Many of you are possibly familiar with Another World, also known as Out of This World. A cinematic platforming game from the creative mind of Éric Chahi, the game was a smash hit, known for its extreme difficulty, 3-D cinematics that were ahead of its time, and a charming storyline following Lester, a red-headed scientist who is transported to an alien planet. Released in 1991 on the Atari ST and the Amiga home computer systems, Another World would subsequently be ported to several different platforms and consoles, going on to critical acclaim, both then and now, by the gaming world.
Even game developers have cited Another World for directly influencing them. Most notably would be Hideo Kojima, who considers Another World one of the few games that influenced him the most in regards to development. Another major influence comes from the birth of the sub-genre of cinematic platformers. Chahi's own development studio, Delphine Software, would be famous for other titles in the same vein as Another World, including Flashback and Fade to Black. Chahi would also go on to create a spiritual successor in the game Heart of Darkness, and most recently developed the title From Dust, back in 2011.
Another World is very well-known as a landmark game, but it is not the subject of today’s episode. It is, however, necessary to reference Another World because today’s game is a direct sequel to it; a sequel that Chahi would quickly disown after its release, making it non-canonical to the storyline. That game is called Heart of the Alien for the Sega-CD.
Released in 1994 by Virgin Interactive and developed primarily by Interplay, Heart of the Alien had the players star as Buddy, the alien ally to Lester from Another World, continuing the storyline right from the previous game's climax. The choice of platform, the Sega-CD, would be the only platform Heart of the Alien would be released on and exclusively in North America.
Interestingly enough, Chahi originally planned a sequel for the system with Interplay. According to Chahi, “Interplay insisted in making the sequel in order to make the most of the CD-ROM medium’s capabilities. After discussion, I agreed. Rather than making a chronological development related to the first story, I decided that redesigning the game from the alien point of view was excellent, and would make the player discover Another World with other eyes.” Although now commonplace, the concept of switching character perspectives, especially in a sequel, was rare at the time; only RPG’s primarily did this.
With the character change came new abilities for the player. In Another World, Lester had a laser gun with limited shots and the ability to create a shield if the weapon was charged. Buddy, in contrast, has a shield that is nearly instantaneous and uses a whip he uses to both swing across platforms and fight enemies. This changed around the puzzle dynamics, offering fresh challenges for the player as they traversed through old and new locations as Buddy, using the whip and their timing skills to get through all obstacles found in the game.
Due to this, Heart of the Alien was a more action-heavy game than Another World. Buddy as a playable character typically had to fight through enemies instead of avoiding them. This stark difference between the two titles does help Heart of the Alien stand out; the platforming was also less deadly in Heart of the Alien, with much less trial and error required to get through the game than Another World. That said, the game is by no means easy, requiring timing and reflexes to deal with enemies.
Also introduced to the series were more dynamic cut-scenes with more frames of animation than those in Another World, including flashbacks to showcase parts of Buddy’s past and explain why he was imprisoned in the first game. While the cinematic quality was a bit choppy due to load times on the Sega-CD, the animation, in the now hallmark style of Another World, was near flawless. The cinematic quality of the game was arguably on par with its predecessors, generating a perfect blend of platforming with seamless cinematic quality that Chahi created.
Sadly, Chahi was not pleased in the end with Heart of the Alien, even believing the animation employed in the game as mediocre. “The concept was good,” he said. “But, alas, neither the animations nor the game, entirely developed by Interplay, were up to the job. It was a flop.” Heart of the Alien did flop, but not due to poor animation quality or the caliber of the game. Rather, it flopped because of the Sega-CD.
The library of the Sega CD was mostly riddled with poor FMV titles and graphical enhanced ports of Genesis games. The system constantly struggled to reach its full potential, despite being an innovator in terms of CD quality audio and video, quasi 3-D graphics and quality arcade ports. Heart of the Alien was among the few games created exclusively for the CD, but sales and a lack of promotion would lead to its commercial failure. The title would remain more or less dormant on the CD, despite getting good reviews back in the day. Many critics praised the game, despite some hiccups, as being a worthy successor to Another World, even though Chahi publicly disavowed the game as an official sequel to Another World.
That is, however, not the end of the tale. A die-hard fan named Gil Megidish extracted the source code of the game so it can run on modern computers. While a CD of Heart of the Alien is still needed to run the game, the code is open source and was given a graphical update, allowing Heart of the Alien a second life on modern computers. It is unlikely that a remake or port of Heart of the Alien will ever come to pass, though, and Chahi has stated that he is never going to make an official sequel to Another World, instead preferring to leave the ending ambiguous for players.
Despite being disowned by Chahi, Heart of the Alien remains a curious piece of gaming history. Modern day opinions on the title vary, with some praising it for being a suitable successor to Another World, while others deride it for its shortcomings and somewhat controversial ending, which I will not spoil here. Others have retroactively echoed Chahi's sentiments of disownment, not considering the game to be a suitable successor to the franchise and therefore a completely non-canonical experience. Love it or hate it though, Heart of the Alien is a curious game that is worth remembering, and certainly a game worth playing if you get the chance. It may not capture the same sense of wonder as Another World, but its heart is in the right place, and that is sometimes good enough to be a memorable experience.
I hope you enjoyed this latest episode of Games You Never Heard Of. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below, or send me a message via twitter @LinksOcarina. See you next time.