It's a Beat em Up! It's a Shooter! It's the subject of Awinnerwasyou's latest Memory of SEGA!
It's a Beat em Up! It's a Shooter! It's the subject of Awinnerwasyou's latest Memory of SEGA!
The Mega Drive is easily my favourite console out there. For me, it holds the most memories, most of my favourite games of all time. Revenge of Shinobi, Streets of Rage 2, Sonic, Dynamite Headdy, Comix Zone, Decap Attack, there were too many great games to mention. I got my first Mega Drive in the summer of 1994, a model 2 machine, and the number of hours I spent with it were too many to count. However, by 1999, my time would be taken up exclusively by my Dreamcast and Playstation, leaving both the Mega Drive and the old Master System to pretty much gather dust in the attic. You can’t keep a good console down though, as I would soon be reminded of how much I loved the Mega Drive in the first place- an event that would lead to me starting my collection of Mega Drive titles from scratch! In this edition of Memories of SEGA, I’ll be taking a look at one of the first titles I picked up when rebuilding my collection- one which would soon become a personal favourite of mine. Alien Storm.
I first heard of this game thanks to an advert for it that played on TV. If you read the previous Memories of SEGA article, you’ll most likely have actually seen this advert as it was included in the compilation video. About a year later, I would see the game in action when I went to a friend’s house. Though I didn’t get a chance to play myself, I liked the variety the game had to offer. I thought it looked pretty good fun. Shortly after, I’d get the chance to play the Master System version, but my memories of that port were far from pleasant. It felt both clunky and frustrating, and it ended up just annoying the hell out of me. It wasn’t a patch on the Mega Drive version, that’s for sure. Sadly, that would be the last I’d really experience of Alien Storm for quite a while…
We now fast forward to the winter of 2000. At this moment in time, the old Master System and Mega Drive were now nothing more than a memory. With a Dreamcast and a Playstation to keep me occupied, I didn’t really have much need for either of the older consoles. The Mega Drive in particular hadn’t been working properly for some time, meaning it was nearly useless anyway. I was content with what I had at the moment, and saw little need for the older machines. But all that changed one Sunday morning when I went to see another of my friends.
This particular friend had a Playstation, which we’d spend the whole morning playing on. We certainly had some good times back then- in particular one day when we played Resident Evil 3 and pretended the Nemesis was actually the world’s most persistent pen salesman, and simply wanted poor Jill to buy his pens! (Don’t ask!) Quite recently, his younger brother got a Mega Drive of his very own, and on this particular Sunday, we decided to have a go on it ourselves. We decided to have a bit of two player action on Gunstar Heroes- a game which I’d never played up until now, though I was aware of its reputation as a classic title. The game just blew me away. Awesome graphics, great gameplay and more action than you can shake a stick full of sticks at. Sadly, we had to stop playing before we could finish the game, making it to the end of stage six. But the game had left a big impression on me.
As I made my way home that day, I thought back to that game. It made me remember how much I loved the Mega Drive in the day. Why did I ever let it out of my system? (Apart from the fact my console was on its last legs of course!) I realised just how much I missed the classic and not so classic games from the machine, and I wanted to play them again. More than anything, I wanted to get my own copy of Gunstar Heroes so I could actually finish it! So, a few weeks later, I headed out to my nearest Index store (A chain of shops where you ordered items from a catalogue- kind of like a rival to Argos, but didn’t last as long) and bought myself a brand new Mega Drive.
It was a model 2, but it was really basic and rubbish compared to the one I used to have. It couldn’t play any import titles, wasn’t compatible with any add-ons- which meant no Mega CD, heck, it wasn’t even compatible with Virtua Racing. In time, I would get better versions, ultimately culminating in the Mega Drive/ Mega CD model 1 combo that is currently connected to my TV- a sexier looking console, I’ve not seen. But at this point, this weaker model would have to do. So, I had a console, I had six games (The Six in One cart that had Sonic 1, Streets of Rage 1, Revenge of Shinobi, Columns, Super Monaco GP and SEGA Soccer), and now all I needed was a collection. Not to mention a controller- the ones that came with the console were actually broken!
Sadly, retro games were hard to come by. My local Cash Converters had them, but they were mostly sports titles that I didn’t care much for- and most of those were FIFA games! Then, one Monday, I had gone out to buy a Christmas present for my cousins- Pokémon the First Movie on video, to be precise. The second hand market was set up on that day, so I felt I may as well check it out to see if I could find any Mega Drive games. Lo and behold, I found just a stall! There wasn’t a huge amount there, but I did find one particular game that caught my eye. Alien Storm. Though I didn’t like the Master System version, I knew the Mega Drive one was different enough to make it worth a look. And at only £2, how could I refuse? So, it would become one of, if not the first addition to my all new Mega Drive collection. The only question was, would I like it more than its 8 bit counterpart?
Simple answer- yes.
Gordon prepares to take on the alien scum!
Alien Storm was a port of one of SEGAs less well known arcade titles. Putting you in control of one of three “Alien Busters”, the aim was simply to eliminate a band of shape shifting aliens that quite fancied taking over the world. Each buster had their own unique weapon and smart bomb style special attack- Gordon fought with a lightning gun, and could call on a fighter craft to shoot out the aliens, Karla had a flamethrower and could summon a nuclear missile to eradicate everything on screen (apart from yourself- clearly nuclear weapons have become more advanced in the future!), and Slammer the robot used an electric whip, and could self-destruct to cause major damage. It’s okay though, he had plenty of spare bodies!
For the most part, the game played like a futuristic version of Golden Axe. There wasn’t a huge amount of moves for each Buster- just a few combo attacks, but they differed according to you position and how close you were to the enemy. The B button was your main attack button, while A used your special attack. Button C allowed you to perform a defensive roll which made you immune to damage for a split second- a very useful technique if you wanted to survive. To make things a little more complicated, you also had a power gauge that gradually drained as you used your weapons. Using special attacks would take a much bigger chunk out of this gauge as well. If it fully depleted, your weapons would stop working and you had to rely on basic melee attacks. Fortunately, the gauge could be restored by picking up power capsules dropped by certain enemies.
One of the 3D shooter stages.
At the end of most stages, the view would change to a 3D perspective, and the game became an Operation Wolf style shooter. Here, you just had to blast the aliens before they attacked you- easier said than done, given how many of them there was on screen! The best thing about these sections was the fact that just about everything on screen could be destroyed. Not only was this a lot of fun, but it was also a good idea since there were plenty of power ups hidden under the scenery. This was by far my favourite part of the game, as blasting everything on screen was just so satisfying!
There was one more style of gameplay as well. At two points in the game, your Buster would start running at high speeds and the game became a horizontal shooter! Again, you just had to blast everything that came at you. These sections were also quite fun, though nothing that could touch the wanton destruction of the 3D levels. This kind of variety in the gameplay was what made this game unique among other games of its type.
Karla's special attack can only be described as overkill.
Alien Storm certainly isn’t one of the best games on the Mega Drive. It’s no great shakes in the graphics and sound department, and the gameplay during the Golden Axe style sections can be a little clunky. It’s not terribly challenging either. Although there are eight stages in all, they’re all quite short. On the easiest settings, the game can easily be cleared in the space of twenty minutes. However, I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing.
Yes, the game is very short and easy, but I think that makes it great if you want to play a game but are rather pushed for time. Sometimes, that’s all you need- a quick blast, yet one you find yourself coming back to no matter how many times you finish it. That’s exactly how I feel about this game. While not a classic, it’s a game I find myself coming back to time and time again, and I love it. It’s a real testament to it that despite it being one of the first games I picked up when I started rebuilding my Mega Drive collection, it’s still one of the games I play the most fourteen years on. Truly, it’s games like this that make me glad I started my collection over again!
More 3D shooting, with extra chickens!
That’s all for this particular edition of Memories of SEGA. Join me next time, when I take a look at a game based on a popular cartoon character. It’s not as well regarded as the likes of Castle of Illusion or Quackshot, but I think it deserves a lot more love than it gets as it’s one of the best games of its type. See you then!
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