Sega’s, Team Shinobi, have been known for producing quite a variety of games over the years. Particularly with games like Golden Axe, Shinobi (obviously), Altered Beast and the particular title in focus for this Retro Rewind, Alien Storm. Developed in 1990 and looking like a futuristic version of Golden Axe in that you’ve up to 3 characters, colour-coded for your convenience, taking on multiple enemies in various settings and locations. However there are differences otherwise I might have well just said, go see Golden Axe.
You have your typical alien invasion happening and rather than mounting a full scale war between our world and the invaders, we send in 3 people. Or more accurately, 2 people and a robot. Each character having a variety of attacks and combos which are initiated though using the attack button. Instead of a jump there’s the dash button which can lead into an attack or usually just sail through your opponent and leave you looking stupid while some otherworldly being bites your face off instead. Last but not least we have the “Kill Everything” button which, depending upon your character, causes a large amount of damage to everything around you at the significant cost of energy (not health…) and will likely leave you floundering for decent attacks later on in the levels if not used at bosses.
One to three players can attack this game at once but bring the piggy bank with you, this one’s a hungry arcade. For a start, there are no health pickups throughout the game and energy pickups are often given in abundance at the end of a level. Collision detection is rather hit and miss but at least you can attack enemies that are fallen or prone on the ground after being hit but it’s no consolation for the poor detection of whether you hit the creature on the exact 2D planar you happen to be upon.
The levels range from cities and slums, to farms and industrial wrecks. Levels change up almost randomly in that some levels are significantly longer than others, some bottlenecks within the game’s flow are tighter than others which causes players to realize they’re being basically abused by the game instead of any particular vestige of fairness being shown. Some players will happily recollect memories from the Megadrive/Genesis version of the same game but that one is significantly more fair than this unhappy little outing of a game.
That’s not to say it isn’t an enjoyable game. It does have moments of clarity in the muddle of mayhem it spews forth. There’s more than just the standard 2D side scrolling fighting, there’s also key points upon entering a room/location in the game that the view switches to a first person mode and the game plays out like Operation Wolf only with a targeting reticle on the screen while you’re trying to shoot down everything, break all the background sprites and objects to find more energy while steadily being swarmed by more and more monsters that the game hurls at you like it’s a Fashion Sale and you’re still wearing white after Labor Day. The other mode of combat is a sort of side scrolling run and gun stage which feels like a bonus level at first until you realize that you can be damaged quickly and killed off if you’re not paying attention.
In truth, most of the game feels like you can be damaged quickly and killed off pretty much at the wanton destruction the game decides to rain down upon your characters. There’s little, IF ANY, invincibility time after being attacked (maybe done on purpose to get more coins out of players) but when you’re killed within seconds of slapping in a credit and need to put in another, you’re less and less likely to feed the beast with your spare change and opt for something that will give you more time and fun for your coin.
Bosses are ridiculously over powered and some have a reach and range way beyond anything you can manage and eventually tactics are thrown out the window and you resort to hammering it repeatedly with attacks hoping to tank the damage and kill it before it kills you. Throw in some morphing to go with that combat and you’re looking at 3-stage bosses that would like less subtle if they just had a vacuum cleaner labelled “I’m draining all your cash, it’s my sole purpose” in huge neon lights! While later swarms of enemies just have you hammer the “Kill All” button just to save yourself the time and effort and realizing it’s just there to make you die faster either way.
Stick to the home console version, at least it can’t take any more of your money than it already has.