Tag Archives: stg

Bass Cadet 02 – Musha Aleste

Welcome to yet another edition of Bass Cadet!

This week I’ll be showcasing another one of my favourites. Compile’s seminal Aleste series was lucky enough to get the Toaplan treatment. Two of the world’s greatest shmup developers united and gave us the mighty – Musha Aleste or M.U.S.H.A as it was known in the States.

There are no words to describe what a phenomenal game this is. Boasting fast-paced shooting action within a stunning futuristic-oriental world setting. Unlike other shmups where the player often pilots a spaceship of some sort. Here we get something way cooler. The so-called metallic uniframe super hybrid armor happens to be a fully fledged mecha. Manga and anime fans, rejoice!

This is a vertically scrolling shooter with some impressive parallax, particularly on the third stage. It was a fairly early release for the Sega Mega Drive / Genesis since it came out in 1990. Which just make some of the technical achievements in this game, even more notable.

Another stand out point is the music. Composed by Toshiaki Sakoda, he managed to deliver the ultimate shooting game soundtrack of the early 90’s. Everyone who loves the genre is still reminiscing Musha Aleste’s hard rocking, heart pounding, synth-assault of an allegory of an electric metal orchestra.

It seldom gets any better than this. Few game soundtracks get the blood pumping like this one does. I am not aware of an actual OST album for Musha Aleste ever getting released. An unfortunate oversight that I hope will be rectified, one day.

Die-hard fans probably have the cart rammed in their Mega Drives permanently, the volume set to max. They get to enjoy the music every time they try to make it through to the end, on hard mode. It’s quite the experience. While the above video doesn’t even come close to recreating the exhilaration, the music is there for all to enjoy.

 

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The 16-BIT Shock Design Philosophy

There are many developers that I admire, mostly emanating from Japan, crafting video games as far back as the early 80’s. Growing up during that period I was fortunate enough to enjoy many early works from the likes of Capcom, Data East, Konami, Irem, Namco, Nichibitsu, Sega, Seibu Kaihatsu, SNK, Taito, Tecmo, Technos and Toaplan to name a few. My initial exposure to their games was through various arcade releases and home computer ports — some poor, some mediocre and others simply mind-blowing!

An original Space Harrier arcade cabinet

Be that as it may, time has moved on and so has technology. We’re now 30 years removed from back then and games have changed drastically. Furthermore, gamer tastes are quite different, at least within the mainstream. Retro gamers are still keeping the old flame burning on. Wonderful of them for doing so.

Personally, as a game creator, it would make sense to venture deeply into my own tastes and experiences within the medium. Taking a close look at both past and present examples in order to discover the pinnacle.

If I was obligated to pick only one era in the history of video games that could be clearly defined as exemplary, my answer would be the 16-bit era. Any true gamer worth his salt would respond likewise. The finest games, legendary console systems and revered coding houses were doing the business between 1987 to around 1995.

Great games were developed before and after this period, however the zenith particularly for 2D games occurred during the age of 16-bit. Keeping the fundamentals of the pioneering 8-bit generation, but enhancing and refining control, play, visuals and sound in such a way that a significant leap forward was achieved.

Irem knew a thing or two about making shmups

Which finally brings forth the point of this article. I choose to have a design philosophy, that is,  purist to the core in following conventions that are steeped in tradition of that generation. Retaining the tight core game mechanics, challenge levels, intricately detailed pixel art and melodious chip music that made this amazing period. Avoiding to over-engineer and adding any unnecessary tropes found in modern gaming that would water down the final outcome.

Experimentation and some interesting surprises are destined to become part of my projects. Considering my approach is retrospective in nature, does not mean that I subscribe to any limiting convictions, in terms of game design and narrative. Plenty of room will be given to allow the unexpected to take place.