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Sagaia
Grade: B-
Publisher: Taito (1991)
Reviewed: 2012/5/20

screenshotFor 2D shooting fans, Sagaia is one of the simple pleasures of life. While unspectacular on the surface, this side-scroller's 28 branching stages present an irresistible challenge. Your ship is armed with both rapid-fire missiles and bombs, and there's no penalty for unleashing them both with reckless abandon. Power-ups in the form of shield icons augment your current weapon, so you can snatch them all without having to be selective. Less thinking equals more fun! Certain weapons fire both up and down, which are useful when flying through cannon-fortified caverns. Enemies tend to appear in groups, and eradicating every last one will net you a big fat bonus. Sagaia's aquatic-themed enemies include lobsters, jellyfish, and seahorses. Fish bosses don't overstay their welcome and turn red when near death (like a good boss should). Keep an eye out for floating mines which you can shoot to wipe out everything on the screen (like a remote smart bomb). My main beef with Sagaia is how enemies can absorb many shots, offsetting the benefits of the rapid-fire shooting. Those pesky seahorses are prime offenders. The stages are pretty generic and advanced levels tend to recycle old enemies and bosses. The music is fair, but occasionally it drifts into Hanna Barbara cartoon territory. The sound effects are weak, and destroying enemies sounds like you're popping balloons. Sagaia isn't particularly memorable, but its "keep it simple" style goes a long way. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 919,450
1 player 


Saint Sword
Grade: B-
Publisher: Taito (1991)
Reviewed: 2010/7/28

screenshotCaution: This game may cause sexual confusion. Although the sword-wielding warrior on the box cover is definitely a dude, on the screen it looks like you're controlling a chick! What the hell? Saint Sword is an androgynous hack-n-slash platformer with colorful dungeons and impressively detailed, oversized characters. You explore mountains, dark forests, graveyards, and castles, each with a network of subterranean areas. A diverse set of adversaries includes crawling trolls, skeletons, golems, and baby dragons. You can slash upward as well as forward, and that's good because pesky flames tend to fall from overhead. Hitting switches causes walls to slide open, revealing new areas. The most interesting aspect of Saint Sword is your ability to transform into a half-animal creature. As a centaur you can leap great distances and execute a deadly rear-kick. As the birdman you can fly freely, allowing you to bypass a lot of tedious platform jumping. As a fishman you can swim like Michael Phelps. By strategically changing forms, you'll learn how to complete each stage a lot faster. Saint Sword's fighting action is a little irritating at first, since you tend to be weak and most enemies require multiple hits. The skeletons especially are a major pain in the ass. Thanks to the haphazard collision detection, making contact is more like a suggestion than a requirement. Once you acquire the spiffy gold armor however, you can slice through the baddies much easier. The stages have multiple paths, and while some are annoyingly maze-like, at least they tend to be reasonable in size. You'll encounter some seriously grotesque bosses that look like an unholy amalgamation of hideous creatures lumped together. Saint Sword probably looks better than it plays, but if you can embrace its quirks you're in for a good time. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 42,400
Save mechanism: Password
1 player 


Samurai Shodown
Grade: D
Publisher: Takara (1994)
Reviewed: 2002/3/10

screenshotAfter playing the 3DO version of this game, there's really no going back. On the Genesis, Samurai Shodown just looks like another run-of-the-mill Street Fighter wannabe. It's a 2D fighter with Asian-inspired fighters that carry sharp weapons. Some of the characters are pretty cool, but the graphics are nothing special, and the sound is just lousy. The scratchy voice samples are hard to take, and the minimal background music won't exactly have you singing in the shower. The gameplay isn't much better - the action feels very slow and lethargic. Worst of all, the Genesis isn't capable of executing the snazzy 3D scaling that's the trademark of the game (not to mention its one original feature). At least the six-button controller is supported. But only diehard fighting fans will want to try this one. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Scooby Doo Mystery
Grade: D+
Publisher: Sunsoft (1995)
Reviewed: 2010/10/20

screenshotScooby-Doo Mystery is a throwback to the point-and-click adventures that were once popular on the PC. You can play two separate mysteries - one set in a snowy hotel and the other at a carnival by the sea. Each begins with a scene of the van cruising down a road to the sound of that familiar Scooby Doo theme song. A conversation in the van sets up the premise, and for the first time in video game history the text dialogue is displayed at perfect reading speed. Amazing! It also nicely reflects the personalities (and speech impediments) of the characters. Once you arrive at your destination the gang splits up and you assume control of Shaggy and Scooby. You can move freely between areas but interaction requires you to point with the cursor after selecting a command at the bottom of the screen like "look" or "use". The user interface is pretty clunky, and I got tired of dragging that slow-ass cursor around the screen. The illustrated scenery in Scooby Doo Mystery is terrific, but key items and entrances tend to blend in. There are only a few animations but they are amusing. To solve a mystery you'll converse with people, move obstacles, search for clues, and even piece items together. The game would have been a winner if the puzzles made sense, but more often that not, they defy logic! In the hotel you'll need to open every door in a long hallway before the one at the end magically becomes unlocked. In the carnival you'll use taffy to start an electric generator. Nonsense like that forces you into trial-and-error mode (or better yet, FAQ mode). I was glad to see a save function until I realized it required writing down a 30-character sequence - with special characters no less! Scooby-Doo Mystery had the potential for spooky fun, but its poorly-constructed puzzles are unforgivable. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: Password
1 player 


new Shadow Dancer
Grade: B+
Publisher: Sega (1990)
Reviewed: 2014/1/29

screenshotAs the opening text crawl explains, New York City has become a smoldering ash heap with exploding man-holes presided over by a mutated reptilian overlord. What year could it be, 2073? Try 1997! Shadow Dancer is one of the more underappreciated Shinobi titles, and one of the more underrated games for the Genesis. It takes the finely-tuned hack-n-slash ninja action and adds a strategic element in form of a loyal attack dog. Your main goal in each stage is to save a number of hostages. You're armed with unlimited throwing stars and you'll automatically slash enemies when close. Your dog can't kill your enemies, but he can struggle with them long enough for you to move in for the kill. Some enemies are protected with shields, so you'll need to sic your pooch on them at exactly the right moment. The game moves at a deliberate pace, but this is still an arcade title at heart. The detail in the graphics is impressive; I love the way female hostages struggle in their bindings. The post-apocalyptic stages are short and sweet, with dynamic elements like earthquakes that open giant crevasses. A nice variety of bosses include a scary samurai beast and a rock creature that materializes out of a brick wall. When you reach the top of the Statue of Liberty you'll fight a chick that throws spinning blades. If you enjoy spectacular skylines (and who the hell doesn't?), this game has them in spades. Shadow Dancer also has its share of memorable tunes that instantly transported me back to the early 90's (when my sister bought this game for me). The only thing I don't like are the lame bonus stages where you shoot flying ninjas while falling from a skyscraper, which is an exercise in button mashing. Otherwise Shadow Dancer is an exceptional side-scroller that delivers top-notch sword-slashing, star-chucking, and dog mauling satisfaction. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 235,700
1 player 


Shining Force
Grade: B-
Publisher: Sega (1993)
Reviewed: 2008/12/17

screenshotContributed by RPG correspondent Jonathan Hawk.
Amazingly, Shining Force was the first turn-based strategy RPG that I played the entire way through, and it has turned me on to the genre! This was the second entry in a long-running line of "Shining" titles, many of which have seen U.S. releases. The main plot involves "the Hero" and his allies (the Shining Force) as the last hope in a fight against an ancient evil (Dark Dragon) and his minions. The Hero battles his way through several chapters of the game, picking up additional party members along the way including a robot, dragon, werewolf, centaurs, elves, and birdmen. When not in battle, the game suffers from "too many buttons" syndrome. Instead of hitting a button to perform an action, you must call up a menu and select "Search" or "Talk". Each character has four item slots, and it's interesting how you never buy armor for your units - only weapon upgrades. The combat system is where the game truly... er... "Shines". Battles either take place on over-land maps between cities, or within the towns and dungeons. You can have up to twelve units in your party with several others waiting back at "headquarters". True to tactical RPG's, each unit can move a certain amount of squares, which is often limited by the terrain. After moving, your unit can attack or cast a spell (if it has the ability). Archers can shoot from afar, but melee fighters can only attack adjacent squares. Victory depends largely on your ability to effectively coordinate the movement and attacks of your units. Your units can accumulate experience points and gain levels, as well as earn "promotions" to improve their classes. When a unit dies in battle, you can't bring them back during the fight, but you can have it revived at a church. If the Hero is killed, the battle ends and you find yourself back at your last save point - with half the gold. The background music and sound effects are pretty enjoyable and the graphics (which included some simple illustrations of the characters) are relatively good-looking all things considered. A few of its elements are a little inconvenient, but on the whole Shining Force is pretty darn fun to play. Favorite Character: Zylo. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


Shinobi 3
Grade: A
Publisher: Sega (1993)
Reviewed: 2001/9/9

screenshotShinobi III is one of the best ninja games I've ever played. The graphics, sound, and control are all spectacular. The first stage is set in the wilderness, with ninjas hiding in the trees. It's pretty cool, except for the guy walking around with the bucket on his head (what the?). In the second stage, you fight armed guards in a high-tech, biological test facility. The action never gets repetitive because the scenery is constantly changing, and there are plenty of surprises. You have several attacks and power-ups at your disposal. The bosses are incredible, and there are even some nice high-speed levels that let you ride a horse or jet-ski. The audio is remarkably good, especially the sound of your weapon slashing into human flesh! If you like ninja games, you cannot afford to live without this one. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


Side Pocket
Grade: A-
Publisher: Data East (1992)
Reviewed: 2001/9/4

screenshotI'm going to go out on a limb with this one, and call it the most fun video pool game EVER. I remember playing the challenging one-player mode for hours in 1993, and playing it today only confirms how great it is. Granted, there are few options, and no fancy 3D angles like those in modern pool games. But this game is SO much fun. Besides the two-player modes, there is an extremely addictive one-player game where need to score a certain number of points to make it to the next level. You score points by making consecutive shots or sinking balls in numeric order. Various imaginative trick shot opportunities are presented to you between rounds. The control is excellent and easy to learn. I really love the jazzy background lounge music - it adds atmosphere. The graphics are also very attractive. Side Pocket is a real gem. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1-2 players 


Simpsons, The: Bart Vs. The Space Mutants
Grade: D
Publisher: Acclaim (1992)
Reviewed: 2007/10/18

screenshotBart Vs. The Space Mutants features bright cartoonish graphics and compelling gameplay, but its difficulty is insane! When it takes me several days to complete the first stage, that tends to have a detrimental effect on the game's grade! The colorful intro shows the Simpson family snuggled up on the sofa watching TV as aliens land outside and begin infiltrating society disguised as normal people. These aliens are seeking specific items to complete their doomsday machine, so Bart must run, jump, and skateboard through five stages in order to snatch up (or hide) these items from the aliens. The first stage is set on a city street where Bart must track down 24 purple items, and a helpful "goal counter" on the bottom of the screen keeps you posted on his progress. You'll achieve your goals by spray-painting flowerpots, dumping paint, and knocking clothes off a clothesline. In one special case, Bart needs to prank call Moe the bartender in order to lure him out and spray-paint his apron. The sidewalks are crawling with small bouncy aliens that Bart has to duck under or jump over. Sometimes it's necessary to purchase specific items from stores including wrenches, cherry bombs, and bottle rockets. Bart Vs. The Space Mutants is actually quite fun to play, but it's relentlessly unforgiving, requiring you to complete every single goal flawlessly! If that's not enough, each stage ends with a boss encounter like a water-balloon tossing bully. Later stages promise madcap action in a shopping mall, amusement park, and museum. If only I could get that far! Since there's no password, you're always doomed to repeat the early stages, and considering the difficulty, that oversight is unforgivable. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


Skeleton Krew
Grade: D
Publisher: Core (1995)
Reviewed: 2002/6/1

screenshotDespite some outstanding visuals, Skeleton Krew falters due to its repetitive, headache-inducing gameplay. You can choose from one of three "skeleton warriors", but they just look like regular guys with all that heavy armor on. You play from an isometric diagonal view, and the stages look like futuristic dungeon mazes. The control scheme allows you to rapid-fire, rotate, and strafe, making it easier to mow down legions of monsters that continuously materialize around you. That leads me to my main complaint - there's too many freakin' things to shoot! The monsters just regenerate over and over, which is really annoying in certain levels that require you to clear them all out before progressing. The shooting action gets old really quick. In most stages I discovered it was less painful to simply navigate the maze and avoid combat altogether. Another annoying aspect is bosses that take forever to die, and you can't tell if they're taking damage! I really can't find fault with the graphics. The stages are fairly generic, but the pseudo-3D characters are nicely animated, and it's fun to watch them explode. But it's just eye candy as far as I'm concerned. Even with the two-player simultaneous mode, this game doesn't have lasting play value. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Sol-Deace
Grade: C+
Publisher: Renovation (1991)
Reviewed: 2001/1/8

screenshotHere's another fine space shooter for the Genesis. What's the gimmick this time? Well, your ship has three cannons, and you can adjust the angle of these individually. It might not sound too exciting, but trust me, it's a cool feature. When there are enemies across the top and bottom of the screen, you'll want your cannons wide open. When you're shooting down a boss's throat, you'll want to have them all pointed forward. The background graphics are just average, but the bosses have a lot of moving parts. Many enemies have long limbs that are difficult to avoid. There are six stages and unlimited continues. Sol-Deace is pretty much a "by the numbers" shooter, but it does have an addictive quality. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


Soldiers of Fortune
Grade: B
Publisher: Spectrum Holybyte (1993)
Reviewed: 2004/2/6

screenshotSoldiers of Fortune delivers the kind of arcade-style, two-player shooting action that I like. You can choose from one of six unique combat-hardened veterans, each with his own brand of firepower and special abilities. The arcade graphics are cartoonish but well defined, and the techno soundtrack is fantastic. The object is to shoot your way through multi-tiered labyrinths stocked with monsters, items, and electric "nodes" you need to activate. The monsters include beetles, golems, and lizard men, most of which shoot very slow projectiles. A cautious approach is recommended however, because monsters can appear in front of you from out of nowhere, which indicates poor design in my opinion. Another problem is that when you die in the two-player game, you can't rejoin the action immediately and have to wait a little while. Between stages you can power-up your soldier and purchase items. Although designed for two players, Soldiers of Fortune provides a CPU partner if you need him, and the one-player experience is arguably more fun. I was a little apprehensive about Soldiers of Fortune, but once I started playing, I couldn't pull myself away. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Sonic 3D Blast
Grade: D
Publisher: Sega (1996)
Reviewed: 2013/7/23

screenshotSonic the Hedgehog rode to success on a string of stellar 2D titles, but in 1996 the world was changing. 3D polygons were superseding 2D sprites, and it was time for this hedgehog to evolve. Enter 3D Blast, which is the most technically superior 16-bit Sonic... and least fun! The intro features a full-motion video, which was unheard of on a 16-bit machine. It's pixelated as hell but still a sight to behold. The game itself employs 2D objects rendered to have an amazing pseudo-3D appearance. The Marble Madness-inspired zones are multi-tiered platforms with angular hills and valleys. To complete each stage you'll free little birds by pouncing on robotic animals. These cartoonish creatures include bumblebees, alligators, monkeys, crabs, and penguins. After gathering the birds you deposit them in a basketball-like hoop. Impressive bonus stages let you run on rickety bridges over lava. The game sounds like a blast, but after a few seconds of play it's clear that something is wrong. Your momentum is way too strong, making the controls feel slippery and imprecise. Add in unforgiving collision detection and a lack of depth perception, and you have a recipe for disaster. Even the simple act of pouncing on a hovering bee becomes an exercise in frustration as you frantically hop around the general area. I like how you can't fall off platforms, but sometimes you'll need to hop between small floating blocks, which is painful. The new traps and mechanisms are aggravating. I hate bouncing on trampolines on the side of hills, and Sonic's new "twirl" move makes him look like a freakin' ballerina. There goes his street cred! 3D Blast is just plain tedious at times, especially when you find yourself wandering in circles, searching for the last robot. The first two stages are tolerable thanks to their modest difficulty but the fun hits a wall in the "spring stadium" zone. It's hard to tell where you can or can't go in this hideous red and yellow nightmare. The lack of fun is palpable as you get bounced between bumpers and tossed onto beds of spikes. Most people will quit at this point, which is a shame considering a scenic snow zone is right around the corner. The soundtrack is kind of cheesy and there's no save feature. I can understand what Sega was trying to do with Sonic 3D Blast, but that doesn't make it any easier to stomach. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 148,900
1 player 


Sonic Spinball
Grade: C
Publisher: Sega (1993)
Reviewed: 2011/1/17

screenshotI remember when Sonic Spinball was first released more or less as a stop-gap measure to tide gamers over until Sonic 3. Spinball's flashy intro shows Sonic gliding over water while approaching an ominous mountain shaped like Dr. Eggman. Once the actual game begins however, those vibrant 3D effects give way to a bland, flat sewer stage. Each "pinball table" consists of similar-looking areas connected via a confusing network of tubes. Sonic feels lethargic due to controls that lack the crisp, responsive feel fans are accustomed to. Sonic can walk over certain platforms, but most of the time he's bouncing around while tucked into a ball. This game lacks the speed of real pinball, so Sonic feels floaty, and sometimes seems to move in slow motion! The idea is to hit switches and activate doors to make the chaos emeralds accessible. Upon gathering all three you'll engage in an easy boss battle. Sonic Spinball is repetitive and confusing. It's hard to grasp the stage layouts and your objectives are never clear. Trial and error is the order of the day as you use the flippers to propel Sonic all over the place, nudging him on rare occasion. Many targets are annoying "warps" that have Sonic moving in circles. The collision detection is lousy, as it's not uncommon to see Sonic pass part-way through the flipper. Despite its technical shortcomings, Spinball is somewhat addictive. Whether you're trying to complete the game or just play for high score, the challenge is substantial. Spinball also packs a hidden surprise in the form of mini-pinball bonus stages. Not only are its screen-sized boards simple and fun, but their smooth animation and crisp controls make the main game look shabby by comparison! Sonic Spinball doesn't lend itself to quick games, so the lack of a save option or password is glaring. The music sounds so generic, you'll swear you've heard it in another Genesis game. I love the blue hedgehog as much as the next gamer, but this Sonic title reeks of mediocrity. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 28,971,590
1 player 


Sonic and Knuckles
Grade: B
Publisher: Sega (1994)
Reviewed: 2001/9/9

screenshotThis game created a whole new concept in video games hyped as "lock-on technology". The idea is that in addition to playing the cartridge by itself, you could attach Sonic 2 or 3 onto the top of it, which would allow you to play as a new character (Knuckles) in those old games! It works pretty well, although the concept never quite caught on. Sonic and Knuckles is your typical Sonic game with the option to play as Knuckles, a red animal that can glide and climb walls. These abilities definitely add a new dimension to the game play, and it's pretty cool to be able to scale walls and fly around in Sonic 2 or 3 (Sonic 1 is not supported). Unfortunately, it appears that the Sonic programmers were running short on ideas. The levels here look a bit like outtakes from past Sonic games. The music is also uninspired. New elements like a wind-blowing chicken and "sticky" devices are irritating and just slow down the game. By itself, this game pales in comparison to past Sonic games, but the lock-on ability does breathe new life into Sonic 2 and 3. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


Sonic the Hedgehog
Grade: A
Publisher: Sega (1991)
Reviewed: 2011/2/22

screenshotSo many thoughts raced through my mind as I revisited this amazing blast from the past. Even at 20 years of age, the sheer playability of this game is unsurpassed. Modern Sonic games can't even touch this masterpiece! Sonic the Hedgehog was designed to be Sega's answer to Super Mario Bros., and it succeeded in spectacular fashion. Yes, the core gameplay still consists of jumping between platforms and pouncing on enemies, but Sonic had a sense of speed and style. The game consists of six zones with three acts each. The opening Green Hill zone is remarkably pleasing to the eye with its tropical vegetation and scenic waterfall backdrops. Easy, breezy, and fast, it serves as a perfect introduction. Its alternate paths are fun to explore and there are plenty of hidden areas to discover. Just keep in mind the old adage "curiosity killed the hedgehog". Less patient gamers will opt to dash through the course at breakneck speeds, which is pretty exhilarating as you whiz around loops and roll through tunnels. The controls are simple (one button), responsive, and forgiving. My only issue is with the rolling spin attack, which is awkward to execute and limited in usefulness. Trying to collect 100 rings to earn a free life is challenging and fun, and I like how holding a single ring will shield you from most dangers. Dr. Robotnik (aka Eggman) is a memorable villain, and the fact that he's transformed animals into robots provides imaginative adversaries like mechanical bees, fish, crabs, and bats. After defeating each end-of-zone boss, Sonic hops on a metal container to release a bunch of imprisoned animals like chicks and bunnies. The second stage (Marble zone) shift gears dramatically as you're forced to take a slower, more deliberate approach to traverse lava-filled ruins. The Spring Yard zone has a pinball vibe as Sonic bounces between bumpers and flippers. The Labyrinth zone is a water-filled chamber which forces you to gulp air bubbles every so often. Its slow-motion water effects were groundbreaking for its time, but the zone is a little slow and tedious now. The flashy Star Light zone and industrial Scrap Brain zone are more uptempo, but frequent drop-offs can cause you to go through lives quickly. Psychedelic bonus rounds challenge you to snag gems while bouncing around a rotating maze, and collecting all six is necessary to truly finish the game. Sonic's soundtrack is sensational. Each stage has its own catchy, multi-track theme song, and they really add another dimension to the fun. There's no password feature, but you can earn continues along the way. To be honest, it's hard to find fault with this brilliantly executed platformer. Sonic set a standard for platformers that was so high, even he would struggle to surpass it. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 94,720
1 player 


Sonic the Hedgehog 2
Grade: A
Publisher: Sega (1992)
Reviewed: 2011/2/22

screenshotNot wanting to tinker too much with a good thing, Sega played it safe with Sonic 2 by only slightly refining the gameplay. The title screen introduces a brand new character - an orange fox with two tails (freak!). Sonic 2 has ten zones with two acts each, which offers a heck of lot of variety. The opening Emerald Hill zone follows closely in the footsteps of the Green Hill zone of Sonic 1 with its low difficulty and inviting tropical environments. The second stage (Chemical Plant) is a factory with a striking red skyline in the background. It features some rollercoaster-style tracks, vacuum tubes that whisk you between locations, and a pool of pink chemicals at its lower reaches. Many Sonic 2 stages sport an industrial look, with the beautiful Aquatic Ruins being a notable exception. The scenery is more finely detailed than the first game, and the programmers made heavy use of transparency effects. In addition to loops, there are now corkscrews to dash through, and they are a blast. The improved controls incorporate a new "spin dash" move that lets you "rev up" by holding down and tapping a button. It works great, and being able to time your dashes precisely is essential when it comes to avoiding spikes or compressors. Less successful is Sonic 2's attempt to incorporate a two-player mode. Sonic is now accompanied by Tails wherever he goes, optionally controlled by a second player. Tails isn't particularly useful and you usually don't even notice he's there. A split-screen race mode is included but its visuals are distorted and frankly it's just not that fun. One feature that truly shines are the new bonus stages which have Sonic running through a half-pipe while gathering rings and avoiding bombs. Although its chunky 3D graphics call to mind the Atari 2600, the behind-the-back view still conveys the feel of a wild rollercoaster ride. Sonic 2 is a terrific game, but it's not quite as polished as the original. The bonus round score screen has graphical glitches, and I once became embedded in the scenery in the Chemical Plant. Was this rushed for the holidays? Despite these minor issues, Sonic 2 delivered exactly what fans were craving - a lot more of a good thing! © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 73,900
1 or 2 players 


Sonic the Hedgehog 3
Grade: B+
Publisher: Sega (1994)
Reviewed: 2011/2/22


screenshotSonic 3 opens with an impressive 3D-rendered title screen done in the style of Donkey Kong Country. Okay, it's not a big deal now, but back in the day my friends were freaking out when they saw that thing! When you start a game in Sonic 3 you're taken to a special screen where you select from one of six battery-backed-up save slots. Considering the previous two Sonic games offered no mechanism to save your progress, this is a pretty big deal! I find it ironic that the one Sonic title that lets you save your place is also the shortest! Sonic 3 somewhat compensates for its length by ratcheting up the difficulty and giving you the option to play as Tails. Since Tails can hover in the air, he provides a slightly different experience. The action begins with a brief cut-scene of Sonic flying a plane to an island, and the sequence concludes with the introduction of the evil Knuckles the Echidna. The Angel Island zone is your typical tropical paradise that traditionally kicks off a Sonic game, and it's extremely lush. Halfway through the stage the island becomes a raging inferno thanks to that dastardly Dr. Eggman. Would you believe he's at it again!? Certain stages like Hydrocity and Marble Gardens feel a little recycled, but the snowy Icecap zone provides a welcome dose of originality. It's cool how the stages tend to flow into one another, but some of the level designs are disappointing. There are too many extended automated sequences, and some areas seem to repeat. Some stages have arrow signs to keep you on track, but the fact that you even need those seems to indicate a problem. I hit a few frustrating dead ends, which is something I never had to contend with in previous Sonic games. The Hydrocity zone really pissed me off, especially when I would lose all my lives in that encroaching wall sequence. The new bonus stages challenge you to run around a large sphere while gathering blue balls and avoiding red ones. Unimpressive visually and not particularly fun, you may find your making an effort to avoid these stages! A few new power-ups can turn Sonic into a flaming ball or bouncing bubble, but ultimately these don't add much. The two-player split-screen mode has been "fixed" so the distortion is gone, but my friends were never crazy about it. Sonic 3's rich gameplay is still worthy of the Sonic name, but it's not quite as fun as its predecessors. The quality is still there, but it seems as if the developers were running short on ideas. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 28,600
Save mechanism: Battery
1 or 2 players 


Space Harrier II
Grade: D
Publisher: Sega (1989)
Reviewed: 2011/12/21

screenshotIn this quirky sci-fi shooter you're a guy in a jetpack flying over a checkerboard planet surface. Not only do you blast creatures that approach from the horizon, but you'll need to dodge indestructible obstacles like pillars and trees. A game like Space Harrier 2 makes heavy use of sprite scaling - not one of the Genesis' strengths. The first few stages play well enough because enemies scale in slowly and unleash giant blue rings that are easy to avoid. It's a good strategy to keep moving around the screen to stay out of harm's way. As the stages progress however the action becomes more hectic and the hardware struggles to keep up. Increased on-screen activity takes its toll on the frame-rate and animation, and there are times when you can barely tell what's going on. When that happens you just keep moving and shooting and hope for the best. The lack of an auto-fire feature forces you to tap the fire button incessantly, which takes its toll on your wrist. Space Harrier 2 boasts a wide variety of random foes including robots, jellyfish, crabs, stone heads, flying saucers, three-headed turtles, and dragons. I like having the option of selecting the starting stage. The audio is pretty weak. The keyboard music sounds muffled, and some of these dismal tunes sound like something you'd hear at a first grade recital. After taking a hit your guy unleashes a high-pitched shriek that sounds almost comical. Sega did its best to bring the Space Harrier experience home, but I think the system was in a little over its head. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 2,540,200
1 player 


Spiderman
Grade: B-
Publisher: Sega (1991)
Reviewed: 2001/9/9

screenshotThis side-scroller is plenty of fun if you can deal with all the clichˇs. Spiderman is your typical, old-fashioned, jump-kick-punch game. You beat up one thug after another, and they all look exactly the same. Spiderman can crawl on the walls, ceilings, the sides of buildings, and through vents. The controls are tricky at first, and can be frustrating at times. But your web-slinging ability is great fun, allowing you to swing freely as well as tie up the bad guys. You'll face six villains, including Dr Octopus, the Hobgoblin, and Venom. The graphics and sound are about average. The action gets repetitious, but the boss battles are pretty interesting. Spiderman is a challenging game, and it doesn't provide a password, but it does deliver some old-school fun. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


Spiderman and Venom in Maximum Carnage
Grade: D
Publisher: Acclaim (1994)
Reviewed: 2007/10/27

screenshotWhen originally released, Maximum Carnage (starring Spiderman and Venom) was lambasted by critics, and rightly so. This side-scrolling brawler does a few things right and a truckload of things wrong. I have no beef with the graphical style of the game. There's not much detail in the character sprites, but I appreciate their large size and and vibrant colors. Likewise the cut-scenes are rendered in comic book-style cels. The animation is uncommonly smooth, and I love how you can hoist enemies over your head and hurl them into oncoming thugs. The huge cast of villains includes the multi-armed Doppelganger and Morbius the vampire. There are even a few cameos by fellow superheroes like Captain America and Black Cat. Maximum Carnage has a lot going for it, but extended play reveals a shoddy, poorly designed game. For one thing, the game is one-player only! That's an absolutely crime when you consider the game co-stars Spiderman and Venom! And while there are a nice variety of villains, you'll spend most of the time beating up the same three thugs over and over again - including babes who attack with their hair. Sorry Acclaim, but giving them different colored outfits isn't fooling anyone! This mindless slugfest wears thin in a hurry, especially when the game forces you to backtrack in certain areas! Some of the climbing sequences are totally idiotic, with flashing arrows indicating where incoming projectiles will strike. The game is long, but there is no password to save your progress - just a few continues. In closing, I'd like to thank my trusty Game Genie, without which this review would not have been possible. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


Splatterhouse 2
Grade: B
Publisher: Namco (1992)
Reviewed: 2013/4/4

screenshotThe original Splatterhouse (Turbografx, 1990) was a gory hash-n-slash side-scroller. Parents hated it and kids loved it. Splatterhouse 2 expands upon the premise by incorporating more stages, creepy special effects, amazing bosses, and a much-needed password mechanism. The developers were clearly influenced by classic horror flicks like Friday the 13th, Halloween, Hellraiser, and Nightmare on Elm Street. The intro sets the mood nicely as a camera pans over a stormy countryside as a dark mansion slowly moves into view. You begin outside of the house, and it's clear that these ghouls have not been keeping up with their yard work. As monsters approach you can literally punch them in half, and it does wonders for the self esteem (yours - not theirs). Most ghouls look like walking masses of quivering muscle and come in a delightful assortment of shapes and colors. There's no shortage of splattering blood and guts, but it tends to be green, so parents shouldn't have an issue with it. Splatterhouse 2 lets you do stuff you rarely get to do in real life, like bludgeon an alien with a giant dinosaur bone. The first boss arrives early in the form of an obese creature that spews green acid. He's followed by the obligatory elevator stage, and this is where things start to get a little repetitive. You gradually figure out how to defeat each creep, but their attacks tend to nickel and dime your life bar. By the time you encounter a boss (like that hideous giant face) you're half dead. As stages progress the monsters can absorb more and more hits, causing the fun factor to diminish. The digitized sound effects and scary music are good but not great. Splatterhouse 2 doesn't feel as a fresh as the original, but at least it stays true to its spirit. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 30,500
Save mechanism: Password
1 player 


Splatterhouse 3
Grade: D+
Publisher: Namco (1993)
Reviewed: 2013/4/4

screenshotThe first two Splatterhouse games were a celebration of macabre fun and gratuitous gore, and Splatterhouse 3 tries to take the series to the next level. Once again our mask-wearing hero "Rick" must save his girlfriend Jennifer by beating freaky creatures to a bloody pulp. Next time these monsters might want to consider kidnapping the girlfriend of somebody less mentally unstable. Splatterhouse 3's graphics are pretty good. In fact, some of the digitized cut-scenes are among the most impressive you'll see on the Genesis. I especially enjoyed the scene with the text "the monster emits a foul smell and moves closer to Jennifer". Unlike the previous games where Rick could only move sideways, he can now move all around the screen. He has a bunch of new attacks like jump-kicks, combination punches, throws, and head butts. Splatterhouse 3 even gives you a map so you can choose your own route through the mansion. This would have added a lot of replay value if the rooms weren't all the same! This game is just a series of protracted brawls with the same gang of slimy creatures that take too long to defeat. And just when you thought you've cleared a room, a new set of ghouls drop in from the ceiling. Gah! You can strike several at a time, and pinning them against walls is effective. The problem is, these creatures can take a hell of lot of abuse, and some bosses require about 100 hits! It is nice how creatures exhibit damage as you wear them down. Some will have the top of their heads collapse halfway through the battle, which is gruesome but fun. Rooms not full of ghouls contain flying books and disembodied hands that chip away at your life. The rooms are furnished but there's not much to see. Splatterhouse 3 doesn't bother to keep score so it's just a matter of persevering until the end. The game has a few good ideas, but its repetitive fighting action proves to be its undoing. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: Password
1 player 


SportsTalk Baseball
Grade: A-
Publisher: Sega (1992)
Reviewed: 2006/6/18

screenshotIt was groundbreaking for its time, and in terms of fun, no other baseball game for the Genesis can touch SportsTalk Baseball. Boasting arcade-style graphics, smooth action, and intuitive controls, this is ideal for the casual player looking for a quick game. The pitching and batting controls are as simple as pressing a button. When fielding, you can dive for grounders, leap for line drives, and even snatch homeruns from the top of the wall! Runners can lead off and steal, but don't forget to hit that slide button as you approach second base! Despite featuring major league players, Sega inexplicably did not obtain the MLB rights. Having the teams referred to by their city isn't an issue, but those homemade logos look cheesy as all hell! I suppose that explains why the guy on the box is wearing a generic green helmet. Three fictional stadiums are available: White-Sky Dome, Blue-Moon Stadium, and Red-Sun Stadium. SportsTalk's gameplay is solid all around, but its true claim to fame is its live commentary. This feature was amazing in 1992, and it's still quite entertaining today. The commentator (who looks like Larry King) keeps up with the action fairly well, and it's quite amusing when he lags behind. Since his voice doesn't affect the action on the field, you can just continue playing as he rambles on about the last play. For a good laugh, have a fielder tag an occupied base several times in succession, causing the commentator to exclaim "Safe! Safe! He's safe. Safe! He's safe. Safe!" Playing head-to-head is great, but the single-player mode is respectable as well, with aggressive CPU-controlled opponents that even try to steal bases. SportsTalk lets you play a whole season via the battery backup, but its menu interface is woefully slow and clunky. One bizarre "feature" is the game's "domination" rule, which abruptly ends the contest when one team goes up by ten runs. What the heck is that all about? Another issue is the lack of an instant replay. Oh well, this is a 1992 game, so I guess you can't ask for too much. But if you're looking for pure fun, Sportstalk Baseball is definitely the way to go. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Star Control
Grade: F
Publisher: Accolade (1991)
Reviewed: 2007/10/27

screenshotHere's a game I picked up ages ago but never got around to reviewing because it looked so boring. Now that I've finally played Star Control a few times, I can state for a fact that it is boring. Unless you're a real strategy nut (and I stress the word nut) Star Control will probably put your ass to sleep. The "action" (and I use the word loosely) begins upon selecting one of fifteen scenarios, each of which pits you against an alien race in intergalactic battle. Taking turns against a CPU opponent, you establish colonies and manage resources in an effort to construct a fleet of warships. The main screen features a rotating starfield, and I have to admit it looks pretty snazzy. Your installations appear to be floating in a 3D space, but that mainly serves as eye candy. As you deploy vessels and advance them into enemy territory, confrontations occur in the form of one-on-one space battles. Unfortunately, most of your ships have all the maneuverability of a bathtub, with super wide turn radiuses that will make you absolutely miserable. I like how the screen zooms in when the ships are close together, but it's cheesy how ships bounce off stars and planets like pinballs! I may not fully grasp the strategic aspects of Star Control, but I know the shooting action sucks, and that's half the game right there. I suspect this was originally a PC title due to sparse sound and graphics that appear to have been designed for a higher resolution display. For brainiacs who overcome Star Control's ample learning curve, the game offers plenty of options, including the ability to let the CPU control the strategy or melee portions for you. Personally, I'd just as well have it do both, and then turn itself off when it's done. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


Steel Empire
Grade: B
Publisher: Flying Edge (1992)
Reviewed: 2001/1/8

screenshotThis side-scrolling shooter has a retro-futuristic theme, which is pretty original for a video game. If you've ever seen old black-and-white science fiction movies that attempt to depict the future, you'll know what I'm talking about. People with epilepsy will want to bypass the intro and cut-scenes, which flicker annoyingly to simulate an old newsreel. You can choose between a blimp and a bi-plane. I prefer the blimp; it's slower but stronger, and there are tons of speed power-ups to be found anyway. Once your get past the dull-colored intro, you'll be surprised to see how bright and colorful Steel Empire is. Besides large blimps and other mechanical monstrosities, you'll see many strange creatures. Flying windmills. Flying fish wearing Santa Claus hats. The screen scrolls every which way, often reversing itself. That's OK because you can shoot in both directions, and your firepower is pretty good. There is some slowdown during encounters with large bosses, but you'll be grateful for it because it improves your control. You also have a supply of smart bombs. There are seven levels, and you get three continues. Steel Empire is not a bad choice for shooter fans. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


Stormlord
Grade: D
Publisher: Razorsoft (1990)
Reviewed: 2002/1/17

screenshotThis old-school side-scroller tries to be like Ghouls and Ghosts, but the gameplay doesn't even come close. You control a star-throwing barbarian in a dark forest full of monsters and items. The graphics aren't bad, but the animation sucks. Your barbarian is as stiff as Al Gore. Jumping or attacking doesn't cause him to change his body position at all. Apparently the guy who did the graphics spent most of his energy on the large, shapely woman who appear in each level but serve only as scenery. In order to find keys and objects to complete the level, you need to move both right and left, often swapping items and retracing your steps, and it's hard to tell what you can or can't jump on. Adding to the confusion is an eagle who occasionally picks you up and flies you to some random area. And cheap hits are the norm as killer caterpillars sprout beneath your feet and platforms disintegrate beneath you. Stormlord probably won't hold your attention for long. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


Street Fighter II Championship Edition
Grade: B+
Publisher: Capcom (1993)
Reviewed: 2006/8/11

screenshotAfter waiting an absolute eternity (in video game years, anyway), the Genesis faithful finally got a piece of the Street Fighter pie in the form of this "Championship Edition". Judged on its own merits, it's a spectacular one-on-one fighter with some of the most impressive graphics and music you'll ever witness on the Genesis. The diverse cast of characters hails from locations spanning the globe. Not only are the fighting styles diverse, but each stage offers a taste of a unique culture. Street Fighter 2's gameplay is timeless, whether you're pitted against a friend or the CPU. The normal Championship mode didn't especially impress me however, due to its inconsistent speed. The excellent Hyper modes, on the other hand, offer some of the fastest fighting action you'll ever want to experience. Of course, comparisons to the SNES Street Fighter 2 Turbo Edition are unavoidable, and to be honest, the Genesis simply can't deliver the same degree of sharp visuals and rich audio. This version's graphics look slightly grainy compared to the SNES, and some sound effects are downright cringe-worthy. The announcer in particular sounds awfully congested. Even so, this Championship Edition turned out much better than most expected, and the six-button Genesis controller provides an ideal button configuration (identical to the arcade game). Fans will also appreciate the inclusion of the arcade game's intro, not present on the SNES cartridge. There's an exclusive "group battle mode" as well, but that's hardly worth mentioning. SF2 Championship Edition is a rock solid fighter, but if you own an SNES, I'd opt for that version instead. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Street Smart
Grade: D
Publisher: Treco (1991)
Reviewed: 2010/11/20

screenshotI enjoy fighting games more than most people do, but Street Smart is undeniably shallow. This game is a series of one-on-one matches in front of a crowd of spectators. The best part of the game is the colorful scenery which includes a bright beach, the streets of San Francisco, the deck of a ship, and the front lawn of the White House. Your character looks pretty small - about half as tall as some of the guys you need to fight! Each new foe has a unique look and fighting style, but the fighting action is erratic at best. Your basic moves are limited to a punch, roundhouse kick, and a jump-kick that never seems to connect. There's a special attack but it's hard to execute. Even when you read the manual, some of the controls seem very mysterious. The A.I. is not good. As the fighters move up and down on the screen, the CPU doesn't seem to know if he's properly lined up with you. The collision detection is problematic, especially when fighters overlap and flail away without hitting anything. When a player wins, a person in the crowd unleashes a high-pitched screech that sounds like a rabid spider monkey. The victory screen shows your goofy-looking fighter being embraced by some hot chick in a French-cut bikini (can you say charity work?). Street Smart also condones gambling. Between rounds you can "bet" on the next fight, and you can inexplicably bet against yourself! Street Smart is moderately fun to play through for high score, but the game just never made a whole lot of sense to me. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 50,000
1 or 2 players 


Streets of Rage
Grade: A-
Publisher: Sega (1991)
Reviewed: 2004/4/24

screenshotFor many years I've taken this game for granted, but after recently playing similar games on other systems like Final Fight (SNES) and Burning Fight (Neo Geo), I've gained a whole new appreciation for this classic side-scrolling brawler. Streets of Rage takes the Double Dragon-style of gameplay to a whole new level, with more attacks, realistic-looking characters, and interesting backdrops. Two players can fight side-by-side, and there are three characters to choose from, including a muscle-bound blonde guy (Axel), the high-kicking black dude (Adam), and a hot chick in a red miniskirt (Blaze). The punch and jump buttons let you execute a surprising variety of moves, including throws, jump-kicks, head-butts, and body slams. The "special attack" button calls in a police car which fires a cannon that rains down fireballs on everybody but somehow doesn't harm the good guys one bit. There are a wide variety of thugs to beat the crap out of, but after a while they start repeating, showing up in different-colored outfits. You'll face fire-jugglers, dominatrixes, guys with turtle-like jackets, and a parade of generic thugs. At the end of each stage, some pumping "boss music" kicks in as you face a metal-clawed punk, a Cro-Magnon man, a fire-breathing fat guy, or some acrobatic ladies. Speaking of music, the Genesis isn't known for its audio, but the music in Streets of Rage is simply amazing. Each of these catchy techno jams gets under your skin and really pumps the adrenaline. In terms of graphics, the characters are nicely animated and the scenery is quite detailed, especially the gorgeous city skylines. You can smash up some of the scenery (like phone booths) to reveal power-ups and weapons. And like most fighting games, it's perfectly acceptable to eat strange food you find laying in middle of the road. Weapons include baseball bats, pipes, and - my favorite - the bottle. Not only can you smash it over some goon's head, but then you can stab him with the broken end! The gameplay is remarkably tight in terms of control and design. Bad guys don't require an inordinate number of hits, and the stages are just the right length. Streets of Rage is an absolute classic that seems to get better with time. Play it and love it. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: CJS 394,500
1 or 2 players 


Streets of Rage 2
Grade: A
Publisher: Sega (1992)
Reviewed: 2002/9/29

screenshotPerhaps the best game of its kind, Streets of Rage 2 was actually a big step up from the original game, with larger characters, more moves, and more interesting levels. The four playable characters include Axel and Blaze from the first game, plus a huge wrestler named Max and a little black kid on skates named Skate. While the big characters are nicely detailed and well animated, two players may have difficulty staying out of each other's way! A slew of new moves including a rear attack, fury, and drop attack, make the action much less repetitive this time around. Some of the stages are extremely imaginative. Sure, you'll begin on a city street, but from subsequent locations include a bar, a rainy alley, a bridge, an amusement park, and a baseball stadium. My favorite stage is the amusement park, where you walk through an arcade, a pirate attraction, and an Alien-like science fiction ride. The game is still linear, but the screen occasionally scrolls diagonally instead of side-to-side. Like the first game, the thugs all tend to wear the same outfits in different colors. There are fire-breathing fat guys, motorcyclists, guys in jetpacks, and of course the obligatory scantily clad women with whips (gratuitous for sure, but always welcome!) The audio is a bit disappointing. The music doesn't compare up to the awesome tunes from the first game, even though it's in the same style. The same muffled yell and scream samples are used for all the thugs. I also felt that the designers missed a big opportunity to incorporate more cooperative moves into the game. There are only one or two of them, and they're not very effective. Despite these minor quibbles, Streets of Rage 2 is still the best game in the series. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Streets of Rage 3
Grade: B
Publisher: Sega (1994)
Reviewed: 2011/11/13

screenshotIt's been subject to a lot of criticism over the years, but this third edition of Streets of Rage is still a solid side-scrolling fighter at its core. This time Axel, Blaze, and Skate are joined by a bionic old man named Dr. Zan who has the ability to unleash electrical charges from his arms. The stage locations in Streets of Rage 3 aren't particularly imaginative. They include a warehouse, construction site, subway, and an elevator. I do like the dance club even though its lighting effects are gaudy as hell. There's also a bar with a massive fish tank that contains a shark. Subtle details include chains that rattle in the warehouse when someone gets body-slammed, and a black cat in the alley stage who periodically peeks out of a trashcan. Most of the gang members have been recycled from previous Streets of Rage titles, but the women have obviously been altered to cover up their revealing outfits (rats!). The control scheme has been expanded to support the six-button controller, although the two additional moves it provides are weak and unnecessary. If you really want to make your life complicated, you can try using the Activator body motion controller, which is also supported. The default difficulty is higher than the previous games, and the musical style is a radical departure. It sounds more chaotic, and while a few of the tunes are catchy, many are just obnoxious. Streets of Rage 3 failed to propel the series forward, but if you enjoyed the previous games you'll probably like this one too. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: SLN 338,820
1 or 2 players 


Strider
Grade: A-
Publisher: Sega (1989)
Reviewed: 2008/3/11

screenshotBoldly original and loaded with surprises, Strider delivers a genuinely thrilling platform adventure. Armed with a sword, our hero must slash his way through a Russian palace, the Siberian wilderness, a flying airship, and even a dinosaur-infested Amazon jungle. Strider Hiryu is a nimble guy, with the ability to scale walls, vault, slide, and even monkey-swing under platforms. Is there anything this guy can't cling to? I love it when he just misses a platform, yet grabs the ledge with one hand and quickly hoists himself up. In addition to battling soldiers, wild animals, and freaky robots, Hiryu must face some the most memorable bosses ever seen in a video game. The mechanical ape and skeletal T-Rex are classic. Strider's graphics are great but its animation is less impressive and somewhat choppy. A simple white arc represents a swing of your sword, accompanied by a simple clang sound. Enemies you strike are split in half before they silently vanish. The lack of sound effects is glaring at times, but I do enjoy the elegant organ soundtrack. Most objects tend to be rendered with large sprites, and Strider himself makes for a rather large target. The difficulty is substantial, and you need an intimate knowledge of the stage layouts to avoid their many hazards. Strider can also smash pods to release mini droids that fight by his side - a novel concept for its time. Although the crux of the game involves slashing everything in sight, the stages exhibit remarkable variety. Each has a unique design and new set of enemies, so the action never gets stale. And you don't have to deal with those "repeating environments" which plague so many other platformers. With its graphic artistry and imaginative stages, Strider is one of the most entertaining platform games you'll ever play. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


Strider Returns
Grade: D-
Publisher: U.S. Gold (1990)
Reviewed: 2008/3/11

screenshotOh how the mighty have fallen. I really loved the original Strider with its unbridled creativity and frenetic "grab-onto-anything-and-everything" gameplay. By comparison, Strider Returns feels slow, confusing, and uninspired. Worst of all, its unreasonable difficulty level will have you ditching the controller in disgust. On the surface, Strider Returns doesn't seem much different. It's a side-scrolling platform game with a hero that can slash quickly and repeatedly to defeat his robotic and alien foes. The first thing I noticed was how much slower Strider moves in this game. His sword animation has improved however, and he has a bit more range. There are no mini-robots to help him out, but he does have the ability to throw stars at times. It doesn't matter, because you'll be lucky to survive the very first stage! Yes the "Forbidden Forest" is an unpleasant ordeal fraught with cheap hits and blind jumps. Green plants sprout from below your feet, spelling instant death. You'll hit your head on seemingly easy jumps, sending you plunging to your death. Upon defeating the first boss, the room begins raining fire, often draining your last ounce of life. Such brutal treatment would be bad enough in stages 6 or 7, but this is the first stage we're talking about here! The second stage places you in a maze-like castle with ropes and pulleys all over the place. I found myself going in circles, and I was pissed! After the generic "girders in the sky" of stage three, I could almost predict the obligatory "alien lair" was right around the corner (yep - that's stage four!). The controls could be tighter, and there are a lot of little glitches - like being able to slash through solid stone walls - and kill what's on the other side! And I have no F-ing clue what that [expletive] orb meter is all about. Strider Returns also attempts some voice synthesis with unintentionally hilarious results. Even the box cover is deserving of ridicule, with a horrible illustration that suggests the title "Gymnast Wars". Strider Returns is really only good for one thing, and that's for making you appreciate the original Strider. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


Sub Terrania
Grade: D-
Publisher: Sega (1994)
Reviewed: 2001/1/8

screenshotThis is a shooter with gravity, similar to the classic game Gravitar. The object is to navigate your spacecraft through caverns while shooting enemies, picking up humans, collecting power-ups, and maintaining your fuel. I've played several games similar to this, and this one seems less fun than most. Sub Terrania does have a few things going for it. The graphics are pretty cool. I like the giant horned head that becomes a skull as you destroy it. The science fiction-style music is quite good, and the missions are well designed and clearly explained. But the controls are so bad that they nearly ruin the game. First off, you have to constantly thrust because the gravity is so strong. Next, the controls are too sensitive; it's difficult to navigate narrow openings. Finally, the front and back of your ship look identical, which can cause you to accidentally thrust into walls. And even if you master the controls, there are other problems. The enemies require too many hits to destroy, and your shield status is practically hidden on the bottom of the screen. Sub Terrania simply isn't much fun. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


Sunset Riders
Grade: A-
Publisher: Konami (1992)
Reviewed: 2000/4/30

screenshotThis is an excellent western shoot-em-up, featuring great graphics, tight control, and insane firepower. Two players at once can shoot the outlaws, rescue sexy ladies, and collect gold coins. The graphics are detailed, colorful, and vibrant. It looks just like the arcade game, and it's just as fun. A nice variety of stages let you fight in town, on a train, and several other western scenarios. Power-ups let you upgrade your pistol to a sawed-off shotgun. I love how the bad guys fall out of windows when you shoot them. The levels aren't that long, but there are several cool bonus stages. This is a solid two-player shoot-em-up. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Super Baseball 2020
Grade: C
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1993)
Reviewed: 2001/4/17

screenshotYou really have to hand it to EA for at least coming up with something original. This futuristic baseball game features non-stop action, flashy graphics, robot players, a huge field, 135 MPH pitches, land mines in the outfield, and crazy power-ups that let your fielders jump 20 feet (to snag those would-be homers!). There's some great ideas here, no question, but the execution leaves much to be desired. Before I go further, I should mention that this game is hyper-kinetic to the point of being dizzying. Even moving backgrounds of the menu screens will make you sick. Informational screens are flashed so fast you can hardly read them! Even "close-up" action screens go by so fast it's hard to tell what's going on. In general, the graphics and sound are outstanding. The view of the ball getting knocked into the outfield is awesome (but often misleading). The ultra-modern sound effects are imaginative and not at all annoying. But below all the glitz is an arcade baseball game that isn't as wild as it wants to be. The gameplay is pretty much like any other baseball game, except for less home runs, fewer fouls, and more off-the-wall action. Sure you can buy power-ups during the game, but they don't do much more than give you more power at the plate. Yes, there are land mines in the field, but since the fielders are mostly computer-controlled, there's not much running around going on. In fact, the fielders always seem in the right position to catch the long fly balls (which take an eternity to come down). This is one of those games that seems great at first, but ultimately won't get much playtime in your Genesis. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Super High Impact
Grade: B+
Publisher: Midway (1992)
Reviewed: 2007/3/23

screenshotIt's not much of a solo experience, but Super High Impact's brand of arcade football is an absolute blast when played competitively against a friend. The contests tend to be short but action-packed, and the cheesy animations are primitive yet endearing. The game is played on a side-scrolling field with large, realistic-looking players. The playbook offers about 15 plays on offense and defense, and the play-calling mechanism is quick and easy. If only you could differentiate between pass plays and run plays! Pressing B to hand the ball off takes some getting used to, but otherwise the controls are simple. Pressing A unleashes your turbo speed, and it's extremely effective for breaking away for big runs. Super High Impact is a button-masher's dream. Kicks are performed by repeatedly tapping buttons to "power-up", and the occasion "fights" are little more than button-mashing extravaganzas. It's fun for while, but definitely shallow and ultimately tiresome. The action on the field often belies the title of the game, with tackles that don't seem very hard at all. You can't dislodge the ball, and when a player's helmet goes flying, and it looks more like his entire head fell off! A Wolfman Jack impersonator will sometimes appear with his "hit-o-meter" gauge to measure the ferocity of a hit, but its readings seem arbitrary. Super High Impact incorporates some rough voice synthesis, including one sample that sounds suspiciously like Barney from The Simpsons. With its arcade theme and ample eye candy, I'm surprised there's no half-time show. What I really like about Super High Impact is how anyone can sit down and play a fun game in just a few minutes. If you're looking for a pigskin contest with an arcade flair, don't pass this one up. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Super Monaco GP
Grade: B-
Publisher: Sega (1990)
Reviewed: 2012/5/20

screenshotWhen my friend Tuan brought this over to my house back in the day, we thought is was the greatest thing. Like any respectable racer, it features a hot blonde in a bathing suit on the title screen. So far, so good. It's not easy to convey the thrill of high-speed racing with 16-bit technology, but Super Monaco GP does a pretty decent job. Like Pole Position, the illusion of speed is conveyed with rotating colors and scaling sprites. The GP mode is pure arcade action as you try to maintain a minimal position in a race while striving for a high score. Your current position is posted at all times, and an alarm sounds if you're in danger of slipping past the position limit. It's exciting to shake off a challenger during that final lap. World Championship is a deeper mode that challenges you to a series of races and incorporates a password. The idea of selecting a rival is cool, but the races are too long. Overall Super Monaco GP is a good-looking game. The tracks are flat but there are some gorgeous backdrops include a port town complete with sailboats in the harbor. Most of the action takes place on the lower fourth of the screen, where you can see the hands on your steering wheel and watch the wheels turn with your car. The remainder of the screen displays a rear-view mirror, map, and speedometer. It's hard to anticipate turns because your vantage point is so close to the road, so learning the tracks is key. Be sure to use that rear mirror to block cars trying to pass. The sense of speed is modest, but the other cars scale smoothly and it's fun to jockey for position. The steering controls are responsive but using the directional pad to shift can be clumsy. The stereo sound effects of cars whizzing by are great, but more often than not the game is weirdly silent. One feature that made me laugh was the chain-smoking voice that encourages you with "C'mon!" and "Keep in up!" Super Monaco GP shows its age, but it still makes the grade on the strength of its charm and personality. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation(s): GP
Our high score: 1237
Save mechanism: Password
1 player 


Super Monaco GP 2, Ayrton Senna's
Grade: D+
Publisher: Sega (1992)
Reviewed: 2012/5/20

screenshotThis sequel tries to be more realistic that the first Super Monaco GP, but it seems as if the fun got lost in the shuffle. The screen is set up the same as the first game, but the gameplay feels much different. The scenery in the distance has that same nearly digitized look, but it tends to be less interesting. The tracks are generally flat, but some do undulate slightly. The sense of speed is a little better and the laps seem a little shorter. The collision detection is extremely suspect, and it's now much harder to crash (the stacks of tires just slow you down). The GP mode is back, but the lack of a position limit really takes the excitement out of it. The higher degree of difficulty doesn't help either. It seems like you can't let off the gas without three cars passing you. The sound effects are more realistic (I assume) but they are harsh. It sounds like you're racing in a [expletive] beehive! The voice samples are so short you can't even understand them (did he just say fumble?) A championship mode lets you save your progress to battery, and I used some pre-existing saves to preview the advanced courses. Some of the names recorded by the previous owner included "Ass-h***", Ass-f***, Old Bastard, and Speedo. Stay classy, gamers! Super Monaco GP 2 tried to up the ante but it fell flat. Unless you're a die-hard racing fan, you'll probably find this to be a little bland. Stick to the original. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation(s): GP
Our high score: 2'17"63
Save mechanism: Battery
1 player 


Super Off Road
Grade: B+
Publisher: Tradewest (1992)
Reviewed: 2002/3/10

screenshotOh yeah - I loved this one the first time I laid eyes on it! It looks decidedly old school, with tiny cars riding around miniature dirt tracks that fit on a single screen. The graphics are minutely detailed, and the tracks and cars have a rugged 3D look to them. The tracks are small but exciting, with bumps, ramps, water, and multiple paths. Four little cars speed through the course, bouncing around and bumping into each other around every turn. The controls are simple: one button accelerates and the other gives you a "nitro" turbo boost. It's all the fun of Micro Machines without the limited view. Bonuses randomly appear around the course, and between races you can upgrade parts and purchase more nitros. It's a shame that there's no four-player mode, but my main complaint is that the computer-controlled gray car is just too hard to beat! Super Off Road is a hidden gem as far as Genesis games go. I can play this one again and again. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Super Smash TV
Grade: D
Publisher: Flying Edge (1992)
Reviewed: 1999/12/7

screenshotSuper Smash TV is a cool shooter brought to you by Eugene Jarvis, the author of the classic Robotron. Your character participates in a "Running Man" type of game show, thrust into a maze of rooms with hoards of enemies closing in from all sides. You must blast them all to bloody pieces while collecting money and power-ups. The graphics are pretty good, and look similar to the arcade version. The quality of the voice samples is pretty lousy though - the announcer sounds raspy. The main problem with Smash TV is that it's meant to be played with two joysticks, not one control pad. Actually, the game DOES allow you to use two control pads in the one-player mode, but it's far too awkward. You can tweak the controls to determine if the shots should be fired away from where you're running, toward where you're running, or in a locked position. It's all just a big kludge though, because none of the settings really capture the feel of the arcade game. Unfortunately, without good control, this game isn't much fun. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: Save option? No
1-2 players 


Super Street Fighter II
Grade: B+
Publisher: Capcom (1993)
Reviewed: 2006/8/11

screenshotAs an incremental follow up to the Championship Edition, Super Street Fighter II adds four new fighters (and stages) to the mix. There have been some minor tweaks to the moves, but only hardcore fans will really concern themselves with these. The newcomers include a gigantic Native American named T. Hawk, a Jamaican guy named Dee Jay, Bruce Lee look-alike Fei Long, and a scantily-clad hottie by the name of Cammy. Die-hard fans will appreciate the new faces, but at the time this was released, it was a questionable upgrade. The graphics are top-notch for a Genesis title, but still pale compared to the SNES version. The sound effects are particularly bad; perhaps even worse than those in the Championship edition (or maybe there's just more of them). Due to the system's limited sonic range, digitized voices and punch effects are accompanied by hiss and static. A few extra modes like tournament, group, and time challenge are included, but these arenÕt anything special. Besides being able to use the 6-button Genesis controller, this version has no obvious advantages over its SNES cousin. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Sword of Sodan
Grade: F
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1991)
Reviewed: 2003/5/10

screenshotSword of Sodan reminds me of that old adage "the bigger they are, the harder they fall". Sporting some of the largest characters I've ever seen on a Genesis game screen, Sodan really gets your attention with its graphics but comes up short in terms of gameplay. You can choose between a male or female warrior in this overwrought medieval slash-em-up. The characters are meticulously detailed and about half the screen in height. Their choppy movements are less impressive however, and the female warrior walks and talks like an old lady. Moves include high/medium/low sword attacks and a jump. Groups of guards attack you with their spears, and you have to fend them off from both sides. The play mechanics are very awkward. Sometimes the most effective technique is to kneel down and "poke" your enemies repeatedly in the crotch until they keel over. That's no way for a man to die! The collision detection is pretty bad, and so is the responsiveness of the controls. I should also mention something about the excessive and terribly fake-looking blood. At one point you'll face huge knights that can actually be decapitated! This is a level of violence rarely seen until Mortal Kombat. Sodan also contains potions that are meant to add some strategy, but these tend to be worthless. The purple one has NO effect at all, and the drinking an orange one KILLS the nearest enemy. I know - it doesn't make sense - but work with me here. The whole game is pretty ludicrous, and if not for the large character sprites, Sword of Sodan would be completely forgettable. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 



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