Genesis Reviews P-R

PGA Tour 96
Grade: F
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1995)
Reviewed: 2003/12/22

screenshotYikes! EA tried to take their popular golf series to the "next level" by rendering the courses with 3D polygons, but the Genesis hardware isn't up to the task. As a result, you have to wait between five and 15 seconds before every shot while the scenery is slowly rendered on the screen! I suppose the fairways and sand traps look slightly more realistic than the flat courses of the previous games, but these new visuals don't improve the quality of gameplay one bit. In fact, PGA 96 is actually much less fun than previous offerings. For one thing, the novice difficulty is too easy (the meter moves slowly) and at the other extreme, it's almost impossible to hit a straight shot in the pro level (the "contact" zone is a line). In addition to having to wait forever for the screens to be drawn, once you hit the ball you don't get even a separate view of where it lands. And God forbid if your ball goes behind a tree - you may as well be behind a brick wall. The scenery looks nice from a distance, but up close the hills look like giant triangles and the trees look horribly pixilated. There are some extra modes and saved stats, but these bells and whistles mean little when the game itself is so poor. Better hold onto those old PGA games - you're going to need them. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
1 to 4 players 

PGA Tour Golf
Grade: B+
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1991)
Reviewed: 2002/4/14

screenshotOne thing that just occurred to me about all of these old golf games is that their courses are totally flat. I never seemed to notice ten years ago, probably because I was too busy having fun. Golf translates surprisingly well into video game form. In PGA Tour, one to four players can compete on three actual courses and one fantasy course. The controls are simple to learn but tough to master, and the game moves along at a steady clip, eliminating the boring lulls you might expect from a golf game. The courses look nice, but because of their flatness, never seem to vary much. It's a pretty quiet game except for bird chirps and crowd reactions to putts. An extremely useful battery backup system saves your game and stats. The worst part of the game is the awkward, non-standard interface that forces you to navigate various drop menus. It's impossible to remember what button is used to select and what is used to cancel. But once your game is finally set up, you don't need to deal with it. PGA Tour Golf was the first in a series of fine golf games for the Genesis by Electronic Arts. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

PGA Tour Golf 2
Grade: A-
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1992)
Reviewed: 2002/4/14

screenshotElectronic Arts made major changes to the graphics and difficulty in this edition, but the results are mixed. Graphically, the golfers are now digitized images, a big improvement over the illustrated golfers in the last game. The courses look slightly more realistic, but not as clean looking. It can be difficult to tell when the fairway ends and the rough begins. PGA II is also noticeably easier. In the first game, it was difficult to hit the ball perfectly, but in this game, you can do it almost too easily. Other new features include six courses (up from four), and a Skins Challenge. This game is not dramatically better than the first, but it's still a lot of fun. Unfortunately, the confusing drop-menu system is still used to configure the game. My favorite memory of this game is cranking up the sound in order to hear the birds (at 2 o'clock in the morning), and then getting my eardrums blown out by the loud, obnoxious music that plays at the end of each round! © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

PGA Tour Golf 3
Grade: A
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1993)
Reviewed: 2002/4/14

screenshotIn the early 90's, EA had the market on golf cornered. This third installment of PGA Tour really outdoes itself. This one features no less than EIGHT courses and a 54-player roster. The graphics have been upgraded slightly, and some digitized pro swings have been incorporated. The control system is slightly modified, but you still get the same simple horizontal swing meter that made the previous games famous. There's a wealth of statistics and a battery backup that even lets you save instant replays. No question about it, this one's a winner. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

Pac-Man 2: The New Adventures
Grade: F
Publisher: Namco (1994)
Reviewed: 2001/1/31

screenshotWhat a travesty! This ill-advised creation probably set the yellow guy back at least 10 years! Initially, Pac-Man 2 looks like it could be something special. The characters, which feature the entire Pac-Man family, are large and nicely animated. Combined with the detailed backgrounds, this game looks like an interactive cartoon. But the bizarre control scheme makes for a VERY poor game playing experience. The patented "Character Guidance Interface" is like nothing you've ever seen, or will ever see again! Get this - you don't control Pac-Man at all! All you can do is direct his attention to various obstacles and shoot a slingshot at certain targets on the screen. Pac-Man wonders through each "scene" oblivious to the dangers. Unfortunately, the controls are so worthless that Pac-Man ignores half of your commands anyway. If that's not bad enough, until you enter the correct sequence of commands, you're doomed to repeat the same scene over and over and suffer through the corny animations. If you've ever played Dragon's Lair, you can understand the frustrating experience I'm talking about. This game is pure torture. Even the fact that the original classic Pac-Man game is hidden in this cartridge cannot redeem this piece of trash. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

Pat Riley Basketball
Grade: F
Publisher: Sega (1990)
Reviewed: 2001/9/13

screenshotThis game is hilarious! You know you're in for a treat when the opening screen features a high-flying white boy attempting to dunk while another goes up for the block. Now there's something you don't see every day! This was the first basketball game for the Genesis, and all the players and teams are completely fake. It's definitely a bad game, but it does have some amusing elements. First of all, there are some nice looking cut-scenes that provide dramatic close-ups for tip-offs, foul shots, long-range jumpers, and dunks. The dunk screens even feature jump and block meters that affect the outcome. Unfortunately, the main type of dunk looks ridiculous! It features a guy jumping high over the net, and throwing the ball down without even touching the rim! But what really cracked me up was the number of missed dunks. I love it when a guy goes up for a dunk three times in a row and misses all three times! The action on the court is even worse. The players move painfully slow, and it's nearly impossible to maintain possession of the ball. The computer player is especially unfair, stealing the ball at will. And despite the fact that the ball is HUGE, it's really hard to tell when it goes through the basket! Graphically, the side-scrolling court features a crowd and cheerleaders, but no coaches or benches. Surprisingly, a half-time show IS included. There are no customization options in this game, and annoying background music drones away throughout the whole ordeal. Pat Riley Basketball is much more fun to laugh at than to play. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

Pebble Beach Golf Links
Grade: B-
Publisher: Sega (1994)
Reviewed: 2002/4/14

screenshotPebble Beach isn't a bad golf game, but it really can't compete with Electronic Art's PGA Tour Golf series. The fact that there's only ONE course doesn't help its cause. EA's PGA Tour 3, released the same year, has no less than EIGHT courses. Still, Pebble Beach is easy to play, fun, and fast-paced. The shot control is unique but not much different than what you're used to. After using a round shot meter, there's a second meter that determines the type and degree of spin you apply to the ball. You also have the opportunity to adjust your stance (move your feet) before each shot. The graphics are fine, but no better than EA's games. The screen contains everything you need to judge your shot, including an overhead map, wind and lie indicators, and hole status. You can compete against 48 top golfers. I should also mention that this version of Pebble Beach Golf is much better than some of the CD-based versions, which tend to be slow and bloated with unwelcome "features". © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

Phelios
Grade: C+
Publisher: Namco (1990)
Reviewed: 2008/6/5

screenshotI used to regard Phelios as a fairly mediocre vertical shooter, but I've grown fond of it over time. The graphics are marginal and the stages aren't particularly memorable, but the game has a simple, old-school vibe that's appealing. The fact that it's based on Greek mythology provides for some great bosses, including the hideous Medusa, the beautiful Siren, and Cerberus - the three-headed watchdog! The hero is Apollo, who is trying to save a blonde hottie in a low cut blouse - a noble cause indeed! He flies on his Pegasus, unleashing bolts of energy from his sword. All three buttons do the same thing (fire), but holding one down produces a powerful "charged" shot. You'll want to apply these liberally, especially on the bosses who otherwise take forever to kill! Heck, even common foot soldiers seem unphased by the normal shots. The stages of Phelios feature temples and green meadows, but the lack of detail understates their grandeur, and I have no idea what the steel girders are doing in the third stage! There are some modest scaling effects, like when Apollo takes a hit and falls from his steed. The audio features a triumphant musical score, but the garbled voice samples are really hard to decipher. Simple in design but challenging as hell, Phelios is not a bad option for those looking for a back-to-basics shooter. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

Pirates Gold
Grade: B+
Publisher: Microprose (1993)
Reviewed: 2006/12/10

screenshotAt its core, Pirates Gold plays just like Pirates for the NES, but the improved graphics and controls enhance the swashbuckling experience considerably. Like its predecessor, the idea is to gather a crew, construct a fleet of ships, pillage towns, and engage in sea battles. When visiting friendly ports, you can trade supplies, upgrade your ships, hear news at the tavern, or visit the governor. The NES title was fine, but once you experience the visual and aural splendor of Pirates Gold, it's hard to go back. The screens are ornately crafted, with graphical displays (like the captain's galley) substituting for generic text menus. The finely detailed ships move swiftly through the sea, and the sword fighting characters are huge (although their animation could use some work). You're able to explore various towns on foot, but sadly, they all look pretty much the same. The musical score is first rate, as are the clear voice samples. Pirates Gold incorporates a few new bells and whistles, like the ability to battle other pirates and recreate famous expeditions. You can save your game whenever you're in a town. Action-oriented gamers may have a hard time dealing with the game's slow parts (sailing against the wind can be laborious), but patient gamers will be pleased. Pirates Gold may well have been the pinnacle of the entire series. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

Pirates of Dark Water, The
Grade: C
Publisher: Sunsoft (1994)
Reviewed: 2006/12/10

screenshotI'm always up for a pirate game, but this one threw me for a loop. Pirates of Dark Water takes place on another planet. What the hell is that all about? Fortunately, the only difference I could perceive was the existence of "monkey birds". I know what you're thinking: "Wow, I wish we had monkey birds on Earth". No you donŐt. Take it from me - they look dumb and never shut up. Anyhow, Dark Water's gameplay is strictly by-the-numbers as you leap between ledges, climb ladders, and ride moving platforms. By slashing with your sword and tossing knives, you send pirates and skeletons to their demise in puffs of smoke. Along the way you'll contend with cheap traps like nets full of coconuts that fall on your head as you jump onto a narrow ledge ("aarrggh!"). I also dislike having to backtrack through certain stages to locate keys. Pirates of Dark Water does have a few things going for it. Each stage is beautifully rendered with vibrant graphics and eye-pleasing color combinations. The jungle in the first stage isn't so hot, but some of the later stages really caught my eye. The haunted citadel is shrouded by eerie blue moonlight, and the "sunken bridge" is battered by enormous waves. I absolutely love the tropical paradises with their white beaches and soaring mountain backdrops. The weakest aspect of the game is its audio, with ho-hum music and understated sound effects. A password feature allows you to save your place between stages. Pirates of Dark Water's gameplay will seem awfully familiar to jaded 16-bit gamers, but its crisp controls and captivating visuals might just make it worth your while. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

Pit-Fighter
Grade: C+
Publisher: Tengen (1990)
Reviewed: 2011/12/21

screenshotAs an early attempt to incorporate digitized graphics into a fighting game, Pit-Fighter features grainy characters, sloppy animation, dodgy controls, and horrendous voice synthesis. You select between three fighters (Buzz, Ty, and Kato) who are introduced via a cool Rocky-style workout montage. The slugfest takes place in a seedy underground fight club where you face a series of lowlife biker stereotypes in front of a bloodthirsty crowd. The colorful line-up includes Southside Jim, CC Rider, Chairman Eddie, Mad Miles, Heavy Metal, Angel, and the Executioner. Eddie looks like he's running around in his underwear! The graphics are digitized, but due to the low resolution and limited color palette, this may not be apparent to the casual observer! You have a nice variety of moves, and planting your knee into the back of an opponent who's down is one of the simple pleasures of life. The controls could be more responsive and the collision detection is erratic, but the game is fun in spite of itself. The fighting area is strewn with knives, sticks, barrels, crates, and stools. I can't emphasize how satisfying it is to smash a crate over an opponent's head and watch it shatters to bits. The rowdy crowd mocks you relentlessly and a crazy woman tries to stab fighters in the back. Between rounds your character is placed on a forklift as cash winnings pile up beneath him. The minimal soundtrack is cheesy but memorable. My friend Brendan loved to razz me about this game ("How much did you pay for this?") but I couldn't get enough of it. Fond memories may cloud my judgment, but there's something endearing about this sloppy display of pixelated violence. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 666,840
1 or 2 players 

Primal Rage
Grade: C-
Publisher: Sega (1995)
Reviewed: 2013/6/30

screenshotThis was released at the same time as the Super Nintendo edition of Primal Rage, so it's hard not to compare the two. The SNES looks sharper and sounds clearer, but the Genesis has a slight edge with faster, more fluid action and tighter controls. It's kind of like the Mortal Kombat situation all over again (except in this case both games have blood). Primal Rage is an intriguing one-on-one fighter pitting dinosaurs and apes against each other on a post-apocalyptic Earth. The stages include exotic waterfalls, sprawling glaciers, crumbling ruins, and surreal decimated city. Human spectators scurry about and it's possible to snack on them to gain heath. Vicious bite and claw attacks tend to draw blood, but the more devastating attacks don't inflict as much damage as they should. Compared to the SNES, the characters look somewhat grainy and the backdrops are not as detailed (although the colors are quite vivid). The sound effects are weak and the announcer sounds like he has a bad cold. The Genesis three-button controller is a poor option, considering you'd need to use the start button for one of the four attacks. The six-button controller works great however, especially since you can assign special moves to the two extra buttons via the options menu. This feature is great for novices, and it adds some spice to the versus mode. It's also an easy way to finish the game. This Genesis version also features natives on the continue screen, which are lacking on the SNES. There's a nifty high score screen, but despite what the manual would imply, scores are not saved (no battery). Primal Rage was never more than an average fighter (at best), but this Genesis version is good for a few rounds of mindless violence. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 55,315
1 or 2 players 

Punisher, The
Grade: C+
Publisher: Capcom (1993)
Reviewed: 2012/9/8

screenshotThis side-scrolling beat-em-up follows the Streets of Rage (Genesis, 1991) formula. The Punisher flew under the radar in its day, but now many regard it as a "lost gem" of the Genesis library. It does have its charm. Two players assume the role of the Punisher and Nick Fury as they kick, punch, and shoot their way through plush hideouts, moving subway cars, trains, and sewers. The action gets off to a rip-roaring start as you pound thugs in a bar by slamming them on the ground and smashing plants over their heads. Each blow is punctuated by word bubbles (BAM!) and digitized yelps. In addition to generic thugs you'll battle Terminator-style robots who continue to fight even after losing their heads! But what really makes The Punisher unique is your ability to fire handguns, machine guns, and Uzis. Enemies tend to withstand several shots, but it's always great fun to pump them full of lead. Other cool weapons include bats, pipes, and axes (sweet!). The controls are limited to the A and B buttons. You can perform special attacks by pressing them both at once, but why wasn't C used for this purpose? The scenery is bright and interesting at first, but gradually becomes generic and repetitive. The difficulty is definitely on the easy side, especially since you can't harm your partner in two-player mode (by default). You get three continues and that's enough to rack up some astronomical scores, rendered in miniscule numbers that are hard to read. The Punisher is a worthwhile romp if side-scrolling brawlers are your thing, but it's not quite the diamond in the rough some make it out to be. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 1,846,600
1 or 2 players 

Quackshot
Grade: B+
Publisher: Sega (1991)
Reviewed: 2000/2/23

screenshotSega's second Disney game on the Genesis (after Mickey's Castle of Illusion) is another winner. This time you're Donald Duck, equipped with a gun that shoots plungers, popcorn, and explosive bubblegum. This gameplay here is more complicated than Castle of Illusion. You can select what stage you want to play, and switch stages at certain checkpoints. Mexico, Transylvania, and the town of Duckberg are available at the beginning, but more stages open up later. One unique feature is how certain stages require items from other stages, forcing you to move between them. The graphics and animation are colorful and fun, and the music is very memorable. I especially enjoyed the spooky atmosphere of Dracula's castle. Quackshot is not particularly tough or long, but it's a quality game. There are a few flaws I should mention however. There's a scene in Dracula's castle where I went around in circles for quite a while before figuring out what I had to do. There's one slow-motion, underwater scene that I hate, but at least it's mercifully short. This game also comes up short in terms of replay value, and there's only one skill level. Still, Quackshot is great fun the first time through, and it's perfect for younger players. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

RBI Baseball 3
Grade: C
Publisher: Tengen (1991)
Reviewed: 2010/6/2

screenshotRBI Baseball never set the world on fire, but its first edition on the Genesis was respectable enough. The graphics are decent, the controls are easy to learn, and the action moves along at a crisp pace. The main screen renders the pitcher up top and the batter below with two windows showing first and third base. It's an effective visual format that lets you to keep an eye on all of the baserunners. After the ball is hit you get a nice high view of the field. The elevated angle allows you to properly react in the infield, but navigating the expansive outfield is tricky. In 1991, RBI Baseball 3 had two big selling points. One was the actual 1990 player statistics, and the other was an instant replay feature. It may sound pretty ho-hum today, but anyone who remembers playing sports games back then will attest that an instant replay feature was a pretty big deal! Also notable is how the pitcher will occasionally hock a big brown loogie on the mound! That's right - RBI was the first baseball game to incorporate spitting! And it looks pretty gross! Fly balls are accompanied by audible cues to indicate their arc, but these high-pitched sirens are hard on the ears. Fielders move slowly, and their throws seem even slower! Also annoying is how the scoreboard will post zeroes for both teams for the upcoming inning - very confusing. RBI 3 is fun to play with a friend, but the CPU is a complete idiot. His fielders approach grounders at poor angles, often running into the outfield alongside the ball. Normally I dislike background music in sports games, but the tunes here have a nice baseball-esque quality with a tinge of suspense. The manual contains pages and pages of baseball rosters and statistics - now there's something you never see anymore! RBI has its share of ups and downs, but it still plays a halfway decent game of baseball. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Password
1 or 2 players 

RBI Baseball 4
Grade: C
Publisher: Tengen (1992)
Reviewed: 2010/6/2

screenshotDespite its ultra-lame cover, which features the exact same generic batter as last year, RBI Baseball 4 actually marks a dramatic overhaul for the series. The players on the pitcher/batter screen look more cartoonish, but the pitcher windup motion is very smooth and realistic. Once the ball is hit, the action unfolds quickly and the camera angle of the field is very tight. On one hand, this allows for larger, more detailed players. On the other hand, you have very little time to react to ground balls. To quote my friend Scott, "fielding is a nightmare." Any hesitation will cause a routine grounder to roll right by. If nothing else, RBI 4 does offer a generous serving of eye candy. The ball is super-detailed, and when it becomes large (during pop flies) you can even see all of its red stitches. The crowd looks incredible, with each fan exquisitely detailed. On the pitching screen, the two windows also show amusing animations including an old third-base coach who looks like he's doing the Macarena! This guy is so spastic, you can't tell if he's giving signs or having a seisure! Sometimes these windows will also display impressive replays like a tag-out at second base (with dust flying) or a diving catch. You can even see the crowd doing the wave! Each team has a unique ballpark roughly modeled after the real thing, and this was a huge deal in 1992. I remember my friends and I seeking out the fountains in Kansas City, only to discover they were frozen solid. RBI 4 has some odd quirks like pitchers who try to field everything in sight including pop-ups to the shortstop. When runners are tossed out, they actually run back to the dugout faster than they were running the bases! The umpires have huge beer guts, and the awful background music sounds like something from a freakin' carnival! A number of interesting play modes are included, including a homerun derby and "gamebreaker" mini-games that put you in various situations. There's even a "stadium tour mode" that lets you peruse the parks at your leisure. There's a lot to like about RBI Baseball 4 - too bad its gameplay isn't one of them! © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Password
1 or 2 players 

RBI Baseball 93
Grade: C
Publisher: Tengen (1993)
Reviewed: 2010/7/28

screenshotThis baseball game is so old, the year in the title actually coincides with its year of its release! Amazing! Unfortunately, you'll be hard-pressed to tell the difference between RBI Baseball 93 and the previous year's RBI Baseball 4. The box touts some genuinely unexciting new features like updated rosters, fielding practice, and individual player statistics. Man - it made me sleepy just to type that in! And could Tengen possibly have devised a more unimaginative box cover? It's a close-up of a baseball for Pete's sake! As you've probably surmised by now, this is 99% the same game as last year. The "computer assist" option is noteworthy, but only because the fielding is so atrocious without it. It doesn't help that the stadiums have expansive outfields that seem to go on for miles! After a homerun, the Jumbo-tron shows an animation of the player being congratulated by his teammates. I find it funny how the instant replays also replay the Jumbo-tron animation! Last year's carnival music has been axed (thankfully), but the hokey new tunes aren't much better. I recall my friend Keith bringing this game over my house back in the day, only to have my other friends rake it over the coals. RBI 93 was clearly a case of Tengen taking a year off and "mailing one in". © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Password
1 or 2 players 

RBI Baseball 94
Grade: C+
Publisher: Tengen (1994)
Reviewed: 2010/7/28

screenshotThe RBI Baseball series proudly set the standard for mediocrity, but if you're going to play an RBI Baseball game, it might as well be this 94 edition. This was the year Tengen actually did more than just update the rosters! For one thing, the team selection screen now shows a picture of Laker's coach Phil Jackson talking with an umpire. The pitcher/batter screen has been enhanced with new animations that are more fluid and easier on the eyes. Pitchers occasionally spit on the mound, and you have to love that. In addition to showing runners, the first and third-base window in-sets will show the third-base coach flashing signs. This guy doesn't look nearly as creepy as the one seen in past RBI games. Player "portraits" are displayed as they step to the plate, and while some will make you laugh, they are generally a decent likeness. The windows will also occasionally play instant replays, including a funny animation of fans fighting for a homerun ball. Fielding has always been the Achilles heel of the RBI series, and 94 alleviates the situation somewhat. An X now appears on the field to mark where a fly ball will land, and when throwing the ball in, outfielders will automatically hit the cut-off man. That's good, because these outfields tend to be huge. If a ball rolls all the way to the wall, you're probably looking at an inside-the-park homer. The music is better than previous games, but it's so obnoxiously loud that you'll want to shut it off. The RBI Baseball series never quite got over the hump, but 94 is probably the best the series has to offer. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Password
1 or 2 players 

Raiden Trad
Grade: A
Publisher: Micronet (1991)
Reviewed: 2010/2/18

screenshotEarly vertical shooters like Xevious (1983) tended to be slow and methodical. Modern vertical shooters tend to be insanely fast with missiles raining down the screen. That's all well and good, but in 1991 the genre hit the "sweet spot" in its evolution. I can't believe it took me so long to snag this terrific game. As one of the earlier Genesis titles, Raiden Trad compensates for its lack of pizzazz with nearly flawless gameplay. Your jet cruises over farmland, industrial zones, oceans, ruins, and space stations while blasting tanks, airships, cannons, and destroyers. Much of the scenery is forgettable, but close inspection reveals subtle touches like building shadows, grazing cows, and weathered roads. Raiden Trad's steady pacing, reasonable difficulty, and pinpoint controls come together to create a very rewarding shooting experience. There are only two weapons, but I'm happy to report that neither one of them sucks. The red one provides wide coverage, while the blue offers a more concentrated attack. Secondary weapons include powerful nuclear missiles or heat-seeking homing missiles. Naturally you also get a limited number of bombs. Despite the astonishing degree of chaos you can unleash, I never detected any slow-down. You'll be dodging missiles from all directions, but by far your biggest enemy is hesitation. The key to this game is getting into a rhythm! Before you get started however I would recommend setting the difficulty to normal (easy is the default) and turning rapid-fire on (your thumb will thank you). Continues are available so even uncoordinated players can get a peek at advanced stages. The sound effects are only average, but the upbeat soundtrack is quite good. Raiden Trad may not appear to be much on the surface, but the more you play, the more you realize what an expertly-crafted shooter it really is. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: Normal, Rapid-fire
1 player 

Rambo 3
Grade: A-
Publisher: Sega (1989)
Reviewed: 2008/2/20

screenshotRambo 3 is a surprisingly engaging one-man-army blast-a-thon. In true Rambo fashion you'll plow through scores of generic enemy soldiers and blow up gates to infiltrate their bases. Like the movie, Rambo 3's body count and destruction quotient are impressive! Not only can you spray bullets non-stop, but you can plant bombs to take out trucks and guard towers. I find it amusing the way guards always fall out of the towers when you blow them up - what a bunch of drama queens! Despite using only three buttons, I found the control scheme somewhat hard to grasp. The A button is used to toggle between items (knife, arrow, bomb), B uses these items, and C fires your machine gun. In the heat of battle, it's really easy to confuse A and B for some reason. Rambo 3's shooting action is non-stop and challenge is formidable. I had to turn down the difficulty (to easy) and crank up the lives (to five) just to make some headway into the game, and I'd advise you to do the same. Unlike the "real" Rambo, you will die early and often. While exploring prisons, arsenals, and fortresses, the screen scrolls in all directions. Unfortunately, certain levels tend to have maze-like layouts which are mildly annoying. My advice for playing Rambo 3? Hold down the C button and shoot like a freakin' madman, even when nobody's in sight (they will be soon). As icing on the cake, Rambo 3 also incorporates some truly impressive bonus rounds where you face off against a tank and helicopter. The controls offer a nice balance of risk and reward, and that looming helicopter looks amazing! Another interesting aspect of Rambo 3 is how the prisoner in mission 2 looks exactly like Rutger Hauer. And he wasn't even in the movie! The fine musical score suggests excitement and intrigue, and it has that unmistakable Genesis twang that we all love. A two-player mode is included, but it's alternating turns only. For Rambo fans in the mood for chaos, this fine shooter is right on target. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
1 or 2 players 

Ranger X
Grade: D+
Publisher: Sega (1993)
Reviewed: 2006/2/24

screenshotI expected Ranger X to be yet another excellent side-scrolling Genesis shooter, but I was wrong. Can someone please tell me what the F is going on in this freakin' game?! Little help over here!? The game's designer was apparently trying to push the envelope with an elaborate six-button control scheme, but it will leave most players bewildered. Ranger X is simply too complicated for its own good. You not only control a robotic warrior with a jet pack, but also a robotic vehicle that follows you around on the ground. Both can fire independently, or combine to fire homing missiles. The control scheme is so confusing that even after I learned it, I never felt comfortable with it. The stages don't make a lot of sense either. You often can't discern the background graphics from foreground dangers, and in certain brief sequences, you seem to have no bearing on events. It's as if the game is playing out some elaborate background story and it forget to let you in on it. The stages are so-so, with the standard planet surfaces and caverns of lava pools. Even the music is mediocre. Each stage is introduced with some rotating wireframe models that are pretty advanced by 16-bit standards, but not too exciting in 2006. The game is extremely hard, so I'd recommend setting the difficulty to easy. All in all, I didn't care much for Ranger X, and I'm not just saying that because I didn't know what the F was going on half the time. Okay, maybe I am. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

Red Zone
Grade: F
Publisher: Scavenger (1994)
Reviewed: 2005/2/2

screenshotFew things get my blood pumping like a good Genesis shooter, but Red Zone doesn't qualify. The packaging reads "from the creators of Subterranea", another Genesis shooter that didn't exactly set the world on fire. Red Zone has a few interesting elements, but in general it's too confusing and frustrating. In each stage you fly an Apache helicopter into enemy territory, attempting to wipe out targets such as airfields or radar facilities. Most missions also include an "on foot" sequence that puts you in control of an individual soldier infiltrating an enemy complex. The mission and status screens are quite detailed, and they provide some critical clues (like "knock out the power facility first"). You can zoom in on the map in a manner that brings to mind Blade Runner, but the close-ups rarely provide additional information, so what's the point? When flying your Apache, the action is viewed from directly overhead, but the rotating screen and confusing radar display make it easy to get disoriented. Scaling effects attempt to convey the height of land structures, but these are not very convincing. I had to repeat the second mission about eight times before I realized there was a "doorway" in the fence of an enemy fort. There are times when the game orders you to perform certain actions immediately, but you have no clue of what it's talking about. Red Zone involves more trial and error than skill. The "on foot" sections are slightly better because they're easier to navigate and you have two characters in reserve. Your soldier can fire a machine gun, throw grenades, or plant explosives. Too bad he hobbles around like he has a gigantic pole up his butt. One thing Red Zone does have going for it is its thumping electronic soundtrack - it's edgy and relentless. But overall, this is a poorly executed shooter that most Genesis fans could live without. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

Ren and Stimpy: Stimpy's Invention
Grade: F
Publisher: Sega (1993)
Reviewed: 2005/8/14

screenshotIn the immortal words of Mr. Horse, "No sir I don't like it." This, coming from a rabid fan of the old Ren and Stimpy cartoon series. I normally don't watch cartoons, but I've always found the Ren and Stimpy show strangely appealing, if only because it's so damn bizarre. This video game adaptation conveys a hint of the show's outrageousness, but none of its clever dialogue or wit. This is painfully evident during the lame introduction, which explains the background story using nothing but boring text. The game itself is a complete mess. In the single-player mode, you control both Ren and Stimpy as a unit, executing moves and attacks that usually involve tossing each other around. Frankly, the control scheme is so confusing that you can't predict how the pair will react to your commands. And it's even worse with two players! The jumping controls are far from responsive, and the stage designs are as annoying as they are unimaginative. You'll battle bizarre creatures like eyeballs and blue chickens as you explore a neighborhood with giant cracks in the sidewalk, a freezer, a dog pound, and a zoo. There are scattered references to the show (like Powered Toast Man and Mr. Horse) but these are token appearances. There's nothing to get excited about in terms of graphics, although I do like how the game adopts the same visual style as the show. The scratchy voice samples ("get on with it man") are hard to stomach, and the music is utterly generic. Did Sega really think they could sell this garbage on the strength of the Ren and Stimpy name alone? Those stupid eediots!! © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

Revenge of Shinobi
Grade: B-
Publisher: Sega (1989)
Reviewed: 2006/2/17


screenshotHere's a remarkable game that readers have been urging me to review for quite a while. Revenge of Shinobi begins as your typical side-scrolling ninja fighter, as you battle traditional samurai warriors in ancient settings. Shinobi is equipped with a limited number of shurikin throwing knives, and can perform melee attacks up close. You also have four Ninjitsu (ninja magic) powers to choose from (via the pause screen), providing invincibility, high jumping, and a fire attack. The fourth is magic ("Mijin") deals devastating damage but requires you to sacrifice a life. The game seems typical at first, but progressively becomes more surreal and bizarre. It's never dull though, because the stages change abruptly, and each feels like a different game. You'll traverse waterfalls, dark alleys, a factory, freeway, shipping dock, airport, and China Town, just to name a few. Along the way you'll face soldiers, attack dogs, Bruce Lee look-alikes, and ninja women disguised as nuns! The graphics are better than average, and what they lack in detail they make up for in personality. If you have the original version of the game, you'll encounter some inexplicable bosses including a Terminator, Batman, Spiderman, and even Godzilla! Interestingly, in the later-released "Sega Classics" version, most of these licensed characters have been replaced with odd substitutes (including a skeletal dinosaur). Revenge of Shinobi's controls are responsive with the exception of the double-jump move, which doesn't always want to work. Other frustrations include booby-trapped crates and getting knocked off of ledges into bottomless pits. Do real ninjas have to put up with that kind of crap? The game has an excellent old-school soundtrack, and the stage theme reminds me of Streets of Rage - it's that good. The sound effects of crackling flamethrowers and clanking swords are terrific, although the voice samples are generally awful (typical for the Genesis). Revenge of Shinobi had the makings of a truly great game, but it's entirely too hard. I had to do some serious research just to figure out how to defeat the first boss, and I never would have been able to properly review this game without my Game Genie. The difficulty is brutal, and the ending is weak. I can only recommend Revenge of Shinobi to gamers to insist their games be hard as nails. The game has a lot to offer, but casual players probably won't survive long enough to see much of it. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

Ristar
Grade: B+

screenshotThis obscure platformer harkens back to the days of happy-go-lucky platformers like Super Mario World (SNES, 1991) and Sonic the Hedgehog (Genesis, 1991). Ristar is a star-shaped hero with stretchy arms used to climb, grab enemies, and swing around poles. If you can stomach the cuteness factor this game is a heck of lot of fun. The stages are set on various planets, each with their own unique ecosystems (flowers, water, fire, snow, etc). Ristar arrived late in the Genesis life cycle, and it's clear that that developers knew exactly what they were doing. The colors are so brilliant that you'd think this was a 32X title. The degree of detail is exceptional, making effective use of textures, shadows, and scaling. The upbeat soundtrack is appealing, although not as catchy as the Sonic games. Ristar's mechanics take some getting used to. Instead of pouncing on creatures you grab them and head-butt them off the screen, which is satisfying. Enemies include fish, lizards, bunnies, and annoying dive-bombing birds. There's not much precision with "aiming" your arms but at least the collision detection is forgiving. Once you get used to the arm-swinging mechanics, you'll be navigating the levels with ease. There are alternates paths, secret areas, and not-so-hidden treasure chests that net you life and bonus points. Ristar is brimming with originality but the game does get confusing at times. You tend to get bounced around a lot, and it's hard to tell when you're giving or taking damage. Heck, just opening a chest makes it look like you got punched in the face! Still, Ristar is engaging and refreshingly easy. The bosses don't overstay their welcome and I especially enjoyed fighting the big hammerhead shark. Ristar may look like a standard platformer but it's like nothing you've ever played. Trust me - it's good. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

Road Rash
Grade: A
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1991)
Reviewed: 2003/5/10

screenshotThis classic motorcycle game succeeds on so many levels. It's a no-holds-barred cross-country racing game where abusing other racers is part of the fun. I remember when I first bought this game my friends couldn't get enough of it. My buddy John liked it so much that he used it in one of his college film projects. He videotaped parts of the game and spliced it with some cheesy clips of him riding his motorcycle - it was awful! My girlfriend (and future wife) also got a kick out of this game, and it's one of the few she'll still play today. The rolling hills and scaling scenery effectively convey the feeling of speeding down the open road, and you can even catch air on some of the big hills. There are five tracks, but since the scenery is sparse, they all look pretty much the same. What makes Road Rash such a trip is the perfect combination of racing and combat. When you pull along side other racers, you can punch and kick them off of their bike, and they fight back too! The best part is when you snatch a club from one guy, and then systematically beat the living crap out of everybody else. It's surprisingly easy to maneuver and maintain your position alongside opponents. Fighting while trying to avoid oncoming traffic can be quite a rush, but there's more. A cop on a motorcycle will try to run you off the road, but no, you can't beat him up (although everybody tries). After a motorcycle wrecks, the driver goes flying, but he's not out of the race yet! He'll automatically run back to his bike, which is often lying in the middle of the road. As you can guess, each oncoming motorcycle tries to run him over. And I can't forget the incredible music. These hard-edged, high-energy tunes are the best I've heard in a Genesis game - they REALLY get your adrenaline flowing. After each race you win cash to upgrade your bike or buy a new one, and you can save your place using a huge, hard-to-read password. Road Rash is a true classic that stands the test of time. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

Road Rash 2
Grade: B
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1992)
Reviewed: 2003/5/10

screenshotThe original Road Rash was an incredible motorcycle racing game, but as good as it was, it begged for a two-player split-screen mode. Enter Road Rash II. Unfortunately, the new split-screen mode didn't exactly set the world on fire. The two screens are rather small and the framerate is painfully low. The action is choppy, and objects pop-up and disappear unpredictably. Control also suffers, with turning that feels sluggish and unresponsive. The one-player mode plays more like the original Road Rash, which is a good thing. There are a few minor enhancements, like the addition of a chain weapon and additional obstacles like deer in the road. There's a new set of tracks, but nothing too compelling, and the music is surprisingly lame. The hard-edged, grinding tunes of the first game have been replaced with light, upbeat melodies - bad idea! After each race you see a little animation that's pretty funny, and the passwords are more manageable this time around. But overall I prefer the original Road Rash. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
1 or 2 players 

Road Rash 3
Grade: B+
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1995)
Reviewed: 2003/5/10

screenshotThe third and final Genesis installment of Road Rash has more depth than previous offerings, but treads water in terms of gameplay. The first thing that stands out is the overhauled graphics. Instead of the colorful, hand-drawn riders and scenery, everything now has a digitized look. While the drivers admittedly look more realistic, the scenery - especially the backgrounds - looks terribly grainy. The locations span the globe from Japan to Brazil, but there's really not a lot to see. The framerate in the split-screen mode is noticeably improved, but the one-player mode actually looks a bit choppier. I do like how your opponent's bike stays up momentarily after you knock him clean off of it, and it's always fun to crash just before the finish line and fly over it without your bike. The controls seem slightly more responsive than RR2, and police now come on motorcycles, patrol cars, AND helicopters. One area in which Road Rash 3 falters is in combat, despite the fact that there are now seven weapons. Unlike the first Road Rash, it's really difficult to get a clean shot at other riders. Another problem is the music. These uninspired tunes sound like leftovers from previous editions. Road Rash 3 is still good, but it can't top the original. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
1 or 2 players 

Robocop Versus Terminator
Grade: B+

screenshotThe story behind Robocop Versus Terminator is so incomprehensible I couldn't explain it if I tried. Suffice to say Robocop must battle Terminators to save mankind. The gameplay is pretty straightforward thanks to mission directives like "avoid the bullets" and "try to stay alive" (no kidding). You don't tend to expect much from a film mash-up like this, but Robocop Versus Terminator is awesome. Its rapid-fire, ultra-violent brand of shooting is some of the best I've experienced on the Genesis. The very first stage pretty much "had me at hello" with its blood-red evening city skyline, which is truly a sight to behold. It looks so good that I pretty much insist on playing this game at night. The characters are huge and Robocop exhibits the same mannerisms he does in the film. The controls are outstanding. You can fire at various angles, easily grab hold of ladders, quickly scoot across wires, and even shoot while hanging. Even climbing scaffolding is fun in this game! But what really puts Robocop Versus Terminator over the top is its excessive violence. When you blast thugs their bodies explode in a fountain of blood accompanied by gurgling sound effects. When you shoot snipers in the windows, blood splatters all over the curtains, and I like that! When fighting Terminators they transform from human figures to exoskeletons as you wear them down. The first few stages are gangbusters, but later stages expose a few flaws. Some have a lot of irritating small robots that are hard to destroy. The boss fights run far too long, and the bosses themselves are fatal to the touch! Brandishing a special weapon makes things easier, but acquiring one seems to depend on luck. Some of the weapons are ridiculous. There are "homing bullets" that swarm on enemies, and explosive canisters that you can guide slowly around the screen. But just because a weapon is crazy doesn't mean it's not fun to use! The music in the opening stage is unintentionally hilarious with a guy doing voice samples who sounds really, really flamboyant. Robocop Versus Terminator has its quirks, but if you're looking for a high-octane shooter, this game kicks ass. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: SLN 39,640
Save mechanism: Password
1 player 

Rock 'N Roll Racing
Grade: B+
Publisher: Interplay (1994)
Reviewed: 2001/6/7

screenshotThis game was made by Interplay and Blizzard, two game companies that would become giants in the industry. Anyone who's played RC Pro Am on the NES will feel right at home with R&R Racing. The 45-degree, pseudo-3D view of the track gives you a good angle, letting you see just enough of the road ahead. Cars are equipped with front and rear weapons. The elevated tracks are available on six "planets", which offer unspectacular but colorful scenery. The gameplay is surprisingly deep. You can buy different types of cars, upgrade them, and equip them with all sorts of gadgets. A password lets you save your spot. The two-player split-screen is also a lot of fun, and let's not forget about the music! The Sega Genesis isn't known for its great audio, but you'll hear stellar versions of "Paranoid", "Bad To The Bone", "Born To Be Wild", and "Radar Love", among others. Be sure to turn off the annoying announcer, who often interrupts the music. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

Rocket Knight Adventures
Grade: C
Publisher: Konami (1993)
Reviewed: 2011/9/24

screenshotRocket Knight is a nicely-animated platformer that's occasionally irritating but mostly enjoyable. The star of the show is a possum decked out in armor and a jetpack. He's waging war against an army of hideous pigs, and sometimes I think pigs are the cartoon equivalent of Nazis. Rocket Knight's crisp graphics and large sprites make it feel like you're playing a cartoon. Defeated pigs fly off the screen in their underwear which is slightly disturbing but satisfying nonetheless. The controls are crisp and the harmonized musical score is both quirky and unique. You attack with a sword that unleashes a fiery ring. Holding down the attack button causes Rocket Knight to "blast off", allowing him to glide over obstacles or plow through enemies. It's a cool concept but the developers didn't quite get it right. You can't control your movement in the air, so you'll need to aim yourself diagonally if you want to get anywhere. The stages are a mixed bag. The burning castle has a lot of unexpected lava blasts resulting in some cheap deaths. The mountain range level has a lot of Donkey Kong Country-esque mine-cart rides. The underwater and volcano stages try to create the illusion of playing on multiple planes, but they are confusing. The best looking stage by far is the city with its smoke-belching factories and stormy weather. Each stage ends with an obligatory boss, and they have an annoying way of returning after you thought you thought they were long gone. Rocket Knight isn't particularly memorable, but I can see why some would find this arcade-style platformer appealing. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 94,250
1 player 


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