Publisher: Sega (1994)
The NBA really was at its height in 1994, with huge stars like Patrick Ewing, Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwan, Scotty Pippen, Karl Malone, John Stockton, Shawn Kemp, Clyde Drexler, David Robinson, and the list goes on. At the time, NBA Action '95 was forced to take a backseat to the stellar NBA Live 95 (Electronic Arts), but in retrospect this game isn't bad at all. If nothing else, it keeps you honest by forcing you to play defense and take good shots. You can't drive the lane at will, and garbage shots are consistently blocked with authority
(as Marv Albert would say). So when you do
get the rare chance to slam the ball down, it's all the more satisfying. NBA Action's graphics are average at best. The court is displayed from an isometric viewpoint, and when you cross half court it rotates briefly in a somewhat disconcerting manner. The wooden floor doesn't look so hot, the crowd is static, and your six-foot bench looks hilarious with those five guys squeezed together on it. The players on the floor don't look very distinct, and they all appear to be the same size! They're nicely animated though, especially when performing lay-ups or emphatic slam-dunks. The ball movement is far less realistic, as it moves like a bullet and tends to get lost in the crowd. The controls are responsive but there's a learning curve if you're used to the EA games. This is definitely a defensive-minded game, and three-point shots are few and far between. When playing against the CPU, keep a player under the basket to prevent him from driving the lane. NBA Action '95 has its share of quirks, like when the ball transforms into a green apple for no discernable reason (what the?). Like other 16-bit basketball games, the CPU almost always hits from "downtown" during the final seconds of the period. Barkley and Jordan are missing due to some bizarre licensing issues, but I'm really shocked that David Robinson isn't included, considering he headlined Sega's David Robinson's Supreme Court in 1992. Marv Albert provides some excellent, albeit sparse commentary with familiar lines like "he picked his pocket" and "their shooting woes continue!" Unfortunately there's little pageantry, and the half time show only consists of stats and a shot chart. It lacks the fast pacing and fluid motion of NBA Live, but NBA Action is still worthwhile for basketball fans looking for a different brand of 16-bit basketball action. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Acclaim (1994)
This two-on-two arcade basketball game was originally released on the Super Nintendo, where it was a runaway hit. The Genesis can't quite reproduce the sharp graphics and clear voice samples of the SNES version, but it's close enough. I noticed it was easier to steal the ball in this version, which gives the defense a much-needed boost. The main problem I have with this game is the control. The Genesis controller just isn't designed for this type of game. Sure, you only need three buttons, but these need to be pressed in combination with each other. The SNES shoulder buttons were really the key. Anyway, if you can put up with the awkward control, this isn't a bad game. The action is fast and the dunks are ridiculously spectacular. But if you have an SNES, stick with that version. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1994)
Simply put, NBA Live 95 is one of the greatest sports titles of all time. After NBA Jam (Acclaim, 1993) raised the bar for sports games, EA wisely rebuilt their basketball engine from the ground up. The result is a quantum leap forward, with a better camera angle, lifelike graphics, frenetic gameplay, and a plethora of customization options. The new diagonal/30-degree perspective makes the court appear more expansive and alleviates the problem of players getting "bunched up". Live is not especially realistic, but it certainly is fun. Before each game, you're treated to a dramatic starting lineup introduction as digitized photos are displayed. The action is fast and fluid, with plenty of fast breaks, alley-oops, banks off the glass, razzle-dazzle slam-dunks, and spectacular missed
dunks. The jump-pass is an awesome new move that lets you draw in the defense before finding an open man. On defense you can block shots and even crash the boards. Steals are meant to be performed automatically, but running into the ball carrier will usually knock the ball loose (turn down the fouls frequency first). Pushing opponents out of bounds is another cheap but effective strategy. There are some funny animations, like players shaking their head after being knocked to the floor, or pointing their fingers after a slam-dunk. Option menus let you customize every aspect of the game, and "sliders" let you fine-tune the frequency of offensive and defensive fouls. Four players can participate at once with the EA multi-tap, which is an absolute riot. NBA Live even tracks individual "user" statistics, allowing participants to compare performances after the game. NBA Live's music is memorable and funky, but the action on the court is relatively quiet. The game has are a few minor glitches like being called for a backcourt violation when a steal occurs at mid-court. Since the rebound button is also used to shoot, occasionally you'll toss the ball the length of the court after pulling down a board. But if you're looking for a five-on-five basketball game that's fast and fun
, NBA Live 95 is the way to go. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1995)
As Electronic Arts has been known to do on occasion, they've taken a perfectly good basketball game (NBA Live 95) and inadvertently made it worse
. Yes, NBA Live 96 offers a few marginal improvements, but these are more than offset by its abrasive audio! The new "digitized" crowd noise that's so loaded with pops and static that it's practically unbearable! Even the soundtrack sounds coarse and unpleasant. Otherwise NBA Live 96 offers the same fast, frenetic action as its predecessor, although the framerate seems a bit less smooth. The players look slightly more refined, and new moves include a spin move for more agile players. Other minor additions include more play strategies, trivia questions between periods, and the ability to create your own player. One reader informed me that the create-a-player feature has an "easter egg" of sorts. Should you try to create an unlicensed player like Jordon or Barkley, their statistics will "magically" appear. Other than that there are the usual quirks, like the CPU's uncanny ability to toss up full-court three-pointers as the clock winds down. NBA Live 96 provides the same up-tempo style of basketball fun the series is known for, but I prefer the 95 version. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1996)
As the first order of business with NBA Live 97, EA thankfully cleaned up the cringe-worthy audio that plagued NBA Live 96. In this edition, the crowd is much easier on the ears, and the music in improved as well. The action on the court has been modified in a number of ways, but not always for the better. Selected players are now highlighted by stars or circles (not just stars), which makes it easier to differentiate the teams. Player animations are slightly more exaggerated, but their feet look too big when they're running the floor. The action seems a bit faster, but not necessarily smoother. The box claims there are new moves like behind-the-back passes, cross-over dribbles, and reverse lay-ups, but you'll rarely notice these. One significant new feature is the "manual stealing", which let's you press the A button to initiate a steal. Although it's much-needed, the execution is seriously lacking. EA should have incorporated a slider for steal frequency, because you can pretty much steal at will
. Another new feature is the ability to "lock" a player so you can retain control of him for the duration of the game. NBA Live 97's graphics are noticeably more vibrant and colorful than previous editions, and I like how the score is permanently displayed in the lower corner of the screen. Informative text is sometimes displayed across the bottom like "Bulls are on a 6-0 run". But what happened to the benches on the sidelines? They're gone! Especially in sports games, details like that really do matter. NBA Live 97 is a solid entry in the Live series, but not necessarily the best. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1993)
With the advent of NBA Jam and arcade-style sports games, EA was forced to finally upgrade their basketball engine which they had been recycling for years. The result -- NBA Showdown, a game that resembles its predecessors but boasts faster, more fluid gameplay. The list of new features is significant. There's a terrific new "behind-the-player" foul shot perspective, a battery backup, season modes, support for a four-player adapter, and even the ability to call plays on the fly. The TV-style presentation has returned, with a single anchor behind a desk providing analysis before the game and also at halftime. The court includes an elaborate scoreboard where the scorer's table should be, flashing animations during the game. Michael Jordan is nowhere to be found, and the black referee from the first three games has been replaced with a white one. The previous two EA basketball game were offensive-minded, but Showdown takes the opposite approach, tightening the defense to the extreme. Every game is a "block party" - any shot attempted with a man in your face will
be rejected. The end result is less razzle-dazzle and more emphasis on strategy. Like past games, NBA Showdown is weak in terms of audio. Besides the bounce of the ball, the only sound you hear is "put it up!" as the clocks ticks down. All in all, NBA Showdown was a positive step for the series, but it wasn't quite up to snuff -- yet. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1994)
This is a weak football game, probably worse than any of Sega's previous efforts. The game looks like Madden, but it isn't very fun to play. The animation is choppy and the control sucks. The quarterback can only see one side of the field at any time, and passes float in the air too long. The game has a sloppy, unfinished look to it. For example, there is absolutely nothing behind the goalposts - it looks like the stadium is situated on the edge of the world. One new feature allows you to "taunt" your opponent with wisecracks. It's pretty silly but good for a laugh. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
NFL Football '94
Publisher: Sega (1993)
Talk about Deja Vu! This looks a LOT like Sega's college football game. In fact, it's exactly the same game except with professional teams. That's not necessarily bad though, since the college football game engine is pretty solid. The passing/rushing game is well balanced. The players are small, but the camera zooms in on players after catches and handoffs. The players look realistic and are well-animated, and a voice commentator does a decent job of keeping up with the action. The only nagging problem is an overcomplicated play calling screen. Other than that, this game brings the action home. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1993)
In my humble opinion, NHL '94 was the absolute pinnacle
of hockey video games. This edition introduced a number of new features including penalty shots, four-player support, and reverse-angle instant replays. But NHL 94's best addition is its "one-timer" shots (aka "quick-stick"), allowing a player to quickly redirect the puck into the net after receiving a pass. It really adds a whole new dimension to the offense. Other bells and whistles include a season mode, statistic tracking, and player cards. The game is fully customizable, and I'd advise you to turn those penalties off
! NHL 94 doesn't have any fighting or blood, but that's okay, because they would only interrupt the flow of the action. Interesting animations include a little boy in the front row of the crowd who occasionally walks up to the glass. When a player turns a hat trick, yellow hats are thrown onto the ice, although this looks so sloppy that I initially thought it was a glitch in the game! NHL '94 has held up well over the years, and I'd take the Pepsi Challenge between this and a modern hockey game any day of the week. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1994)
What the heck happened here? Apparently EA tried to speed up the action in their prized hockey franchise, but they managed to break a few other things in the process! For one thing, the passing is awful, and the puck never goes where you intend. That stinks, because precision passing is one of the hallmarks of the series, and without good passing, it's way too hard to execute one-timers. Yes, the gameplay is faster, but much less fun. Another problem has to do with the new digitized sound effects. The players sound like they all have laryngitis, and it's really hard on the ears. The theme music sucks royally, and the crowd noise is practically non-existent! And take a good look at the crowd - every single person looks like Thelma from Scooby Doo, and that's never a good sign. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1995)
After an off year, EA's famous hockey franchise made a comeback of sorts in 1996. Once again, NHL's engine has been completely overhauled, and the gameplay is faster, smoother, and more realistic than ever. The player graphics are better detailed, and improved physics makes for more realistic puck bounces. The rink is a deeper shade of blue, and the crowd looks better, but for some reason the referee looks like a midget in tights (not that there's anything wrong with that). One aspect where NHL '96 falters is the sound department. EA tried to incorporate new digitized crowd noise, but it's full of static and just sounds awful. There aren't many new features except for the new "elaborate on-ice Stanley Cup ceremony", which people who play through a whole season should appreciate. Overall, NHL '96 represents a return to form for the franchise. This is one slick hockey game. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1996)
With NHL '97, you can see that EA was content to milk its cash cow, putting out basically the same game as the year before. Minor enhancements include a "skills challenge" mode, national teams, and four simultaneous seasons. Nobody asked for these, so they hardly justify an upgrade. But it does deliver the same exciting action you've come to expect from the series, so you can't complain too much. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1997)
Man, EA must have had a lot of balls to put out the same frickin' game three
years in a row. Enough already! This final game in the Genesis Hockey series offers only a few miniscule enhancements. The game can be played at three different speeds, and players can have hot and cold streaks. On the box, EA tries to claim that everything
is enhanced, from computer AI to crowd reactions, but to be honest, I really couldn't tell. It may be a terrific game, but it's still a rehash. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1991)
This was the one that started it all. Being from Baltimore, my friends and I didn't know the first thing about hockey. We didn't know the teams. We didn't understand icing and offsides. We thought a zamboni was a big sandwich. But NHL Hockey completely won us over. As the first in a long series that would continue to this day, NHL Hockey is remarkably addictive, with clean graphics, easy control, and a large, easy to follow puck. The simple three-button control scheme fits the Genesis controller perfectly. The passing is dead-on, and your can inflict some hard-hitting checks on your opponent. There are no "one-timer" plays (they wouldn't appear until NHL '94), so you need to rely heavily on second-chance opportunities (i.e., the puck bounces off the goalie in front on the net). There's fighting, but once the novelty wears off it becomes a bit annoying. I always preferred to turn off all the penalties in order to ensure non-stop mayhem. This version didn't have all the bells and whistles of its sequels (you can't play a whole season), but it does have instant replay and that cool zamboni. In terms of sound, the exaggerated grunts are classic, but that grinding "Road Rash" theme song just doesn't fit. Overall NHL Hockey is still more fun to play than most new hockey games. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
NHLPA Hockey '93
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1992)
EA's second Hockey game for the Genesis ups the ante with real NHL players, signature moves, new goalie animations, and a battery backed-up season mode. Some players (like Al MacInnis) can even shatter the glass!
During intermissions you not only view scores from other games, but watch highlights
as well! But by far the most entertaining aspect of NHL 93 is the inclusion of blood
. That's right - after taking a vicious hit a player will sometimes wallow on his back as blood spills out of his head.
This unintentionally hilarious feature is chronicled perfectly in the classic guy movie "Swingers" starring Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau. NHLPA 93 was also the last NHL game to contain fighting for a number of years. In Swingers one of the guys explains that fighting was removed because "kids were hitting each other". NHLPA 93 is a fun, fast-paced game, but it has its share of quirks. In addition to the cheap wrap-around-goal (Tuan's "world famous"), you can often score by firing the puck straight through the goalie's legs. My friend Eric has perfected this bit of chicanery, much to my consternation. Another effective tactic is to collide with the goalie, which moves him out of the crease, opening up a second-chance opportunity. Unfortunately, the gameplay is hampered by the lack of a "one-timer" move, which wasn't introduced until NHL 94. As the title would indicate, this edition was the first licensed by the National Hockey League Player's Association, but the acronym was proved too unwieldy and was dropped from subsequent EA hockey games. NHLPA 93 isn't the best in the series, but it's worth playing if only to see a guy's head bleed. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Normy's Beach Babe-O-Rama
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1994)
This platform game is okay, but I liked it better the first time
I played it, when it was called Chuck Rock
. Normy has the same wacky, cartoonish look, but instead of being stuck in the prehistoric era, you find yourself in old England, a jungle, a futuristic planet, and eight levels of "Heck". The hero is a middle-aged beach bum, out to save a bunch of babes that have been kidnapped. Despite the wacky title, the gameplay is surprisingly bland and unimaginative. You attack monsters with goofy weapons (like rubber chickens) and collect beach balls for points as you progress through each level. The single innovative concept is the "dash" move, which makes you briefly invincible and able to leap long distances. The rest of the game is pure textbook. Normy didn't keep my interest for long, and the repetitive music didn't help. Maybe I'm jaded, but I didn't find any of the zany animations particularly amusing either. NOTE: To access the level select option, hold down A+B+C on the right controller when turning on the game. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Olympic Winter Games Lillehammer 94
Publisher: US Gold (1993)
I absolutely love the real Winter Olympic games, so I was totally psyched up to play this cartridge. I was expecting something like the old Winter Games
(Atari 7800, 1987) with a 16-bit makeover, but Lillehammer failed to live up to my expectations. Although it gets the job done in terms of audio and visual, the controls are completely counter-intuitive and the difficulty is excessive. This should
have been a great game to stick in and play against a few friends, but it's practically unplayable. The skiing events boast scenic evergreens and large skiers, but you can't see enough of the course ahead! It's too easy to miss a gate, and once you do, you're instantly disqualified. Adding insult to injury, the path of the ski trail is not well defined, so you'll often find yourself turning right into a bank of trees! And why in God's name is it so hard to steer?! Despite offering three
selectable control schemes, guiding your skier takes a lot
of practice. The bobsled and luge events aren't as bad, but it's still entirely too easy to flip over as you creep up the banked turns. The ski jump, moguls, biathlon, and speed skating all look
impressive, but you'll need to study the manual and practice like hell to be anywhere near
proficient in them. That's the main problem with this game - it's too complicated. On a positive note, Lillehammer features some excellent vintage 16-bit music, a nice opening ceremony, and a much-needed practice mode. U.S. Gold did us a favor by keeping the voice synthesis to a minimum, because the digitized sample at the beginning of the mogul event sounds like a rooster! All in all, Winter Olympic Games isn't a good "pick-up-and-play" title, but if you stick with it long enough, you may find something to like. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1995)
Most Genesis games conform to the same hackneyed formulas, so you have to give Sega credit for trying to do something different with The Ooze. The game is original, with innovative graphic effects and some pretty advanced audio. Its twisted premise involves a lab scientist that stumbles upon his company's dark secrets, only to be caught and forced into being the subject of their "green slime" experiments. Subsequently he's transformed into a meandering blob with a bump of a head sticking out of its center. To exact his revenge, you must navigate the ooze back to the lab by first beating enemies into submission and then "absorbing" them to become a larger mass. You can tell the developers were proud of their cool "liquid" effects, because they're used everywhere
- including the title screen and chapter intros. The action is viewed from overhead, and your ooze automatically cascades around obstacles in its path and slithers through small openings. It's fun for a while, but there too many unseen hazards like flames that shoot up through cracks in the ground. Too often you take damage without knowing why. The stages also tend to be very maze-like and unimaginative, with generic switches used to open new areas. The first stage is a toxic dump that's crawling with snail-like creatures, burrowing claws, and scientists armed with flamethrowers. Pressing the A button initiates a punch, but it's hard to control, especially when your ooze becomes large. Pressing B lets you "spit" a distance, but that causes you to lose mass. The ooze effects are nice, but it gets tiresome to sit through time-consuming screens which slowly form the words "1 life left". A quirky soundtrack plays throughout the game, and nice audio effects clearly convey splattering fluids and bloodcurdling screams. There's no password feature, so you'll always need to restart from the beginning. There are some good ideas here, but the Ooze never quite gels into a fun game. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1991)
This is a remarkably faithful translation of the arcade hit Outrun. Gamers must have been thrilled
with this in 1991! Your red convertible consumes a considerable chunk of the lower screen, and comes complete with working taillights and a blonde in the passenger seat. As you cruise down the highway you'll weave around smoothly-scaling cars, jeeps, and trucks. The excitement level elevates as you try to reach the next checkpoint before the timer runs out. The road branches into many scenic locations, giving the game substantial replay value. The controls are simple enough, and the sense of speed is impressive as you cruise around curves and over undulating hills. Major collisions are quite a sight as your car goes into a roll and the passengers bounce along with it. But it's Outrun's scenery that really steals the show. From the desert sands to forests to ancient ruins, each stage features rich color schemes and unique landmarks like trees, signs, stores, and windmills. You simply will not find another Genesis game that makes better use of color - this game is gorgeous
. The best stage of all is the opening stretch where you race alongside a sunny beach. If those bright sands, palm trees, cumulus clouds, and deep blue skies don't put you in the mind of summer, then there is no hope for you. Outrun's visual flaws are limited to a choppy-looking beach and clouds that sometimes look like a frickin' tidal wave
coming over you! The soundtrack's pleasant tunes convey a carefree, tropical vibe. Long-time fans should recognize titles like "Splash Wave", "Passing Breeze", and "Magical Sound Shower". And be sure to check out the cool stereo effects whenever you pass a car! Simple to play and easy on the eyes, Outrun is arcade racing action at its best. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1993)
If you've played any of the games in the Cruis'n USA series, you know what Outrun 2019 is like. The racing is simplistic, but the graphics are undeniably stunning. Your futuristic car that can reach speeds of 700 MPH, although to be honest it looks more like 70 MPH. Still, the illusion of 3D is exceptional for a Genesis game. The bridges, tunnels, and overpasses are particularly impressive. Four branching tracks contain dozens of unique-looking stages, but while the scenery in the distance is an eyeful, there are few objects on the side of the road. The gameplay really takes a back seat to the graphics. The object is to get through each track segment in 80 seconds. The controls are simple - just hold down the accelerator and steer. Every few minutes your turbo boost kicks in, but it's so unimpressive you might not even notice. The early stages are a cakewalk; you can practically ride through the oncoming cars. In the later stages they can run you off the road, but the game immediately puts you right back on the track. The only thing you really need to worry about is falling off bridges or flipping your car. The audio is awful, and the monotonous background music drones on endlessly, even when you pause the game. Outrun 2019 has plenty of glitz, but it can't hide the shallow gameplay. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1993)
In a feeble attempt to match Super Nintendo's Mario Kart (SNES 1992), Sega released this wretched split-screen-only
version of their popular convertible racer, Outrun. This project was ill conceived from the start. The main attraction of the original game was its diverse background scenery, with each leg of the race featuring a new exotic locale. Unfortunately, by definition split-screen modes severely limit the level of detail and eye candy. As a result, Outrunners' stages not only lack aesthetic value, but some look downright ugly
. The illustrated backdrops look okay, depicting distant scenery that never gets any closer, including city skylines, waterfalls, mountains, and majestic castles. But the scaling objects on the side of the road look pitiful. Except for the palm trees and 14-foot tall buildings, I couldn't even discern what most of these pixilated shapes were supposed to be! On the bright side, I do like how the hair of the two passengers blows in the wind. And during a wreck, although both are thrown into the air as the car tumbles, they always land back in their seats - a nifty visual effect. Outrunner's music is decent, with its laid-back, relaxing tunes. The sound effects however, are reprehensible. Not only are they badly muffled and distorted beyond belief, but the announcer has worst case of emphysema ever
. Outrunner's gameplay also leaves much to be desired. The one-player mode is excessively hard, and the two-player contests don't feel competitive because the game keeps the races artificially close (by giving the trailing player a speed boost). Plus, you can't even see the other guy until he's on top of you (literally!) The manual transmission is not really an option, because the gear indicator is small and hard to see on the screen. I enjoy most split-screen racers, but Outrunners should be avoided. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
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