Aleste Collection: M2 on its upcoming 8-bit shooter compilation

Japanese developer M2 has built its reputation on crafting superb ports of classic games, beginning with Gauntlet IV in the 1990s up to its immaculate Sega Ages on the Nintendo Switch. Its recently announced Aleste Collection, though, might just be one of the most niche projects it’s embarked on so far: it gathers together a string of 8-bit shooters released for the Sega Master System and Game Gear from the late eighties and early nineties which few will have heard of outside hardcore shoot-’em-up fan circles.

This PS4 and Nintendo Switch collection of cult shooters was announced shortly before the Tokyo Game Show, but M2 saved the big guns for the show itself. As well as bringing together four of Compile’s 8-bit titles – that’s Power Strike (known as Aleste in Japan), Power Strike II, GG Aleste, and GG Aleste II (confusingly, also known as Power Strike II in the west) – the Aleste Collection will also include GG Aleste 3.

Yes, M2 is producing a new Aleste title that could, in theory at least, run on the Sega Game Gear’s decades-old hardware; the game will even be playable on a white version of the Game Gear Micro device, which will come bundled with the Limited Edition collection available exclusively in Japan.

Keen to know more, we got in touch with M2’s PR department, and they were kind enough to give us a bit more detail on this likeably niche set of titles. First, anyone who played Power Strike and its sequel on the Master System will remember the odd bit of slowdown and sprite flicker that reared its head when too many bullets or enemies crowded the screen; well, M2 has good news on that front: “Options to fix the technical issues of the originals are among our priorities,” says M2. There’ll also be the option to switch between Power Strike’s PSG and FM sound – a nice touch, since the latter (superior) sound was only widely available to Japanese Master System owners in the eighties.

Power Strike II, once a European Master System exclusive, will also run at the equivalent speed to the 50Hz original – so players in 60Hz TV regions who’ve only played the game at an insanely rapid tempo will also get to experience the shooter as Compile originally intended. “Takayuki ‘Jemini’ Hirono, the original creator of Power Strike II, told us that he specifically intended the game to be run in 50Hz, so we’re conforming to that,” M2 told us.

M2’s remaining tight-lipped about GG Aleste III – but the glimpse of the game we’ve seen so far hints at a chunky, fast-paced blaster that pushes the Game Gear to its limits. Here’s a video:

Meanwhile, M2’s also working on Aleste Branch – a major new entry in the Aleste series – and there’s an update on that one, too: it was originally planned for release this autumn, but M2 has now announced that it’s pushing the launch back to allow more time for refinement. Studio boss Naoki Horii has stated that the game will only come out “when the staff is confident about its quality”; in a recent live stream, he also recalls that no less an authority than Horishi Lushi – creator of Radiant Silvergun and Ikaruga – play-tested a build of Aleste Branch and “gave a lengthy lecture on what qualifies as an Aleste game for, like, 256 hours.” Sounds like M2’s Aleste revival needs just a little more time in the oven.

The Aleste Collection launches on 24 December in Japan. There’s currently no plan for a physical release in the west.

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