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Alien Storm (Genesis) artwork

Alien Storm (Genesis) review


"Alien Axe? Possibly, but there's more to it than that."


Alien Storm is an interesting Sega game that I feel flew under the radar a little bit. It's another side scrolling beat 'em up but I feel that it offers a little more than many of the other titles that were out at the time. One reason it may have been overlooked was because...well...it's fairly obvious this game has a lot with common with Golden Axe, right down to the graphics and character line up. I think that this game is actually better than both Golden Axe and Golden Axe II. That's a bold statement to make for sure, especially since Golden Axe is such a beloved series but I'm just calling it like I see it.

The similarities, and lack thereof.

I'll clarify what I mean about this game being similar to Golden Axe. Graphically speaking, it appears to have the same style and may even run off of the same engine. All you'd have to do is track down some footage or screenshots and it becomes plain as day. I also mentioned that the character line up is really similar to Golden Axe which has a man, a woman, and a novelty character (Gillius the Dwarf). Alien Storm has a man, a woman (who is similar looking to Tyris Flare) and a robot. The female character, Karen, even has the most impressive special attacks and stuff like Tyris. To me this could mean one of two things; either they thought that this formula worked really well and figured they'd try a modern day/sci-fi like setting with Alien Storm or they just decided to use the same engine and similar assets in order to reduce cost and create a new game...or maybe it was just both?

I guess what I'm trying to say here is that maybe people wrote this game off or not many played it because of the above reasons. I could be wrong though, maybe critically back in the day this game enjoyed some modest praise. I dunno, I certainly feel like it's slipped way under the radar for people though, I had never even heard of this game until I played it on Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection for the X-Box 360. But I'm gonna make a case for this game possibly being better than either Golden Axe or the sequel, it's too similar not to compare.

For starters the gameplay is more fast paced, intense, and impressive looking overall. You're fighting mutating alien things in the streets and blasting them with lasers, flamethrowers, machine guns, grenades and all kinds of stuff, to top that off you're pretty agile and able to get out of danger's way with running and roll abilities. Even the special attacks are cooler to some extent (Tyris' spells notwithstanding), Garth (the dude) calls down a U.S. Starfighter to carpet bomb the hell out of aliens, Karen calls down a nuclear missile strike, and Scooter (the robot) self destructs and kills everything including him, then a new body appears to pick up his head. These special attacks, like in Golden Axe drain a lot of your energy, but this game is a little different in how it handles your resource with special attacks, giving a very slight tactical bent to the gameplay.

The thing about energy is that it depletes with every attack you make. So when you see energy packs drop, you've got to pick them up in order to continue fighting. If you run out of energy your attacks become much weaker, so in a way this kind of acts like a sort of stamina. This forces you to think about the actions you take and what kind of attacks you can do, there are other attacks that don't drain your energy like a rolling shoulder tackle and other things. If you sit there and mindlessly spam attacks like you do in all other games of the genre, you'll deplete your energy and be left with nothing.

The Energy Meter ruling still applies to the other types of gameplay in Alien Storm as well. There are stages where you go into a first person view and do some Lethal Enforcers/Time Crisis/Virtua Cop like shooting to some aliens while also gaining energy packs and health pickups by destroying the environment. You have to be especially careful during these stages because your shots can take up a decent amount of energy. So make sure your aim is good. There are also these run and gun stages where your characters run really fast and can jump across great lengths. These stages play out a little more like shmup games like Defender or Lifeforce but you don't have to worry so much about spending energy here as it's actually more about not getting hit.

There are still similarities to address however; this game also has a Duel Mode but it's more like the Golden Axe II variety which means it's a fine addition to everything. For better or worse, Alien Storm is also stingy about continues and health items, so it's still quite difficult in comparison to those other games. The similarities (different stages aside) stop here though.

What's left after an alien attack?

One thing I can speak positively about is that the graphics are much better and generally more impressive looking than either of the first two Golden Axes. There's more vibrant colors, interesting backgrounds, and the animations are just better overall. However there is a trade off, the sound isn't terribly impressive by that same token. Sound effects are ok, but the music suffers here. The tracks that play sound like really simplistic synth FM kind of stuff and the volume is kinda low sometimes, it is literally background music in this case.

I feel like this is a big no-no, especially for a beat'em up game, good music is one of the most important things to have in these types of games. Music sets the mood for the action and stages, and gets you pumped up, and ready to take on hordes of enemies. Without good music, things feel sort of off or flat, but thankfully the gameplay is interesting and fun enough to diminish this effect to an extent. It's more of a bummer than anything major.

Last but definitely not least, this game is pretty short. This is comparatively speaking to games at the time, I'm not unrealistic. Me and a friend beat this game within half an hour, most other beat'em up games at the time usually last at least about an hour or longer. It's a real shame, but Alien Storm isn't expensive or anything. It's a fun romp to have with friends or by your lonesome if you're looking for something else in the genre. Alien Axe? Perhaps, but I feel that overall this is a more interesting entry in the Sega beat'em up library.

Positives
+ This may be sci-fi Golden Axe on the surface, but gameplay is more frantic and fast paced.
+ Lots of variety offered with beat'em up, shooting gallery, and shmup like stages to break up monotony.
+ Has Duel Mode which adds a little something extra.
+ Graphics are pretty good, fair amounts of detail and good animations. The game never really gets bogged down by all the action going on either.

Negatives
- Still stingy about credits and health power ups, this is at least somewhat adjustable in the options menu.
- The soundtrack can be low in volume at times and isn't very impressive or engaging. Not very fitting for a game like this.
- Pretty short, maybe half an hour tops.

4/5

zork86's avatar
Community review by zork86 (September 14, 2015)

Sometimes, Zork reviews something other than Resident Evil games. And when he does, he gets the hose again.

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overdrive posted September 15, 2015:

I played this for the first time on Sonic's Ultimate Genesis Collection, too! You liked it more than I did, though. I played it enough to unlock whatever arcade game (Alien Syndrome, maybe?) you can unlock from it and that was that.

But in the same vein, I never really got into the Golden Axe games, either. They weren't "not fun", but they just didn't click with me.

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