Just finished Alien Trilogy on Saturn


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Just finished Alien Trilogy (Saturn). #4 best boomer shooter on Saturn.
This is not the best version; you can see that many of the textures are incorrectly set/flipped. There is also a bug that frequently happens when close to a wall where the textures are incorrectly set. Many of the lighting effects and sound effects from the PSX version are missing on Saturn. Every asset on Saturn is overall a lower resolution. That said, for play, the Saturn version is oddly a little brighter and has slightly longer draw distance. That extra couple meters can let you snipe off xenomorphs before they aggro at times. This was clearly a PSX-first release, ported to Saturn. The frame-rate is probably also lower on Saturn, but not by much on average, both versions appear to target 30fps and mostly manage to achieve it.

Despite that, the game remains playable. That's probably the most important part. The game design here is a severe mixed bag. I feel like the game developers made an open statement that they actively reserve the right to f*ck you over at their discretion, with no warning. The most visible and annoying way they do this is by changing the health of the xenomorphs at random throughout the game. For instance, when you first get the shotgun, the black xenomorph will die in 2-4 shots. By chapter 3, most black xenomorphs might take OVER 10 SHOTS. The sprites are IDENTICAL. They make THE SAME SOUNDS. They MOVE THE SAME. At the same time, they randomly sprinkle in some xenomorphs which take the usual 2-4 shots. This only happens with one other type of enemy, that being the "Adult Dog Alien", but I might be imagining that since those are usually managable enemies. The black xenomorph is not.
You'll also be pretty fucked over if you don't pay attention to the automap and find secrets. If you don't want to just try and make a mad dash for the exit, you will need to find some secrets to get ammo. And even if you do mad dash the exit, in some cases you might not make a passing grade on the level's objective and will have to restart it. I only ran into that once.

The most important thing this game does right is reign in the frame-rate. I know that would sound silly if you aren't playing it on original hardware, but this is why I DO play these games on hardware to get the best feel for what the actual experience was like behind the games of this time. A game like DOOM can be famous it if runs well, utter shite forgotten to the sands of time if it doesn't. We can all look back on DOOM for just the game that it is nowadays because it was a PC game and was rather quickly a game that any PC could play, when at its time it required a higher-end PC to reach its 35FPS target. Alien Trilogy on Saturn maintains its target frame-rate 90% of the time, and that includes 90% of critical moments when 5 xenomorphs are charging at you. In a modern perspective, those 10% of times where it doesn't would be unacceptable. For a game of this time period, it's exceptional.

The game does this while, in my view, maintaining a good presentation. I say this as someone who hasn't seen any of the Alien movies besides Prometheus. The crusty-ass, Saturn HSS-crushed, low draw distance, pixelated visuals kept me interested in what I was playing very well. There is no doubt that the PSX version looks better, but the Saturn version still looks decent and with work it could have looked better than it does now. This is a game that works very well within the limitations of the hardware. The music and sound effects are not top-notch, but they do their job well.

Going back to the actual game though, as a modern player, what does this offer as a boomer shooter?
This is a very clunky game engine. The player's collision box does not rotate with your viewpoint so you will get caught on edges of yourself you did not know were there. Angled walls also step with square collision boxes, so you can't back up on them without getting stuck. Basically, it would seem that the levels themselves are designed with a simple grid-type collision system. But that idea went out the window when I got to the Boneship, and suddenly some of the angled walls could be traversed against smoothly. Ultimately the main point is that while the game is 3D with a good presentation, it is not going a good job with 3D game logic, 3D game design, or 3D controls. There is a significant degree of auto-aim for the shooting, and all weapons shoot projectiles. This is interesting, except you yourself cannot aim. By the way, the game does *NOT* have a crosshair. You are entirely dependent on the auto-aim to hit things. Which will fail if your target is slightly above or below you. Again, it's a 3D game with true 3D levels but it really struggles to play like one. Some of the other more antiquated tricks the game pulls are surprise elevators (to either kill you or deceive you) and ubiquitous use of "visible wall with no collision". It keeps you on edge, almost like a horror game. I found it both really dumb and pretty fun. The game also lacks weapon variety and while there is a healthy variety of enemy types (which surprised me, I expected to be fighting black xenomorphs and facehuggers for 100% of the game), the enemy types all fit into basically three categories. Your weapons, too.

I should point out that the game is not merciless or stupidly hard. It has a significant measure of mercy for the player by giving you entire levels that are designed to just gear you up. You are literally told that this level is here so that you can re-arm and heal. They spice it up by giving you a time limit on the level so you can't collect *everything*, but it is a nice touch.

Basically, in every way, this is inferior to the games released/ported by Lobotomy Software although it does offer a style of game that those games do not satisfy. It is however superior to the Saturn versions of DOOM and HeXen by nature of its stable frame-rate. It also maintains a significantly more complex level/game design than something like Wolfenstein 3D, Ghen War, or Robotica (especially with the ability to save between levels). That's why I give it a mark as #4 best boomer shooter on Saturn (if you don't count MechWarrior 2 and Gungriffon as boomer shooters, which no one does).
Isn't this game famous for using only one of the SH2s?
You can probe this pretty easily if it runs in Kronos / Yabause. I wouldn't know and even if it does only use one SH2, it's not like it needed the second one.
Though they could've raised the draw distance with two.
I remember playing this game as a kid, and I thought it was pretty good. I think I still remember the cheat code: ALLTHEGVNS or something like that lol. It was fun starting the game off OP! That was after beating the game legitimately though ;)