Waiting 15 or 20 years to release a sequel is perhaps not the most astute way to build a brand, but this is becoming a bit of a bad habit for SEGA. Remember the appalling remake of Altered Beast? Or worse, Shinobi? This week, it's Alien Syndrome's turn - a brand that's been left to gather dust since it debuted in arcades back in 1987. And guess what? It's not very good either. Sigh. Why do you do this to us, SEGA? If you can't transform these old relics into amazing games, just leave them be.
The concept is superficially similar to the charming old arcade game of the same name - you're sent out to investigate a space station after communications are lost and find it over-run by aliens. Trooper Aileen Harding takes it upon herself to send thousands of them to their squishy doom one-by-one, while her commander barks orders impatiently in her ear. Somewhere along the line there's a thin sub-plot that you're trying to determine whether there are any survivors, but in basic terms this quickly turns into one of the most relentlessly repetitive action RPGs you've ever played. Totally Games: what happened? You used to make exceptional products. Alien Syndrome feels lazy, uninspired and just plain boring - yet somehow mindlessly addictive for reasons I'll have to check with my shrink about.
The 'hook' of the game, if there is one, is the RPG-level of customisation and variation in how you tackle the combat and upgrades. At the start you can select from a Demolitions Expert, Firebug (i.e. Flamethrower skills), a Seal (survival expert), a Tank (melee specialist), and a Sharpshooter, which certainly gives the impression that there's a fair degree of freedom to play it in a way that suits your own preferences and whims. Such an approach also encourages you to take advantage of the four-player co-op mode, so that, perhaps, you can form a team which covers off all bases, Gauntlet-style. That said, the chances of getting four people together to play this are extremely slim, so it's perhaps wise not to dwell on this promising feature too much.