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Title Range: S-Z

Safari Hunt
Grade: B
Publisher: Sega (1986)
Reviewed: 2001/4/28

screenshotThis light gun game is similar to Duck Hunt for the NES, but it's better in every respect. While the cartoonish visuals may be the same style, the scenery is more detailed and you get a better variety of enemies. The first stage is set in front of a pond, and the next two stages take place in a forest. After that it's back to stage one. You get a certain number of bullets for each stage, displayed across the bottom of the screen. A certain number of points is required to qualify for each round. The action is addicting and non-stop. My only complaint is that in the later levels, your margin of error is so small that it's almost unfair. But Safari Hunt still delivers some good one-player shooting action. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
1 player 


Shinobi
Grade: A
Publisher: Sega (1988)
Reviewed: 2009/3/10

screenshotOf all of the ninja games to grace the consoles in the 1980's (and there were many), this is one of the best. Instead of donning the traditional ninja garb, Shinobi is decked out in camouflage, making him look more like somebody from Metal Gear Solid. The degree of detail in the character sprites is pretty amazing - far surpassing anything I've seen on the NES. The backgrounds are less detailed but do offer a diverse assortment of urban locales. Shinobi's gameplay demands cat-like reflexes and good technique as you leap between floors, duck under projectiles, and rescue hostages for points. Throwing stars are your primary weapon, but Shinobi will brandish a sword for close range encounters. I find it interesting how boomerangs do not return to enemies if you can kill them first! The gameplay is very fair, offering a gradually escalating challenge with reasonably difficult bosses. As if the side-scrolling action wasn't awesome enough, there are some absolutely kick-ass first-person star-throwing stages. Winning these gives you the ability to wield magic, but they're hard as hell! Shinobi's soundtrack features traditional oriental music that helps give the game a martial arts flavor. If you are in the mood for classic side-scrolling fun (and why the hell wouldn't you be?), Shinobi should be near the top of your list. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
1 player 


Shooting Gallery
Grade: D
Publisher: Sega (1987)
Reviewed: 2001/8/27

screenshotThis has to be one of the lamest light gun games ever. You start off shooting at birds, balloons, and blimps. Those huge blimps are tough to miss! At least the birds explode into meaty chunks. In later stages, you shoot at balls that move through a maze of tubes. It's very confusing, and not very fun. Shooting Gallery is playable, but weak. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
1 player 


Space Harrier
Grade: F
Publisher: Sega (1987)
Reviewed: 2011/5/17

screenshotIn this pseudo-3D shooter you fly over a checkerboard planet while dodging obstacles and blasting aliens. Trees and one-eyed mammoths scale in from the distance while saucers, robots, and stone faces swoop in from the sky. Space Harrier looked great in the arcade, but this scaled-down version is unacceptable. The rough animation and rampant "shape stamping" transform the screen into a pixelated mess. Toss in some fire-breathing dragons and you will have no freakin' clue what the [expletive] is going on! The depth perception is non-existent so there's no way to determine if something is close enough to harm you. Your best strategy is to keep moving and try to stay away from those huge unsightly splotches on the screen. The control is fair and there are some decent voice effects, but the game itself is a lost cause. Heck, even the Genesis couldn't do this game justice! I'm a little surprised that Sega even released Space Harrier for the Master System, because it's a little embarrassing. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 2,471,110
1 player 


Space Harrier 3D
Grade: B
Publisher: Sega (1988)
Reviewed: 2011/5/17

screenshotI hated the "normal" Space Harrier on the Master System, but quickly changed my tune with this 3D edition. Yes, I am a hypocritical bastard. The original Space Harrier struggled mightily to convey depth via scaling sprites, and the result was rudimentary at best and ugly at worst. The fact that this version has real depth makes it so much easier to judge incoming hazards. As in the original game your guy runs and flies toward the horizon, but the setting is a little more advanced and the visuals more refined. The ground moves beneath your feet to convey speed and I always get excited when I see that futuristic city looming in the distance - even if I know I'm never gonna get there! The game even uses futuristic colors like "mauve" and "fuchsia" so take that! Metallic pillars and mutant plants appear on the horizon, and while they still sport that "stamped sprite" look, it's not nearly as offensive as it was in the original game. Jet fighters and tie fighters enter the fray from the sky, unleashing huge, spherical missiles. It's hard to see what's going on at times, especially when those square "explosions" obstruct approaching enemies. Each stage is set on a different planet which apparently gave the developers license to use all sorts of random shapes and loud color schemes. The musical score dishes out some nice melodies that call to mind the 16-bit Sonic titles. If only the stages didn't tend to drag on for so long and wear out their welcome. Despite that, Space Harrier 3D conveys real excitement on the strength of those 3D glasses. You have to love futuristic technology - especially when it was invented in the 1950s! © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 1,941,370
1 player 


Spiderman Vs. the Kingpin
Grade: F
Publisher: Sega (1990)
Reviewed: 2007/7/11

screenshotThis is a poor man's version of the Genesis Spiderman game, and I don't like it at all. The graphics aren't too bad, and judging from the crisp, colorful title screen alone you might even assume this was a Genesis game. Sadly, Spiderman is ruined by poor design and hazy objectives, causing confusion, frustration, and eventually rage. The action starts in front of the Daily Bugle building, in a scene oddly reminiscent of Spiderman for the Atari 2600. As you attempt to swing and climb your way to a high open window, your efforts are thwarted by thugs in the windows but mostly by the poor controls. Spiderman can kick, punch, sling web, swing, climb, and even activate icons. How did Sega map so many functions to just two buttons? Not very well! Even when you know exactly what you're supposed to do, the clumsy controls make everything an onerous chore. The second stage takes place in a warehouse, where you slug it out with thugs in blue helmets and orange jump suits. You need to kill each and every last one of them before Dr. Octopus will appear, and it took me quite a while to figure that out! Kicking thugs causes them to bounce around like basketballs - pretty cheesy!! The third stage puts Spidey in some nasty sewers with falling red drops, rising green bubbles, and pesky rats scurrying around. This stage also features nasty pit traps that are next to impossible to escape from. Even the layered background music sounds like a jumbled mess. I wanted to like Spiderman, but this game is just a monumental waste of time. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
1 player 


Super Tennis
Grade: D
Publisher: Sega (1988)
Reviewed: 2001/10/1

screenshotIn the years between Activision's Tennis (Atari 2600, 1981) and Virtua Tennis (Dreamcast, 2000), there weren't many good tennis games. Super Tennis is fair, but the lack of control really limits the fun. Also, you can ONLY play against the computer. That's right, even though the game supports two players, you can't play against each other. The good-looking tennis court graphics feature a judge and crowd. The cartoonish players are detailed and colorful. Serving is tough. You'll make a lot of double faults before getting the timing down. During volleys, the ball moves slowly, while the players move fast. If you miss the ball, you can actually run back for another try! One time I swung four times before hitting it! Another thing that happens quite a bit is that the ball will hit your body, causing you to lose the point. You don't have much control over your shots - you can't aim at all! The lob shot is too slow and high to be effective. The only effective move is to smash the ball when it hangs in the air. Otherwise Super Tennis feels like a contest to see who will mess up first. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
1 or 2 players 


Teddy Boy
Grade: B+
Publisher: Sega (1986)
Reviewed: 2001/10/1

screenshotWhat a queer name! I wasn't expecting much out of this one, but before long I became addicted to it! If Sega had created a better lead character and changed the name, this could have been a big hit. You control a little boy with a green beanie on his head. He jumps around platforms trying to shoot all the creatures in each level. When shot, the creatures turn into eggs that can be collected (just like Joust). You can shoot rapid-fire, but if you stand in one spot for too long, the floor drops out beneath you. Each screen is a small, simple maze of platforms, although they tend to look larger because they wrap around on themselves. The stages are short but challenging, and there bonus levels that let you rack up big points. Teddy Boy is undeniably fun. The games tend to be short, which makes you want to play over and over again. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
1 or 2 players 


Thunder Blade
Grade: C-
Publisher: Sega (1988)
Reviewed: 2000/11/14

screenshotYeah baby, we're talking about some hot arcade action now! But it looks like the Master System may have bitten off more than it could chew. Thunder Blade is a fast-action helicopter shooter with multiple stages. The first stage gives you an overhead view of the city. Large, detailed helicopters fly your way, and tanks approach on the ground. The action is fast and furious, and you'll need to keep moving to survive. Your two buttons let you shoot air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles. Since you have unlimited ammo, you'll want to pound them for all they're worth. I was feeling pretty good about this game until I reached the second stage and the view changed to a 3D perspective. This stage reminded me of Colecovision's Turbo. The choppy animation looks terrible. It's hard to tell what's going on, and you end up flying in circles while shooting ahead blindly. Ground forces appear out of nowhere. Eventually you'll go down in flames as a result of the unavoidable ground fire. It's not a total loss, but Thunder Blade is too ambitious for its own good. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
1 player 


Time Soldiers
Grade: C-
Publisher: Sega (1989)
Reviewed: 2004/3/13

screenshotThis disappointing shooter lets two players forge their way through stages set in various stages of history. It plays a lot like Ikari Warriors or Rambo, but Time Soldiers isn't nearly as fun as those games. The box cover shows two grizzled veterans, but on the title screen they look more like two frumpy housewives! The randomized stages include "primitive times" (dinosaurs and cavemen), ancient Rome, medieval Japan, World War II, and a future world. If you're expecting to see some fantastic scenery, you're going to be disappointed by these plain-looking stages. I did find it amusing how the Roman stage is full of ruins. It seems to me that if you went back in time, they wouldn't be "ruined" yet, would they? There also seems to be an excessive number of marshes to slowly slosh through. Most of the time you move up the screen, but some stages are side-scrolling. Your enemies are poorly rendered, and in fact, it's hard to tell what some of these things are supposed to be! Most of the dinosaurs look more cute than realistic. Occasionally you'll pick up a special weapon, which you'll probably want to save for the bosses. The programmers went crazy with the bosses - each stage has no less than FOUR. Most look pretty cool, like the hydra, minotaur, medusa, and Tyrannosaur Rex. The sub-bosses die pretty quickly if you just whale away at them, but defeating the "big" bosses can take forever! Besides that major annoyance, the controls are not very good. My shots never seem to go where I want them to. I normally enjoy games like this, but the lousy controls, uninspired graphics, and emphasis on bosses turned me off. Note: You can "continue" repeatedly by tapping the fire button after using your last life. You'll lose your weapons but your score will not reset. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
1 or 2 players 


Transbot
Grade: D
Publisher: Sega (1986)
Reviewed: 2012/12/28

screenshotThis side-scolling shooter is so simplistic that I started to wonder if it was designed specifically for young children. Eventually I came to the conclusion that it's just really boring. You guide a red ship over a colorful planet surface as generic orbs, saucers, and rockets approach in predictable patterns. Occasionally a truck will ride across the bottom of the screen and blasting it reveals a power-up icon. Upon grabbing the icon, letters begin to cycle on top of the screen, and pressing a button awards you with a special weapon. It's hard to stop on a specific letter, but you should at least try to avoid "A", which is the default peashooter. The wide beams and spray weapons are effective, but they only last for a few seconds, and that's a shame. Certain weapons have the side effect of transforming you into a flying robot, but this serves no real purpose (except to justify the title). Transbot forces you to tap the fire button repeatedly, so if you have a rapid-fire attachment, don't hesitate to use it. Transbot may be the most repetitive shooter I've ever played. You're approached by the same green and red orbs as the mountain and space station backgrounds keep cycling over and over. The only indication that you're making any progress is an occasional new enemy. In theory you'll eventually encounter a boss that resembles an AT-ST. The uptempo music is nice, but it loops until you're sick of it. Transbot is an outdated shooter that will leave you asking, "is that it?!" © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 73,400
1 player 


new Vigilante
Grade: D-
Publisher: Sega (1988)
Reviewed: 2014/4/22


screenshotThis side-scrolling beat-em-up has attractive visuals but absolutely wretched controls! The two buttons let you punch and kick, and hitting both causes you to jump straight up (whoopie!). In theory it's possible to perform a jump-kick, but I've only been able to execute that by accident! The first few low-lifes are easily dispatched by a well-timed kick or punch. Should an approaching thug get too close, he'll grab hold of you and rapidly drain your health, forcing you to wiggle frantically to escape. The thing is, enemies soon begin approaching from both sides, and since you can't defeat both, one will always grab you and inflict mandatory damage. By stage two the controls become downright unresponsive as thugs just walk right up and grab you at will. If somebody designed this game specifically to piss me off, he did a great job! Your one saving grace is the nun-chucks weapon, which make it considerably easier to dispatch these bullies. One thing I do like about Vigilante is its vividly detailed graphics. In the first stage you walk down a street lined with interesting business establishments and billboard advertisements. The second stage takes place in a junkyard but boasts a gorgeous orange sunset. The third stage features a spectacular New York skyline in which the twin towers are visible. The bosses are generally push-overs, and I was able to defeat the first one by punching him in the crotch about 30 times in a row (please kids, don't try this at home!). The music is standard Master System fare (toddler at a toy piano). Vigilante is a good-looking game rendered barely playable by poor controls. So if you need more frustration in your life, reach for Vigilante! © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 34,000
1 player 


Walter Payton Football
Grade: D
Publisher: Sega (1989)
Reviewed: 2005/12/13

screenshotIt's easy to laugh at Walter Payton Football, but you have to admit it's a step up from Great Football. This one offers an expanded playbook (including blitzes), multiple defensive schemes, the ability to "flip" plays, and a season mode made possible by a password feature. There are some nice options, like the ability to select the skill level and quarter length. Walter Payton Football is not much to look at, largely due to its overhead view. The field looks fairly hideous with its alternating shades of green, and the players look like a bunch of flailing roaches. The center of the field is inscribed with an "FL" logo. I can only assume the programmer erased the "N" after the NFL license fell through. The kicking game incorporates a nice cut-scene and a two-press meter. The first press is for power, and the second is for "spin". Spin? Since when do football kickers apply english to the ball? Voice synthesis is used for the quarterbacks and referees, but their high-pitched voices sound hilarious. The text displayed is also good for a laugh. Missed field goals are ruled "incomplete", breaks between quarters are referred to as "quarter time", and the game alerts you about the "two minutes warning". In the end, Walter Payton Football is just another amusing step in the evolution of football video games. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
1 or 2 players 


Wonder Boy
Grade: C
Publisher: Sega (1987)
Reviewed: 2004/5/23

screenshotWonder Boy is a fairly entertaining Super Mario clone, but its cuteness factor is enough to turn your stomach. The main character is a smiling, blonde-haired kid in a grass skirt who jumps over snails and skips across clouds. With sugary-sweet games like this, is it any wonder that Sega got its butt kicked by Nintendo? And no, the fact that Wonder Boy sometimes rides a skateboard does not make him cool. Gameplay involves collecting fruit, jumping on platforms, and tossing hammers at monsters. The bright, tropical graphics are inviting enough, but the repetitive "happy" tunes will really get on your nerves. The controls are poorly designed. There's a jump button and a throw button, and pressing both lets you jump extra high. Unfortunately, the "normal" jump is totally useless, so you're forced to spend the whole game mashing both buttons at the same time - pretty lame. On the bright side, the skateboard sequences do pick up the pace of the game, and there are frequent checkpoints and unlimited continues. But let's face it - there's nothing here that distinguishes Wonder Boy from any other generic side-scroller. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
1 player 


Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap
Grade: A
Publisher: Sega (1989)
Reviewed: 2004/5/23

screenshotPicking up where Wonder Boy in Monster Land left off, Dragon's Trap features better graphics, more involved gameplay, and expansive levels. To be honest, I didn't have a good first impression of Wonder Boy III. It begins by dropping you into a confusing first dungeon with little explanation. Only when you emerge does the title screen appear and the storyline is revealed. But the more you play Wonder Boy III, the more you appreciate it. I grew to love it. Like the Wonder Boy in Monster Land, you control a knight who battles monsters, navigates platforms, and can purchase items to make his life easier. The gameplay is not completely linear, but it's usually pretty evident where you need to go next. What really makes Wonder Boy III unusual is how the main character transforms into various creatures after facing each boss (similar to Megaman). You'll assume the form of a fire-breathing lizard-man, a wall-crawling mouse-man, a swimming piranha-man, a powerful lion-man, and a flying hawk-man. Each stage is tailored to the specific character, and the gameplay is dramatically altered in each case. The graphics are first rate, with beautiful, varied stages and interesting creatures. You'll encounter headless skeletons, cyclops, genies, crabs, ninjas, goblins, cobras, and dragon bosses. The only creature I do NOT like is the pesky "cloud" that always drops fire on you - he's a real pain in the butt. Defeated enemies drop items, and I like how the number of coins they drop has a random element. I also appreciate the wide selection of items you can purchase, including some expensive "mystery" items. Wonder Boy III is far deeper and more challenging than other Wonder Boy games, and it provides unlimited continues and a password feature. This may be the best game I've ever played on the Sega Master System. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
1 player 


Wonder Boy in Monster Land
Grade: B
Publisher: Sega (1988)
Reviewed: 2004/5/23

screenshotA radical departure from the first Wonder Boy game, this enjoyable sequel puts Wonder Boy in a suit of armor in a game that's more Zelda than Mario Brothers. Wonder Boy can move left or right as he carefully explores each stage. There are items to collect, doors to open, and small creatures to slash with your sword. The small, cartoonish monsters take the form of snakes, goblins, rats, and ghosts. Your health is represented by hearts across the top of the screen, and defeating enemies yields gold coins. You can purchase armor, weapons, or health in shops at the beginning of each stage. Besides slashing with your sword, you can unleash secondary weapons (like bombs) by pushing down on the control pad. Magical doors lead to bosses or bonus levels. Monster Land features bright, medieval scenery and a superb soundtrack. My only complaint is that some of the platform jumping is more difficult than it needs to be. There's no continue or password feature, but you do get a score at the end of each game. Simple and innocent, Wonder Boy in Monster Island is pleasant and entertaining to play. Note: The "art" on the box of this game has got to be the worst I've ever seen. The chubby lead character looks like somebody's mom for Pete's sake! © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
1 player 


World Grand Prix
Grade: B
Publisher: Sega (1986)
Reviewed: 2002/6/4

screenshotIt would be easy to call this game Pole Position for the Sega Master System, but World Grand Prix deserves a little more credit than that. The graphics themselves aren't very impressive. The cars all look the same, and except for the distant skylines, there's no scenery to speak of. But the game has it where it counts - it's fun to play. The car handles beautifully, and it's great fun to weave through cars (which usually appear two at a time). There are only two gears, so shifting is a no-brainer. The game is tough, and you need to run a near-flawless race to advance to the next course. The game encourages you to be aggressive. There's a track map in the corner of the screen so you can see how far you have to go (each race is one lap). Unfortunately, your rank is never revealed until after the race, and if you didn't rank near the top, the game ends abruptly (no score or anything). There were a few races where I thought I did pretty well, only to be greeted with that black "game over" screen. If you race well, you can earn extra parts to upgrade your vehicle, which is a nice touch. There's even a track editor on the main menu. To be honest, the editor isn't too exciting since the tracks are just a series of curves and straight-aways. Still World Grand Prix is a very cool racer that's worth playing. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
1 player 


Zaxxon 3D
Grade: B
Publisher: Sega (1988)
Reviewed: 2011/5/17

screenshotZaxxon is back, and the 3D effect is no joke! Unlike the original arcade hit which had an isometric viewing angle, Zaxxon 3D displays the action straight on - much like the Atari 2600 version. The third dimension adds a new level of excitement as you drop down into trenches while blowing up fuel depots. The deep space stages that were so mediocre in the original game are impressive as hell here. It's no longer hard to determine if you're "lined up" with enemies, as you can clearly see your shots whizzing over or under ships on the horizon. Zaxxon 3D has the added feature of being able to toggle your weapon. At first I couldn't tell the difference, but eventually I realized my second weapon fired more rapidly at the cost of faster fuel consumption. It's a neat wrinkle that adds a little strategy. As usual, I did find a few flaws. Objects in the foreground (including your ship) lend themselves to double vision, although objects scaling in from the distance look fantastic. The bosses are dull, the music is annoying, and platform stages could have benefitted from a little more detail. Still, the game is a blast to play. If you're lucky enough to own the Sega 3D glasses, this game belongs in your collection. And yes, you do look like a complete dork wearing those things! © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: SLN 20,600
1 player 


Zillion
Grade: B+
Publisher: Sega (1987)
Reviewed: 2001/8/27

screenshotZillion is an exceptional action/adventure title that reminds me of Metroid (NES) and Flashback (Genesis). Your goal is to penetrate an underground base, save your friends, and blow the whole thing up. Fortunately the main base computer has a "self destruct" code. Who programs these things anyway? Anyway, in order to infiltrate the hidden reaches of the base, you'll need to utilize computers, cards, and pass codes. Each room is like a little puzzle, with a set of platforms, a computer system, traps, and cylinders that contain secrets and bonuses. You'll need to enter the correct codes to turn off traps and access hidden areas. At first this isn't too hard (some codes are provided up front), but as you progress, you'll need to use more complex combinations. In addition, guards are shooting at you at every turn. Luckily, you're well armed with your "Zillion" laser, which can be powered-up. Your character is easy to control, and can jump and duck to avoid enemy fire. This guy is so agile that he can crawl faster than the guards can run! Zillion is a pretty elaborate game. As you progress, you'll meet other characters, increase levels, and gain dexterity. The graphics are good, and the music isn't bad either. Zillion does have a few flaws. First, you'll often need to remember a series of odd symbols, and the manual recommends writing them down. I don't like games where you need to take notes. Secondly, there's no save feature, so you'll have to complete you mission in one sitting. You do get three continues though. Overall, this is a fine title that does a good job of combining action and puzzle solving. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
1 player 



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