Review by ShadowAspect

"It's Diablo, but in space"

Alien Syndrome was originally an action shooter game in the arcades and on the NES, Sega, and various other platforms of the time. That version had the honor of being an “love it or hate it” title by gamers everywhere…even to this day.

Now roughly 7 or 8 years later, we have a spiritual sequel promising a new direction in game play. Alien Syndrome for the Wii has been touted as an Action RPG using revolutionary control setup thru the Wiimote/Nunchuck combo that promises a new direction in the genre.

Having followed this from when it was first announced, it has undergone many different changes during its development cycle. First, it was rumored that it would be a downloaded game on the Internet Shopping Channel and would mark the opening days of competition between Nintendo and Xbox 360's current stranglehold on small scale console indie development. From this a lot of buzz was generated that would first bring in the early fans of this game. Sadly, Sega would decide that it would be in their best interest to produce a disk and thus charge more (and make a higher profit margin then on spearheading a downloaded indie game marketplace on wii). This didn't phase fans that much because it was still promoted as having online multiplayer which wii at the time lacked (anywhere). The thought of online multi finally breaking onto wii especially in this genre of game still kept many thronging fans around. Sadly again, it would turn out that for whatever reason Nintendo would not allow Sega or Totally Games access to their online code or services. This was a huge blow for the community and many people would jump ship. It would also not help that the first screenshots would come out about the same time and would show a disturbing similarity to the parallel development of this game on the PSP. Despite all of this a strong contingent will still stay loyal hoping upon hope that the gameplay would be revolutionary enough to prove all the nay-sayers who had left wrong. Indeed, in the final days leading up to release there would be videos, interviews, and demos upon demos all focusing on controls and gameplay.

…and now we find ourselves with this game finally been released. So the question is: Did gameplay finally win out against those termed by the core fanbase as “Graphic Whores” and the others who had departed earlier on? Read on to find out…


Graphics: (4/10)

This is easily the weakest part of the game so rather then starting with story like I normally do I've decided to get the worse out of the way and work up to the good stuff.

It is very true that the graphics are very PSP-like with just some minor upgrades. To be fair, had this been a downloaded game like it first conceptually started out as then no one would really of paid much attention to this (indirectly, as d/led would of meant lower pricetag usually, as I will discuss later in this review). However, this is a game printed on disc so therein carries a certain expectation amongst many gamers. Indeed, as of late, wii has been suffering from a glut of cheap cash ins on wii popularity via ports from other platforms, games originally developed on older platforms that would change focus mid-way thru to cash in on wii popularity, or otherwise rushed efforts to get a game out onto wii as fast as possible. This is common with all 1st years for any console. What strikes this game hard is that it has been clearly shown that a lot of thought was put into this at Totally just from all of the blogs, reviews, and videos out there. So what was shown to be Herculean like by the developer would end up looking like this is a bit much for many gamers to swallow.

That isn't to say that it's a graphical wasteland however….some of the weapon designs and effects do show some imagination (especially the melee weapons, more on that later on). Also, the storyboarding that they use as cutscenes is done in an interesting western styled art design as opposed to the more common eastern “Anime” style common now on the market. However, you have to be a fan of this art direction to fully appreciate it as it's not going to be something that will convert people firmly on the opposite side of the fence.


Sound (5/10)

The music itself is appropriate for a space orientated theme. Not extraordinary and not horrible. The biggest problem with the music is the lack of different tunes. It will not take long before music starts looping again and there are plenty of times when a game just goes all silent. It's kind of disturbing and sad in the same sentence.

Sound effects also suffer in this department. The same grunts, explosions, and gun noises get reused many, many times. It's apparent that music or SE were not the main focus in development. The one saving grace is the Voice Overs…..which is adequate in quality (though more could have been added as it's the main way the game moves the story forward).

Story (5/10)

This was a very hard score for me to give on this front. However, the fact remains that the overarching method used to convey this story is thru VOs and they are just lacking in content or frequency. The story itself is that 100 years after the previous Alien Syndrome games where mankind first encountered the disease itself (and the associated aliens) mankind has already expanded itself exponentially throughout the galaxy (in such a quick time). As such it comes as no surprise that they would come into contact with this same disease elsewhere in the universe. You play Aileen Harding…..tough as nails trooper of your design at start. Ms. Harding is just coming back to duty after an “unspecified disaster” and the implied story element that her love interest has met with some sort of fate causing her from being active. Her father, who just so happens to be the Captain of the starship she serves on and thus her commanding officer, has decided to send her on a mission. A terraforming operation has gone silent for some time and as such a ship was dispatched to investigate. So when the first ship ALSO goes missing it's up to Aileen's ship to find out what's going on. When the game first starts, that missing first ship is not so missing anymore….however it's also now covered with a green glowing “growth”. So Aileen is sent in alone to find out what's going on (for some reason it makes sense to send one person in to a ship covered in space moss). Anyways she lands on the hanger bay and reports in that this bay is empty….too empty in fact. Her dad then tells her to make her way to the bridge and off you go. It's all so Aliens the movie like but it is what it is.


Gameplay (8/10)

A lot of work went into gameplay and for the most part it was successful in making a playable dungeon crawler type of game…but in no way is it revolutionary to say a mouse. This best thing to say is that it plays a lot like Diablo (the first one) but with a full range of motion mouse (the wiimote) instead of a normal one….but it has some quirks to it.

You move with the stick on the nunchuck and point with the wiimote in the direction you want to point whatever weapon is in your hands (note that the wiimote doesn't dictate what direction you move…..a la Robotron). You shift between missile and melee weapons via the down key on the d pad and there are hot keys set up for the mini map, and instant use of health packs and recharge packs (think mana) on the rest of the d-pad. You can have one melee weapon and up to two missile weapons equipped at one time and clickable on the fly (via down, a, and b) though you have to swap to each weapon when you want it……this doesn't mean that you can only carry 3 weapons, as all of your gear such as armor, weapons, and random items are based on your weight capacity (based off of skills, your Strength score, and any specials on items vs. the actual individual weights of each item). Z is used to pick up items while c is typically used in mini games or as a menu option on the various screens. You fire a weapon by pushing whatever button it's assigned once equipped and swapped or in the case of melee weapons by either hitting B or doing more complex movements with both the wiimote and nunchuck.

There are a couple of problems with controls……for starters, it can be sometimes hard to have your character do the type of motion you want it to do during melee combat…especially a finisher move. For some reason, I always had trouble getting it to register when I tried it. Thankfully, only one class focuses on melee weapons and you can usually get away with never using one throughout the entire game should you be so inclined. Another issue comes up with camera controls……the game will sometimes zoom in and out without your input (which is normally you pushing the 1 or 2 button)…it's seldom, but it is annoying. Also, much like in previous Action RPGs on the wii, camera controls are controlled by rotating the nunchuck……so if move your hand around in odd ways the camera can start to spin out of control…..thankfully, it's not quite as touchy as the now infamous Marvel Ultimate Alliance for Wii.

The 5 classes are diverse at the start, however it is possible to access any or all other classes weapons thru skill assignment… they can be not as unique end game as you would initially think. In general class skills can be broken up into 3 groups, Equipment, Boost, and Support. Equipment skills dictate what gear you can use at any time (as well as sometimes providing a bonus to a group of weapons). Flame weapon is an example of a Equipment Skill that allows you to obviously use Flame Weapons. Boosts basically increase a score value on something, usually a resistance but there are boosts that increase melee skills. Infection Resistance is an example of a Boost skill that lowers damage you take from those types of attacks. Support skills are skills that provide a benefit to you in other ways or depending on the skill provides a benefit to others playing with you at the time. Pack Rat is a good example of a Support skill that increases how much you can carry.

In general solo play is decent (going in bits of frantic fights and just nothing to do)…..but the big fun is in multiplayer. Here up to 4 players can cooperate in the slaying of various monsters for fun and prices. It reminded me a lot like (of course) multiplayer Diablo or D&D Heroes which is high praise indeed. It's multiplayer that really saves this game.

One final point to mention that doesn't figure nicely into the 4 categories above is the price. It's hard to justify this purchase at the $50 price tag (and I'm not saying this because I can't afford it because that's not the issue). This is a game that could of very easily used either a bigger budget or more development time. That's sad really, because their engine is rock solid and there is a lot of fun to be had.

My recommendation is to at least first rent it. Dispite all the trashing of this game on the boards, it is a great multiplayer game for you and your friends (solo not so much). If you have access to other players then look into trying to find this game elsewhere for less then the general commercial asking price (there are places that will sell this for way less then $50 even now with it out so recently outside of used bins and no that doesn't imply piracy). However, if you're looking for a single player experience or just starving for RPGs or Action RPGs this isn't a game to rush out for. Hopefully, Totally Games will be able to use the engine they've created and refine it into their next gaming attempt to great effect. I rounded my score up because there is potential here, but it won't be until the next game that we'll truly see it I'm afraid.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 08/02/07

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