For those of you well versed in the Mega Drive’s library, you may know of Alien Soldier as one of the systems classic titles despite often being overshadowed by it’s older brother of the same genre and developer, Gunstar Heroes.
Alien Soldier is a side scrolling shooter originally releasing in 1995 for the Sega Mega Drive and developed by none other than the legendary developer Treasure who are known for such titles as the aforementioned Gunstar Heroes, Radiant Silvergun, and Ikaruga to name a few. This version I’ve played here being the Steam release from 2011 as part of Sega’s Mega Drive Collection.
Unlike Gunstar Heroes, Alien Soldier doesn’t feature a two player mode. There are two difficulties to choose from, supereasy and superhard. This is essentially the game mocking you as there is no middle ground. The only real difference between the two modes are that enemies are a little bit harder to kill in the hard mode and there are no continues.
For a game of it’s time the plot is more involved than most and is given to the player in the form of a long text scroll in the games intro and when I say long, I mean long. It can be somewhat difficult to follow as it’s not immediately clear who you are in regards to the games events and where your character stands but if you can hold fast and make it through the opening story sequence then you’ll be okay, maybe.
The game is set two years ago in 2015 (Yes I know this game came out in 1995) and centres around the character you play, known as Epsilon-Eagle who is the leader of a terrorist organisation called ‘Scarlet’ who wish to take control and lock down a planet called “A-Earth” which has been populated by genetically engineered humans who are capable of super human strength, intelligence, and possess the ability to parasitically assimilate humans, animals and machines. Did I mention that Scarlet are also these genetically engineered humans? Yeah I can’t keep up with what’s going on either. To it’s credit though, the game was half complete upon it’s release and much of the back story was cut.
Gameplay for Alien Soldier may seem easy at first and you could be forgiven for thinking it’s a simple side scrolling shooter but it’s much more in-depth than that as the controls are very tight and give a lot of control over your actions. You have your standard controls to run, jump, and shoot of course but what you’ll find upon starting the game when you view the controls screen, which the game generously displays each time before you jump into the action, is that you have an array of moves at your disposal. You can double jump, hover in place which can give you an advantage over your enemies, use a counter move which will turn enemy gunfire into health if you time it correctly and last but not least, you have a dash attack which causes damage to opponents whilst you’re at full health.
Level design is quite interesting as instead of having long levels with a single boss at the end, the game features very short levels that function as a sort of break in between the sheer amount of boss battles the game features.
On graphical terms yeah sure it’s old and may seem dated to some but 16 bit graphics have their charm and nostalgic appeal. Alien Soldier is no different, it’s graphics for the time were impressive and they still look great to this day with their great choice of colour palette as well as being very well animated. If you appreciate good pixel art then this is surely a title you’ll enjoy.
I enjoyed this games sound design and soundtrack a lot since Mega Drive games typically have music that sounds like ass thanks to the systems sound chip. It definitely fits the games design as you’re running through and fighting the games many bosses with elaborate weapons with plenty of explosions and action galore.
All in all this game is a very fun single player romp but isn’t accessible to everyone with it’s high difficulty and steep learning curve. If you can get around it I guarantee you’ll have a blast.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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