I'll be blunt right off: Golden Axe is overrated! It has clunky mechanics and bugs which were difficult to excuse back when it was a new-fangled arcade game and in the opening of the Silver Era. Over 20 years after the fact, Golden Axe has been devoured and shit out by the Time Monster, and there's no way to let go of its advanced age anymore. And this game, folks, was a CLASSIC! It's a common staple on Top 100 lists of the Silver Era!
Why do I bring that up? Because Sega later recycled the formula. Hey, Golden Axe made money, what else would you expect? Well, the recycled version of Golden Axe was Alien Storm, a game which takes place in a more modern era, and it even involves one of those cliche plots that idiots who don't know anything about video games imagine every video game ever made to be about: Save the World! From who? Well, look at the title of the game: Alien Storm. From the aliens, duh!
There are a few cosmetic differences between Alien Storm and Golden Axe, but these two games run on practically the very same engine. Just as Golden Axe is a brawler set in a long-ago Lord of the Rings-type fantasy world, Alien Storm is set today, during an alien invasion, and you get to pick one of three characters who walks around beating up the aliens at close range. Okay, well, not exactly beating them up. You do get equipped with big guns, but the guns are only effective at close range. This idea borders on the completely outlandish, but given what Alien Storm is supposed to be, I'll go along with it. But I don't think anyone can deny that, even using the aliens as some kind of excuse, that gameplay mechanic definitely wrecks havoc on your suspension of disbelief, even by the galactically broad standards of a video game.
Every couple of levels or so, the finale of a level turns into a very primitive first-person shooter. That is to say, you're placed into the eyes of whatever character you're controlling, and you also get control of a small target mark which you can move around the screen to aim your gun. Gee, after a level of fighting aliens up close and personal, NOW the game wants to give us guns that work? Your "walking" consists of the game automatically moving back and forth. Your only concern is making all the face-huggers dead.
Believe it or not, the first-person sequences come off pretty well, especially for one of the Silver Era's first generation titles. They do have a habit of disrupting the flow of the game, but they're fun. The stupid gameplay mechanic you REALLY need to be worried about is the fact the game doesn't let you jump. Instead, the jump is replaced with a roll. It's basically there to serve the same purpose as the ordinary, average, everyday jump, except without the wonderful convenience of being able to leap over foes who have you cornered.
That gets to be a problem when you encounter the one lone boss design in the entire game because he has long range and moves fast enough to feel like he takes up more of the screen than he really does. Even though he can knock you out of your roll, the only real method of fighting him is by hitting him when he gets close, then rolling across the screen, and repeating until clean. The other aliens aren't exactly brimming with design originality either. You'll only get about enough designs to be counted on one hand, although to be perfectly fair, that lone hand would be my left hand, which is the one with all its fingers.
The level designs do take occasional breaks and vary things up a little - some scenes scroll by having the characters run really fast and be able to take out the bad guys in one shot. It's a nice little change, because those are the only parts of the game that feel truly smooth.
The sprites in Alien Storm are big and details. That's very nice, and you may have to chalk any graphic limitations up to Alien Storm being an early Silver Era game. They're also insanely clunky, and the few animation frames that exist feel like the animation was forced into the controls. The graphics also lack color - Alien Storm has a look to it reminiscent of the classic movie series Alien. There's a very stilted, rigid, cardboard feel, and the character designs are very very few and constantly repeating. The aliens look like B-movie rejects from the 50's. The backgrounds aren't pushing any limits.
Sounds? You don't wanna know that, friend. They're bad and nonsensical every which way on the board. When an alien is defeated, it makes a noise which sounds like a screwdriver handle being tapped against a wooden workbench. Music is bland, and the game just generally sounds like the audio was half-assedly thrown in the day before shipment after someone forgot the game didn't make any noise and was told to quickly get something in.
Controls, well, the game feels every bit as stilted as it looks. It's easy enough to move the cursor in the first-person shooter sequences, but that's the only good thing I can really say about the controls. It's difficult to get the characters to move, especially when facing an onslaught, and tough to make sure the characters are properly aligned with the bad guys before attacking. And oh yeah, did I mention there's no jump function? It bears repeating. There's no jump function, and this game is a brawler.
With the first few games of every new console, there will be a few daring classics which push the boundaries of what a good video game can be. There will also be games hastily rushed out in order to capitalize on that new console smell. Guess which one Alien Storm is.