Bad news for gamers worldwide today, as Sega announced that they are downsizing yet again. Their output hasn't been the best of late, to be fair, but it's one of the most endearing and iconic names from our gaming past. It's sad to see them falling on hard times.
I thought I would play one of my favourite games from their past. Not as an "In memoriam" as such, but just as a reminder of how things used to be, and the good times they've given me. It's fair to say there have been LOADS of them!
I decided to be a bit less obvious, though. Rather than playing one of their more renowned classics, I played a game which, I recently discovered, appears to be disliked by a lot more than it's liked by. The game in question is Alien Syndrome, and it's a game I've always really enjoyed.
I never played the arcade version back in the day. I wish I had because it would have been right up my street. I did, however, own the Commodore 64 version, and I played it to death. Well, mostly my death... it's a hard game, and I never finished it!
Now that I've played the arcade version I can appreciate what a good conversion it is. It's probably a bit more difficult, and the player is missing the "Option" pickups that certainly help in the arcade version, but it plays tremendously well (once you get used to the scrolling). It does have a little anomaly in that the player has to pick up every stranded comrade before they can leave the ship, whereas in the arcade game you can heartlessly leave a few behind! Personally, I like having a moral compass!
The Spectrum version suffers a little from having a smaller playing area. In this game, with the way the aliens gang up on you, you do need a bit of room to manoeuvre! Also, the player moves quite a bit slower, which wouldn't be a problem if it wasn't for the fact that the aliens shoot projectiles at amazing speed! That aside though, it's technically very accurate with the "Options" remaining intact and giving the player quite a bit of assistance. You can even nick off to battle the end-level boss with some of your poor mates still trapped on deck. Bastard.
I played the Amstrad version, which is very interesting. It's definitely not a port... it's Amstrad-specific, and very much its own beast. The trouble is, it's terrible! I don't know what happened here but it's really bad in every way. Apologies to the programmers, but it's just not a good version of the game at all!
In comparison, it would take a very biased individual to not recognise that the Commodore 64 version is the best of those three 8-bit versions. It's a terrific game... tense, action-packed but with the need to strategise just a little as you can't be too gung-ho in your approach. It was programmed by Tim Rogers of Stoat & Tim fame. I could certainly do with getting hold of him for a wee chat!
Anyway, if you haven't played Alien Syndrome I would highly recommend it, especially if you like games like Gauntlet and its ilk. Just make sure you play the arcade version on MAME or the C64 or Spectrum version. That Amstrad version should never be loaded by anyone, ever again!