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The Play List: Alien Invasion

Can somebody tell what’s going on? Space Force is a bust, To The Stars Academy of Arts & Science is losing staff faster than Delonge’s losing hair, and China just dropped a capsule full of fruit flies on the moon. Do we even care about our interstellar security? Has everyone forgotten that we are constantly under threat of invasion? Don’t listen to Dr. Greer and his hippy band of extra-terrestrial-hugging liberals. Aliens are here for one thing and one thing only: Our stuff.

Aliens come in all shapes and sizes, but if it’s one thing we’ve learned from SEGA, it’s that they’re always up to no good. The following three SEGA games show grim futures that may come to pass should we be unprepared to drop everything and kick extra-terrestrial butt. Strap on that acid-proof body armor and don that tinfoil hat, we’re going alien busting.

Alien Storm

Alien storm fights

SEGA’s 1990 System 18 arcade hit seems an appropriate place to start our cautionary tale. In Alien Storm, Earth is completely unprepared for an invasion, much like we are today (why even pay property taxes if we’re not building laser guns?). Thus, when tentacle monsters from another world touch down and start, erm, touching, it’s total chaos. Luckily, these dumbos decided to focus all their efforts on a single city, and the wrong one and that. A group of two responsible citizens (and their robot) take matters into their own hands. Karen and Garth, owners of the food truck Alien Burger, and their robot waiter/kamikaze warrior Scooter, trade in their aprons for spandex and start frying a different type of meat – the alien kind.

Alien Storm is a fast, frantic, and colorful side-scrolling beat ‘em up. Using a mix of medium-range weapons like handguns and flamethrowers, players build combos to blast through the alien invaders blocking their path. Aliens swarm quickly, and from both sides of the screen. Mobility is key, and with the game running at such a fast speed, rolling out of harm’s way is just as important as dealing damage.

To further the challenge, the alien busters are at the mercy of their energy meter. Unlike other beat ‘em ups, there are no weapon or item pickups in Alien Storm. Instead, players must constantly be on the lookout for energy refills, as their offensive capabilities depend on it. Run out of juice and you’ll be forced to stand there and slap those little green men like, well, a Karen.

We now ask all passenger seated in fleshy meat rows 1-4 to please proceed to the giant tongue for boarding.

Players can call for backup, though these screen clearing attacks are heavy drains on the energy bar. Furthermore, you won’t always be able to call for backup. Most levels feature first-person shooting gallery sections where the game strafes players left and right while they unload on aliens House of the Dead style. Couple this with chase sequences and branching pathways, and Alien Storm stands out as one of SEGA’s most varied and replayble side-scrolling beat ‘em ups.

The arcade original was ported to a dizzying number of systems, including The ZX Spectrum and Atari ST, though the Genesis got its own port too. Curiously, this port shuffles many of locations, and is almost entirely different in its stage layout and boss battles. It still maintains the mechanics and fast pace of the arcade original, but it’s a remix more than it is a straight port.

People in the service industry are often hardest hit during emergencies. Between having to license and run a food truck, maintaining a small arsenal, and service a robot capable of both eviscerating extra-terrestrial life and delivering fries, Alien Burger is just barely making ends’ meet.

Ghen War

Alien Ghen War scenario

It’s been theorized that life may in fact be abundant in our universe, despite the fact we have yet to meet any of it. In Ghen War for the SEGA Saturn, this happens to be the case. At first, the new neighbors seem nice. They wine us, dine us, cure all our diseases, and we start joint mining colony out on Titan. All seems to be going swimmingly until – BAM! The Ghen betray us. Surprise, right? Stranded in space, the Lieutenant and his crew opt to make the best of a bad situation and obliterate as many of the tall ugly green guys as they can on their way back to Earth.

In a nod to James Cameron’s Aliens, players are put in control of a power lifter exoskeleton called a Hypersuit. The Hypersuit provides protection against the elements and gives players a fighting chance against the giant Ghen warriors. It also feels really cool, like a genuinely heavy piece of machinery, the screen bobbing with each step and rattling violently when hit.

The Hypersuit is outfitted with an assortment of cool weapons and even boasts jump jets, allowing you to soar over the large battlefields in limited bursts. The HUD is a mix between on-screen readings and dials, letting players know their various power levels. It’s heavy and visceral, halfway between a fast paced first-person shooter and plodding, strategic mech game.

Alien Ghen War image
Can’t trust a Ghen as far as you can throw one, and these guys are pretty hefty so, yeah, do the math.

Ghen War is fully polygonal, making it an impressive part of not just the Saturn’s FPS library, but for the FPS gene as a whole circa-1995. Ghen War features some of coolest 3D modelling you’ll see on the system, with bulky, complex enemies moving in wholly weird and alien ways. The level design too is superb, switching between dark caves, industrial corridors, and wide-open deserts of barren rock, making each planet and moon feel truly unique despite the admittedly basic rock texture swaps. Furthermore, deformable terrain adds a sense of impact to the gunplay, with players able to use their Hypersuit for its intended mining functionality. And if all that tech wasn’t impressive enough, it even features a dynamic soundtrack, scoring the action (or lack thereof) on screen.

Alien Ghen War

Ghen War remains a SEGA Saturn exclusive to this day. Perhaps this is partly to blame for our society’s seemingly limp attitude towards extraterritorial threats. It may be an awesome shooter with a rocking soundtrack, but it also contains a deeper message we should all reflect on: Don’t trust people who give you things.

Alien Storm may have the best credit sequence of any SEGA alien-themed game, but Ghen War has the best title screen song.

Alien Front Online

This is it. Aliens are here, and they’re blowing us up. It’s a full planetary invasion and no one is safe. This is without a doubt the worst-case scenario we’ve seen thus far. Nothing left to do but hop inside one of America’s finest tanks and take as many anti-gravity fiends out as you can.

Unless you’re a traitor and want to play for the alien side.

Alien front online map

As Ronald Regan once said, “I occasionally think how quickly our differences worldwide would vanish if we were facing an alien threat from outside this world.” Turns out, some people would rather drive pink slime cars than Abrams tanks. It’s a free country (for now), so go ahead and choose a side, but just know that high score leaderboards are forever, and one day you’re going to have to look your fellow humans in the eye while you mine for ore above molten lava wearing tattered clothes as alien overlords whip you back to work and explain why using that 2L Walker to blow up downtown Toyko seemed like a good idea back in 2001.

Alien Front Online allows players to pick a side, Alien or Human, and pilot one of six vehicles (three for each team). Originally an arcade game, the SEGA Dreamcast version contains the original arcade mode, essentially a team deathmatch taking place across three levels: Tokyo, Washington DC, and South Pacific island ruins. However, the Dreamcast port also contained a full campaign mode, allowing players to hone their piloting skills via a series of challenge missions across several new levels, with the progression structure branching depending on your failure or success.

The game is a technological marvel, boasting a crisp frame rate, high polygon counts, destructible environments, and reactive vehicle movements. The exchange of gunfire across the battlefield is a sight to behold, with special weapons like anti-gravity guns, machine guns, and even warheads lighting up the screen. Thanks to perfect controls, learning the basics is a breeze, but mastering the movement and momentum of each unique vehicle, as well as the level layouts, takes practice. Alien Front Online has that signature SEGA ‘one more go’ feel to it, and it’s easy to spend hours running arcade mode, trying to get a new high score.

Alien front online screenshot
Twenty years ago, choosing a side during an alien invasion would have been a non-partisan issue. What happened, America?

Alien Front Online’s online functionality was second to none with leaderboards, online play across both SEGA Dreamcast and arcade machine versions of the game, and voice chat via the Dreamcast mic. Though the servers were officially taken down years ago, fans brought them back online in 2016. There’s still nothing quite like Alien Front Online’s tank battles, complete with screaming obscenities in 5-second increments to be broadcast as you wait to respawn. And, most importantly, Alien Front Online is actually a covert personality test, letting you know who the true patriots are.

Conclusion

On foot, in a tank, or in outer space, SEGA has been preparing us for combat with extraterrestrials in all forms. There’s a lot of buzz around Tic-Tac shaped flying objects nowadays, but if the games above are to be believed, the invasion is going to be whole lot worse than super-sonic breath mints. Many ufologists believe disclosure will not happen as an event, but rather as a slow trickle of information. Fed to us over the course of decades, the public will eventually come to know the truth about alien visitations. Through a very scientific calculation comparing UFO abduction coordinates, numerology, tarot cards, and the release dates of the above-mentioned games, I believe we have been given disclosure, and the invasion is nigh. If we are to survive the coming onslaught/tentacle probing, we will need to keep playing SEGA games. So, fry up that Alien Burger and keep those eyes on the sky.

VirtuaDrew

I like my martinis dry and my shooters on-rails.

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