In the Shadow of Aliens


One of the best action movies of the 1980's was also one of the greatest horror movies, and that's the movie Aliens. The sequel to the masterpiece Alien from 1979, Aliens depicts a team of specialists who are tasked with destroying a hostile extraterrestrial existence, which is a threat to all life in the galaxy. While many video games of the era would pay homage to the Alien franchise, from the lonely and isolated Metroid, to the horrifying final level of Contra, none ripped it off quite a overtly as Xenophobe.

Xenophobe was originally an arcade game released in 1987, a year after Aliens hit theaters, and it's very clear they weren't just honoring a great movie and it's sequel, and instead were trying to ride on it's coattails. While the original arcade version had three player cooperative play, its Nintendo Entertainment System port, that was released in 1988, had up to two players, and had far fewer characters to choose from. Merely a point based action game, the goal of Xenophobe is to kill all the aliens before time runs out. A rather simple premise, but for an arcade game of the 1980's, that was about as complex as it got.

The really underhanded aspect of Xenophobe comes from it blatantly ripping off the Alien franchise, with it's Xenos enemies being a near exact replica of the Xenomorphs from the movies. Coupled with that, is the fact that the game is all about a team of experienced fighters taking down an alien threat in space colony, it's very easy to see how this game was just a quick cash grab, in an effort to utilize the popularity of the Alien movies. Even the title screen shows the alien, as well as a strong woman with a firearm, despite the fact that no such character is playable in the game. You can choose from an anthropomorphic duck, a lame robot, and an old guy with an eye patch: far cries from Ripley, who inspired Nintendo to make the powerful Samus Aran for Metroid.

Perhaps the shameless nature of the game would be more forgivable if it was any good, but somehow the game's graphics on the NES look atrocious, as the screen is scrunched up, with all the action happening on only the top half of the screen. The controls are sloppy, and with the character's slow movement, and the speed of the “Xenos,” you get damaged far too often. The music was composed by someone who is only known as Souvenir of Omaha, with no other known credits, and just maybe this game is the reason for that, as the soundtrack to the game is horribly repetitive, and pure silence would have probably been a better option. The worst fact of all, is that the company Sunsoft made the Nintendo port of this game. Sunsoft had made some of the greatest games on the system, including Batman, Journey to Silius, Spy Hunter, and Blaster Master. It's rather sad to consider that they had also made this game.

While the Science Fiction Horror Suspense masterpiece Alien inspired Nintendo to make the secluded Metroid, and the Science Fiction Horror Action movie Aliens gave Konami inspiration for Contra, Sunsoft merely took the movies, and tried to make an unauthorized video game adaptation, with little success. Perhaps if Sunsoft had used the series for inspiration as the others, instead of attempting to make money off the formula with little effort, maybe a Xenophobe game would have a sequel as Blaster Master did for the Nintendo Switch and 3DS.