Sno-Cross Championship Racing
Publisher: Crave (2000)
Sno-Cross Championship Racer probably doesn't deserve as much attention as I give it, but hey, I'm a sucker for snow games. When I gaze out the window on a cold winter night and see the first flakes of a coming snowstorm, it's Sno-cross time!
This snowmobile racer features scenic tracks running through Aspen, Sweden, Calgary, and Murmansk, Russia. Aspen looks like a winter wonderland with its falling snowflakes, quaint villages, cozy lodges, and snow-covered evergreens. The snow on the ground looks photo-realistic and I love how it "crunches" as you slice through it. The weather conditions are variable, and some races even take place at night. The sense of speed is good, and the bouncy physics is fun in a halfway-out-of-control sort of way. Sno-Cross is most playable from a third-person point-of-view, but the first-person lets you really feel the chill of getting snow kicked up in your face. You'll race against three opponents per race, and if you're lucky two of them will collide with each other early on. The championship mode is challenging and adds a lot of replay value. Although the tracks may appear to have shortcuts here and there, they always turn out to be dead ends so don't bother. Best times are saved to VMU, and a status screen between races lets you easily repair and upgrade your vehicle. The only problem with Sno-Cross is its imprecise controls. I realize we're riding over snow and ice
here, but I have
driven a snowmobile before (or snow-machine
as they call it in Vermont). In the game there's a perceivable lag in the response time and you'll find yourself over-steering all over the place to compensate. Even when you upgrade your vehicle, it never feels quite right. Making matters worse, when the vehicles incur damage they tend to pull to one side, making your life absolutely miserable
. On narrow trails you may find yourself bouncing around like a pinball! A two-player split-screen mode is available, but when you combine mediocre controls with a lousy frame-rate, the results are not pretty. Still, if you stick to the solo mode there's just enough challenge and winter goodness to keep you coming back year after year. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1999)
Sonic the Hedgehog was a legitimate phenomenon on the Genesis, but after a string of quality sequels he struggled to make the leap to 3D. In his Saturn outings, the hedgehog was reduced to a shadow of his former self. With Sonic Adventure however, the thrill is back!
This game proves that Sonic's frenetic brand of platform action can indeed be done effectively in 3D. The game is divided into action and adventure stages. The action stages play like traditional Sonic zones as you dash through tunnels, hop between platforms, leap over spikes, and bounce off bumpers. These imaginative stages take you to tropical islands, a highway metropolis, an iceberg, and an Indiana Jones-style lost temple. In the flying egg carrier stage, the entire ship turns on its side, allowing you to play from an entirely different perspective. The camera can be an issue at times, but this is compensated for by wide platforms and floaty jumps. Spinner mechanisms will propel Sonic to insane speeds, at which time you'll just push up on the joystick and enjoy the eye candy. While admittedly shallow, these sequences are used sparingly enough that they don't tarnish the gameplay. The "adventure" stages focus on exploration, talking to bystanders, and solving simple puzzles. They tie things together story-wise, but really drag down the pace of the game. You can play through most stages using multiple characters, each providing a unique experience. While playing with other characters is generally less fun, it does give the game substantial replay value. Their stories intertwine, giving the game a cohesive quality. Spicing things up are snowboarding, airplane shooting, and pinball stages. Sonic Adventure is surprisingly long, and just when you think it's over, you're off to a new stage. There's even a virtual pet-style "Chao" game you can download to your VMU. The musical score is eclectic, ranging from the heavy metal of the intro to the mesmerizing African beats of the Mystic Ruins. The character voices are less appealing, and it's unfortunate they were given voices at all. Even so, this ambitious game is a triumphant blend of fast action, simple controls, and stunning graphics. Even ten years after its release, playing Sonic Adventure is a breathtaking experience. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Sonic Adventure 2
Publisher: Sega (2001)
This high-quality sequel attempts to duplicate the magic of the first Sonic Adventure without bogging things down with tedious "adventure" segments. Sonic Adventure 2 offers two separate story modes that follow either Sonic or his nemesis look-alike, Shadow. The platform stages play out much like the first game, sending Sonic whizzing through corkscrews, bouncing off bumpers, and performing homing-attacks on enemies. The opening stage has him skateboarding down the steep hills of San Francisco and fleeing from a rampaging 18-wheeler. It's non-stop action, and I really dig that "Escape From the City" song that plays throughout the stage. In Metal Harbor, Sonic leaps between industrial platforms and cranes over the water. Some of the more unusual stages include the claustrophobic "Prison Lane" and the Halloween-themed Pumpkin Hill. The semi-automated speed sequences are back, but they are somewhat overused, making stages like the lush jungle less satisfying than they should be. Sonic Adventure 2 brings two optional gameplay elements from the first game to center stage - with mixed results. Tails stomps around in a mech walker in stages that focus on shooting. He has the ability to lock-on to several targets before unleashing missiles, and the carnage is terrific. On the flip side, Knuckles is relegated to tedious "find the gem" stages that are time-consuming and frustrating. His ability to glide and climb doesn't make these wild goose chases any more tolerable. The droning rap tunes (which sound like LL Cool J) don't help matters. Throughout the game the camera tends to pull in extremely tight. While this makes you feel "closer to the action", your limited periphery is problematic when you're trying to locate gems or shoot off-screen robots. Last and certainly least, those worthless "Chao" virtual pets are back with some new VMU games. With the exception of the Knuckles stages, Sonic Adventure 2 is a fast-moving, enjoyable journey. Every stage offers something new, and there are plenty of surprises. It may not match the original game, but Sonic Adventure 2 is still quite the spectacle to behold. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (2000)
As Sega's answer to Nintendo's Mario Party 64, Sonic Shuffle is a four-player board game with mini action games incorporated into it. As you would expect from a Sonic game, the graphics and sound are top notch. And although the gameplay is derivative, there are still some unique features that stand out. The object of the game is to capture gems that appear on various spaces around the board, but instead of rolling dice, an ingenious card system is used. The numbered cards in your hand are used to move a certain number of spaces, providing for some interesting strategy. In addition, you can collect "force jewels" which alter the game in various ways. Different types of spaces may cause you to gain rings, lose rings, battle a monster, or trigger a mini-event or mini-game. It's just too bad that the one-player monster battles are so frequent, because they bore the other players. The mini-events are basically short stories that usually end by awarding (or stealing) rings or jewels from a player. But it's the mini-games that should be the most fun part of any party game, and this is where Sonic Shuffle falters. To put it bluntly, most of them SUCK. Some are so complicated that you need to play them a few times just to tell what's going on. In others, you don't feel very much in control. Others will leave you scratching your head. But the fact is, most are either boring or annoying. There are some original ideas here, like running around a giant turntable or avoiding crashing waves, but the fun factor is seriously lacking. At least the load times aren't bad, but Sonic Shuffle should have been much better. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Namco (1999)
Rating: Teen (animated violence, suggestive themes)
One of the system's original "launch" titles, this one-on-one fighter is regarded by many to be the greatest Dreamcast game of all time. It's difficult to argue. Although technically a sequel to the excellent Soul Blade
(Playstation, 1998), Soul Calibur's level of graphic detail, fluid animation, and rich gameplay eclipsed all that came before it. It's an absolute work of art, and to this day I'm still blown away by its magnificent backdrops and responsive controls. The ten-fighter roster contains some memorable characters including Ivy the sexy vixen, the blindfolded freak Voldo, the ninja assassin Taki, and the hulking Nightmare with his "winking" sword. Each character possesses a distinct weapon and fighting style. Calibur's gameplay is remarkably deep, incorporating a guard move, "soul charges", throws, side-steps, and eight-way directional movement. The battles are quite a spectacle. It's possible to knock a fighter out of the "ring" for an easy victory, but that's pretty rare. I find it amusing how you can continue to whack away at an opponent after he's been defeated. It's also a great opportunity to talk trash, like "How (whack!) many (whap!) times (kapow!) have I told you (bam!) to take out (thunk!) that (thwack!) damn (bap!) trash
! (bonk!)" Soul Calibur's lush backgrounds appear almost photo-realistic, and a high quality orchestrated soundtrack contributes to the game's epic scope. If there's one thing that's annoying about this game, it's the idiotic dialogue. "Ivy was seriously wounded, but the soul still burns!" What the [expletive] does that mean
exactly? Soul Calibur features brief load times, an assortment of unlockable items, and a number of playing modes. I especially enjoy "Mission Battle", which spices up the action with diverse objectives for each round. Soul Calibur is a truly a great fighter that's managed to withstand the test of time. It may be old, but the soul still burns! Whatever that means! © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Acclaim (2000)
Rating: Mature (comic mischief, strong language)
It's not fair to dismiss South Park Rally as a collection of crass poop and fart jokes, because you'd be forgetting about the vomit
. This cell-shaded racer contains all of the gross humor and political incorrectness the series is known for, but its gameplay sucks
beyond words. Navigating the menus generates fart noises, and sadly, this is the highlight of the game. The fact that South Park Rally is rated "Mature" is irony of the highest magnitude. Most kart racers are simple by nature, but Rally goes out of its way to needlessly complicate everything. This may be the single most confusing racing game in existence. Most of the track layouts look like spaghetti, and you're forced to hit scattered numbered checkpoints in order
. This makes completing a single lap feel like an absolute chore!
The steering is fine, but collisions often turn you the wrong way, and getting back on track is a pain. Some stages take a break from racing to offer tantalizing challenges like the chance to fight over Cartman's dirty underwear. In the Valentine's Day stage you must collect bow and arrow icons and then shoot the other players. The problem is, the mob converges on you before you ever get a chance to take aim. It seems like each stage degenerates into a chaotic mess. The courses run through uninteresting locales like a farmyard and sewer, and even the amusement park
is boring. Having holiday-themed stages is a good concept that's totally wasted here. The weapons are more incomprehensible than they are irreverent. The hooker gives other drivers herpes, the taco unleashes explosive diarrhea, and a "spooky vision" clouds your opponent's view with digitized images of Saddam Hussein. That last weapon might be a little more funny if the guy wasn't dead! Some weapons are so ineffective that you can't even tell if you used them
or not. A lot of repetitive, unfunny voice samples are heard during each race like "I'll kick your ass!" South Park fans may be mildly amused by the game's wacky themes, but for everyone else, this kart-racer is about as fun as irritable bowel syndrome
. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (2000)
It's the 25th century, the earth is being invaded by aliens, and only a drop-dead gorgeous reporter named Ulala can save the planet - by shaking her booty. Yes, this game is WAY over the top. Anyone who loved Parappa the Rapper or Bust A Groove (both for Playstation) will feel right at home with this one. Ulala dances through five retro-futuristic stages that include spaceports, asteroid belts, psychedelic tunnels, and plenty of surprises. The colorful, whimsical graphics are almost wild enough to distract you from your dance moves. The music is catchy, but unlike Bust A Groove, the tunes take a backseat to the gameplay. The aliens will perform a set of moves, and you need to mimic them - exactly (including pauses). There are only 6 moves: up, down, left, right, "shoot alien", and "save human". That's not a lot, but the moves need to be executed in real time. Any humans you save will follow you through the remainder of the stage. Ulala has plenty of style, sex appeal, and a new outfit for each level. Space Channel 5 is a very stylish game with addicting gameplay. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Spawn: In the Demon's Hand
Publisher: Capcom (2000)
Rating: Mature (animated violence, animated blood)
I have fond memories of watching Spawn in the theater with friends George, Steve, and Brendan back in 1997. It was pretty cool at the time, but a recent DVD viewing revealed the film has not aged well. Its once-mind-blowing special effects look a little cheesy these days, and the rest of the film is marginal. Still, it made me want to give Spawn for the Dreamcast a try. This game's intro features heavy metal music playing over grainy full-motion video - two relics of a bygone age. Instead of a beat-em-up style adventure (as I expected) Spawn is just a series of free-for-all battles in dreary, confined areas. The entire premise is flawed, since it relegates Spawn to being just another character caught up in the fray. It's actually possible for Spawn and Al Simmons (his human incarnation) to fight in the same contest, which makes no sense. You get a choice of arcade and tournament modes, with the main difference being one is timed and the other is point-based. Up to four players can participate via split-screen, and the CPU controls any extra characters. Players will immediately notice that the Dreamcast controller is not
conducive to this style of 3D mayhem. The analog stick is not supported, forcing you to use the digital pad to move. Enemies tend to be out of view, forcing you to constantly reposition the camera. Unfortunately, your camera control is limited to pressing the Y button to re-center it behind you. The drab stages have uninspired names like dark alley, secret sewer, forest of gloom, wasteland, path to wasteland, labyrinth 1, labyrinth 2, etc. Navigating the stages is confusing, especially when moving through doorways to new areas. The shooting and melee action is mind-numbing. Half the time you don't know what's shooting you or what you're shooting at (if anything). The CPU players are so dumb you can often sit back and unload on them from a distance as they pound on each other into oblivion. Spawn is a waste of a license. After suffering through this, my friend Scott asked me to put in another game immediately so he could "get the taste of Spawn out of his mouth." © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Ubisoft (1999)
Speed Devils is an exceptional Dreamcast racer - certainly more interesting that Sega Rally or Sega GT. You get eleven shiny hot-rod cars and twelve gorgeous tracks, which do a fine job of showcasing different seasons, weather conditions, and times of day. The Hollywood track is a bit dull (except for an occasional blocky monster), but the Aspen Winter track is beautiful, and the Louisiana Tornado track is awesome. Speed Devils has all the standard modes, including arcade, championship, and two-player split screen, and you can fully customize the race and track conditions. Handling is good, but the lack of a power slide makes it tough to navigate sharp turns. There are no power-ups or weapons, but the cars are equipped with turbo boosts. You really can't ask for much more from a racing game. My main complaint is that they forgot to include the controls in the instruction manual, although they did include a diagram telling you where the X button is, where the A button is, etc. Like I couldn't just look on the controller to see that! For you modem junkies, there's an on-line version of this game available as well. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Activision (2000)
It's been years since there's been a good Spiderman video game, but Activision has done a commendable job of bringing the web slinger into the world of 3D. First impressions mean a lot, so when I heard that classic Spiderman theme song play during the title screen, I was pretty psyched up. The cut-scenes are a bit grainy, but the in-game graphics are beautiful and smooth. Thanks to a well-designed control scheme, swinging between buildings is easy and fun. Although you get about 20 different attacks in all, they're all just slight variations on the basic kick/punch/web moves. The thugs look great, and the villains include Scorpion, Rhino, and Venom. Finely detailed, they even look impressive up close. The buildings are huge and imposing, but since rendering the streets below would have been too demanding on the hardware, the storyline conveniently begins with Venom flooding the streets with a mysterious yellow haze. Since Spiderman can crawl on any wall or ceiling, Activision used transparent surfaces and changing camera angles to keep the action in perspective. They did a fair job overall, although I did occasionally become disoriented, causing Spiderman to crawl in the wrong direction. But let's face it, few 3D games have a perfect camera system, and this game is especially demanding. The basic gameplay is involving and fun, as you swing from building to building beating the crap out of the bad guys. In some ways, the gameplay reminded me of the classic Genesis Spiderman game. The voice acting is expertly done, including narration by Stan Lee, and bonus features include different Spiderman costumes, level select, and an artwork gallery. This is the game Spiderman fans have been waiting for. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Spirit of Speed 1937
Publisher: LJN (1999)
There's something ironic about staring at the words "Spirit of Speed" on the screen while the slowest load meter known to mankind crawls across the bottom. Man, this game takes so long to load that it even rivals the Electronic Arts sports games (THAT'S bad!), and it's really not worth the wait. In fact, Spirit of Speed is so bad that it made me laugh out loud. Apparently, this is an "old-time" racing game, with cars from 1937 that look like hot dogs with big skinny wheels. The driver sitting in the middle of that thing looks ridiculous! There is very little speed to be found in this game, much less the spirit of it. The exotic courses aren't bad looking, but navigating through them is a chore. The cars don't handle well, and you can expect ear-splitting screech noises as you round each turn. And where's the frickin' two-player mode!! C'mon, what's a racing game without a two-player mode!? You won't be able to turn off this game fast enough. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (2001)
Where did this game come from? I seemed to come out of nowhere, but I like the concept behind it. Sports Jam plays like Track and Field, but the twelve events are taken from popular team sports. For example, the baseball event is a homerun derby contest, and the basketball entry is a three-point shoot-out. Tennis challenges you to hit targets on the other side of the court, and golf offers "closest to the pin" and putting contests. Soccer has corner kick and long shot challenges, and for hockey there's a puck shooting and a goalie event. Football has "touchdown dash" and field goal kicking games. Finally, there's a cycling contest, which seems oddly out of place. Variety is the name of this game, and the graphics are slick and polished. An obnoxious announcer hosts the festivities, and like most Olympic-style games, each event is preceded with some quick instructions. The controls are simple - sometimes too simple, and the quality of the events is uneven. I could play the tennis, golf, and field goal events all day, but the touchdown and cycling games are shallow, carpool-tunnel inducing button mashers. Still, the split-screen head-to-head action is undeniably fun. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Star Wars Demolition
Publisher: Activision (2000)
Rating: Teen (13+)
Being a die-hard Star Wars fan, I picked up this piece of junk without giving it a second thought. However, had I scrutinized the packaging I would have noticed this ominous warning: "From the creators of Vigilante 8: 2nd Offense". That game sucked
big time, and this is basically the same repackaged crap, only with Star Wars window dressing. That's really sad, because Star Wars provides all the characters, vehicles, weapons, and battlefields you'd ever need for a kick-ass vehicle combat game. Demolition's vehicle selection includes a landspeeder, snowspeeder, AT-ST, and battle tank. You can also play as Boba Fett in a jetpack or the hulking Rancor monster (from Return of the Jedi). Two things I cannot fault are Demolition's graphics and sound. The battlegrounds provide a diverse set of environments, including Hoth, Tatooine, Dagobah, Cloud City, Naboo, and the Death Star. The scenery looks attractive and provides plenty of recognizable landmarks and subtle details only Star Wars aficionados will notice. The musical score and sound effects are straight from the movies, so they're pretty good. Once you get past the presentation and begin delving into the gameplay, numerous problems surface, particularly with regard to the weapons. Your default laser weapon is practically useless, and all too often you get stuck with the ultra-annoying "tractor beam" weapon. The thermal detonators, which work like mines, are also a real drag. In general, it's far too difficult and time-consuming to destroy other vehicles, and you can't even determine if an opponent is taking damage! Making matters worse, shield repair portals can be found all over the freakin' place. Don't be surprised if after spending ten minutes wearing down your opponent, he enters a portal and reappears good as new! Did I mention that the control is horrendous? Star Wars Demolition totally sucks, and it's even more upsetting when you realize how good this game could
have been. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Star Wars: Episode One Racer
Publisher: LucasArts (2000)
When Episode One Racer was released for the Nintendo 64, it was a real treat for Star Wars fans. This new Dreamcast version looks slightly
better, but the gameplay is exactly
the same, giving me the worse case of Deju vu ever
. Racer lets you relive the exciting pod-race sequence from the Phantom Menace, and the smooth, detailed graphics put you right into the driver's seat. There are 21 spectacular courses spread over eight unique worlds, and a wide variety of drivers and vehicles to choose from. The illusion of speed is effective, and the game does a fine job of capturing the spirit of the film. But is it worth the upgrade if you already own the N64 version? No. In fact, unless you compared both versions side-to-side, you'd never be able to tell the difference. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Star Wars: Jedi Power Battles
Publisher: LucasArts (2000)
This outstanding title lets two players assume the role of Jedi Knights, hacking their way through creatures and environments inspired by the Phantom Menace. Although a "twitch" game at heart, there are some interesting defensive techniques and "Force powers" to spice up the action. This is the kind of game Star Wars junkies have been longing for since Super Return of the Jedi (SNES, 1993). Jedi Battles for the Dreamcast also represents a dramatic
improvement over the Playstation edition, which was quite good in its own right. Having played the Playstation version immediately before trying this one, I can say it doesn't even look like the same game! The graphics here are sharper and brighter, and objects are significantly larger. And not only is this version easier on the eyes, but it's more fun as well. LucasArts may have realized how frustrating the Playstation version could be, and made this one far more forgiving. The control scheme is superb, using the analog stick to run and the digital control to walk (with precision). You'll even discover playing modes you won't find on the Playstation version, like a training mode and a two-player versus. Jedi Power Battles for the Dreamcast is outstanding - one of my favorite Star Wars titles. I'd even recommend this if you already have the Playstation version. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Street Fighter III Double Impact
Publisher: Capcom (2000)
It's amazing how little the Street Fighter series has changed over the years. Sure the graphics and animation get slightly refined with each iteration, and extra little meters and moves are constantly added and taken away. But the basic gameplay has remained pretty much the same as it was ten years ago. Street Fighter III wasn't a runaway hit at the arcades, and I think a big reason for this was the drastic change in the character lineup. Except for Ken and Ryu, all the characters are new, and most are unappealing or derivative. Oro is an ugly, 140 year old, one-armed hermit. Necro is a big-nosed rubber man with moves similar to Dhalsim. Elena and Urien are scantily clad female body builder-types. Hugo is an Andre the Giant look-alike who plays like Zangief. Dudley is an English boxer who plays like Balrog. You get the idea. Despite the new faces, there's little innovation to be found. On the bright side, the backgrounds are pure Capcom: brilliantly colorful, detailed, exotic, and always entertaining. And they even change between rounds. You'll also be glad to know that there's minimal loading time in this game. Technically, there are two versions of SFIII on this disk, but the second one is actually just an extended version of the first. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Street Fighter III Third Strike
Publisher: Capcom (2000)
Capcom is infamous for constantly releasing incremental versions of its Street Fighter series, and many fans were mad when the third incarnation of Street Fighter III was not included on the Street Fighter III Double Impact package. No question about it, Capcom is milking this thing for all it's worth, but in its defense, Third Strike is quite a bit different from the first two Street Fighter III games. The intro features beautiful hand drawings of the fighters and some decent rap music as well. The game itself features an impressive roster of 19 fighters, including Darkman look-alike "Q", the shape-changing "Twelve", a burnout named "Remy", and the return of both Chun Li (!) and Akuma. And remember in the original Street Fighter II when you had to destroy a car? Well this is 2001, so you have to smash up an SUV instead! The controls are responsive as you would expect and the animation is impressive. This is one beautiful game. The backgrounds don't change between rounds, but they look more scenic and photographic than ever before. Loading time is practically non-existent. A brand new feature is that you are graded after each match. This is an awesome 2D fighter. If you enjoyed SFIII Double Impact, don't hesitate to pick up Third Strike. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Infogrames (2000)
Striker Pro 2000 has substantial depth but can't get the action on the field quite right. This is a more realistic brand of soccer than Virtua Striker 2
(Dreamcast, 1999), following in the footsteps of EA's FIFA games. The camera is pulled way back, giving you a nice wide angle of the action. Selected players are clearly indicated by colorful circles, but the player you control can change unexpectedly. The action on the field is smooth but passing is tricky. In fact, sometimes it's best to just head straight up the sideline by yourself. During free kicks and corner kicks you'll position a translucent arc to execute your kick with precision. A pair of British commentators provide spirited commentary, and they act like every save is the best one they've ever seen. And there's no shortage of saves because the goalies get their hands on everything
. It's really unnatural how they can lunge ten feet to snare a rocket of a shot, and that's demoralizing. As in Virtua Striker 2 (the other
Dreamcast soccer game), Striker Pro inexplicably forces you to use the D-pad to control your players. The analog stick is used to change formations on-the-fly via the VMU. Hey, shouldn't these functions be reversed? Striker Pro 2000 supports up to four players, and I'll give the game props for at least trying
to make use of the VMU. It's not a standout soccer title but on the Dreamcast this is probably as good as it gets. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Red Spot Games (2013)
Is Red Spot Games trying to impress
me? Well... it's working!
This slick side-scrolling shooter borrows elements from old favorites like Gradius
(NES, 1986) and Axelay (SNES, 1992), while adding a slew of fresh new features. Sturmwind looks awesome. Some might compare its graphics to the Xbox 360, but you could argue they are better!
In addition to an arcade mode, a "normal" mode lets you begin on any stage you've unlocked, and there are 16 incredible stages in all. The industrial stage features molten lava and massive iron walls that seem to transform as you fly past them. Frightening shadows are cast on the walls of the cave stage, and colossal radar dishes dominate the snow stage. The basic controls consist of a rapid-fire shot, a charged shot, and bombs. The action is satisfying and rarely overwhelming. You can toggle between three weapons and power up each to three degrees. Blue shots travel in an unusual arc that protects you from nearby foes. The red shot can be aimed in all directions, which is useful for enemies approaching from above or below. Your green shot is concentrated and narrow, and it's your most powerful weapon. You also have the option of directing your fire forward or backward. You can't really gain a true appreciation for Sturmwind until you learn how to effectively toggle the weapons and their directions in the heat of battle. When a bonus message appears in the center of the screen, you can actually shoot the text
for an added bonus! That's just crazy. You might also spot some humorous objects like a snowman on a glacier or a soccer ball rolling through the depths. My main complaint is how it's sometimes hard to determine what part of the layered scenery can hurt you. More often than not I guessed wrong. Missiles often scale in from the background and occasionally blend into their surroundings. Fortunately taking a hit just reduces your weapon level. The end-of-stage bosses don't overstay their welcome, and these behemoths include a rampaging octopus, a hideous face, and a mech that seems borrowed from Axelay. The audio effects are understated but the sloshing sounds in the water stages are amazing. The soundtrack doesn't really stand out, but it does have a hypnotic vibe that helps you get into a zone. High scores are saved with your name. Extra features include accomplishments and unlockable concept art. Heck, Sturmwind even comes with a nice instruction manual printed on quality stock!
The developers of this game should be proud of their work, which exhibits great artistry and outstanding production values. Sturmwind is what happens when modern know-how and classic fun collide. BOOM!
© Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Interplay (2000)
Rating: Teen (mild animated violence)
This rare Dreamcast racer lets you cruise freely around San Francisco while embarking on a series of timed missions. For a game that didn't get much press, this isn't half bad. If nothing else, Super Runabout does a nice job of modeling the actual city of San Francisco. Having visited the town several times, I found it easy to navigate the streets to locate distinctive landmarks like the Transamerica Pyramid, Lombard Street (the world's most crooked), and the Fisherman's Wharf - complete with sunbathing seals! Certain parts of town look a bit sparse, but most include some traffic and pedestrians. I noticed some pop-up issues with buildings in the distance, but nothing too offensive. You select from two storylines, each of which offer a series of harrowing missions, including chasing down vehicles, disarming bombs, or collecting condiments (that's right - ketchup and mustard). The game tries to maintain a whimsical tone throughout, and one story stars a cop clearly modeled after Dennis Rodman - complete with orange hair and basketball. Super Runabout encourages wonton destruction, so as you zoom down the streets don't hesitate to take out every mailbox or hot dog stand in sight. It's especially satisfying to plow through a busy Chinatown or subway station. It sounds like Crazy Taxi, but Runabout's physics are more realistic and less forgiving. Many vehicles handle very poorly, but you can build up some serious speed on the straight-aways. You have the option of viewing a replay after each mission, and unlike most games, they're actually a lot of fun to watch! The audio is probably the weakest aspect of the game. The folksy background music loops ad nauseum, and some of the cars sound more like vacuum cleaners. Super Runabout lacks the polish and addictiveness of Crazy Taxi, but it isn't a bad title if you can pick it up for a reasonable price. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Surf Rocket Racers
Publisher: Crave (2000)
I've been waiting for Dreamcast jet-ski game like this for a while. I've always been a big fan of water racers like Waverace (N64) and Hydro Thunder (DC). My biggest problem with many of these games is that the tracks are too narrow (like Jet Moto), forcing you to struggle just to stay on the course. Thankfully, Surf Rocket Racers delivers 15 wide-open courses taking you to the Bahamas, New York, Greece, and the Amazon. Unfortunately, the graphics are pretty lackluster, and certainly a big step down from Hydro Thunder. The scenery is static and lacks detail, and the Amazon jungle looks particularly bad. The water effects are hardly convincing, and there's minimal splashing. Gameplay is similar to Hydro Thunder, but without turbo boosts and short cuts, resulting in races that are pretty boring. Even flying off Niagara Falls seems ho-hum. On the positive side, control is good, and you can use a steering wheel controller. But overall, Surf Rocket Racers is weak and forgettable. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Suzuki Alstare Extreme Racing
Publisher: Ubisoft (1999)
This is a solid, if unspectacular, motorcycle racer for the Dreamcast. Suzuki Alstare has more of an arcade vibe than realistic racers like Sega GT and Sega Rally 2. Its twelve diverse courses are easy on the eyes, with locations like tropical beaches, snowy mountains, and rolling green orchards. There's even a New York City night track with winding freeways and skyscrapers illuminating the background. The frame-rate is excellent, so you'll enjoy a nice smooth ride. The analog steering is sensitive but well-suited to the windy tracks, allowing you to turn on a dime. Your turbo button initiates a wheelie, so you'll want to reserve that for straight-aways (which are few). Suzuki Alstare is rather forgiving, and I often found myself bouncing off walls or riding over embankments instead of crashing. An addictive tournament mode puts you up against CPU competitors, and a split-screen two-player mode is also available. The split-screen graphics are much degraded with ample draw-in, but hey, it's better than nothing. There's a lot to like about Suzuki Alstare. When you crash, your driver is ejected from the bike, and it's especially hilarious when he goes flying over a cliff. After crashing the game almost immediately puts you back on track, so there are no lulls in the action. In split-screen mode, a helpful indicator across the middle of the screen indicates the distance to the finish. My main gripe is how tracks tend to be excessively curvy. The New York track contains far too many right angles and U-turns. My friend Scott insists that "curves are what motorcycle games are all about!" What-ever!
The tracks are inconsistent in length, and the longer ones tend to wear out their welcome. If there are any shortcuts to be found, they are well concealed. Ubi Soft didn't put much effort into soundtrack, which consists of sparse beats droning in the background. Suzuki Alstare Extreme is a little uneven, but I found myself attracted to its arcade graphics and pick-up-and-play style. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Sword of the Berserk: Guts Rage
Publisher: Eidos (2000)
Rating: Mature 17+
Despite the idiotic name, this game is alright! After witnessing this game's gorgeous graphics and sound, it may be tough to enjoy my Playstation again. Unlike most games which feature short intermissions between long action stages, Sword of the Berserk has short action levels between long (10-15 min) movie quality clips. Fortunately the medieval-Resident Evil style story is so compelling that you won't mind sitting back and just watching half the game. The graphics are fantastic, and the voice acting sounds professional, but is that flying elf really necessary? Does every story have to have some kind of comic relief? Your character is equipped with special weapons like grenades and a crossbow, but you'll take out most of your anger with your six-foot sword! Its sheer size allows you to take out several baddies at once, but on the downside, it tends to get caught up in tight hallways. Gameplay mainly involves hacking everything to bits. It's mindlessly fun, and there are over 30 freaky monsters and bosses. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Eidos (2000)
I usually enjoy Olympic-style games, but Eidos faltered badly with Sydney 2000. Its twelve selectable events including sprint, hurdle, hammer, javelin, triple jump, high jump, swimming, diving, kayak, weight lifting, cycling, and skeet shooting. The controls are consistent across most events, tapping the "power buttons" to build speed before pressing the action button with perfect timing. It's nice not having to sit through tedious tutorials, but Sydney 2000 is still quite the ordeal. The colored indicators used to identify the players confusing, and I competed in my first event thinking I was another guy! The process for setting the height/weight target in high jump and weight lifting is painfully iterative. Go for the world record to save yourself the aggravation. The swimming event unfolds in slow motion, and the controls for the diving event are far too simplistic. In the hammer throw, it's too hard to keep that thing in-bounds. In skeet shooting player two has a huge advantage, as he can see exactly where the shots will be fired ahead of time. The cycling event makes absolutely no sense, and the kayaking is an abomination!
Even the scenery looks bad. During the diving competition, the stands seem to extend back for miles!
The button-mashing gameplay takes its toll on your hands, so you'll be grateful when it's over. Adding insult to injury, your hard-fought records are not even saved to VMU! The one-player "Olympic mode" tries to add some depth, but its "training regimen" is just more painful button mashing. And if you want to save your progress in that you'll need a whopping 64 VMU blocks! The game has a soothing, rhymtic soundtrack but it's little consolation. I suspect Sydney 2000 may have been rushed, because this game is a mess. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 9432
1 to 4 players
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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, Gaming Age Online, Shinforce, Sega.com, Racket Boy, Wikipedia, GameSpot
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