Run ‘N Jump Chronicles 2: Heiankyo Alien

In the process of researching the history of platform games, I heard from a few people (and saw a few outside references) who cited Heiankyo Alien as a formative platformer. If you’ve heard of Heiankyo Alien, it’s probably because of the Game Boy version that came to the U.S. in the early ’90s. But in fact, it first appeared more than a decade before that as a computer game (1979) and arcade conversion (1980) created at the University of Tokyo, of all places.

But, honestly, I don’t see it. Heiankyo Alien is a top-down maze title that involves creating holes to trap aliens. You don’t jump, you don’t climb.

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Still, I guess can see where the claim is coming from if I squint hard enough. The chase-and-trap objectives of Heiankyo Alien became pretty popular in the coming years with games that were platformers: Space Panic, Lode Runner, Mr. Do’s Castle, and others. And I suppose you could make the case that the pit-digging action demonstrated an early, raw awareness of the plane of the player’s action and breaking beyond it. By trapping aliens, you’re putting them “beneath” the ground. Platformers would revolve largely around the relationship between characters and the surfaces on which they travel, so this could be treated as a tentative first step toward the birth of a genre.

But yeah, not really.

4 thoughts on “Run ‘N Jump Chronicles 2: Heiankyo Alien

  1. This game was kind of barfy, and yes, it’s a concept that works a lot better from the side. However, it did give us Cratermaze and Booby Kids, which were both fairly entertaining games. Also, the advertisement for the GameBoy version of Heiankyo Alien ranks among my favorites, featuring a samurai bashing a grotesque yokai-style alien with a shovel, as he’s begin eaten by him.

    • BEING eaten. Ugh, how do I miss these things! My kingdom for an edit button!

  2. You know if your looking for pre Donkey Kong platformers there really isn’t a lot. Some people say Space Panic was the first. But It didn’t have jumping. I think Donkey Kong may have been the first platformer with jumping, at least according to Wikipedia. Another platformer that really paved the way to modern platformers is 1982’s Jungle Hunt. Had running, jumping, swinging and even underwater swimming levels. I greatly enjoyed that game back in the day.

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