Archive for January, 2011

Aliens Walkthrough, The Shocking Finale

Friday, January 14th, 2011

[This is the final entry in a quick walkthrough for Square’s unreleased Aliens game for the Famicom Disk System. Part 1 is here; Part 2 is here.]

Before I finish things up here, let’s have a look at the only version of Square’s Aliens that saw a commercial release. Above is a video from the MSX home computer edition of Aliens, released in 1987 in Japan and in Europe.

Though the game’s structure is largely the same in both the FDS and the MSX versions, there are some key differences between the two. Weapons have limited ammunition in the MSX game, for one thing — a somewhat pointless change, since new gun pickups are so plentiful. If anything, it would’ve prevented players from holding on to a favorite weapon for too long. There’s also an enemy radar that isn’t present in the FDS game — another inconsequential addition, as it doesn’t show off-screen enemies.

On the other hand, the MSX version of the game is made much easier by the fact that enemies don’t spew life-draining acid after you kill them. The gameplay mechanics appear smoother, too. The jumping is less awkward, and there’s an actual rolling mechanic — with dedicated frames of animation and everything! — eliminating the need to jackhammer the jump button to crawl under low ceilings.

It’s difficult to say which version of Aliens was intended to be released first, or if both editions were developed concurrently. It’s likely, though, that the FDS version was incomplete when it was scrapped, and the MSX game’s enhancements resulted from additional development time.

Anyway, to level 3!

Sorry to say it, but level 3 is mostly unremarkable. There are far fewer doors here than in level 2 (thank god), and it’s much more action-focused.

…which, in this game’s case, means that enemies now spawn in groups of three or four at a time. It’s pretty annoying, but nothing that can’t be overcome with rampant savestate abuse.

Hey, a fellow human! What’s up man!

Well. This is awkward.

(Side note: if you die while a chestbursted human is on-screen, a glitchy chunk of his flesh will follow you back to the beginning of the level, and will float in front of you until you enter a door.)

No level would be complete without at least a few doors that take you back to the starting point. Hopefully you know better by now.

This is where the game really changes things up and delivers something unexpected!

Nah, just kidding.

The same strategy applies here as in level 2. Rush behind the queen, and shoot her until she’s dead.

And now, the final level.


Aliens Walkthrough, Part 2

Saturday, January 8th, 2011

[This is the second part of a quick walkthrough for Square’s unreleased Aliens game for the Famicom Disk System. Part 1 is here.]

Welcome to level 2! Before we continue, here’s another bit of trivia discovered recently at Lost Levels — the background music in Aliens was composed by Nobuo Uematsu, who would later create music for first dozen or so games in Square’s Final Fantasy series.

(NES-wise, he also wrote the catchy main theme from 3-D WorldRunner and the excellent “track 3” from Rad Racer.)

Shortly after starting level 2, this is what you’ll see. But wait! It gets better.


First of all, note that Ripley enters the room on top of a wall-mounted alien for some automatic and unavoidable damage. The bigger problem, though, is oh my god so many doors.

Might as well get started.

Remember to keep holding up on the d-pad when you exit! This is instant death, otherwise.

The remaining doors offer a random combination of progress, backtracking, and death. The one you want is this one.

You’ll end up here.

And you’ll want to take this door…

…which leads to here. After that, all you need to do is jump over to the door on the left.

And that pleasant little slice of hell is now over with. At least, that is, until you lose a life, in which case you’ll have to do it all over again. Don’t take that next door, by the way — it leads right back into the maze.

Halfway through the level, you’ll find a 1-up. This is where I discovered that, for whatever reason, there are multiple 1-up icons. Here’s the space fish, previously seen in level 1.

Then there’s the space puppy.

And finally, the space snail. Space is such a fun place.


Aliens (Square/Activision, Unreleased)

Thursday, January 6th, 2011

Did you know that Activision and Square once partnered to release a game based on James Cameron’s 1986 sci-fi action movie Aliens? Are you aware that it was released for the MSX home computer, and that a port for the Famicom Disk System was completed but never released? Do you care that a prototype copy of this unreleased FDS port was recently discovered and is available for download here?

Honestly, this is something I never thought I’d get to play. The world’s only known copy of Aliens for the FDS popped up in a Yahoo Japan auction a few months back, where it was bought by a private collector for a stupidly large sum of money. In many similar cases with unreleased prototype games, this is where the story would end.

A few days ago, however, “Yuki” at the No-Intro forums released a disk image of the game, commenting later that “I bought this FDS from the collector who went mad.” How much was paid? “Oceans of money.” Yikes.

(Yuki also regularly tracks down and buys sealed copies of FDS games, just to ensure clean disk image rips [trivia: an FDS game is automatically corrupted in some way once it’s been played for the first time, as save files and other changes are permanently written to the disk]. It’s a ridiculously expensive undertaking for an act of preservation that very few people know about or appreciate. Yuki is awesome, basically.)

The game itself is gloriously bad. It’s not so overwhelmingly awful as to be no fun; it has just enough quirk to inspire you to keep playing, just to see what bad design decisions await you in later levels. It could have easily stood alongside Predator, Rambo, and other not-unplayably terrible games that were released for the Nintendo Entertainment System during its lifespan.

For your consideration: this is how high your character is able to jump. Note that this is only possible with a deep, full press of the A button — tapping it only scoots Ripley across the ground. You’re eventually able to upgrade your jump by collecting power-ups…which disappear every time you lose a life. And losing a life is really easy to do, because…

…every enemy sprays acid all over the damn place after you kill it, damaging Ripley if she’s in close proximity. Problem: enemies appear so suddenly that they’re always in close proximity. It’s not uncommon to be damaged by an unexpected enemy and to then absorb another couple of hits after killing it.

So, after losing a few lives, you start blasting every single enemy and egg you see, leaping away in panic after firing every shot, so as to not to be showered with acid from exploding aliens. You soon discover a few new power-ups.

There are several different kinds of grenades. You can throw them by holding up and pressing the B button. In any other game, you might use them to take out faraway groups of enemies.

In this game — in which many aliens introduce themselves by teleporting in front of your face — grenades are basically worthless.

The invincibility item is more useful, especially since you can collect and store up to three of them at once. Activating it is easy and intuitive — simply hold up, then hold A, and while you’re at the top of your jump, tap B.

(By the way, the Select button? It does nothing.)

Here’s the game’s first major obstacle. Even if you collect every single jump upgrade available to this point, you still won’t be able to jump over this wall.

The solution? Hold A, then hold up on the d-pad. You’ll do a silly-looking somersault and appear at the top of the cliff. This move is required throughout the game, and even when you know how to pull it off, it only activates a fraction of the time. The real fun is when you have to do it over a bottomless pit!

Equally fun is the crawling mechanic, which is required to pass under low ceilings. You can slowly crawl by ducking, holding left or right, and rapidly tapping the jump button. Like, really rapidly, to the point where it feels like you’re doing something the game doesn’t want you to do.

You’re almost there! Did you remember to collect all three jump power-ups? If not, you will die here, and you’ll have to start again from the very beginning.

Soon, you will learn to hate doors.