Retro Gaming Challenge Week Eighteen: Alien 3 (SNES vs Megadrive)

It’s an Alien-off, as the first “bad” Alien movie games go head to head. And the winner is…?
A tough week for me to fit much in the way of retro gaming in, thanks to not being terribly healthy all week. On the plus side, feeling like there was a literal chestburster in my lungs was a highly method way of reviewing games, no?
List of the previous week’s games is down the bottom for those who need to catch up, as is the voting bit if you just want to decide on my next retrogaming challenge.

Alien 3: Does it deserve its reputation?

Alien 3 is far from the worst film in the Alien universe. Why yes, multiple dreadful Aliens vs Predator films, I was looking directly at you. You know what you did.
Still, Alien 3 bears the brunt of the fan’s disappointment, because it was the first of the Alien movies that wasn’t notably good. I’ve got something of a soft spot for what it was trying to do, but even I have to admit it didn’t quite pull off its ambitions terribly well.

Ripley's "maybe if I play dead" scheme wasn't working out so well.
Ripley’s “maybe if I play dead” scheme wasn’t working out so well.

That plus movie game should equal abject disappointment, because everybody knows that movie games are always awful unless they’re Goldeneye, right?
Not so. I deliberately picked movie games that I thought were acceptable to good, including both the Megadrive and SNES versions of Alien 3.

Alien 3: The 16-bit wars

There was a time when the Sega/Nintendo rivalry ran hot. These days, sure, Sega will pimp out poor Sonic to anyone who’ll have him, including a series of increasingly desperate Olympics mini-game marathons where he buddies up to Mario as though they were always close friends.

Ripley enjoyed a light refreshing rain shower. Mostly because the rain wasn't trying to chew her face off. At least, not yet.
Ripley enjoyed a light refreshing rain shower.
Mostly because the rain wasn’t trying to chew her face off. At least, not yet.

History tells a different story. At the time that Alien 3 graced store shelves, battle lines were drawn between the Megadrive and Super Nintendo. For whatever it’s worth in the pursuit of historical accuracy, I had a SNES first (hey, it had Street Fighter II!), but acquired a Megadrive in the space of about a year after that. Enjoy both sides of the battle, and all that.

Alien 3: Let there be peace

What’s unusual about Alien 3, however, is that while there were plenty of cross platform awful movie games in the mid ‘90s, for the most part you got the same game, with perhaps a few graphical flourishes on the SNES part, although not always.
Alien 3, though, is quite a different game depending on which console you choose to play it on. On the SNES, it’s a Metroidvania style romp with specific objectives on your prison planet, amidst chaos, limited ammo supplies and an easily drained health bar. Strategic thinking is the name of the game, because your alien foes respawn after a time. As such, it’s often wiser to avoid rather than engage.

"Burn them. BURN THEM ALL!!!" she cackled. There was a reason why Ripley never got invited to parties any more.
“Burn them. BURN THEM ALL!!!” she cackled.
There was a reason why Ripley never got invited to parties any more.

Alien 3 for the Megadrive takes a different tack with the same core material. It’s all about rescuing prisoners held in maze like areas against a very strict time limit. Fail to find them all in time, and you’re treated to visuals of chest bursters emerging from their frames. Fail to exit after you’ve found them and a less compelling time up screen is displayed. You’ve still failed, but with less visual flourish.
Ripley never once considered sitting down with the xenomorphs for a constructive dialogue. Mind you, that wouldn't make for quite as tense a game.
Ripley never once considered sitting down with the xenomorphs for a constructive dialogue. Mind you, that wouldn’t make for quite as tense a game.

As such, where the SNES game is about lengthy levels and survival planning, the Megadrive game is a considerably more tense affair, because you’ve only just got enough time to rescue everyone and make it out alive.
Sure, visually, the SNES version is the looker of the pair. The Megadrive game is no slouch by its standards, but there’s just so much more rich detail in the SNES game, from the parallax backgrounds to the way the entire screen shakes when you blow apart a full alien with a grenade round. By comparison, the Megadrive’s aliens simply seem to crumble away whether you’re shooting them, burning them or lobbing grenades at them.

Alien 3: And the winner is…

The red hot war between formats should indicate that I should pick a “best” game out of the two.
But you know what? Screw that. Not only do both games nicely subvert the “all movie games are rubbish” idea, but they do so with differing game models that are still a whole heap of fun to actually play.

There is only one soundbite applicable here. Yep, it's in the SNES version. Because of course it is.
There is only one soundbite applicable here.
Yep, it’s in the SNES version. Because of course it is.

The whole idea of me doing this retrogaming challenge was to put time aside to sit down and play the games I own. That’s been fun this week, with the only really difficult part being deciding which game I actually wanted to play when I had the energy to play them.

Sounds great. Where can I get them?

The curse of movie games, leaving aside that whole most-of-them-are-rubbish part, is that the licences for them typically only last during the lifespan of the consoles they’re connected to.
OK, OK, Disney just disproved that somewhat with its GOG deal, but that’s slightly different.
The point is, you can’t get Alien 3 on any virtual console or old games service, at least not legitimately. That means it’s time once again to head to eBay to find a copy of either game.
If you’re after Alien 3 for the SNES, click here.
(disclaimer: Affiliate link; something’s got to cover the hosting costs)
If you’re after Alien 3 for the Megadrive/Genesis, click here.
(disclaimer: Affiliate…yeah, you got it, right?)

Next week

At first, it appeared that the power of The Force would see me playing Shadows Of The Empire, which would have been… interesting, given the copy I currently have is the Japanese version of the game. Then the excellent Virtual Pro Wrestling took the lead, only to be pushed out by a surge of support for F-Zero X.
So it’s off to the races next week, a result I can happily live with. But what for next week?
Well, the Olympics are nearly upon us, and gaming has a long and varied history with “Olympics” games.
But I only own a small selection of games that qualify as being Olympic or Olympic-like. Very few, in fact, but enough to be worth voting on. So make your choice from the selection below: Which Olympic sports game should I play next?
[socialpoll id=”2379308″]

Retrogaming Challenge: The story so far

Want to catch up on the action you’ve missed? Check out the list below:

Shin Nippon Pro Wrestling: Toukon Road 2: The Next Generation (N64)Toukon_ReversalDonkey Konga (Gamecube)DonkeyKonga_2
The Firemen (SNES)Firemen_FiresSpace Invaders (2600)SpaceInvaders2600_1
Three Dirty Dwarves (Saturn)3DD_BossFightTrog (NES)TROG_EAT
Robocop vs The Terminator (Megadrive)RBvT_gunsJames Bond 007: Everything or Nothing (Xbox)EoN_Bond_Corner
Godzilla Generations (Dreamcast)Zilla_1Devil Dice (PSOne)DD_Trial
Asterix (Sega Master System)Asterix_RomansToki (Atari Lynx)Toki_1_600
Backyard Wrestling: Don’t Try This At Home (PS2)byw2Super Monkey Ball (Gamecube)SMB_Goal
Unirally (SNES)Unirally_1Mutant League Football (Megadrive)MLF_Ref_600
Q*Bert (Atari 2600)QBert_2_600

Author: Alex

Alex Kidman is a multi-award winning Australian technology writer, former editor at Gizmodo, CNET, GameSpot, ZDNet, PC Mag, APC, Finder and as a contributor to the ABC, SMH, AFR, Courier Mail, GadgetGuy, PC & Tech Authority, Atomic and many more. He's been writing professionally since 1998, and his passions include technology, social issues, education, retro gaming and professional wrestling.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.