Saturday, April 17, 2010

Heiankyo Alien Is A Game Everyone Can Enjoy

In the early 1990's, Japanese game publishers were still figuring out how to market their titles in the West.  Despite the classical Asian brushwork, this ad for Meldac's Heiankyo Alien on the Nintendo Game Boy was not one of the more successful attempts:

Perhaps if the ad had just called it a JAPANESE MASTERPIECE and left it that, it could have worked in a kind of neo-minimalist fashion.  A few curious gamers would likely have taken a closer look.

But the dense, oddly translated ad copy at the bottom rambles on at length, and still utterly fails to provide any compelling reason why we should buy this game, or even to describe the gameplay.  The fine red text on a yellow background is hard to read, so I will transcribe it here (and add paragraph breaks):


1,000 years ago, an army of malicious Aliens invaded the peaceful city of Kyoto, forcing the villagers into an endless battle with unwelcomed visitors.

This is the much talked about video game that took Japan by a storm 10 years in Japan.  The sound quality of this game uses the latest in high technology called Multi Matrix Sound System (MMSS).  

With this new Heiankyo Alien game made for Game Boy, you'll be able to enjoy 2 different versions -- the ultimate fun in New and endless fun in Old.  This added bonus of 2 games in 1 will make your playing more enjoyable.

In addition, a new feature available only on Game Boy software is the 2 player opponent mode.  By connecting the 2 Game Boys, 2 players can now enjoy playing this highly sophisticated game.

Heiankyo Alien is a game everyone can enjoy.

So all the ad really tells us is that we will be fighting aliens, by some means as yet to be determined, possibly indefinitely, while listening to the presumably pleasing hi-tech emanations of the Multi Matrix Sound System, whatever that may be.  There are some screenshots which provide a few hints about the game concept, but the ad doesn't even display the game on the Game Boy unit at the left; a blank screen tends to mean something's wrong in Western culture.

It's a shame, because Heiankyo Alien is in fact a decent game -- it was an arcade hit in Japan way back in 1980, and its dig-a-hole, bury-the-alien gameplay predates Lode Runner (although the perspective is different.)

Sometimes it's all in the marketing.

Heiankyo Alien is a game everyone can enjoy, perhaps; but it did not take America by a storm 10 years in America.

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