heiankyo alien

Meant to have a blog post done last week, but that had to wait. I ended up catching a really nasty cold, instead. Nasty to the point of losing my voice for several days, and spending all of Friday in bed, because I was so light-headed and dizzy that being off my feet for more than a few minutes didn’t end well for me.

But it all worked out. I’m feeling a bit better (my nose is still ungodly clogged, and I have a bit of a cough), and I managed to find a better subject to post about. This would have been its own special page on my site, but I got a new computer over the holidays, and as such, I’ve lost my completely legitimately purchased and honestly and ethically installed copy of Adobe Dreamweaver, so it’s a blog post. Besides, blog posts are the future. They were the past, but they’ll be the future again once people finally start listening to me. So let’s do a post about a video game!

Heiankyo Alien was a computer game, according to legend, hastily developed in 1979 by a group of college students at the University of Tokyo after a news reporter was disappointed to find out that they didn’t develop video games. But then a couple days later, the team came up with a game concept, which was apparently enough back in those days to get arcade manufacturers lined up to try and get a deal with you. Long story short, it became something of a success, and got a bunch of ports and remakes, which I’m going to be talking about here.

Now, I don’t have the original computer game, but that’s okay, because it runs like shit anyway. Instead, I have the arcade port that came out a year later.

And…it’s fine. It holds up fairly well for a game of its age, maybe not on the level of say, Space Invaders, but still good nonetheless. The object of this game is that you’re a cop running around the streets of an alien infested Heian-era Kyoto, digging holes, waiting for the aliens to fall into them, then burying them alive, joining Dig-Dug in the sub-genre of “gruesome ways to die presented as a cutesy fun arcade game.” Like I said, it’s still really fun, and totally playable today. A couple of complaints: aliens move really fast and erratically, while you move slowly and dig even slower. And unlike something like Pac-Man, there’s no set A.I for the aliens, either. They’re content to run around in any random direction they choose, which can be a problem when you have your pit defenses all set, only for the last couple aliens to fuck off to the other side of the level.

like so

Later on, we got to the real shit. A company called Meldac, which are responsible for Abarenbou Tengu/Zombie Nation on NES, which was…okay, I guess, and the fucking awesome Mercenary Force on Game Boy, did their own remake of Heiankyo Alien.

Now here’s something I don’t really talk about much, for whatever reason: I fucking love the original Game Boy library. There’s a whole list of stone cold classics that little brick had, and I would consider the GB port of Heiankyo Alien to be right up there. Ain’t even kidding; you got your Super Mario Land, your Link’s Awakening, your Batman, your Avenging Spirit, your Final Fantasy Legend 2, and then you got your Heiankyo Alien.

Fuck Tetris, this is the addicting puzzle game you need on your Game Boy/Game Boy emulator. Everything is faster now. Moving and digging is so much easier to pull off, leaving you more time to prepare your routing strategies and avoiding wandering aliens. Yes, the A.I is still entirely random, but the smaller screen size means it’s easier for them to get you. It also means it’s easier for them to fall into holes you dig. It’s a fast-paced, fun as hell game that you’ll find yourself playing for way longer than you expected. Plus there’s all these neat new gimmicks, like steel floors that prevent you from digging through them, walls that rise and fall to prevent/allow movement through them, and a boat that can take you to the opposite end of a map, but you need to wait for it to dock before you can hop on-board. It also comes with a slightly compromised port of the original arcade game, if you’re into that.

I cannot recommend Heiankyo Alien on Game Boy highly enough. Play it late at night, turn the sound down a little bit, turn up something a little heavy, and have a good time burying those aliens.

There was also an ad campaign in several magazines at the time. These ads were actually really good, especially given the time period, with all its in-your-face, my console’s dick is bigger than your console’s dick bullshit.

Really classy shit. It should be noted that these ads gave us the greatest line in copywriting history:

HEIANKYO ALIEN IS A GAME EVERYONE CAN ENJOY

There’s also a Super Famicom version of the game. It’s…there. I’m not a big fan. It looks nice, but it controls terribly, and the power-up system feels completely tacked on. Feels like it’s trying to be more like Bomberman than Heiankyo. Maybe try it out for five minutes, I don’t know.

That was how I knew Heiankyo Alien, as this really sick Game Boy game. Then, during this past week, I was informed that a new HA was released back in 2017, giving it a scoring system and aesthetic in the vein of Pac-Man Championship Edition. I threw the $13 the game cost right at my computer screen, hoping it would make the transaction go faster.

This is Heiankyo Alien 3671.

it’s a lot less confusing than it looks

You get five minutes to bury as many aliens as you can. You get score multipliers for walking around blocks, digging up hidden items, and burying aliens of the same color. It also includes the ability to distract aliens with a piece of candy, something planned, then cut, for the original computer game. The different songs included are all really good at getting into that “high-score zen” state of mind, including a hidden track you can find that’s done with the Yamaha 2612 chip, which is the same sound chip the Sega Mega Drive used. Again, it’s a very fun and addicting game that’s well worth your time, even if I think that the Game Boy game is superior due to its level design.

There’s some remade graphics, but I don’t like them as much as the old ones.

There’s not really much else to say about it other than it’s Heiankyo Alien, but with more stuff. Speaking of, there’s a greyed-out option on the main menu that caught my eye.

There was supposed to be an “idol version” of the game. I looked into it, and apparently, the Heian police officer would be replaced with one of the members of the idol group GUILDOLL. But since it’s now unplayable, with the only trance of its existence being a short WAV file of a GUILDOLL song, it’s clear that the deal ended up falling through.

This led to me actually looking up GUILDOLL, to see what they were all about. It looks like they’re not a particularly big or notable group, seeing as their shows all take place in these small venues.

Now, as someone who has been to many a small venue to check out local acts, there’s nothing really wrong with that, but you combine that tiny, intimate setting with the crowd, and there’s a problem. Watching these videos, you start to notice that there are a lot of male voices in that crowd. Older male voices. A lot of older men really excited to watch a group of young girls dance and lip-synch to a backing track. Now, I know about the grossness of “idol” culture, but it seems so much sadder and sinister when it’s happening in the kind of smoke-filled shithole I would have some drinks and listen to Ivory Circle or Danielle Ate The Sandwich in. Kind of fucked up.

But yeah, Heiankyo Alien. It rules, regardless of its format (Super Famicom not included), and you should play it.

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