Space Megaforce/Super Aleste
Before you read
I enjoy the shoot-em-up genre, but I am by no means an expert. I also believe this is the first time ever that I review a game of this genre, so please excuse me if it sounds like I have no idea what I’m talking about. I have done a bit of research to try and make sure I don’t spout nonsense. I’ve beaten the entire game before writing this review on the normal difficulty, and I’ve played the game on the only system it released on: the SNES.
Here are some nice and memorable tunes from Super Aleste for you to listen to while reading the review!
Well what do we have here, it’s Super Aleste! This game brings me back to my childhood, as this was my first ever shoot-em-up (or shmup as I will refer to the genre for the remainder of this review)! For the WordPress Gaming Club of June 2020, the theme was all sorts of Shooters and I figured hey, let’s boot up my SNES and finish this game to rack in some nice points, as I never have done so as a child. The reason as to why I hadn’t beaten it came back to me fairly quickly, but that’s something I won’t spoil~. Curious now aren’t you? Well then, let’s dive right into it!
History and trivia
Space Megaforce/Super Aleste is part of the Aleste franchise developed by Compile, and was released pretty early on in the SNES’ life, namely 1992. I have no idea why this game is named differently in North America though, as Super Aleste is the original Japanese name. Usually it’s PAL regions that get the different name, but this time it’s the other way around. What has the word Aleste ever done to Americans hmm??? I’m assuming they simply did so because games always needed to sound cool to have it attract a broader audience. The Aleste series has seen multiple games in the 90s, mostly on home computers and SEGA systems, but died down after 1993 as Compile was also not feeling so well and bit the dust eventually. The rights now belong to Compile Heart which consists of multiple Compile employees, and I’ve actually learned while making this review that a new game is in the works for the 30th anniversary called Aleste Branch! And this is why I love looking up information about games I’m playing for reviews because I never would’ve known this otherwise. There’s not much trivia about Super Aleste to be found online, except that pretty much all of the story has been cut from western releases. There were story intermissions between every stage and the ending was far longer, but we got… nothing? I don’t own the manual anymore unfortunately and couldn’t find any online that wasn’t French, but there’s pretty much no story for us westerners in the game. I guess it was too much anime? We can’t have our children seeing anime characters after all. It’s not like the story is that special, just invaders from outer space destroying the earth and it’s your job to counter-attack them with a bit of anime flavour mixed in but hey, it’s better than what we got.
What weapon will you pick today, sir?
What makes Super Aleste stand out are the great amount of different weapons and the variety in them. They can be changed between at any given point if you come across a specific power-up signified by a numeral between 1 and 8. Best thing is that I don’t really consider any weapon to be bad so you’re never stuck with something unusable. Obviously there are some weapons that are better than others, resulting in the numeral power-up sometimes being just another obstacle to avoid. As if there wasn’t enough to dodge already, thanks game! I was personally fond of the homing missiles and power shot since they were “low effort high reward” weapons, but the missiles worked against me in one of the later stages so it’s not like a single weapon will always be viable–although the power shot kind of is. I rarely used the drones for example, but they were very beneficial during a specific boss battle where my other, more favoured weapons didn’t work. Furthermore, all weapons also have a secondary function triggered by holding a button, making them even more viable in different situations. For all weapons to reach their full potential however, it is highly recommended to level them up by picking up upgrade chips from destroyed enemies. A weapon can go up to level 6, and you lose four levels every hit your aircraft takes so it doesn’t only make your weapons better; it also gives you more survivability. And trust me: you’re going to need all the survivability the same gives you.
Old school hard but never unfair
Super Aleste is far from an easy game, making it fit perfectly in the era it came from. There is a serious amount of enemies- and shots to avoid in each level. I particularly had trouble with a stage where the aircraft goes in hyperspeed while avoiding dead ends. But I never felt like the game was unfair. The ship and its speed are all well done and synchronised, and there was almost always enough room for me to avoid enemies. In case there wasn’t, I could use a screen nuke or I possibly had one of the great weapons to take care of them or defend myself with. I mentioned the power shot before which is a great offensive tool, but it also functions as a defensive option when it’s charged up. I’m also eternally grateful that walls and other obstacles don’t damage you because there are more walls than Donald Trump ever wants to build. But despite me saying that the game is ”Old school hard”… it is also a good starting point if you want to get into the genre. I can already hear people saying ”Neppy, what are you blabbering about, that doesn’t make sense!” and I agree with you, but I never make sense sooo. Super Aleste is a pretty generous game overall when it comes to checkpoints. When you die it’s still very much possible that you get set back a few minutes, but the checkpoint will remain definite. Even if you get a game over, you get the choice to start the entire stage all over again or continue from the checkpoint. Retries are infinite, so you get enough opportunities to learn the patterns of the stages and enemies to eventually overcome the border. If you play your cards right, you can also pick up specific items that allow you to come back from the dead at the place you died for another shot which is especially beneficial for the pretty good boss fights. If you don’t find Super Aleste to be difficult enough, there are also multiple difficulties to choose from. By default it’s set on normal and when you go to the right there are two more difficulties to select. If you go to the left… there are two even harder difficulties to choose from. What.
I usually don’t talk about graphics and performance since they don’t matter to me. A game doesn’t need to be the most beautiful or graphically advanced to be excellent. I’ll make an exception for Super Aleste though, as it’s a generally impressive game on the SNES even today. It was released only a year after the SNES came to life, but it took full advantage of the console’s capabilities. Mode-7 was something they especially enjoyed as seen in the second stage where you attack some sort of… spacecraft that zooms in and out to the background allowing you to attack it. Graphics are also very colourful without being distracting, with special mention going to the backgrounds. They’re vivid, lively and most of the time also constantly moving. The only small gripe I have is that seldom you don’t know what’s part of the background and what is an obstacle, but I never really had much issue with it. The game doesn’t just look well either; it performs very well too. The game never slows down (or at least, not noticeably) despite so much going on on-screen at the same time. Shmups on the SNES don’t have the best reputation for their performance from what I’ve gathered, but that was absolutely not the case with Super Aleste. There is also a good amount of length to the game, consisting of twelve stages that at the very least take one hour to finish… or around three if you have my gaming skills. This is the only time I’ll talk about my gaming skills being not that good okay, don’t expect it to be a recurrence. There’s also a ”short game” mode if you just want to play a few stages, but it’s not much different from the main game.
I really enjoyed my playthrough of Super Aleste, and to have finally finished it despite being one of my first games ever. I must admit that I’m in no way an expert on the Schumps genre despite liking them, but Super Aleste is definitely amongst my favourites out there. It is helped by the great amount of variety in weapons, with each having a secondary effect as well allowing for a lot of experimentation. Giving you a lot of freedom in a game such as this is welcome as it’s pretty difficult as well, but not unfair. And despite being difficult, the checkpoints are very forgiving with infinite retries, allowing you to gradually get better at the game. Furthermore, it’s impressive when it comes to performance with the SNES, having a consistent framerate and graphics that still look beautiful today. I would say it’s a good introduction to the Shmup genre as well despite there being many more that are easier, and definitely one you shouldn’t miss out on if you’re a fan of the genre in general.
Thank you for reading! This was a really tough review for me to make because my experience with the genre is mostly limited to bullet-hell shooters like Touhou. I tried my best to find a balance between making an accurate review while not marking stuff as innovative that the genre has already been doing before Super Aleste. Most of all, I hope you enjoyed the review because that’s all that matters.
Games to play if you like Super Aleste
- Gun Nac – It was not unusual for Compile to have games not in the same franchise still use many of their high-quality assets and gameplay. Gun Nac on the NES is absolutely no exception.
- Ikaruga – One of the more famous shmups, Ikaruga is a top-down horizontal shmup as well but leaning more towards the bullet-hell genre.
- Blue Revolver – Another top-down horizontal shmup that advertises being a beginner-friendly game while also designed for the more hardcore players.
Question of the Review
What was your introduction to the shmup genre? Or if you have never played a game in the genre so far, would you be interested in trying on out or do you just not like this genre?