Mega Drive cover art (Japanese version)
|Release date(s)||Mega Drive
|Genre(s)||Run and gun|
Alien Soldier (エイリアンソルジャー Eirian Sorujā?) is a side-scrolling run and gun video game developed by Treasure for the Sega Mega Drive. It was published by Sega in Japan and Europe in 1995, and was temporarily available in North America via the Sega Channel cable service. It has been re-released on the PlayStation 2 as part of the Sega Ages Treasure Box disc in Japan, and also worldwide on Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console in 2007, and Steam in 2011.
The story of Alien Soldier follows a powerful being named Epsilon-Eagle, who after being nearly killed, becomes determined to avenge his near death and save his planet. Epsilon-Eagle has a variety of weapons and moves that the player must master to complete the game. Many gameplay ideas are borrowed from Treasure's earlier Mega Drive release, Gunstar Heroes. However, unlike their former game, Alien Soldier focuses almost entirely on boss fights. The levels themselves are notably short and easy, serving as downtime between the more difficult boss battles.
Producer Hideyuki Suganami considers Alien Soldier his "baby" and "beloved", claiming he threw his life away to work on the game. Released late in the Mega Drive's lifespan, the game pushed the system near its technical limits. Treasure describes the game's technical prowess with a catchphrase on the title screen, "VISUALSHOCK! SPEEDSHOCK! SOUNDSHOCK! NOW IS TIME TO THE 68000 HEART ON FIRE!", referencing the Mega Drive's Motorola 68000 CPU. Alien Soldier has been met with generally favorable reviews. Critics praised the graphics, soundtrack, and overall intensity of the game, recommending it for fans of Gunstar Heroes and the run and gun genre. Some negative critique was directed towards the hard difficulty, steep learning curve, and unorthodox gameplay.
Alien Soldier is a side-scrolling run and gun video game in which the player controls the main character, Epsilon-Eagle, through 25 stages. The gameplay has been compared heavily to Gunstar Heroes; however, putting a much larger emphasis on boss fights, and lacking any 2-player option. The stages are notably short, populated with weak enemies to service as downtime between the more difficult boss battles. There are two difficulties in the game, "Supereasy" and "Superhard". Enemies on the hard setting are only slightly more difficult; however, there are no passwords or unlimited continues as in the easy mode. This means that beating the game on "Superhard" must be done in one sitting, without dying.
Epsilon-Eagle can run, double-jump, hover in the air, and use six different types of weapons. Only four can be equipped at any given time, but the player may choose which weapons they would like to equip before the game starts. Each gun has its own ammunition bar which can be replenished, but if its depleted the player will be left with a little firepower. The player can also perform a dash across the screen, which when at full health, will become a deadly move called "Phoenix Force" that will damage any enemies in its path. There is also a counter move, that if timed properly, will change enemy bullets into health. Epsilon-Eagle can attack in either fixed-fire or free-moving styles. The first makes him unmovable while firing a weapon, instead allowing for quick aiming, while the second allows walking and shooting simultaneously with the sacrifice of directional accuracy.
In the year 2015, the "A-Humans" (Sierrans) of "A-Earth" (Sierra) have created genetically engineered A-Humans, capable of super intelligence and strength, as well as parastic co-existence with machinery and animals, particularly humans. A terrorist organization known as "Scarlet" rose up within this race and sought to dominate the rest of the A-Humans and A-Earth, through locking the planet down and keeping anyone else out.
During the height of Scarlet's power, an assassination attempt on the group's leader, Epsilon-Eagle, was carried out by a special forces group with certain abilities of their own. Scarlet fought back with their powers, and the battle somehow breached the space-time continuum. Epsilon was gravely injured and cast somewhere into the continuum.
Seemingly gone forever, another Scarlet member known as Xi-Tiger took control of the organization. Under his rule, Scarlet became too brutal even for themselves, and they called for Epsilon to reclaim his position. More or less isolated from the rest of the group, Xi sought to find and assassinate Epsilon himself. He planned an attack on an A-Human research laboratory, where children with special abilities had been kidnapped and experimented on.
Upon arriving, Xi sensed that Epsilon was actually there, hiding in one of the children. Indeed, for some time, Epsilon had been hiding within one of the kidnapped boys; his "good" formed a strange bond with the boy and caused a dual personality, constantly fighting the "evil" to control the boy's body. From this, Xi could not detect Epsilon's normally "evil" presence. In frustration, Xi took a girl hostage and threatened to kill her if Epsilon would not show. This seemed to be too much for the "good" Epsilon, who overpowered the "evil" and took the form of Epsilon-Eagle himself, described as a "bird-man with steel wings". Xi seemed to sense this strange power; in fear, he killed the girl and fled.
By now, Epsilon had completely split his dual personality apart; the "evil" Epsilon 1 and the "good" Epsilon 2, the player character of the game. Both took off in search of Xi-Tiger. Throughout the game, Epsilon 2 encounters and defeats Xi-Tiger, Epsilon 1, a certain girl made host to a Scarlet member (believed to be the same girl Xi had killed), and a creature known as Z-Leo (the final boss).
Development of Alien Soldier lasted two years and was led by Hideyuki Suganami, who from the start wanted to make nearly the entire game himself. Despite 32-bit fifth generation hardware already on the market, Suganami chose to program the game for the 16-bit Mega Drive, claiming that he may have been too captivated by the idea of making an "action shooting" game. The Mega Drive was known for being better suited for those types of games than its competition. Suganami was deeply invested in the game, even stating in a 1995 interview:
"Alien Soldier is like my baby… no, strike that, it is my baby... I’ve thrown my life away on the Mega Drive, and gambled it all on Alien Soldier...[it] is my beloved, and I’m madly in love with her."— Hideyuki Suganami, 1995
After development ended, Suganami wished he continued working on the game, believing he could have improved on the story and graphics.
Through its gameplay design, Alien Soldier can be seen in many ways as a spiritual successor to Treasure's previous run and gun for the Mega Drive, Gunstar Heroes. The enemy known as "Seven Force Kaede" is notable for being based on the "Seven Force" boss from Gunstar Heroes; Treasure even went as far as using a remixed version of that boss's theme (both games having been scored by Norio "NON" Hanzawa).
Alien Soldier was released in a physical cartridge format in Europe and Japan. In North America, the game was delivered exclusively through the Sega Channel cable service. The game's first re-release was in Japan for the PlayStation 2 as part of the Sega Ages Treasure Box disc. This version exceeds the Mega Drive's intrinsic sprite display limit, which eliminates slowdowns and missing graphics during busy sequences. The player can also select either the sprite-based pixelated graphics of the original game or a new mode that uses certain filters to produce a high-resolution look. Alien Soldier was released again worldwide in 2007 via Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console download service, and again on Steam in 2011.
For its original Mega Drive release, Famitsu provided Alien Soldier with a score of 24 out of 40. Frank Provo of GameSpot reviewed the Wii Virtual Console release in 2007, giving it an 8/10, citing the excellent graphics, sound, and general intensity of the game. He noted that the game "takes time to click", citing difficulty in adjusting to the controls and design of the game. When "things really do click," he said, "you start totally feeling what it must be like to be an army of one trading firepower with some of the universe's largest, most elaborate creatures. That's a great feeling."  Lucas M. Thomas of IGN noted the game's many similarities to Gunstar Heroes and recommended Alien Soldier to those who enjoyed it, providing a score of 8/10. "Alien Soldier is a long-lost piece of Treasure's action gaming legacy," said Thomas. "It's got the fast-firing, high-energy, overly-explosive intensity that fans of the company have come to expect." Darren Calvert of Nintendo Life rated the game an 8/10, calling the "graphics, and in particular the animation, [as] some of the best you will see on the Mega Drive." He found the game difficult, but still enjoyable for fans of the run and gun genre.
- Steam Page - Alien Soldier
- Lucas M. Thomas, IGN, Alien Soldier Review - IGN, 26 Nov 2007.
- Frank Provo, Gamespot, Alien Soldier for Wii Virtual Console review, 12 Nov 2007. Archive copy at the Wayback Machine
- Alien Soldier, Sega Mega Drive, 1995, Treasure Co., Ltd.
- Shmuplations, Alien Soldier – 1995 Developer Interview
- Alien Soldier for Genesis - GameRankings
- Darren Calvert, Nintendo Life, , 2 Nov 2007.
- NEW GAMES CROSS REVIEW: エイリアン ソルジャー. Weekly Famicom Tsūshin. No.324. Pg.41. 3 March 1995.