Tuesday 31 August 2021

Alien Storm (Sega Master System review)

Developer: Sanritsu / SIMS
Publisher: Sega
Released: 1991

Alien Storm is a side-scrolling beat-em-up that was first released in the Arcades in 1990 and also ported to the Sega Genesis in 1991.

There's four stages and you must save the world from an alien attack. The playable characters are Gordon (armed with a fire blazer) and Slammer (has an electric whip), and each of them can use a special attack if you've collected enough energy. Annoyingly, the hit detection is wonky and it's oddly difficult to line up your attacks when enemies appear to be occupying the same axis as your character; instead, you'll frequently have to shift a few pixels up or down in order to make contact which isn't ideal. Also, you're forced to collect stray life and energy power-ups before the screen will scroll ahead, which is counter-productive to strategic gameplay. In fairness, the game does offer you a multitude of opportunities to increase your life / energy which is welcome in later rounds when spiked floors make an appearance. The stage design is bland, but there is a ton of variety including auto-scrolling sections and first-person gallery-style shooting areas; none outstay their welcome and the latter look terrifically similar to the Sega Genesis version. The frame-rate never dips either, and the graphics are decent with a nice colour palette, shading effects and smooth animation. The bosses are a huge disappointment though, as their attack patterns are pathetically simplistic, repetitive and easy to avoid. At least there are two unique final bosses you can face depending on which path you take at the end of Round 4 which adds some replayability. However, it's notable that there were several cut-backs here, as it's single-player only, Karla is absent from the roster and two stages are missing from the Arcade version. 

Alien Storm on the Sega Master System has its cut-backs from a content perspective, but it's still admirable how it successfully mimics its 16-bit big brother in terms of its graphics and gameplay variety. The combat is a little unpolished though which can lead to some rather awkward fighting and the boss battles are very uninspired.

Random trivia: One of the game's programmers was Shinichi Kawamoto who later worked on Shenmue (1999, Sega Dreamcast).

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