Reviewed by Neotype

Aah, shooters. It used to be a pretty popular genre, but now the only 2D shooting action a gamer is going to get is most likely through Japanese import. In Japan, shooters are much more common than over here, and several companies dedicated themselves to developing nothing but them. Although Compile is now enjoying success with their Puyo Puyo games, they used to be the shmup company. Their Aleste series, ranging from the PC Engine as the Soldier games, to the Master System where it got the name Power Strike, was a classic. They all demonstrated the sprite capabilities of these machines better than anything else. And, back in time when gamers weren't convinced of the Super Famicom's processing speed - justified because of serious slowdown cases in almost every shooter on the machine - along came Super Aleste, also known as Space Megaforce in the US...

Perhaps Super Aleste's best feature is it's weapon system. Besides the obligatory smart bombs you can pick up, there are eight different upgradeable gadgets at your disposal. Also very welcome is the possibility to change their attack mode at will; for example you can switch between regular or less powerful homing missiles, or lock the position of the Gradius-style multiples. The bottomline is that not many other shoot 'em ups provide a comparable amount of destructive firepower, especially on a 'mere' 16-bit machine. It could do with some better balancing, though - Super Aleste is a bit too easy on the standard difficulty setting, because the enemy just can't keep up with the damage you're capable of doing. Do what every serious shoot 'em up fan is supposed to do, and set the difficulty on Hard, at least. This way you'll prevent yourself watching the end sequence the first time you play it...

The graphics are solid throughout, but really nothing special. There are some nice special effects to look out for, but that's it. Maybe this was a necessary trade-off to keep the speed up. Same in the sound department. Some memorable tunes, a couple of nice sampled 'Kabooms' and the announcer which tells you of what death-dealing device you just picked up. But all this is superficial - and it doesn't stop Super Aleste from being the wonderful game it is. People familiar with other Compile shooters, most probably Gunhed on the PC Engine, hold this very close to their heart. It's essential for every Super Famicom owner who enjoys a quality shoot 'em up.

Thanks Neotype! Malc at kb... Yep, Super Aleste was an early SNES shooter, and boded well for the future of the genre on the SNES, will no slowdown and some absolutely beautiful setpieces. Unfortunately very few shooters of note appeared afterwards on it, and it remains one of the best available. In contrast, the Sega MUSHA and Robo Alestes played just as good, but seemed to be more in the style of the PCE CD Spriggan, with the (to Western eyes) unappealing feudal-Japan mech enemies. Super Aleste is an out-and-out space-themed game and this being more palatable to the 'Great American Taste', thankfully got a release in the West.

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The first level is huge and long, you don't think it is ever going to end for about ten minutes. (My wife just read this and said something about sex, I didn't quite catch what it was...) At the end you are assaulted by a boss flinging a huge ball about from side to side (Shuttit wife!!) Some later levels are strangely short compared to this one, lasting only a couple of minutes, with no real boss to fight.

Level two is a beaut. A Space station wheels and whirls around in the background, and soon you zoom in and attack parts of it. This made you glad you bought a SNES to show off to your Megadrive owning mates. About here you get a real chance to try out the various weapons and modes, and which are best for certain situations.

Here's some more of the space station as it zooms around. At the time it was released (1992) little else had been seen that was so graphically wonderful...

Level 3 isn't really a proper level at all. Instead, it's more like the ones in the quick game option, with the onus on point scoring. Compile (and RED for that matter - did they share programmers?) often put in a 5-Minute-Game option, in which you had to get as many points in a small time-frame, on specially designed levels.

Level four, and the game begins to look a bit garish and psychedelic. These moons zoom in and out, and become a pain to avoid, especially when the flame-leaving ships waltz on and cover the screen with nasty firey bits. NB: You might have to switch some layers if you aren't playing in high-colour mode here!

Cleverly designed end boss, which splits up into portions, leaving you little time to squeeze through the gaps before it reforms. There's still around 7 levels to go, and as soon as I or someone else gets some pics I'll shove em up! The last one in particular is very organic and skeletony, lovely and gruesome!

Missing out another bonus quickie level, the mine is one of the best in the game. Long, and filled with sneaky traps, it ends with this contraption which whirls his arms around and pulls rocks from the sides to fling at you. Lovely. If you get slightly dodgy graphics here, try running the alternative ZSNES graphic engine, and it'll be fine!

Later on we're flying over a moonbase, and the scrolling quietly slips up to demonic speeds. You'll find that you have to choose your weapons carefully, and the protective green balls are handy here. Depends how you play the game, offensive or defensively.

End of the moonbase, this hexagonal horror warps on screen. This made me nearly wet myself when I saw it first.

The main difficulty with this level is the way debris fly about and smash your ship. It's not obvious at first what is killing you either!


shmups!   © 1997 - 2007  Malcolm Laurie