Psycho Soldier

Psycho Soldier title screen Psycho Soldier gameplay screenshot
Psycho Soldier gameplay screenshot Psycho Soldier gameplay screenshot
Psycho Soldier gameplay screenshot Psycho Soldier gameplay screenshot
Psycho Soldier gameplay screenshot Psycho Soldier ending screenshot

Psycho Soldier is an action arcade game developed by Japanese software company SNK that was originally released in 1986 and internationally in 1987. It is somewhat of a sequel to Athena released a year earlier, Psycho Soldier continues the adventures of Athena, and is noteworthy for being the first video game with a vocal in-game soundtrack. Ocean Software on their Imagine label released home computer versions of the game for the ZX Spectrum, Commodore 64 and Amstrad in 1987.

Psycho Soldier continues the story of Athena, the title character of a previous game released one year earlier. In the last game, Athena was a mystical, almost divine figure loosely based on the goddess of Greek myth who fought her way through several otherworldly lands in order to destroy various monsters and evil beings who threatened the peace of the land. After her journey was complete, she returned to heaven, only to fade completely from the minds of the mortals who lived below.

In modern times, a young girl, also named Athena, displays special psychic abilities that allow her to unlock a number of hidden powers within herself, and hopes to one day use these skills not only to help others, but to advance her stage career as a future pop idol. It is believed she is the reincarnation of the Athena of lore, but this is speculatory. What is known, however, is that several evil beings have been appearing in her hometown in Japan, and along with her friend and fellow gifted psychic Kensu, attempts to use her talents to protect her friends and home from this new menace.

While having much in common with several action sidescrollers of the day, Psycho Soldier is unique in the sheer number of power-up and special items that can be obtained during gameplay. While advancing through the game's levels, the player may come across rocks and other destructible objects that have a chance of holding items that either increase Athena or Kensu's power, or make enemies more difficult to defeat. This adds an addition game element of choosing how difficult the player wants the game to be as they play through it, or it may inadvertently make the game harder if they pick up these items by mistake. The game is advanced by traveling horizontally across the screen, transversing several harmful objects and enemies and utilizing a special force known as "Psycho Energy" to perform a number of attacks, including creating a shield of rotating spheres around the character's body to protect them. The amount of Psycho energy is measured by the energy bar located to the left of the player's health bar, and can be increased by obtaining certain items.

Both Athena and Kensu share the same abilities, and whichever one the player chooses has no real bearing on the difficulty of the game. The only real difference comes when the player happens upon a special item resembling a green egg which, if the player's energy bar happens to be full, will transform them into a powerful "Psycho Creature", in Athena's case a phoenix and for Kensu a green dragon, yet they share the same abilities: a powerful fire breath attack that hits enemies in front of them, or a move which rams them into a single nearby enemy.

Psycho Soldier marks the first appearance of the Athena character used in The King of Fighters fighting game series also released by SNK. Many of her special moves are reflections of attacks that originated in this game, such as her Psycho Ball and Shining Crystal Bit. (Wikipedia)