Considering my recent foray into emulating older games, I thought I’d start up a recurring article reviewing some of these (relatively) ancient and out of the way games. Just because they have archaic graphics doesn’t mean that they don’t have incredible design and value for modern gamers.
I would also like to institute a system where you can recommend the next game I try. If you like this article or know of a weird or esoteric older game let me know in the comments. It must be PS1 or older, but my emulator can handle almost any system before that (like Apple II or Amiga).
That said, lets jump right in to the first review:
Ok, I know, this isn’t all that obscure of a game. It was actually pretty popular during the arcade beat-em-up era. Sadly, though, I was not raised around arcades, so it was new to me. I also needed something to get the ball rolling on these reviews.
Alien vs. Predator was released in 1994 by Capcom for their CPS-2 arcade system. It is a ‘beat-em-up’ style arcade game, with up to 3 players, and it is set in the Alien vs. Predator universe.
The game’s controls sport one joystick and three buttons per player: normal attack, firing attack, and jump/slide attack. The firing attack has a reload/cooldown feature, and the jump/slide attack button can change from a jump to some sort of movement attack depending on the direction of the joystick. You can also pick up items, like guns, knives, and grenades.
The game has four playable characters, two humans and two predators. For this one I got a buddy to join me, and we played through the game in 2 player co-op.
The game feels a lot like most beat-em-ups. You are a 2D character that can move left/right/forwards/backwards while hordes of enemies flood the screen to try and murder you. The game felt unoriginal to me, but was likely very fresh when it was released.
Like many of these games perceiving distance was one of the challenges of playing this game, it was hard to tell if you were forwards to backwards enough to hit an enemy.
Another con was how difficult it was to stay alive. You get 2 lives per quarter, but if you die twice you can continue the game if you add more quarters. It seemed like no matter how defensively you played, your health would unyieldingly shrink. To beat the game in co-op we went through about $20 worth of lives. Getting through the game took about two hours of play time. It felt like, to some degree, the game was designed to take your money.
Those flaws aside the game was pretty fun, in a cartoonish way. The action in the game was manic and often a bit hammy, where spamming one attack usually got the job done. Once you realized that your health was rarely determined by how you play it was a fun diversion to cannonball yourself into a dozen angry aliens. It was not a masterpiece by any means, but enjoyable despite itself.
Especially if your partner dropped their weapon and you could, to their chagrin, steal it for as long as you didn’t get hit.
The co-op side mattered too, the game would not have been much fun alone. The most effective I was in the game was when we acted as a team to attack our opponents. Playing with a friend also improved the story.
Also worth mentioning is the game’s art style, which I have to say I did love, along with it’s classy 8-bit soundtrack.
I can only describe the story for this game as delightfully terrible. It felt like little more than a thin shell to propel the player into more situations where his/her/its meaty fists could connect with more enemies. Despite that, it was endearingly campy, like a short story written on the fly.
The rather short plot starts the players in San Drad (mistranslated?) California, which is infested with aliens. You fight your way through to the hive and defeat it. You then discover by extreme coincidence that the alien infestation can be credited to an earthly corporation. You then fight human soldiers along with aliens until you reach the final boss, the queen, aboard a spaceship. You defeat the queen and send the spaceship hurtling to the earth, resulting in a massive nuclear explosion that saves the day. Somehow. It kills the aliens or something.
Overall the game was deeply flawed, but handsome, delightfully hammy, and kept my attention until the end. It is not, however, something I’m motivated to play again. I give it 4/10.
If you totally disagree with my assessment, or again, have a cool game for me to try out, call me out or let me know in the comments section below.