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Video Game / Alien Syndrome

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"The Time Bomb Is Set."

Alien Syndrome is a 1987 arcade game released by Sega. One of the earliest examples of an overhead action shooter, the game revolves around two alien exterminators named Ricky and Mary (allowing for 2-player co-op play) as they're sent on a mission to rescue the inhabitants of a space colony infested by strange creatures. Their objective is to rescue the 16 hostages in each of the spaceships that form the colony before time runs out and then proceed to the exit in order to fight one of the alien bosses. There are a total of seven stages, with the final stage being a single boss battle against the alien mastermind.

Alien Syndrome was ported to a variety of 8-bit platforms at the time, including Sega's very own Master System and Game Gear, as well as a Famicom/NES port released by Sunsoft in Japan and Tengen in the U.S. There were also two updated remakes as well: a 2004 version by 3D Ages released for the PS2 (as part of the Sega Classics Collection in the U.S.) and a 2007 version by Totally Games released for the Wii and PSP. The Master System version is available as a Game Within a Game in Lost Judgment via DLC.

This game provides examples of:

  • Aliens Are Bastards: Though of the generic Excuse Plot kind, mostly done for the sake of gameplay.
  • Boss Dissonance: Varies based on port. Common points of reference:
    • The arcade version can have either easy or hard bosses, but they do pose a threat.
    • The Commodore 64 port tends to have bosses that are harder than the rest of the level. The first boss second stage, for example, is only vulnerable for a few seconds as it makes a quick-moving attack, and is more durable than the arcade counterpart.
    • The Commodore Amiga port tends to have bosses that are easier than the rest of the level, simply because of the laser and an ability to exploit known behavior. However, the final super alien is technically harder as you're under a strict time limit under this port.
  • Boss in Mook's Clothing: The enemy spawners. The take quite a bit of damage, and will be a serious drag on your race against the timer, should you choose to kill them.
  • Boss-Only Level: The final stage in all versions.
  • Brain Monster: The level 1 boss (A big brain with bonus supplemental brain attached).
  • Elite Mooks: The arcade version had these, though most other versions did not.
  • Energy Weapon: One of the weapons available to the player. Normally just a projectile speed and range upgrade, but the Amiga version makes it rapid-fire and therefore has it do the most damage per second.
  • Excuse Plot: Save your comrades, defeat the aliens, and not much else.
  • Hitbox Dissonance: Like all early games, it has some form of this. However, is it particularly noticeable in the NES version, where even normal baddies sometimes have an "Instant Death" Radius due to this. It's worth noting that this also makes them easier to kill.
  • "Instant Death" Radius:
    • In most cases, this is due more to Hitbox Dissonance than deliberate design.
    • In the Commodore 64 port, the super alien attack in Round 7 is almost screen-wide and requires you to move in and out of range because it is now difficult to dodge.
  • Mook Maker: The ones in this game overlap with Boss in Mook's Clothing above.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: The final boss theme in the PS2 remake.
  • Power-Up: Gun upgrades were not necessarily powerful than your default one, but may have better range, rate of fire or speed. There are also two robots that you can collect and have them follow. There is also a powerup letdown that changes your current weapon back to the basic shot.
  • Respawning Enemies: Two types, both the types that spawn from a Spawn Point, and the types who respawn from scrolling back and forth on their spot.
  • Skill Gate Character: If you aren't used to eight direction shooters, the flamethrower is this, surprisingly enough. Unlike other weapons, it doesn't leave any blind spots open when you're firing, letting you get more used to the movement without getting hit. Just...don't expect to get anywhere with it.
  • Tactical Suicide Boss: The first alien boss can survive simply by not using one of its attacks, or by not attacking during its second stage. The Commodore 64 port makes this more obvious, as the action making it vulnerable doesn't do an attack, and where it could technically wait the player out on the second stage of the battle.
  • Timed Mission: Each mission starts by setting a time bomb that detonates after 150 seconds (or the time specified by the port or arcade operator). The timer is extended by 30 seconds upon reaching the boss. If the time runs out, you lose a life and restart the level.
  • Vacuum Mouth: The vacuum is actually six air clouds that spiral into the mouth, and dodging them means you aren't sucked in. Compared to the arcade version, the Commodore 64 version makes it hard to dodge and requires moving in and out, while the Amiga version makes it ridiculously easy to dodge (where the threat is on the timer and not the alien.)
  • Video Game Flamethrowers Suck: The flamethrower is short-range, where the flame itself disappears when it strikes an enemy. It works like the other weapons, where it fires more often if you rapidly tap the button. On the other hand, there is a fireball which is a long-range version of the shot.
  • Xenomorph Xerox: Many versions feature an enemy resembling Xenomorphs.