GG Aleste II is another great example of why modern rereleases of games are super-important from a preservation perspective.
Given that Compile’s Aleste series is moderately well-known and respected, I find it both amusing and entertaining that a significant proportion of it is on platforms that a lot of people don’t pay a lot of attention to. Which is what makes compilations like M2’s Aleste Collection all the more valuable: they give people an opportunity to play some games that would have otherwise been lost to time — or at the very least, would have had their prices jacked up by the “collectors'” market on eBay and the like.
Last time, we looked at GG Aleste for the Sega Game Gear, which presented an enjoyable dose of shoot ’em up action, but which ended up being a tad easy for those with more than a rudimentary level of experience with the genre. Hell, if I can 1CC it, it must be pretty damned easy!
GG Aleste II — also known as Power Strike II, despite being a completely different entry in the series to the Master System game of the same name — arrived three years after its predecessor, and unlike the first GG Aleste it got a localised release in Europe as well as its native Japan.
Rather than being self-published like GG Aleste, GG Aleste II was published by Sega, which presumably made it more practical to bring overseas — plus although I’d hesitate to call the Game Gear a “success” anywhere, Sega had historically performed a little better in Europe than in America with its 8-bit hardware.
In GG Aleste, you take on the role of test pilot Alice, who is taking the Galvanic Gunner Aleste Model II “Lance Bird” out for a spin when she notices a strange shadow on her sensors. It turns out that a strange parasitic organism which had been infecting the Earth’s defensive satellite Algo has decided it is still hungry, and is releasing its cells to cause chaos for humanity. Thus, it’s up to a defiant Alice, against the better judgement of her test crew, to go and sort things out once and for all.
GG Aleste II unfolds across six stages, each with a boss at the end. Like it’s predecessor, there’s a satisfying sense of progression and wordless narrative from one stage to another — you fight your way from the space plant that Alice was performing her test flight around, on to a ground base on Earth, through an infected bionic city, onwards into some ancient ruins (an obligatory inclusion in most shoot ’em ups, regardless of if it makes sense) before proceeding to the “Cyber Road” and onward to Algo itself.
The game opens with the option to start with a specific subweapon. There are four available in GG Aleste II, including a Neo Napalm Gun, which fires explosive shots; the Hammer Hawk, which fires homing missiles; the Delta Form, a rotating “option” which protects the main ship and occasionally fires its own shots; and the Rising Masher, which fires laser blasts parallel to the ship’s main gun.
As with GG Aleste, firing in GG Aleste II sets off both your main gun and the subweapon at once; this time around, however, you can also make use of bombs called G Strikes with a press of the other button. You have just one of these in stock at the start of the game, but additional ones can be acquired by collecting the “P” tokens that also power up the ship’s main weapon. And, as in GG Aleste, the subweapon can be powered up by collecting large “P” tiles that are distinct from the tokens.
One helpful additional mechanic in GG Aleste II is the Round Field Generator. By collecting sufficient “P” tokens, you’ll activate a shield on your ship which allows it to take an extra hit before being destroyed — very useful, since while taking a hit doesn’t set you back to a checkpoint, it does drop both your main and subweapon power levels back by one. You can actually also stockpile “P” tokens while the Round Field Generator is active, too, making it easier to reactivate if you take a hit.
Interestingly, the Round Field Generator is one of several mechanics in GG Aleste II that wouldn’t have been at all obvious to the original Game Gear audience. But the M2 Gadgets added at the side of the screen in the M2 ShotTriggers collection allow you to keep track of how close you are to obtaining extra G Strikes or activating the Round Field Generator — very helpful, though purists can always turn these displays off if they desire.
GG Aleste II is structured quite similarly to its predecessor in that a lot of its attack waves are seen multiple times over the course of the game as a whole, so once again memorising the game is less about remembering how whole levels go, but more about how to recognise distinct attack waves and deal with them accordingly. The main difference here is that it’s noticeably tougher.
There’s a lot more going on on screen at any given moment, and a lot more bullets being hurled at you. To the game’s credit, bullets are large and colourful, making them easy to spot (if not avoid) — and particular types of bullet, which are clearly distinguished by their colour and pattern, can be destroyed by shots. Understanding when you can semi-safely put yourself in harm’s way by shooting incoming bullets is of critical importance at numerous points — particularly boss battles.
The boss battles are probably where the increased difficulty level is most apparent — the first level’s boss in particular will happily smash you into space dust if you don’t pay attention to its attack patterns. It always feels fair, though; you always get plenty of warning of incoming attacks, so it’s just up to you to make sure you’re not sitting in a stupid place when something dangerous happens!
It’s a fantastic-looking game, too, with some of the best visuals you’ll see on the Game Gear, and even some quasi-3D Galaxy Force-style bonus stages where you use lock-on shooting to destroy enemies and earn bonus points. And some expected sprite flicker aside — one gets the impression Compile was really pushing the poor old handheld to its limits — the performance is consistently slick and smooth, too.
GG Aleste II is a great game, and the fact it maintains the appeal of its predecessor while bumping up the challenge factor makes it an ideal shoot ’em up to move on to after you feel like you’ve mastered GG Aleste. While shoot ’em up veterans may still find it a little on the easy side compared to titles on more powerful hardware, it still puts up a decent fight — and perhaps most importantly, it’s an enjoyable ride from start to finish. And ultimately, to just have fun is the reason we’re all here, isn’t it?
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