Publisher: Acclaim (1993)
When I first switched on Mortal Kombat for the Game Gear, I was blown away by the size of the characters. Not only do they fill the screen, but they also boast level of digitized detail and clarity you might not expect from the system. Does the gameplay match the impressive graphics? Not quite. The fighters' movements are rough and erratic, and certain special moves (like Raiden's flying attack) cause major graphic break-up. Control is not as responsive as it could be, and trying to execute certain special moves (like Sub Zero's Deep Freeze) is problematic. Still, I found the gameplay to be similar to the arcade game and fairly enjoyable overall. The best part is the tournament mode, where you dispatch a parade of increasingly difficult foes en route to facing the huge four-armed boss, Goro. There are three skill levels and six playable fighters: Johnny Cage, Liu Kang, Rayden, Scorpion, Sub Zero, and Sonya (Kano is missing). Like its Genesis counterpart, there is a "blood" code (2,1,2,Down,Up on title screen). © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Mortal Kombat II
Publisher: Acclaim (1994)
The first Mortal Kombat for the Game Gear was impressive, and this one is even better. In fact, it's hard to imagine a better fighting game for the Game Gear. This time around you get eight warriors instead of six: Liu Kang, Reptile, Sub Zero, Shang Tsung, Kitana, Jax, Mileena, and Scorpion. For some reason, the two women look a little too thick around the middle - not very attractive. The graphics and sound are about the same quality as the previous edition, but the gameplay is faster and the controls are tighter. A ringing sound effect alerts you when your health is low, but it sounds a lot like a telephone. Thankfully, you don't need to enter a code to unleash the blood, although it's not as gratuitous as you might expect. Like the first Mortal Kombat, there are three skills levels, and you can't pause because the Start button is used to block. Overall, this one is a head-ripping, spine-tearing good time. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
NFL Quarterback Club
Publisher: Acclaim (1994)
If not for its obvious technical flaws, QB Club would be a nice little football game. It certainly scores highly in terms of presentation. The side-scrolling field looks sharp, and the pudgy players are easy to follow. A smart control scheme lets you spin or speed burst when running with the ball, and this is one of those rare football games where you really can
break away from the pack for a long run. Passing requires precise timing because throws tend to float in the air. On defense, you should
be able to switch to the closest defender at any time, but most of the time this doesn't seem to work. The play calling screens are attractive and easy to navigate, and even contain trick plays like reverses, shovel-passes, and half-back options (yes!). All the NFL teams are available (circa 1994), and you can play a password-saved season. Unfortunately, the CPU opponent is weak, even on the "pro" level. That's a serious problem considering there's no link capability. Other issues include players that disappear from the waist down, and sometimes disappear completely! The ball moves at an angle instead of an arc, which indicates lazy programming. After an incomplete pass, you have to wait for the rolling ball to come to a complete stop before you can continue - for no good reason at all. The option to use X's and O's instead of animated players is ridiculous. NFL Quarterback Club is a playable game, but there's got to be better football action available for the Game Gear. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
NHL All-Star Hockey
Publisher: Sega (1995)
Wow, this is terrible!
NHL All-Star Hockey blows enormous chunks, and after playing it, I suspect you
will too! The players are reasonable in size and the rink looks fine, but the animation is atrocious. The players tend to jump around and the screen scrolls in a jerky manner. In terms of graphic quality, this game has more break-up than a Vince Vaughn movie!
It's hard to determine who you're controlling, and the puck tends to get lost in the muddled mess. Your player is highlighted with a white box around his number. As you can imagine, that does not
stand out very well against the ice! The passing controls are erratic. Your teammates tend to stand around like idiots, and they enter the attack zone way too late to execute one-timers. What are they doing?!
Shots on the goal are weak, and when the puck does find its way into the net, you'll have absolutely no idea how it happened (sorry, there's no replay). You can never get any sort of angle on the goalie, who might as well be a brick wall. The excessive difficulty just adds insult to injury. On defense, the controls for switching to the closest man are deplorable!
NHL All-Star Hockey is chock full of glitches including players that continue to advance the puck up the ice even as they are lying flat on their backs!
I found it difficult to believe that Sega could produce such a bad hockey game, until somebody reminded me about NHL All-Star Hockey for the Sega Saturn. Ouch!
© Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Tengen (1993)
I thought I'd love this one, considering how crazy I am about the old Genesis PGA games. But this wasn't made by Electronic Arts, and it shows. While initially perusing the options menu, I noticed you could turn off displays like the overhead view, ball lie, green close-up, and others. I couldn't understand why anyone would want to turn these off, since they all play a part in the strategy of the game. Then I started playing and realized just how freakin' slow
this game is. You're constantly hitting the Start button to pass through all the aggravating set-up screens, and once you finally get an opportunity to swing, you can't even tell where you're aiming. The sparse scenery doesn't help much, and neither does the useless overhead map. One thing the game does do right is employ a standard, 3-button-press swing meter that's easy to use. Unfortunately, once the ball is hit, you have to wait several seconds for the new spot and surrounding scenery to be rendered slowly on the screen. This game will test the patience of most gamers. A few seconds here and there really add up over eighteen holes. PGA Tour Golf is a pretty weak golf game that you won't want to play unless you have a lot of time on your hands. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1993)
This is golf done right on the Game Gear. Like the Genesis PGA Golf games, this one features a streamlined interface, tight controls, a wealth of options, and realistic gameplay. Play modes include practice, tournament, or skins, and up to four people can play (taking turns). After viewing an overhead preview of each hole, you are taken to the main screen that provides all the information you need to make an informed shot. Unfortunately, rendering the scenery on this screen can take up to 10 seconds, which dramatically slows down the action. The swing meter is a pleasure to use, and you can adjust your draw or fade before the shot. You can't add topspin or backspin, but you can select "punch" or "chip" shots. When on the green, a detailed "grid" appears to help you line up the shot. There are six courses to choose from, and a generous options menu lets you fully tailor the presentation of the game. There's even a password save feature. PGA Tour Golf II is a terrific golf game, and if not for the pauses in the action, it would be 'A' material. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atari Games (1994)
Primal Rage made some noise in 1994 with its awesome premise. What could be better than dinosaurs and giant apes fighting to the death in a post-apocalyptic world?! It never really lived up to the hype, but you can still enjoy the pure spectacle of it. Having played all the console versions, I tempered my expectations quite a bit for this miniature Primal Rage. That said, it looks astonishingly good!
The backgrounds are a little sparse, but the creatures look impressive as hell! Not only do they sport that distinctive "claymation" appearance, but they are freakin' huge
in proportion to the screen size. The animation drops a few frames here and there, but the game is certainly playable. The controls are severely limited by the two-button configuration (the arcade used four), but it's still possible to pull off special moves (like spewing vomit) by hitting both buttons at once. There are no human spectators, but that's no big loss. The sound effects are sparse aside from the relentless jungle beats. One issue is how your score isn't displayed on the screen - or even between rounds. In fact, you'll never even see
a score unless you break into the top three. This portable translation of Primal Rage is nice on a technical level but don't expect much in the way of replay value. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Tengen (1993)
With its brisk gameplay, simple controls and detailed players, RBI is a good choice for Game Gear baseball fans. Perhaps most impressive is how similar this game is to the Genesis version, both in terms of graphics and gameplay. The pitching/batting interface is simple as can be, and chasing down balls in the field is actually enjoyable
. The players are exceptionally large for a portable game, although their animation looks somewhat robotic. I do hate how fielders always
catch the ball while reaching straight up and standing on their toes! It looks idiotic; especially when a throw comes in low. I suspect this may be a bug in the code. RBI features its trademark instant replay feature and a pleasant melody plays throughout the game (no, you can't turn it off). The game moves along at a steady clip, but like the Genesis version, an excessive number of foul balls tend to slow down the action. Otherwise, RBI Baseball 94 delivers an addictive, arcade-style flavor of the national pastime. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1993)
Compared to the first Sonic title for the Game Gear, Chaos offers a far more satisfying experience. For one thing, you can choose between Sonic or Tails the fox, and Tail's ability to fly greatly alters the dynamics of the game and adds replay value. You'll notice a difference in the graphics right away, with larger characters and more elaborate scenery. The stages are larger and less linear, with multitudes of alternate pathways, breakable walls, and secret areas. And thankfully, Sonic Chaos is loaded with all kinds of all those crazy loops and corkscrews you can't get enough of. New gizmos include missiles you can fly around on and pogo sticks you can bounce on. In terms of control, the speed dash is a welcome new addition (essential in my book), allowing the hedgehog to go from zero to sixty in an instant. Unlike the first Sonic on the Game Gear, you can even continue your game after you've exhausted your lives. As good as Sonic Chaos is, it still shares a few flaws with the first game. The speed is very inconsistent, alternating between medium speed and near slow motion. And in later stages, it's too easy to fall off the bottom of the screen, resulting in instant death. But if you found the first Game Gear Sonic to be lacking, give this one a try. It's a major improvement. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Sonic The Hedgehog
Publisher: Sega (1991)
Is it just me, or was the loveable hedgehog neutered
for this scaled-down edition of the Genesis mega-hit? Sonic really lacks his trademark speed on the Game Gear, and these unforgiving environments really limit his ability to run wild. And where are those crazy loops we all love so much? You won't find them here. Still, there's plenty of ring-collecting and enemy-pouncing fun to be had, and the upbeat music and sound effects are surprisingly faithful to the original game. The graphics are bright and cheery, with large enemies that are easy to make out. Some of the six zones are inspired by the Genesis game, but they tend to be very linear. The Green Hill zone looks great with its palm trees and dancing flowers, but the "Bridge zone" is a total bust. Devoid of any creativity or aesthetic value, it amounts to one endless bridge littered with fatal gaps. Adding insult to injury, in one section the screen automatically scrolls slowly to the right, making an already mundane stage just plain irritating. Things improve with the lush Jungle zone, but even that has far too many bottomless pits. I don't like how Sonic on the Game Gear forces you to proceed at a very slow, deliberate pace. The bonus stages let you bounce on trampolines and bumpers to grab rings, but they aren't very thrilling. Slow-down often rears its ugly head, especially after you grab a power-up. Taking a hit only causes one ring to fly loose, but your total is reduced to zero anyway. No score is displayed when the game ends, and that's too bad. This portable Sonic is respectable, but if you've already experienced the stellar Genesis version, this will seem awfully tame. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Publisher: Sega (1992)
You can always count on Sonic games for fast-paced platform action and colorful environments, but this one is disappointing. Sonic 2 looks and plays a lot like the first Sonic, although it does benefit from less slowdown. The stages are more elaborate this time around, with plenty of alternate routes to discover and loops to run through. Some zones exhibit natural beauty, like the watery Aqua Lake, the sunny Green Hills, and the stormy Sky High zone. The aptly named Gimmick Mountain zone is a complete bust, but the "Scrambled Eggs" zone has a nice Earthworm Jim vibe. What really hurts this game is its hit-or-miss controls and unforgiving stage designs. You're required to make far too many blind leaps, and performing run-spins to break through weak walls can be unreasonably difficult. Unlike the Genesis version, there's no spin-dash move, and frankly, it's badly missed. There's a new hang-glider element, but it never takes off - literally! Controlling that thing is a pain in the ass, and when a Sonic game has you reaching for the manual, that's never
a good sign. Apparently the "trick" is to push back on the directional pad in short, measured intervals, but even then Sonic sometimes releases and falls to his death. The boss encounters also tend to suck - especially the first one with the scorpion and the pit. The secret to that one, as it turns out, is to do not much of anything!
The idea of facing bosses with no rings
is also troublesome. This game isn't bad as Game Gear titles go, but with a name like Sonic, you expect more. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Sonic the Hedgehog: Triple Trouble
Publisher: Sega (1994)
After giving lukewarm reviews to the first two Sonic games for the Game Gear, I started wondering if the system's hardware could handle a legitimate Sonic title. After playing Sonic Triple Trouble, I realize the answer is yes
. Not only does this game deliver graphics and gameplay comparable to the Genesis Sonics, but it's one of the best Sonic games I've played period!
Genesis owners might as well refer to this as Sonic 4
- it's that good! Sega not only redesigned the game's engine and graphics from the ground up, but addressed the annoyances that plagued the previous Game Gear Sonics. Gone are the blind leaps, fatal falls, awkward controls, and unreasonable difficulty. The spin-dash move is in full effect, and it really comes in handy! The character sprites are large and bold, and the layered scenery is very easy on the eyes. As with any Sonic title worth its weight, there are plenty of inviting tropical stages with multiple routes and hidden secrets. Adding a little variety are original stages like Sunset Park with its gorgeous orange sky and Robotnik Winter with its snow and ice. And get this - Sonic can even snowboard!
You can play through the game as Sonic or Tails, and Knuckles appears as a villain. So what's the catch? Well, the game does suffer from its share of slowdown, but it doesn't adversely affect the gameplay. The difficulty is much
lower than previous Sonics for the Game Gear, to the point where it's sometimes hard
to lose a life! That's okay, because this game is a joy to play, delivering the fast action Sonic fans crave with minimal frustration. It's a shame Triple Trouble was released so late in the system's life cycle, because this game is the real deal. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Sports Trivia Championship Edition
Publisher: Sega (1994)
Based on the title alone, Sports Trivia sounds like a worthless piece of [expletive]. It screams of bargain-bin material, but sports fans who take a chance on this are in for a pleasant surprise. Sports Trivia is actually two games in one, with one being a football simulation. The main screen depicts a miniature gridiron indicating the position of the ball, and the idea is to gain yardage by answering random sports trivia questions. On defense you'll answer questions to slow the CPU's drive, but even when you get an answer right you may give up a few yards. Small animation windows complement the action by depicting players fighting for yardage or catching passes. Sports Trivia's game-within-a-game design demands strategy in addition to sports knowledge. The play selection screen offers several options so you can play it safe or go for big yardage. Each question is slowly displayed on the screen, followed by four answers. Considering time is a factor (fast answers net more yards), I wish they would simply flash the damn thing up there. You'll be tempted to hit a button to expedite the process, but that's the worst thing you can possibly do, because the text will just stop and you'll be forced to answer blindly. The emphasis of the questions is clearly on football, baseball, and basketball. Many of them are very enlightening such as "How many players were selected before Michael Jordan in the 1984 draft?" (two), and "What man played in the most World Series games?" (Yogi Berra). As a sports fan, I really had a blast trying to answer these. Occasionally you'll get a question about hockey, golf, or auto racing. I found those questions to be a good time to use an "audible", which basically lets you skip the question. The main problem with Sports Trivia is that not enough yards are awarded, and as a result you get a lot of back-and-forth stalemates. It seems like whenever the CPU gets any kind of momentum he'll cough up the ball before he can score. It's not unusual to go to overtime with a 0-0 tie! And what's up with that Kung Fu background music? Sports Trivia could have used a lot more offense, but its multi-dimensional gameplay will captivate sports fans nonetheless. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Star Wars Return of the Jedi
Publisher: LucasArts (1995)
The force is strong in this one. Like its impressive SNES counterpart, Return of the Jedi delivers challenging platform action with top-notch graphics and amazing music. The stages loosely follow the storyline of the movie, including Leia rescuing Han from Jabba the Hutt, Han knocking out the shield generator on the moon of Endor, Luke defeating the Emperor, and finally, Lando destroying the new Death Star. If you've played any of the SNES Super Star Wars games, you know there's a lot of platform jumping involved, and it can border on tedious at times. Fortunately, Jedi has outstanding control that makes it easy to navigate even the narrowest ledges. You can choose between several characters for each mission, and there are even two vehicle missions to spice things up. You'll face some huge bosses including the Rancor, but some bosses take far too long to defeat. I really enjoyed Jedi until I reached the speeder bike chase sequence in the woods of Endor. Yikes - those pseudo 3D graphics look awful and you can't even tell what's going on! Other than that aberration, Return of the Jedi is pure gold for your Game Gear. A password feature is also included. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Streets of Rage 2
Publisher: Sega (1993)
This game is remarkable! The Genesis Streets of Rage 2 set a new standard for side-scrolling fighters, and this Game Gear version is a surprisingly close adaptation. In fact, it looks like the exact same game - only in miniature. You can choose between Axel, Blaze, and Skate, and the characters look almost identical in to those in the original game. Max the wrestler isn't included, but you won't miss his big slow ass anyway. Most of the stages are included, although slightly abbreviated. My personal favorites are the bar and the amusement park. A few minor details have been left out, like the rain in the back alley at the end of stage one. I find it amazing how all the fighting moves have been preserved despite the fact that Game Gear only has two buttons. This game rates sky-high in terms of fun. There's nothing quite like the feeling of walking down a street and wacking complete strangers with a long lead pipe. Even the music sounds like the original. Two players can link up for some cooperative action. Streets of Rage 2 is a stellar title, and Sega did one heck of a job of squeezing it into a Game Gear cartridge. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Majesco (1994)
Looking like an update of Atari's Battlezone, Super Battletank unsuccessfully tries to straddle the line between arcade game and simulation. Dedicated to the men and women who served in Desert Storm, this first-person tank shooter takes place in the dull, brown desert of Iraq, so there's really no scenery to speak of. You embark on a series of missions, usually to destroy a group of targets such as tanks, helicopters, or scud missiles. A scanner screen provides the location of all of your targets, and you can move between them fairly quickly. The main screen is loaded with indicators and gauges (most unnecessary), leaving only about a third of the screen for your first person view out of the tank. Enemy vehicles look surprisingly detailed and realistic, but their erratic movements make them frustrating to hit. Despite having several weapons at your disposal, each encounter is like a cat-and-mouse game, and there's little fun to be had. Only one enemy appears at a time, and keeping it in your crosshairs is a constant struggle. The missions are all pretty much the same. Overall, Super Battletank probably won't hold your interest for long. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Vampire Master of Darkness
Publisher: Sega (1993)
I don't know what the story is behind Master of Darkness, but it looks and plays a heck of a lot like Castlevania, and that is a good thing. Vampire takes place in the late 1800's, and you control a well-dressed fellow with the odd name of Ferdinand Social. The turn-of-the-century London scenery is quite realistic and conveys a nice atmosphere. There's plenty of platform jumping, but nothing too frustrating, and there are plenty of weapons hidden behind white masks. Stages include the Thames river, a cemetery, a laboratory, and my personal favorite, the wax museum. This museum stage reminded me of an old horror flick I watched as a kid called "House of Wax" starring Vincent Price. That movie was creepy, and this stage recreates the spine-tingling chills of seeing wax figures come to life. Other monsters in the game, including zombies, skeletons, and wolves, are large and nicely animated. The control scheme is identical to Castlevania - one button jumps and the other attacks, and pushing up while firing engages your special weapon. With the exception of navigating the stairs, the control is right on the money. Even the music is sinister and well orchestrated. Vampire is really an amazing game, and probably one of the best titles for the Game Gear. I only wish a password feature was included so it wasn't always necessary to start from the beginning. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Winter Olympic Games: Lillehammer '94
Publisher: U.S. Gold (1993)
The Genesis edition of Lillehammer '94 had its share of issues, and this portable version isn't much easier to swallow. I like Lillehammer's brisk pacing and snowy winter scenery, but the events are a constant struggle. The games begin with a brief opening ceremony. It's modest, but still more than I've seen from most modern
Olympic titles. I'm kind of surprised that the USA isn't represented in this game. Lillehammer contains four skiing events which are entirely too difficult. Faint blue lines in the snow indicate the proper direction, but it's really, really
hard to stay within the gates. The steering controls are coarse and the gates are spaced too far apart (often outside your field of view). When turning, your skier flinches in a very disorienting manner. It's easy to run into a tree, or worse yet, come to a complete stop in the middle of the course! Hell, simply qualifying
in a single ski event is a monumental achievement! The bobsled and luge events offer impressive behind-the-sled views as you careen down the half-pipe, but your control is limited to making slight adjustments. Speed skating is one of the more exciting events as you tap buttons and jockey for position against three CPU-controlled skaters. The ski jump event is another highlight, combining simple controls and plenty of eye candy. The biathlon isn't inherently bad, but it wears out its welcome due to its length. The mogul skiing lets you perform stunts, but its overly-complex controls confounded me. Not every event is a winner, but there's enough variety and the CPU is no pushover. Instead of competing in all ten events, you have the option of selecting the specific ones you'd like to play, and that's a nice option for a portable title. Lillehammer '94 is too difficult for its own good, but being able to play an entire winter Olympics in under 20 minutes keeps the frustration factor to a minimum. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
World Series Baseball
Publisher: Sega (1993)
Sega knows a little something about baseball games, and this diminutive version of World Series Baseball provides some terrific, ultra-fast arcade action. The speed of the game is beyond fast - it's frantic
. I can only assume Sega programmed it like this so you could play a whole season before your Game Gear batteries wore out. The behind-the-batter pitching view features large players and a perfect view of the strike zone. The simple, intuitive controls reminded me Sportstalk Baseball (Genesis 1992). This is a game that anyone can pick up and start playing right away. When the ball is hit, an overhead view of the field appears, and your fielders can jump or dive to snag balls. Unfortunately, the action moves so fast
that you have almost no time to react. You won't see many extra base hits or double-plays in this game. At first, I wished Sega had slowed down the action to something more reasonable, but after playing a few exciting games at break-neck speed, I got used to it. Problem is, now I can't sit through a "normal" baseball game (too slow!). Sound effects include a voice umpire and non-stop in-game music that could, quite possibly, drive you insane. World Series has a lot of nice features as well, including a slew of playing modes, two-player link, a battery back-up, and all the major league players and teams. This is an ideal game for sports fans with short attention spans. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
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