Alien Storm (Mega Drive) Review

Alien Storm

Alien Storm is a game I had on the Master System, which wasn’t as different as you’re probably imagining, but still, for this review me and my friend played through the Mega Drive version as … well, it’s actually two-player, for a start off. Plus being able to take screenshots easier helps too! The game is pretty much Golden Axe with a sci-fi setting rather than fantasy, but with one key difference: first-person reticle shooter segments! Let’s take a look.

Background:

Alien Storm 1

One of the most basic HUDs in gaming history…

You’re probably sick of me saying this, at least for first entries in franchises, but Alien Storm started off as an Arcade game released in Japan in 1990, with up to three players simultaneous action. The Mega Drive port, which was down to two-players only (but had two extra levels) was released in June 1991 in Japan, and at some point that same year in the US and Europe. As mentioned in the opening paragraph, the Master System version I owned, which was one player only, was only released in Europe (and was also released in an unknown month in 91) It should also be noted that in the MS version the female character isn’t selectable…

Speaking of the characters, they have been renamed across various releases, and are the male Garth (or Gordon), the female Karen (or Karla) and the robot Scooter (or Slammer). Weirdly some, like Scooter/Slammer, are different in the US and European versions, so it wasn’t just a change from Japanese to English…

Gameplay:

Alien Storm 5

Didn’t expect to see a screenshot like THIS in a Scrolling Beat ‘Em Up marathon, did you?

Gameplay, at least in the standard levels, are straight forward, and as already mentioned, is similar to Golden Axe (accept no throws). You have a basic and quite slow close-range melee combo, but each character can also use their own weapons that have a slightly longer range. Obviously unlike Golden Axe you face a wide variety of aliens, including some disguised as everyday objects. Instead of magic to unleash screen-clearing attacks, there is energy to unleash similar attacks, like dropping bombs from a plane or Scooter self-destructing only to pop back on screen. Funny thieves to hit and collect health and magic are replaced by weird floating heads that drop health and energy. The bosses, it has to be said, range from fun to extremely boring…

What isn’t boring is the one unique thing about Alien Storm: the “gallery shooter” segments. You, or you and a friend, move your reticles across the screen and hammer the buttons to shoot aliens before they get too close to the screen. Don’t forget to blow up as much of the background and foreground objects to pick up health and energy! It’s a fun interlude, and the one thing that always stuck in my mind about it (yes they were in the MS version, and they looked exactly like this… in my memory. They actually looked a lot worse.) There are also segments where you uncontrollably run to the right of the screen and just move up and down and shoot. They’re… less fun.

The final GA comparison is sadly that’s its very slow and has dated quite badly, where as a lot of the faster scrolling beat ‘em ups with more varied attacks from roughly the same era are still great fun…

Graphics and Sound:

Alien Storm 3

Wow, forget the weird bug-alien things, that shop has come to life and is asking for help!

The graphics are very… early 16-bit. There are some nice but plain backgrounds and inoffensive sprites that lack much detail. The shooter segments look a lot better, with quite a bit of destructible background elements (I say destructible, but really it’s just layering the same grey blasted hole texture over everything, but still, early days…) It’s not bad, basically, but it’s not what you probably expect from a 16-bit game…

Sound is, again, early Mega Drive, so very tinny and sometimes harsh sounding music cues using the distinctive MD chiptune set. The sound effects are fine, very arcadey, which is always nice. Not bad, but again, there are much better examples later in the console’s life.

Story:

Alien Storm 4

Garth and Scooter run like men possessed! … Well, man and robot possessed, I guess…

Garth/Gordon, Karen/Karla and Scooter/Slammer make up the team known as the “Alien Busters”, and when aliens invade the Earth they’re called in to… bust them, I guess. Which they do! Who you gonna call?, I guess.

Thoughts Then:

Alien Storm 2

… Yeah, it’s pretty much the same as the other screenshot, but they’re shooting boxes this time! Wooooo!

Then as in the Master System version? I enjoyed it. I liked the zapping aliens bit, but I loved the shooter segments. Given I was only, what, six or seven at the time I didn’t get too far, but I enjoyed it. In terms of the Mega Drive version (which this is the review of, after all!) I remember me and my friend playing it around his house and getting quite far. I liked it, mostly because I was able to play it with a friend rather than just by myself…

4 Star Game Old

Thoughts Now:

Alien Storm 6

Oh God, it’s the boss! Look at it… slowly move around and drop small exploding things…. *shrugs*

Now, sadly, with nostalgia goggles off… it’s not great. Much like the first Golden Axe, it’s far too slow and unresponsive, not to mention limited, to get too much enjoyment out of it. The shooting scenes are still fun and frantic though!

2 Star Game New

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