TV Game

Alien Soldier

TV Game

As a kid, I grew up in a very poor family; I’ve mentioned in other posts graduating high school while living in a van. However, there was a period of time where my family had some money. Not a lot of money, we weren’t exactly millionaires, but the kind of money where bills were paid with only minor complaints, we could go to Cherry Creek Reservoir for one Sunday in the Summer, and we could afford a few nice things. Most importantly, we could have dinner at night since the grocery budget didn’t all go into a week’s worth of Beefeater Gin. Anyways, all the money we had would, in about 2-3 years, be unwillingly and violently funneled directly into my father’s addictions, and I got to spent my pre-teen and teens years in absolute poverty, leading to me having to sleep in a car at 18 as previously mentioned.

Now, this is not a post about my incredibly fucked up childhood. Rather, this is for context. See, one of those nice things my family could afford in those days was a little something called the Sega Channel. The Sega Channel, for those unaware, was this black box that fit into the cartridge slot of your Sega Genesis, with a coaxial cable that fit into the back of your cable box. This gave you access to 50 different games that would be shuffled or replaced every month. The closest modern comparison I could think of would be like the XBox Game Pass. This thing was really cool: it is specifically the reason why I have the knowledge of Mega Drive games that I have, because I was able to play so many of them at one time. When I said that I was a Sega kid growing up, I fucking meant it. While this was a really cool piece of tech that opened my eyes and broadened my horizons regarding games, it also had a lot of problems. There was no installing of games, since there was no hard drive or flash memory to save these ROM files to. You had to download the individual game you wanted to play every single time. This was the mid-90s, pre-56k internet, in a house that didn’t even have a computer, let alone a modem, so this shit was very slow, didn’t always download, and was prone to errors when you went to actually play the games. But this was ultimately a small price to pay for the ability to be a nine year old hipster and play Ranger-X and Gunstar Heroes before the internet caught onto their quality. There has been an attempt at replicating the Sega Channel, which you can check out here.

The reason why I’m bringing all of this up is because the Sega Channel also had something really special: imports! Among the selection of every month, there would be a handful of Japan and Europe-only titles in the mix. So yes, I have memories of me being a shitty little idiot kid playing stuff like Golden Axe III, Mega Man: The Wily Wars, Pulseman, and Alien Soldier, three years before Genecyst even existed.

I have been playing Alien Soldier since 1995. This past weekend, I finally finished it for the first time. It is a hard, hard game.

Alien Soldier was a game that, while I liked it and knew that it was an all-timer, I also didn’t have the patience or desire to really sit myself down and put in the practice needed to simply survive to the end, let alone do it in a stylish way. I would play it, lose all my continues at the halfway point of the game and say, “yeah that was fun. I think I will play Castlevania: Bloodlines again.” But recently, the unused plot from the game got posted and translated (parenthetical aside to be thankful that this was uploaded onto an actual web site and not some broken X Dot Com thread), and Alien Soldier was on my mind. There are a few Treasure games out there with surrealist stories told in unorthodox ways, and always have at least like eight things in it that will blow your mind.

With all of that out of the way, I should probably talk about the game now. Alien Soldier is another stone cold classic from Treasure, a company that has made the best games of all time, and also Bangai-O HD for the XBox 360. It’s a game where everything explodes, everything is loud, bordering on sensory overload at times. You run forward and shoot, fighting a whole lot of bosses along the way. And I do mean a lot of bosses. Unlike other games like Gunstar Heroes, or Contra: Hard Corps, which had levels and enemy formations and stuff, Alien Soldier is all bosses, broken up by a single hallway full of weapon power-ups and small enemies that drop health refills when killed, before going right back to another loud, flashy boss fight that kicks ass. This gauntlet of large monsters, one after another, each with their own unique look and attack patterns. There are over 20 bosses in this game, not a single one is a palette swap, which is really fucking impressive. And they all look really unique! Some of them are these unholy unions of insects and cybernetics. Or small animals and cybernetics. Cronenberg-esque body horror. A lobster dressed as a shogun. A werewolf cowboy riding a robot horse. A lot of cool shit.

Like I said before, the reason I haven’t been able to finish this game since 1995 is because it is hard. There will come a point where the slightest mistake will absolutely fuck you. Dying in Alien Soldier, even with this game’s generous checkpoints, is a curse. See, along the way, you pick up upgrades to your health and weapons. The health is self-explanatory. The weapon energy not only acts as ammo, but the more energy you have, the further your attack range is. Dying causes you to lose these upgrades. So, dying at a particularly difficult boss? Better reach over and hit that reset button. It’s brutal, it’s punishing, and some of these fights during the last third of the game made me want to run someone over with my car, but it’s so rewarding when you finally kill that motherfucker that’s giving you such a hard time. Alien Soldier is the kind of game where being bad at it makes you look like you’ve never even seen electronics before, let alone video games, but playing it well makes you look real cool for at least 30 seconds. That type of satisfaction that I love from games, putting in the practice, and watching it pay off.

Alien Soldier rules. It’s cool, it’s stylish, it has depth to the shooting (I didn’t mention the powerful dash attack you can do at full health that’s integral to the combat), it will kick your ass and expecting you to kick its ass in return. As a title released during the end of the Mega Drive’s lifespan, it’s a perfect farewell to an amazing console.