FIFA International Soccer
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1993)
Considering it was the very first FIFA title, International Soccer is impressive. My buddy George purchased this back in the day, and although most of my friends were not soccer fans, we still had fun with this. FIFA International contains teams representing 49 countries. Ron Barr introduces each contest with some quick tidbits as you're treated to a panoramic view of the stadium. Once the action begins the field is rendered with an isometric view that shows a limited but sufficiently large section of the field. The players look small and fuzzy. It's a treat to see headers, back-kicks, and bicycle kicks, but they don't happen often enough. The basic controls let you pass, shoot, or lob the ball. While not in possession of the ball, tapping the C button gives you a highly-effective speed burst. Passes tend to be weak, forcing you to use the shoot button to execute a long pass or clear the ball. The gameplay is remarkably similar to real soccer. It's not easy to maintain possession, and when the ball gets in close proximity to the goal, the action gets really exciting! After a score your player will perform celebratory slides and flips. One funny aspect of the game is how goalies rarely make easy saves. Instead, they usually perform stretched-out, diving two-handed grabs as the crowd lets out a collective gasp. When this happens for a slow roller, it's unintentionally hilarious. The digitized chants are amazing but the crowd noise is unpleasant due to low audio quality and static. FIFA is surprisingly deep, allowing for adjustments of coverage, strategies, and formations. Want more goals? Just set the game type to "action" instead of simulation. FIFA International Soccer was originally packaged with EA's four-way-play, a small device which allows up to four people to play at once. The game also boasts a 60-page manual and a password-backed league option. This is a quality title, and the fact that casual players can enjoy FIFA International Soccer proves how great it is. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Password
1 to 4 players
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1994)
FIFA 95 capitalizes on the solid gameplay of the original FIFA International Soccer
(Electronic Arts, 1994) while applying some much-needed polish and a little razzle dazzle. The players are much sharper and the field appears less grainy. There are ads along the sidelines, making this one of the first video games to contain advertisements. The animation is noticeably smoother and faster. You'll see a lot more headers and bicycle kicks, and they are far more emphatic. Passes travel much farther, making ball control easier. There's even a nifty give-and-go play. On the downside, the ball has an annoying tendency to ricochet between players like a pinball. Long shots tend to "bend" which is quite pleasing to the eye. Defense can be problematic because the steal and switch-player functions are assigned to the same button. When tackled, players will writhe around on the ground in pain. Soccer players are such drama queens! Unlike the first game, the clock is displayed in the upper left corner at all times. The goalies have additional animations, and it's especially fun to see their reactions during shootouts. Upon scoring a goal, pressing buttons allows you to initiate digitized audio clips including fireworks and horns. But it's the ability to stretch out the obligatory "GOOOOOAL!" call that might be the highlight of the entire game. The crowd noise is not perfectly clear but sounds a heck of a lot better than the first game. With solid gameplay and over 200 authentic teams, FIFA Soccer 95 is pretty much everything you could hope for from a second-year franchise. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Battery
1 to 4 players
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1995)
Watching the World Cup in Brazil has inspired me to look back on my old FIFA games which have held up extremely well. As the third game in the long-running series, FIFA 96 marked a major step forward in terms of realism. The motion-captured players look better and take longer, smoother strides. On the downside, they tend to all look the same and seem to have less personality. The goal nets look more realistic, but I prefer the well-defined look of the old games over the new "saggy" look. Goalies are dressed in different colored outfits to set them apart on the field. Passing feels accurate, but players have an annoying tendency to change direction before receiving a pass. I really like how there are more rebounds off the goalies, allowing for more scoring chances. In terms of audio, the crowd chants have been re-recorded so they sound very clear. The problem is, the chants don't blend in with the general crowd noise, and actually sound like they belong in a different game!
Another flaw is how the screen "blacks out" before goal kicks and throw in plays. I have no idea why the designers did that, but it's annoying as hell! The game also seems to have its share of bugs, as my friend Brent discovered when he tried to throw in the ball and threw it into the stands instead. FIFA 96 was the first in the series to use real player names, and 237 teams are represented. Die-hard soccer fans will appreciate the increased realism and can probably bump up the grade by a letter. Those who played the previous games however are likely to detect a slight dip in the fun factor. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Battery
1 to 4 players
Publisher: Sega (1991)
I'm can't believe it took me this long to review a Genesis title as common as Fantasia. I remember seeing this lining the shelves of used game shops back in the day, and now I know why. This is one of the most inept platformers ever made. I can't fathom how it could turn out so badly considering the artfully-crafted Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse
(Sega, 1990), released a year before. Fantasia puts Mickey in the role of sorcerer's apprentice, wielding spells and pouncing on animated objects like brooms and flying books. Fantasia suffers from just about every design flaw you could come up with. You could just go right down the list ticking off the boxes. Platforms blend into the scenery. Foreground objects like chains and bottles obstruct your vision. Sound effects are muddled. When you collide with enemies it's not obvious who took damage. Poor platform placement makes it impossible to land squarely on a ledge without touching whatever is patrolling it. The controls are laggy as hell, and you won't realize the extent of the problem until you try leaping between moving platforms. Press the jump button and by the time Mickey responds both platforms are already moving away from each other. Even if you land squarely on your target, half the time you fall through it anyway. To defeat enemies you have to push down to put Mickey into "pounce mode", yet there's no audio or visual cue to distinguish this from a normal jump. Spells are effective but they run out immediately, so what's the point? Fantasia becomes a battle of attrition as you stumble through castles and swamps while absorbing mandatory hits from all sides. If the game didn't heap on free lives at every turn, no one would ever finish it. To its credit, the opening scene features some nice "Phantom of the Opera" organ music, and stage two serves up a gorgeous vision of Cinderella's castle glistening in the night sky. But any signs of Disney charm are fleeting at best. Fantasia is a wretched game that squanders a primo license and illustrates just how bad a platformer can be. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: easy
Our high score: 56,900
Publisher: Sega (1991)
Contributed by scotland of the RPG Crew
On the outskirts of a nondescript medieval town an ominous castle rises up to cast a nefarious shadow. Armed with a tiny knife you are foolish enough to enter the castle on a one-way journey to bring back the light. Fatal Labyrinth is a basic dungeon crawler that harkens back to a form of turn-based hack-and-slash goodness tabletop gamers enjoy. It's Rogue-like in design with randomized floor plans and unpredictable magic item effects. This random element elevates the replay value, and that's important because death is permanent and requires restarting. Experience makes your character more formidable, but more critical to success are weapons and armor you find abandoned on the floor. A kick-ass weapon can ease your troubles considerably. You can only carry so much however, and there are times you litter enough to make Iron Eyes Cody cry. Turn-based combat is initiated by bumping into monsters. Should you find yourself surrounded be prepared to take more whacks than Lizzie Borden's father. Consequently, fighting in doorways is a trademark of this game. As in Gauntlet your warrior requires food for sustenance, but keep an eye on your portion control or you'll be bumbling about like your bloated uncle after Thanksgiving dinner. Food doesn't heal directly but provides you with more turns to catch your breath and restore hit points. While exploring dungeons you'll contend with pits, alarms, and relentless monsters. Stairs lead you to the next level, but don't use them until you fully explore the current floor. Monsters become more menacing with each level and ascending too soon can be fatal. Fatal Labyrinth can have a happy ending, but like a good arcade game it's really the journey that counts. Ironically your success is measured by the quality of your funeral. Leisurely-paced with simple mechanics and randomly-generated levels, Fatal Labyrinth represents a different kind of fun. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: None
Publisher: Treco (1992)
I've seen my share of sorry-assed fighting games over the years, but Fighting Masters lowers the bar to alarming depths. How low? Bubsy the Cat
over this friggin' bar! That's low
, people. I knew I was in for a perfectly miserable time when I witnessed that horrible title screen with its seizure-inducing lightning flashes and cringe-worthy thunder effects. Fighting Masters is a case of someone trying to cash in on the one-on-one fighting craze of the early 90's. Its controls are minimal, the characters are embarrassing, and the stages are devoid of detail. The fighters are a weird hodgepodge of humans and monsters including a crab monster (Zygrunt), a guy with an elephant head (Mastodon), and a miniature Easter Island statue (Goldrick). The boring stages typically place the fighters in front of a stone wall or a plain red building. The controls are extremely shallow, utilizing only two buttons!
That's right - the A button isn't even used!
You are pretty much limited to jump attacks which involve one fighter grabbing the other, jumping a mile in the air, and body-slamming his opponent to the ground. It's hard to tell who's taking the brunt of the damage as matches degenerate into repetitive slam-fests. The physics is best described as hilarious
and pitiful collision detection will have you taking hits from unseen forces. The game doesn't even bother keeping score, and it doesn't need to, because when a gamer plays Fighting Masters, we all lose.
© Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Dreamworks (1990)
Fire Shark is a turbo-charged version of the arcade game 1942. This highly regarded shooter certainly delivers in terms of sheer firepower and number of enemies. Your biplane is swarmed by dozens of enemy forces from the air, ground, and sea. Fortunately, your powerful guns are up to the task, and you also have a supply of devastating bombs. The bombs take out a large area, and you can time their detonation by holding the deploy button. There are three types of weapons, and each can be powered-up to an insane degree. Fireshark is a shooter lover's shooter. The action is fast and furious with no hint of slowdown. The graphics are a little weak, especially the desert and water backgrounds, but the animation is smooth and flicker-free. Fire Shark is a little on the easy side, mainly because the power-ups bounce around the screen until you catch them. It's cool how your plane catches fire when hit, allowing you to get off a few extra shots before going down. This one's a winner. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 122150
Publisher: US Gold (1993)
In 1995 Flashback was billed as a "CD ROM game in a cartridge" and it really does live up to that description! Cutting-edge for its time, this science-fiction adventure incorporates life-like animation and cinematic cut-scenes. Back in the day I loved showing off the dramatic opening sequence to my friends, and frankly it's still a lot of fun to watch. Flashback is a sophisticated platformer with a serious tone and a "shades of Blade Runner" storyline. On a quest to find your identity, you begin in a lush jungle before visiting "New Washington" and other futuristic locations. The layered scenery is amazing. You move between contiguous screens while collecting items, disabling traps, and shooting mutants. The game tries to be realistic, so you don't actually see
the bullets when you fire your gun. Your character sneaks, runs, and grabs ledges with fluid motion. There's a lot of emphasis on stealth and item manipulation, so a slow, deliberate approach works best. If I had to knock this game for anything, it would be the control scheme. It's not particularly intuitive, and it can be tedious and frustrating to the novice player. The three buttons are overloaded with functions and it really takes a lot of practice to perform basic moves like running jumps. The level designs are unforgiving, and the first few screens will demoralize all but the most determined player. I hate how my guy will overlap with an enemy, so we're both firing and nobody's hitting anyone. The difficulty actually eases up as you progress, so hang in there. The musical score is sparse but effective, adding a layer of atmosphere and tension. Flashback was a groundbreaking title, and if you can survive the initial learning curve you're in for a compelling journey. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Password
Publisher: Sega (1989)
In this side-scrolling shooter one or two players control musclemen in jetpacks. Forgotten Worlds employs a strange control scheme I've never seen before and hopefully will never see again. Two buttons allow you to rotate 360 degrees in either direction as enemies converge from all directions. It's hard to remember which button turns which way, and sometimes I'll just continuously rotate in one direction, hoping my overwhelming firepower will carry the day. Enabling the auto-fire option is a no-brainer. Mowing down flying lizard men is fun, but those invincible green worms in the water stage are a real pain in the ass. The first boss is some kind of brown orifice, and it's hard to tell if you're inflicting damage. With other bosses like the gold dragon, you won't even know where you're supposed to shoot! The graphics lack detail, perhaps because this was such an early Genesis title. The post-apocalyptic, partly-submerged city looks interesting, but most of the stages are just plain dull. Occasionally you'll encounter a shop where you can purchase weapons, power-ups, armor, extra lives, and hints. The shopkeeper is an innocent-looking blonde chick. Creepy carnival music plays as you peruse weapons like a flamethrower and bouncing shots. I prefer the homing missiles due to my inability to properly aim. The highlight of the game from a visual perspective is the impressively large Samurai robot boss. The soundtrack is okay but sounds like an Indiana Jones rip-off. The two player coop mode is a nice feature, but despite its steady framerate I didn't love it. True to its name, Forgotten Worlds is a unique but not particularly memorable gaming experience. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 79,300
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Sega (1998)
This pleasant surprise arrived at the tail end of the Genesis lifecycle. Frogger was originally released for home systems way back in 1982, but this version is more faithful to the arcade. Frogger's timeless gameplay involves hopping across a crowded five-lane highway and then crossing a treacherous stream of floating logs. The graphics are slightly grainy but bursting with vibrant color. The finely detailed visuals include colorful cars, animated swimming turtles, and motion-captured frog animation
(no, not really). Pleasant tunes play throughout the game (including Yankee Doodle Dandy), and they all have a friendly piano quality. You get five frog lives, and despite the tight controls you'll go through them quickly. The traffic is dense, and if you hop on the very edge of a log, you'll slide right into the water. The screen layout places the vital indicators on the right side, which scrunches the actual game screen a little bit. Maybe that's why the coves on the far side of the river look so narrow. Instructions are displayed when the game is in "attract mode", but there are no options or variations. That's surprising considering several variations were present in the original Atari 2600 version. A two-player mode is available, but you'll need to pass a single controller
back and forth. Now that's what I call lazy programming! Frogger is a little skimpy for a 16-bit title, but its classic gameplay is beyond reproach. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: slow
Our high score: TT 26,740
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Revovation (1990)
This has always been one of my favorite Genesis shooters, despite the fact that I've never been able to pronounce its freakin' name! A conventional side-scrolling space shooter, Gaiares isn't very original but what it does, it does well. Holding down the fire button engages rapid-fire, and your ship is escorted by a round device called a "Toz". Not only does the Toz serve as a shield and an extra cannon, but you can deploy it to capture and equip enemy weapons. The "catch" is that you can't fire when deploying the Toz, leaving you temporarily vulnerable. Each weapon can be powered-up to three levels, and once fully charged, your firepower is awesome. What the graphics lack in detail they compensate for with personality and variety. The attractive layered backgrounds are constantly changing. One moment you'll be hurling through a cloudy atmosphere at break-neck speeds, and the next you'll been navigating the tight corridors of icebergs bobbing in water. Your attackers aren't particularly memorable, but like the backgrounds, they come in a wide variety. The bosses are formidable, and most resemble screen-sized humanoids. The weak spot of the first one is his crotch, which makes a heck of lot of sense if you think about it. The adrenaline-pumping soundtrack is outstanding, and anime cut-scenes are used to flesh out a background story. Gaiares is surprisingly long, and although several continues are provided, you'll probably need a cheat code to reach the end. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 110540
Publisher: Renovation (1991)
Although highly regarded by some, my friends and I are of the opinion that Gain Ground kind of sucks. It's sometimes described as a shooter, but that's being awfully loose with the language. It's more of a slow-moving tactical game designed for two-player cooperation. Played on a single screen, the idea is to methodically eliminate enemy combatants while rescuing prisoners. Each screen offers a new configuration of walls, towers, and rivers. Before each wave you select between several characters, each armed with normal and special attacks. The range of your initial weapon is pitiful - about two inches
! The collision detection is far too exact, so a fire-bomb will need to land directly on an enemy's head
for it to have any effect. On the other hand, if an enemy merely brushes against you it spells instant death. That's a serious problem considering how crowded the screen can get. Gain Ground's gameplay demands a deliberate, cat-and-mouse approach. As you progress through the stages new characters become available and the scenery evolves from prehistoric to futuristic. The concept is neat, but the pacing is downright glacial
. The projectiles move so slowly you can outrun
them. The game is original, but its grind-it-out, tooth-and-nail brand of combat feels like a colossal chore. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: normal
Our high score: SLN 12141
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1992)
Galahad's exciting opening sequence shows a swordsman rushing toward a snarling red dragon, and it really got me psyched up for some medieval platform action. Prior to each stage you're given some vague instructions like "Jump left off the eastern-most cliff to locate the key" Ummm... say what?
The main character looks somewhat cartoonish with his oversized head, but everything else in this game looks great. A horse-drawn carriage helps you reach platforms in the second stage, and it looks amazing. You'll battle goblin archers, knights, giant insects, and ... birds?
I didn't even realize those little red birds were doing damage to me! I thought they were just part of the scenery!
And what's the deal with those barrels? Are they on pogo sticks?
The sword controls are responsive and I like how the swing covers both your back and front. Combat isn't difficult unless you wind up overlapping with an enemy, which can be a frustrating. The collision detection can be erratic and on rare occasions non-existent!
Crisp controls keep the platform jumping fun despite narrow ledges and a few blind "leaps of faith". The majestic scenery consists of castles, ruins, mountains, and shorelines. The detail is wonderful but the colors are muted - as if the game was originally developed for a computer. Despite its flaws I enjoyed the innocent simplicity of Galahad. You can kill everything and treasures are in chests sitting out in the open. The stages are small enough that you can explore without getting lost. You're stocked with plenty of lives, and when you die you resume right where you left off. Galahad has a learning curve, but finding a shop to upgrade your gear will help get you over the hump. It's the one RPG element in what I would generally call an arcade action game. Passwords are provided - but only after every seven stages
. Would getting one after each stage have been asking too much? The background music reflects the time period, and like the rest of the game, it grew on me. Galahad is a little rough around the edges, but once I got the hang of it, it was hard to stop playing. Note: This game would not run on my Genesis model 2 system. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 100,400
Save mechanism: Password
Publisher: Sega (1992)
Galaxy Force II lets you fly through deep space and skim planet surfaces while blasting formations of alien ships. Scaling effects create the illusion of approaching asteroids, ships, and large metal structures. Color rotation is used to convey movement as you glide over flat planet surfaces and navigate rectangular tunnels. The behind-your-ship perspective is very similar to Space Harrier II
(Sega, 1989) and Afterburner II
(Sega, 1990). Your auto-firing pea shooter is worthless, but your lock-on missiles can do some damage. When approaching a group of enemies, positioning your crosshair nearby causes a set of lock-on indicators to appear. Fire quickly to unleash a swarm of heat-seeking missiles that incinerate their targets and leave bright orange explosions in their wake. Galaxy Force II is confusing at times. First, it's hard to tell when you're taking damage. The game ends when your energy is depleted, but how do you recharge? With so many audio and visual prompts, it feels like the game is leading you around by the nose. Still, this sequel is a lot more palatable if you've experienced the sheer awfulness of the original Galaxy Force
(Sega Master System, 1989). At least you can navigate the tunnels in this one. I like the ability to select between five stages, each of which opens with your ship being deployed in a unique manner. It's fun to play for high score because points continuously rack up points in the top corner. The music mainly consists of layered electronic melodies, although the high score screen plays relaxing lounge music to help you unwind. Galaxy Force II isn't a great title, but fans of arcade shooters may want to give it a shot. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 921,200
Publisher: Buena Vista Interactive (1995)
Gargoyle's platform gameplay may not be exceptional, but its graphics will certainly grab your attention. Apparently this is based on a cartoon show from the 90's which I've never even heard of. You control an animated gargoyle who can slash with his claws, slam enemies, perform shoulder charges, crawl on walls, and "flap" to briefly elevate. The first stage takes place in burning castle ruins, and it's one of the best looking stages I've ever witnessed on the Genesis. The degree of detail and masterful use of color is very pleasing to the eye. The crumbling castle walls glow red amidst a pool of flames, and it looks magnificent against the deep blue night sky. Later, you'll explore a modern downtown area with a beautiful parallax-scrolling skyline. Another notable stage takes place in a moving subway train. The single uninspired level is the volcanic cavern, which seems to appear in every platform game. Your gargoyle character is extra large and detailed for a Genesis title. The Vikings you battle in the first stage aren't very distinct, but the shiny robots in later stages look terrific. I enjoyed Gargoyle's brand of wall-busting platform action, but the game really does beat that whole "flap jump" move to death. You often have to "flap and grab" your way up tall structures, and taking a single hit sends you plummeting. Gargoyles fighting action is mediocre. The throw move often doesn't register, leaving you vulnerable to counter attacks. Despite the artistic beauty of its graphics, the game's sparse soundtrack is less memorable. With the exception of some pounding drums, it sounds hokey at times. The sound effects however ring out with a clarity and crispness that you normally don't associate with the Genesis. It's no classic, but Gargoyles is rock-solid platformer with showcase graphics to boot. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Tenden (1993)
The box describes this as a "pixel-perfect conversion" of the original Gauntlet, but don't get too excited yet. Gauntlet is an overhead dungeon crawler best known for its four-player coop. That's right, the arcade game had four sets of controls. The game is played on the left two-thirds of the screen, and a column of information runs along the right with each player's score, health, keys, and potions. Players assume the roles of a warrior, valkyrie, wizard, and elf. Together you face overwhelming hordes of ghosts, wizards, demons, and even Death himself. The key is to destroy the portals that regenerate the monsters. You collect treasure chests, food items, and potions that have the ability to clear the screen. For an arcade conversion, the graphics look grainy. The characters are poorly defined you need to use your imagination. The sound effects are muffled so famous lines like "Elf needs food badly" are really hard to make out. And despite what you might assume, playing with a group doesn't really make your life any easier. Many stages have narrow passages that only allow for one or two players to pass at a time. A faster character will invariably wander off and get separated. It can be a pain to get everyone reunited, but it feels so good
. I found the game more enjoyable when played solo or with one friend. Gauntlet IV does earn extra credit for its wide selection of options and variations. There are all sorts of customizable modes and the game even keeps track of statistics. You might argue Gauntlet has not aged well, but this is may be the definitive console version. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 64,858
Save mechanism: Password
1 to 4 players
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1993)
This action/strategy game is a precursor to the RTS (real-time strategy) titles (like Command and Conquer) that would take the gaming world by storm in the late 90's. General Chaos pits two armies of soldiers (blue and red) in a series of chaotic battles to conquer land area and take over each other's base. Each battlefield is one screen in size, and it's strewn with bunkers and environmental hazards. There's usually a special landmark like a helicopter or water tower that you can blow up as a secondary objective. Your primary goal is to wipe out the enemy squad, and the skirmishes are short and sweet. With five soldiers fighting non-stop on each side, there's a lot of stuff going on around the screen. You customizable squad is composed of soldiers of various classes, including the machine "gunner", the grenade "chucker", the flame-throwing "scorcher", the rocket "launcher", and the dynamite-tossing "blaster". Each has his own range and firepower, giving the game a nice layer of strategy. The controls are unique in that you only position
your troops. They all aim and fire automatically when you hold in the A button. It's fun to watch the action unfold and satisfying to achieve a lop-sided victory, ending with the last enemy troop getting ganged up on. The single-player mode isn't very challenging, but General Chaos kicks into overdrive when it comes to head-to-head action. I originally bought this game because it supported four-players (with EA's adapter), and I was not disappointed. I fondly recall my friend Steve asking, "What a-creege?" after reading the acreage
tally after a battle. After recently revisiting this game with a new group of guys, I can attest that it's still a riot! The frame-rate tends to fluctuate, but there are some classic animations like when a soldier takes a direct hit from a rocket and is transformed a standing skeleton! It's also funny when a hand-to-hand battle ends with the loser pulling out a gun and shooting the other guy. Speaking of hand-to-hand combat, it's the weakest part of the game. Not only is it terribly shallow (just mash buttons to trade punches), it halts the rest of the action and totally disrupts the flow of the game. I really wish that could be turned off. It's also annoying when your soldier won't seem to aim in the proper direction. General Chaos may be a little rough around the edges, but if you get some rowdy guys together to play it, hilarity will ensue. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 68400
1 to 4 players
Publisher: Sega (1990)
When classic gamers hear the word "Ghostbusters", they suffer frightful flashbacks of the mind-numbing 1984 game where you spent most of the game staring at a car. Fortunately, Ghostbusters for the Genesis is a completely different animal, sharing more in common with 16-bit platform-shooters. You play as one of the three original Ghostbusters (Ray, Peter, or Egon), and your character has an oversized head. Ray and Egon look the part, but Peter doesn't look a thing
like Bill Murray. In fact, during cut scenes he looks more like the Emperor
from Star Wars! Creepy! The action begins at the Ghostbusters headquarters where you equip yourself with bombs, special suits, infrared goggles, and Peking Duck (for health - duh!
). Your ability to select between four downtown destinations greatly enhances the game's replay value. Each location is a basically a set of indoor platforms riddled with hazards galore. The designers really went a little overboard with the floating objects, and those bouncing fireballs are especially obnoxious. Bosses (and sub-bosses) assume some intriguing supernatural forms. Especially in the haunted house stage, these ghouls are not only imaginative, but even a little creepy! They take a while to wear down, but at least they change colors to indicate damage. Upon losing a life, your next life picks up exactly where you left off, which is very convenient when you're in the middle of a boss battle. Unfortunately, some stages stray from the theme, pitting you against giant worms or floating eyeballs more appropriate for a Metroid title. When an apartment has ice caverns and a high rise has an octopus, it's clear that the designers went off the deep end. Oh well, it's always a thrill when the Stay Puft Marshmallow man appears. The graphics in this game are excellent, but the music is uneven. The Ghostbusters theme sounds like an strange remix, and some of the music sounds too happy-go-lucky. Despite its flaws, Ghostbusters for the Genesis is a breath of fresh air compared to other versions. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: easy
Our high score: 59000
Ghouls 'N Ghosts
Publisher: Sega (1989)
This superb sequel to Ghosts 'N Goblins
(NES, 1986) plays like a lighthearted medieval romp with a horror movie flavor (think Army of Darkness). Ghouls and Ghosts boasts rich graphics, fantastic playability, and a killer soundtrack. Playing the role of a knight, you must forge through an ever-changing landscape of skeleton-infested graveyards, burning townships, and a castle of evil demons (are there another kind?). You'll face skull-spewing plants, hopping turtles, vomiting trolls, and a towering statue that carries his fireball-spewing head. I love the animations and subtle details in the layered backgrounds. Skeletons peek out from behind trees and feathers fly when you hack a vulture. In the opening stage check out the twisted trees and hanging corpses in the distance. Later a storm moves in and whips the trees around as lightning cracks the sky, creating a terrific atmosphere. Ghouls and Ghosts has tremendous depth as well. Chests reveal weapons, armor, and sometimes a magician who temporarily transforms you into a chicken or an elderly man (Hint: you can kill the magician before he casts his spell). Weapons include knives, axes, swords, a discus that skims the ground, and "fire-water" which deals damage over a wide area. Most weapons have a secondary magic effect triggered by holding down the attack button for several seconds. Taking a hit causes your armor to fall off, and you'll need to scamper around in your boxer shorts until you find a new suit. A rollicking musical score perfectly complements the medieval hijinks. If Ghouls and Ghosts has a flaw, it might be the outrageous difficulty. The section where you have to jump between the tongues of the stone faces is absolute murder!
Even so, the monumental challenge is part of the game's allure. You get unlimited continues, and you may find yourself using most of them into the wee hours of the morning. With the exception of Sonic the Hedgehog, Ghouls and Ghosts is the quintessential Genesis title. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: CJS 18,900
Publisher: Sega (1989)
Golden Axe is a side-scrolling medieval hack-n-slash fighter. One or two players choose between a muscular warrior, a sexy female, or dwarf character. Your eight-stage quest is filled with barbarians, lizard men, skeletons, and little elves who try to steal your supplies. With only one attack button your moves are fairly limited, but other aspects of the game make up for this. Collecting magic pots allows you to cast destructive magic spells. Some enemies ride in on the backs of creatures, and after commandeering one you can perform devastating attacks like the tail whip or fire-breath. After each game the players are rated by performance. Besides the normal arcade mode, there's a duel mode that pits one player against foes of increasing difficulty. ALthough the graphics and sound are plain by today's standards, Golden Axe is a lot of fun to play. A sequel soon followed. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: CJS 102.6
Publisher: Sega (1991)
I really love this game. It surpasses its predecessor in every way, although both play pretty much the same. The same three characters are back (warrior, babe, and dwarf), but the enemies are much more interesting this time around. Skeletons rise from their graves (as if from an old Ray Harryhausen film) and large demonic creatures tower overhead. The graphics are slightly refined, as are the controls. You can now aim left or right when performing throws, adding a bit more strategy. Another new feature is controlling the "strength" of your magic attack. By holding down the magic button for a certain duration, a visual meter displays the degree of carnage you're about to unleash. The medieval scenery looks great and the musical score is first-rate. Golden Axe 2 is fun enough with one player, but the two-player mode is where it really shines. Fans of the first Golden Axe should feel right at home with this one. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 36.3
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Renovation (1990)
If you love Genesis shooters but are weary of the standard formulas, you should try Granada (or as it says on the box, "XGranadaX"). This innovative game is quite enjoyable and unlike anything else I've played. In most shooters your course is predetermined, but in Granada you move a tank freely around a large maze-like area, using a radar screen to locate your targets. Enemies include tanks, cannons, giant rolling pins, and star-shaped space ships. Once you clear a stage, a boss is unleashed, and you can tell that some thought was put into these things. The first one looks like a Tinkertoy spider and it bounces around the screen trying to squash you. The second boss only reveals its vulnerable spot when you stop shooting
, and it took me a while to figure that out. The stages are interesting too, including a huge flying airplane and an elevated city. The graphic quality is just average for a Genesis game, and the sound isn't so hot either. The most unusual aspect of the game is the control scheme that requires you to hold down two buttons at a time. The 'A' button is for rapid fire, 'B' allows you to strafe and 'C' provides your power shot. You'll need to hold down A and B most of the time, and yes, it is awkward. Your power shot looks pretty dinky, but it's extremely effective on bosses. Another interesting aspect is the power-ups. I challenge anyone to find a power-up more innovative than the "deflectors", which are floating disks that allow you to shoot around corners - very cool. Despite its stupid name, Granada is a pleasant surprise that I can recommend to all shooter fans. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 107,453
Greendog The Beached Surfer Dude
Publisher: Sega (1992)
If you enjoy tropical environments, Greendog is the game for you. In this light-hearted side-scroller you control a lanky blonde surfer dude sporting a bizarre bowl haircut that looks more like a straw hat. He'll sashay across sandy beaches, swim through colorful aquariums, and face the hazards of mysterious Aztec temples. The game's premise is explained by a hideous anorexic blonde on the beach. Apparently you are wearing a cursed pendant that causes every living creature
to want you dead
. You can't even enjoy a stroll on the beach without being attacked by birds, starfish, and crabs. Red fish leap out of the water and latch onto your body, and having to shake them off is aggravating. Your Frisbee weapon kills enemies but doesn't provide a fine degree of control. The platform action includes the standard floating logs, sinking blocks, deadly spikes, and switch-activated doors. Hitting totems causes food like donuts, pizza, hot dogs, and fries to spring forth, and these are fun to collect for points. Greendog does have a few missteps, like cheap traps that catapult you back to an early part of the stage. Also, the slow-motion underwater stage is nearly unbearable. Special icons award you with super discs, freeze power-ups, and invincibility. Saving these up is a good idea, because they become more scarce as you progress. The game moves at a leisurely pace, but it's enjoyable enough and the steel drum music has a laid-back vibe. The surf and sand look terrific, and falling in the water will not
cost you a life. There are a few fast-moving skateboarding stages to spice things up, as well as bonus stages that let you fly a rickety unicycle contraption. Playing Greendog transports me to a fun virtual world, and it's a place I like to revisit often. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 280,700
Publisher: Tengen (1994)
Grind Stormer is such a generic and non-innovative shooter that it's hard to believe it came out in 1994. This vanilla vertical scroller looks more like a 1990 game (not that there's anything wrong with that). You just guide your ship over bland backgrounds and blow away waves of nondescript cannon fodder. What's the deal with these muddled graphics? They look like they were drawn with crayons! One thing I do like about Grind Stormer is the massive firepower you get practically from the start. Your ship is armed with a rapid-fire weapon and a limited number of bombs. In the first stage, if you collect a power-up you can pretty much weave back and forth across the screen, destroying most enemies before they can even fully enter the screen. I also like the "smart" missiles that seek out and latch onto enemies like parasites. Ironically, your insane firepower sometimes makes the game harder, because all the missiles and support cannons tend to confuse the action. Your bombs not only clear the screen, but also provide a protective shield, so use them defensively. Visually, Grind Stormer has some ugly graphical glitches and slowdown is also a problem. The music and sound effects are so lame you probably won't notice them. Shooter fans might find it worth their while, but Grind Stormer won't appeal to casual gamers. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 159180
Publisher: Taito (1991)
This side-scrolling beat-em-up isn't much to look at, but fans of the genre will find it worth their while. In a heavy-handed attempt to take a stand against animal cruelty, Growl gives you the pleasure of beating up and mowing down evil hunters and poachers. It may not be the most positive message for kids, but work with me here. Growl's mediocre graphics and sound are pretty much what you'd expect from an early Genesis title. The generic scenery looks grainy and the music quality wavers between poor and fair. In fact, the title screen music earns the title of "worst video game music ever"! For the love of God
man - what an unholy cacophony of noise! You can play as one of four grizzled musclemen, but they all control pretty much the same. Growl's gameplay involves punching, jumping, and kicking your way through gangs of colorful thugs, who appear up to ten at a time! Most are the typical brutes you'd expect, but what are those shapely women wearing heels and business suits doing in there?! Getting their asses kicked, apparently! You'll find a nice assortment of weapons including swords, knives, whips, pistols, machine guns, grenades, and even a rocket launcher! After stumbling upon a poacher teasing a falcon, there's nothing more satisfying that mowing down his ass with a machine gun! No animals were harmed during the course of this game, but you'd better believe a lot of people
were! (It's okay though, because they were all bad
!) When you run out of ammo, the whip is an effective option since it can strike enemies in the front and back of your character. When in a crowd, it's a good idea to execute your devastating flying kick that obliterates everything in the area. It costs you a bit of life, but it's well worth it. After tossing a grenade, I like how your character takes cover - it's a nice touch. It's also nice how you can knee a guy in the face who's already down. There are a surprising number of explosions in this game, often accompanied by flying charred body parts. Whatever you do, however, keep your distance from the fat dudes, because they tend to explode without warning. Yeah, Growl is definitely a silly game but it serves it purpose (just please don't ask me what that is). You're allotted three continues, and a high score displayed on the bottom of the screen gives you something to shoot for. Remember, somebody has to stand up for these innocent animals. Won't you
help? © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 140500
Publisher: Sega (1993)
This game has achieved legendary status by Genesis shooter fans, so my primary question coming into this review was: Is Gunstar Heroes overrated? After careful consideration, intense meditation, and deep soul searching, I've come to the conclusion "no, not really". In fact, I find this game as amazing today as I did twelve years ago. Gunstar Heroes pulls out all the stops with its insane rapid-fire action, marvelously detailed graphics, hyper soundtrack, and offbeat sense of humor. This game has some of the most distinctive visuals and sound effects I've witnessed on the Genesis, and serves up one surprise after another. One or two players can blast their way through four memorable stages of regenerating baddies and imaginative bosses. The gameplay is total mayhem, but that's part of what makes it so cool. The number of enemies and explosions on the screen at any given time is remarkable, with no slow-down in sight (this game would never
work on the SNES). The developer, Treasure, incorporated a lot of innovative features, so there's a lot more depth than first meets the eye. Your hero can jump-kick, throw enemies, duck, slide, perform hand-over-hand climbs (while shooting), switch weapons on the fly, and even defend. That's pretty impressive when you consider the controller has just three buttons! Before each game you're offered a choice of two control schemes: move while shooting, or stop while shooting (to aim with more precision). Four types of weapon power-ups can be combined in ten ways to produce all sorts of devastating firepower. The stages can be played in any order, and they include a grassy village of tiny people, a wild mine-cart sequence, and an epic battle on an airship that culminates with a showdown against a muscleman on the wings of a flying plane. The fourth stage is the most innovative however, playing like a surreal board game. As you roll the dice to progress, each square offers an interesting mini-stage, including some truly over-the-top bosses. Gunstar Heroes is loaded with laugh-out-loud humor, and I'll never forget the flea-sized "boss" who tossed me clear across the screen! Its cool how the life meters of bosses take the form of numeric counters - it's always satisfying to watch them count down. Despite its overall greatness, there are a few minor flaws. First, in two-player mode the players look very similar, so it's easy to confuse them in the heat of the battle. When in close proximity, you often throw your partner inadvertently. Also, your score is never displayed after the game ends, so your only real goal is to finish the game. That's okay, because there are three skill levels and it's not very long to begin with. Collectors and shooter fans should try to track down Gunstar Heroes at all costs. This game pushes your Genesis to the limit! © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
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