MegaDrive cover Are you seeing a pattern here? As a kid the only games I had to play were on my Genesis or on my Game Boy which is what I will focus on in most of my reviews. What I am about to review is one of the most highly praised shooters in the Genesis library and one of my favorite games of all time, Musha Aleste, or as it was named here in America, MUSHA: Metallic Uniframe Super Hybrid Armor. This game is a spin-off of the Aleste series of shmups from Compile, a sequel was also made for the Sega CD, Robo Aleste. But that is another review for another day.
Story: You play as Terri, a brave M.U.S.H.A. robot pilot defending Earth or whatever planet they live on from this crazy machine army. Your commander tells you to turn back, but your team is wiped out by a long range laser attack. It is up to you to take out the fucked up demon faced machine attack army and save...uhh...space? Earth?
Gameplay: This game is intense. It feels more like a bullet hell game to me, or the beginnings of that style of shmup. Every second you are barraged by swarms of enemies and bullets. I really like how flexible the weapon system is in this game, during play small little ships will fly on screen carrying capsules. Shoot the ship and it will drop 4 of these little flashing capsules, for every....I think 3 or 4 that you get you earn a little drone gun pod thing for added firepower. It is similar to the option guns used in the Gradius series but you only get to use two at a time and by collecting more of the little capsules you can raise the stockpile of drones. When your drone bumps into a wall or an enemy or a projectile it will break away from you and sputter around before exploding, which is why building your supply of drones is essential.
There are all sorts of ways to customize how the drones operate with a press of the A button. You can configure them to shoot forward, shoot in a 3 way formation, shoot behind you (not that useful imo), rotate around you shooting in all directions (again, not that useful), shooting in the opposite direction you're moving (VERY useful, plus it protects you from the front and back), and a free shot where it will lock onto an enemy to attack them (I don't use it too often but its fun to use on bosses when you have a few extra drones). I mainly found myself using the forward firing and reverse shot options. Forward firing protects you from the sides while reverse protects you from the front, and it is very helpful for sections where enemies are attacking to the sides.
You can increase the strength of your robot by collecting the same kinds of weapon upgrades, it might be difficult to pass up the chance to get that shield upgrade but it will be worth it when it is leveled up even more later on. The upgrade system is pretty much identical to the one used in Soldier Blade. There are 3 different weapon upgrades in addition to your main guns that can be used with a press of the B button. A red upgrade that sprays missiles and when fully leveled up shoots a bomb that makes a black hole, pulling all the enemies to it. A green upgrade that fires a fat laser of varying power depending on your level. And a blue upgrade that surrounds your robot in a protective shield and only when at full power can shoot large slow moving balls of energy, and it can destroy smaller weaker enemies that touch it. You can level up to level 4, so to get there you would need to collect 4 of any powerup in a row and THEN switch to a different weapon. Taking a few solid hits will destroy your weapon and knock you down a level.
The controls are very responsive. For the amount of options and guns for you to use adds a ton of depth to the game, each one is balanced enough to handle most situations. I like to try each run with a new configuration or weapon type for the situation (even though the fully powered shield seems pretty broken at times). By pausing the game you can adjust your ship speed, this game is very hectic so I prefer to have it on the fastest speed.
As far as difficulty goes I didn't find it too hard on normal. After a few days of practice I beat it in one life, and let me tell you, while it isn't too difficult I cant stress enough that you CANNOT DIE EVER. This game is very unforgiving when you die, you spent a whole stage powering up your guns to max? Too bad! You gotta start all over with even MORE shit flying at you. Hope you get lucky and get a shield or something.
mere seconds before the battleships owned me repeatedly Graphics: It's really amazing that a game released so early in the Genesis' lifespan could produce such rich visuals. This game is beautiful,with tons of layers of scrolling and rich detail in every inch of the game from your mech to the backgrounds to the bosses. I like to just sit through the title screen and watch the opening cutscene, it sets up the story with really detailed portraits of Terri and her commander inside their Musha robots. It looks beautiful and I even made a shot of it into my new blog header. The action is frantic and the amount of bullets and enemies on screen is breathtaking at times, with barely any slowdown. Stage 6 has quite a bit of it but that is perfectly fine. The most impressive stages to me visually are level 3,4, and 6. The scrolling is also very smooth.
the floor falling apart into the river of lava is a very impressive effect. Level 4 takes you above the clouds in a thunderstorm, with lightning effects and you can even see the silhouettes of enemies as they rise through the clouds. The whole thing is awesome. Level 3 takes place on a plain gray floor of large tiles, after fighting a large robot the tiles break apart and fall into a river of lava deep deep below you, the scrolling effects of the rocks and tiles as they fall to the lava is VERY impressive and its great how the setting changes so dramatically. Stage 6 is fairly plain, you are deep in enemy territory, lots of difficult enemies, you know you're getting close. Suddenly a monstrous grinning demon face comes into view that takes up half the screen, oh shit! It's a battleship, loaded with what seems like an endless amount of turrets and giant laser cannons, the assault is nonstop, you literally have no time to breathe. From what I have heard that battleship is over 10 screens long, and it isn't even the boss yet!
There is a HUGE variety of enemies that are thrown at you. You have your standard line of enemies that only exist to be killed instantly. Flaming skulls. Buddha faces that split open and shoot a giant laser. Ninja robots. Battleships loaded with turrets. Robots riding on jets. Robots that hang by the walls and shoot parallel. Wiggling snake robots. Robot bugs that shoot missiles. The list goes on, but what would a good shmup be without a host of awesome boss battles. Holy shit, the bosses in this game are crazy! There is an evil black and red robot that seems to be your main enemy since you fight him multiple times but he is a pushover, a mechanical face that vomits gears at you, a strange ball with two demon faces on it that splits open to reveal a robot demon. My personal favorite boss is the giant flying Noh mask with distended hands. It either tries to punch you, spray bullets or fire a laser. You fight it twice in level 5, after you defeat it the first time it covers its face and CRIES BLOOD. The second time you fight it the pattern changes. After you weaken it the mask breaks revealing is hideous true face! This, along with the enormous battleship from stage 6 take the cake. The level of detail and creativity in this game is stunning, Compile really worked some fucking magic with this hardware. I give the graphics an A+++
Sound: The music for this game is good. Some tracks are pretty catchy, with a fast hard rock style soundtrack it perfectly fits the tone of the game. While it doesn't have the overall level of musical quality that later Genesis games had it still sounds impressive for the year it was made. All your special weapons have their own unique sound and the explosions sound meaty and satisfying. I feel silly for not going too in depth with the sound portion but whatever. I give the sound a solid B.
Overall: PLAY THIS GAME. IMMEDIATELY.
If you are a fan of shmups or are looking to see a fine example of what the Genesis can do you owe it to yourself to play this. From what I hear it has already been released on the Virtual Console in Japan but not here which is a shame. This is a beautifully crafted game and arguably the best shmup on the system.
I give Musha 10 flaming mechanical skulls out of 10.
I apologize for the IMMENSE wall of text, I just love this game so much I couldn't help but gush about it.