F-1 Formula One World Grand Prix
Publisher: Video System Co. (1998)
It may boast the fastest cars in the world, but F1 racing is more about strategy than speed. Taking the best lines, selecting the proper tires, and knowing when to pit is critical. Formula One Grand Prix is a realistic racer with actual courses and real racers including the legendary Michael Schumacher. A lot of finesse is required to navigate tight turns, and pedal-to-the-metal players will find themselves plowing into the nearest barricade. The cars look remarkably true to life, and the tracks border on photo-realistic. The scenery tends to be hazy and dull however, except for the Monaco track with its scenic skyline overlooking a harbor. Offering a generous number of modes and options, Formula One lets you play exhibition, time trial, two-player split screen, or a battery-backed season. A rumble pack helps you get a feel for the road but the bumpier your ride, the worse you're doing. I like how my team transmits frequent updates over the radio. Success usually hinges upon knowing the tracks inside and out. To its credit Formula One World Grand Prix does attempt to cater to the casual crowd by offering an auto-braking feature that slows you when approaching turns. That may be blasphemy to die-hards like my friend Brent, but for me it's the only way to go. My primary issue with the game is the camera. The default view is so close, it's tricky to gauge upcoming turns. When you make contact with anything the camera tends to swing wildly or reverse itself, making it hard to recover gracefully. Why do racing games do
that? The lack of a rear-view mirror is also worthy of mention. You can hold in a button to bring up that view, but it's not the same. Casual racing fans will find it hard to get excited about Formula One World Grand Prix, but serious F1 fans can bump up the grade by a letter. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Nintendo (1998)
An update of the old SNES game, F-Zero X is a futuristic racer featuring twisting tracks and fast action. This is what Wipeout should
have been. The tracks are super wide, so you can concentrate more on your racing and less on staying on the track! And with 29 other racers (!), you will
need the extra room. Unlike the flat tracks of the original F-Zero, these courses are loaded with loops, ramps, and tubes that twist every which way. It's not uncommon to lose track of which way is up! Going over huge ramps is especially thrilling because you have total control of your descent. Controlling your ride while careening through tunnels and around tubes is more difficult however. The track lengths are "just right", and much shorter than what you find in most racers. Another welcome feature is the lack of brakes - who needs 'em anyway? There are no power-ups, but you do have rechargeable turbo. Each character is illustrated in comic-book style, and the 30 futuristic hovering machines are customizable (although you'll need to unlock most of them). The sound effects aren't anything special, but the high-octane rock music suits the game well. F-Zero X's graphics are fast and smooth - even in the four-player split-screen. The scenery is very plain however, with few buildings or structures in the background. There are a few useless attacks, usually of the "spin-in-place" variety, but these are hardly worth mentioning. The addictive Gran Prix mode displays a "standings" chart after each race, and it's fun to ascend the ranks. F-Zero X is a very straightforward racer, and that makes it all the more engaging. I never cared for the original F-Zero, but this one is money. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Fighter Destiny 2
Publisher: Southpeak Interactive (2000)
If you thought all fighting games for the Nintendo 64 sucked, Fighter Destiny 2 will do little to change your mind. Destiny is cheesy
with a capital "C". Its unlikable cast of characters includes a clown named Pierre, a Dennis Rodman look-alike (wearing a jock strap no less), a ninja named "Ninja", and an emaciated cow
. The "Abdul" character is so insulting it could set back relations with the Middle East by ten years. The scantily clad Brazilian dancer caught my attention, but like the rest of the characters, she looks awfully blocky. Perhaps that's why the camera keeps its distance - to hide the lack of detail. FIghter Destiny 2 is one of the few N64 titles that favors the directional pad over the analog stick. The control scheme seems simplistic at first (mainly limited to the A and B buttons), but there's more to this game than meets the eye. I was surprised by the ability to escape throw attempts, apply locks, and execute counters. Unlike every other fighting game ever made, rounds are won by scoring points earned by executing ring-outs, throw-downs, counters, or special moves. The default scoring system seems a bit unfair (a throw-down is worth more than a ring-out), but you can adjust these to your heart's content. The fighting action is fair but lacking in intensity, and the hits seem awfully soft. The elevated platforms are pixelated as hell, and the scenic backdrops look totally flat. An annoying commentator constantly runs his yapper with idiotic comments like "C'mon let's do it!" and "You need to fight harder!" The music is generally awful, some of it sounding like an out-of-tune accordion. Besides the normal fighting modes, a "Fighter's Arena" mode lets you traverse a game board between fighting challenges. This adds some replay value, allowing you to build up your character with new moves and enhanced attributes. There are a few novel concepts here, but not enough to complete with the Tekkens or Virtua Fighters of the world. Fighter Destiny 2, like its predecessor, is destined to fade into obscurity. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Nintendo (1997)
First-person shooters were the rage on PCs in the 1990's, with LAN parties popping up all over so people could engage in multiplayer combat. Goldeneye 007 filled that niche in the console world, offering quality first-person shooting with a four-player split-screen. LAN parties could be logistical nightmares but anyone with a Nintendo 64 and a few controllers could engage in a raucous multiplayer deathmatch. It was great at the time but Goldeneye hasn't aged well. I'm reviewing this game from a present-day perspective, so please don't get mad out there! The framerate is fairly smooth but the maze-like arenas are repetitive and the graphics look muddy. I found myself running in circles, struggling just to locate my friends. And while there's a slew of customization options, there's no way to add CPU opponents. The single-player campaign has aged much better. It reprises exotic locations from the film like a massive dam, snowy Siberia, and an Egyptian temple. The attention to detail is commendable with sophisticated operating facilities, destructible environments, and satisfying explosions. The character models are angular but their digitized faces are notable. The blood is modest but I love how gunned-down soldiers scream and contort their bodies like ragdolls. It's like I'm fighting an army of Pinocchios for crying out loud! The smooth framerate and ability to strafe makes navigating narrow corridors a breeze. Stealth is sometimes called for but it's hard to avoid frantic shootouts. The nifty auto-aim lets you mow down enemy soldiers with ease, piling up bodies in the doorways. The missions are short but the objectives are so specific it often takes several attempts to complete them properly. The audio is outstanding, serving up crisp sound effects and a pulse-pounding musical score. Goldeneye may not be what it once was, but it will remain one of the most celebrated titles for the Nintendo 64. For fans I'd recommend its superior sequel, 007: The World Is Not Enough
(Electronic Arts, 2000). © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: controller pack
1 to 4 players
Hey You, Pikachu!
Publisher: Nintendo (2000)
My little nephew is currently going through a Pokemon phase, so when he walked into my game room he made a beeline for Hey You Pikachu. I'm glad, because it was probably the only excuse I'd ever have to review what one reader referred to as "a wisp of a game about nothing". Packaged with a microphone, Hey You Pikacku was an early attempt by Nintendo to incorporate voice recognition technology, and the results are not good. The game is played in virtual days, with the little yellow guy visiting your bedroom window each morning and inviting you on field trips to forests, beaches, meadows, and other boring places. Once there, you'll spend a lot of time watching Pikachu frolic around, much to the delight of my nephew, who laughed out loud while watching Pikachu's ultra-cute antics. Personally, I wanted to skewer
the thing. Although clearly aimed at young kids, Hey You Pikachu is inexplicably loaded
with verbose text which I was forced to read aloud. After a while, even my nephew was mashing buttons to expedite the process! Interacting with Pikachu is done by issuing voice commands, but the interface for this is absolutely deplorable
. You have to hold in the Z button to enable the microphone - something I had to constantly remind my nephew of. This causes a "voice bubble" to grow on the bottom of the screen, and when it "pops" your voice message is sent to Pikachu. The problem is, you feel compelled to speak the whole time the bubble is growing, despite the fact that you really don't have much (if anything) to say. To be frank, I don't think it even matters what you say, because Pikachu seems to do whatever the hell he feels like. Playing Hey You Pikachu is like trying to pick up a watermelon seed - there's a lot of effort involved but minimal reward. I actually began to feel physically ill while reviewing this. With its verbose text and user-hostile interface, Hey You Pikachu is probably the most worthless game in my entire collection. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Midway (2000)
For the longest time I completely ignored the Nintendo 64 version of Hydro Thunder. After all, I already own the excellent Dreamcast edition. What could this possibly have to offer? Quite a bit actually! Far from the murky visuals and sluggish framerate I was expecting, this retains all the razzle dazzle and arcade flair that made the game so enticing to begin with. Given a selection of turbo-charged speedboats you'll blaze through awe-inspiring locations like a prehistoric lost world, the arctic circle, the Greek Isles, and the Far East. The eye candy is abundant and it's fun to uncover shortcuts and secrets. Instead of a watered-down version of the Dreamcast game this feels more like a remix
. I noticed a lot of cool effects and subtle details in the scenery I didn't catch on the Dreamcast. I will admit the turbo boost is less pronounced, undermining the game's sense of speed. Sometimes you'll ram an opponent and propel them further ahead
, which is bogus. High scores for all tracks are saved to controller pack and there's rumble pack support as well. The most surprising feature is split-screen support for up to four players - something lacking on the Dreamcast. The three and four-player modes are definitely sluggish but better than nothing. I just wish the game didn't abruptly end when the winner crossed the finish line. With three or four players, knowing who comes in second is kind of a big deal! I wouldn't buy Hydro Thunder for its multiplayer alone, but N64 fans craving pure arcade fun won't be disappointed. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: controller pack
1 to 4 players
Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine
Publisher: LucasArts (2000)
Despite its first-rate license, Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine was only made available as a Blockbuster rental - and for good reason! Infernal Machine's storyline is captivating enough, but its stage design is poor and its playability is rock bottom
. It's the beginning of the cold war and the Russians are trying to locate an ancient machine capable of summoning demons from other dimensions. Brief cut scenes convey the narrative through blocky characters that make bold gestures to compensate for their non-moving lips. It looks hilarious as the female character removes her pilot cap and shakes out that pixelated, chunky hair of hers. You'll travel to exotic locations around the globe including the Tian Shan River in China with its snowy mountains and howling winds. The control scheme borrows heavily from Zelda: Ocarina of Time, with context-sensitive action buttons, a Z-targeting mechanism, and the ability to assign items to the C buttons. Infernal Machine is a real nightmare to play. The camerawork is totally manual, so positioning yourself for a jump is tedious. Sometimes Indy can leap over a 50-foot chasm without a running start, and other times he can't even hop across a three-foot stream without falling to his death! You'll often need to hang from perilous ledges, but it's hard to determine which
ledges you can hang from! The context sensitive controls are real pain in the ass. When standing next to a ladder you'll often have to finagle with the thumbstick just to get the "climb" indicator to appear. Considering the difficult moves you're expected to make in the early going, such erratic controls are unforgivable. Even when you know exactly
what to do, you'll struggle mightily and often fling the controller in disgust. In later stages demons materialize on top of you, resulting in instant death. I was hoping the driving stages might redeem this game, but they have problems of their own. I enjoyed the rollercoaster feel of the minecart ride, but in the jeep I found myself driving up the side of a mountain before becoming suspended in some blue alternate universe. As buggy as it is infuriating, Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine is for collectors only. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
International Track & Field 2000
Publisher: Konami (2000)
I've always had a thing for these four-player track-and-field games. The variety of events tends to even out the competition, so even if you suck at pole vaulting, you can make up for it in the 100-meter dash. When playing against friends, you'll experience some hilarious moments like long jumpers who land on their asses (missing the sand completely), and shot-putters throw in the wrong direction (including straight up). Track and Field 2000's tournament mode is composed twelve events, and they're slightly randomized which adds additional drama. Each is preceded by an elaborate tutorial depicting a virtual controller and a liquid-metal man (the T-1000?) acting out its commands. These cinematics may have looked impressive at one time, but they unfold too slowly and in some cases overcomplicate things. A few seconds would have been sufficient I think. On the field, the action is competitive and exciting. The athletes sport a decidedly angular look, but at least they have muscles texture-mapped onto their polygons. Their animation is lifelike, and they even react appropriately to their performances. Slow-motion replays provide some nifty camera angles, and professional-sounding PA announcers broadcast the introductions and results. My friends and I enjoyed most of the events, but there are a few clunkers in the mix. The weight lifting is ridiculously overcomplicated, the gymnastics is boring, and the lengthy swimming events are arduous at best. Clearly Track and Field 2000 could have been streamlined a bit, but that doesn't prevent it from being a worthwhile sports title. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Ken Griffey Jr.'s Slugfest
Publisher: Nintendo (1999)
While its basic gameplay is almost identical to its predecessor (Major League Baseball Featuring Ken Griffey Jr.), Slugfest provides a serious upgrade in one key area - the graphics. The first thing I noticed was the game's slick new menu system loaded with a lot of new options. On the field the graphical improvement is amazing. Not only are the players much higher in resolution, but they also appear more "shadowy", adding subtle realism. Apparently the crowd had to be sacrificed to facilitate the visual upgrade, because they now look like blurry wallpaper. But while the player models are better defined, their bodies still sport the same odd, top-heavy proportions. Slugfest's audio features a two-man commentator team, but while they sound professional enough, they sometimes go several minutes without saying anything at all
. The best new feature is the "classic" mode, which does away with the tedious cursors in favor of simple, old-fashioned controls. It works wonderfully, and it's refreshing to just push the "swing" button instead of having to guess a pitch location each time. While Slugfest's developers were busy adding new features, I really wish they had included an instant replay system. After all, it's the 90's for Pete's sake!! While far from perfect, if I could only have one Nintendo 64 baseball game, Slugfest would probably be my choice. It has the slick graphics, simple controls, and non-stop action I look for in a baseball game. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Killer Instinct Gold
Publisher: Nintendo (1996)
Rating: Teen (animated blood and violence)
The first Killer Instinct was a good-looking, combo-happy 2D fighter for the Super Nintendo. This slightly updated version features better graphics but questionable gameplay. There are still ten fighters, but three have been replaced. The fire guy and the raptor have been yanked in favor of a barbarian and two generic females. I suppose they needed more women fighters, considering the original game only had one. Old favorites that remain include Jago the ninja, Sabretooth the werewolf, Spinal the skeleton, and Fulgore the cybernetic soldier. In terms of gameplay, learning the ins and outs of Killer Instinct Gold should qualify for college credit. The manual covers basic techniques, advanced, and master "fighting theory", which explain openers, auto-doubles, end finishers, throw reversals, combo breakers, linkers, juggles, pop-ups, top attacks, counters, pressure-breakers, ultra-breakers, and shadow combos, just to name a few! This has got to be the most gratuitously complex fighter ever made. No, you don't need to understand all of these things to play, but if you don't, matches tend to degenerate into button-mashing marathons. I found Killer Instinct Gold less enjoyable than its SNES cousin, and more prone to cheap attacks and sore wrists. Graphically, the characters look astonishing, and a few of the 3D backgrounds (like the castle) are somewhat interesting. The edgy dance music is good, but it's hard to hear over the loud sound effects. There aren't many good fighting games on the N64, and even fewer 2D fighters. Killer Instinct Gold serves its purpose, but didn't really advance the franchise too much. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Knife Edge: Nose Gunner
Publisher: Kotobuki System Co. (1998)
Knife Edge is a bland first-person space shooter that lets you take aim at targets while being automatically whisked through dingy caverns. Moving the crosshair with the analog stick feels awkward at first but I got the hang of it. The trigger engages rapid-fire, the A button activates lock-on weapons, and B unleashes bombs. It's possible to "dodge" slightly left or right via the yellow C buttons. At first Knife Edge seems moderately enjoyable as you careen through canyons at breakneck speeds while blasting flying ships and ground cannons. I like how holding the trigger fires non-stop. The explosions are crisp and satisfying. I have to smile when I see a poorly-worded message like "You have score 10000 point!!" Knife Edge sounds like a good old-fashioned shooter but it's got serious issues. For one thing the stages are just plain ugly
. Occasionally you'll fly over a desert or dark city, but most of the time you're just racing through featureless caves. The graphics are so dark and muddy!
There's no sense of geography so you won't even notice the branching paths through each stage. Even if you did you'd still be stuck with the same prolonged boss encounters. It's not hard to locate boss weak spots because they blink red when fired upon. The controls to switch special weapons (right trigger and B) are terribly awkward, and I could do without the frequent "commander updates". Knife Edge supports up to four players at once
but that's a dull and monotonous experience. You'll constantly lose track of your crosshair and you can't tell who shot what. The game is best played solo for high score. The problem is, after playing Knife Edge once you probably won't want to play it again. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 476,900
1 to 4 players
Knockout Kings 2000
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1999)
Knockout Kings attempts to be a realistic boxing simulation, for better or worse. It's nice to have real boxers and realistic moves, but most matches tend to be long and laborious. The impressive lineup of fighters includes Mohammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Lennox Lewis, and Evander Holyfield. The animation is smooth and lifelike, and a fine looking polygon woman in a swimsuit introduces each round. Knockout Kings impressed me at first, but then the bell rang and the fighters walked through
each other, that kind of took the wind out of my sails. As fights progress, the boxers get cut and bruised, and even wobble when weakened enough. Even so, they never really look tired, and tend to push each other away instead of "locking up" as they usually do in real life. The controls are a bit sluggish, especially when trying to block. The fighters look rediculous when sitting in their corners because there's no one else there! Where's their entourage?? The announcers sound terrific before the fight, but there's zero
commentary during the actual fight, and that really stinks. Once the bout is over you can view replays of the best punches and knockdowns, which I really enjoyed. Some of the judges' decisions may leave you scratching your head, like the time I knocked down Larry Holmes but lost the bout just because he landed more punches! I hate it when that happens. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Publisher: Nintendo (1998)
This ambitious action/RPG title had a lot to live up to. Not only does it follow one of the greatest adventures of all time (Legend of Zelda Link to the Past, SNES, 1992), but Ocarina was the first to transition Zelda into the world of 3D. All things considered, this is a technically-impressive, well-crafted adventure. There are plenty of throwbacks to past games that will appeal to fans, but there are also some surprising innovations. For one thing, jumping is now automatic - you just run off the end of a platform and Link jumps. Another interesting new feature is the "Z-targeting" system which automatically aims at your enemies when you hold the trigger. Features like these ease the transition to 3D, but a negative side effect is the awkward camera angles. In order to locate creeping enemies or hidden switches, you'll be wrestling with the camera quite a bit. The controls are far more complicated than past Zelda games, but Nintendo made an obvious effort to make them as intuitive as possible. Ocarina of TIme's vast world is beautiful and is huge in scope - so big that a horse is provided to expedite your journey between dungeons. Like Link to the Past, the dungeons tend to be multi-layered, so you sometimes find yourself looking down at places you've already visited. There's a lot of interaction with townsfolk, and you can also play mini-games. Zelda fans will find themselves right at home with the familiar music and sound effects lifted directly from previous games. Ocarina of Time does have it's share of annoyances, like enemies that self-destruct after being killed, incessant beeping when your health is low, time-of-day related puzzles, and substantial backtracking. I didn't find it as fun or addicting as Link to the Past, but Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time is highly regarded by most, and certainly a landmark title for the N64. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
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