Ep. 290 - Treasure Ranking, with Christa Lee

I beat Alien Soldier several years ago on SUPEREASY and got pretty far before I started heavily abusing save states, but I‘ve never gone back to it despite a few moments of temptation. Everyone who says you need to make a concerted effort and dedicate yourself to enjoying it is right on the money. It’s like the Finnegans Wake Infinite Jest of videogames.

I'm not a big rom hack guy, but it would whip ass if someone would patch the game to use the six button controller. X and Z could cycle counter/clockwise through the weapons and Y could swap between fixed/free shot mode. It would still basically be impossible to beat but maybe not quite as impossible to play.

had a real good time with the video version of this one, managed to get good footage for each segment. if you‘ve never seen Alien Soldier in action, it’s truly nuts even just to watch. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=THKB7RCOC5g

@“jeelz”#p118706 Well whaddya know:


@“gsk”#p118753 Aaa sick! Thank you for your service, I will give it a shot! Counter Force as a single tap could be very cool.

@“exodus”#p118698 I guess I don‘t understand why the inputs for this are more complicated than, say, every single fighting game. Double tap shoot to block, press down+jump to teleport, and that’s it for essential moves. I‘m not saying this in a “get good” sort of way – I am also bad at videogames, but I find so many other Treasure games way more confusing (e.g. Dynamite Heady and Silhouette Mirage – even the later levels of Gunstar Heroes). Once I looked up what the weapons did, I felt like Alien Soldier was pretty straightforward (you don’t even need to block for most of the early levels), and since you don‘t get sent back very far when you die, I feel like it’s way more forgiving than other notriously hard games.

I suppose it's a matter of different games clicking with different people. I just don't get why Alien Soldier alone has this reputation of impossibility (other than it not explaining its mechanics). It's still very hard, but I found it way more inviting and pleasurable than, say, any Contra or pre-SotN Castlevania game. For me, Rondo of Blood was far more of a "you have to force yourself to like it" game. Alien Soldier was instant fun, despite the constant dying, as soon I understood how to play it. But maybe that's just me.

Oh WOW. This episode is quite something…

Something I bring up a lot is the experience I had as a youngster in the late 90’s, when 2D was out, but still something you’d purchase for children, because heck ‘em.

So I had all the stuff like Bomberman Party Edition, Rayman, Mega Man 8, Goemon’s Great Adventure, Mischief Makers, Tomba, those “late AAA 2D” games you are referring to, and I loved it. As a kid, learning mechanics, I tended to explore these worlds to a degree older people wouldn’t. I sure don’t do it that much these days. Even so, I still didn’t figure out what was going on exactly in Mischief Makers or Tomba, but I still loved it and played for hours, because those worlds were just so immensely cool, weird, and mysterious to me, as a kid who wasn’t even taught was Japanese was yet. Those are all on my list to complete someday. I’ve revisited many of them, as an adult, Mischief Makers feels like work, but in the way I know I will enjoy when I commit to it. I can’t help but feel the strongest nostalgia for this stuff.

What was said, in my phrasing: “All the stuff just being there”, is a good description of Mischief Makers, but also how I feel when I play *any* game that’s new to me?



Did anyone else see that Marina was added to Smash 64 Remix? That’s awesome.

Also, my contemporary, big TF was inspired by these games, specifically Tomba and Mischief Makers. It was the evil flowers from Tomba that inspired Undertale’s Flowey, and he sampled the audio from Tomba for it too.

I also have the fondest memories of *Gradius V*, because I played it with my father, when we finally reunited for the first time in eleven years, while going through the wildest custody battle.

It’s just so cool that when they were throwing 2D games to us kids as scraps in the late 90’s, we got some of the weirdest, wildest AAA/BBB stuff from Treasure, Capcom, Hudoson.

And yeah, those Haniwa faces in Mischief Makers and Goemon’s Great Adventure set me up to really want to get to the bottom of what those Gyroids were in Animal Crossing, before *Haniwa* was even very searchable on the english web.

It’s really making me want to give Silhouette Mirage a real shot. Somehow I set it aside as one of the more rough and weird ones, but from the sounds of it, it’s the most refined!

Is Rakugaki Showtime even more unfinished than Stretch Panic?

@“saddleblasters”#p118796 @“exodus”#p118698 I‘m worried that I’m coming off as a jerk. Despite being bad at the game, I've had so much fun with it and therefore feel the need to diagnose what is going wrong when other people have trouble with the first few stages!

Ignore the rest of my post if it is unecessary or annoying.


What I suspect might be happening is that you‘ve seen a bunch of Alien Soldier Professionals play the game, and now you’re trying to do all the stuff that they‘re doing and failing at it because what they’re doing is tricky pro-strats. For the early game, you don‘t need any tricks. You don’t need to change shooting modes. You don't need to change guns on the fly.


Keep the homing attack equipped during stages, then during the five seconds you have before a boss battle switch to Lancer or Flame. During the stages you can just stand still whenever an enemy comes on the screen and use your homing attack until it‘s dead. If you get hit it’s not a big deal, the enemy almost certainly dropped a health pick up that will get you back to max health. Use display mode 2 if you have trouble telling when you‘re at max health. Make sure you don’t get hit right before the boss.


You don‘t need to worry about blocking for the first few stages. Eventually you do need to teleport, but at first it’s not an extreme amount. You can get through the first stage pretty smoothly only teleporting once at the boss.


Before you get to the first millipede boss, if you find it‘s hard to not get hit before it, you can kill the enemies standing on the ceiling, then go up there to avoid the enemies on the ground. They disappear when the boss comes. Then go to the ground and go to the right side of the screen. After the battle officially begins you’ll have three or four seconds before the millipede attacks you. Use that time to teleport rightwards, which should do the fire attack since you‘re at full health. If the millipede isn’t already dead, it will be dead after one or two more attacks.


So that's how you get through the first stage doing only one complicated input (the teleport) that you have three or four seconds to prepare for.


The second boss you need to teleport to avoid his leaps, so there will be more complicated inputs involved, but the leap pattern is fairly easy to understand and is well telegraphed, so you have time to think about the teleport. You don‘t have to instantly enter in the button combo on the fly. You still don’t need to block at this point. There is a health-up power-up during the stage, so it should be pretty doable to come into the battle at full health.


Around stage three you‘ll start having to teleport regularly during the stages, and maybe stage four or five is when you have to block, but I still find that you usually have time to think each time before you teleport or block. You don’t have to rapidly spam the actions like crazy.


@“cleobirdwell”#p118509 What’s the most Treasure game not made by Treasure?

You’d be forgiven for thinking Border Down was a Treasure joint, especially at the time of its release.


Haven’t listened to the episode yet but it won’t stop me from saying that ranking is unnerving.


I guess it‘s a matter of sensibilities. Personally, I don’t like a lot of the little design decisions. The multiple-imput weapon switch, the two-movement type and how you have to duck to change it (holding a button to shoot on site would work), the divergence between the sprites and the hitboxes, the hovering action in mid-air that makes you stop abrutly feels unnatural… I feel the opposite with the castlevania games. There you move slow and your actions take time but when I whip backwards in mid air it feels right.

Other than that, I agree that time makes the controls feel more natural as you play. Despite that, I don't really find fun in what the game has to offer in terms of challenge. I mean, a big part of the experience is to learn a specific set of rules to defeat one boss and move to the next one with its different set of rules. That was my experiencie after commit myself a lot of time with the game. I would love to like alien soldier but its hard to connect with it.

This was a tremendous episode! I really want to play that clown game!

@“saddleblasters”#p118804 I don‘t take offense! I meant what I said when I mentioned on the podcast that I can’t play it. That's because:

1) the inputs, while maybe not more complex than a fighting game, are much less intuitive. A fireball shoots out in the last direction you pushed. The motion is swift and fluid. The inputs in alien soldier aren't rewarding to learn for me in part because they don't feel related to the move.
2) everything must be done very quickly. There's no room to play around and figure things out, which again is quite unlike a fighting game, or rondo, or etc. There's no space to learn, you have to learn *right now* or die, which is not enjoyable to me, though I get that it is for others. It's not a kind of difficulty that I enjoy.
3) switching weapons sucks and their icons look similar.
4) the way you have to train your brain in this is not fun for me. I believe I mentioned on the show that it's reminiscent of when I'm sitting in a crowded restaurant and can't help but hear and absorb every conversation within earshot. It's too many mental inputs to dexterity outputs and it's not enjoyable to me.
5) getting good at inputs is simply not something I find rewarding. Not having to think about inputs is, and for me that only happens in games where those inputs are intuitive and fluid, and here they are the opposite for my sensibulity.
6) on top of all this there's a timer so you can't catch your breath? F off alien soldier lol

It's a game that doesn't want me (specifically me, not "one," not "you") to play it, and who am I to argue! I don't have time for stuff that's antagonistic toward the player or which requires (near) perfection to advance. None of those other games you mentioned require perfection - they look cooler when played perfectly, and all kinds of games lend themselves to 1ccing and whatnot, but a game that requires it, while leaving you unprepared for it with tough inputs and not giving you space to learn, is not going to be possible for me. Plus, I gain so much more value out of playing a lot of games for a while, at my leisure, than I do out of getting really good at one game. (there's a whole podcast about it heh heh)

I think it's cool that people can get good at it and get value out of the performance but it's not for meeeee

This was a good one. Now I'm thinking about what other developers put out so few titles that you could reasonably rank them all in a single episode……


@“exodus”#p118841 there’s a timer so you can’t catch your breath? F off alien soldier lol

increasingly, "has a timer so you absolutely can't just chill out" is the biggest barrier for me getting truly invested in a lot of old games

I forgot to mention this earlier: John Harrison‘s crowdfunded book on the history of Treasure’s Mega Drive output is going to ship any day now, and orders for the first and potentially only run are still open: https://rasterscroll.com/product/legends/

excerpt: https://rasterscroll.com/the-birth-of-seven-force/

Aside from offering historical and technical overviews of their early games, the book also liberally excerpts a ton of old interviews, documents and other media concerning Treasure that have gone largely untranslated until now, including details on the original game that was reworked into YYH... he offered a second book with full translations of all his material as part of the kickstarter, even, but that won't be available separately.


@“hellomrkearns”#p118850 This was a good one. Now I’m thinking about what other developers put out so few titles that you could reasonably rank them all in a single episode……

Platinum Games is at, what, 20?

Lol that ending! Definitely had to reference the show notes

Wow, what an impressive earful of an episode! Treasure‘s later output is very mysterious to me. I am most familiar with their Genesis and Saturn work and largely enjoy it, though I think the complaints I heard in this episode (game feels incomplete / too hard / too clinical in how it approaches the concept) resonate with me. I actually don’t like any of Treasure‘s shooters because they all feel too slow. I don’t like bullet hell / danmaku shooters but I do like the sense of motion and speed many shooters manage to capture, especially Compile‘s output. Ikaruga and Radiant Silvergun never feel fast and action-intense. They feel more like I’m playing a puzzle game and that my reflexes (as poor as they are) don‘t matter. Ironically, my favorite games by Treasure do require some strategy but do allow some leeway to play as you like. My two favorite Treasure games are Gunstar Heroes and Guardian Heroes. And as much as I love all the cool ideas and graphical effects of Silhouette Mirage, I find the game a bit too obtuse in places. In terms of artistry it’s right at the top, but for me, personally, it's not quite on the level of the two Heroes games mentioned above.

@“gsk”#p118859 lol every few months I get a reminder that I have a copy of this coming at some point…

Also agree that Christa is a great guest! I am 30, cool to have someone the same age on who can also hold their own. I didn't know Mischief Makers had so many opinions and discourse surrounding it in the first place, it was my first exposure to Treasure. That US box art is wild.

I‘m also one of the freaks who bought GameCube Ikaruga literally on day one, played it, kinda liked it and admired it and don’t regret it. But I'd rather play Einhander.


True story: the first time I went to try out _Alien Soldier_ years and years ago (maybe 20 years ago after hearing about it on OG IC) I thought my ROM was a hack or a crack after seeing the title screen and then the pre-game character setup/control test. It's something else!


Doesn't that have a late 90s crack scene splash screen vibe??

@"穴"#p118546 Stream it to the IC-Gaiden Discord some time. Not because we don't believe you, but because we want to cheer you on!


@“exodus”#p118602 yo la tengo is pretty famous

[I learned about Yo la Tengo because I bought the _Brain Candy_ soundtrack](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiw2VacT2rk&pp=ygUceW8gbGEgdGVuZ28gcGFibG8gYW5kIGFuZHJlYQ%3D%3D).