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Isometric character rotation question

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Hello. If anyone could point me to good examples (if there are) on character animation and code design of game like Alien Shooter.

What i guess is that they made character animation originally in 3D and then rendered out 2D sprite sheets so it looks like 2.5D (isometric). After that i can't figure out how many directions character have. 8 directions would for sure look glitchy. Yet in Alien Shooter character rotate smoothly while following mouse position.

In Zombie Shooter 2 they have feature to change color part of character clothes. So is this 3D game or fancy 2D?

 

With current skill i have i could imagine possible workflow like this:

- Make model and animation in 3D graphics software.

- Render 16* directions of about 12* motion images and make one sprite sheet.

 

That could look like nonsense. If 2 different characters being able to stand idle, run, die, hold 3 different items, get and take damage with items in hands, the amount of sprite sheets would be around 30! So that's 30 large images loaded into memory and no doubt it would look bad.

 

Here's YouTube video of Alien Shooter gameplay: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SvTN8kNE4lo

I have skills with Visual Basic, C and Java but instead of code snippets it would be great to see source project of this. If nothing does anyone have better idea for workflow?

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