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ALESTE aka Power Strike
MSX2 version: jp - year: 1988 - developer: compile - publisher: compile - format: msx2 cartridge - condition: near mint (w/o paper plane) - rarity: very
MARK III version: jp - year: 1988 - developer: compile - publisher: sega - format: sega mark III, cartridge - condition: near mint - rarity: uncommon

The MSX2 package is definitely superior compared to the Mark III version. It includes a technical manual, the game's manual (with great b/w artwork) and it should also come with a paper plane.

 

The Mark III packaging is a bit lacking and doesn't include any of the MSX2 artwork or extras. Aleste has been released in the west as Power Strike.

 

MSX2- ending.

 

Sega Mark III ending

Review - If you remotely have an interest in old school 2D shooters, chances are you probably heard about Aleste at one time or another.

After playing many of the sequels of this long-running series, the desire to actually go back and discover the origins of Aleste grew strong in me.

Aleste was originally made for the Sega Mark III in Japan and to the Sega Master System in the rest of the world where for some unfathomable reason, it was renamed Power Strike. A few months after the Mark III release, Aleste made it to MSX2.

After some extensive research, I was able to find both the MSX2 and the Mark III versions and I played through them to see if there were any differences. Well, differences are marginal as basically the Mark III version is an almost exact copy of the MSX2 version.

Noticeably, Aleste on Mark III is missing the MSX2 introduction, and a couple of levels (the first one and another very short level) but in turn, the graphics benefitted from more vibrant colors, a slightly smoother scrolling while some of the sprite flickering present in the MSX2 port have been also eliminated.

Moreover, some of the weapons and backgrounds look slightly different compared to the MSX2 incarnation.

In all honesty, Aleste's graphics feel a bit dated by today's standard but the scrolling is so fast and enemies are so relentless that you'll hardly even notice that backgrounds are a bit simple. They may lack some detail but believe me, when you'll be holding the controller in your hands, your focus will be elsewhere! The scrolling is so fast that it will hardly give you the time for sight seeing.

To put things into perspective, it should be noted that Compile managed to push the MSX2 hardware to the extreme as it showed that if properly programmed, the MSX2 could handle smooth, blazing fast scrolling with no hesitation! This defied the established belief that MSX couldn't do effective scroll.

The music is almost entirely identical in both versions and it is equally good. In particular, the tune in the last stage is extremely spacey and atmospheric and made me wish that a soundtrack CD existed! In any case, the music sounds noticeably better with the FM module so make sure your MSX2 or your Master System can play FM. The Sega Mark III can play FM music if equipped with an FM module add-on which in turn, is conveniently built into the Japanese Master System. You should keep in mind that unfortunately, western Master System consoles do not support FM…

Gameplay is again very similar between the two versions, although weapons effectiveness has been touched up and some of the enemy waves seem to have been altered. Powering up weapons seems to take more time in the Mark III version and this makes it the hardest of the two versions. The weapons system consists of a main upgradable weapon and auxiliary weapons which are more powerful but they eventually wear off after extensive use.

There are about 8 auxiliary weapons to choose from and each can be more or less effective depending on the enemies you are facing. The basic auxiliary weapon with which you start with will initially seem totally useless but it can quickly become effective in expert hands.

By looking at the bosses in this game, you'll clearly see the origins of the multiple-turrets bosses which are normally present at least once in each Aleste game, but here all bosses are structured in the same way! This could become a bit repetitive but I honestly didn't mind it at all.

About the difficulty, Aleste is a very challenging shooter which throws at the player an insane amount of stuff. It is very easy to be overwhelmed but the secret is to try to destroy the greatest amount of enemies before they can litter the screen with bullets.

Also, a good strategy is to try to avoid flying all over the screen and move only when strictly necessary. Moreover, keeping your ship all the way down to the bottom of the screen helps sort out the general chaos taking place on the screen. Levels tend to be a bit long too and you'll be required to keep your concentration always high to survive them. Blink once and you may survive, blink twice and you're history! Luckily, extra lives are awarded generously and infinite continues are available.

You should keep in mind that at least in the Mark III version, if you lose all your lives in the last level, you'll be able to continue only from the previous level so this makes the game even more challenging. In the MSX2 version, I don't know if this is the case since I played the game through and I continued only once from stage 4. As I said earlier, the MSX2 version seems to be slightly easier compared to the Mark III version.

Interestingly, after the ending sequence if you continue the game you'll be granted access to a pink-ish bonus speed-level (Level 0) which is very short but entertaining and amazingly fast!

Bottom line: Despite its aging graphics, this first chapter is not only still very playable today, but it laid down the foundations for a timeless series....9/10

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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