Shin Force | Sega Genesis Review

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Shin Force ~ Genesis ~
Alien Soldier
Geoffrey Duke
16 Megabit
1995 (Japan)
1995 (Europe)
Action / Shooter
6 Button
Mega Key
     > Treasure is more than a mere games developer; like Sega, Treasure is an innovator. However, while Sega loves to create something new (when it's not refining the gameplay of its popular franchises), Treasure has a habit of recreating something old. Shooting games are no longer as popular as they once were, but that hasn't stopped Treasure from making new and improved shooting games even now. Having already created Gunstar Heroes for the Genesis, which was a side scrolling shooting game in a league of its own (the old school term is "shoot 'em up"), Treasure upheld its reputation of technical excellence with another shooting game bearing the name Alien Soldier, but one that wasn't quite in the same vein as Gunstar Heroes.

     > The bosses in all of Treasure's games have always been huge, and Alien Soldier is no exception. The core gameplay of Alien Soldier is basically one boss confrontation after another, making it a refreshing new spin on this already old and crowded genre. What did you expect from a typical Treasure game? There are levels in-between the game's series of epic boss encounters where you must dispose of some smaller enemies, but they are too short to be anything other than a brief reprieve from the real action.

     > Alien Soldier was released for the Genesis towards the end of the console's lifespan when 16 bit games were starting to go unnoticed in favor of next generation titles. Alien Soldier never saw the light of day in North America, but it nevertheless saw a PAL release, so not all was lost. Treasure actually planned to scrap this game altogether at one point in time, which means we were probably lucky that it was released at all. You play as an armored eagle warrior who has made it his purpose in life to unleash a huge arsenal of lethal weapons on his unsuspecting foes. But who cares about the story when mindless carnage awaits?

     > As might be expected from a Treasure game, the graphics represent some of the best of their era. Even with the limited color palette of the Genesis, this game looks fantastic. The backdrops and sprites are colorful, as always, and highly detailed.  Treasure obviously knew what it was doing. The constant flow of oncoming enemies is the only thing that will stop you from fully appreciating the graphics. There are a wide array of enemies and although they are not quite up to the same standard as the ones found in Gunstar Heroes, the bosses are the stuff nightmares are made of. The early stages are set in futuristic cities with advanced machinery littering the foreground and metallic buildings scrolling in the background in parallax, and the bosses themselves are suitably mechanical in many cases to match their environments. Everything is neatly drawn and blends perfectly. The game also has a great range of special effects that mainly come in the form of weapons fire and fiery explosions.

     > The amount of on-screen action is sometimes hectic and yet there isn't even the slightest trace of slowdown. The action and sprite animations are super-smooth at all times, and as such, won't receive any complaints. When compared to other Genesis titles, Alien Soldier doesn't look bad at all.

     > The game lets you choose your weaponry before entering the game proper. Each type of weapon has a limited amount of shots before waning in power, but you can equip four weapons from a range of six including flame throwers, pulse cannons and beam lasers. You can choose four of the same type of weapon if you have a particular fondness for it and want to make sure that you never run out of firepower, or can choose four altogether different weapons. It's just a matter of deciding between whatever weapons you feel most comfortable with or think are best suited to the task ahead. Each weapon has a power meter representing how much power your currently selected weapon has left. You can switch between weapons in the midst of battle if they run low on power or if you feel that a different weapon would be better suited to annihilating your immediate enemies, allowing others to recharge. If you're not happy with the weapons you've chosen, replacements sometimes appear in the levels themselves. Enemies drop spheres of energy that restore lost health once you've blasted them to pieces, too. 

     > Alien Soldier isn't your average shoot 'em up; your character can dash from one side of the screen to the other (even in mid-air) to safely avoid enemy attacks. This ability adds a whole new sense of strategy to the game especially when you're confronted by an overwhelming number of foes or trapped in a corner by a boss. While dashing your character is invincible and if he has full health he becomes a fireball, killing or harming anything that dares to stand (or fly) in his way. Of course, bosses won't allow you to remain in one place for long and will force you to constantly dash all over the place just to stay out of harm's way, giving you no time to rest. The main character can even walk upside down on ceilings and hover, which are more useful (and more essential for survival) than you might initially realize. One welcome improvement over Gunstar Heroes is the ability to select between free or fixed firing modes at any time in a level (in the first mode you can move while firing; in the other mode, you stand still while firing in a chosen direction). Both modes have their own advantages and disadvantages as you can imagine. All things considered, switching between different weapons and firing modes is quick and easy (switching only becomes a distraction if it's not performed quickly enough by the player).

     > The game is home to the usual array of music and sound effects that Treasure is famous for. The music is fast-paced heart-thumping techno music (why am I not surprised?). It's quite good for MIDI based music. I could swear that some of the sound effects were lifted straight out of Gunstar Heroes; I suppose Treasure adopted an "if it ain't broken don't fix it" policy. The sound effects you will hear most of the time are the sounds of things blowing up. In any case, the music tracks and sound effects more than suit the frantic nature of the game.
     > The minor enemies provide little to no challenge in contrast to the bosses which are by no means easy to vanquish. Did I mention that the bosses must be disposed of as quickly as possible before a timer counts down to zero at which point the main character explodes? No, I didn't think so. This creates an extra sense of urgency. Bosses require special tactics to overcome and are more vulnerable to certain types of weapons, so you must come prepared and be wary of their weak spots. If you couldn't get enough of Treasure's sub-level/end of level bosses in Gunstar Heroes (where the real action lies according to some gamers), then I see no reason why you shouldn't find the wanton destruction in Alien Soldier fun in the extreme. Passwords bring down the replay value, but blasting your way through the many bosses that the game throws at you is very satisfying.
Bottom Line
     > Even when compared to Treasure's own Gunstar Heroes, Alien Soldier still holds its own. If you're looking for a side scrolling shoot 'em up full of non-stop boss encounters, then look no further. It's not in the same league as Gunstar Heroes (in my opinion of course), but that doesn't change the fact that it's an enjoyable shooting game in its own right.
Overall: 9.2 | Graphics: 9.4 | Control: 9.4 | Sound: 9.0 | Fun: 9.0
~ Geoffrey Duke ~

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