Alien Storm

By the early 90s, multiplayer beat ‘em ups/hack and slash games such as Golden Axe, Streets of Rage, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Final Fight were growing increasingly popular. The increasing array of characters and fighting moves kept gamers playing these games time and again, using all characters in a bid to master them. The multiplayer modes meant that you could play with friends and spend countless rainy afternoons and cold winter evenings in imaginary worlds saving the planet, defeating crime bosses or rescuing royalty.

Title screen (Screenshot taken by author)

Alien Storm is a beat ‘em up/shooter hybrid developed and published by Sega for the arcade in 1990, and ported to the Mega Drive and Master System in 1991. It was later released in the Wii Virtual Console in 2007, and as part of the Sega Mega Drive Ultimate Collection for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. The version I played and reviewed was the original Sega Mega Drive version.

Earth is being invaded by an army of incredibly ugly and aggressive aliens. A team of crack special force operatives known as the “Alien Busters”, comprising of the flame-thrower wielding Karen; the hunky Garth (Gordon in some versions) with his electric rifle, and Scooter (Slammer in PAL version) the robot, are sent to repel the invasion. Eight missions sees them battle through cities and towns, laboratories, electronic goods stores and eventually a UFO.

Oddly, the main character looks like Elvis Presley in his profile picture (Screenshot taken by author)

The game is mostly a linear beat ‘em up which sees the players fight from left to right. There are sections of the levels where the game changes to a shooter style game which adds a nice bit of variety to the action. Each character can attack, run, and perform a running attack. There are two bars: life and energy to keep an eye on too. When using your weapon, the energy bar begins to deplete. If you use your special attack, the energy bar depletes more quickly. Along the way, you can pick up medicine and batteries to replenish your life and energy levels. There are a few end of level bosses in the game which take a long time to deafeat if you don’t have special attacks, so I recommend not using them until the boss fights. The controls are very easy to learn, and the game quickly turns into a button masher with little strategy required.

Alien Storm incorporated elements of the rail-shooter genre (Screenshot taken by author)

The graphics are great! The levels contain detailed backgrounds and the sprites are bright, colourful and well designed with clear outlines. As the game progresses the increased difficulty of the aliens is noted by a colour palette change.

Each character has an individual move set and special attack but there doesn’t seem to be a difference in strength, agility etc. Interestingly, if you look at the profile picture of Gordon in the bottom left corner of the screen, to me, he looks unmistakably like Elvis Presley.

Watch out for the alien marsupials!!! (Screenshot taken by author)

Before beginning the game, you can choose between three difficulty settings: easy, normal or hard. To add an extra element of difficulty, you can also set your energy bar levels to either easy, normal or hard. When you complete the game, after the end of game scenes and credits, you get a score and a rating. As far as I know, your score makes no difference to the game ending. This adds to the replay value of the game as it encourages additional run throughs.

As with these types of games, two-player co-op modes only add to the fun. To further increase the replay value of the game, the Mega Drive version also contained a Duel mode and a Player v Player mode. In the Duel mode, you select a player and must compete in fights with differing numbers and strengths of aliens. The more rounds you win, the higher your overall score at the end. I received a score of 82 and the title “Champion”. During these battles there is no way to regain your energy so use your weapons sparingly. In the Player v Player mode, you and your opponent select one of the three main protagonists each to fight in a one on one battle. The first player to win two rounds, wins the fight. Sadly, this is a bit naff due to the fact that you only have a limited move set. There is not enough variation in attack combinations to make these battles interesting.

Did I complete the game?

Yes, I have completed this game many times over the years in both one and two-player modes, but only in easy mode.

What the critics said:

Mean Machines:An absolutely outstanding conversion from the coin-op, with great graphics and highly enjoyable one or two-player action. The big problem is that it’s just too easy. For some unknown reason, the import version was harder, but even then, it’s not that difficult to finish. Those new to the Mega Drive scene will really enjoy the action – experts, though, are warned that they might just find themselves finishing this prematurely. Overall 78%.[1]

Sega Pro: “A space age Golden Axe. One or two players can choose from three characters and then walk through eight levels packed with superbly animated and intricately detailed aliens. Great fun as each of the players has a special weapon and executes them in an amusing way. For instance, the robot takes off his (head) and self-destructs as he walks off screen. Way too easy, though. Overall 79%.[2]

My verdict:

“I have great memories playing this game with my sister and brother. Its looks great, plays great, and the mix of beat ‘em up and shooter adds some nice variety. The replay value is there too, and I think this is an underrated game from the Mega Drive catalogue. However, it must be said that titles such as Golden Axe and Streets of Rage are still superior in every aspect: Story, graphics, music…the lot.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Alien Storm? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also find me on Facebook.


[1] ‘Review: Mega Drive – Alien Storm’. Mean Machines. (October 1992). Issue 1:137. (https://archive.org/details/mean-machines-sega-magazine-01/page/n135/mode/2up Accessed 16th February 2020).

[2] ‘Sega Showdown – Alien Storm’. Sega Pro. (November 1991). Issue 1:19. (https://retrocdn.net/images/7/75/SegaPro_UK_01.pdf Accessed 15th June 2020).

Star Wars: Rebel Assault

Star Wars is one of the most loved franchises in movie history, and has a place in the hearts of millions of cinema goers everywhere. Now it’s your turn to get into the cockpit and help fight against the evil Galactic Empire. May the Force be with you!

Title screen (Screenshot taken by the author)

Star Wars: Rebel Assault is a rail shooter developed and published by LucasArts, and released in 1993 for DOS, MAC, Sega-CD, and 3DO Interactive Multiplayer. I played the version downloaded from Steam. There is a spoiler below so watch out for it.

Training missions will see you flying through canyons at high speed… (Screenshot taken by the author)

The game is set during Star Wars: A New Hope, although for some reason, the Battle of Hoth seems to takes place too. You play as Rookie 1, who is a trainee Rebel pilot. Once you complete the trainee missions, you are sent to take on the Empire in battles that sees you navigate asteroid belts, fly in close proximity to a Star Destroyer and many other hazardous situations. There are three aspects to this game. First person shooter, overhead view, and third person view, depending on which level you are on.

…tracking and shooting Imperial Probes… (Screenshot taken by the author)

For the time, the graphics looked great, and the SFX and music are authentic music and sounds from the movie which really adds to the atmosphere of the game, making you believe you are in a Star Wars movie. Nowadays, the pixelated film footage from the movies looks fuzzy and cheap, and for some reason the original dialogue containing voices of the original actors has been replaced, which detracts from the game because it sticks out like a sore thumb.

…and traversing through asteroid fields. (Screenshot taken by the author)

Star Wars: Rebel Assault had so much potential, and as a Star Wars fan I loathe to criticise the franchise, but the gameplay really lets this game down, to the point where the fun of playing was drained out of the experience. An example of this is during the battle scenes. The cross hair used to aim is so jittery, and because you don’t have control of the craft, aiming is incredibly difficult and accuracy goes in the toilet. Using a mouse as oppose to a joystick or joypad surprisingly only makes things worse. Flying through the canyons and through caves also becomes frustrating because it is difficult to gauge when you are going to hit obstacles. The attempt to make the game 3D simply plays havoc with your depth perception, especially because this is a rail shooter and you have no control over the craft.

Cut scenes from the original movie was added which I thought looked great at the time (Screenshot taken by the author)

SPOILER ALERT!!!

Another odd factor was that the ending of A New Hope was re-written for this game. There is no sign of Luke, Wedge or Han Solo, and it’s you who destroys the Death Star. You are then shown the ceremony at the end of A New Hope and see Luke Skywalker as he walks down to collect his medal…how come you aren’t awarded a medal? Unless that is supposed to be you of course, which wouldn’t make sense if you choose your pilot to be female.

One mission sees you take on a Star Destroyer (Screenshot taken by the author)

Did I complete the game:

Sadly, I could not get past the asteroid field in Chapter 6 and became so frustrated that I decided not to continue playing.

What the critics said:

NEXT Generation: “The clips from the Star Wars movies, the music, and the 3D rendered graphics are all great – however, they all function as little more than window dressing for a not-so-hot, shooter-style game. The control is none too solid, and the gameplay is rudimentary. Overall 2/5.”[1]

NEXT Generation: “Yes the gameplay is silky and yes, the music and visuals are terrific, but this is, after all, an “arcade” game, and the rails here will get old fairly quickly. If you’re really into Star Wars, Rebel Assault will make you happy. Overall 2/5.”[2]

Computer Gaming World: “Rebel Assault is a gorgeous, fast-paced shooter that is a lot of fun to play. The problem is, the fun is too short lived, and the game certainly doesn’t lure us back to play again and again (No rating given).”[3]

Electronic Gaming Monthly: “Being a Star Wars fan I tried to give this one a chance but to no avail…The digitalised looking graphics are just too grainy, and the gameplay is simple and not interesting enough to maintain your level of attention. Overall 5.75/10.”[4]

My Verdict:

“For me, this game was a cheap way to cash-in on the Star Wars franchise and has very few redeeming features. The music and some of the graphics are the only reason why this game gets a 2-star rating instead of a 1-star rating.”

Rating:

What are your memories of Star Wars: Rebel Assault? I would love to hear your thoughts, and don’t for get to follow and subscribe so that you don’t miss my latest reviews! You can also follow me on Facebook.


[1] ‘Review:PC – Rebel Assault’. NEXT Generation. (March 1995). Volume 1 Issue 3:89. (https://archive.org/details/nextgen-issue-003/page/n91 Accessed 8th January 2020).

[2] ‘Review:PC – Rebel Assault’. NEXT Generation. (December 1995). Volume 1 Issue 12:195. (https://archive.org/details/nextgen-issue-012/page/n195 Accessed 8th January 2020).

[3] Schuytema, P.C., ‘Begger’s Canyon Anyone?”. Computer Gaming World. (February 1993). Issue 115:176-8. (https://archive.org/details/Computer_Gaming_World_Issue_115/page/n177 Accessed on 8th January 2020).

[4] ‘Review Crew:PC – Rebel Assault’. Electronic Gaming Monthly. (July 1994). Volume 7 Issue 7:38. (https://retrocdn.net/images/a/af/EGM_US_060.pdf Accessed 8th January 2020).