Aliens is a run and gun shoot 'em up arcade game by Konami released in 1990, based on the Aliens film. It picks up mid-movie with Lt. Ripley and Cpl. Hicks attempting to leave the alien-infested colony by making their way towards the drop ship, and notably takes some liberties with the film's storyline and the Aliens' biology.
The game has two playable characters: Lieutenant Ripley and Corporal Hicks. The difference between them is purely graphical; both have the same abilities and weapons set.
The joystick has two buttons: one for normal fire and the other for crouching and firing at the same time. Bombs can be collected throughout the game. These are thrown by pressing both joystick buttons simultaneously.
The game consists of six levels. These are as follows:
* Level 1 - Living Quarters
* Level 2 - Factory
* Level 3 - Factory2
* Level 4 - Queen Alien's Den
* Level 5 - Escape Route
* Level 6 - Battle Ship Sulaco
With the tagline "This time it's war!", and one epic action scene after another, James Cameron's 1986 sci-fi film was a perfect candidate for a shoot 'em up conversion. Konami may have taken four years to come up with the coin-op, but they certainly didn't let the licence go to waste. Although it's way too easy and lacks depth, Aliens is a fun shooter with some great action, tight controls, and enough eye-candy to make the movie proud.
In the film, Ripley is rescued and taken back to Earth by a salvage ship after floating in space for 57 years. During the time she spent in hypersleep the Company established a human colony on LV426 Acheron, the planet where the aliens were first discovered. After contact with the colony is lost, Ripley agrees to return to the planet along with a team of Space Marines, on a mission to save any survivors and destroy the alien menace for good.
You get to pick between Lieutenant Ripley and Corporal Hicks (depending on whether you use the 1P or 2P controls), or you can team up with a friend and take on the aliens together. The differences between the characters are cosmetic--they both have the same abilities and use the same weapons. There's one button for normal fire and another one which makes you crouch and fire at the same time, which is very useful for taking care of the game's many short enemies. By moving the stick up and pressing fire (either button will do) you can shoot enemies above you, although you'll very rarely have to. Throughout the game you also collect bombs, which you can throw at the aliens by pressing both buttons at the same time.
After a flashy digitized introduction, coin insertion and a brief rundown of the situation, you are dropped off by the Armored Personnel Carrier at the entrance to the alien-infested Hadley's Hope complex. Inside, you have to shoot your way past dozens of aliens to the giant boss waiting at the end of the first Stage. Right from the start the action is fast and satisfying, punctuated by gunfire, the shrieks of dying aliens and the sound of explosions from fuel-containing barrels. Ripley's sprite is lovingly drawn and very nicely animated. In her signature jeans and white t-shirt and carrying that huge tracker-equipped gun from the movie, she looks especially bad-ass and it's a joy to move her around blasting everything in sight (Hicks's sprite not so much). Since most of your enemies don't carry guns, you basically get to mow them down from a distance with a variety of weapons (including the flamethrower from the movie), and the game keeps you constantly on your toes by sending groups of fast-moving aliens at you from different directions. In this way, the coin-op remains faithful to the movie, since the Space Marines would similarly blow away dozens of aliens at a time--as long they were properly armed and prepared.
When you reach the first boss things change, however. You meet a giant six-legged alien with an impossibly long neck, who charges straight at you and then starts firing large blobs of purple goo. That alien is nowhere to be found in the movie, and from that point on the game is not very faithful to the source material--because how could it be? Variety is the spice of any decent side-scroller, and the movie wasn't made with the needs of the genre in mind. Konami has therefore decided to include giant spiders, gun-toting zombies, and some bosses of their own design, as well as several new weapons. Introducing these elements was a wise, and necessary, decision, but they have certainly not neglected to follow the movie where they could, drawing as many ideas from it as possible.
Aliens belongs in the same genre as Narc (1988): they are both side-scrolling shoot 'em ups, with the action taking place in a pseudo-3D playing field. By definition, these games can never achieve greatness because shooting enemies and avoiding incoming fire in such a perspective is mostly a matter of luck. Still, even within this doomed-to-mediocrity genre, there are a few decent games, and Aliens is one of them. Konami skillfully avoided all the pitfalls that Narc's designers fell headfirst into. Hence, most enemies in Aliens don't have guns, so you are saved the frustration of trying in vain to avoid their fire. Also, several scenes are shown in pure run & gun style (i.e. in a single plane), like the airduct scene at the start of Stage 2 or the thrilling elevator ride shortly after. And finally, many boss battles are shown from a behind-the-back perspective, which makes dodging and returning fire possible, and even enjoyable.
The game has been produced to a very high standard, with surprisingly good original music, alternating between fast, catchy tunes and more moody pieces. Some of the tracks are very effective at creating a sense of dread and expectation. And the game also looks gorgeous, with a nice blend of colors, lots of detail on the sprites, and great backgrounds: watch as facehuggers pop out of the chests of mummified colonists near the end of the Factory stage.