Publisher: Crystal Dynamics (1993)
This was one of the better fighting games spawned by the 2D fighter epidemic of the early 90s. In fact, Samurai Shodown has got to be one of the most beautiful games I've ever laid eyes on. The colors and rich and vivid, and the Street Fighter-style graphics look fantastic. There are 12 very interesting characters to choose from, and they all brandish swords or other sharp weapons. The game plays much like Street Fighter 2, with three kicks, three punches and an assortment of special moves. One unique feature is how the screen scales out when the fighters are spread apart, although this gimmick really doesn't add much to the gameplay. The gorgeous backgrounds are Asian-inspired, and none of the voice dialogue has been translated, which is probably for the best. I had a great time playing this game. There's some slow-down, but the action and animation is first-rate. Unfortunately, the six-button controller is not supported, and you need to hold a shoulder button to activate your kicks, which works fine. Samurai Shodown made me wish ALL 3DO games were in 2D! © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Shadow: War of Succession
Publisher: Tribeca Digital (1994)
Shadow: War of Succession is a one-on-one fighter with digitized characters, splashing blood, flawless victories, and fatalities. Gee, I wonder what game this
ripped off?! By the time you hear a fighter shout "Your soul is mine!
", you'll realize that Shadow is a Mortal Kombat perpetrator of the worst
kind. The animation is so choppy that it looks like the game is cycling through four snapshots of each fighter. The screen zooms in and out like Samurai Shodown, but it doesn't help matters. The characters lack any legitimate martial arts moves, relying instead on pure magic. Some hurl glowing missiles shaped like claws and others can teleport all over the place. The collision detection is monumentally bad, and the special effects are pathetic
. To give you an idea of how poor the gameplay is, consider that I was able to win several matches in a row by doing nothing but continuous uppercuts. Two of the seven characters look like overdressed versions of Mileena and Sonya (of Mortal Kombat fame), but most resemble average Joes. The guy in the trench coat looks like he should be hanging out behind an adult movie theater. War of Succession contains one visually impressive stage which depicts a digitized New York City skyline at night, but the remaining stages (subway, pier, etc) are remarkably bland. I have to believe that Shadow was given the green light at the height of the 2D fighter craze, and by the time everybody realized it was crap, it was too late to pull the plug. I would give this game an F- except for the fact that the game it ripped off
was so damn good! © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1994)
Typical of the 3DO, this first-person shooter combines full-motion video (FMV), live acting, and first-generation 3D graphics. In each of its ten missions you fly over locations around the globe to wipe out invading aliens. Shock Wave's intro mixes FMV graphics with live actors, and the production quality isn't bad. The dialogue is respectable but the actors seem to be trying a little too hard. The FMV is better than average, and the scenes of your ship being deployed to the Earth's surface look amazing. The first mission begins over open water as you approach the pyramids of Egypt. The bright colors look terrific and the steering controls are responsive. Shock Wave doesn't burden the player with complicated navigational controls. You can aim up or down, but your ship always floats a safe distance above the surface. You'll automatically glide over mountains but you'll need to avoid crashing into structures like buildings and pyramids. Fortunately the scenery tends to be sparse. Live actors periodically appear on your display to keep you posted on your progress and objectives. You can fly in any direction but the missions are very linear in design, and you'll incur damage if you stray too far off course. There are some interesting alien vessels to blow up including two-legged walkers, spider-like crawlers, and fish-shaped fighters. Your crosshairs turn red when an enemy is in your sights, making it easy to blast them with your rapid-fire lasers or guided missiles. Unfortunately there's no effective evasive maneuver, so you take a lot of damage while in the act of shooting. Upon losing a ship you'll have to restart the current mission from the very beginning - even if you reached the boss! Nooooo!!!
Shock Wave's animation is impressive in the early going, but the frame-rate gets choppy later on when enemies congregate together. Likewise the scenery looks fine while flying over Egyptian Deserts and Peruvian mountains, but when you enter populated areas the houses look more like pixelated images stamped on the surface (which they are, of course). Las Vegas at night is monumental let-down, offering next-to-nothing in the way of eye candy. Shock Wave may have been impressive at one time, but over the years it's been reduced to a by-the-numbers shooter. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 4250
Shock Wave 2: Beyond the Gate
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1995)
The first Shock Wave was a serviceable first-person flying shooter and this sequel expands its scope quite a bit. There's a lot more variety and storyline, yet the game retains the same brand of alien butt-whipping. Shock Wave 2 begins with a sinister intro depicting alien space pirates and a ragtag band of mercenaries wearing baseball caps and Hawaiian shirts. The CGI effects used to render the aliens and robots are not the least bit convincing, but they do have entertainment value. You can now select the order in which you play the missions, and in addition to flying you get to man turrets and drive hovercraft. These add variety and their control schemes are easy to grasp. The explosions are more elaborate than the first game with flying chunks of debris and enemy ships that crash-land when damaged. The frame rate is smooth at first but becomes dodgy when a lot of stuff is going on. Instead of linear missions, most feature wide-open levels that force you to hunt around for your objectives (with the help of a scanner). The game is held together by a sophisticated menu interface composed of cryptic buttons and panels. It's hard to navigate and the so-called "help screen" is worthless. In fact, I think I need a help screen for the help screen!
Not all missions are of the "kill everything" variety, and you'll need to watch briefing videos to determine what you're expected to do. At first I thought this added depth was a great idea, but then I found myself getting pissed off
when I couldn't figure out what the [expletive] I was supposed to do! You need to be a dedicated gamer to enjoy this game. Shock Wave 2 expands upon the premise of the original but its bloated interface and mysterious mission objectives may prompt a lot of gamers to just say hell with it. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Crystal Dynamics (1995)
Whoa, this game is amazing
. Slam and Jam's characters are rendered with 2D sprites, but man, these guys are huge
. Better yet, they're fluidly animated and scale with minimal pixelation. You view the action from one end of the court at about the height of the basket. While this isn't always an ideal view (it's hard to judge depth), it works fine for the most part. Slam and Jam's gameplay seems inspired by NBA Jam, with its frenetic, non-stop action and lenient foul calling. There's plenty of razzle-dazzle, including behind-the-back passes, tip-ins, and tremendous alley-oops. The players really elevate, and hang on the rim after dunking - even pulling down the backboard a bit. Slam and Jam seems very offensive-minded at first, but once you learn to whale away on the steal and block buttons, you'll be inflicting turnovers left and right. Van Earl Wright does a nice job with the voice-overs, enthusiastically shouting lines like "Drives the lane!", "Cleans the glass with authority!", and "Delivers the thunder!". Unfortunately, there's no NBA license, and it's hard to root for fictional players like Jay Chisholm, Jose Peck, Adrian Blatt, and Peter Pence. Also, if you plan to play a full season, be aware that this game will consume a huge
chunk of your memory storage (5K bytes). But 3DO fans looking for some arcade-style sports action can't go wrong with Slam and Jam. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Strategic Simulations (1994)
With its "official Advanced D&D" seal, you would expect Slayer to stay pretty faithful to the board game - and you're right. In fact, its oversized 58-page instruction booklet reminds me of a hardback D&D rulebook with its pages of tables, illustrations, and even a monster guide. I always liked playing D&D with paper and dice and chips and beer, but there's something to be said for seeing its fantasy world visualized. Slayer's intro really gets you psyched up as you watch a mysterious figure disappear into a dark fortress as an organ plays a haunting refrain. A first-person adventure, the idea is to conquer dungeons by collecting items and hacking away at monsters. Each stage is a series of corridors and rooms with a distinct style of music and scenery. A small window at the bottom of the screen maps your immediate surroundings, but the full map is only accessible via the pause menu. The creatures are illustrated with so much detail and texture that they almost look 3D from a distance. Among the creeps you'll face are goblins, trolls, mushroom men, worms, red slime, elementals, and ghosts. Fighting monsters and collecting items is fun. Melee isn't hard once you get used to charging in to attack and immediately pulling back (rinse and repeat). Your inventory screen depicts a body diagram that makes it easy to manage your armor and items. One peculiar aspect of the game is how have both "hit points" and
"food" meters to maintain. Slayer was pretty advanced for its time, but the game has not aged well due to its poor controls. Your movements are jerky and inexact, making it tough to line up enemies and doorways. The right trigger is used to strafe, but it's also used to look up and down, and that's problematic. Thank goodness it's impossible to fall into pits! The dungeons tend to be flat labyrinths with each room looking like the previous one. Scattered portals transport you from place to place, making it hard to maintain your bearings. The minor-key electronic score sets an ominous tone, but after looping a few times it can get annoying. I have to give Slayer extra credit for letting the player save his progress at any time
via the pause menu. And if your system's internal memory is full, it's no problem, because the game even provides a mechanism to clear out old files! Slayer shows its age in the control department, but this is still very playable dungeon romp. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1995)
Rating: Teen (13+) (animated blood and gore)
There's an interesting concept buried in this game, but I'm not sure it's worth exploring or should remain buried. Space Hulk appears to be another generic first-person shooter on the surface, but it also contains a healthy dose of real-time strategy. Playing the game involves directing a squad of well-armored "terminator" robots on a series of missions through monster-infested labyrinths. Successfully completing these missions requires issuing specific orders to each robot such as follow, advance, retreat, cover, and open door. Although these are issued via an overhead map, you can take direct control of any robot at any time, causing the screen to switch to a first-person view. With this point of view, you can move around freely and engage in shooting or hand-to-hand combat. I spent a good portion of the game playing from the map view, manipulating robots as if they were pieces on a board. Space Hulk's graphics are exceptional, showing off the 3DO's ability to render rich textures and realistic lighting. As you roam the hallways, the doors and walls look nearly photo-realistic. Unfortunately, the frame-rate is lousy, and consequently navigating the hallways is more awkward than it should be. The well-designed creatures look fearsome (especially up close), and blasting them results in a generous amount of blood sprayed over the walls. I gave it a chance, but to be honest, Space Hulk is not my kind of game. I like the concept of issuing orders to the other robots and working as a team, but that's easier said than done. The game favors strategy over mindless shooting, and there's a major learning curve involved. In addition, the robots move slowly, and the gameplay seems to drag at times. I was able to complete some of the early missions, but as the objectives grew more complex, Space Hulk started to give me a headache. Only the most patient gamers will be able to fully appreciate this one. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: American Laser Games (1994)
"Hey, haven't you heard the news? Interactive live video is the future
of video games! Everybody knows that!" What you have just read was not
a dramatization. Believe it or not, this was the conventional wisdom of the game industry in the early 90's, and that explains why we have embarrassments like Space Pirates. Judged on sheer cheesiness alone, it's hard to believe that this was produced in the 1990's. It more closely resembles one of those low-budget music videos from the early 80's. Space Pirate's shallow gameplay involves aiming a cursor and shooting at live-action "space pirates" that jump out of the scenery. You can also use a light gun if you own one of these ultra-rare 3DO peripherals. As you might imagine, the production values are rock bottom and the acting is so awful that it's almost
worth watching. The general quality would suggest the footage was filmed by high school student in a rented warehouse, and the acting skills are a notch below those you'd witness at a neighborhood haunted house around Halloween. And here's a big surprise: the gameplay absolutely sucks
. You don't have much time to react to the action onscreen, but once you've been through a scene, you know where the people will pop out. I don't know how this plays with the light gun, but I found the controller pad to be pretty [expletive] sorry. Making matters worse, each time you mess up some old man rags on you about how you let everybody down. [Expletive] you! At least I'm not stuck in some crummy FMV game! Topping things off, it's downright disconcerting when the evil villain
says "winners don't do drugs!" during the intro. Wait a second - since when do we listen to the bad
guys? Does this mean we should
do drugs? Mixed messages like this are what put teenagers on a path to drug addiction, crime, and despair. Fortunately, no teenagers actually played
this game, because their were too busy playing good
games on their Genesis and Super Nintendo systems. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Stellar 7: Draxon's Revenge
Publisher: Dynamix (1993)
Like Battlezone updated for the 90's, Stellar 7 puts you in a floating tank on colorful distant planets, blasting any polygons that move. Too bad it's saddled with a ridiculous name that makes people not
want to play it! Draxon's graphics are commendable, with clean visuals and an exceptionally smooth frame-rate. While tracking down alien craft using your handy radar display, you can also employ special powers using buttons that line your dashboard. I was expecting these powers to elevate Draxon's Revenge to "the next level", but was disappointed at how lame
most of these are. One is a cloaking device, and another lets you detect enemies with
cloaking devices. There's one that lets you ram enemies, and another that lets you drop mines (snore). Even the "super cannon" is only a marginal improvement over your default weapon. Enemy tanks are pretty tame, but the flying "skimmers" are pain in the ass because you really
need to lead your shots to nail those bastards. There are some very nice explosion effects, and crystal clear techno music really helps you get into a groove. The instruction manual recommends that you "keep moving", and that's probably the best advice I've ever heard in my entire life. Otherwise you're a sitting duck. Once your tank is destroyed, you can record your high score to a top-10 ranking chart. Stellar 7: Draxon's Revenge is a little predictable and could use some pizzazz, but it serves its purpose as a slick arcade shooter for the 3DO. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Super Street Fighter II Turbo
Publisher: Capcom (1994)
I have mixed feelings about this game. Yes, Street Fighter 2 is a classic 2D fighting game, but this version isn't as great as it could have been. The graphics, for one thing, are only slightly better than the SNES version, and don't look nearly as sharp as 3DO's Samurai Shodown. They seem somewhat fuzzy, and some colors flicker. The music sounds a little jazzier than the SNES, but the voice samples are muffled. Perhaps the biggest letdown is the fact that this game didn't support my six-button controller (I think it requires a special controller). It's still playable with a three-button controller (five including the shoulder buttons), but that "P" button does NOT cut it as a sixth button (and don't try to tell me otherwise!). The game has three speed settings: Level one is like slow-motion (ugh), and level three is insanely fast (forget it), but level two is just about right. The biggest surprise is the inclusion of additional moves I never saw on the SNES. I was really surprised to see Zangief's glove, Dhalsim's upward flame, and Blanka's jump-spin. This is the kind of stuff that makes Street Fighter fans feel giddy as a schoolgirl. Street Fighter 2 on the 3DO is somewhat of an underachiever, but considering the system, you'll be hard-pressed to find anything much better! © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Super Wing Commander
Publisher: Origin (1994)
Readers who think I hate PC gaming will be interested to hear how much I enjoyed playing Super Wing Commander. Ported from the PC, this first-person space shooter leveraged all the technology of its era including pre-rendered cut-scenes, digitized graphics, and an epic musical score. You play the role of a novice pilot on a large vessel called the Tiger Claw. In the lounge area you'll converse with fellow pilots with distinctive personalities. Their illustrated faces are static except for moving lips and eyes. It looks unnatural as hell - but kind of funny. Their over-the-top ethnic accents suggest that they hail from around the world. Each mission is preceded by an elaborate flight preparation sequence which shows your pilot being fitted with armor and transported to his ship via a series of automated contraptions. It's fun to watch! After launch you'll experience a brand of space shooting that feels like an evolution of Star Raiders (Atari 2600, 1982). Your cockpit view is loaded with gauges and screen displays, and your hand can be seen gripping the flight stick at the bottom of the screen. The dogfighting action is fun thanks to red brackets that highlight enemy ships and blue brackets that indicate allies. A handy arrow in the center of the screen directs you to the nearest enemy if they happen to be out of view. I like the idea of fighting alien ships as a team, and you can even convey orders to your wingman like "form up" or "attack my target". It's exciting to hear both your allies and enemies
over your radio ("I shall eat
your heart!") The ships are nicely rendered with large, scaling digitized sprites. You're armed with both guns and missiles, but they tend to be fairly weak and their sound effects muted. It's not uncommon to have your weapon systems knocked out early, forcing you to limp through the remainder of your mission. Destroying an enemy is satisfying thanks to a brilliant explosion followed by chunks of pixelated wreckage. Unfortunately, when battles get intense the frame-rate tends to stutter badly, sometimes pausing momentarily. During lulls in the action a handy autopilot control lets you effectively fast-forward to the next encounter. The control scheme is an issue, as the game was clearly designed for a keyboard and not a seven-button controller. I'm glad the back of the disk case has a quick-reference guide, because it's hard to remember the button combinations. Between missions you can view your rankings and save your progress. Super Wing Commander is a little rough around the edges, but I enjoyed its brand of space combat a lot more than I thought I would. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Crystal Dynamics (1993)
Total Eclipse was probably pretty cool when it came out, but now it just looks like every other boring 3DO space game. You view the action from just behind your ship, which happens to look just like an X-Wing fighter. Eclipse offers rapid-fire shooting action over planet surfaces and inside tunnels. You're always moving in a set direction, although the stages are wide enough that you can sometimes take alternate routes. The game has a few things going for it. The scenery isn't particularly detailed (just pixelated textures), but the framerate is smooth and I like how the enemies disintegrate when shot. By flying through rings, you can collect power-ups and amass some serious firepower. But Total Eclipse is not without its problems. I couldn't get the "roll" controls to work, and sometimes you inadvertently scrape against the side of a mountain that was out of view. It's hard to judge the position of your ship in the tunnels, and the background guitar music is marginal. The action gets repetitive, and the scenery all looks the same after a while. To be honest, there's not much substance here, just some 3D graphics that looked good in 1993. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Warp (1995)
I'm glad I stumbled upon this quirky Tetris clone, because it's a standout title in an otherwise bland 3DO library. One or two players methodically stack blocks on each side of the screen, and joining four or more of the same color causes them to explode. Chain reactions often ensue. The game ends when your pile extends past the top of the screen. The formula sounds awfully familiar, but Trip'd offers a few subtle nuances. First, the squares look like slimy little creatures. Upon joining four identical shapes in a square, they merge to form a single large square. It consumes space, but destroying it (by exploding the same colored blocks elsewhere) causes extra squares to rain down on your opponent's side. This adds a nice little risk-and-reward dynamic. Trip'd has an offbeat visual style that borders on grotesque. There's a decorative monster with a pulsating brain, and when you lose, a skull with dangling eyeballs appears. Trip'd offers interesting graphics and crisp controls, but its audio is a liability, offering up some really bad circus music. The game's one-player mode is an absolute snorefest, but competing against the CPU (or better yet a human) is undeniably fun. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Twisted The Game Show
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1993)
One to four players can participate in this zany game show, full of wacky puzzle games, old movie footage, corny dialog, and madcap fun. Trip Hawkins, the inventor of the 3DO, produced this game. An overly enthusiastic host runs the show along with his lovely assistant. Since Twisted is mostly video, you might expect it to be slow, but it's not. The clips are short and the game moves at a steady pace. As far as the acting goes, it's not quite to the point of embarrassing, but close. I wasn't impressed with the bizarre contestants, but some of the commercials really did crack me up, like the product that was both toothpaste AND shoe polish. The "nothing toy" for dogs was also pretty clever. The action begins with two to four players on a large game board. Most spaces initiate "challenges", or mini-games played by one person. There are eight games in all, mostly consisting of puzzles, memory matches, or trivia challenges. Most are amusing, but some get annoying after repeated plays. The overall production quality of this game is pretty good, and the graphics and sound quality is commendable. Twisted The Game Show grew on me, but many players (like my wife) will hate the cheesy concept behind it all. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Way of the Warrior
Publisher: Universal (1994)
In the early 90's there were all kinds of bad Mortal Kombat rip-offs, but Way of the Warrior is particularly embarrassing. Where do we begin? Well, first of all, the cast of fighters is absolutely vomit-inducing. There's a ninja with a pink belt, an outback hillbilly, a redneck woman, a homo armed with fans, a black guy in a tie, and an Asian martial artist who looks like he's about 14. And that's just a sample. The graphics are remarkably photorealistic and colorful, but the animation is choppy and fighters look stiff. It's painfully evident that the developers knew absolutely nothing about martial arts. The attacks look stupid and the fights look utterly ridiculous. The controls are unresponsive and the characters hop around like fleas. The backgrounds are colorful but lack personality and fail to convey atmosphere. The audio consists of non-stop White Zombie head banging garbage that you'll be sick of by the second round. Other annoying sound effects include idiotic yells and quips from the fighters. Way of the Warrior is so bad that it's hard to comprehend. It's really more of a curiosity than a game. But perhaps the most shocking part is the fact that it was made by Naughty Dog, the same developers who later would produce the awesome Crash Bandicoot games for the Playstation. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Panasonic (1995)
I thought this game looked awfully familiar at first, and then I realized that it's somewhat of a sequel to Pebble Beach Golf, using the same game engine and menu design. The unique thing about Wicked 18 is that it contains eighteen wild "fantasy" holes. You'll see totem poles, volcanoes, and islands floating in the sky. The holes are extreme in design, with steep hills and narrow canyons. One particular hole looks like a giant pyramid. It's a cool idea, and a nice break from the plain courses found in most golf games, but the execution is weak. The graphics engine has a hard time rendering these radical landscapes. The ball often appears to travel through solid walls, and it's very difficult to tell where it lands. Wicked 18 tends to be more confusing than anything else. At least the user interface has been tightened up a bit since Pebble Beach Golf, so you don't have to deal with a caddy as much. The background music is irritating as hell - it sounds like carnival music. Compared to Pebble Beach Golf, I'd say this game takes one step forward and two steps back. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger
Publisher: Origin (1995)
Super Wing Commander must have sold like hotcakes, because Heart of the Tiger boasts some tremendous production values. The game comes spread over three CDs, each loaded with a generous helping of live-action video. I realize video is frowned upon in many gaming circles, but the clips in Wing Commander 3 (WC3) are actually very compelling thanks to an all-star cast. Many of the characters are played by recognizable actors, with Mark Hamill (of Star Wars fame) leading the way. Even without the theatrics, this is a superb first-person space shooter that nicely builds on the foundation of the previous game. The frame-rate is dramatically smoother, the action is faster, and the controls are more responsive. Your weapons are much more effective, leading to shorter but more intense battles. It's fun to gang up on enemy ships, and when you take down a massive capital ship the explosion effects are pretty awesome. Between missions you'll converse with other people on the ship, and there's plenty of gossip and drama. Apparently some don't appreciate the fact that you've chosen a wingman of the same species as the enemy (a cat-like version of Chewbacca). Super Wing Commander III is a strong 3DO title, but it can't quite shed its PC roots. I found myself constantly peeking at the quick reference sheet containing over 30 button combinations. It's hard to remember special commands like releasing a decoy (R+C), toggling your cockpit view (pause+B), or engaging autopilot (L+B). Direct communication commands have also been incorporated into the scheme, complicating matters further. In one early mission my wingman Hobbes was shouting, "I am ready to engage!" and while being pelted by enemy fire I'm screaming, "Attack! Attack you stupid [expletive] bastard!!
" There's no pause function (that button is used for about five other things) so it's hard to locate the proper command in the heat of battle. Still, Wing Commander 3 is enjoyable once you finally get comfortable with the controls. On the downside, the game crashed on me once (memory allocation error), and the video clips become a bit monotonous after a while ("That's some pretty slick flying sir!"). It clearly had to be shoehorned onto the 3DO, but Wing Commander III is an engaging science fiction epic that's a real pleasure to experience. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
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Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum, Moby Games