Publisher: SNK (1993)
I really do like 3 Count Bout, but I suspect I'd enjoy it more if I were a professional wrestling fan. The graphics are impressive, even by Neo Geo standards. The characters are absolutely huge
, consuming up to three-quarters of the screen in height. This game makes liberal use of the system's color palette, with outfits that tend to be quite loud
. Each of the ten wrestlers has a unique introductory sequence and a distinct set of moves. Unlike most Neo Geo games that use two buttons (three at most), 3 Count Bout uses all four, and the number of possible move combinations is astounding. Besides the standard punches and kicks, you can administer sleeper holds, jump off turnbuckles, bounce off ropes, and even perform out-of-the-ring attacks! Button functions vary depending on your opponent's proximity, and the extensive number of attacks ensures you'll see a new animation each time you play. One fighter who looks like a Village People reject has a move that involves him sticking his nose in an opponent's butt crack! For better or worse, the special moves can be very tricky to execute. In addition, the game's awesome graphics are largely overshadowed by its rough animation, making it hard to discern what's going on in the heat of battle. There's a lot of joystick jiggling and button mashing involved, so technique often takes a back seat to pure chaos. In addition to standard matches, there are also "street fights" that take place in urban locations and incorporate weapons like bats and stun guns. Even more intriguing are the two-player tag-team matches against CPU-controlled opponents. 3 Count Bout is certainly an admirable attempt to bring professional wrestling to the Neo Geo, but you'll need to be a fan of this "sport" to truly appreciate all it has to offer. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Aero Fighters 2 (CD)
Publisher: SNK (1994)
For those with an appreciation for old school gaming, Aero Fighters 2 (AF2) is pure button-pounding bliss. They don't make games like this anymore. A vertically-scrolling airplane shooter, AF2 is jammed-packed with scaling enemies, breathtaking scenery, and satisfying explosions. This fairly inexpensive CD title even includes a nice two-player simultaneous mode. There are eight planes to choose from, each with its own unique brand of firepower. The pilots are somewhat unconventional (including a dolphin and schoolgirl), but you only see them between stages, so it hardly matters. AF2's gameplay is seriously fun. The military-themed targets include plenty of tanks, cannons, and helicopters, and the bosses are huge mechanical beasts. Ten brief but exciting stages provide interesting backdrops and semi-destructible scenery. Locations include Manhattan, a suburban neighborhood, and Hawaii. My favorite part of the game is flying over the amusement park with its moving rides and screaming kids (hint: shoot the Ferris wheel). AF2 maintains a relatively serious tone throughout, until the final stage throws you for a loop, pitting you against a giant baboon in a spaceship. Al-righty then! The challenge is significant but not insurmountable, and you can shoot down many of the projectiles the game throws at you. To shoot rapidly you have to tap the buttons incessantly, so this is not
a game you'll play for hours on end. Another aspect I frowned upon is how your score does NOT
reset when you use one of the unlimited continues. The continues are tempting, but they pretty much defeat the purpose of the game, which is to score points
(in case you forgot). Using the unlimited continues, it's possible to finish the game in under 45 minutes. For maxiumum enjoyment, I'd recommend playing Aero Fighters 2 on the easy skill level but using no
continues. In Japan, this game was released under the name Sonic Wings 2. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Aero Fighters 3 (CD)
Publisher: SNK (1995)
Compared to its awesome predecessor, Aero Fighter 3 (AF3) is a huge
disappointment. I get the distinct impression that the developers didn't take this game very seriously. Yes, it still provides the same "twitch" vertical-shooting action, but AF3 tends to be wacky and over-the-top, and there's far
too much emphasis on bosses. In fact, Aero Fighters 3 plays more like a parody
of shooting games. The stages aren't nearly as attractive or interesting as those in AF2, and some of the scenery (like the static water in stage two) looks horrible
. The weapons are original but obnoxious, and using a fully powered-up weapon is more disconcerting than satisfying. Hell, one plane looks like it's firing huge evergreen trees. And if you think the weapons are unconventional, wait until you see some of these bosses. If the giant squid in the desert doesn't have you wondering what the designers were smoking, check out the guitar-playing monkey on the flying saucer. There's a fine line between funny and stupid, and Aero Fighters 3 crosses than line again and again. Even the music is annoying. If there's one thing this game does right, it's the special attacks, which incorporate impressive scaling effects and inflict major damage. Otherwise, Aero Fighters 3 feels like a joke with no punchline. In Japan, this game went by the name of Sonic Wings 3. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: SNK (1991)
I've played some terrific Neo Geo shooters in my time, but this is not one of them! Alpha Mission II's monotonous graphics and confusing weapon system gave me a real headache. The visuals are hardly impressive as you fly over a parade of generic space stations. It looks like a second-rate Genesis game. Only some nice scaling saves the graphics from being completely mediocre. I like how chunks of the massive enemy ships can break off and fall to the planet below. You attain power-ups by touching floating letters, and you can change these letters by shooting them, which also pushes them further up the screen. The problem is, you basically need to stop firing to gather them, and one thing I hate is a shooting game that discourages shooting! Just be sure not to collect an upside-down letter, since it actually functions as a power-down
(another thing you hate to see in a shooter). All of this tedious letter watching has got to go. In addition, the needlessly complex weapon system includes selecting weapons from a pull down menu in the heat of battle, which is moronic. Alpha Missions II lets you hold down the fire button to shoot continously, but if you want to do substantial damage you have to tap the button incessantly. I also dislike is how enemies and structures that can take multiple hits seem impervious to the first few shots. Only when they explode do you realize you were actually doing damage. Alpha Mission II's design is so poor that it's hard to believe this is a sequel to something! A two-player simultaneous mode is included. The sythesized music is okay, but the computerized voice is unintelligible. This game is not a total loss, but Alpha Mission II hardly shows what the Neo Geo is capable of. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: SNK (1992)
Often mistaken for a performance-enhancing drug for baseball players, Andro Dunos is actually a fun Neo Geo shooter of the side-scrolling variety. There are flashier, more interesting shooters for the system, but if you can snag this one for a reasonable price, you won't be disappointed. In terms of graphics, it looks a bit like a high-end SNES title - minus the slowdown, that is. The generic space stations and caverns are forgettable, and even the bosses tend to be uninspired monolithic machines. But Andro Dunos scores points with its two-player co-op mode, responsive controls, and ability to switch weapons on the fly. You'll find yourself constantly flipping between your four configurable weapons to meet each new challenge. It's also possible to charge your weapons to unleash a torrent of destruction. Enemies are often seen scaling in from the background, and while I'm sure this visual effect was impressive in 1992, it really just tends to clutter the screen. Unlike most shooters, using a "continue" brings you back with substantial firepower, and while this doesn't seem totally fair, it's hard to complain. The best feature of Andro Dunos is its two-player simultaneous mode, which exhibits absolutely no slow-down in the heat of battle. If only the programmers had been more thoughtful when selecting colors for the two ships! One is orange and the other is bright pink, and it's very
easy to get them confused when the screen gets crowded. The game's upbeat electronic music took a while to win me over, but ultimately it did. Andro Dunos won't blow you away, but if traditional side-scrolling shooters are your thing, there's plenty to like about this one. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: SNK (1992)
Ever since Street Fighter 2, I've always been a big fan of 2D, one-on-one fighting games. When Art of FIghting made its debut in 1992, it made waves with its huge fighters and slick scaling graphics. And when I say the fighters are huge, I mean they take up most of the screen, although the camera does zoom out once they move apart. Two players can select between eight characters in the versus mode, and there's also a one-player story mode. The two central figures are Ryo Sakazaki and Robert Garcia, who bear more than a passing resemblance to Ryu and Ken of Street Fighter fame. Other contenders include a big fat slob named Jack Turner, a Bob Marley wannabe named Mikey Rodgers, and the masked Lee Pai Long. I always considered King to be a female dressed in men's clothing, but the manual actually refers to King as a "he", so who knows? The graphics are the highlight of this game, with smoothly animated characters and elegant backgrounds, including a dimly lit bar and some beautiful city skylines. The main problem with Art of Fighting is the difficulty in executing special moves, some of which are listed in the manual. I even had a hard time getting one-quarter "fireball" motions to register. There's a "spirit gauge" under your health meter that lets you execute "super" attacks, but only advanced players will find it useful. Art of Fighting is pretty barebones compared to most modern fighters, but it looks great, and there's charm in its simplicity. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Art of Fighting 2
Publisher: SNK (1994)
This one-on-one fighter features some absolutely HUGE characters. I was very impressed, and also pleased that the quality of animation is not compromised one bit. Yes, this is another winner for the console that's king
of fighting games. When characters move apart from each other, the camera zooms out ala Samurai Shodown. The controls are like World Heroes, so the strength of your punches and kicks depends on how long you hold down the buttons. Not everyone appreciates this system, but otherwise there's not much to fault here. The gameplay is deeper than you average fighter thanks to a "rage" meter that lets you perform special attacks. You can recharge your meter or drain your opponent's through taunting, but this leave you open to attack. Special moves are critical in this game, especially against the tough-as-nails CPU opponent. The fighters themselves are pretty generic, except of course for that guy in the monkey mask (freak!). If you're looking for babes, AoF2 won't do much for you, unless you have a thing for butch lesbians like King. The background graphics are uneven in quality. The mansion stage with the fountain and car look terrific, but others (like the backyard stage) are surprisingly dull. But overall Art of Fighting 2 is one of the most impressive fighters I've ever seen. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Baseball Stars Professional
Publisher: SNK (1990)
This is the baseball game I've always wanted - no complicated controls, gratuitous set-up screens, or lulls in the action. Combining nice 2D graphics with simple, fast gameplay, Baseball Stars Professional is pure arcade fun. There are only two stadiums, and the teams are fictional, but the gameplay is right on target. The graphics are fairly minimal for a Neo Geo game, but the animation is smooth and the controls are responsive. Shortstops leap over sliding runners and outfielders crash into the fences. The "not-so-well-translated-from-Japanese" commentary is often unintentionally hilarious. For example, when you smack a homerun, the announcer exclaims "It's outta here! Hooomer outta here! And the crowd goes crazy. And how he loves to egg that crowd on. And proud he should be - he hit that ball a country mile! He just loves
to hit homeruns in this ballpark." Strange nuances like that just make me love this game even more, but Baseball Stars does have its flaws. Since the screen scrolls quickly when the ball is hit, it's often hard to position your fielders in time to handle grounders or fly balls. There are a far too many homeruns and pop-ups to the infield, and the managers look like escaped convicts. Besides changing pitchers and pinch-hitting, there are really no options to speak of. You're also stuck with the Japanese "10-run domination" rule. Baseball Stars Professional is admittedly shallow, but for those of us tired of slow, realistic baseball games, this is just what the doctor ordered. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Baseball Stars Professional 2
Publisher: SNK (1992)
I loved the first Baseball Stars Professional, and BSP2 really ups the ante. It's very similar to the first game, but the graphics have been given a major
overhaul. In fact, the visuals are so flashy that sometimes I think they might have gone a bit overboard. The game bombards your senses by flashing so many windows and graphics that you can never digest it all. The main screen features animated close-ups of both the pitcher and batter, and while these look terrific, the same faces repeat with annoying frequency. There are numerous cool graphical details like batters that break their bats, submariner pitchers, and rolling balls that kick up dust. After a home run, the entire team (including the mascot) greets the player at home plate. There are a substantial number of cut scenes and close-ups, especially during diving catches and close plays, which add drama and excitement. Unfortunately, the umpires tend to make bad calls, often contradicting what you see on the field. The gameplay itself really hasn't changed much. It's easier to position your fielders laterally, but harder to tell how far the ball was hit. New "power-up" options add a bit more strategy, allowing you to increase your batter's strength a limited number of times per game. The single player tournament mode lets you save your place between innings, which is a welcome feature. I enjoy Baseball Stars Professional 2 immensely. It's probably the most spectacular baseball game I've ever played. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
hard to judge fielders
1 or 2 players
Blazing Star (MVS)
Publisher: Yumekobo (1998)
The Neo Geo has always been known for its excellent shooters, and Blazing Star is a prime example why. This horizontal shooter pushes the limits of 2D technology with its huge scaling sprites and non-stop destruction. Its illustrated backdrops feature sprawling space stations, magnificent waterfalls, and even some vertigo-inducing 3D effects. The objects on the screen tend to be very large, yet you rarely feel crowded. At its core, Blazing Star is really a simple shooter. Tapping the fire button unleashes a steady stream of missiles. Enemies tend to scale in from the background and their satisfying explosions release all sorts of bonus icons. Holding in the fire button lets you perform a charged shot, which is especially effective on the bosses. Blazing Star's futuristic techno music is rich, and so is the poorly translated text ("Get it more!"). Stages are ideal in length and the difficulty ramps nicely. If the game has a fault, I'd say it's a little boss heavy. Once you think you've finally destroyed the massive mechanical beast, it just transforms into a new shape. These bosses unleash overlapping waves of projectiles, so thank goodness the collision detection is forgiving. You'll also be thankful for the unlimited continues. Blazing Star will bombard your senses and test your skills, leaving your hands trembling. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: Easy
Our high score: 749,530
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Alpha (1990)
For a Neo Geo title, Blue's Journey is decidedly weak
. It tries to be a Mario Bros. clone, but it's not even in the same ballpark thanks to its confusing gameplay and counter-intuitive controls. As a small elf-like creature in a side-scrolling, pastel world, you must fend off cartoon monsters while leaping between platforms. Armed with a huge green leaf, you can "smack down" birds, lizards, Vikings, and potato-looking thingamajigs. These stunned creatures can then be picked up and hurled at other adversaries. In addition, it's possible to jump on creatures and "spin" them off the screen. None of it makes much sense, and I found myself hopelessly confused. Enemies close in from all sides, and rock-dropping birds only add to the aggravation. Blue's single innovation involves pressing the C button, which allows you to shrink down into a tiny version of your character. But besides allowing you to reach certain items (tucked away in logs for example), I really couldn't find a practical use for this. Blue's Journey does feature branching paths, and you can purchase items with "flowers" you collect. As the instructions elegantly state, "The flower is your money. Hung onto it." Sadly, the bad English is the most entertaining aspect of Blue's Journey. I love a good platform game, but this one feels awkward, and I couldn't get a feel for it. The graphics are colorful and the music is bouncy, but neither are particularly appealing. A two-player simultaneous mode is available, but that's just twice as mediocre. Suffice to say, this journey is not
one I will be embarking on very often. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: SNK (1991)
This side-scrolling brawler feels like a lightweight version of Final Fight (SNES, 1991) or perhaps Streets of Rage
(Genesis, 1991). Burning Fight lets you select between three suspiciously familiar-looking fighters: Duke (blonde guy), Ryu (Asian guy), and Billy (big guy). My favorite aspect of the game is its detailed environments. The opening street stage has plenty of colorful neon lights, and the pristine mall stage is easily the highlight of the entire game. You can even enter
certain stores and smash up merchandise for bonus points! I've always wanted
to do that!! In another stage you brawl on the roof of a moving subway train, and a bright city skyline appears as the train emerges from underground. You're attacked by chain-wielding punks, dynamite-tossing goons, and overweight rednecks in suspenders. Some even drive vehicles like motorcycles, forklifts, and trucks. The buttons let you punch, jump, and kick. Hitting all three unleashes a special move like a bull charge or spinning uppercut. The characters are large but the animation is stiff. Duke struts around like he has a pole up his butt. Your attacks are kind of wimpy, and you can only throw a thug about two feet!
Sometimes you'll take hits while trying to stand up, and that's bogus. Weapons are short-lived, but it's always fun to shoot a gangster with his own gun!
You can also beat up vending machines, crates, and barrels to reveal goodies like Big Macs, pizza, and corn dogs. The audio track sounds tough and sinister, but there are some missing sound effects here and there. You get three continues and you can save your progress to a memory card. I was expecting Burning Fight to pack more of a punch, but this is still a worthwhile romp for fans of the genre. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 41,200
1 or 2 players
Crossed Swords (CD)
Publisher: ADK (1991)
The Neo Geo has some amazing games that you can't get on other systems, and Crossed Swords is one of them. It's a first-person sword fighting game where you can see through the outline of your warrior (ala Punch Out). Through six levels, you are accosted by giant rats, bugs, frog warriors, crabs, skeletons, and armored knights of every variety. The characters are huge and nicely animated, and each stage features brilliant medieval scenery, including a number of huge, multi-level castles. The play mechanics of Crossed Swords is very original and instantly gratifying. The A button attacks with your sword, and B is for your special attack, but in order to strike your targets, you'll need to block their attacks first, pushing up for a high block and down for a middle block. You can tell where the enemy is about to strike you by their body movements, but you'll need quick reflexes to react in time. This back-and-forth, block-and-attack technique is great fun, at least for a while. When you defeat an enemy, he explodes into pieces and drops a bonus item like health, magic, or gold. You also periodically encounter a merchant who lets you buy health or upgrade your weapon. The audio is fantastic, with a sweeping musical score and superb sound effects, including skeletons that hiss at you, and knights that laugh when they land a blow. There's virtually no loading, and a two-player simultaneous mode is included. Crossed Swords is a quality game, but it falls victim to the "unlimited continue" syndrome that plagues many Neo Geo titles. When you die, all you have to do is hit "Start" to pick up immediately from where you left off. Any creature you were fighting still has damage, and you don't even lose your gold. Plus there's no score to judge your performance. As a result, it's tempting to continue all the way to the end. I must have used about thirty continues to finish this game! As I was gradually wearing down the final boss, all I could think of was, "Doesn't this guy realize
I have unlimited continues? Why does he have to make this so hard?" If you play Crossed Swords as long as I did (almost two hours), you will
get tired of the repetitive action and running into the same enemies over and over again. In fact when it's finally over you may never want to look at it again. But despite its poor replay value, Crossed Swords is a unique title that should be experienced by Neo Geo owners. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: SNK (1990)
Hey - check it out - a game you can play on your lunch break! Yeah, you can probably beat this one in a half-hour, thanks to the unlimited continues that let you pick up immediately where you died. Cyber Lip is a fast paced, rapid-fire shooter where one or two soldiers blast their way through futuristic environments, frying terminators, aliens, and slimy bosses. Comparisons to Metal Slug are obvious, but Cyber Lip is not in the same league. Its graphics have an attractive arcade quality, but the scenery is mainly composed of generic metal platforms and elevators. Still, Cyber-Lip's action is relentless and for the most part, fun. Your weapon can be powered up in a number of ways (including wide shot and bazooka), but you can only aim forward, backward, and up. This is frustrating since most enemies tend to attack from an angle. Enemy soldiers briefly transform into terminator exoskeletons when blasted - a nice touch. One thing I don't like is how touching an enemy means instant death - I lost more lives being touched than being shot! Each stage is introduced by some anchorman-looking guy with constantly blinking eyes and awful lip synching. After losing a life, your next "life" enters on a flying sled-like vehicle. The sled gives you temporary invincibility, but it looks idiotic. Once you reach the final stage, the mysterious Cyber Lip is revealed to be a powerful computer (with metal lips). He's introduced by this ominous dialogue: "I am Cyber Lip. I am the computer you are looking for. I am not insain, I have just been evilly reprogrammed". No, those are not typos. Unfortunately, before the final showdown you may have to face several of the previous bosses AGAIN - which sucks. It's even possible to repeat entire stages in this game, and that's no good. Cyber Lip is hard, and you'll blow through continues like there's no tomorrow. Your score is reset between games at least, so you have something to shoot for. Cyber Lip is not a major title for the Neo Geo, but it's an amusing diversion for shooter fans. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Double Dragon (CD)
Publisher: Technos (1995)
It's hard to believe that the demand for one-on-one fighters was so great
in 1995 that they even had to turn Double Dragon into one! It's a shame too, because I think they could have made a kick-ass version of the original game instead of this cookie-cutter Street Fighter clone. But despite a total lack of originality, this Double Dragon is still respectable. The ten characters are huge and feature Double Dragon mainstays Billy Lee and Jimmy Lee. The others include a hottie named Marian, a Fat Bastard look-alike named Bulnov, the white ninja Amon, and a drunken boxer named Cheng Fu. During the battles, the camera zooms in and out ala Samurai Shodown. The backgrounds are pretty generic and poorly animated, although there are a few novel locations, like fighting on the wings of a flying plane! Some stages have interesting intros and ending sequences as well. In terms of gameplay, Double Dragon is basically just a second rate Street Fighter 2 (SF2). Its one original feature is the "double jump", which has questionable value in a game like this. Many of the special moves have been shamelessly lifted from SF2 (notably Ryu's Hurricane Kick). Still, the controls are responsive enough and the load times are short, so if you're into these kind of games, Double Dragon should keep you occupied for a while. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
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