Alien Storm

Folks of a certain vintage might recall Alien Storm. It's probably a ROM sitting on your SD card right now, largely untouched. As it was for me up until last week, when I booted into my Megadrive Core on Analogue Pocket to discover a trove of memories I didn't know I had.

The Megadrive was our console of choice. I had Nintendo friends (weirdos), but we had the Megadrive. My mate from across the street had an older brother who was legitimately brilliant a videogames according to our feeble minds at the time.

So when I booted the ROM up as a flight-of-fancy, I was immediately taken back to sitting at the end of my friend's bed, impressed by his bigger brother's playthrough. Which, in hindsight, probably was absolutely not impressive at all.

Cover art

Alien Storm initially saw release as an arcade side-scroller, like so many Megadrive games. It received a cartridge release in 1991, and boasted a Keisuke Tsukahara soundtrack. A soundtrack that immediately took my back to those days as a six year old.

The audio was something to behold. The shrieks and screams from inside buildings where aliens pop out to come after you. The bizarre lightning gun. And the even more bizarre aliens inside post boxes.

A homicidal alien race is invading Earth, and the only thing that stands between them and world domination are a special forces team known as the "Alien Busters," composed of Karen, Garth and Scooter the robot.

It was basically a tribute to Golden Axe, and a precursor to Streets of Rage. Side-scrolling, beat 'em up featuring similar mechanics. Call in the heavies when you're in a tough spot, pick between a few characters at the start menu, etc. But something about the madness of the aliens, the bizarre choice of weapons and the allure of the audioscape really made this stand out.

All of the Alien Busters are playable from the beginning of the game. There are eight missions to complete with several stages. Each mission has the typical alien blasting action across landscapes like the streets, inside shops and the mother ship. This task becomes increasingly difficult with each new mission, and the aliens are capable of hiding inside objects such as plants, postboxes, trashcans, drums, and other items. Each mission has an objective such as rescuing people or destroying a UFO.

Back then, this was reviewed well. But today? It still genuinely stands up. A lot of tropes are often copied, but hard to beat. I love that this has sat idle, aging like a reasonably priced wine. I think it's better today than it was back then.

Obviously, owning this on cartridge is an ideal situation as it's so cool. But the ROM is pretty easily available. It's also available on Master System and PC, but both of those had compromises (e.g. less levels).