GG Aleste (Game Gear) review
"There were a few areas that were genuinely fun, like a stage placing me above a railroad track complete with robots rocketing off a train to challenge my ship at its level, but much of this game was the sort of personality-free drek that has provided the backbone for mediocre shooters throughout time."
I've been a fan of Compile ever since my youthful obsession with The Guardian Legend, but the game that made me decide they truly deserved my adoration was M.U.S.H.A. One of Compile's countless Aleste shooters, this Genesis effort boasted tight, fast-paced gameplay while showing off some of the more creatively-designed levels and enemies of the 16-bit era.
If only I'd left well enough alone. Unknown to me at the time, Compile had released other games in the Aleste family on Sega's less powerful systems. Imagine my excitement when I found this out. "HEY!!! There's a whole pack of mini-M.U.S.H.A.s on the Master System and Game Gear!!!!! Maybe life IS worth living!!!!" Ahhhh.....if only that were true.....
To say 1991's GG Aleste, the first of Compile's two games in the series (with GG Aleste 2/Power Strike II being the other) disappointed me would be an understatement. Compared to M.U.S.H.A., the action was slower and there wasn't much creativity on display. Overall, this game felt like any anonymous vanilla shooter — the basics were there, but there was no soul behind them.
At first glance, I thought I was playing Phantasy Star II: The Shooter, as the opening level took me over a collection of connected floating islands that looked like that role-playing game's overworld if viewed from a distance. That realization, which came completely out of left field, was the only thing I found interesting about this stage, as the two pathetic mini-bosses and boring final encounter were little more than fodder for my attacks.
Things didn't get any more exciting after that, as I now was flying over space, with nothing but bland video game stars (stale yellow dots) and weak, predictable enemies. At least the shuttle-like boss looked interesting — however, it went down without much of a fight, much like everything else I'd fought.
Thoroughly bored by now, I decided to pause the game and take a trip to my kitchen, where I played my own version of Jeopardy!. Grabbing a bottle of rum and two-liter of cola, I selected "Potent Potables" for $100 and worked my way down the category (amazingly hitting both "Daily Doubles"). Eventually, I staggered back to OVERDRIVE'S GAMING PARADISE (or the living room, if you're my wife....or anyone with even the most basic of social skills), collapsed into my chair and resumed play.
Now, if I wanted to be over-dramatic, I'd say that finishing this game was enough to kill my buzz, but let's be real.....by this point, the only thing capable of sobering me up would be 14 hours of sleep. That doesn't mean GG Aleste didn't try its hardest, though!
For the remainder of the game's nine levels, things alternated between sporadic bursts of semi-intense activity and lengthy periods of bland tedium. There were a few areas that were genuinely fun, like a stage placing me above a railroad track complete with robots rocketing off a train to challenge my ship at its level, but much of this game was the sort of personality-free drek that has provided the backbone for mediocre shooters throughout time.
At heart, though, this is a Compile shooter, which means there are some sweet weapons to play with, such as a multi-directional wave, missiles, shotgun and a couple of others. Each can be powered-up multiple times, with a couple becoming quite impressive at maximum power. Dying isn't a crippling setback, either, as the loss of a ship only seemed to strip me of one weapon level.
Usually, I considered that a positive, as I HATE it when shooters leave me stuck in a no-win situation, controlling a completely neutered ship against the best and brightest of the enemy forces. However, I almost wish GG Aleste had been a bit more harsh with its punishment for death. This game simply didn't offer much of any challenge. When I'm reviewing a shooter, I tend to take notes on each level. Upon scanning them after finishing GG Aleste, it didn't take long to lose count of how many times I wrote the word "easy" in describing various aspects of the game.
The lack of challenge was most unforgivable in the boss fights. While some of these baddies looked reasonably cool, none of them put up more than token opposition and the few whose attacks actually were tough to dodge tended to die before they could get much use out of their weapons. All-in-all, the ease with which I beat GG Aleste was just one more disappointment in a game that seemed full of them. I've played worse shooters (and plenty of them), but I have trouble recalling one which disappointed me as much as this one. I can tell there is a good game hidden deep within GG Aleste, but it is all but obscured by the boring, non-threatening gameplay.
Staff review by Rob Hamilton (January 26, 2006)
Rob Hamilton is the official drunken master of review writing for Honestgamers.
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