HEIANKYO ALIEN is an action game created by the University of Tokyo Theoretical Science Group (TGS).
Although originally released as a PC game in November 1979, the game in reality caused the most impact when it was released as an arcade game two months later courtesy of the DENKI ONKYO Corporation.
HEIANKYO ALIEN introduced a brand new and innovative gameplay concept that made it a hit at the Japanese game centers, eventually becoming one of the most popular and influential arcade games of its generation.
■STORY & GAME INFORMATION
The time is 1,000 years ago, way back in the Heian Age. The peaceful city of KYO is suddenly invaded by Aliens! A Kebiishi (knight of the past) is entrusted to defend the city. He decides to confront the terrible Aliens in a bold plan to bury the dreaded beasts alive!
People are being horribly devoured bite by bite by the Aliens as they ravage down MIYAKO OOJI (The city's main street). Without even a Hinawaju (a type of firearm) to shoot the Aliens, the Kebiishi has no choice but to try and bury the Aliens alive! He sets himself to the task, digging a hole on the road where the Aliens are headed.
Then he hides and waits... Should any Alien fall into a hole, he must quickly bury it before it can climb back out. In this game, you are to play the role of the Kebiishi trying to defend the city.
You now know that you fight not only for your own survival, but also for the people of your city of KYO. Take your shovel, and go do battle with the man-eating Aliens!!
■HOW TO PLAY
● Game Controls :
4-WAY Joystick... Character movement.
DIG Button... Hold down to dig a hole in the ground.
FILL Button... Hold down to fill in a dug hole.
● 2 Player Mode Switch... Select the type of 2 player game you want to play :
The gameplay in HEIANKYO ALIEN will take place inside a maze with 9 different layout patterns. Your goal in the game is to defeat the fierce alien invaders by trapping them inside holes that you can dig around the maze.
When an alien falls into one of your holes, you must get to it quickly and fill it back up before the alien has the chance to crawl out on its own or with the help from another alien.
If you can manage to bury all the aliens in the area, you will clear the round and move to the next one. Make one mistake in your task and you'll get eaten alive by the aliens...
Furthermore, if you are unable to defeat an alien within a certain time limit (about 3 minutes approximately), an overwhelming swarm of aliens will arrive on screen, thus making it impossible for you to clear the round regardless of how many lives you have left.
The「AKIBA DIG」is one of the many techniques that became very popular among the arcade gamers of the time.
The game's very original name input screen.
You will score points for every alien buried, and the quicker you bury the alien after it falls into the hole, the more points you will score.
Every maze pattern will also give you a chance to score a special 1000PTS bonus. I'm still uncertain about the exact conditions of this bonus, but it seems to be related to the amount of time it takes you to defeat a certain amount of enemies in that particular pattern.
The game of course lacks any ending or continue option, and there's a single one time life extension at 8000PTS.
The 9 available maze patterns will be looping endlessly with their default difficulty levels intact. This pretty much means that if you can manage to clear the fast and challenging 9th pattern, your real reward will be going back to the slow and easy 1st pattern.
More SPEED UP
■GAME CENTER IMPACT
During its original release, HEIANKYO ALIEN became one of the most popular arcade games of the time, specially amongst the growing community of dedicated (hardcore) arcade gamers.
Thanks to the game's unprecedented gameplay concept, the arcade gamers of the time were able to be creative and come up with all types of gameplay techniques they would use to clear the game or just to showcase their playing skills.
Some of the more popular and common place techniques even got their own recognizable names like「AKIBA DIG」,「NAGANO DIG」,「RETIREMENT DIG」,「INSURANCE DIG」and「HEART DIG」.
The popularity of HEIANKYO ALIEN at the Japanese game centers is also attributed in part to the contemporary manga「GAME CENTER ARASHI」which by then had become very popular too among gamers.
In the manga, the main character ARASHI ISHINO had to face a special HEIANKYO ALIEN challenge to score 10,000,000PTS in under just 20 minutes!
In the end ARASHI prevailed by using some of the already mentioned techniques that were taken straight from the Japanese game centers of the time, although obviously in the manga the techniques are portrayed in a fictional way and are way more over the top and dramatic.
ARASHI performing one of his trademark special techniques.
GAME CENTER ARASHI introduced the game and many of its original gameplay techniques to a lot of gamers, thus encouraging them to play the game at their local game centers. But more than anything, the manga is credited for having popularized the use and further creation of original gameplay techniques in HEIANKYO ALIEN, in what was perhaps one of the earlier examples of「stylish gaming」.
■HEIANKYO ALIEN REVIVED IN THE KAMAKURA PERIOD
But this would not be the last time the peaceful city of KYO had to face an alien invasion, as some players were to found out six years later while playing the NAMCO arcade game「GENPEI TOUMA DEN」(源平討魔伝).
Although both games are completely different, the ancient Japanese capital (now in the Kamakura Age) it's pretty much an updated yet faithful reconstruction of how it was portrayed in HEIANKYO ALIEN.
So it's very obvious the programmers were among the many people that were influenced by the original game.
It's also worth mentioning that GENPEI TOUMA DEN was released before HEIANKYO ALIEN was revived on the NINTENDO GAME BOY in 1990, and on the SUPER FAMICOM in 1995. So it's easy to think that maybe they got the idea to remake it from this game?