Just finished Heiankyo Alien for GB. A 20 seconds intro explains everything you need to know to start playing it; Aliens invade medieval Japan and a solitary police office armed with his trusty shovel must defeat the invaders. You would expect something more appropriate than a shovel but then you would ruin the strongest point of this title, and that is its mechanics. In a top down perspective, you control the officer as he runs around the town of Kyoto digging holes in the ground hoping for inattentive aliens to fall inside. Then, once you have one trapped, proceed to bury it alive.
It’s not that easy of a task as the aliens move fairly quickly, some of them will actively pursue you and they can also help each other, pulling their fallen comrades out of your ditches. Plus, of course they eat you in a split second if you’re not fast enough or if you get cornered against a wall.
You can fill the entire city with holes if you find that a better, safer strategy (it’s likely not, as you can’t jump over holes yourself, the more holes there is, more opportunities for you to get cornered and eaten) but if you’re paying attention to the score you’ll soon realize aliens caught on a freshly dug hole is worth way more than one caught in one you dug minutes ago. So you soon find yourself digging more strategically. Quality over quantity is the motto of this Japanese police officer.
This game could be incredibly difficult if it wasn’t for how lenient it is with the number of lives you start with (5) plus the ones you get after a certain number of points. It’s not too lenient though since if you get eaten, all the aliens on the stage reappears and you have to bury them all over again. One interesting thing about the GB version is how you can play the original arcade version of the game by selecting [old] on the menu. It’s the very bare bones version of 1980.
Music is very nice and engaging and the graphics are sharp and cute. A couple of cut scenes will keep you entertained between levels. The only thing I disliked is how short it is. It felt like just as I was starting to get really good with my shovel the Aliens throw the towel and fly away. Then all you have left is to replay the game trying to get a better score. I finished a little under 100k points myself and got killed 4 times. There’s a lot of room for improvement there. Of course you can always play the arcade version but I don’t think I’m going to do that.
Overall I really enjoy it. It’s one of those title where the mechanics is the entire point of the game, pretty much like Pac man, Tetris or boulder dash (the last one been the next game I’ll try). I recommend to play this on an actual handheld, If you have a PSP or maybe a DS lying around, install an emulator on it and give it a shot. GB/GBC titles emulate perfectly these days and there’s plenty of interesting stuff to explore, including Heiankyo Alien.