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A Brief Moment in Japanese History
It's not often that we can learn from video games. When Sega's MegaCD was released most developers were coming from computers to Sega's new console. Many games, and in fact it could be argued too many were simulations and games that would suit the developing audience: hardcore geeks with a taste for the intellectual. Mahjong sims and wargames and hex strategies were very popular, and most managed to teach while they entertained the few sad loners who bought into the platform.

It's saying something when even the platform's best shooter had a history lesson to offer. Luckily, for those of us who speak English, Tengen's otherwise despicable localization of Dennin Aleste (renamed Robo Aleste) kept the history lesson intact. Read on for an historically accurate version of ancient Japan.

Note: All the
white text (excepting section titles) is transcribed directly from the game.

Early Events Leading up to Aleste
Oda Nobunaga was a real Japanese leader in the 1500s, you may remember him from such popular Koei games as Nobunaga's Ambition. Born in 1534, Nobunaga was the first legitimate son of Oda Nobuhide, and thus the first real heir. Nobunaga becomes the master of Nagoya Castle at the age of five, sees his first military action at the age of thirteen, and is married off by his father at fifteen. When his father dies two years later (1551) Nobunaga begins a fierce battle against his own family for control of the Owari district.

What isn't mentioned in many history books is the methods and weapons used by Oda Nobunaga when he defeated his enemies to unite his corner of Japan.

Download the audio of the following narrative, and follow along! (5.6MB OGG file)




The Story of Oda Nobunaga
This story is set back in time, about 500 years. In this period, Japan was divided, into a large number of districts, where each warlord was desperately trying to expand his reign. The roaring sound of war, could be heard everywhere. Onin's battle in 1467 triggered a ruleless world, where the heirarchy of power meant nothing. Anarchy was the only thing which could be found.

But.

The arrival of a foreign ship, cast ashore by a storm on the distant southern island, influenced the war greatly.

A mechanized armoured soldier. Technology given by foreigners along with firearms enabled Japanese craftsmen to build an eight metre tall humanoid robot. Powered by a steam engine. This machine was so powerful that each one could stand against three hundred cavaliers.

The airship was another invention brought by westerners. It was no wonder that the highly sophisticated weapon spread throughout the country in no time. Countries which could not keep up with the rapid change lost their power, and were absorbed in the powerful stream.



Chaotic Demons of 1556
In the year 1556 the names of the eight strongest warlords who survived this chaotic time were: Nobunaga Oda, Shingen Takeda, Kenshin Uesugi, Motonari Moori, Doosan Saito, Motochika Chosokabe, Takahisa Shimazu, Yoshimoto Imagawa. Expecially Oda, of the Owari district, was expanding his power rapidly throughout the country, because of his demonic talents. In April of 1556, Oda's ally, Doosan Saito, was murdered by his son Yoshitatsu. And the balance of power became unstable.

               

At the time the news of Saito's death arrived at Oda's castle, the anti-Oda alliance was formed between the six most powerful warlors, Motonari Moori being the leader.

In the vicinity of Mikawa, Imagawa's army executed a fierce attack on Oda's loyal force, led by Shibata. Facing the overwhelming, absolute power of the Imagawa force, the Shibata army was demolished completely. Additionally, a report said that other allied forces were approaching from the North and the West, toward Oda territory. It seemed that Oda's fall would only be a matter of time.

However, he still had his final trump.

A Ninja army called... White Fang!


Concealing their existence in the mountains, these highly skilled ninjas specialized in manouvering their customized armoured soldier. The order was given by Nobunaga! Only they can overcome this desparate situation!

Here Endeth the Lesson
And that's where the player is left to his own devices. It's not well known that Japan had giant steam-powered robots and massive metal airships as early as the mid 1500s, but it's totally true. Sometimes accurate history can only be told outside the mainstream education system. And sometimes, but rarely, it takes the combined forces of Compile and Sega to bring us the truth.

As a personal aside, it was surprising to many people in Japan that I knew the names of several of the most famous Japanese generals. Surprise gave way to incredulity when I let it slip I learned these names from a video game. An English game, and a shooter, no less.



Dennin Aleste
This game is a real gem, one of the only standout titles to be released on the maligned SegaCD system. It lacks the raw energy of the cartridge game MUSHA (Aleste), but is much more polished. Dennin Aleste has levels that can be completed in a human lifetime, unlike MUSHA and its seemingly endless Toaplan stages.

The music is very good, though obviously rips off several popular songs of the day. The graphics, as you can see, are very good. There are few instances in this game where the player will be left uninspired. Compile pulled out all the stops, and the result is - arguably - the only game worth owning on the SegaCD.

Lawrence.