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Video Game / Alien Soldier

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Japanese title screen, immediately setting the game's tone

Alien Soldier is a 1995 Run-and-Gun game by Treasure for the Sega Genesis, serving as a Spiritual Successor to Gunstar Heroes. While it shares some similarities with other run-and-guns, the focus here, aside from depending on your reaction time and unique capabilities, involves lots and lots of boss fights. You play as Epsilon-2, a cybernetic birdman who puts up a fight against the rogue organization Scarlet when they try to Take Over the World.

The plot, if it even matters, begins when a group of researchers called Scarlet from the planet Sierra go too far with genetic engineering. Scarlet creates powerful mutant lifeforms for the purposes of space travel and colonization. The mutants rebel against their creators, form a terrorist organization of the same name, and go on to menace their homeworld. Members of the new Scarlet are able to infiltrate other beings as parasites, then modify and/or take over the bodies of their hosts. After a while, Epsilon-Eagle, the leader of Scarlet, was ambushed by a team of Sierrans with superpowers, and thrown into the space-time continuum. The new leader of Scarlet, Xi-Tiger, was hated by his own men for being too ruthless compared to Epsilon, and as such he wanted to destroy Epsilon once and for all even after his banishment. Xi-Tiger attacked a Sierran research facility where he sensed Epsilon in the body of a boy named Fou. He took Fou's best friend Kaede hostage in an attempt to force Epsilon to come out, causing Fou to transform from a boy into a cybernetic birdman called Epsilon-2. However, Fou's good human side began to overcome Epsilon's evilness and made him want to fight for good. Xi-Tiger killed Kaede and ran away, triggering Fou and Epsilon's combined rage, thus, they begin chasing after him. While this is happening, Epsilon-Eagle's evil side lives on in another body - Epsilon-1, and flies off elsewhere.

This is where the game begins proper, and the plot becomes even more outlandish as you play on. The first surprise may come when Epsilon-2 continues his conquest even after killing Xi-Tiger.

Of course, none of that actually matters. What does matter is lots of explosions, sick Genesis music, a badass and overloaded main character and an impressive amount of bosses - more than twenty of them, in fact!

Alien Soldier is a fairly tough game to pick up, mostly owing to the difficulty of getting used to the abilities at your disposal. These include multiple weapons, mobility, defensive options and even an ultimate attack. For your sake, they will be explained below.

Epsilon-2 carries four weapons, chosen from a menu at the start of the game, with a total of six options. Ammo increase or a weapon swap is granted by the weapon powerups. The weapons are:

Epsilon-2's other abilities include:

Finally, there's Epsilon-2's ultimate attack. While he has full health, executing a Zero Teleport will turn it into Phoenix Force - a flaming version of the move which will obliterate all regular enemies Epsilon-2 dashes through, and can be equally as effective on bosses if you know when and where to use it. This move drains some of Epsilon-2's life, thus preventing players from spamming it and thus incentivizing the usage of Counter Force to recover and re-use it. Epsilon-2 likes using this in cutscenes.

Mastering this diverse arsenal is the first step towards beating the game.

For those who are interested in learning more about Alien Soldier's lore and gameplay mechanics, there is a translated version of the Japanese manual of Alien Soldier to refer to right here!

In 2022, the game was added to the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack's Sega Genesis library.

Compare Contra, specifically Hard Corps - the Genesis entry of the series with an overwhelming focus on boss fights. See also Cuphead, a far more recent run-and-gun game which drew inspiration from the above, Gunstar Heroes, and Alien Soldier itself, among others. As expected, it's absolutely loaded with challenging bosses.

Alien Soldier contains examples of:

  • 0% Approval Rating: Xi-Tiger, the new leader of Scarlet. He's hated by his own comrades due to being too ruthless towards the Sierrans and has tried to kill off his old deposed leader, but what takes the cake is that he takes an innocent girl hostage and kills her. When fought, he fully transforms his human host, eradicating him.
  • Absurdly-Spacious Sewer: Stages 10 through 14 take place in massive waterworks (large enough for a boat driven by a blue teddy bear for Epsilon-2 to speed through them), with water that damages our hero if he falls into it. Among its bosses are a mutant shark and a giant lobster with swords for hands, with smaller lobsters frequently showing up as well.
  • Airborne Mook: Several enemies fall into this. The earliest you'll encounter are the bugs, which fly around if you get close, then shoot and ram you. Later on, you'll fend off bomb-dropping birds, and in one instance, drone convoys that hover in long lines and release bullets when destroyed.
  • Ammunition Conservation: Mandatory for your strongest weapons, which are also very inefficient. Your weapons recharge if unused for long enough, opening up more strategies for this.
  • Arbitrary Weapon Range: All weapons except for Lancer Force suffer range penalties as their ammo depletes.
  • Artifact Name: Seven Force from Gunstar Heroes returns in this game, theme music and all, but with only five forms.note 
  • Attack Its Weak Point: All bosses have weak points. Attacking them will deal more damage, or might be necessary to deal any to begin with. Refraining from shooting for a bit or using Homing Force will reveal these weakpoints. Wolfgunblood/Garopa are a unique case, as the rider's head is weak to heat weapons, and the horse's to energy weapons. Using Homing Force will reveal an additional weak point...
  • Badass Boast: The engrish-laden quote in the title screen (replicated at the top of the page) is essentially this, as it was the tagline for the Japanese campaign of the console. Treasure's usage of the tagline, along with the line "For Megadrivers custom" is their way of saying Alien Soldier was tailor-made to push the Megadrive and its Motorola 68000 CPU to its absolute limits.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Averted by the single friendly being you'll encounter - a small blue teddy bear mutant.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: Quite a few, such as Antroid, Bugmax (a moth), Viblack (a giant fly) and Back Stringer (which unceremoniously eats the former).
  • Bird People: Epsilon-2 is a humanoid, cybernetic eagle.
  • Blackout Basement: The tower base has a two-stage segment that must be illuminated with your weapons.
  • Boring, but Practical: Buster Force is highly efficient while still being very damaging. Some enemies and bosses will shrug it off, but it will still serve you extremely well as an all-purpose weapon.
  • Boss Arena Urgency: Back Stringer features this mechanic. The platform you're standing on - Viblack - the fly miniboss you just defeated, will steadily be dragged down by swarming baby spiders. Once it's dragged off the screen, Back Stringer starts attempting to ram you as you repeatedly fall into a bottomless pit and bounce back up. This fight contains an example of artificial stupidity that you can abuse to mitigate this: Back Stringer is programmed to change its attack pattern once Viblack is near the screen's edge, not once it is fully off. Kill the baby spiders right before they drag it down, and you're left with a stable platform and a pathethically easy boss.
  • Boss Game: The stages are short and the enemies are easily dispatched or bypassed using Zero Teleport, but these intermission stages lie between an impressive amount of bosses. Currently, the game is second only to Cuphead for "Most boss battles in a Run-and-Gun game", at 25 (not counting the five or so mid-bosses). As Sega Power put it: "There are bosses and bosses and bosses. Even the bosses are bossed about by other bosses."
  • Boss-Only Level: While the game is focused around boss fights, Stage 20 is notable in that there is no "regular" part to precede the boss part; the 9:50 time limit will be entirely spent fighting Seven Force.
  • Boss Warning Siren: Every boss fight except for Viblack is preceded by a warning siren, a feminine voice saying "Emergency!", and a masculine voice saying "Readyyyyyy...FIGHT!"
  • Bottomless Magazines: Averted. All of your weapons have limited ammo. Collecting powerups will increase the maximum ammo or swap weapons while refilling spent ammo. Weapons also recharge while they aren't used, and each weapon has its own ammo efficiency, which is degraded if you fire while moving.
  • Came Back Wrong: You know that girl, Kaede, that died in the intro? A cyborg based on her fights you later in the game with her version of Seven Force, and is the single toughest boss to kill.
  • Cast from Hit Points: The Phoenix Force drains health on use - 50 on Superhard and 30 on Supereasy.
  • The Cameo: Melon Bread (referred to in this game as "Jampan") and Seven Force, both of which are markedly different from their Gunstar Heroes incarnations.
  • Cherry Tapping: Epsilon-2's emergency weapon is sufficient to clear the whole game with, should you be up to the task. In such a playthrough, the bosses with low time limits will add another layer to the difficulty.
  • Collision Damage: Just about every enemy, save for some bosses, will deal damage if you touch them.
  • Continuing is Painful: Using a continue or password removes extra ammunition and health.
  • Critical Existence Failure: Both Epsilon-2 and his opponents don't show any signs of tiredness or damage at low health. Especially odd when Epsilon-2 has been reduced to one hit point- he looks perfectly fine until he gets hit again, after which he explodes in a fiery mess.
  • Crosshair Aware: If you swap to Homing Force or hold your fire for a few seconds, boss weak points will be marked with a crosshair, so you know where to aim your weapons.
  • Crutch Character: Homing Force is weak, but efficient and easy to use. It can carry you until you're ready to focus on dealing damage instead of not taking any.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Xi-Tiger, seemingly the main villain from the backstory, is only the ninth boss of twenty-five; the majority of the game takes place after Epsilon-2 defeats him. His status as this trope is cemented by a special fanfare that plays when you defeat him, that later plays after slaying two other climactic bosses (Epsilon-1 and Seven Force).
  • Dramatic Thunder: Lightning bolts strike in the background during the boss battles with Flying-Neo and Xi-Tiger. For Flying Neo, the lightning will outline it while it's invisible.
  • Dub Name Change: The terms "A-Earth" and "A-Human" are changed to "Sierra" and "Sierrans" in the European version.
  • Earth-Shattering Kaboom: The planet blows up randomly about halfway through the game. You get to go back to save it.
  • Easy Levels, Hard Bosses: The levels themselves aren't too difficult, and are mainly there to help you warm up for the challenging bosses.
  • Elevator Action Sequence: The battles against Epsilon-1 and Missiray take place on elevator platforms. The former is rising, but stays in the same position on the screen. The latter elevator is controllable by holding up/down.
  • End-Game Results Screen: Upon clearing the game or getting a game over, the game displays a results screen showing your score, total enemies killed, total damage taken, and statistics for every stage (how much time it took split between the level and the boss and how many continues were used).
  • The End of the World as We Know It: The planet inexplicably blows up partway through the game. Fortunately, after Epsilon-2 goes back in time and defeats what's left of Scarlet's forces and destroys Z-Leo, it gets better.
  • Enemy Roll Call: After the credits roll, the game showcases the game's bosses in a slideshow. Some bosses aren't included for whatever reason.
  • Enemy Without: Epsilon-1 is Epsilon-Eagle's evil side. It seems to use Lancer Force, but is otherwise very different from the playable Epsilon-2 - huge and monstrous, almost fully mechanical, and lacking your other weapons.
  • Energy Weapon: Sword Force, Lancer Force, and various weapons used by the enemies, most-notably by Epsilon-1 and Z-Leo.
  • Eternal Engine: Barring the sewers and a brief mountain stage, the game is chock-full of mechanical or otherwise futuristic scenery. The first few stages and last few stages stand out especially.
  • Evil Is Visceral: If an enemy from this game isn't mechanical, you can be sure that it fits right into this.
  • Evil Knockoff: According to the manual, the stage 20 boss - seemingly Kaede armed with the Seven Force, is actually a cyborg duplicate of her.
  • Explosions in Space: Your flamethrower and explosive weapons work fine in space. A boss fought in space uses fire breath against you.
  • Exty Years from Publication: The game was made in 1995, and takes place in the "distant" future of 2015.
  • Freefall Fight: Silpheed Force drags Epsilon-2 off a cliff and into the open air, which allows Epsilon-2 to move freely in all directions similarly to the later underwater and space sections.
  • Giant Enemy Crab:
  • Giant Space Flea from Nowhere: Most bosses in the game are this, apart from Xi-Tiger. Even when you fight familiar foes, you won't know why you're fighting them, whether it be a Giant Enemy Crab in a train station to a cyborg cowboy wolf riding a Mechanical Horse in a tunnel.
  • Giant Spider: Back Stringer is the same size as Epsilon-2, and it devours an equally large fly midboss before fighting him.
  • Heel–Face Turn: The good side of Epsilon-Eagle does this in the game's intro, effectively becoming Epsilon-2.
  • Helpful Mook: Standard bullets can be absorbed by Counter Force to restore health. Any mook that shoots these is going to be a boon. You're going to thank them for that, by the way.
  • High-Altitude Battle: Occurs during the fight with Silpheed Force, which is also a Freefall Fight.
  • High-Speed Battle: Wolfgunblood and Garopa are fought while racing alongside them through a zero-gravity tunnel; approaching walls serve as frequent obstacles. Earlier on, a giant lobster is fought on an out-of-control speedboat, which affects Epsilon-2's jumping.
  • Hit Points: You can choose to have this as an indicator for how much life you and/or the boss has.
  • Idiosyncratic Difficulty Levels: Superhard and Supereasy. Superhard is the default. The changes for Supereasy include frailer enemies, unlimited continues, weapon swapping between those continues, a slowdown function, and a reduced cost for Phoenix Force. It helps, but by no means trivliaizes the challenge.
  • Intentional Engrish for Funny: The tagline quoted at the top of the page, which is apparently touting what Treasure could squeeze out of the Sega Genesis' Motorola MC68000 CPU in terms of graphics, framerate, and sound quality. It's also the Japanese Mega Drive tagline, from even early on in the console's lifespan.
  • Invisible Monsters: Flying-Neo, a creature that looks like a cross between a zombie dragon and a helicopter. Once you get it down to a quarter of its health, it turns completely invisible save for a silhouette that appears during lightning strikes.
  • Kill It with Fire: Flame Force is your strongest weapon. It doesn't damage machines, but its sheer power makes it worth using. Homing Force also fits appearance-wise.
  • Keystone Army: Averted. Xi-Tiger is killed less than halfway through the game, but Epsilon-2 still has to fight his way through many more of Scarlet's ranks before the end.
  • Land Mine Goes "Click!": Mines, both on the ground and floating in midair, are a common obstacle.
  • Last Chance Hit Point: No single attack can kill you outright; you must be reduced to one health first, giving you time to collect health. However, some attacks are rapid enough that you won't have a chance for this.
  • Life Meter: One of the selectable ways to display your life and the bosses' life.
  • Load-Bearing Boss: Defeating Z-Leo causes his base to explode, which Epsilon-2 makes a getaway from in the ending cutscene.
  • Logical Weakness: Flame Force is very effective against organic enemies. Sword and Lancer Force are potent against machinery. As a logical resistance, the machines are immune to Flame Force. (Homing Force works against everything but Sirene Force, and Buster/Ranger have varying effectiveness, though they're usually in the middle ground.)
  • Logo Joke: The Sega logo appears and dissipates against a space background, along with the Treasure logo.
  • Low Clearance: One of Wolfgunblood/Garopa's moves involves the horse warning the rider about danger ahead. Shortly after, it'll either jump or lower itself to avoid 2-4 incoming walls, and if Epsilon-2 doesn't follow along, he'll take collision damage from them.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Wolfgunblood and Garopa: If you think it's a wolf who wields a gun, is out for your blood, and is riding on a galloper, you're damn right.
    • Sniper Honeyviper: It looks like a snake, and it sends out bees. Thankfully it can't give you headshots.
    • Antroid: Ant + Android, it is indeed a humanoid, cybernetic ant.
    • Back Stringer: Being a spider, it produces string from its back-end.
    • Shellshogun: A bipedal samurai tortoise. Enough said.
    • Seven Force: While two of its forms were lost to time constraints, the name still holds meaning through Mode 7.
  • Mix-and-Match Critters: From half-man and half-eagle (Epsilon-2) to half-lion and half-mecha (Z-Leo).
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Many of the bosses:
  • Nintendo Hard: Even on the Supereasy difficulty, the game is incredibly hard in Treasure tradition. Mastering the controls is also more challenging than in most comparable titles. Even the game's Nintendo Switch Online listing implies this, informing the player that "you can learn new tactics with every defeat..."
  • No-Sell: Machines are immune to Flame Force and some enemies will cause Buster Force to harmlessly bounce away. There's also a unique enemy from the sewer stages that only dies to Homing, Flame, and its own reflected beams.
  • Non-Indicative Name: The creatures fought in the game are genetically-engineered, parasitic mutants. Even Epsilon-2, the titular Alien Soldier, isn't a real alien, but a fusion of one such mutant and a boy. The game doesn't feature actual aliens. Though it is possible the space wizard is one.
  • Non-Lethal Bottomless Pits: Somewhat. Falling into a pit will trigger a button-mashing sequence to get out while your health drops at a steady rate.
  • One-Man Army: Epsilon-2 has no allies (bar a short-lived, helpful teddy bear from one stage), but that doesn't stop him from wrecking an entire legion of mutants and machines.
  • Outrun the Fireball: In the ending, Epsilon-2 uses his fiery dash to escape Z-Leo's exploding base.
  • Painfully Slow Projectile: Some bosses create these which are usually reflectable with Counter Force.
  • Painful Transformation: Xi-Tiger undergoes one to change into his monstrous form, though the cutscene showing this sometimes doesn't play.
  • Ratchet Scrolling: The levels scroll to the right or upwards, disallowing backtracking.
  • Random Events Plot: How else to explain the planet exploding for no reason, the space wizard sending you back in time to undo the explosion, the Kaede cyborg trying to kill you, and whoever Z-Leo is?
  • Ring Menu: Epsilon-2 switches weapons through a circular menu displaying all of them. The action does not stop while it's open and getting hit closes it, so using it during a boss fight requires good positioning.
  • Rock–Paper–Scissors: Organic bosses are weak to Flame Force, and mechanical bosses are weak to Lancer and Sword Force.
  • Rule of Cool: Plenty of boss designs can be attributed to this. Shellshogun and Wolfgunblood/Garopa stand out.
  • See the Invisible: Using Homing Force against Flying-Neo will neatly reveal its location with the crosshair.
  • Sequential Boss: Seven Force features five fights in a row, each fairly difficult until memorized, and one of which nullifies your Flame Force and Homing Force.
  • Set Right What Once Went Wrong: With the aid of a space wizard, Epsilon-2 time-travels to save his destroyed planet and eradicate the rest of the Scarlet group.
  • Shout-Out: The apocalyptic premise of a counter-possessing hero with a tragic companion battling a horde of in-fighting monsters is a homage to Devilman. Now with a sci-fi backdrop.
  • Space Zone: Stages 21 through 23 take place in outer space. This is the first time Epsilon-2 can freely fly about without being dragged or whirled around.
  • Stat Meters: Upon startup, you can choose how your health, your ammunition, and the bosses' health meters are displayed. They can be made invisible as well.
  • Strong Flesh, Weak Steel: Epsilon-2 can take a lot of punishment from mechanical enemies. Their bullets and missiles will deal mediocre damage. Epsilon-2 can decimate these enemies with Sword and Lancer Force.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: As a successor to Gunstar Heroes, it's only natural that this game also features many, many explosions.
  • Super Not-Drowning Skills: Despite the counter-trope's use beforehand, Epsilon-2 can fight just fine underwater against Sirene Force.
  • Super Special Move: Epsilon-2's ultimate attack, Phoenix Force, is a Wreathed in Flames version of Counter Force, a Dash Attack that can obliterate regular enemies. It's a Limit Break that requires Epsilon-2 to have full health, as it Casts From Hit Points, and execute a Zero Teleport. Phoenix Force can be effective on bosses if you know when and where to use it. It's also his Signature Move and, therefore, heavily featured in cutscenes.
  • Suspicious Video-Game Generosity: Stage 20 gives you a 9-minute, 50-second time fight Seven Force.
  • Tactical Suicide Boss: Bugmax in its moth form. It spawns catterpillars that don't do much. Killing them drops health, which you can use to supply your Phoenix Force for repeated use. The boss has a very short time limit, so this may be intentional.
  • Tennis Boss: The main way to defeat Z-Leo is to use Counter Force to send his fireballs straight into his head. (Your emergency weapon and Counter Force can also damage him normally.)
  • Threatening Shark: Deep Strider, a mutant shark found in one of the sewer stages. Its main battle strategy is to leap between pools of water, dragging Epsilon-2 underwater if it touches him.
  • Timed Mission: Every stage runs on an individual timer, and letting the timer run out leads to an instant game over. This also makes every boss a Time-Limit Boss.
  • Traintop Battle: Stages 8 and 9 take place on a train, with Flying-Neo and Xi-Tiger being fought while standing on the top of it.
  • Trick Boss: After defeating Sunset Sting, the next stage starts with Viblack immediately swooping in and catching Epsilon-2 on the underside of its wings, with the standard boss warning being nowhere in sight. After it goes down pretty quickly, the boss warning plays as Back Stringer, the real boss, crawls in and eats Viblack's head before fighting Epsilon-2. The whole sequence notably leaves you with no opportunity to get ammo upgrades, leaving you stuck with whatever you have left to deal with the back-to-back fights (and there's no break before the following stage's boss either).
  • Unexpectedly Realistic Gameplay: All weapons work in space, yet the underwater battle against Sirene Force renders the Flame Force and Homing Force weapons useless.
  • Underground Level: The entire Seven Force fight takes place in expansive caverns, first starting out rocky and icy like the area that preceded it before Silpheed Force drags Epsilon-2 down to some ancient ruins where the remaining forms are fought.
  • Underwater Boss Battle: Sirene Force, the last phase of the Seven Force fight, floods the arena completely. This allows Epsilon-2 to float around, but a vortex drags him in circles while Sirene Force mounts an offense with its arms.
  • Wake-Up Call Boss: Various bosses test your mastery of the game's mechanics.
    • The first two bosses, Jetsripper and Antroid, can seem impossible without use of Zero Teleport.
    • Madam Barbar is a Mighty Glacier and tests your awareness, as you need to both avoid its attacks and cull its brood.
    • Epsilon-1 presents a difficult battle after you've fought two other bosses, without a chance to heal or refill weapons.
  • Word Salad Title: Many bosses have goofy names in this style: Shellshogun, Wolfgunblood, Sniper Honeyviper, and so on.
  • Zeerust: Some of the mechanical enemies have a retro-future vibe to their designs, and Epsilon-2's armor fits this as well.