When I first fired up my copy of Arena I was instantly reminded of Shadowrun for the Super NES. The same artistic style and isometric perspective is employed here, and that may or may not be a good thing. With little explanation as to whom my character is, why he's running through industrial sections of town shooting alien monster/workers, or how much money this game actually should have cost, I'm left feeling lighter in the pocketbook, and heavy with cognitive confusion.
As I said, I know not of the plot specifically, but generally. Our character is of the traditional rebel-badass ilk, complete with fancy-pants space laser and unbreakable conviction, though I cannot condone the random gunning-down of aliens, no matter how seemingly hostile they may appear. Perhaps they're after ME for keying their hovercar or something. Regardless, the basic objective of each stage is to explore the area, procure weapons and special items such as keycards, and find the way to the exit. Basically, if Gauntlet and Shadowrun had a baby it would probably look a lot like Arena. The exploration is acceptable but not overly exciting, particularly by the umpteenth level.
The sound effects remind me of that stupid commercial you see on G4 for designing games. The one fellow says, "Be sure to add that sound effect from level two". "Designer" number two says, "you mean this" and that ages old spaceship exploding sound effect every gamer has heard a million times is played. They used that sound effect to the max in this game. I wouldn't have found it so damned annoying had it not been for those commercials, so I cannot hold the game accountable for Eastwood College's foibles. The music is atmospheric enough, reminiscent of the isolated sounds of Metroid, but again, nothing too fantastic.
In short this game is very by-the-books in terms of execution, but by being so very typical it isn't something you will invest too much time into. And I still can't believe I paid what I did for a Game Gear game no one remembers.