Friday, June 11, 2010

Aliens (Arcade)

Platform:  Arcade
Developer:  Konami
Released:  1990
Genre:  Shoot 'em up

The Game
Lt. Ellen Ripley must bust her way through several levels of a space colony infested with vicious xenomorphs to save Newt, a young girl that was the only survivor of the alien massacre.  All she's got to get her through this horrific ordeal is a homemade rifle/flamethrower/missile launcher and balls of steel big enough to take down the Empire State Building.

Aliens is based on the movie of the same name, the second in a series of movies involving the titular xenomorphs and interplanetary badass Ripley, played by the lovely Sigourny Weaver.  The game was released about four years after the movie and was the second to have that name, the other being for the MSX home computer and developed by, of all people, Squaresoft.

The Characters
Ripley is the protagonist, and if you've got a buddy with some quarters to burn, she can be joined by Corporal Dwayne Hicks (played by sci fi darling Michael Biehn in the movie).  There's no real dialogue to speak of in this game to convey their personalities, but I think it's safe to assume that they're both the same awesome folks we see in the movie.

Newt is the spunky young girl who just can't seem to keep from getting kidnapped by those nasty xenomorphs no matter how many of them you dispatch.

The xenos are those nasty buggers trying to bite off Ripley's head and spit acid down her throat.  Unlike just the three basic types we see in the movies (queen, face hugger, drone), there's tons of different critters running around the game's colony, all of them working as hard as they can to end the human incursion into their nest with their various unique abilities.

The Writing
There's not much to speak of past the basic exposition given at the very beginning of the game to get the player caught up to speed, but I have to give major props to Konami for picking the best section of the movie to use for a game.  Though there's actually only some moderate action when Ripley goes down to retrieve Newt in the film, the leadup to her mounting her rescue mission definitely suggests that something more like this game should have happened.  Kudos to them for making this expectation a reality!

The Gameplay
Basic run and gun with pretty basic mechanics.  You can shoot at two levels for most of the game: standing for the big stuff or crouching to wipe out the face huggers and other small critters.  Bombs can be found scattered throughout the levels, as can gun upgrades, allowing you to plow through the xenos with missiles, scattershot, and purifying fire.  My personal fave is the flamethrower, not least because seeing the special burning version of the enemy sprites is pretty damn cool.

The basic blast-hell-outta-them levels are broken up by the occasional cart ride which operates like a rail shooter as you take out xenos that try to jump on the front of your cart and chew on your face, air vent crawls in which you get a HUD set up like the movie's motion detectors, and freight loader sections that have Ripley take control of that kickass yellow mecha that always fascinated me as a kid.  Hell, I'd still love a ride in one today!

The action is fast paced, xeno blasting fun!

The Challenge
I actually beat this game as a kid tooling around in the local arcade, and I remembered it being pretty hard.  This time, however, I pretty much blazed right through.  I still ended up using about three fake dollars, though.

Hey, remember back when all arcade games were only a quarter a play?  Those were the days.

The Graphics
I've always enjoyed arcade graphics, and even some of the earliest games still impress me.  That said, Aliens manages to impress even above many of the other impressors.  The colors are a little gaudy, but the level design is quite good and the enemy sprites are very well made, especially the bosses.  I think my favorite of the latter has to be the xeno with the black sectioned armor on the back of his entire body so that he looks like a big wad of cockroaches when he curls into a ball and rolls around.  The infested human enemies are pretty creepy, especially the half-a-bodies that crawl along the ground and try to shoot you.

The Music
Music?  I was too busy dodging acid blood and filling hardened carapaces with burning death to notice any damn music!

The Bottom Line
Aliens has long been among my favorite arcade games, and this recent playthrough hasn't changed that.  Great graphics, entertainingly hectic gameplay, and great selection of setting . . . this is what more licensed games should be like.  I just wish it was a little longer, but that's arcade games for ya.

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