Released two months before Aleste 2, Aleste Gaiden was released as part of the Disk Station Special Fall package, which also included the strange simulation game Children Wars. As the title implies, it’s a side-story to the Aleste saga, one that takes place in an alternate dimension. Rather than a spaceship, you control a soldier wearing a cyber ninja suit, codenamed Aleste, through a post-apocalyptic landscape. (You know this because the first stage literally has dozens of Statue of Liberty heads buried in the dirt.)
Compared to the other MSX shoot-em-up titles, Aleste Gaiden is a little on the simple side. There are only three types of power-ups – yellow shurikens, red flames, blue lasers – plus shadow Options. These power-ups come in capsules labeled with the Japanese symbol “chikara”, which means “power”. You can also jump, though it’s only used to jump over pits, and can’t be used to dodge bullets. You can run into the scenery without being harmed, unless you’re scrolled off the screen. It doesn’t feature the AI generated enemy patterns of the other games, and the placement is actually relatively sparse. You do get sent back to a checkpoint if you get killed, unless you’re fighting a boss.
The main sprite is small and lacking detail, but the bosses are much cooler looking. There are only five levels in total, including a few other futuristic bases and a Japanese-style stage. The music is pretty good, and one of the level themes was composed by Toshiaki Sakoda, who later did the music for MUSHA. Most of the other music tracks are taken from Golvellius.
On the surface, other than the name of the suit and the familiar level-end jingle, there doesn’t seem to be much of a relation to the main Aleste games. However, at the ending, it’s revealed that you’re actually playing as Ray Wizn, the hero of the first Aleste, and the enemy you’re fighting is the evil computer Dia 51, the enemy of many Aleste games.
Considering Aleste Gaiden wasn’t a full retail release, it’s not exactly fair to judge it against the standards of the other games. It is a little short and on the easy side, but it still maintains the core elements of a solid Compile shooter. It was also the start of another subseries that continues on Sega platforms, including MUSHA and Robo Aleste.