lauantai 1. tammikuuta 2011

REVIEW - Alien 3 (1993)

Genre(s): Action
Released: 1993
Available on: Amiga, C64, GB, GG, GEN, NES, SMS, SNES
Developer(s): Probe Entertainment, Bits Studios
Publisher(s): LJN, Acclaim Entertainment, Arena
Players: 1

Like the previously reviewed game, Alien 3 was a movie license based on a sequel that very few movie critics had something good to say about. Unlike in the case of the previously reviewed game, no one liked the games too much, either. Many different versions of Alien 3 were made, but they all shared the same basic idea, and most of them were developed by Probe Entertainment. My personal opinion? The first two Alien movies are without a doubt milestones in both sci-fi and horror. The third movie was kind of a dud, and so are the games based on it. But I guess they at least tried to make a good game out of the SNES version. The NES version's a game I had to try for comparison, and I'm sorry I did.

In this apartment complex, everyone can hear you scream

Lt. Ellen Ripley's escape pod crashes on Fiorina 161, and both of her human companions are killed. Rescued by the inhabitants of the prison complex, Ripley soon finds that the reason for the crash was an alien parasite that planted her with an egg before going into hiding somewhere within Fiorina. When prisoners start dying, Ripley arms herself to the teeth and decides to go one on one with the monstrous, persistent stowaway one last time before having to deal with the new one growing inside of her.

Long before I even knew who AVGN was, hell, before James Rolfe even began doing AVGN clips, I hated LJN. Their ugly rainbow logo on a cartridge was enough for me to leave even interesting movie licenses be. These interesting licenses usually turned out to be horrible games, though, not a surprise there. Even today, I can't think of one good game published by LJN, except for Maximum Carnage, that SNES game with Spider-Man and Venom. That's a quite reasonable game. Alien 3 on the NES isn't.

The game looks OK, although the tiny sprites tend to fade into the background and over the course of eight missions, it really doesn't change much. Ripley looks like a bald version of the side-scroller sprite of Solid Snake from the two Metal Gear games for the NES, nothing feminine about her. The music is boring electronic jambo. Not too Alien-ish, not even the theme song.

Damn those banana peels!
So, the basic idea of the game is to navigate through the confusing halls of the prison complex in search for prisoners and save them, before they're mysteriously gutted - really. Of course, you also need to shoot the crap out of a lot more bloodthirsty alien vermin that the movie had. There are a few boss aliens thrown in for good measure. There's a very unforgiving time limit that varies between missions. Everything in the game can basically hurt you. Aliens may be several feet away from you, and they can still knock you over and cause damage. You lose health by falling down some forms of staircases seen on the right and you MUST take those chances from time to time, and nasty falls are, of course, hazardous, yet surprisingly not fatal.

In this game, B is used for jumping and A for attacking, which doesn't make any sense. Hello?! This is an NES game, you think you can just suddenly bend an unwritten rule like this and get away with it? The ammo's limited, which is quite illogical since most aliens absorb tons of lead before dying. There are a few different weapons, though. Most require you to get as close to enemies as you can - the range sucks in most cases! - and some weapons just won't work, like grenades. There's this "really cool" feature which enables you drop grenades to the floor below while climbing a ladder, but guess what? It does absolutely no damage to enemies. Correct me if I'm wrong, please, I beg of you... I tried like a million times, but I just couldn't do damage to enemies with this method.

Fuck you.
You can't shoot while climbing a ladder - they offed a practical feature that has been there since Mega Man. You also can't shoot while jumping. You can't jump on or off a ladder. The game is God damn stiff in every sense of the word. Oh yeah, and the time limit? Well, imagine this. There's two minutes left on the clock and it's your third try. You just can't find the last remaining prisoner. Well, then you discover a ventilation shaft. It takes forever to crawl through the vent. You're absolutely sure that the prisoner's there, on the other side, or at least the route to him's to be found there. Halfway through the shaft, you have one minute left. Come on, come on, come on... yes, you reached the other side. It's a dead end with a steel door. No prisoners. No grenade launcher ammo left to take out the door. Time's up, you die. How nice of the game to give off a warning that you're going the wrong way. Too bad the warning's invisible.

The game's difficulty level doesn't really increase as you go, but the level of boredom does, with each mission. They're all the same! Adding some "difficulty" into the game are enemies that randomly latch on you from ceilings, and the enfuriating facehuggers - there's one single method to dispose of them after they've jumped on your face, but as fast and hard as you might be able to press those buttons, it won't help you to get rid of the wretches any faster.

On to the SNES version - this really wasn't a nice experience. I guess I could give the game credit for the fact that it managed to entertain me for a total of five minutes - not many LJN games do.

Graphics : 6.5
Sound : 5.7
Playability : 4.8
Challenge : 4.5
Overall : 4.7


The SNES version looks neat, and when it comes to physical modelling, it looks better than a lot of games of its time. There's a wide array of cool effects, too, and it still manages to run smoothly. Sigourney Weaver lent her likeness to the game and the real Ripley being here brings in some atmosphere that the NES version completely lacked. Same goes for the music, it's a lot closer to home than that of the 8-bit crap bag.

The SNES version was published by Acclaim Entertainment instead of LJN, and as naive as it might sound, it really does set the expectations a bit higher from the start. Both games were developed by Probe. The games are a bit different, but the basic idea's the same - even Wikipedia claims that the games are "completely different", which is really not the case. Alien 3 on the SNES ain't a very good game, but at least it's bearable to some extent and definitely better than the NES game.

Your main mission still is to rescue the prisoners of Fiorina 161 from being brutally murdered by a pack of aliens. This time there are different missions though, which require you to roam the complex in a Metroid style and do all kinds of shit that would potentially sabotage the aliens' chances of breeding further or being able to take control of the whole facility.

How's it hangin'? Hardy fuckin' har.
You can do these missions in any order you want, so the difficulty level once again remains the same throughout the game. It's quite high, in fact, but the most difficult thing about the game - as well as the most difficult thing to bear about it - is that you have one single life. That's right, one life to go on, and it's quite darn hard to keep from draining in the middle of this alien chaos.

The weapons are the same as in the NES version, they are all good for something this time around, though. You can shoot in all different directions, you can also walk while crouching, and finally, you can use any weapon while you're on a ladder. You aren't damaged by everything in sight, and only the biggest aliens can knock you down. The control physics are pretty good. The Y, X and A buttons are all used for different weapons, which is a quite neat idea.

Not ready to take a lava bath just yet.
So what is wrong with the game, then, aside from the fact that you only have one life? First of all, the complex is confusing and it doesn't matter which mission you take on, you are shown the route just once and you need to memorize it to be able to carry out the mission - there's no map, there's only a useless sonar of some kind with you. There's not one locked door in Fiorina, you can easily get lost and wander aimlessly until probably dying and having to start the whole game all over again. There are just way too much enemies in the game and they spawn like crazy, and yes, the ammo's still limited.

Of course the whole one-life deal, the tendency for aimless roaming brought on by the game itself and the insane amount of enemies make the game difficult, but not in the right way, I reckon. Alien 3 had the bases covered to be an OK game, but it would need a huge amount of minor and major fixes here and there to truly make an impression. Oh, well. At least it's better than the NES game.

Graphics : 8.2
Sound : 8.0
Playability : 6.3
Challenge : 6.0
Overall : 6.2


GameRankings: 44.25% (GB), 70.00% (GEN), 77.00% (SNES)

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