A game I really want to play: Heiankyo Alien


A game I really want to try out on real arcade hardware is a little unknown to most gamers. Heiankyo Alien; A Japanese only release, with only a port on the GameBoy that got to the US. A lot of people don’t know the real importance that Heiankyo Alien gave to the gaming industry.

What is this game, and how do you play it? It’s a maze game in similar vein to PacMan and DigDug. You play the role of a policeman in the Heian Period, and an alien invasion happens. You have to survive the alien invasion, they want to eat you, and you’re only armed with a shovel. You move the policeman around the maze avoiding aliens, and with the shovel you can begin digging holes in the ground using one of the fire buttons. But you’ll have press the button a few times to dig a hole completely. You use the hole you dug in the ground to trap an on-coming alien; once you trap one, you go back to the hole and begin to bury the alien alive in the hole. If you leave the alien in the hole for too long, it can climb out and continue its pursuit in eating you. Other aliens can free trapped aliens too, so you’ll need to have a tactic about where you dig holes. After burying all the aliens, you move onto the next level, which has a different maze, more aliens, and they move faster too.

Did I mention that GameBoy port that got a US release? Amazingly enough, the US was treated to the GameBoy port of the game that brings new graphics to the game. You can however, play the game with the original graphics too, minus the colour and the mazes are smaller than the original arcade game. I’ll be getting a copy of this from the amazing Focus from Arcade USA. Though I really want to play the real version of this on an arcade cabinet.


What’s amazing is that with a little bit of Google research I discovered a VFD version of Heiankyo Alien made by Gakken. I wouldn’t mind owning one of these! Maybe I’ll get Indieseoul to hunt one of these next time he goes to Japan!

So what’s so special about Heiankyo Alien I hear you say? Well, it’s believe to be the reason to how the first platforming game came to existence. It’s believed that Atari’s Chris Crawford saw a Heiankyo Alien arcade machine on a trip to Japan that gave him the idea to make his own “dig a trap” style video game. But rather than making the game top-down like in Heiankyo Alien, it was viewed from the side, and the first known platforming game came to be by the name of Space Panic. I got to play one of these at Play Expo in 2012. I had no idea that it was the first platforming game until I read about it!

So there you have it, you can praise a Feudal Japanese policeman for Mario and Sonic’s existance… I really want to try out a real arcade of Heiankyo Alien. I can’t seem to find any details about a machine in wild. All I can find is a flyer about the game. One day I’ll take a pilgrimage to Japan and see if I can find a machine out there and play it! Providing it works of course…

What do you think of Heiankyo Alien? Do you like the look of it? Have you played it before? Do you own the GameBoy game? Tell me in the comments below!