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Psycho Soldier – Hardcore Gaming 101

Psycho Soldier – Hardcore Gaming 101

After releasing Athena, SNK apparently determined that they appreciated the character a lot that they’d re-use her in a totally totally different recreation. The result’s Psycho Soldier, which takes the Greek goddess and re-imagines her as a psychic pop idol preventing demons in modern-day Japan – fairly the change! Inside the context of the story, this “new” character, Athena Asamiya, is the distant descendant of the heavenly one, and whose inherited powers are slowly revealing themselves. The sport gives two-player simultaneous play, as Athena fights alongside a brand new character, the Chinese language martial artist Kensu (later spelled Kensou), who can also be her guitarist. The idea is that aliens have invaded the planet and made their houses deep inside the Earth’s crust, so the 2 troopers use their talents to battle again. Take into account that the phrase “psycho” in Japanese is nearer to the which means of the phrase “psychic”, fairly than the widespread native English utilization, which is brief for “psychopath”.

Psycho Soldier performs lots like Capcom’s SonSon, which had been launched a pair years prior. It’s a mix of a shooter and a platformer, with the display being divided into 4 flooring. The display is consistently scrolling ahead, and you may bounce between ranges by urgent up or down. Whereas SonSon was pretty stark and simplistic, the levels listed here are extra concerned right here, with many extra obstacles to keep away from and gaps within the flooring. 

The heroes can assault with their common psychic beams, in addition to an assault referred to as the Psycho Ball. These are in restricted quantity, although they rotate round your character, as much as 4 at a time – extras are saved on the backside of the display, although you’ll be able to truly maintain greater than could be displayed, as much as 18 complete. The balls technically can take up projectiles, however since there are giant gaps between them, they typically fail to do their job. When thrown, their impact will depend on the extent of the “energy” gauge – in its default type, the ball might be shot ahead after which cut up upwards and downwards when it hits one thing, however in stronger types, it could bounce round, and even penetrate straight by means of objects and enemies. If a ball manages to dam an enemy projectile, it should sap a little bit of power. Everytime you’re killed, you re-enter the display as a flying UFO, capable of zoom across the display and zap something with abandon, till you flip again into human type and find yourself restricted as soon as once more by the legal guidelines of gravity.

The degrees are crammed with destructible bricks, which cover a lot of the power-ups. (Aside from the primary character, that is the one actual relation to the unique Athena arcade recreation.) Aside from the additional psycho balls and power enhancing beams, you may also discover swords to extend the power of your primary beam weapon, gadgets that flip all the things within the display into power-ups, beams that sap your power, and arrows that improve or lower the quantity (and problem) of the enemies within the degree. Each as soon as in awhile, you’ll come throughout a inexperienced egg – in case your power is just too low, this can simply burst little caterpillar enemies, but when it’s close to max, it can reveal an merchandise that may trigger your character to rework into a big beast. Athena will morph right into a phoenix, whereas Kensu will flip right into a dragon. In both case, you’ll be able to fly up and down the display and blast enemies with their hearth assaults. Right here, your power gauge acts as a life meter – as soon as it runs out, you’re again in human type. In two-player mode, the human may also hop on the again on the reworked character.

There are numerous points which flip Psycho Soldier into a particularly troublesome recreation. This isn’t a shocker for many 80s arcade titles, since that’s a given, however many are distinctive to this title, simply because there are’t very many prefer it. In a typical shoot-em-up, you have got a full 360 levels of movement to be able to transfer round and dodge enemies. Right here, you’ll be able to solely leap between 4 planes. That might be fantastic if enemies had the identical restrictions, however they don’t, typically utilizing unfold projectiles which are extremely troublesome to dodge. The visible layouts of the stage make it straightforward to only concentrate on threats instantly in your degree, however enemies on different flooring can bounce between them, typically taking you abruptly should you’re not cautious. Couple that with the truth that there are numerous partitions and different obstacles that impede motion, and it could possibly grow to be very claustrophobic. The degrees are additionally fairly lengthy, and pretty repetitive, although this isn’t that totally different than a mean shoot-em-up from 1987.

Including to the problem, each time you assault, you cease in your tracks for a cut up second. Many enemies take a number of hits to kill, as do the blocks you want to destroy, so the entire recreation has type of a uneven feeling to it. It’s significantly to your profit to seek out (and hold discovering) the sword power-up, because it ensures that you simply’re robust sufficient to destroy most blocks, and beat most enemies, with only a shot or two. Theoretically, the psycho balls ought to assist treatment this, however their assaults aren’t actually robust sufficient to be helpful, no less than on the default power degree. Plus, whenever you die, you each lose all your psycho balls AND your power drains utterly, along with dropping power-ups. Energy-ups are prevalent so long as you retain destroying blocks, however demise continues to be a serious setback. The sport was clearly balanced for two-players, so single participant is a reasonably tough time.

Regardless of its toughness, Psycho Soldier continues to be fairly respectable, particularly owing to its visuals. They’re a bit gaudy, however they provide the sport a robust a visible id. Every of the six ranges has its personal theme too, starting from ruined cities, decrepit sewers, dank volcanoes, the misplaced metropolis of Atlantis (!!), and the organic headquarters of the aliens themselves, which might have come out of Contra. There are bosses on the finish of every stage, and whereas the primary few are principally giant buildings you must destroy (a la SonSon), later areas have giant foes that must be destroyed, a few of that are gigantic multi-segmented creatures. 

However one of many largest attracts of the sport (and the rationale why Athena is a pop idol and never only a psychic schoolgirl) is the inclusion of a vocal music. Technically this isn’t the primary arcade recreation to function one, as that credit score goes to the Journey arcade recreation launched in 1983. Nevertheless, that title cheated a bit as a result of the cupboard simply had a tape that performed the music. (It additionally wasn’t launched in Japan.) Psycho Soldier as an alternative performs its theme with the arcade board itself, with the devices rendered in FM synth, and the sampled vocals carried out by way of PCM. The sound high quality is clearly fairly low, nevertheless it truly is an extremely catchy track. A full size, non-game model of the track was included on cassette tape with the Famicom model of Athena.

The music known as, appropriately, “Psycho Soldier”, and is sung by actual life (and up-and-coming on the time) J-pop singer Kaori Shimizu, who additionally offers Athena’s voice samples. The sport was launched abroad, with the track (and a lot of the voices) translated into English. The singer for this model isn’t the perfect, to place it properly, sound fairly amateurish. Additionally they actually translated the phrase “Athena ikimasu!” (belted out each time you respawn) as “Athena, I will go”…which is technically correct, however isn’t even remotely pure English. One thing like “Let’s go Athena!” would’ve sounded higher. 

By the way, the peppy theme track and cutesy characters are utterly betrayed by the darkish, virtually post-apocalyptic setting. The heroes do placed on an impromptu live performance on the ending, even that includes one of many enemies as a back-up dancer – how good that they labored issues out!

Psycho Soldier by no means fairly had the identical attain as Athena, as a result of it by no means obtained a house port, at the very least in Japan – a Famicom port was deliberate however canceled earlier than it was even proven. Then again, it did see launch on a handful of European residence computer systems, for the Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, and ZX Spectrum. The visuals are clearly an enormous step down in all variations, and Athena is now blond, for some purpose, at the least within the variations which might be in shade. The Commodore 64 model is one of the best of those, comparatively talking, although with out the identical velocity or density of enemies, it doesn’t fairly really feel proper. Two participant mode is gone too, and a lot of the bosses are lacking, so that you simply have to destroy a wall on the finish of the stage. That is the one model that has music too. Clearly they will’t replicate the vocals, and far of the soundtrack outdoors of the primary theme is minimize out anyway. 

The Amstrad CPC model appears just like the Commodore 64 model, however it’s a lot worse – not solely is it extremely sluggish and uneven, however the display doesn’t scroll in any respect. As an alternative, it makes use of flip screens, and it’s worthwhile to stroll ahead manually to advance. The ZX Spectrum model has the right scrolling and higher velocity, although it’s simplified even additional, primarily as a result of there are solely three flooring as an alternative of 4. 

The pc variations are principally recognized for its ridiculously 80s cowl artwork, which renders Athena as a buff fantasy warrior ladies – kind of like Chun-Li as performed by Adrienne Barbeau – as an alternative of a pink haired faculty woman. 


For a very long time, Psycho Soldier was a forgotten little bit of historical past, solely actually referenced because the origin of Athena and Kensou in The King of Fighters collection. Nevertheless, an emulated model of the sport seems on the SNK Classics Vol. zero assortment for the PSP. This was solely launched in retail type in Japan, although in North America and Europe, the video games have been damaged up and distributed individually as PSP Minis on the PSN. It’s an almost good port, although the sport pauses briefly mid-game each time a brand new piece of music is loaded, and it’s lacking ad-hoc help, so there’s no multiplayer in any respect. This makes it unattainable to play as Kensu, since he can solely be managed by the second participant. The SNK 40th Anniversary Assortment for the Change consists of an emulated port as properly, which helps you to change between areas to listen to each variations of the theme music.

Screenshot Comparisons


Commodore 64


Amstrad CPC

ZX Spectrum


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