ALLIGATOR HUNT / Galeco / Arcade
I just got done playing through the fan-made Policenauts translation, which I mention not only because it's a pretty amazing piece of work from a dedicated and unpaid team, but because it also shares some weird coincidental similarities with Alligator Hunt. For example, both were originally released in the same year (1994). Both briefly take place on a futuristic version of Earth before moving on into space for the rest of the game. Both mix pixel art and CGI. And both involve pointing a cursor around the screen to shoot the bejesus out of stuff.
But where Policenauts is a chart-topping sales blockbuster from the high-profile Kojima Productions which somehow never happened to make it out of Japan, Alligator Hunt is an obscure arcade title from a low-profile team of crazed Spaniards which I'm guessing never made it out of Europe.
That's not to say it doesn't have its merits. Despite the apparent obscurity of the developers and the low production budget, the graphics are actually pretty close to top-of-the-line for 1994. The gameplay is essentially a knockoff of Wild Guns, which was tearing up the arcades just prior to this being released - two players move back and forth across the bottom of the screen while simultaneously guiding a reticule all over the place to shoot incoming enemies. It's basically a rail shooter, just with a third-person view of the characters and a little more flexibility in movement, as you can do a somersault across the screen that makes you temporarily invincible to most incoming projectiles.
The plot is a weird combination of some interstellar reptile army taking over the Earth and dealing grim death everywhere, with two "Poochy attitude" skateboarder kids who also apparently happen to be such leet spacecraft pilots that just one of them alone can destroy the entire reptile military singlehandedly. One wonders why they weren't called into action prior to the reptiles completely trashing the Earth, but oh well. Anyway, there's a sort of "introductory" mini-level where you fight your way out of the besieged Earth military base on foot, then over to a spacecraft which you'll use for the rest of the game. Both the skateboard kids and the spacecraft control fundamentally the same way, but it seems like the spacecraft doesn't roll through damage as often as the kids do.
The Wild Guns formula is a good one when done right. This may be a blatant imitation, but it's an inspired one, and they clearly put a lot of elbow grease into it. As mentioned, the graphics are pretty fantastic for the time. The music could use some work, with some rather annoying butt-rock guitar that sounds like a cheap knockoff of the Konami Kukeiha Club and consists of only one song repeating over and over through most of every level, but the sound effects are pretty solid too. There's a good variety of enemies and attack patterns, and the challenge level is decent without ever really seeming cheap. There's also some very detailed cinematics in between levels, and aside from looking nice these also give us some unintentionally hilarious mistranslated Engrish quotes spoken in a wonderfully exuberant voice ("Now I'll smash their devil planet!") The game seems like it ends kind of suddenly, with a rather short last level and a somewhat gimpy end boss, but the ride up to that point is of a decent length and is fun.
* Gameplay Video