Challenge is one of the core ingredients that make a retro video game worth playing, but certain games undoubtedly go overboard with it. If the title in question has enough quality, though, it can make up for this and encourage less experienced players to join in on the fun. Alpha Mission is the perfect example of a game that goes ballistic with the challenge level, but doesn’t have the gameplay, visuals, ingenuity, or auditory experience to back it up. Instead, it offers questionable content that only the most niche of an already niche audience will enjoy.
Originally released in 1985, Alpha Mission is exceptionally straightforward. In this top-down vertical shooter, the goal is to complete each stage by shooting and dodging various hordes of moving enemies and whatever stationary machines target you. Your ship is equipped with a standard beam to take care of flying foes, as well missiles to dispose of terrain-dwellers. Chips can be found littered throughout the stages that offer improved ship performance over time, in various ways. Some power-ups include improved speed, a temporary barrier, and twin lasers. Those who liken the gameplay to Xevious are not wildly far off the mark. There is a seemingly infinite amount of levels, but all of them play largely the same and look that way as well. At the end of the stage is a boss that spews numerous projectiles and generally offers more challenge than the levels themselves.
The game falls flat when it comes to being aurally appealing, even if there are some decent tunes. This is because you’re going to need to fire bullets constantly, which produces a less-than-charming noise that makes it cumbersome to hear the actual music. Even when you’ve stopped firing, there’s an endless bell-like sound that never ceases. These two sounds drone over the entire experience to the point where it may be a good choice to just turn off the volume because, sadly, there is no option to turn off only sound effects.