DEVELOPER: Team Shinobi
RELEASE DATE: 06/28/91 – (JP), 07/1991 – (US), 09/1991 – (EU)
Aliens are invading Earth again, and what a disgusting display it is. Lizard-like humanoids gnaw on the shingles of patriotic American homes. Crawling blobs with slimy tentacles and human faces for skin recklessly vomit on women and children. Flying huge-armed insects piledrive brave husbands trying to protect their families. What a nightmare. What an opportunity!
Enter Gordon, Karla, and Slammer, an unlikely misfit trio. Yesterday, they were a mechanic, a convenience store clerk, and a robot prototype respectively. Today, in the wake of unending horror, they are self-proclaimed “Alien Busters,” ready to zap and fry any aliens that are ruining otherwise polite society.
Alien Storm arrives at an excellent time. This is the first Genesis beat-em-up I’ve played since Golden Axe all the way back in 1989 (unless you count Dick Tracy, which I don’t), and it’s a good’un. Levels do not overstay their welcome, the characters all have a varied move list, and most importantly, it feels really good to set aliens on fire with your insane weaponry.
Your goal is to get through each of the eight missions, intact and with dozens of alien corpses in your wake. Gordon’s Thunder Buster brings the pain of a thousand storms, Karla’s Fire Buster lights up the night with freshness, and Slammer’s Electric Whip doesn’t come equipped with a safe word. No matter which character you choose, you’ll feel like a mad power boss, slamming aliens into submission. And while your main weapon is normally the way to go for quick and painful death, you also have secondary moves that help when you’re vastly outnumbered. Running and/or rolling to the other side of the screen is never a bad idea. Jumping likewise can help you avoid a painful tentacle on your person. If you’re feeling frisky, attacking while running or jumping is also an option. Yes, the alien threat is legion, but you are more than equipped to bring various levels of pain to their vile soirée.
The first half of each mission is standard beat-em-up shenanigans, while the second half is either a boss fight, an intense run-and-gun, or a first-person shooting section – or some mix of the three.
The boss fights are what you’d expect: a single large creature, spewing attacks from all the orifices, and you shoot and avoid them at the same time. In the run-and-gun sections, the game controls your character’s sudden lightning speed while you lay on the attacks and avoid the flying aliens. These sections are over too quickly, but they’re mostly meant to look awesome, and they very much accomplish that goal. The first-person shooting sections are my favorite, with each one taking place inside a building somewhere; warehouse, grocery store, electronics store, etc. Aliens fling all manner of wretchedness at you, while also jumping towards you, claws bared. Shoot them all – including the shelves that sometimes hold extra life or weapon energy – and feel incredibly satisfied.
If I had one tiny complaint about Alien Storm, it’s that your weapon has an energy meter. Not only are your main attacks tied to your energy meter, your secondary screen-clearing attack is as well. Call in the missiles too many times, your normal weapon attacks won’t work, and you’ll have to rely on less-powerful melee attacks. I understand why Sega did this. Keeping track of the energy meter adds some light strategy and forces you not to overspam your secondary attack. Still, it really sucks to accidentally hit the ‘A’ button, watch helicopters spray the screen clean, and deplete the last of your energy. The scene looks awesome, sure, but at what price?
Alien Storm‘s eight missions are over before you know it. The world is saved, and Gordon, Karla, and Slammer return to their menial jobs and one-bedroom apartments overlooking an industrial park. In their dreams, they remember the adrenaline rush of crushing an alien’s fat head with their thick heroic boots. In their dreams, they relive the terror, the exhilaration, the constant thrills of everyday life during the invasion. Saving a little girl from being eaten by a soulless monster. Shepherding scared citizens to underground bunkers. Destroying the alien mothership once and for all. In their dreams, they remember what it was like to live.