screen at once, it’s one of the fastest games I’ve ever played, and the music is catchy yet atmospheric and kind of creepy (occiaionally reminding me of noise acts such as Merzbow, etc.) Graphically, I usually have a hard time convincing people this was originally a Genesis game when I play it on my PS2. Yeah, it does look that good.
Gameplay-wise, there are several different weapons. You can choose up to four to carry at a time with two different modes of firing (one in which you can aim while firing but cannot move from your position, the other in which
you can move but cannot change the direction in which you are firing). These modes can be changed by pressing down and then the weapon-change button. The controls take some getting used to since there’s a lot you have to be able to do on your own reflexes with only three buttons to use, but with a little practice you’ll get used to it. Staying at full health is important, since it is only at full health in which you can use the Zero Teleport, the most powerful attack in the game and absolutely essential for some boss fights.
But what I like most of all is just the overall consistency the game has. One moment I’m plugging away at a giant anthropomorphic tiger with my lasers, darting from one edge of the screen to another, in perfect rhythm; The next moment I’m in a long, dark tunnel illuminated only by my firepower; The next I’m riding on a giant moth flying upwards at high speeds while simultaneously attacking it when it suddenly hits a giant spider web. When the giant spider arrives to catch its prey, I’m abruptly forced to use the body of the moth I was riding on earlier as a shield, a shield which is slowly being covered by the offspring of the giant spider and consumed. Then I have to rid the moth of all the baby spiders to prevent it (which is my only platform) from reaching the bottom screen lest I fall into a bottomless pit, and all the while getting hits on the spider itself when I can. And there’s a time limit too, so there’s no time to rest. Sound hard? It is. And it only gets harder from there. In some platformers, there’s occasional easy bits/downtime. There’s none of that in Alien Soldier. By far one of the most intense, imaginative, and overall tight platformers ever.
If you want to play a legit version of the game but don’t have the cash to shell out for the insanely rare and highly valuable original cart, you should look into getting the Gunstar Heroes Treasure Box for the PS2 (assuming you can play imports). It’s only thirty bucks, it comes with both Japanese AND overseas versions of Gunstar Heroes (including the Game Gear version!), Dynamite Headdy, and Alien Soldier, as well as manual scans for all versions of the game, replay videos, and more. But yeah, mostly buy it for Alien Soldier. And if you have a Wii, it’s even easier to find the game. It’s on the Virtual Console, and well worth the money.
So go forth! If you haven’t played the game, play it! Alien Soldier is love, folks. Love.