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The plot varies by region. The North American version is your typical shmup Excuse Plot: a Featureless Protagonist is sent to stop an alien threat and destroy its homeworld. The Japanese version is a bit more complicated than that.
Either way you pilot a ship known as the Aleste (or ED-057 in the NA version) capable of using one of eight different weapons, each with seven different power levels. Shot types come in all flavors, such as the standard Spread Shot, Frickin' Laser Beams, and a Charged Attack. On top of that, the Shot-Control button can be used to manipulate each weapon in some way.
Super Aleste is very long by shmup standards, with 12 stages each lasting on average 7 or more minutes. However, there is also a "short game" that takes only 4 stages, if you are pressed for time.
Super Aleste contains examples of the following:
- All There in the Manual: The U.S. version's manual contains an elaborated version of the story, such as it is, as well as the names of the bosses. (The Earth has been attacked by a mysterious alien invasion fleet. Your mission is to fight your way past the fleet, destroy the aliens' supply bases, and then return to Earth to finish off the invasion force itself.)
- Attack Drone: Sprite, the 7th fire type. Unlike some kinds of drones, the sprites can be destroyed by enemy fire, which lowers your weapon level, but it's not as bad as taking a hit yourself and losing 4 levels.
- Weapon number 3, the Circle, consists of defensive drones that circle around the player's ship, absorbing enemy fire and damaging enemies they touch.
- Battleship Raid: Area 2, a raid on the space station-like structure Lono with generous use of Mode 7.
- Breather Level: Areas 3, 6, and 9, short space station stages with loads of destructible tiles, jazzy music, and fairly easy bosses.
- Charged Attack: Power Shot, the 6th fire type. Like the other less-direct weapons, it includes basic guns that fire forward while you're charging, but you can disable them to make it charge up faster.
- Check Point: You are sent back to one upon death, unless your next life is a yellow "special" life, in which case you respawn in place.
- Continuing Is Painful: You do get unlimited continues, but you have to start with a level 0 weapon each time.
- Crutch Weapon: The Homing Missile is good at keeping someone unfamiliar with the game alive through the beginning of the game, but they're not so good at dealing with the game's more dangerous threats.
- Cut and Paste Translation: The Western releases remove the anime-style protagonists in favor of a Featureless Protagonist pilot, and change the plot to your typical space-themed shmup Excuse Plot. Also, the Area 3 music, unique to that area, is swapped with the music for Areas 6, 9, and 10 for some reason.
- Deadly Walls: Averted. Your ship can safely touch walls, as long as it doesn't get squished between a wall and the bottom of the screen.
- Denial of Diagonal Attack: Averted for some of the weapons. Multiple Shot can be toggled to fire almost every which way (literally in all 8 directions if powered up enough), Multi-Direction Shot is specifically able to fire in any direction, and the spheres you use with Circle spiral around your ship to cover any angle.
- Destroyable Items: Played with. You might think the green weapon pod and Blue Lander are destructible since your shots can hit them, but if you shoot them enough they change into other items. A green weapon pod becomes an Enemy Eraser (a screen-nuking bomb that also converts one of your lives to a special life), and a Blue Lander becomes a Red Lander (giving you a special life instead of a normal one, an extra bomb, and maxing out your power level instead of just giving one level).
- Frickin' Laser Beams: Laser, the 2nd fire type. Shot-Control toggles it to fire homing lasers.
- Game Over Man: In the Japanese version, the Game Over screen features the pilots poking at a busted minature model of their ship.
- Gratuitous English: The announcers, as well as the bosses' taunts.
- Harder Than Hard: If you press right after highlighting the Hard difficulty, you get Hyper. On the other hand, going left, past Normal, gets you Tricky and Wild/Lunatic. (In order from easiest to hardest, the difficulty levels are Normal, Hard, Hyper, Tricky, and Wild.)
- A summary of the difficulty levels:
- Normal: "Standard" difficulty
- Hard: Enemies have more health than in Normal
- Hyper: As in Hard, except that enemies move more quickly and shoot more often
- Tricky: As in Normal, except that every enemy shoots a bullet at your current location whenever they die
- Wild/Lunatic: As in Tricky, except that enemies move more quickly and shoot more often
- A summary of the difficulty levels:
- It Is Pronounced "Tro-PAY": According to the katakana for "Aleste" (アレスタ), it's pronounced "A-le-sta" rather than "A-le-ste."
- Last Chance Hit Point: The below-mentioned life-power connection. As long as your shot power is at least level 1, you'll drop to level 0 at worst.
- Life Meter: Sort of. Your shot power level, which goes from level 0 to 6, acts as your health. Taking a hit drops you up to 4 levels. Taking a hit at level 0 kills you.
- Macross Missile Massacre: Weapon #5, Missile, shoots more and more missiles as you raise your weapon level.
- Marathon Game: In the inverse of It's Short, So It Sucks, Shoot'Em Up fans have been known to complain that the game is too long to comfortably play in a single sitting.
- Mercy Invincibility: You get a brief moment of invulnerability to damage whenever you're hit, collect a powerup, or use a bomb.
- Nintendo Hard: It's a Shoot'Em Up.
- Psychic Powers: Thi, one of the pilots in the Japanese version.
- Recurring Boss: Zolba, the Area 1 boss, gives you a rematch in Area 10.
- Smart Bomb: You hold down the bomb buttton to launch one, then release to detonate. It then creates two circles of explosions: an inner circle that does concentrated damage, and an outer circle that expands to hit everything on-screen for less damage.
- Spread Shot: Multiple, the 1st fire type, though you can toggle between different kinds of spreads. Scatter, the 8th type, shoots orbs that burst into spreading bullets on impact.
- Super-Deformed: The character artwork in the Japanese version.
- Wave Motion Gun: The Charge/Power weapon, which could be charged up and released in a large beam. At max power and charge, you shoot 4 of these.
- Welcome to Hell: The Area 1 boss greets you with this, though it got Bowdlerised in Space Megaforce.
- Where It All Began: Subverted with Area 10; it looks like Earth, but is actually a replica made by the aliens.
- In the U.S. version, it actually is Earth, after you've returned from cutting off the invasion fleet's Infinite Supplies. At least, that's what the manual says.
- Womb Level: Area 12, the overlord's lair. With even more jazzy music.