ENGRISH IN CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!['Parallax Memories' is a regular weekly column by Matthew Williamson, profiling classic '16-bit' games from the Sega Genesis, Super Nintendo, and other seminal '90s systems. This week's column profiles Treasure's sci-fi action game for Sega Genesis: Alien Soldier]


Rarely today will a console game actively and repeatedly kick a player in the groin to the point of hospitalization (though Devil May Cry 3 and Ninja Gaiden come to mind). Super-hard difficulty is no longer the gold standard in the gaming industry. But Treasure's 1995 rarity Alien Soldier is definitely part of the Old Guard. To quote Treasure Corporation's CEO (Shacho) Masato Maekawa, "Alien Soldier was made from the beginning for 'Mega Drivers Custom' so of course that one is difficult."

But Alien Soldier is not only famous for its difficulty, it has one of the most whacked out stories and some of the best worst Engrish ever. If the title screen is not enough to convince you, here is a line from the intro: "The shadow of the evil terrolist [sic] called Scarlet blocked the way to the outside universe for human beings." It goes on to make a whole lot less sense involving the characters Epsilon-Eagle and Xi-Tiger. It's not really important, but it is funny: the game is so firmly seated in Engrish that you wonder, why bother with a story at all?

Epsilon Eagle will protect the world from the Scarlet.Xi-Tiger Sensed the Existence of Epsilon

Alien Soldier is the boiled-down essence of Gunstar Heroes. Epsilon-Eagle's job is to take down thirty-one bosses over twenty-eight levels as quickly as possible. And nothing else. The weapons are similar to Gunstar Heroes, but now you can hold three weapons rather than just two. While there are "areas" and "stages," they are more like refuel stations between the bosses. These levels last only about two to four screens, about ten to fifteen seconds, and most of the enemies are about as hostile as a slug.

If you don't want to take the time to master Alien Soldier, it's best not to even start playing. The game is all about mastery. It can be beaten in as few as ten minutes, but it takes a long time to get that good. Learning how to beat the bosses and how to get the most health naturally leads to faster progression through the game.

Does that thing look like a... yes, omg, it does.He Also Flew Away, Chasing after Xi-Tiger.

Gunstar Heroes is about keeping as many ideas inside of one project as it can, Alien Soldier is about refining those ideas as much as possible. While options seem plentiful at the beginning (there are over a dozen ways to display your health and ammo) you quickly realize that the game is nothing more than a boss parade spiked with pure energy. Where Gunstar Heroes's levels are long and very detailed, Soldier's are short and generic.

Even though some bosses are the same in both games, they fight quite differently, faster and more aggressively. In Gunstar Heroes, the bosses are very stylish and can be defeated in multiple ways. In Soldier, though occasionally you'll enter a free-form battle, most bosses are just large enemies with a single, direct route to destruction.

Gunstar Super/Future Heroes falls somewhere in the middle. Instead of having a few long levels, it has many short ones. The gameplay is not as improvisational as Gunstar Heroes and not as rigid as Alien Soldier. The length of the Super/Future, while shorter than the original, is longer than Soldier. There is a trilogy here, if you want to stretch the idea far enough. I highly recommend giving Alien Soldier a shot, now that it is not as highly priced as it was: just make sure you understand that Alien Soldier is for "Mega Drivers Custom."

[Matthew Williamson is the creator of The Gamer’s Quarter, an independent videogame magazine focusing on first person writing. His work has been featured on MTV.com, 1up.com, Chatterbox Radio, and the Fatpixels Radio Podcast.]