When people talk Sega CD, the discussion in my experience tends to stick to just a handful of topics... Working Designs games, FMV mistakes, Snatcher, and Keio Flying Squadron. However, the system had quite a few solid shooters localized outside of Keio, and while most aren't particularly cheap per se, they deserve a bit more recognition. Robo Aleste is one of those games that is often overshadowed by those marquee collector's pieces, not to mention its own cousin, MUSHA. Still, it's a high quality blaster worth a closer look.
As everyone knows from basic world history, warring ninja clans typically did battle in giant robots flying through the sky. In that respect, Robo Aleste is a remarkably faithful historical reinactment of one of these ancient conflicts. You control the mighty Aleste, shooting your way through vertically scrolling, ninja-laden stages in an effort to bring peace to the world by blowing everyone else to hell. Fortunately, the Aleste is a capable destroyer like other vaunted robots, such as Go Nagai's Getter Robo and La Cosa Notroid's Bitch Magnet.
The game plays out very much like MUSHA before it, as you collect falling capsules that gradually accumulate to raise the level of your main forward fire, which resembles grouped shuriken. You also have a secondary weapon represented by colored orbs. Collecting multiple of the same color will make your weapons more effective, and can level three times. I prefer the yellow orb, which turns your options into homing attack shields that can tear even strong foes to pieces in seconds while absorbing bullets they hit along the way, but there are others such as a laser that are useful as well. Dying costs you your power-ups, and even though they can be quickly rebuilt, it can be tough to rebuild the secondary weapon you like.
Graphically, the game is quite colorful, with huge bosses and occasional scaling effects. The backgrounds can get a little muddier and earthy at times, but overall it still has a slick arcade flavor, good music, and smooth control. I like games like this that allow you to manually change your speed for situational dodging or precision, as it lets the player decide how the Aleste feels. The Aleste itself is bigger than the MUSHA Aleste, though, which comes with a bigger hit box and increased challenge. Still what's here is pretty fair, and it's still easier than a lot of shooters.
Robo Aleste is a nice, polished little game that does what it sets out to do correctly, and its biggest weakness is the goofy-sounding narrator. Any MUSHA or shooter fan will find something to like here, and it should be a part of any arcade fan's Sega CD experience.