|Mode(s)||Single player, Multiplayer|
|Display||Raster, standard resolution
Psycho Soldier (サイコソルジャー Saiko Sorujā?) is a platform game developed by Japanese software company SNK that was originally released in 1986 and internationally in 1987. It is somewhat of a sequel to Athena released a year earlier, Psycho Soldier continues the adventures of Athena, and is noteworthy for being the first video game with a vocal in-game soundtrack. Ocean Software on their Imagine label released home computer versions of the game for the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 and Amstrad in 1987.
Psycho Soldier is an action sidescroller. While advancing through the game's levels, the player may come across rocks and other destructible objects that have a chance of holding items that either increase Athena or Kensou's power, or make enemies more difficult to defeat. The game is advanced by traveling horizontally across the screen, transversing several harmful objects and enemies and utilizing a special force known as "Psycho Energy" to perform a number of attacks, including creating a shield of rotating spheres around the character's body to protect them. The amount of Psycho Energy is measured by the energy bar located to the left of the player's available spheres, and can be increased by obtaining certain items. Another button is used to launch the spheres out at enemies and destructible objects at the cost of using one, and depending on how much energy the player has, may produce a different result when used, such as bouncing around the screen or, when at max energy and the spheres are swirling at a higher speed around the player, will spread out and destroy everything in their wake at the cost of some power.
Both Athena and Kensou share the same abilities, and whichever one the player chooses has no real bearing on the difficulty of the game. The only real difference comes when the player happens upon a special item resembling a green egg which, if the player's energy bar happens to be full, will transform them into a powerful "Psycho Creature", in Athena's case a phoenix and for Kensou a green dragon, yet they share the same abilities: a powerful fire breath attack that hits enemies in front of them, or a move which rams them into a single nearby enemy. The transformations last until the boss of the stage is killed or until the player runs out of energy from taking too many hits.
Psycho Soldier takes place many years after the plot of the Athena arcade. In the Athena arcade, the title character of it was a mystical, almost divine figure loosely based on the goddess of Greek myth who fought her way through several otherworldly lands in order to destroy various monsters and evil beings who threatened the peace of the land. After her journey was complete, she returned to heaven, only to fade completely from the minds of the mortals who lived below.
In the modern times of Psycho Soldier, a young girl named Athena Asamiya, who is actually the descendant of the original Athena, displays special psychic abilities that allow her to unlock a number of hidden powers within herself, and hopes to one day use these skills not only to help others, but to advance her stage career as a future pop idol. It is believed she is the reincarnation of the Athena of lore, but this is speculation. What is known, however, is that several evil beings have been appearing in her hometown in Japan, and along with her friend and fellow gifted psychic Sie Kensou, attempts to use her talents to protect her friends and home from this new menace.
Psycho Soldier is noteworthy for being one of the first video games to utilize a vocal track during in-game play, with vocals provided by Japanese pop idol Kaori Shimizu. The Japanese and English versions of the game have different vocals for the main song.
The Japanese version of the song was released as a single in 1987 on a special cassette that was available only to those who purchased the Nintendo Famicom version of Athena in Japanese retail stores. The cassette also included a special vocal version of the ending theme.
The Japanese version of the theme song used in this game (sans vocals) became the theme song for the Psycho Soldiers team in The King of Fighters '94 and The King of Fighters '96. It also served as Athena's individual character theme in The King of Fighters '97 and The King of Fighters 2002.
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The ZX Spectrum version was published in 1987 by Imagine Software, and was converted by Ross Harris (as Source Software). This port received moderate critical success. Your Sinclair awarded 8 out of 10, praising the smooth sprite movement and well-tried formula gameplay but lamenting the monochrome graphics and weak sound effects. CRASH awarded 69% and 75%, one reviewer criticising the boring gameplay and Athena's slow reactions.
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Both Athena and Kensu have been seen in other games. The character of Kensu was at the same time introduced as a teammate for Athena in The King of Fighters series as Sie Kensou and underwent several cosmetic changes (in previews of The King of Fighters XII, Athena can be seen wearing her winter school uniform from Psycho Soldier) as well as reworking his abilities to differentiate him from Athena. The version of Kensu seen in this game, however, has made cameo in one of the special endings in The King of Fighters '97. He was also featured in The King of Fighters 2000 in his original costume as a special striker called "Psycho Soldier Kensu". This version of Kensou also appears in the recent SNK vs. Capcom: Card Fighters DS trading card game as an SNK character card. The characters Kensu and Athena, as well as the items Psycho Armor and Psycho Shield both appear in the game Crystalis for the NES a post-apocalyptic role-playing video game. Also, it appears that Athena and Kensu wear their Psycho Soldier outfits in The King of Fighters XII as their default outfits. Ever since KOF XII's release, The King of Fighters XIII default outfit of Kensu was left unchanged, but for Athena however, her Psycho Soldier outfit was changed from default to alternate, leaving her more popular sailor fuku outfit as her default outfit for the game.