Gamers of a certain age will have fond memories of Super Aleste on the SNES console. It was fast, fun, and it had graphics and sound to die for and a fantastic weapon upgrade system. It had variety. It had style. And now it has a mobile phone sibling.
Looking puzzled? For those of you who've never heard of it, Aleste is a Japanese vertically-scrolling shoot 'em up. You pilot the titular and futuristic Aleste aircraft, viewing the action from above as bad guys come at you from the top of the screen. You maneuver in four directions trying to shoot them while attempting to avoid getting blown out of the sky.
The scenery constantly scrolls along below you, and at the end of each level a boss character appears that spews out bullets like they were going out of fashion. Destroying a boss clears the stage, and you move onto the next level.
Simple, eh? But that's not all. Better weapons are acquired by destroying power-up carrying enemies and quite an impressive arsenal, the hallmark of this series, can be obtained to see off the invading alien scum.
And now, ten years on, Aleste is available on your teeny tiny mobile. That's progress for you.
The mobile game looks excellent. It's not quite up there with its SNES big brother (there's no really fancy graphics effects for starters) but it's all drawn beautifully, moves with no slowdown whatsoever, and gives a great sense of speed through its fast scrolling vertical backgrounds.
Controls are tight, and your movement is responsive and weighted just right to make nipping around with the navigation stick and avoiding enemy attacks a cinch.
Essentially you have to shoot everything, and there's certainly some variety in the upgradeable weaponry on offer, from directional shots to homing missiles and protective shields. There's an all-but obligatory auto fire too, of course, and this works well.
Weapon power-ups drop down from the generous special enemies you destroy, meaning you can just move left or right along the bottom of the screen to grab them. In contrast, catching the eight different weapon capsules is slightly harder due to them moving up the screen rather than down, and so demanding some risky flying to obtain. This difficulty can actually prove a godsend though, since grabbing the wrong type of power-up will change your current weapon and reduce you to level one potency. Nasty.
So, Aleste's great then? Well, yes and no.
There are problems. Firstly, the lack of variety is criminal. There are three basic areas – earth-based scenery, an asteroid, and a mechanical trench. That's it. When these areas have been cleared, you're sent back to the start with slight variations so as to increase your score.
That's not all. There's not a huge amount of variety in the enemy types. You'll have seen nearly everything the game can throw at you in the first ten minutes of play. When compared to previous Aleste incarnations, or practically any other game of its ilk, it seems pretty cheap.
Then there's the obligatory bosses at the end of each stage. On our beloved SNES version, the bosses were an event. They had personality. They all looked different. They even spoke! You had to work out their attack patterns and weak spots to defeat them.
The mobile version is drastically cut down and arguably far too easy. Bosses vary only in the placement of their gun turrets making them all look the same, and they are easily defeated by even a moderately powered-up ship.
So, what to make of it all? If you're a casual user, this may be your first encounter with the Aleste series. On a phone, it's certainly a great distraction, but you might not find yourself playing it all that much once you've seen everything. Which won't take long. There are also plenty of alternatives in the genre to choose from.
For the Aleste die-hards like ourselves? Well, it certainly feels like Aleste and this is perhaps its greatest achievement. But it lacks the variety, attention to detail and dare we say it, imagination that we expect of a series with a pedigree as great as this.