ATV Quad Power Racing
Publisher: Acclaim (2002)
For such a vanilla racer, ATV Quad Power Racing is surprisingly fun and engaging. The single-player "challenge" mode offers nine tracks, each with a distinctive color scheme and enough scenery to convey a unique flavor. From dusty desert roads to snowy mountains, you'll power-slide around sharp turns and plunge down steep hills. The impressive 3D objects and textured roads look like something out of a Playstation One title - pretty good! Your seven opponents are equally spaced out on each track, and you can employ power-ups to overtake them. Speed boosts are the most useful, and others give you extra "air" or allow you to "stick" to the road. My biggest issue with the game is its password save feature. It's bad enough you have to write down a password, but instead of letters, the passwords are composed of odd symbols! ATV isn't great, but its clean visuals and fair difficulty managed to hold my attention. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Nintendo (2001)
Publisher: Nintendo (2003)
The first Advance Wars was a real sleeper. The media didn't pay it much attention, but hardcore gamers recognized the genius of this addicting strategy game. By the time this sequel emerged, video game magazines were revising history and hailing Advance Wars 2 as the greatest thing since Pac-Man. The truth is, Advance Wars 2 is really just more of the same. There are some new graphics, new head-to-head modes, and special "CO" commands that let you augment the abilities of all your deployed units. But most of the graphics, sound effects, and music have been recycled from the first game. The absorbing gameplay involves moving your army around a map, strategically positioning your troops and weapons in order to capture your opponent's headquarters. The main campaign mode explains the subtle nuances of the game through a series of increasingly difficult missions. It's fun, but boy is it verbose
. After a while, I got really tired of reading all of that text (or should I say, skipping
all of it!). Fortunately, the "Versus" mode offers more than enough options and maps to satisfy anyone's taste. As an arcade-minded player, I prefer the "pre-deployed" maps over ones that have you manufacture your own units. All in all, Advance Wars 2 is a great buy - unless you already own the first game. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Altered Beast Guardian of the Realms
Publisher: THQ (2002)
Altered Beast was a popular arcade game in the late 80s, serving as the first "pack-in" game for the Genesis system. In it, you controlled a man raised from the grave to fight an army of monsters. As you progressed through each stage, power-ups made you bigger and more powerful until you finally transformed in a werewolf or some other creature. Guardian of the Realms is an updated and extended version of Altered Beast with similar hack-n-slash gameplay but superior graphics, sound, and control. The mythological theme is reflected well in the background scenery and monsters you encounter. The nicely rendered beasts include trolls, skeletons, centaurs, giant praying mantis, and grim reapers. The stages are difficult at first because you're just a normal man, but once you start pumping yourself up with power-ups, things start getting easier. And by the time you transform in a monster (which looks great by the way), you're practically unstoppable (until you reach the boss, that is). As a longtime fan of Altered Beast, I was really psyched up about Guardian, but my enthusiasm waned as the lengthy stages took their toll on me. The original Altered Beast was tighter, with shorter but more difficult stages. In this new version, you get sick of punching and kicking the same beasts over and over. In the forest stage, the regenerating bees drove me absolutely crazy. Considering the large number of stages, I appreciate how the cartridge automatically saves your progress. Guardians of the Realms is a not a bad game, but I think Sega overextended the old formula. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (2001)
Ah yes, there's nothing like an old-fashioned Sega baseball game. This one brings back fond memories of the SportsTalk and World Series Baseball games for the Genesis. The graphics mimic the style of the Genesis World Series games, with large, realistically animated players. The behind-the-batter view gives you a close-up view of the strike zone, but you'll need to learn a whole new swing system to hit the ball. First, you move a circle around the strike zone in anticipation of where the pitch is coming. Then you hold the swing button before
the pitch comes (even before the wind-up), releasing it to swing. It takes some getting used to, and can be maddening until you figure it out. But once you get it, it's not so bad. Actually, this is the most fun I've had with a baseball game on a portable. The pitching and fielding controls are perfect - playing defense is even more fun than batting! I love how you can dive for grounders and turn double plays. The players are supposed to look like they're breathing heavy, but it looks like they're all shrugging their shoulders - pretty funny. All the MLB teams are included, but only four stadiums: Safeco, Wrigley, Fenway, and Pacific Bell Park. It may come up a little short on features, but for pure fun, Baseball Advance is hard to beat. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2005)
When I play a sophisticated 2D platform-fighter like Batman Begins, it begs the question "Why in the hell aren't there games like this for the consoles?" Although its style is rather old-fashioned, Batman Begins boasts terrific production values and adds some nifty twists to the standard formula. Its fluidly animated, highly detailed characters look almost digitized, and I especially like how Batman's cape bellows out as he glides through the air. The adventure begins in the snowy mountains of China, and much like Bruce Wayne in the movie, this is where you'll learn the ropes. Eventually you progress to Gotham city where you take on crooks in more industrial locations. The rich scenery has a nice weathered look to it, and the rain and snow look terrific. Batman has a wide arsenal of hand-to-hand moves, including a rolling kick and an uppercut that can take out three thugs at a time
(yeah - now that's
old school!) Fighting is fun, and enemies have little health meters under them. Batman Begins also incorporates a lot of stealth elements - for better or worse. I like the idea of getting "the drop" on enemy thugs, but certain stages require you to remain totally
unseen, and that's just tedious. Batman Begins features nicely illustrated cut scenes and a soundtrack worthy of a Hollywood action movie. The stealth elements tempered my enthusiasm, but it's nice to see an old-school take on a new-school movie. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Boktai: The Sun Is In Your Hands
Publisher: Konami (2003)
Publisher: Capcom (2001)
Submitted by RPG correspondent Jonathan Hawk
This Breath of Fire port is much the same as the original Super Nintendo title (1994), except Capcom added two elements that greatly improve the experience. First, you can now save anywhere
- a necessary feature for a portable title. Doing a "field save" lets you return to the exact same spot where you left off, and dying returns you to your previous save point. The graphics have been improved as well, with better-looking character sprites and menus, as well as brand new "still image" cut-scenes. Breath of Fire's solid gameplay hasn't changed since its SNES days, but the extra save feature and new glitz livens it up a little. Still, if you already have this game for Super Nintendo, this updated version might not be worth your while. See SNES review for further details. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Breath of Fire II
Publisher: Capcom (2002)
Submitted by RPG correspondent Jonathan Hawk
Much like the GBA Breath of Fire port, Breath of Fire II features revised graphics and the addition of a quick-save option. The fine audio of the SNES version has been preserved pretty much intact, and the sprites have been modernized. New character art, backgrounds, and an overhauled menu system are among the key revisions. Like Breath of Fire, Capcom has incorporated some nice looking static cut scene images. Newcomers should consider buying this simple and fun RPG, but owners of the SNES version can probably bypass it. See SNES review for further details. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Wrath of the Darkhul King
Publisher: THQ (2003)
Rating: Teen (mild violence)
Castlevania: Aria of Sorrow
Publisher: Konami (2003)
Castlevania: Circle of the Moon
Publisher: Konami (2001)
Castlevania: Harmony of Dissonance
Publisher: Konami (2002)
It took some time to win me over, but Harmony of Dissonance is one of the more enjoyable Castlevania games I've experienced. It's very similar to the highly-acclaimed Symphony of the Night (Playstation), and every bit as good. The graphics are gorgeous as you would expect, and the music is amazing (for a handheld system). You assume the role of a vampire hunter exploring a huge, mysterious castle - nothing new there. Armed with your trusty whip, you'll acquire all sorts of weapons, spellbooks, and artifacts as you progress. Typical of Castlevania, there are plenty of memorable animations, like lizard men lunging with their swords, barely missing you with the tips of their blades. Skeletons raise their dukes to taunt you. Subtle details like a floating eyeball lingering behind a curtain or a corpse hanging in the background are examples of the game's rich visuals. Each stage is a work of art, decorated with ornate architecture and huge sculptures. Initially I got lost in the endless corridors and stairways, but once I obtained the map, the gameplay improved dramatically. The more powers you amass, the more enjoyable Harmony of Dissonance becomes. This game is a winner, and it's one of three Castlevania games available for the Game Boy Advance. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Crash Bandicoot: N-tranced
Publisher: Universal (2003)
Crash Bandicoot: The Huge Adventure
Publisher: Universal (2002)
DK: King of Swing
Publisher: Nintendo (2005)
Leave it to Nintendo to take a remarkably simple idea and parlay it into a thoroughly enthralling game experience. In King of Swing we find Donkey Kong moving hand-over-hand across pegs and pegboards, subduing enemy creatures while collecting coins en route to the exit. Amazingly, this game can be played using nothing but the two shoulder buttons! Pressing either one causes Kong's respective hand to grasp a peg, rock, lever, or whatever else it's positioned over. When one hand is free, Donkey Kong swings continuously, and releasing the button sends him sailing through the air. You press both buttons to jump, and holding them both in initiates a "charge" attack. As usual, Nintendo gets a lot of mileage out of this simple concept, with advanced levels that let you toss rocks at enemies and turn levers to open doors. King of Swing's gameplay doesn't really lend itself to fancy effects or scenic backdrops, but the understated visuals are clean and attractive. In addition to the main story mode, there are a slew of mini-games you can play alone or against friends. High scores are saved within the cartridge. So if you're looking for an old-fashioned platformer with a unique twist, King of Swing offers wholesome and addictive fun. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX 3
Publisher: Acclaim (2002)
Picture Tony Hawk on a bike and you'll have a pretty good idea of what Freestyle BMX is all about. Dave Mirra is all about catching the "big air", punching buttons like there's no tomorrow, and praying to God that you come down on two wheels. You can pull off some amazing maneuvers in mid-air, but nailing the landing is extremely difficult because it's so hard to judge your orientation. Stages include a skate park, construction site, and skyscraper, but the highlight of the game is its impressive digitized soundtrack, which sounds remarkably clear. As with any "extreme" selection of tunes, yes, you get the obligatory Limp Biscuit track. Green Day's "Basket Case" is also included, but I can't get over how censored it is. In the end, Dave Mirra was very much what I expected, but the small screen proves to be a major hindrance. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Midway (2001)
This updated version of the 1982 arcade classic further illustrates how graphics and sound alone cannot carry a game. Despite its large aliens, 3D ships, photographic backgrounds and digitized sound, this Defender pales in comparison to the original. But that doesn't mean it's a bad game. In fact, compared to most Defender incarnations (the recent Xbox version comes to mind), this is pretty good. The 2D gameplay is familiar as you fly across a side-scrolling screen while shooting aliens that attempt to abduct humans from the planet surface. For some reason, you can't
catch the falling humans, but that's okay because they always survive the fall. The terrific backgrounds include a tropical paradise, but the aliens tend to blend into them. As a result, I spent most of the game staring at the scanner on the top of the screen to locate approaching aliens and gauge their positions. Each planet stage consists of three rounds followed by a fun vertical bonus round where you catch floating people in space while avoiding debris. Defender gives you a choice of ships, but their firepower is weak compared to the awesome streaming lasers of the arcade game. Like any respectable Defender game, hyperspace and smart bombs are also at your disposal. Defender can't live up to the legacy of the original game, but it's still a nifty little shooter. Note: The original Defender is an unlockable bonus. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.