Box Shot
Platform: Genesis
Publisher: Seismic
Designer: Compile
Genre: Shoot-em-up
Players: 1
Published Date 1992
Reviewed by: Rob Strangman

I love to play a good shooter. Normally, the type of shooter that I prefer is side scrolling, but there are some really good overhead shooters out there. One of the almost forgotten great overhead shooters of the 16-bit era was the first game in the Aleste series for the 16-bit systems (there are several other titles in the series with a variety of names), retitled M.U.S.H.A. here in the U.S. Much more interesting than, say, Strike Gunner S.T.G. (SNES) or D-Force (SNES), M.U.S.H.A. is an excellent addition to any shooter fan's library.

M.U.S.H.A. (Metallic Uniframe Super Hybrid Armor, just in case you were wondering) starts out with an excellent opening cinema (anime-style!) depicting the heroine of the game, Terri, and her squadron of fellow M.U.S.H.A. pilots attempting an attack on an enemy base. It seems that a supercomputer by the name of Dire 51 has gone haywire and must be destroyed. As the mechs approach the base, they're suddenly picked off one by one - all but Terri. She informs the squad commander that she's going in. The squad leader (who's about to die anyway) has one last order for Terri: "RETREAT NOW! Don't play hero!" Terri, of course, disobeys the order, and what follows is one of the best overhead shooters that I have ever had the pleasure of playing.

Instead of piloting the same old spaceship through hordes of aliens through outer-space or exotic plants, M.U.S.H.A. instead resembles old Japan with advanced technology. It's very strange and is bound to appear out of place for anyone with a close mind, but it's cool in a quirky sort of way. Heck, your mech's main weapon even look like Japanese throwing knives (a type of shuriken.) Plus your mech armor is a refreshing change from an advanced, sleek starfight or anything like that.

There are eight long stages in the game, starting off with the assault on the base from the opening, and finally ending with a fight to death against Dire 51's mech form. When he finally shows his face, you realize that this is the annoying mech who's popped up repeatedly throughout the game! It's nice to finally be able to take the bastard down permanently.

The power up system for you main gun is a bit similar to the power up system from Power Strike, a very early Compile game for the Sega Master System (in fact, the title screen music is the same as Power Strike. Strange...) Anyway, pods will drift along carrying power-up pellets. Shoot the pods and collect the pellets - normally, two or three will fall out. Your gun will eventually be able to shoot a spread of bullets. The other weapons are similar to Power Strike as well. There is a laser cannon, a rotating energy field and a black hole bomb (all represented by green, blue, and red powerups, respectively). The more powerups that you pick up for a particular item, the larger it gets (the laser in particular can get downright huge!). Getting hit will result in the destruction of your special weapon, and you'll be blown up if hit when unarmed. You also can have two optionlike ships attacking alongside you - be warned: they're easily destroyed. They shoot out bullets of their own, and can't be powered up. Their AI can be configured with though...try setting them to rotate around your mech, fly around in their own will, stay in front of you for a bit of extra firepower, and a few other formations. You can also stockpile these for later use.

Graphically, M.U.S.H.A. is a treat. Everything is extremely well-detailed, and some of the effects are spectacular, similar to what the SNES's Mode 7 function performed. Considering that this is on the Genesis, which didn't have those kinds of capabilities, that's saying a lot. Particularly impressive is a scene in Stage 3, where after destroying a mini boss, the floor suddenly drops out from beneath you, tile by tile. . . and it's a looong way down.

The music is some of the best I've ever heard for a shooter, only being surpassed by the music from the Gradius games. There's a sound test available in the options, so you can listen to all the tracks. The control is very good as well - the speed of your mech is adjustable, and the controls themselves are very tight.

M.U.S.H.A. is simply one of the best overhead shooters ever. It's too bad that the Aleste series has been almost forgotten in this age of 3-D madness and anti-shooter propaganda (thank you, Next Generation magazine). Two other official Aleste games were released here - Space Megaforce (SNES) and Robo Aleste (Sega CD), however, I personally feel that M.U.S.H.A. is superior to them both. It would be nice to see a modern update to M.U.S.H.A., a la Einhander (PSX) or R-Type Delta (PSX). The closest to that we'll probably get right now is Raystorm (PSX) or Radiant Silvergun (Saturn), but that's not quite close enough to what M.U.S.H.A. was. At any rate, M.U.S.H.A. is a lost classic. If you love shooters and you can track down a copy, then do whatever it takes to get it. You won't regret it - trust me.