Monday 30 December 2019

Alien Syndrome (Sega Master System review)

Developer: Sanritsu
Publisher: Sega
Released: 1988

Alien Syndrome is an overhead run 'n' gun game that was originally released in the Arcades in 1987.

It's 2089 and playing as either Ricky or Mary you must destroy the alien space fleet that's threatening the human race. There's seven rounds and the objective in each is to rescue the hostages and head for the exit before time runs out. To attack aliens, you're armed with a short range combat rifle, but upgrades (such as FlameBalls and Lasers) are available by collecting icons. Interestingly, this console version features a number of differences to the Sega Game Gear port (1992), none of which are for the better. For example, here the screen doesn't scroll smoothly and instead you'll need to wait patiently for the next area to appear; while this isn't a huge problem, there are times where you'll automatically be pushed into the screen, directly in the vicinity of a waiting enemy. Annoyingly, enemies rapidly spawn into view as well, usually on top of your character, giving you no time to react and resulting in a lost life. It feels utterly cheap and at times succeeding can rely more on luck than pure skill. Not that it matters much anyway, as your standard combat rifle is almost completely useless due to its pathetically short range. This is no more apparent than during boss battles, as if you lose your powered-up weapon you'll be stuck with a neutered gun and basically have to fight in close quarters (essentially being left high-and-dry). The game also has various technical issues, such as rampant slowdown where your character will randomly speed up / down depending on how many sprites are on screen. Finally, unlike the handheld port, there's no map here, so you'll have to wander aimlessly to find the last remaining hostages.

Alien Syndrome on the Sega Master System is a butchered port due to its never-ending gameplay issues and severe programming deficiencies that cheapen the experience. My advice is to stick to the superior Sega Game Gear version, as it has a number of enhancements and improvements that make it more enjoyable to play.

Random trivia: If played on Sega's 16-bit home console via a Power Base Converter, this version is incompatible with the Mega Drive controller due to region checks.

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