Are you losing track of the SHMUP’s yet? Alpha Mission stands out for only one feature: A massive amount of power ups. Everything else in this game we have not only seen it look better, but play better too. First, the looks. I appreciate the alien nature of the level designs, but the enemies are wholly unoriginal and repetitive. Bosses are even worse. Poorly designed aliens against an all black screen. Thinking back to Stinger, the creative boss fights were half the reason I loved that game. Second, the play. Alpha Mission doesn’t deviate from the SHMUP formula, but does choose to focus on one of the biggest elements. Power Ups are essential for making a SHMUP feel satisfying. Seeing and feeling your lone ship become a killing machine against an armada of enemies is imperative to a good gameplay loop. Alpha Mission offers 8 different power ups and they even change the look of the ship too. That attention to detail is new on the NES, but the implementation of those power ups and their actual effectiveness turns out to be Alpha Mission’s downfall. As discussed in the episode, selecting power ups is a chore. Furthermore, only two or three of those power ups are worth using and one is just an automatic win button for as long as it remains active. Stack that on top of a mediocre SHMUP and you get a game that just isn’t all there.