Ask anybody about the top horror franchises in movie history, and one mention you'll get is for the Alien series of film starring Sigourney Weaver. The first movie was good, the second was great, the third...not so much. (And we won't even ask about the fourth one.) Nevertheless Acclaim/LJN saw fit to bring the third film to the various platforms, including this NES port that gets put under the microscope.
The game centers around Lt. Ellen Ripley, the heroine of the films who's trying to return to Earth when her shuttle crash-lands on Fiornia 161, a remote mining planet converted into an abandoned prison containing the worst criminals in space. Ripley soon finds she's the only survivor of the crash but also discover she didn't come alone, for the aliens that have tormented her have somehow followed her to the planet and are now trying to turn the convicts into incubators to hatch more of their kind. Even worse Ripley's employers, The Company, wants to bring the aliens to Earth and breed them in their bid to control the planet. Ripley quickly finds herself in a new battle for survival and knows she must somehow rescue the captives and exterminate the aliens before they can reach Earth.
This game contains eight levels as well as four boss encounters. In each level Ripley must find all the prisoners trapped in the winding tunnels and passages of the planet then must reach the exit tunnel, all within a certain time limit. However various Aliens are lurking everywhere in the levels and tunnels from small facehuggers to large bulls, all out to prematurely end your mission. Unlike the movie, Ripley has a selection of weapons to blast the aliens with, including a pulse rifle, a grande launcher, hand grenades and a flamethrower. Ammo is limited so you need to be careful in how you use your weapons, but more ammo can be found in different places. Ripley can also find other power-ups such as medkits to replenish your life meter and batteries to operate the motion tracker. Once you rescue all the prisoners you must make your way through the exit tunnel before time runs out. If you're successful you score bonus points and move on to the next mission, but if time runs out, the mission ends and any prisoners you failed to rescue meet a gruesome fate.
The graphics and sound do a commendable job of replicating the movie's atmosphere on the NES. The sprites are a little on the small side but are drawn pretty well with good animation and they resemble their movie counterparts nicely, especially the aliens. Som of the ares do look too similar, making it easy to get lost. The creepy background music of each level is very well done and fits in with the theme. The sound effects are nothign special but do thier job nicly.
The gameplay is pretty fun but quite a few negatives impode it from within. There's some solid action and plenty to shoot plus some nice tense moments just like the flick. Unfortunately the controls use the reverese setup where B jumps and A shoots, and you have to push Select to cycle through your weapons during which aliens could descend on you, but with some practice these can be overcome. However the game's high difficulty is its biggest flaw. The stingy time limit in each stage leaves very little room for error or exploration and while the first few levels are manageable you almost have to have a perfect knowledge of the layout to have a chance of finishing the later areas on time. Also if you die or if time runs out, you have to start the whole level over, and there are also no continues. Before the game you can access an options screen where you can set the challenge level and the number of lives you start with but it really doesn't make much of a difference.
So again Alien 3 is a decent movie-based title but had the potential to be much more. The game is pretty faithful to the original movie and it can be fun and addicting if you're willing to put up with the frustration. Has LJN fixed the controls and lessened the severe time limit (or even got rid of it altogether), then this would have been a great platformer instead of just mearly above-average. But at least it's better than the movie itself, right?
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