Now that Prometheus is finally coming our way, lets talk Alien retro games.
Truthfully I don’t remember that many Alien games from my own childhood. I remember Alien 3, on the Genesis, which was a vast improvement on previous versions of the game: better gameplay, better graphics (Ripley has *gasp* boobs!), kickass music, blood, gore… great stuff. The game goes for more of an Aliens-type balls-to-the-wall run of destruction and death rather than the dark, gritty, clinical atmosphere of David Fincher’s film; it works, and makes for one thrilling action-packed game. One thing that always bothered me in the Sega Master System version was how you freed prisoners by essentially picking them up and putting them in your pocket (they disappeared as you walked passed them), here you actually set them free. I know, it’s insignificant, but I felt like a douche going around vanishing these guys off the face of the Earth.
Togetherness is what I’m about.
Alien 3 on the NES was actually not bad considering LJN were behind it (still haven’t forgiven these guys for Beetlejuice), a side-scroller which allowed you to go just about anywhere up and down ladders, through doors, left and right with the occasional alien leaping out at you. The controls were pretty fluid, the graphics colourful and respectable for the NES, it had great sound effects and was a fun play despite how easy it was to lose track of where you were actually meant to go and that annoying music playing throughout.
The Sega Master System’s take on Alien 3 was about as good, with better music but messier graphics. The NES game was certainly much too cartoony, especially when you’ve seen the actually pretty darn gloomy film it was based on, but it was fun and its simplicity helped make it an enjoyable, if slight, effort. It’s hard to explain but Alien 3 on the Master System feels a bit inconsistent both in its gameplay and with its graphics. On the one hand the animation on Ripley is much better, on the other the gun shots and the way the aliens explode is a bit lame. But in essence, it’s more or less on a par with the NES title. Nothing special.
Then came the Genesis which… kicked it up a notch.
This new version was essentially the same game, with the same Snakes & Ladders-type map and the same aliens jumping up at you. The other versions were good and quite probably the best they could have done with that template but frankly it felt like it was time for a new take on Alien 3. Besides, even the Genesis game had its share of flaws: every hit would result in you lying down for a while before getting up again, every weapon would run out fast and at frustrating times, not to mention that your radar was pretty useless since those aliens would just appear out of nowhere most of the time.
Not perfect, then, but as good as it was gonna get.
Or so I thought.
Which brings me to the Super Nintendo version. For one thing, it starts with some fantastic cut scenes setting the game up for you in style. The game itself looks fab boasting great backgrounds and overlays, cool graphics all around and the occasional touch of suspense. It’s a grittier, more atmospheric game and when it comes to Alien 3, the grittier and more unpleasant the better. It’s actually quite rare that I prefer the SNES version of a game to the Genesis’ (I’m a SEGA man at heart) but in this case I would have to go with Nintendo. The game itself isn’t tons better than the Genesis one but it’s a fresher, more immersive experience which differentiates itself from any other Alien 3 game before it. A good thing, definitely.
I’m aware there’s a Game Gear version of the game also which kind of looks like the Genesis one if you were playing it in the rain. Blurrier, basically. So if that’s your thing…
My personal favourite Alien game to this day remains the Alien Trilogy on the Sega Saturn (also on the Playstation) which never failed to freak me out, in a good way. Think Doom but on the Nostromo: pretty great. The simple act of opening a door was a gamble every time. You never knew when those little bastards would jump out at you and try to impregnate your face. This is, for me, what an Alien game should be: a creepy first-person shooter with a good range of spooky H.R. Giger wet dreams sneaking around a seemingly deserted ship ready to make life very difficult for you. I don’t think a side-scroller could ever truly achieve the same type of unnerving mood successfully but Alien 3 on the SNES is certainly a good effort and well worth revisiting.
If boobs are your concern, though: