ATP Tour Championship Tennis
Publisher: Sega (1994)
ATP Tennis is the sequel to Wimbledon Tennis (Genesis, 1993), and I wish I knew what ATP stood for. This is a full-featured tennis game. You can create your own player and enter him in a series of tournaments, saving your progress to one of four slots. Or you can dust off your Sega multi-tap for some four-player doubles action. The option menu lets you do things like turn on a ball pointer, toggle automatic replays, and finely adjust the speed of the game. The control scheme offers three types of shots: soft volley (safe), hard volley (risky), and a lob which goes really really
high. I was a little disappointed that the six-button controller is not supported in any way. As in real tennis proper positioning is key. Your player will automatically dive for the ball if it's too far away. I like how it's possible to hit the ball into the net or have it bounce off the top of the net - it's a bit of realism missing from most tennis games. There are even double faults and shots that sail out-of-bounds. What kills this game is the fact that the balls seem so dead; they lack bounce. This forces you to play the net all the time, which is not realistic at all. The player models look cheesy, especially the way they gallivant around after winning a point. The courts look good and I like how there are animated line judges and ball girls. The player selection screen features a few familiar faces (McEnroe, Sampras, Lendl), but I've never heard of most of these players (Guy Forget?
). The grainy black-and-white photos depicting each player look so bad, it's almost embarrassing. The career mode offers extended replay value, but not being able to save your progress between sets is a deal breaker. One set can last a long time, and this game is hard on your hands. If there's one big selling point for ATP Tennis, it would have to be the four-player mode. My friends had a heck of a lot of fun playing this, and didn't even want to stop. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Battery
1 to 4 players
Adventures of Batman and Robin, The
Publisher: Sega (1995)
Adventures of Batman and Robin boasts sharp graphics, tight controls, and two-player simultaneous action. There's a lot to like, but this game is repetitive to the max!
In the first stage our heroes walk down a city street while beating the crap out of clowns that pour out of the woodwork. I like how you can kick while hanging from ledges, and it's cool to toss Bat-a-rangs in a rapid-fire fashion. Actually the game feels more like a shooter
than a traditional beat-em-up. But no matter how much damage you inflict, the bad guys keep coming in droves. It feels like you're beating up the same thugs over and over - there must be thousands
of them! You'd think that having a partner would help, but in that case the game just throws twice as many
thugs your way! Enough already! Had Sega cut the number of villains in half, this would have been a lot
better. Still, it's great when you find a skull icon which instantly obliterates every enemy on the screen. The obligatory end-of-stage bosses have life meters that slowly count down from 100, which takes forever. The game is tough and the power-up system is confusing. You can try to play for score, but your score is removed the instant you lose your final life. Buried in this game are many classic Batman foes including the Joker, the Mad Hatter, Two-Face, and Mr. Freeze. The stylish graphics are attractive, with small but well-defined characters and varied scenery. Clever details include alley cats jumping out of trashcans and crooks that get their hats knocked off. With the exception of the obligatory elevator stage (snore), there's plenty to see - especially in the Mad Hatter's Alice In Wonderland-inspired level. Accompanying the action is an intense, pulsating musical score. There's no password option, just six continues. It's a solid action game at its core, but Adventures of Batman and Robin could have used some fine-tuning. My friend Eric and I used an invincibility cheat to beat the game, and it still
felt like an ordeal! Despite my complaints however, I do find myself playing this one quite a bit. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: SLN 63,050
1 or 2 players
Aero the Acrobat
Publisher: Sunsoft (1993)
On the heels of Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog success, many other game publishers were anxious to come up with a loveable mascot of their own. Aero the Acrobat was highly regarded in its time, but I'm not impressed. Aero is a red vampire bat that performs on the trapeze bars at a circus. His arsenal of moves includes hovering, executing in-air "dashes", and throwing stars. There are plenty of items for him to collect, but the manual does a poor job describing what the purpose of each is. The very first stage is a major turn-off. The circus theme and colorful backgrounds look okay, but that old-style "circus music" is absolutely dreadful. We're talking "hit the mute button" bad. I was hoping it would subside after the first stage, but in fact the music throughout the entire game sounds like it's been generated by an off-key accordion. Another major turn-off is the preponderance of clown enemies. Everyone knows that clowns are inherently creepy and evil, and the ones here are tiny and hideous. Not a fan of the circus, I was anxious to get through the first stage, so you can imagine how miffed I was to discover that each stage is actually five acts
long. Uncle! The theme part in the second stage is a vast improvement, incorporating a lot of interesting "rides" like ferris wheels and roller coasters. The remaining two stages, set in a forest and a museum, come across as Sonic rip-offs. Aero's controls are erratic. Mid-air "dashes" allow you to defeat enemies much like Sonic's spin. However, while you can direct you in-air dashing diagonally up or down, Aero often heads in the wrong direction - and usually at the worst time! The stage designs are uneven as well, exemplified by a lot of "holes" in the walls you can only discover through trial and error. Cheap hits abound as some enemies appear from out of nowhere. Aero the Acrobat is extremely difficult, and there's no password feature. When you choose to continue, you have to return to Act 1, even if you've progressed several acts into a stage. It's not awful, but extended play with Aero the Acrobat helps you realize why you love Sonic so much. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1990)
My friend Chris once described Afterburner as "Outrun in the sky", and I think that's a great description. Afterburner 2 compares favorably with its Sega CD and 32X counterparts, although you'd expect those to be far more advanced. The action begins with your plane firing up its engines on an impressive-looking aircraft carrier named the "Sega Enterprise". Once airborne you view the action from behind your plane as bushes, rocks, and towers rush by on the ground below. Enemy planes scale in from the distance, but targeting them is tough because your plane turns on an arc, making it hard to line up your crosshairs. When a digitized voice yells "fire!" it means you're "locked on" and should unleash a guided missile. Resist the urge to fire these with reckless abandon because they're limited in supply. If you use them up, you'll have to wait for a refueling plane which appears every few stages. Afterburner 2's odd control scheme uses A button to speed up, C to slow down, and B to fire missiles. Your speed doesn't really come into play until the later waves when enemies start riding your tail. Your machine guns fire automatically, which makes sense from a practical standpoint but seems a little cheesy. Your guided missiles are followed by a plume of gray smoke, but the chaotic visuals make it hard to enjoy your kills. The action is choppy and the gameplay tends to boil down to unleashing a series of shots and then weaving side-to-side like crazy to avoid the incoming barrage. When your plane begins smoking and burrows into the ground, you won't even know what hit you. The scenery is less than spectacular but the color schemes are extremely attractive, especially in the snow and night stages. The audio features the distinctive Afterburner theme, but it's fuzzy. Overall Afterburner 2 nails the frantic arcade style it was shooting for, but comes up short in terms of playability. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation(s): Easy w/ cnts
Our high score: CJS 4,747,780
Publisher: Kaneko (1991)
Once you get past the goofy title, it's easy to get hooked on this riveting side-scrolling shooter. Its basic formula is unremarkable as you blast pods, jets, and mechanical beasts over cities, through caverns, and in space. It seems strictly by-the-numbers, but there are enough original touches to give Air Buster some personality. Shooting special canisters cause weapon icons to spring forth, and these include six-way shots, missiles, rear shots, or a revolving gun turret. With enough skill you can scoop up a specific icon before it falls off the screen. Stage two offers a nice change of pace with high-speed tunnel chase sequences that challenge you to avoid collision with the walls. It helps if you can snag the "bumper" power-up which provides a layer of protection above and below. An excellent two-player simultaneous mode allows players to compete against each other or strive for highest combined score. I didn't pursue Air Buster for many years because I heard it was simply the Genesis version of Aeroblasters (Turbographx, 1990). While that's technically true, there are enough differences between the two games that shooter fans will want both. The graphics are more detailed in this Genesis version, beginning with a more elaborate opening sequence. Each stage not only boasts additional background detail, but there are some new obstacles in the foreground as well. The colors are extremely vibrant - sometimes to a fault. The bright red screen near the end of the first stage is hard on the eyes! The Genesis version is much more difficult, not because the enemies are different but because the action moves faster. I noticed that some bosses require slightly different tactics to defeat. The soundtrack is much richer on the Genesis, and the sound effects pack a lot more punch. This version seems more fine-tuned, as pesky enemies are easier and your missiles are all guided. An extra screen appears between each stage, but it doesn't serve much of a purpose except to delay the action. On the surface the Genesis version seems to have the edge, but my friend Chris insists the Turbografx edition has cleaner visuals and better playability. Whatever the case, both will satisfy your urge for some arcade shooting fun. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 123,900
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Arena (1992)
I thought for sure that Alien 3 would be just like the SNES version, which had superb graphics but lackluster gameplay. Fortunately, the Genesis version is everything the SNES game should
have been. There's no complicated maps or tedious missions here, just explosive arcade action! The graphics and sound don't measure up to the SNES version, with cartoonish characters and the music that's more upbeat than ominous. But in terms of pure gameplay this is far superior. Each stage is a maze of rooms connected by tubes and ladders. Your job is to rescue all the prisoners and exit before time runs out. You can switch between several weapons including a machine gun, flamethrower, grenade launcher and hand grenades. Each weapon is effective in certain situations, and the action is fast and exciting. The aliens look terrific, and I love how they scream and splatter when shot. I do have a few complaints however. First, it's never clear where the so-called "exit" is located, which can be frustrating. Next, there are times when the aliens seem impossible to avoid, so you'll take some mandatory hits. While the controls are decent overall, squatting down to fire low can be problematic. But these are minor issues. All in all, the fast pace and arcade style of Alien 3 makes the game hard to put down. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1991)
Alien Storm is a ho-hum side-scroller that lets you gleefully fry waves of invading aliens. The three playable characters include a man and woman decked out in cheesy superhero costumes and a robot who looks like Ultraman's uncle. Your weapons are short-range "fire blazers" that aren't particularly effective. And when I say short range, we're talking five feet!
With firepower this weak, you'd be better off bludgeoning the creeps with the butt of your gun! The urban locations are forgettable, but the aliens are disgusting enough. They tend to have this nasty habit of gnawing on your head.
Not cool! Alien Storm is a real button masher, so you'd be wise to enable the rapid-fire option on the menu screen. Your character also has an evasive roll and a limited special attack which inflicts damage to all the baddies on the screen. The gameplay is rinse-and-repeat all the way, and the bosses take forever
to kill. The game's saving grace is its frantic bonus stages. There are some fast-paced running sequences and first-person shooting stages that let you blast the hell out of alien-infested stores. It's actually more fun to destroy the items on the shelves - especially those oversized boom-boxes. Without these bonus stages, the monotony of this game might be unbearable. I should also mention that the game is very short and easy. I'm all for games that can be completed in one sitting, but the first sitting?!
Alien Storm is mildly amusing for a while, but it quickly wears on you and there's not a lot of replay value. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1988)
Altered Beast is a bizarre side-scroller where you battle legions of monsters and with the help of power-ups, can transform into a monster yourself. It's hard to believe this was the first Genesis pack-in game, considering how dark and violent it is. There's a great deal of blood and flying limbs. Powering up as quickly as possible is the key to winning. A transformation screen shows your character turning into a powerful monster such as a werewolf, dragon, or bear. They didn't have morphing technology in 1988, but it still looks cool. Levels range from a cool graveyard to some boring caverns (yawn). The bosses take forever to beat. The digitized voices sound terribly muffled and the collision detection is questionable at times. Two players can fight simultaneously, but the screen tends to get crowded because the characters are large. One particularly bizarre aspect is the charging pigs, many of which contain power-ups. Okay, they're supposed to be two-headed wolves, but they sure look like pigs to me. I like Altered Beast, but it's hardly a game that will appeal to the masses. Hint: Hold down A when pressing Start to resume play at the last level you were on. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Aquatic Games Starring James Pond
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1992)
What a dog this is! I didn't think EA was capable of making anything this bad, but now I'm a believer! Aquatic Games is meant to be a light-heartened Olympics-style game. Among the aquatic creatures that participate is EA's not-so-popular fish character James Pond. I've always been a big fan of Track and Field style games, so I had some hope for this. Unfortunately, my hope evaporated once I tried a few of the "events", which have all the entertainment value of being kicked in the crotch over and over again. The first alarm went off when I realized that despite the fact that this is a four-player game, there is NO simultaneous play! Four players just take turns watching each other play, which is completely unacceptable considering EA created that nifty four-player adapter for the Genesis. And the events are just AWFUL! There are a few button-tapping running games, but the single CPU-controlled opponent is rarely on the screen. At least these are mercifully short. Other events go on and on long after you've lost interest. In one particular event you have to deflect beach balls away from some sleeping seals, and if the repetitive action wasn't bad enough, the event goes on for THREE minutes. Without a doubt these were the three longest minutes of my entire life. In another "event" you bounce up and down on sponges for three minutes while performing simple flips. In this one, I kept killing myself hoping it would end the event early, but to no avail. You'd think that of the eight events, I would at least have found one
to be somewhat enjoyable. But no - I absolutely HATED every last one of them! Aquatic Games is an exercise in misery - easily one of the worst games I've ever played on my Genesis. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Ariel the Little Mermaid
Publisher: Sega (1992)
It seems like every platform game has that obligatory underwater stage where everything slows to a crawl, pushing your patience to the limit. Well, in Little Mermaid, every stage
is like that! Joy!
I tend to enjoy 16-bit Disney titles like Aladdin, the Lion King, and Jungle Book, but the lack of quality here is glaring. Each level is an uninspired treasure hunt. Blame the water currents all you want, but the controls are just plain lousy
. At the very least you'd expect that fluid Disney animation to shine through, but the choppiness of this game hurts my eyes. Pat, can I buy a frame of animation?
Ariel's about as agile as a nuclear sub, and less graceful than Lindsay Lohan after a night of clubbing. And probably less responsive
as well! The levels incorporate reefs, pirate ships, and ruins, but each is just a sprawling underwater maze. Ariel's abrupt turns make it agonizingly difficult to navigate the narrow, craggy passages. The goal of each stage is to locate and rescue "mer-people", which look like little green worms until you touch them, causing them to transform. Electric eels pop out and snip at you without warning and fat sharks mindlessly swim back and forth. Aerial can fire musical notes, but they're weak. I hate how after you shatter a skeleton, touching an individual bone inflicts damage. A helpful map is available via the start button, but waiting for it to "unroll" across the screen is annoying. Sometimes you complete a level but the game won't let you exit for no apparent reason. Bosses exhibit no signs of damage as you pelt them, leaving you to wonder if you're doing the right thing. There's no password and no score - despite the fact that point values appear on the screen for killing certain creatures. The one redeeming aspect of this game is its pleasant steel drum music. The Little Mermaid is one of those games that sucks from the minute you begin playing and never stops. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Renovation (1990)
Arrow Flash is not
one of the more impressive Genesis shooters, but it has its moments. The upbeat opening theme immediately reminded me of Kim Wilde's hit single "Keep me Hangin' On". After that, things settle down. Better shooters try to wow you from the start, but Arrow Flash makes you sleepy. Not only do enemies approach in repetitive patterns, there are inexplicable lulls between waves! There's not much to see as you fly over layers of gray clouds. The music has spirit, but the sound effects lack punch. I nearly fell into a coma before being jolted by a flashing "OUT OF DANGER" message. Huh? Apparently that's the game's way of telling you a cut scene
is starting. At this point the action stops as a giant space cruiser slowly falls from the sky and plunges into the ocean below. A little splashing would have made it look more convincing, but I do like how the flames disappear and the hull turns blue as the ship cools off. Arrow Flash finally gains some traction in stage two, which ratchets up the difficulty and offers better variety. Once you power-up your blasters and shields you can really get into a zone. Sadly, taking one hit reduces you back to the 'ole pea shooter (doh!). The A button allows you to toggle forms between a mech robot and a streamlined space ship, each of which offers a slightly different special attack. I don't think it adds as much strategy as it intended to. The options menu offers a rapid-fire feature, and you'd be absolutely insane not to use it. Arrow Flash is one of those run-of-the-mill shooters that serves its purpose but fails to leave a lasting impression. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 180,310
Publisher: Tengen (1993)
Of all the attempts to rip-off Sonic the Hedgehog, Awesome Possum may be the most blatant offender. I can only imagine what those early design discussions at Tengen were like. "Hey, we need a new video game character! What marsupial hasn't been taken yet?" We just can't get enough of those small, furry mammals can we? Apparently we can
, because Awesome Possum's unlikability quotient is off the charts! This scrawny little rodent is one seriously ugly
bastard, and his grainy, high-pitched voice spews all sorts of idiotic nonsense like "I'm awesome!", "I'm so cool!", and "Don't pollute!" Just hearing that last line makes me want to run out and pour motor oil into the nearest stream! And whenever you hear his maniacal laugh, you'll want to reach into the TV and beat the living [expletive] out of that unappealing SOB. The game looks bad in general. Foreground objects are sloppy and grainy, and the backgrounds look dark and muddy. The framerate is so choppy you'll want to divert your eyes, and the level design is infuriating. In one stage you'll whiz through a series of tunnels only to be tossed into a set of elevated buzz saws! Your adversaries include chainsaw-toting gray robots which can be defeated by Awesome's patented spin attack. And when I say patented, I mean patented by Sonic
of course. Awesome Possum is woefully unoriginal, which is also evident in the derivative rainforest, underwater, and ice stages. The background music is a few notches below Casio keyboard quality, and the muffled sound effects are grating. Between stages you're presented with trivia questions which make little or no sense. Awesome Possum is one platformer that should only be played out of morbid curiosity - don't expect to derive any degree of enjoyment. Heck, Awesome even makes that lame-ass Bubsy
look cool by comparison! © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
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Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum, Shinforce, Rotten Tomatoes, GameFAQs.com