Wednesday, May 15, 2013

VGR Alien 3 (game)

Time to go back to the Alien franchise with a cult lil' action game from the early 90s!

Here's one very rare example in which the game is better than the film...

Want more Alien/Predator-related reviews? Check the following!!

VGR: Alien³ 
From Probe Entertainment/Eden Entertainment Software/Arena Entertainment
Played on Mega Drive
Also available on Master System, Game Gear, Nes, Snes, Game Boy, Amiga & Commodore 64.

Type Sidescrolling action/shooter
Year 1992

Loosely based on Alien³, this videogame shares very little with the eponymous film.

This gaming adaptation was created by one of my favorite developers at the time, Probe Software.

Another different Alien 3 game was release on the arcades, but that one was a rail shooter by Sega titled Alien 3: The Gun.

Probe's title is at first look your standard action game you'd expect based on a movie propriety. But it's one that not only does the job but excels beyond what you'd expect.

It was released for most game systems at the time. Either distributed by Acclaim, LJN, Virgin and Arena Entertainment. The first available versions of the game were on the Amiga and Master System. Many others followed such as the famous NES port as well as the 16-bit powered ones on the Mega Drive and the SNES.

Alien 3 appears to be mostly based on the earlier drafts of the movie, or at least improvised from the little to no material Probe had available to make their game tie-in with the film's release date.

Since the game seems to feature scrapped details that never made it to the big screen.

The story follows roughly the same guidelines, but shouldn't be taken at face value since it has so little to do with the gameplay.

Ellen Ripley is the sole survivor of the events depicted in Aliens.

Her shuttle crash-landed on a strange new planet, killing the other survivors Newt, Hicks and the android Bishop in the process.

But thing is the Xenomorph creatures survived along. An egg or two were aboard the shuttle. An alien found its way on this prison/colony planet Fiorina 161.

Now the colony appears to be crowded by an alien invasion!

Xenomorph everywhere!

As you can see it deviates a bit from the singular alien in the film to make it more action packed.

Ripley must find her way out of the colony while putting a stop to the Xeno infestation and freeing all the prisoners from the monsters on the way. Nobody's dying on her watch, ever again!

Alien 3 the game is your usual shooter from a sidescrolling perspective. With a twist.

The levels are huge mazes.

You have a certain amount of time to find and free all the prisoners before the Chestbusters hatch from their stomach! (and what is going to happen if you find them on time? does Ripley rip the creatures out of their bodies??)

Basically they idea is to avoid the Time Over screen by finding the people all over the place, plot the best course to then reach the end on time. Because finding the guys won't stop the timer for some reason. The end of the level is usually at the bottom right corner so you can start exploring farther from that point and move forward while cleaning the areas.

There's some variations, it's not the same goal every new stage. At the stage's title screen there's the type of level referred to as: Mission (the standard stages, find everyone, kill the aliens and escape), Rescue (no aliens but a more complex layout with shorter time), Escape (one goal only: exit the stage!) and the Guardians levels. Those last being the boss area, a larger bulkier alien you'll encounter every new set of levels.

The game takes place all over this prison-colony.

If you look closely you notice the setting outside the colony is mostly made of wood like in the early versions of Alien 3's script.

You start outside and will go deeper into the prison, a slaughterhouse, the cells and a factory where you'll destroy the last of them in the foundry area.

At one point Ripley will even go through an hive that the aliens seem to start building in the prison - a point in which the game completely differs from the film.

The aliens will keep respawning around as long as you don't destroy them.

To help you out, Ripley as access to weapons directly taken from the second film Aliens. The standard gun is the Pulse Rifle but ammo runs out pretty quickly so you also have a grenade launcher, normal grenades and the flamethrower.

You can find useful items such as the little movement detector radar to help keep track on your surroundings, but the area it covers and the speed of the creatures make it not really practical to put to use.

The weapons are taken from Aliens, the environments also seem inspired by it. Even the gameplay seems clearly inspired by the earlier Aliens game Konami released in 1990.

The game is very tense, stressful and you only get four lives to go through it.

This is clearly one of those games that you will only get through by trial and error. And a lot of time and patience.

The game is about 20 levels long(!). And it's a really long difficult challenging title.

If the film had a troubled production, this Alien 3 game knew exactly what it's doing.

Alien 3 is very challenging game.

One of the best gaming experience you can have that mimics the tone and stressful atmosphere of the films.

Well, and it ends on a strange note, a happy ending.

The music of the Megadrive version was made by Matt Furniss. It really captures the best of the 16-bit era music on a kickass soundtrack, perfect to shoot hordes of aliens. Or make you run and hide from those same monsters.

Overall, like I said this is one of those very rare examples in which the game is better than the film it's based on.

It's a really fun, really difficult game. Well worth the time and effort put into it.

The others ports are equally as good, which your preference should go to the console you're most fond of. Each version was still co-developed by Probe and adapted according to the specific systems. Each having its own particularities in the level layouts or design. The Megadrive is pure Sega goodness, the music, the tone, the colors. The SNES is fairly good as well, even though I don't like the symphonic-like tone of the music as much there you gotta recognize it's a pretty good looking game. The Master System is pretty impressive by 8-bit standards and is one of the original versions of the game actually along the Commodore. The Nes and Game Gear were some of the last ports and seem to take some inspiration and details from many of the earlier releases.

The Game Boy release was developed by Bits Studios and has very little to do with this game. It's a top down shooter loosely based on this game by Probe loosely based on the film itself.
I give it:
3 / 3 Invaders!

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