Can't Teach an Old Alien New Tricks

Alien Syndrome
Reviewed On
Available For
PSP, Wii

Since the release of the Wii a little less than a year ago, there have only been a handful of titles that have really offered a proving ground for the console next to the 360 and PS3. With so much potential as an innovation in gaming controls, the games set to really help set off the Wii still haven’t been released. Meanwhile, we’re stuck bowling on Wii Sports or picking up titles that only seem to provide expansive monotony and a desire to be played with the classic controller.

Though I still can’t seem to pull off a perfect 300 in bowling, I took some time out to review Alien Syndrome, the sci-fi action RPG, released by SEGA during a time in which decent Wii titles are lagging.

Game developers seem to figure that the Wii is just a place to throw games they don’t feel like updating for the more powerful 360 and PS3 consoles. Alien Syndrome proves to be another such title.

So if you want to know why a game seems to reminisce on its days as an old arcade title rather than attempt to make it into what might be a decent revamped third person shooter, read on. Or just remember that the Wii provides classic arcade games through the Virtual Console and enjoy everything about Alien Syndrome except the length.

The story is based on the female soldier, Aileen Harding, full of all the wit and charm that only a name like that could provide, who heads out to a spaceship which has lost contact with earth, the Seti-Alpha 5 Terraforming Station (SAT5). With any attempt at an enthralling story out of the way, the game begins with simple cartoon graphics and Aileen already thrown on board. Arriving on the ship, you quickly uncover the problem with the ship: an alien infestation! Yea, I was so surprised.

Infestation is a good word for it, as most of the aliens strongly resemble random bugs, and freeform crawlers that look more like big amoebas than anything else.

The RPG aspect of the game comes with the option of choosing what type of specialty you want to start the game with, providing you with one of the four weapon classes-energy, projectile, explosive, or flame, and different stats distributions. As you move through the games various objects are collected for upgrading your armor, health, gaining different weapons, etc.

Along with your ranged weapons classes there is the ravager, your melee weapon. This is your whooping stick that provides the only motion based action from the Wii controller, allowing different combinations and the devastating Finisher, which is performed in a manner similar to the equally deadly Powerbomb. The ravager’s power can be updated like everything else in the game to levels of destructive grandeur.

The gameplay tops out at about 20 hours, with three difficulty levels, each consisting of the same walking around and destroying hoards of the same aliens over and over again, while searching for keycards to unlock rooms, occasionally leading to alien bosses, which simply take longer to kill.

Seeing as every alien generously hands out health packs and ammo upon death, worrying about dying is never a big deal, so long as you pay attention to your health meter and press right on the D-pad every so often to replenish your health.

The game becomes repetitive once you’ve gotten your skills up to a decent level, something that can be accomplished in about an hour of play; then it just becomes a decision over whether to waste the energy of swinging your arm around to use your ravanger (occasionally fun) or try to locate your aiming cursor while you point the wiimote at the screen to use whatever ranged weapon you have out (not really that fun).

Figuring out where you are aiming is the toughest, meaning the most annoying, part of the game as questionable amounts of rampage seem to always being going on, among which the poorly defined cursor always seems to disappear.

The look of the game doesn’t help Alien Syndrome much either. The game graphics are not up to par, something I don’t think stems from the fact that it is on the Wii as much as due to poor game design. Poorly imagined aliens just give me more respect for the Orkin man, and dull environments offer little desire to save the SAT5. Oddly enough, the PSP version of the game seems to be a little smoother, though without the cute swinging of your real arm to knock down the aliens.

The soundtrack is nothing to be remembered; only making me crave the sweet 8-bit machine soundtracks of old, whose intensity of beating ear drums with harsh sound probably would have given a lot to this game, making it worth at least the bit of nostalgia it conjures in its appearance.

That’s really what this game appears to be; a throwback to old gaming when I didn’t have to put on Samus’ helmet, but could watch from the sidelines, or when I was happy just killing tons of the Foot with Donatello without too much storyline.

The problem for Alien Syndrome is that now I can just go to the Virtual Console on the Wii or XBLA on the 360, and play the games themselves for a few dollars. I don’t need to spend 50 dollars on Alien Syndrome to remind me of what gaming used to be. But if you do, then Alien Syndrome has got your number.

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