|Publisher(s)||Naxat Soft (Wii)|
|Genre(s)||Shoot 'em up|
MUSHA[a] is a vertically scrolling shoot 'em up developed by Compile and released on the Sega Genesis in 1990. An entry in Compile's shooter series, Aleste, MUSHA places the player in the role of a flying mecha pilot who must destroy a large super intelligent computer threatening planet Earth. Development lasted less than one year. Originally the game had a working title of "Aleste 2" and featured a style similar to the first game, but it was redirected to feature a Japanese aesthetic and a speed metal soundtrack.
Initial reception for MUSHA was mixed. Critics found themselves overwhelmed by the sheer amount of shoot 'em ups on the Sega Genesis and felt the title was unremarkable. Journalists generally agreed the game had great graphics and enjoyable gameplay, but felt it was unoriginal and not very challenging. The game was re-released on the Wii Virtual Console in Japan in 2008, and the West in 2009. In retrospective reviews for its re-release, MUSHA garnered much higher praise, being cited for its challenging gameplay, strong soundtrack, and graphics considered ahead of its time. It remains among the most highly regarded shoot 'em ups on the Genesis and is considered among the best of the 16-bit era. Original MUSHA cartridges have become rare and command high prices in the collector market.
MUSHA is a vertically scrolling shoot 'em up. The player takes on the role of Terri,[b] a pilot who flies a specially designed mecha vehicle with advanced weaponry called a MUSHA. She is sent to fight the human-built Dire 51[c] super computer that has begun attacking Earth from space in the year 2290.:6 The gameplay conventions are largely retained from earlier Aleste titles. The player has a main gun that can be powered up by collecting "Power Chips". There are also three different special weapons that can be picked up: piercing lasers, fire-based explosives and rotating shields. They can be upgraded if the same weapon is picked up that is currently being used. If hit while a special weapon is equipped, the player will lose the special weapon but remain alive. Getting hit without a special weapon will result in losing a life.:14–15 For every three Power Chips collected, the player obtains a drone similar to those in the Gradius series. Only two drones can be equipped at any one moment; extras are stored. These drones can be set to one of six attack modes, such as aiming forward, behind, or rotating around the player.:17
A young team at Compile developed MUSHA in less than a year. They originally made a prototype for a new game in the Aleste series called "Aleste 2" for the Sega Genesis, but postponed the project. The team was still feeling pressure to create a game, and also wanted to change the direction of the Aleste series. Designer Kazuyuki Nakashima came up with a design that ignored most of the style of previous Aleste games and instead went with a Japanese aesthetic, including a character with a Noh mask. This change in direction motivated the team to pick up remnants of "Aleste 2" and push it into a new direction.
The valley stage in MUSHA utilizes the Genesis' vertical parallax scrolling capabilities, which was later highlighted by critics as one of the game's most impressive technical features. The stage was programmed by Yuuichi Sotoyama, who also programmed the enemies that move in and out of the depths of the valley, and tiles that fall into the screen in other stages. Sotoyama worked with the sound effects programmer Masanobu Tsukamoto to modulate the frequency of the sound effects when objects moved in and out of the screen to simulate the Doppler effect.
"Fullmetal Fighter" plays during the game's opening stage. The entire soundtrack is heavy metal inspired.
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For MUSHA's soundtrack, Nakashima originally presented an idea for what he called "Edo Metal" music to composer Toshiaki Sakoda. They eventually agreed on creating a speed metal soundtrack which would match the fast scrolling action of the game. At the time MUSHA was developed, Sakoda felt most shooting game soundtracks were primarily fusion and mechanically sounding games that lacked a cohesive theme. He wanted this soundtrack to be the first heavy metal game soundtrack, or how he called it, a "heady metal suite" or "heavy metal rhapsody".
To compose the music, Sakoda used real instruments, then notated the music on an MSX computer and converted it onto a PC-9800. Since he did not like mechanical sounds, he programmed the virtual instruments to sound like they were played by humans. Sakoda worked closely with sound effects programmer Masanobu Tsukamoto. Since the game had limited sound channels, or tracks, he exercised caution not to create too many simultaneous sounds so the sound effects would not cut out the music. Sakoda only had four channels to use in any given song, one of which was always fixed on drums. After the soundtrack was nearly finished. Compile leadership told Sakoda to change the music to something which fit the Japanese aesthetic. After hearing a new soundtrack with plucky Japanese instruments, leadership told Sakoda to revert to his original music.
MUSHA received mixed reviews at release. Critics found themselves overwhelmed by the number of shoot 'em ups on the Sega Genesis, and considered MUSHA to be another standard shooter offering. Many wrote about the graphics in positive light. Richard Leadbetter from Computer and Video Games found the visuals to be smooth and highlighted the parallax scrolling effect in the canyon level. Frank Martinez Jr. from GameFan also praised the parallax scrolling in addition to the enemy and character sprite detail. The writers at Raze positively noted the game's oriental design and explosion effects. The game's difficulty was a common point of criticism. Many noted MUSHA to be too easy and too short. Some wrote that it may be fun for shooter novices, but more experienced players would find it unchallenging. The music also received mixed comments. Leadbetter concluded that "MUSHA is a smooth playable blast, but it's a shame it's so unoriginal and unchallenging"
Retrospective reviews for the re-release of MUSHA on the Wii's Virtual Console in 2009 were much more positive. Both Lucas M. Thomas of IGN and Damien McFarren of Nintendo Life praised the title's detailed graphics, fast-paced soundtrack, and tough difficulty. Since the original cartridges have become rare and expensive, both reviewers also commended the release for providing players an accessible way to play it. McFarren concluded by calling it one of the best shoot 'em ups on the Sega Genesis and the 16-bit era overall. Thomas called it one of the best "classic shooters." Levi Buchanan of IGN placed MUSHA at number five on his "Top 10 Classic Shoot 'Em Ups" list, dubbing it Compile's greatest shooter and one of the best shooters on the Genesis.
- MUSHA, sometimes written as M.U.S.H.A., is a backronym for "Metallic Uniframe Super Hybrid Armor". In Japanese, "musha" (武者) means "warrior." The game is known in Japan as Musha Aleste (武者アレスタ, lit. "Aleste Warrior"), although the title screen provides a longer name of Musha Aleste: Fullmetal Fighter Ellinor (武者アレスタ FULLMETAL FIGHTER ELLINOR).
- In Japanese: エリノア (Erinoa lit. "Ellinor")
- In Japanese: 大亜 (Daia lit. "Great Asia")
- "MUSHA for Wii". Nintendo. Archived from the original on November 25, 2015. Retrieved November 24, 2015.
- MUSHA credits, Sega Genesis, 1990.
- ナグザット シューティングコレクション (in Japanese). November 2012. ("Translation". Archived from the original on August 11, 2017.)
- Doctor Dave (March 1991). "Genesis Proview: MUSHA". GamePro. Vol. 3 no. 3. p. 78.
- "武者アレスタ [メガドライブ] / ファミ通.com". Famitsu. Archived from the original on March 16, 2016. Retrieved December 25, 2016.
- MUSHA instruction manual, North America (1990, Sega Genesis)
- Thomas, Lucas M. (January 20, 2009). "M.U.S.H.A. Review – IGN". IGN. Retrieved December 22, 2013.
- Leadbetter, Richard (February 1991). "Megadrive Review: MUSHA". Computer and Video Games. No. 111. p. 39.
- Martinez Jr., Frank (October 1993). "MUSHA". GameFan. No. 11. p. 120.
- "MUSHA". MegaTech. No. 1. December 1991. p. 79.
- "Musha Aleste". Raze. No. 7. May 1991. p. 66.
- "Aleste". Sega Pro. No. 1. November 1991. p. 18.
- "MUSHA". Sega Force. No. 10. October 1992. pp. 68–69.
- McFerran, Daniel. "MUSHA (Wii Virtual Console / Mega Drive) Review". Nintendo Life. Archived from the original on December 24, 2013. Retrieved December 22, 2013.
- Buchanan, Levi (April 8, 2008). "Top 10 Classic Shoot 'Em Ups – IGN". IGN. Archived from the original on February 28, 2016. Retrieved December 22, 2013.
- Musha Aleste for Virtual Console (in Japanese)