The late 80’s and early 90’s were jam-packed with side scrolling fighters. Double Dragon, Streets of Rage, Golden Axe – these were essentially the First Person Shooter genre of that period. While Nintendo seemed to focus on platformers, their rivals, Sega, were known for their exclusive side strollers. One of these being Alien Storm.
The premise was as standard as things could have been back when it was released in 1991. Earth has been overrun by aliens. You kill the aliens and save the day. No thrills, no fuss. Just you and a trail of alien corpses. The Mega Drive version of Alien Storm allowed for two player co-op and let you choose from three characters: Karen, armed with a deadly flamethrower; Garth, wielding a battery-pack lighting gun and Scooter, a robot with an energy whip and shooting body parts. The characters seem a little ‘out there’ but in reality aren’t much different to those found in Golden Axe. A guy, a girl and on oddity character.
Your three default buttons are attack, dash and a special attack based on energy you acquire throughout the game. The special attacks can potentially wipe out all the enemies on the screen depending on how powerful they are. Karen blows up the screen with a nuclear missile, Garth calls in for a jet to shoot all enemies and Scooter… well Scooter blows himself up and reappears straight afterwards. Like other side scrolling brawlers, you can double tap left or right to run. While running you can quickly press the dash button followed by attack to pull off aerial attacks.
What makes Alien Storm stick out from the crowd are the interlude levels. Sections of the game that take a break from the generic gameplay and throw you into completely different environments. These are made up of a First Person Shooter section as well as a running-shooter (aka run ‘n gun) section. Not only do these offer a distraction from the mundane, they also show off the alien’s character designs and cheesy, yet solid, soundtrack and sound effects.
While there might not be a large variety of differing enemies, those that are probably some of the best designed for their time. Most look like a disfigured crossover between a zombie and something from the Alien movies. Of these monstrosities the most notable are the various boss battles you encounter along the way.
With eight missions and a variety of gameplay Alien Storm sticks out from other games in the genre. Yes, it might not be as iconic as some of its counterparts but it does deliver a very unique experience in general. You can play it with a friend in co-op, though it drops the difficulty level quite substantially, when playing as a single player the challenge can be quite significant. Especially in the later levels.
If you have yet to experience Alien Storm on the Mega Drive it is a must have addition to anyone’s retro collection, especially if you are a fan of the side scrolling genre.