GG Aleste 3

released on Dec 24, 2020
by M2

GG Aleste 3 is a sequel for the Aleste series and a direct followup to GG Aleste II, released in December 2020 as a special bonus included on the Aleste Collection for the Sony PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch and as part of the limited edition Game Gear Micro included with the premium edition of the collection. The game was developed as a true Game Gear game, not being a simple recreation of the system's technical aspects.

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Every aspect of this game from its design down to the hardware it was built on is the perfect embodiment of "less is more". Very tempted to call this the best 8-bit game ever made.

GG Aleste 3's mere existence is bafflingly awesome: a shoot-em-up for Sega's long-dead Game Gear handheld--a sequel, no less!-- released in the year 2020, and with former Compile staff on board to boot.
The game feels right at home with its wonderful predecessors, sporting excellent, simple controls, some awe-inspiring 8-bit spritework and music, and a nice little scoring system focused on racking up "perfects" (which you get by destroying all enemies and destructible blocks in a given area).
I feel it drags terribly in some places, especially when the same enemy pattern is coming at you again and again for what feels like whole minutes at a time... but that's the only drawback.
And, if you like this genre, it's a pretty miniscule one, because it just means you'll spend that much more time with this strange little neo-relic of a game, which, despite its diminutive size and humble platform, burns bright with passion for the medium and its history in a way that most games do not.

GG Aleste 3 stands tall as an exceedingly great shoot em up that excels at everything it set out to do. The game was created as an extra in the Aleste collection to pay homage to the series and in doing so M2 created not only the best game in the series but also one of the best games in the genre.
The thing that sets GG Aleste 3 out above the rest of the endless crowd of shoot em ups is its power up system. There are three types of power ups, those that give you a new sub weapon, those that increase your sub weapon level, and those that level up your ship with additional shields and faster firing. Powerups plays a key role in GG Aleste 3's superb combat. Each sub weapon has its own unique advantages and disadvantages that will have you carefully picking each one for the appropriate situation. The D powerup gives you a rotating shield that blocks flashing enemy bullets, the C powerup gives you homing bullets, the R powerup gives you a side laser that will destroy certain projectiles as well as doing massive damage, etc. On top of this, all powerups will have a case around them which will need to be shot to have them become collectable. This is important because the sub weapon powerup slowly goes through each of the sub weapon types as it falls down the screen when the case is broken. On top of that each time you break a sub weapon case it will rotate to the one after that. So a case which contains the C powerup first will change from the C powerup to the D powerup, and then to the F powerup and so on. However, the next time you break another sub weapon case it will go to the next sub weapon after that, regardless if it was the last sub weapon on screen before it disappeared. So the next time you break a sub weapon case after a C capsule, it will make it a D capsule and continue down the line. Keeping track of the sub weapon cases and what they will spawn next is a crucial part of GG Aleste 3's combat.
Another aspect of the powerup system is that powerups will always give you a second of invulnerability when collected. That means you can use powerups to get i-frames to help you dodge attacks. You can stack these powerups together, collecting one after another to get a string of invulnerability that allows you to get some serious damage on any enemy you are targeting. The powerup system is nothing new in the Aleste series but it has been refined and perfected in GG Aleste 3 that it makes returning to older titles much harder.
GG Aleste 3 is not special just because of its powerup system however, the other aspects of the gameplay shine through. The game's level, enemy, and boss design are about as top notch as a shoot em up can get. Most bosses have very reactable attacks and projectiles meaning it becomes less of a chore to learn boss patterns all the while feeling fairer. On top of that, the game is a shoot em up but not a bullet hell, meaning that the game doesn't flood the screen with bullets that you much dodge with such precision that it can become tedious at times. GG Aleste 3's design is that of an old school shooter with minimal bullshit (at least for most of the time).
Despite its amazing gameplay however, GG Aleste 3 does suffer from some issues. The game is impressive in that they managed to fit such a technically advanced game onto a Game Gear in 2020. However, the visuals are that usual shoot em up aesthetic which get old the further you go through the genre. I appreciate any shoot em up that isn't trying so desperately hard to look like a Gundam ripoff and instead going for its own artstyle. GG Aleste 3 remains true to the original series artstyle, but that is not a good thing as the art direction is exceedingly bland. The soundtrack, while good and gets the job done, is not one which I can remember a single song to. The Aleste series had some good music but it was never something that excels and the same holds true for GG Aleste 3.
While it isn't an issue with the GG Aleste 3 itself, an issue with the game overall is it is a console only game that is only in Japanese. That means you are either going to need to import the game, which I did do but it was not cheap to do so, or make a Japanese Nintendo Switch or PSN account to purchase the game. This greatly hurts the exposure that the game will get as it can be a hard sell to ask someone to buy an $80 Switch collection. The menu's are also in all Japanese which means navigating them is a complete chore. I had to spend a solid 10 minutes when I got the game finding out where to turn off game slowdown in the menu's. This makes the game a very hard sell to people, despite me wanting to recommend them the game.
In conclusion, GG Aleste 3 is a truly fantastic gem that excels in a genre full of excellent games. Its powerup system mixed with its fantastic level, enemy, and boss design make it possibly my favorite out of any shoot em up game. While it's bland aesthetics, forgettable music, and Japanese only release hurt the game, it still shines through as a landmark game and the best in the long running Aleste series.

Culminating the Aleste marathon on the highest of highs, GG Aleste 3 takes 33 years of experience to deliver their most refined game to date, improving upon every single aspect of the series (well, except for the soundtrack which was always great)
Fantastic, creative bosses and level design, forcing you to adapt and try new weapons, which in my experience that was a big issue in the previous entries, being able to steamroll the game with one weapon.
Good stuff, well paced and a relaxing 40 minutes to an hour. Looks like the series is back to stay with the new Aleste Branch coming out soon and I can't wait for it.

Without a doubt the best game released for the Sega Game Gear in 2020

GGA3 is just lovely. I know that sounds dumb, but I really think it's the best way to describe this, frankly, terrible idea that the 4 devs somehow presumably convinced M2 was commercially viable. Granted, it helps that said 4 devs are industry veterans behind some of the greatest STGs ever made.
And it shows, though not quite in the ways you'd expect, particularly from staff who have worked amongst Raizing and Cave's intricate and wack STGs. GGA3 follows the Aleste series in general in being extremely simple to play, and amounting to little more than holding down one button, dodging, and picking up items. But what GGA3 really brings is polish and the knowledge of 25 years of games development progression to this very rudimentry, classicly made game.
In particular, there's a real eye for presentation here. The sprite art is fantastic, as are the backgrounds, and there's particular attention paid to the pacing of levels, particularly when it comes to integration with it's music. Stage 5 is clearly the standout here, the stage starts with a foreboding track in a base before you take off and dogfight around the scrolling exterior of a ballistic missile nuke to an amazing, upbeat track, the destroying it and facing a rival boss fight with another banger track - it's very comparable to Stage 2-3 in Zeroranger or Stage 3 in eschatos - you know, two of the best STG stages ever made.
The music in general is great - Manabu Namiki, legendary composer of battle garegga, ketsui, DOJ, thunder dragon 2 - is both the composer and (weirdly) director of this game, and he puts in a great shift here with the ancient game gear sound hardware. Hacking Storm, Dogfighter, and Zero-G Tears alone are probably worth the price of admission.
There are issues. It's probably a bit too long - I feel stages 3 and 4 probably should have been consolidated to one stage, for instance. This is only made worse by it's rough performance on original hardware, which legitimately lengthens the game by 15 minutes on special mode due to all the slowdown. Fortunately, this can be turned off in the Switch and PS4 versions of the game, which I would say is an outright neccessity unless youre a complete purist and makes the game a lot more fun, particularly in special mode. I think it's also fair to say there's a bit of a lack of depth - but that's also just a standard of the series and clearly not what the game is going for. Much like Zeroranger, this is a shmup focused on it's presentation much more than it's scoring or gameplay, and as that, it really works.
There really isnt much to GGA3, truth be told. But that's fine. It amounts to 4 industry veterans making a simple old compile-styled shooter imbued with the 25 years of progression in game design and presentation built up in that time and a bunch of passion and respect for the original games. And the end result is really just a lovely time.