Fast Striker (Japan)
Publisher: NG Dev (2010)
It's good to know that people are still making quality Dreamcast titles. Somebody's
got to keep this thing going for Pete's sake! While it might look like a garden-variety vertical shooter, Fast Striker has extraordinary depth. The game also has a fine sense of humor, evident by the load screens warning of "Huge load times ahead!" Unlike many other vertical shooters, Striker consumes the entire screen. The action is 2D in nature, but objects are very large and rendered in full 3D. Enemies tend to rotate and bosses sometimes reassemble themselves as if they were Transformers. The backgrounds are nearly photorealistic, but the repetitive gray industrial scenery is pretty bland. It's easy to spot danger, but enemies lack distinctive forms, looking like blobs of flying metal. What makes Fast Striker intriguing is its rich control scheme, which allows for plenty of technique. You spray missiles when you tap the fire button, and unleash a concentrated stream when you hold it down. When not firing, bonus pods gravitate toward you, giving you reason to let off every few seconds. Another button lets you fire behind
your ship, which is unusual but not particularly useful. There's also a shield button that comes in handy when faced with a barrage of missiles with no escape in sight. Actually, escape is usually possible thanks to some extremely
forgiving collision detection. Unless your ship takes a hit dead center, you can often weave your way through a torrent of missiles with miraculous results. Fast Striker isn't easy, but it's possible to get into a zone. As my friend George pointed out, the less thinking you do, the better! The game is designed to be played for high score, and when I say high, we're talking 12 digits long
. Continues are available, but they reset your score (as they should). There are four game variations, each with its own ship and difficulty level. Fast Striker is designed for shooter enthusiasts, but you don't need to understand advanced techniques to enjoy the game, and figuring it out is half the fun. The upbeat techno music is appealing but not particularly catchy, and it tends to cut out on occasion. High scores are saved to VMU for each skill level, and codes are provided so you can post your high scores on-line. First Striker is fun to play for score, and its depth is sure to intrigue hardcore fans. Note: This is a region-free CD. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: Original
Our high score: 69.6M
Fatal Fury Mark of the Wolves
Publisher: SNK (2001)
Rating: Teen (13+)
Mark of the Wolves is mainly distinguished by the fact that it's the first game
to feature a fighter named Butt
(I kid you not!) You might think that alone would be enough to earn it an 'A', but compared to Capcom Vs. SNK
or King of Fighters Evolution
, Fatal Fury looks somewhat dated. Heck, the faces on the character selection screen are so pixelated you can barely make them out! The fighters in the actual game don't look much better, but at least they're animated nicely, although a little on the small side. Most of the characters are your typical martial arts variety, but there's also a huge guy with a little bird head, the aforementioned black guy named "Butt", a bratty little boy, and a sexy woman who enjoys hanging out with sailors. The backgrounds are completely 2D, but are quite appealing in a Street Fighter II
kind of way. I especially like the downtown scenes. The gameplay features some cool twists on the standard formula. First of all, before each fight you position your "T.O.P." meter over your life gauge, providing extra strength depending on the status of your life bar. "Just Defended" moves give you back
life if you successfully block a series of attacks, and "Guard Crush" wears down your opponent's ability to block. No question about it, this is some solid 2D fighting action, even if it does look old. There's also plenty of humor and some impressive artwork you can open up. I just wish the game didn't constantly ask if I want to save. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Fighting Force 2
Publisher: Eidos (1999)
Rating: Teen (animated violence)
Playing Fighting Force 2 is like participating in an experiment to see how much pain
the human body can endure. I haven't had this much fun since being kicked in the groin
in the eighth grade. The first Fighting Force
(Playstation, 1996) had its share of issues, but at least it didn't take itself very seriously. Fighting Force 2 has no sense of humor and its uninspired gameplay blows enormous chunks
. I can understand why Eidos dropped the two-player mode from the first game (the camera was unwieldy), but there's no excuse for such a lackluster single-player mode. The opening sequence explains how you are a super-cop trying to infiltrate evil corporations. You get a tantalizing glimpse of a Blade Runner-style futuristic world, but don't get too excited because you'll be relegated to exploring concrete bunkers. These rooms look so similar that it's hard to tell if you're forging ahead or backtracking. The awful graphics feature chunky characters and unsightly pixelation. Some of the henchmen look like Power Ranger rejects and they don't put up much of a fight. There are weapons all over the place, but who needs them? The controls are terrible. Your character will sometimes refuse to grab a ladder right in front of him, and he'll sometimes turn in the wrong direction
while engaged in hand-to-hand combat. There were times when I couldn't interact with a computer system just because I couldn't figure out how to put my [expletive] weapon away!
The touchy analog controls make it nearly impossible to navigate narrow walkways, and the collision detection is an absolute joke
. At one point a conveyer belt sucked me into a grinding wheel where I was helplessly stuck as I watched my life dwindle to nothing. Not my idea of a good time!
A cheat code let me preview advanced levels with labs, factories, and prisons, but it was basically just more of the same. When Eidos began releasing throwaway titles like Fighting Force 2, it became obvious that the once-respected company had officially entered free-fall mode. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Frogger 2: Swampy's Revenge
Publisher: Hasbro (2000)
Just when I thought Hasbro was in way over their head in the video game business, they actually release a half-way decent Frogger game. Don't get me wrong, Frogger 2 is not great, but it's a frickin' masterpiece compared to their first Frogger game (Playstation). The biggest improvement is in the control department. Unlike the slow, lazy frogs in the last game, these frogs are quick and responsive. Sometimes they're too responsive, causing you to accidentally take that extra hop into the abyss. The graphics are nice, and the stages are simple enough that you can easily tell where you're going. It's that simplicity that gives this game a tiny bit of the flavor of the original classic game. In addition to the adventure mode, there's an "arcade mode" with some "retro-inspired" mini-games. Although these mini-games feature bits and pieces of the original Frogger, a true emulation of the original game is nowhere to be found. The multiplayer mode, which consist of a series of frog races, isn't much fun at all. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Acclaim (2000)
Rating: Teen (animated violence, comic mischief, suggestive themes)
Fur Fighters will always be a sentimental favorite to many Dreamcast faithful. It stars a cast of loveable animals blasting each other to hell with automatic weapons. To be fair, this game contains about as much violence as a Bugs Bunny cartoon, so the "teen" rating is an absolute joke. Played from a third-person point of view, Fur Fighters lets you switch between a number of animal characters. Naturally, each possesses a special ability. The hound can burrow, the cat can climb, the penguin can swim, the kangaroo can jump - you get the idea. Unlike most adventures which feature an evil scientist seeking world domination, Fur Fighters features an evil cat
seeking world domination. Your main goal is to rescue baby animals scattered throughout seven enormous stages, including New Quack City, a jungle, and a futuristic dinosaur metropolis (huh?). The stages are surprisingly well crafted, and when you see the towering buildings and beautiful falling snow of New Quack City, you'll realize the designers actually put some effort into this game. The stages are generally fun to explore, and while the graphics aren't the best you'll see on the Dreamcast, they have a certain charm. The controls on the other hand take some getting used to. Using the four face buttons to move is not intuitive, and aiming using the analog stick is touchy (although the auto-aim feature helps a lot). The initial training stage is so painfully boring that it actually gave me a headache. Once the action is officially underway, not only do you need to switch animals often to reach new areas, but the babies can only be saved by animals of their same species
. For the life of me, I can't think of any good reason for this stupid rule, and it makes the game all the more tedious. Shooting cuddly animals is satisfying however, and I enjoy the dramatic "death" animations. The puzzles make sense, but the game is definitely slow
, lending itself to brief play sessions. Fur Fighters really falters in its four-player split-screen mode. It should have been a good time, but the overly-complicated, maze-like arenas are a confusing mess. Without a doubt, Fur Fighter's best feature is its outstanding soundtrack, which won me over in a big way. Not only are its unique, jazzy numbers easy on the ears, but they actually give the game a distinct personality. For the most part Fur Fighters is an average platformer, but more patient gamers will find a lot to like. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Midway (2000)
This remarkable title perfectly melds old-fashioned arcade gameplay with modern 3D graphics. I've put more hours into Gauntlet Legends than I care to count. Like the original Gauntlet, up to four players can join forces to explore volcanoes, forests, and castles. While gathering treasure and collecting keys, you'll plow through hordes of regenerating monsters. Eight character types are available, including warriors, wizards, knights, and archers. Characters accumulate levels and experience as they progress, and gold can be used to purchase power-ups. Legend's detailed graphics are pretty amazing, as is its epic musical score. The locations tend to be maze-like, but contain enough surprises to keep things fresh. I have to admit that sometimes it's hard to locate secret switches necessary to access new areas. Fortunately, the constantly shifting camera always provides a decent view of the action. One hilarious aspect of Gauntlet Legends is its imaginative power-ups, which can endow you with "lightning breath", turn you into a giant, or shrink your enemies to humorous effect. The bosses are nothing short of incredible. The first is a huge red dragon, and it looks like something from a movie. With such elaborate visuals, it's surprising how the gameplay remains so faithful to the original game. Even the comical voices have been retained, so you'll be treated to priceless lines like "Wizard needs food badly!", "Dwarf is about to die!", "Hey! That food was MINE!" and my personal favorite, "Mmm...I like
food!" Gauntlet Legends is a must-have for fans of multiplayer games. My friend George and I once played this one for seven hours straight, and probably would have continued if it wasn't 3AM. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1999)
The Dreamcast console has become so legendary that even its unfinished games
are highly sought after. Geist Force was a shooter canceled a few months prior to the system's launch in 1999. The project had been largely forgotten, but in 2012 someone pieced together the remnants of the code and made them available on a semi-playable disc. It's just enough to provide a fascinating glimpse back in time. Geist Force was clearly derived from Star Fox
(SNES, 1993) as you glide over a planet surface while blasting polygon enemies into shards. Upon booting the disk you're presented with a debug menu with the label "last updated 4/23/1999". The menu lets you select "Start Game", select stages 1 thru 6, Mike's room, and Nimai's room. The first few options let you play a portion of the game, and some of the others let you explore unfinished stages. Nimai's Room loads some kind of sound test widget, but I couldn't get my Dreamcast mouse or keyboard to operate it. Selecting "start game" treats you to a very elaborate CGI intro video of a planetary invasion. It's a shame there's no audio because it's a lot of fun to watch. The actual game is playable to a modest degree, but clearly the project had a long
way to go. The system thrashes like crazy as the stages load and members of your squad check in via a window in the lower corner. They speak Japanese and sound pretty excited. The action begins as your ship descends onto a smooth planet surface. In stage one you'll blast plant-like aliens over water and rolling green meadows before chasing two-legged creatures through a rocky gorge. The fluid animation and colorful textured scenery is inviting, and I really like the look of those curved gauges across the top of the screen (even though I don't know what they mean). It's fun to unleash rapid-fire missiles and cluster bombs which reduce buildings and massive boulders into a thousand polygons. The gameplay seems appealing at first, but when things heat up the collision detection goes to hell and the frame-rate fluctuates like mad. The game usually locks up before you can advance more than a stage or two. It's not unusual to collide with the scenery and become trapped in another dimension. What really struck me about Geist Force is its beautiful, surreal sights. There are towering waterfalls, misty river valleys, floating cities, and some gorgeous sky-scapes. If you're a Dreamcast fanatic, this disc provides a tantalizing look at what might have been an amazing game. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Capcom (2000)
When I first reviewed this 2D shooter back in 2001, it was part of a deluge of similar games released for the Dreamcast at the time. Giga Wing's intense 2D gameplay features dozens of enemies and hundreds of projectiles flooding the screen. At the time, I thought this unbridled chaos represented the future of shooting games, but as it turns out, they were a dying breed. Many years later I can attest Giga Wing is a remarkable title, not just on a technical level but also with regards to its gameplay. There are four ships to choose from, each with its own brand of fantastic firepower, and the ship you select determines which stage you'll start on. The five stages are short but far more interesting than those in Mars Matrix, including a river valley, a volcanic area, a railroad, and a floating continent. Blasting planes, tanks and boats cause gold medals to rain down, and catching them racks up you bonus multiplier. Giga Wing's relentless onslaught of enemies, coupled waves of missiles and falling bars results in some of the most insane visuals ever witnessed in a video game. Sometimes you can barely find your ship amidst it all! How will you survive? Well, your firepower is formidable from the start, and the power-ups are abundant. Your "reflect force" lets you repel enemy shots by holding in the fire button, and it's awesome to redirect torrents missiles back to their originator! The shield takes a few second to recharge, but I like how there's an audible "ok" heard when it's armed. You also have a limited supply of bombs that obliterate everything on the screen. Even so, I'd recommend sliding the difficulty level down to easy. I wish Giga Wing didn't have unlimited continues, because that takes the challenge out of finishing the game. Remember, your main goal is to achieve the high score - and these things are high
. There are so many digits that Capcom highlighted the billions
just to make them easier to read! That's pretty silly, but Giga Wing is a remarkable title that really shows what the Dreamcast is capable of. I may have taken this for granted in 2001, but I certainly don't anymore. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Capcom (2001)
If you thought the first Giga Wing was completely over-the-top in terms of the number of objects on the screen, then you're right. Yet Giga Wing 2 somehow manages to increase the level of chaos exponentially
. This game pushes the Dreamcast to the limit, but the fun factor and framerate take a hit as a result. Like the first game, you select from a number of aircraft with crazy firepower from the very start. The stages include a city, factory, and "cloud sea", but this time the scenery is fully rendered in 3D. This provides for some vertigo inducing heights, high-speed dives, and dramatic camera angles. At times it's hard to tell which way is up - not that it matters
since your path is predetermined. Complementing the impressive visuals is an operatic musical score that provides some epic flare but gets kind of annoying after a while. In addition to rapid-fire cannons, you have the ability to "reflect" enemy missiles with a shield that recharges every few seconds. On top of that, there's a supply of bombs that inflict carnage on a massive scale. The controls are pretty much the same as the first Giga Wing, but a rapid-fire button is also included, preventing you from accidentally engaging your reflect shield. That's not really an issue through, since you'll need to use the shield constantly
. I'm telling you, Gigawing 2 is so relentless with its non-stop waves of missiles that you're almost always
on the defensive! You rarely have the opportunity to aim
at anything! Not only is this less fun that the original game, but extreme slow-down accompanies the more graphically intense sequences. A four-player mode is included (give me a break!) but that just seems gratuitous considering you can barely discern what's going on in the single-player mode. I did enjoy the two-player co-op mode however, where both players share the same score. The user interface has been cleaned up from the first game, including a nifty auto-save. Most will regard Giga Wing 2's gameplay as "too much", but the game's still a winner thanks to its insane firepower and off-the-charts eye candy. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Grand Theft Auto 2
Publisher: Sega (2000)
Grand Theft Auto 2 (GTA2) takes me back to my days in the hood where smokin' blunts and bustin' caps was a way of life. This is the first game I've seen with profanity in it, and I must say it's about time! When the story begins, there are three gangs controlling a city. You can do jobs for any gang, but the more popular you become with one, the more hostile the other gangs behave towards you. Jobs include pick-ups, robberies, and even killing frenzies. The game provides an overhead view of the city, and the characters are very small. When you drive a vehicle, it looks like a clip from one of those police chase shows. You can move freely around the city, and an arrow always points you to your next destination. It's fun to randomly shoot people and carjack vehicles (did I just say that??), but the missions are where the real challenge is. The main problem with his game is the control. You're forced to use the analog controller, which is fine for driving, but it's hard to get your man to walk in the right direction - a big problem when you're running from police. Also, too much time is spent trying to find the phones. The sound is terrific, with realistic city background noises, and radio stations that play when you're in the car. Overall, GTA2 is somewhat interesting, but the control holds it back. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Ubisoft (2002)
Submitted by special guest columnist The RPG Critic
You may be surprised to hear that Grandia II is totally unrelated to the first Grandia, which was released for the PlayStation and Saturn. The lead character of Grandia II is a mercenary-like "Geo-Hound" named Ryudo. Ryudo is hired by the Church of Granas (god of light) to serve as bodyguard for the beautiful and talented "songstress" Elena. Elena's mission is to exorcize a tower possessed by Valmar, the god of darkness. Thus begins an epic plot that explores Ryudo's dark past, Elena's faith, hidden political agendas, and the overwhelming power of Valmar. Thankfully, Grandia II's gameplay is every bit as compelling as its story. Combat encounters aren't random, and monsters wander freely throughout dungeons and over land. It's actually possible to avoid
fights if you're careful. Strategy plays a key role in the battle system. Approaching an enemy from the rear gives you an advantage, and likewise, enemies can also sneak up on you! Combat is turn-based, but the characters are quite active on the screen, pausing only to let you input commands. A meter at the bottom of the screen indicates whose turn it is, and certain moves can affect the meter and slow enemy attacks. Winning battles earns you points towards purchasing magic spells and special attacks for your party. Your party can have up to four characters in it at a time. Grandia II is graphically stunning; the world is detailed down to the smallest object on a shelf. The developers at Game Arts really stretched the Dreamcast to Soul Calibur-esqe limits with breathtaking visuals embodied by reflections in marble floors, cascading waterfalls, and remarkable effects from magic spells. Additionally, a fully rotating camera eliminates tricky viewing angles. The characters are smooth 3D models but rendered in the traditional style of 16-bit RPGs. Dialog boxes feature hand-drawn, anime depictions of the characters, with roughly a half-dozen different facial expressions. The game even flawlessly integrates 2D animation at certain points throughout the game, such as during special attacks during the battles. Grandia II's audio couldn't be much better, and the voice acting features a generous amount of well-known American animation voices (they didn't include a Japanese track). Each monster has its own distinct grunt or growl, the environments have "natural" sounds, and the background music is expertly composed. As an awesome bonus, the game comes with its musical score on a second separate CD! Some might claim Grandia II has a slightly rehashed plot, but I couldn't wait to get home from work every day to play another 6 hours of this superb RPG. If you own a Dreamcast, Grandia II most definitely belongs in your library. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Konami (2000)
Rating: Everyone (comic mischief)
Most critics wrote this one off immediately, but underneath its rough exterior, this Grinch has a heart. I really like this game's "winter wonderland" vibe. Playing as the Grinch himself, you embark on a series of missions to thwart the holiday plans of the happy "Whos" living in the town below. As the Grinch smashes presents and performs his evil deeds, he discovers blueprints that allow him to assemble elaborate inventions like the Rotten Egg Launcher and Grinch Copter. As you can imagine, your options increase as these contraptions come into play. The graphics aren't spectacular, but the holiday theme shines through with the ornamented trees, snow-covered scenery, and cheery music. The Grinch does have its share clipping and collision detection issues, but they don't detract from the overall experience. The lush, orchestrated soundtrack is terrific, and the sound effects (like walking on the snow) are noticeably crisp. The Grinch is generally fun and easy to play, but a few of the more tedious missions (read: stealth) are bound to turn off certain gamers. The camerawork is better than average, but the controls to select and use gadgets are needlessly complicated. It's rough around the edges, but the Grinch somehow succeeds in spite of itself. This is one of the few video games I can recall with a Christmas theme, making it a nice title to pull out in December. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Capcom (2000)
After playing shooters like Giga Wing and Mars Matrix, Gunbird 2's colorful, whimsical style is like a breath of fresh air. Its gameplay isn't far off the beaten path, but its warm anime visuals stand in stark contrast to the typical harsh space environments. Instead of a ship, you control flying Capcom characters including Alucard and Morrigan of Nightstalkers fame, a robot named Valpiro, a little girl named Morgan, and a chubby guy on magic carpet. The main villain is a busty pirate chick. Besides rapid-fire shooting, you also have a charge attack and a supply of bombs. Each character is armed with unique weapons, with Alucard firing bats and Valpiro shooting circular blades. For his "bomb" attack, the guy on the carpet unleashes a giant topless genie (with no nipples of course). Morgan's bomb not only damages enemies, but transforms their projectiles into delicious candy that can be gathered up for points. Visually, Gunbird 2 is a thing of beauty. You'll soar over a series of meticulously drawn 2D locations teeming with activity. One stage looks like Venice, another depicts a snow-covered village at night, and another flies you over a majestic castle in the midst of autumn foliage. You can see little people running errands below, and they look great but can be distracting at times. Enemies tend to be imaginative robots and airships rendered in a distinctive retro-futuristic style. When you defeat the large, screen size bosses, smaller bosses emerge from their smoldering ashes. Despite its soft visual style, Gunbird 2 is still tough as nails. I would definitely recommend setting the difficulty to easy, because the waves of missiles resemble a kaleidoscope at times. You'll want to use your bombs strictly as a defensive mechanism. Gunbird's weakest aspect its audio, with its generic synthesized music and repetitive voice samples. High scores are saved automatically, but I wish the top score was displayed on the screen as you play. At its core, Gunbird 2 isn't a big departure from so many other Dreamcast shooters, but its visual flare and quirky nature definitely set it apart. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: NG Dev Team (2012)
For anyone who enjoyed gaming in the 1990's, this new 2D shooter is a gift from the video game gods. Gunlord feels like a hybrid of Metroid, Turrican, and Shadow of the Beast, except it's much, much better!
The opening cut-scene screams of 1992 with its pixelated graphics, semi-animation, and bad dialogue. What's not to love? In the game you control an armored warrior blasting through colorful, surreal sci-fi landscapes. The gorgeous (and lengthy) opening stage features marble columns, lush foliage, and cascading waterfalls. The resolution is a little low by Dreamcast standards, but those pixels just give Gunlord its old-school charm. Enemies include bugs, trolls, and plant-like creatures that can blend into the landscape. You get rapid-fire weapons, smart bombs, and a guided beam that can "hose down" all foes 360 degrees around you. Enemies attack from all angles so you'll want to take them out from a distance whenever possible. It's satisfying to watch the larger baddies explode into flying chunks. Your warrior easily leaps between platforms and can also roll into a ball to negotiate narrow passages. It's fun to collect shiny purple diamonds, especially with all the multiple routes and secret areas. The controls are very precise but it's not unusual to get caught up on a pixelated edge here and there. I love how a raging thunderstorm rolls in at the end of the first stage. Wait a second - are those monsters holding umbrellas?
Best. Game. Ever. Stage two offers a nice change of pace with some flying shooting action. Checkpoints are frequent, several continues are available, and you always pick up right where you left off. The difficulty is perfectly tuned. Gunlord is superb on many levels, and its electronic soundtrack is no exception. Both relaxing and invigorating, these gentle rhythms really get you into the flow of things. I only regret not buying the limited edition which includes the soundtrack disc. Memorable audio effects include screeching insects, voice power-ups, and thunderous bass-filled explosions. The high score screen is saved to memory card automatically. Did I mention the gorgeous artwork in the instruction booklet? Gunlord might not look like much at first glance, but given the chance this amazing game will breathe new life into your Dreamcast console. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 66650
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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, Gaming Age Online, Shinforce, Sega.com, Racket Boy, Wikipedia, GameSpot
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