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Alpha Mission Review

Developer: SNK Publisher: SNK
Release Date: 1987 Also On: None

Ah, the space shooter, who doesn’t remember renting a million of these when the NES was still on the market? One of the first I experienced after Gradius was this very game. Alpha Mission is definitely quite, quite old, and doesn’t really stand the test of time. It has some features of note, but it definitely hasn’t aged very well.

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Alpha Mission has basic graphics. You have your ship, enemies, some larger bosses, and repetitive green, blue, or orange backgrounds with the blackness of space here and there. That’s about it. There isn’t much detail either, some of the building-type things on the ground, for example, are pretty much indescriminate collections of blocks. Most of the enemies are random collections of shapes or colors that sometimes, without the manual, are impossible to comprehend. The bosses fare a little better, but have this silly look to them. All in all they’re just bigger versions of the smaller enemies, so there’s a little more detail, but not much thought. Another thing I noticed was the general lack of color. Talk about drab.

And the sound, phew! Alpha Mission has this incessant, lame track that keeps playing, only broken by the occasional boss fight tune, which isn’t any better. Generally annoying music. The sound effects are a little better. Your bullet sound is best described as comical, but the explosions are spot-on with the exception that everything makes the same sound, even the larger enemies. Apparently, size does not matter in the world of Alpha Mission, all creatures big and small are unified in their similitude when it comes to exploding.

The gameplay is as you should expect. Shoot at things, collect power-ups and repeat. That’s about it. The one good thing Alpha Mission has going for it is a variety of icons as well as a superweapon subscreen for a little strategy. Some of the icons save up power for weapons you can use, while others allow you to recapture all the power you had before the last time you died. This is a welcome feature, because there’s nothing worse than a shooter that strips you of power but gives you no chance of moving forward if you die. Warps, power decreasing icons, you name, this game is pretty packed in that regard, or at least a lot more than anything else at this time. My main problem with Alpha Mission is that it’s generally too easy in spite of the ‘shoot high enemies, missle attack cannons on the ground’ format they’ve taken. There is a bit of enemy position memorization to get through it, but once you get the hang of it, not much, and all you need to do is equip the shield (or as they say ‘sheeld’ in this world) and then utilize a super weapon like ‘fire’ to devastate the bosses in about two seconds. Not much challenge here, so experienced players will yawn in a relatively short amount of time. Check out a little:

Alpha Mission wasn’t very creative, even though the genre was still in its 8-Bit (not arcade) infancy at this time. I really enjoyed the inclusion of the super weapon subscreen, very nice, but other than this it still plays like any other vertically-scrolling shooter. There isn’t much to offer here at all that was new even then.

Alpha Mission has a bit of a draw to it, sometimes. I played it for a few days and didn’t mind coming back to it, it will just be a very, very long time before I do it again. I have to essentially forget everything about it before I’ll want to play it again. It’s a fairly short game, too, maybe fifteen minutes of total play before it starts over again, though a little more difficult. Not that I really care.

Alpha Mission is just another shooter when it comes down to it. There are plenty of better games for the NES, like the legendary Gradius or its sequel Life Force. For this time period you didn’t have much going on, but you certainly had better than this. It’s not a terrible game, but it doesn’t stand out in any way and pretty much deserves the lukewarm reputation it has today.

Graphics: 5
Sound: 4
Gameplay: 6
Creativity: 5.5
Replay Value/Game Length: 3.5
Final: 4.8
Written by Stan Review Guide