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Monday, February 18, 2013

NES Replay: Alien Syndrome

Developer: Sega
Publisher: Tengen
Released: 1989
What's the alien's syndrome?: It's SARS.
In NES Replay, we go through each NES game from A-Z to see if they're any good. Today: Alien Syndrome.

When I was playing Alien Syndome, I couldn't help but think, "This seems like it would have been fun to play when it was originally released in arcades." I also thought, "Boy, this game is glitchy."

Thus far, I've really only run into one game that struggled mightily with the emulators I'm using, and that was the execrable Action 52. Alien Syndrome is now another one. With two of the emulators I used, the game got horribly glitchy after the start screen. With the other emulator, I was able to play the first level, but it became glitchy in the second level. Still playable, but glitchy.

That puts us at a bit of an impasse. Was the game glitchy even on the NES proper, or is it just not properly emulated? You could make a case for or against.

I mean, Alien Syndrome is an unlicensed cartridge made by Tengen. That could mean that it maybe wasn't made right in the first place. However, if they used a different programming method that isn't supported by most emulators, it could show up glitchy in emulators but not on the NES itself.

Boy, I wish this space station had some
challenge in it...
There's the rub with emulation. Most of the time it works fine, but when it doesn't work, it's very hard to figure out if the emulator is at fault or the game itself. It could be so many things: A bad ROM dump, an unsupported mapper, emulator quirks, and on and on.

I could sit and dwell on this problem, but Alien Syndrome isn't so good that it'll keep me up at night. You can tell that Alien Syndrome is supposed to be a frantic run-and-gun shooter, where you're working against the clock to rescue your squadmates while aliens slowly overwhelm you unless you're quick with your trigger finger. That's apparently how it was in the arcades, as I understand.

On the NES, it's instead a slow-paced walk through a space station to find your squadmates who happen to be waiting around, totally safe. You can outrun any hostile alien without even trying or kill them with one shot. One wonders why your squadmates didn't just walk out on their own. The timer is incredibly forgiving, as you have ample time to find everyone and get to the exit.

...GAH! And his name is "Hugger"? Is it an
inter-galactic child molester?
That's what makes the end-of-level boss so frustrating. At least on the first level, he (she? it?) is incredibly difficult. It fires two projectiles that can be shot down, then two more that have to be avoided. One hit will kill you. You can't shoot in one direction while walking in another direction, so you're forced to have to stop moving long enough to quickly fire off shots in the bosses' general direction.

Oh, and by the way, the boss has a very small place where you can actually damage it. It's not the head, which would have made sense. There's no glowing or differently-colored area that shows where its weak point is, and there's no sonic clues that you haven't hit it, like a plink or higher pitched noise that would indicate that you've missed. Have fun!

There's a two-player mode in Alien Syndrome. I'm not sure how much fun it would be, since there's nothing for two players to really do. Besides, since it doesn't play nicely on an emulator, that means that you've have to track down an NES Control Deck and a copy of Alien Syndrome in order to try it out, and any friend that would go to such lengths just so you can play Alien Syndrome is no friend of yours.

Final Rating:


Next Week: Alien3