Major League Baseball Featuring Ken Griffey Jr.
Publisher: Nintendo (1998)
While it fails to live up to the legacy of its SNES predecessors, MLB Featuring Ken Griffey does adopt a similar easy-to-play, arcade style. The controls are simple and games progress at a brisk pace. You still need to aim a "batter cursor" to hit the ball, but it's not especially hard to make contact. At least you don't have to wait for the catcher to toss the ball back to the pitcher. Fielding is fun, and the running system is one of the most intuitive I've seen. Remarkably, the game stumbles badly when it comes to graphics. Apparently the game employs some kind of "smoothed over" rendering technique that causes everything to look blurry and indistinct. Players mirror the mannerisms of their real-life counterparts, but their bodies tend to be extremely top-heavy. The animation is nice however, and the game consistently provides a good camera angle. Still, MLB lacks the level of quality usually associated with a Nintendo title. There are some notorious bugs, including one that makes playing a season practically impossible. You'll witness bizarre occurrences like a runner from first being tossed out at second after a solid base hit. In a game at Camden yards, the attendance was announced at over 48,000, yet the stands were practically empty! There's no instant replay feature, which is a another major no-no for a modern baseball game. The lack of commentary is equally lame, although Ken Griffey does chime in on occasion. I was hoping Major League Baseball Featuring Ken Griffey would offer the same brand of fun as his SNES series, but its ugly graphics and numerous quirks prove otherwise. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Nintendo (1999)
It's interesting how similar Mario Golf is to Hot Shots on the Playstation. I suppose that could be considered a compliment, since Hot Shots is by far the best golf series for the Playstation. Mario Golf's graphics are higher in resolution however, and you get to play as your favorite Nintendo characters instead of weird freaks. Mario Golf is easy and fun, and with few lulls in the action you can whiz through eighteen holes in just a few minutes. Adding replay value are some nice bonus modes. "Ring mode" challenges you to hit the ball through rings in addition to making par. "Club slots" mode randomly selects your three clubs for each hole, forcing you to employ unusual strategies. In "speed golf" you must finish a course as fast as possible, and while it would have made for a perfect
split-screen contest, it's one-player only (rats!). There's also a betting screen that lets you to challenge your friends for the longest drive or closest shot to pin. Mario Golf is mostly good, but there are a few negative aspects. Lacking a manual camera control, it can be hard to tell where you're aiming, and the wire-frame grid that conveys hills and valleys tends to get in the way. The round ghost in the corner makes for a lousy
wind indicator, since it's hard to tell which way he's facing. Finally, although fourteen characters and six courses are available, you'll begin with only four golfers and a single course, which kind of sucks. Still, this is a quality golf game that should keep you occupied for many lazy afternoons. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Nintendo (1997)
This is a slick 3D update of the classic SNES game, and while Mario Kart 64 is certainly good, it's not great. Up to four players can select from eight characters and sixteen imaginative courses. Each track provides a completely unique racing experience, and many feature some cool shortcuts. The control is fair, but gaining traction can be frustrating, especially on the more narrow tracks. A wide variety of crazy powerups add strategy and chaos. Unfortunately, the AI leaves something to be desired because Mario Kart 64 seems intent on keeping all of the races artificially close! And don't you think that special shell that goes after the leader is just a little bit
unfair? A few of the tracks are too long, and that rainbow track is just plain boring. Personally I prefer Diddy Kong Racing over this. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Battery/Controller pack to save "Ghosts"
1 to 4 players
Publisher: Nintendo (1998)
This innovative title ushered in a whole new genre of video games: the party game. Mario Party is a board game at heart, where players roll dice and move between spaces on a map. Yes, there are 56 action mini-games included (!), but if you're looking for nonstop action, you may want to look elsewhere. Mario Party is a well-designed, mixing the strategic gameplay of a board game with the excitement of an arcade title. The object is to collect the most stars, but you also collect coins, which indirectly help you obtain stars. Players take turns moving down paths on the board down that branch but eventually converge back together. Colored spaces trigger different events to occur. Once each player has taken a turn, all four players engage in a randomly-chosen mini-game. These games are preceded by simple instructions, and are usually a lot of fun to play. Many are based on classics like tug-of-war, hot potato, or musical chairs. Although a few rely on fast button mashing or rotating the joystick, none are particularly abusive on the controllers. After a set number of turns, the game ends and awards "bonus" stars for certain accomplishments before determining the ultimate winner. Mario Party is most fun with four players, but if you only have two or three, the computer can control the other characters. The one-player mode is pretty lame in comparison. My friends enjoyed Mario Party, but some complained that it takes too long to play. Even on the quick setting, a game can easily exceed an hour and a half. If you have the attention span however, Mario Party delivers some terrific multi-player mayhem. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Battery
1 to 4 players
Publisher: Nintendo (2000)
This Nintendo All-Star sports extravaganza attempts to mimic the addictive gameplay of Sega's Virtua Tennis
(Dreamcast, 2000), and with fairly decent results. Fourteen of your favorite Nintendo characters are represented, including Yoshi, Peach, Toad, Boo, and Donkey Kong. The courts look simple but clean and attractive. The big yellow ball is easy to follow, and the color of its streak indicates what type of shot was taken. My main issue with Mario Tennis is its control scheme, which is far less intuitive than Virtua Tennis. Hitting combinations of the A and B buttons result in a number of various shots, including lobs (hit A then B), drop-shots (hit B then A), low slices (hit B twice), high top-spins (A twice) and smashes (A and B). And that's not all. You can "charge" your shots by holding in A or B, but unlike Virtua Tennis this causes you to "freeze" in place, and you'll have to press Z to "snap" out of it. The fact that the manual dedicates twelve pages
to explaining the controls says it all. Mario Tennis is fun and competitive once you get a feel for it, but even then the game lacks that natural "flow" of Virtua Tennis. One annoying feature is how the instant replay automatically kicks in after every
shot! I don't think I've ever
wanted to see any
of those! The game supports one to four players, and a tournament mode lets the solo player ascend the ranks. There's a doubles tournament included, but for some reason you can only play with a CPU partner - not a friend! There are a few wacky "bonus" games included, but these range from headache inducing (rings mode) to vomit inducing (tilting court). Mario Tennis is a quality title with a lot of bells and whistles, but I wish Nintendo would have shown a little constraint in the control department. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Micro Machines 64 Turbo
Publisher: Nintendo (1999)
Micro Machines lets you race tiny toy cars (and boats) around normal household environments including a kitchen table, desk, pool table, and swimming pool. There's even a beach with sand castles! A super party game, Micro Machines allows up to eight
players to play simultaneously using four
controllers (two people per controller!). Unlike most racers, this game isn't played on a split screen. The camera simply follows the leader, and those who fall behind (off the screen) lose. It's a blast to play, especially with the wacky assortment of weapons available (like the big sledge hammer). The one player modes are less exciting, but they do allow you to unlock bonus cars which you can save and use later. The tracks convey a good sense of humor and attention to detail. The main problem with Micro Machines 64 has got to be its limited overhead view, which doesn't let you see much of the track ahead. If you go too fast, you may find yourself flying off the table before you even see it coming! As a result, success in this game is largely a matter of memorizing the tracks. Still, you can't beat Micro Machines for chaotic, multiplayer racing action. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Controller pack
1 to 8 players
Publisher: Midway (1997)
Rating: Mature 17+ (animated blood and gore, animated violence)
Mortal Kombat 4 marked the series transition from 2D to 3D graphics, and as you might expect, there were some growing pains. On the positive side, the new polygon graphics are smoothly rendered and fluidly animated. The action is roughly twice as fast
, and I found the frenetic pace refreshing. Swinging camera angles provide dramatic viewpoints, especially of fighters who get their bodies contorted and limbs snapped. On the downside, the fighters and stages have a lot
less personality. The character models lack the subtle details of their digitized cousins, and their faces look blank and generic. The stages lack that dark, mysterious quality that made the original ones so fascinating. Not only do they lack detail, but they lack a sense of layering as well. The controls haven't changed, and scoring is facilitated by the unsatisfying "consecutive win" system used in the last few MK games. One new element that's completely squandered is the use of weapons. How in the hell do you pick up
one of those things?! Even in the rare case that you do, it usually gets knocked out of your hand before you even get a chance to swing it. The instruction manual contains biographies for all of the characters, but fails to mention any
special moves or fatalities. Bogus!
Actually the moves are available from the pause menu in the game, but only in practice mode. In terms of moving the series into 3D, Mortal Kombat 4 served its purpose but didn't do much else. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero
Publisher: Midway (1997)
Rating: Mature 17+ (animated blood and gore, animated violence)
As a huge fan of the Mortal Kombat, the idea of a side-scrolling adventure through its dark, mysterious world is stuff dreams
are made of. Sadly, Mythologies turned out to be one of the most infuriating
video games I have ever picked up. You really have to wonder what the designers were smoking. The fighters look similar in size and appearance to the MK fighting games, but they seem to be hand-drawn instead of digitized. The locations include a lot of dark temples and cliffs bathed in moonlight. The atmosphere is about right, but the environments lack the subtle details that fans of the series crave. I noticed that the live-motion video scenes of the PS1 version have been replaced with still frames and text. The control scheme is an absolute nightmare
. You get all of the normal moves (two punches, two kicks, run, block), but there's an additional "turn" button. This was necessitated by the fact that you sometimes have to battle multiple foes at a time - one on each side. The problem is, this "turn" button is not particularly responsive and it's really awkward to use in the heat of battle. Adding insult to injury, your character will sometimes turn on his own
to facilitate a certain attack. The bottom line is that you always seem to be facing the wrong way
, and it drove me up a wall. The designers would have done us all a big favor by just limiting the battles to one-on-one. There are other problems as well. The jumping controls are inexact and the collision detection is horrible. You'll go to perform your trademark uppercut and half the time it will pass through the guy like he's a freakin' ghost. Combine unforgiving stage designs (pillar traps) with those awkward controls, and it's a recipe for frustration. It's a shame because with a little quality control this would have been a terrific companion to the series. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Mortal Kombat Trilogy
Publisher: Midway (1996)
Rating: Mature 17+ (realistic violence, realistic blood and gore)
With all the characters and backgrounds from the first three Mortal Kombat games, Trilogy packs a punch. There are 26 playable characters up front and four unlockable fighters. I always thought the Playstation version was pretty good, but this is clearly superior. First off, there are no aggravating load screens to sit through. Next, the graphics are much more attractive with larger characters and more vibrant colors. It actually looks like they used some new digitized actors (Johnny Cage for one). Most stages exude that dark mysticism that defined the series, although a few of the urban locations (taken from MK3) are a lot less compelling (the subway comes to mind). The menacing soundtrack is well done, but the voice samples sound extremely muffled and it's hard to understand what the commentator is saying. The controls map well to the N64 controller, although you're forced to use those little yellow buttons. The block button is easy to forget about until you reach more advanced foes in later stages. The run button however seems totally unnecessary. In addition to the normal one-on-one modes, you can play 2-on-2 or 3-on-3. The 8-player tournament is a joke. How many times do you find yourself with seven Mortal Kombat players sitting around your house looking for something to do? One brand new element is the "aggressive" meter which feels like it was tacked on for the sake of adding something. Likewise the "Brutalities" are dumb. It looks like the bones of 50 people
are raining down! Finally, Midway only lists one special move per character in the instruction manual, which is pretty lame. Mortal Kombat Trilogy serves up enough of spine ripping, skull-cracking goodness, but it isn't the end-all-be-all I was hoping for. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
NBA Courtside 2 Featuring Kobe Bryant
Publisher: Nintendo (1999)
If you're looking for some hoops action for your N64, this is the only game you need to consider. Courtside 2 Featuring Kobe Bryant offers nice graphics, a truckload of options, and most importantly, engaging gameplay. The players look remarkably similar to their real-life counterparts, but the generic arenas are less impressive, lacking even bench or coaches. With the exception of an occasional hiccup in the frame-rate, Courtside's action is fast and fluid. The inside/outside game is well balanced, and you have plenty of moves at your disposal, including a crossover, quick first step, special dribbles, and pump fakes. But what's most impressive are the fancy low post moves. You'll definitely want to take advantage of these, because dunks in traffic are denied on a regular basis. The game's AI is impressive, except players sometimes take their sweet old time getting up the floor when they should be hauling ass! Other issues include a tough
, overly-complicated foul-shooting system. The two-man commentary is limited, but I actually found these guys to be unintentionally funny at times. The normal simulation mode is great, but even better is the NBA Jam-style "arcade mode", featuring icons for 10-point shots, gravity-defying dunks, and players who can literally catch fire! Realistic enough for purists and wacky enough for casual players, I can highly recommend NBA Courtside 2. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Williams Entertainment (1997)
At a glance, NBA Hang Time seems to be a logical evolution of the NBA Jam
(SNES, 1993) franchise. It's the same brand of two-on-two basketball action, except with sharper graphics, five-man rosters, insane new moves, and a create-a-player feature. Unlike the hideous SNES version, this edition features bright, crisp graphics that have "arcade" written all over them. In fact, this looks like a direct port
of the arcade coin-op, complete with rotating high score screens. It should have been the ultimate NBA Jam experience, but Hang Time falters again and again. The default controls are a joke!
Who in their right mind thought it was a good idea to use the "A" button for turbo
and those little yellow "C" buttons for the basic moves
?! Thank goodness you can reconfigure the controls. Is a turbo button even necessary?
The players zip from one end of the court to the next, with bodies and balls flying all over the place. The court feels too small, and it's hard to tell what's going on when players bunch up. Goaltending appears to be perfectly legal. The new spinning dunks accompanied by that Tarzan yell are just plain cheesy. The CPU is cheap, grabbing the ball from your hands as you're about to dunk. When you manage to steal the ball, the CPU will steal it back before you even know what happened. The all-important tag mode (which lets you control both players) is nowhere to be found, yet superfluous modes like "big head" and "CPU assist" come standard. I do like the R&B and rap music that plays in the background, giving the game a vintage 90's groove. If you're looking for some shallow arcade thrills, NBA Hang Time may be worth a shot, but don't expect any long-term satisfaction. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Acclaim (1998)
I was a huge fan of the original NBA Jam
(Super Nintendo, 1993), but it's been easy to pass up the mediocre sequels Acclaim has been pumping out year after year. Still, when I saw NBA Jam 99 for $7.99, it was tough to resist. I soon discovered that the franchise has evolved from a simple two-on-two slam-fest to a full blown five-on-five simulation. That transition was not entirely successful. The original Jam was simple, fast and fun, with some of the flashiest graphics ever seen in a video game. NBA Jam 99, on the other hand, offers none of that. What is does offer is sluggish animation, awkward controls, and unspectacular graphics. The players don't look bad, but when they shoot or make a move to the basket, the action slows to a crawl. The dunks don't look the least bit impressive and the controls are erratic. The shoulder buttons are used to cycle
through the players, making it impossible to select any player quickly. The so-called "Jam Mode" is supposed to give the game an arcade flair, but it's saddled with the same problems as the normal mode. Announcers Bill Walton and Kevin Harlan sound like Jesse Ventura and Marv Albert respectively, saying stupid things like "He's so fast you need to rub your eyes!". NBA Jam 99 does do a few
things right. The players play to their actual abilities - you won't see a John Stockton dunk, or a Shaq execute a killer crossover dribble. The foul shooting system is original, and I like how the referee actually tosses the ball to the shooter! It seems trivial, but details like that are missing from most modern basketball games. Frequent steals and blocks add unpredictability to the game, and I like how the ball rattles inside the rim. Still, by straddling the line between fantasy and realism, NBA Jam 99 probably won't strike a chord with too many b-ball fans. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
NFL Blitz Special Edition
Publisher: Midway (2001)
I fell head over heels in love with NFL Blitz on the Playstation in 1998. Like NBA Jam
(SNES, 1993) did years before, Blitz transforms its sport into an over-the-top, arcade bonanza. Instead of realistic animation and sprawling playbooks, you get non-stop action, over-the-top hits, and showboating galore. Hell, unsportsmanlike conduct is actually encouraged
. This N64 "Special Edition" follows the same formula, but what's so special about this? An updated roster and some lame mini-games? C'mon now! Oh well, I still had a ball beating the stuffing out of my friends and rubbing it in mercilessly. The controls are simple as can be (two buttons!), and you can play an entire game in about ten minutes! The action moves at a torrid pace, but why is there an annoying five-second pause after each play?! You can use the opportunity to apply a late hit, but once the novelty of that wears off, the delay is just irritating. The player models look very angular (at least up close), but the bone-crunching tackles look great. I really like the simple kicking controls, but the collision detection between the ball and goal posts seems way
off. The commentator makes a lot of smart aleck remarks, but once he starts repeating things, you just tend to tune him out. I was very dismayed by the complete lack of a halftime show. Considering the menus are plastered with hot digitized cheerleaders, you'd think Midway could have come up with something
. A few suggestive cheerleader poses would have been sufficient. I enjoyed playing this game against friends, but facing the CPU isn't nearly as fun. He's cheap as hell, and since there's no marker underneath a CPU-controlled ball carrier, it's hard to tell who has the ball! NFL Blitz Special Edition is a fun lighthearted romp, but it feels like a big step down from the original. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
NHL Blades of Steel 99
Publisher: Konami (1999)
Nintendo 64 hockey games were developed at a time when sports games were making that awkward transition from 2D to 3D. Finding a good balance of looks and playability proved elusive. To NES fans, the title of this game sounds appealing. The original Blades of Steel
(NES, 1988) was a veritable institution
on the NES, incorporating realistic graphics and arcade gameplay. This new edition retains the arcade style, but the graphics and playability are bad enough to make Mario Lemieux weep openly. Each contest begins with a colorful light show and cut-scenes of rowdy fans who all look exactly
the same (Attack of the bald white guys!
). The players look sharp during the face-off, but once the camera pans out... yikes!
Who in the hell just smeared Vaseline all over my television screen?! The players are pixelated blobs, and the "soupy" visuals make it hard to tell who has the puck. I experimented with several camera angles, and settled on the overhead view. I say "settled" because they all pretty much suck. I like how you can put a lot of mustard on your shots, but the passing is seriously weak
. Some passes actually come to a stop before reaching the receiver! The B button pulls double duty as "shoot" on offense and "body check" on defense. The problem is, sometimes you'll steal the puck only to inadvertently shoot it the length of the ice! Ugh. The fights are just embarrassing. It looks like the two players are taking turns humping
each other! I've seen some bad hockey games in my time, and Blades of Steel 99 is certainly one of them. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
NHL Breakaway 98
Publisher: Acclaim (1998)
Rating: Kids to Adults
On the surface NHL Breakaway 98 looks like a pretty sophisticated hockey title. Its graphics are sharp and its list of features include "momentum-based checking" and a multi-year
season mode. Remember the short-lived "glow-puck" used by Fox in its NHL telecasts of the mid-90's? The developers of Breakaway must have loved that, because the puck in this game is radioactive
. The controls incorporate moves you won't find in other hockey games like "block shot" and "skate backwards". Breakaway's control scheme however leaves much to be desired. The tiny yellow arrow buttons are used for basic moves like "body check" and "switch players". Those should have been assigned to the shoulder or trigger buttons, which are pretty much unused. The graphics aren't bad but the frame-rate is wildly uneven. Also, it's too [expletive] hard to score!
It seems like your player will often refuse to shoot the puck
, as if he has Crazy Glue on his stick. That's frustrating. Fortunately executing one-timers is not a problem. The game has a few nice animations, like the net that occasionally comes loose. After playing a tie game I was amused to watch players wildly celebrate like it was 1999 or something. The single-player experience is pretty boring thanks to a CPU who passes up most of his good shot opportunities. Penalties are called completely at random. The crowd boos constantly, and you can't really blame them. This is just bad hockey. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Activision (1998)
Nightmare Creatures is a monster brawler that benefits from a dark, brooding atmosphere. Set on a foggy night in 1834 London, the quaint scenery and moody lighting practically steal the show. The narrow streets are dimly lit by old-fashioned street lamps, and all types of ghouls lurk in the dark alleys. Adding intrigue is an ominous soundtrack with some nice organ music. For your character you select between a priest and a hot, shapely chick (decisions decisions
). In the first stage you explore a cemetery with falling red leaves that convey a nice autumn vibe. It's great fun to see zombies crawl out of graves and werewolves lurch from the darkness. Other hideous beasts you face include gargoyles, hellhounds, flying harpies, faceless men in robes, and hulking "dockers" that look like blue apes. The combat is button-mash city, with combos (accidental or otherwise) proving extremely effective. Precise timing lets you dismember foes, although I'm still trying to figure out how a roundhouse kick can slice a zombie in half!
The graphics are smoother than the PS1 edition, but the lack of cut-scenes is glaring. Instead of a spooky mad scientist intro, there's just a bunch of creatures tussling in the streets as boring text scrolls up the screen. I'm not reading that! The controls aren't anything to write home about. Turning around is a slow process, so it's fortunate you get a backwards attack. The overloaded control scheme incorporates awkward button combinations, and there's no camera control. It starts off well, but Nightmare Creatures gradually loses its luster as you work your way through it. Still, horror fans will probably want to give this dark adventure a chance. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Nintendo (2000)
If GoldenEye was "A" material, Perfect Dark has to be an "A+". Using an enhanced version of the GoldenEye engine and taking full advantage of the expansion pack, this is the ultimate first-person shooter for the N64. No, you don't get the familiar James Bond characters, but you do get a lovely redheaded heroine named Joanna Dark. The game challenges you infiltrate a futuristic corporation and lay waste to scores of guards and aliens. The graphics are slightly improved over GoldenEye, with realistic shadowing, reflective glass, and slick modern environments. The angular Joanna Dark is probably the most poorly-rendered object in the game, but since you're playing from a first person perspective, it's not much of an issue. Enemies scream realistically when shot, and the blood is substantial. Interestingly, this was the very first Nintendo-published game to earn a Mature rating. The single player mode offers a compelling storyline and can also be played cooperatively with a friend! Thanks to the handy "take cover" and auto-aim mechanisms, blasting enemies has never been easier. You can carry and switch between a number of weapons, and each has a secondary function as well. There's even a remote-controlled camera that let's you scout out hazardous locations, and this presents you with a slightly distorted, circular view. Of course, it's the multi-player mayhem that appeals to most N64 gamers, and Perfect Dark delivers big time. You can now include CPU-controlled "simulants" to your split-screen contests, and these are far more than simple generic drones. You can select from a wide variety of behaviors, including "PreySims" which prey on the weak, "PeaceSims", which hoard weapons, "VengeSims" which take each attack personally, and the ultra-relentless "KazeSims". Better yet, you can mix and match these to your heart's content. These also allow to you engage in solo frag-fests when no one else is around. Robust option screens provide for endless customizations, including setting player handicaps and configuring teams. Rounding out this fine package is an outstanding futuristic soundtrack that perfectly conveys the drama and urgency of the game's underlying theme. Perfect Dark's graphics may be showing their age, but in terms of first person shooting action, it's held up remarkably well. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Nintendo (1996)
Rating: Kids to Adults
Like the first Pilotwings
(SNES, 1991), this is as much a technical demonstration as it is a game. Pilotwings 64 is certainly a huge technical leap over its predecessor. Instead of flat, pixelated landing zones, you get scenic islands with sprawling castles, rolling hills, and soaring skyscrapers. I especially love the rocky, snowy terrain of Ever-Frost Island. Your goal is to complete a series of aerial challenges while earning points to unlock new areas and bonus games. You get a selection of wacky characters to choose from, and their high-pitched voices are comical. The main events are rocket-belt (jetpack), hang gliding, and a "gyrocopter" which looks like a helicopter but handles more like a small plane. The analog controls allow for fine adjustments, and a gentle touch is required to navigate the courses cleanly. The jetpack stages are much
easier to control than the original game, but the severely limited camera angles make it hard to gauge your position. It's especially aggravating when you're constantly bumping against buildings in the city stage. Typically you'll fly through rings and land on pads, but certain missions spice things up by requiring you to take pictures of landmarks or blast targets with missiles. The islands have a lot of interesting nooks and crannies, making them fun to explore. Pilotwings 64 also contains three unlockable games which are arguably more entertaining than the main ones! These consist of skydiving, cannonball, and "jumble hopper". Cannonball lets you fire a cannon at a distant target, and it's hilarious to hear your character scream as he's launched. It's a shame Pilotwings is strictly single-player, because events like this would have made for a fun multiplayer contest. Jumble Hopper puts your character in bouncy shoes that enable him to leap great distances, and it's also a lot of fun. Pilotwings 64 was released when there wasn't much else available for the Nintendo 64 (besides Super Mario 64), and it didn't create much of a stir. I can't vouch for its long-term play value, but this game has its charm. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Nintendo (2000)
Okay, I'm reviewing this game under the disclaimer of having never
played a Pokemon game before! I actually picked up Pokemon Stadium on clearance, and it's not too bad! For the benefit of the older folks, Pokemon are a series of Japanese cartoon monsters you can collect and battle against each other. Kids who play Pokemon on their Gameboys can transfer their creatures into this game via a transfer pack that's included with this cartridge. For Pokemon veterans, this cartridge is solid gold because it lets you download, view, organize, and trade your Pokemon. But you don't need a Gameboy to play Pokemon Stadium - you can "rent" Pokemon to play in the single-player tournaments or the multi-player battles. Over 151 are available, and I was fascinated by the variety and creativity of these creatures. The battles seem surprisingly simple, but there are subtle nuances that will be lost on the casual player. You choose a set of Pokemon for each battle, but the fighting is one-on-one. At the start of each round you select from a list of attacks. The action is carried out in the form of spells, with no physical contact between fighters. Certain types of attacks are more effective against specific types of creatures. You can swap your creatures in and out at any time, like a tag-team match. Once all creatures the creatures on a team are disabled, the match ends. Pokemon Stadium's graphics and audio are mediocre. The characters look good enough, but the arenas are boring. The announcer's voice isn't very clear, so you may want to turn him off. Extra modes include a set of simple four-player games. Pokemon Stadium is probably a must-have for Pokemon fans, but everyone else will find it only mildly amusing. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Vatical (2000)
There's something about snow-themed video games that I find appealing. Maybe it's the prospect of gliding through gorgeous snow-covered countryside without freezing my ass
off. Polaris SnoCross has the right idea, offering a variety of scenic courses and supporting four-player head-to-head action. The graphics are easy on the eyes as you race through quaint towns, forest clearings, and rocky gorges. You'll pass farms with cows, rumble over rickety wooden bridges, and jump off ramps. The gently falling snow has a calming effect and it feels soft under your snowmobile. The physics however is pretty bouncy, and the undulating hills will toss you around like a ragdoll. In fact, after a few runs you might find yourself becoming nauseous!
I would not
recommend using a rumble pack because that just magnifies the effect. A fun tournament mode lets you unlock tracks, but the rubber-band AI means it's very easy to go from first-to-worst. There are three CPU competitors, and collisions with them lead to unpredictable results. The tracks tend to be a little too long, although branching paths add some variety. I was bummed out when I unlocked a new set of tracks and they were just night versions
of the previous three. The "night" effect is unconvincing, basically just dimming the background. They should have turned on the street lamps and lights in the houses. The split-screen mode plays okay, but there are no CPU racers so playing one-on-one is boring. Polaris SnoCross is a serviceable winter racer, but it never goes beyond the call of duty. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Midway (1998)
Rating: Mature (violence, blood, gore)
If you enjoy the classic first-person shooting action of Doom, you'll feel right at home with Quake. Its modest polygon count might make the dungeons look fuzzy and the demons angular, but its rich colors and fluid frame-rate manage to hold everything together. You'll face knights, chainsaw-toting ogres, and even rottweiler dogs while prowling dark, torch-lit corridors. The moody lighting effects are terrific, and the red skies with their swirling clouds are beautifully hypnotic. The monsters can be fairly unpredictable. They'll fall over and get back up when shot, and sometimes they even turn on each other
! Cool new weapons are available early and often, including nail guns, double-barreled shotguns, and the nasty "thunderbolt" which unleashes electricity like a water hose
. The thumbstick is used to move, the C buttons strafe, and the trigger fires. As in Doom, it's not necessary (or even possible) to aim up or down. As long as your target is centered on the x-axis, it's vulnerable. Quake also gives you the ability to swim (I'm not a fan), and there are plenty of secret areas to uncover. The graphics aren't bad for the Nintendo 64, and the brooding, bass-heavy soundtrack adds tension and a sense of foreboding. The single-player mode is incredibly challenging - even on the "easy" difficulty. When you die, you have to restart the entire level! Curses! And who says there are no load times in cartridges? It's takes about ten seconds to "build" each stage! There's a split-screen mode to accommodate two players, but its jerky frame-rate and dark environments render it practically unplayable. Like most first-person shooters, this game hasn't aged particularly well, but if you're up for a challenge and can stomach the graphics, Quake will serve up your demons medium rare. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Controller pack
1 to 2 players
Publisher: Activision (1999)
Rating: Mature (violence, blood, gore)
This has aged far better than the original Quake, partly due to its revamped control scheme, which uses the four C buttons to move and the analog stick to aim (like Goldeneye). The controls are touchy, but the ability to aim (and look) in any direction provides for a more realistic, rewarding experience. The visuals and sound effects are noticeably more high-tech this time around. The stages look sharper, and excellent use of colored lighting adds a visual flair. The electronic musical score is generally understated, yet conveys an unmistakable feeling of isolation and paranoia. When you hear the sudden grunt of a monster, it sounds like he's breathing right down your neck! Each stage contains a few puzzles (usually of the find-the-key variety), and you'll sometimes need to contend with traps like timed laser beams. Among the more interesting enemies are flying droids, femme fatales called "Iron Maidens", and Terminator-like "Tanks". The first time I heard the massive stomps of one of these Tanks, it scared the living hell
out of me. Your potent weaponry includes chain guns, rail guns, and the ever-popular "BFG 10K". The pixelated flying blood is gratifying, and igniting flammable barrels is always
a good time. Quake II is challenging and fun for solo players, thanks to missions that tend to be short and sweet. The split-screen mode accommodates up to four players, but due to a choppy frame-rate it's just barely
playable. If you're hankering for some solo old-school shooting action however, Quake 2 is food for your trigger finger. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Rally Challenge 2000
Publisher: South Peak (1999)
Rally racing is known for its muddy off-road action, which usually involves the use of long power slides. The Saturn has Sega Rally and the Playstation has Rally Cross, but this Nintendo 64 entry isn't even in the same league. The poor graphics look more like a first-generation Saturn game, with scenery that looks chunky as hell. The pop-up is tolerable in the one-player mode, terrible in the two-player split screen, and absolutely heinous in the four-player mode! The road looks like it's being drawn right in front of your car! Slowdown is another major problem, bringing races to a crawl. The on-screen display has no radar or rank indicator, so you never know where you stand. You'll need a controller pack to save your progress and times, but this racer is one you may prefer to forget. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Controller Pack
1 to 4 players
Publisher: Midway (1999)
Rating: Teen (comic mischief)
Considering my distaste for the series Rampage 2 is pretty much as good as it gets. This sequel introduces three new monsters you can use to methodically reduce major cities to rubble. There's a giant lobster (Ruby), rhino (Boris), and rat (Curtis). Each has a comical personality but they all play pretty much the same. You begin by selecting Asia, Europe, or North America. There are plenty of cities to trash but don't expect them to look like the real places. The building designs are cookie-cutter, often reused multiple times in the same stage
. Heck, this game makes Las Vegas
look boring. Still, the graphics have an appealing claymation quality and the controls are surprisingly good. It's easy to latch onto buildings and systematically bash them until they collapse. Tanks and police attack from the ground and it's satisfying to kick them to the curb. You can eat people who stick their heads out of the windows, which in turn powers up your special meter. You'll find plenty of health items like tacos, cheese, and hot fudge sundaes. Look before you eat however, as you might inadvertently touch an electric socket, hot water heater, or radioactive waste. There are a few visual treats here and there, like hitting an attacking helicopter and sending it into a tailspin. The stages are mercifully short, but the action is rinse-and-repeat and that "game over" screen doesn't come a minute too soon. Ramage 2 won't hold your interest for long, but it's adequate if you're in the mood for some carnage. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 28,630
1 to 3 players
Publisher: Capcom (1998)
Rating: Mature (blood, gore, animated violence)
After missing out on the first Resident Evil, Nintendo 64 fans were thrilled to hear the sequel was headed for their console. It arrived late but fully intact. Resident Evil 2 is a horror spectacle that has aged like wine. Don't believe the critics who deride the stiff controls and fixed camera angles. These antiquated elements actually help make the game so effective! The pre-rendered scenery conveys a level of grungy detail rarely seen in today's games, and fixed camera angles add suspense. You never know what's around the next corner. The stiff, deliberate character movements demand the player be precise with the controls. The save system adds tension as well, as you only have a limited number of save opportunities. It's quite the relief when you find a typewriter (save point) after a lengthy stretch. I have to admit that the inventory system is annoying (you can't drop items), but thanks to the ubiquitous storage chests your stash is never more than a few rooms away. Resident Evil 2 takes place in the area surrounding the Raccoon City police station, and you'll assume the role of multiple characters. The slow, ambling zombies aren't too hard to contend with (usually) but there are plenty of other twisted creatures to worry about. The police station has an elegant, aged quality that makes it fascinating to explore. The understated audio track blends echoing footsteps with ominous music. The forboding atmosphere created by the game is so thick you can cut it with a knife. The slow, deliberate pacing makes it all the more jarring when something bursts through a window or the floor collapses beneath you. The game is thoughtfully constructed, gradually revealing new items and areas. The difference between this and the original Playstation version is negligible. The opening cinematic is more pixelated, but otherwise I did not notice any difference. Using the analog stick makes it hard to run straight, but you always have the option of using the digital pad instead. To appease concerned parents the options menu let you tone down the "level of violence", and even change the color of the blood. You save your process to several "slots" on the cartridge. Resident Evil 2 is true survival horror at its best, and if you think this game has aged poorly, you need to go back and take another look. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Cartridge
Publisher: Namco (2000)
Ridge Racer was the groundbreaking title that launched the original Playstation (PS) to success in 1995, but it took five whole years
for Nintendo fans to finally get a piece of this action. If you have all of the Playstation Ridge Racer games, you probably don't need this, right? Well, as it turns out, Ridge Racer 64 has a lot to offer, even for long-time fans. First and foremost, besides containing the tracks from the original Ridge Racer and Ridge Racer Revolution, you get a new track location made specifically for this game. The series has always been known for its bright, scenic locales, so cruising around a brand new one is always a treat. The graphics have a "smoothed out" look lacking in the PS games, and I even detected extra details you couldn't see in the older games. Ridge Racer's gameplay is pure arcade fun, with unrealistic controls and cars that bounce off each other. I prefer this brand of racing, but it's not for everyone. You can tap the brake to swerve around tight turns, but my friend lamented the lack of a reverse button. The collision detection is a little off, and when you touch the edge of grass, the game behaves like you're rubbing against a wall! The tracks are ideal in length and you get a large field of CPU cars to compete against. Vibration is used to good effect, and the impressive split screen supports up to four players. A slick new "grand prix mode" allows you to unlock new cars and save your progress to cartridge. Ridge Racer was never known for its music, and the awful, whimsical, electronic ditties in this game are bound to get on your nerves. RR64 arrived awfully late in the system's life cycle, but if you're looking for fun racing action on your N64, it doesn't get much better than this. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: THQ (1999)
Rating: Teen (13+)
After having a phenomenal run on the Sega Genesis and a terrific follow-up on the 3DO, I always wondered whatever became of the Road Rash series. Now I know: It got really, really boring
. Making an undistinguished transition to the murky world of 3D graphics, Road Rash 64 lets you putt-putt over foggy hills like a grandmother on a Sunday morning drive. The sense of speed is non-existent - even after you upgrade your bike! In fact, the lack of speed was so bad that I found myself frantically paging through the instruction manual searching for some kind of gearshift control! The crisp rolling hills of the Genesis versions have been replaced with dull, faded scenery that all looks the same. The building-lined streets of the 3DO game absolutely put the dreary ones in this game to shame! Even the control scheme is poor, with no less than seven
functions assigned to the four "C" buttons. The steering is okay for straight-aways, but what in the [expletive] are those 90-degree turns doing in this game?! Talk about ill-advised! The combat aspect of Road Rash 64 is equally lame. You can smack your opponent all day before he finally falls from his bike, and even hits with a spiked mace seem soft. The single-player mode is unbearable, so you know the four-player split-screen sucks. The muffled rock music soundtrack includes some old Sugar Ray, but it all gets lost in the buzz of the engines. Road Rash 64 is a monumental letdown. It took a classic high-octane racer and reduced it into a smoldering pile of manure. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Crave Entertainment (1997)
Rating: Teen (13+)
The original Robotron was a 1982 arcade hit featuring two joysticks - one to move and one to shoot. The idea was to clear out waves of robots on a single screen while saving clueless humans to earn bonus points. In 1996 Midway created a 3D edition called Robotron X for the Playstation, and everybody hated it. After that fiasco somebody tried to salvage the code in the hopes of turning it into a respectable Nintendo 64 title. They learned their lessons well and addressed most of the flaws of the Playstation game. Robotron 64's graphics are technically competent with smoother textures, fluid animation, and better frame rate. The camera is pulled way back so you can see about 90% of the playing field at a given time. You'll need to use the four small yellow buttons to fire, but it feels a lot better than mashing the Playstation buttons. I love the fact that the waves are short but sometimes it's hard to tell if the action stopped because I completed the stage or because I died
. The wide camera angle is nice, but sometimes it zooms in for no reason - or did I just accidentally hit the shoulder button? This version makes better use of power-ups but they still don't last long enough. The intro screens between waves are shorter, but why do they exist at all? Unlike Robotron X, this game actually saves your high scores. The techno soundtrack matches the frenetic pace of the game, but that electronic burp effect in the later stages is truly annoying. Robotron 64 is more faithful to the arcade original than its degenerate Playstation cousin, but it's still missing one vital ingredient - the difficulty! When you can breeze through 30 stages without breaking a sweat, something is wrong - on the "insane" difficulty no less! It does eventually get harder, but mainly due to all the yellow robots in jet packs who have a tendency of landing on your head
. Granted, I'm a skilled Robotron player, but even novices should have serious reservations about Robotron 64's long-term replay value. If there's a lesson to be learned, it's this: Stick to the original, classic Robotron 2084. It's incredibly addicting, infinitely more challenging, and available on a number of arcade compilation disks. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 824,950
1 or 2 players
Rush 2: Extreme Racing USA
Publisher: Midway (1998)
After the first abysmal San Francisco Rush (1996), Midway apparently went back to the drawing board and made the necessary improvements for this sequel. To some degree or another, they addressed each and every one of the problems that plagued the original Rush, including shoddy graphics, irritating audio, and non-existent controls. In Rush 2, the fog has lifted to some extent, allowing you to enjoy a nice variety of scenic tracks set in New York City, Seattle, Los Angeles, Hawaii, and Las Vegas. Some sweet shortcuts have been incorporated as well. There are a few "fantasy" courses tossed in, but these are less compelling that you might expect. There's still some minor fog, which unfortunately tends to hide the gray concrete barriers - until you slam into them at full speed! That was a really bad oversight by the developers. Still, Rush 2 manages to deliver a fun, high-speed racing experience. The tracks are easy enough to follow, and - *gasp* - you can actually steer your car
this time. The power sliding isn't the same caliber as Ridge Racer, but as least it provides some
degree of control. The cars model damage and tend to look like beat-up tin cans by the end of each race. The circuit modes are challenging, but I wish the number of laps could be adjusted, because three is usually too long. In terms of audio, the music has an old-school "gangsta" vibe that I dig, but the occasional sound effects like birds chirping in the park sound positively fake
. When you hear that crowd roar, it's hard to tell if they're cheering or screaming in horror. Rush 2 has its flaws, but if you're looking for arcade racing on the N64, this one should do the trick. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
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