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Alien Syndrome (Arcade) artwork

Alien Syndrome (Arcade) review


"When we think about Sega of the 80s, we remember such classics like Space Harrier, Shinobi, OutRun, Phantasy Star, and After Burner; games that helped turn the company into a... temporary powerhouse. However, Sega did release a ton more games during that era, a disturbing amount, at times, and because of that, nearly all of them have been forgotten by the general gaming public. It's only when these games appear in a compilation, or when specific characters make cameos, that people go, "Hey! I re..."



When we think about Sega of the 80s, we remember such classics like Space Harrier, Shinobi, OutRun, Phantasy Star, and After Burner; games that helped turn the company into a... temporary powerhouse. However, Sega did release a ton more games during that era, a disturbing amount, at times, and because of that, nearly all of them have been forgotten by the general gaming public. It's only when these games appear in a compilation, or when specific characters make cameos, that people go, "Hey! I remember Lee, Joe, Mary, and Edgar!" Alien Syndrome is one such game that became "lost", despite being ported to a bijillion systems. At first glance, it does seem to be an amazingly tame title, deserving of its forgotten status, but if you actually attempt to play to the end, you'll realize your first assumption was way off.

In the deceptive first level of this overhead maze shooter, your biggest threat are pink blobs. Yup. Granted, they come in numbers, and occasionally, a green blob will pop out with a spit attack, but they're not dangerous enough to keep you away from your goal: finding and rescuing hostages in order to fight the boss. And considering the maze isn't that big and confusing, you may even try to save every hostage before the clock hits zero and the bomb goes off. Yes, your protagonists, Ricky and April O'Neal, are so ballsy, they set explosives with short timers before doing anything.

So! About that first boss. Turns out it's a head and a green arm with a face attached to a giant vagina that shoots purple worms. And the only way to damage it is to fire at the thing when it opens up. Surprise! Of course, the clock is still ticking away, so you make waste of this freak and watch as it explodes into pieces. Since it's the end of the stage, you take this moment to relWATCH OUT FOR THAT FLYING GREEN ARM! That's right, the fight ain't over, yet. The head is still floating around, and it's mad as hell.

After losing nearly all your lives from that interesting encounter, you arrive in the second level, in a spaceship, filled with stock missiles and aliens of the H.G. Giger kind. Thinking this as a repeat of the first stage, you casually go about your business of collecting hostages, semi-ignoring the normal, pink aliens, assuming they only just walk around. Well, you assumed wrong, because one of them just spit on you, and now you're looking like a fool with your seizure on the ground. Zero lives and back at the title screen, a shame. Oh, you thought you could just pick up where you died? That's what you get for thinking! Wait...

Fast forward to the third stage, with knowledge of damnation after loss of all life force, you're more careful of your surroundings, as well as being tense. Why? The mazes are starting to get more confusing, as evident by the third's constant use of bending bridges over murky waters. And be careful! Sometimes monsters leap out from below, throwing their eyeballs in your direction. It is kinda unnerving at this point in Alien Syndrome, since, yes, you have to be cautious in fear of getting tossed back to the title screen this far in, but also have to hurry through the mazes before getting blown up by your own devices. Things that once were mere distractions are now serious threats. It only becomes more difficult, too, as you trek closer to the seventh stage, the climax. Enemies are more agile and erratic, mazes twist and turn as you desperately search for the exit, and defeating bosses become more horrific as the timer reaches 20 seconds and the game tells you to hurry up!

That's the simplistic beauty of Alien Syndrome; its play mechanics are nothing new, but with only some minor tweaking, you have yourself a survivor horror title. Sure, you have infinite ammo, different weapons to grab, and acquisition of little robots that watch your back. However, you still feel overwhelmed with pressure, and sometimes powerless as the time ticks away, as these monsters surround you, and as you try to beat the game with only a few lives. But that's also the charm of Alien Syndrome: can you make it in time, shoot, can you make it, period? And it's not a title that's too difficult or unfair, just having the right amount of balance to get your blood pumping.

Alien Syndrome may not be one of Sega's greats of the 80s, but this "lost" one has enough spirit in it for those unfamiliar to give it a shot, or even those that tried it decades ago and forgot what made this title interesting.

Rating: 7/10

pickhut's avatar
Community review by pickhut (January 16, 2011)

After reviews about Gradius, Salamander, Parodius, and Otomedius games, PickHut attempted a Scramble review. The idea never materialized into writing...

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overdrive posted January 17, 2011:

I like this review. Alien Syndrome's one of those games that I've always noticed, but never played. I'd see pics of various ports in magazines back in the day and think that it looked interesting and would be kinda fun to play, but never got around to it, so it's nice to read this.
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pickhut posted January 17, 2011:

You know, I was watching a comparison video yesterday on the various ports of the game, and it seems like they all have their odd flaws. It appears the arcade original is the best of the bunch.

Thanks, too!

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