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Shipwreckers
Grade: D+
Publisher: Psygnosis (1997)
Reviewed: 2003/9/10
Rating: Kids to Adults (animated violence)

screenshotAs the only pirate game I've seen for the Playstation One, Shipwreckers offers a nice change of pace. Too bad it's mired by a slew of video game cliches. It begins with a wacky animated intro that lets you know right up front that this isn't serious game. In the one-player mode, you view your vessel from overhead as you battle other ships, collect floating crates, and unlock new areas. Controlling your ship is simple - maybe too simple. Steering it around isn't much different than steering around Pac-Man - you'd think they could have at least incorporated the wind somehow. There's a nice selection of weapons, and it's cool how you can fire cannons off both sides of your ship. Sinking other ships provides some thrills, as it's quite satisfying to watch them go down. Townships and beaches serve as attractive but unremarkable scenery, and excellent metal-drum music gives the game a tropical flavor. You'll find some cool power-ups, including one that lets you fly in the air like a blimp. Unfortunately, Shipwrecker's stages tend to be set up like claustrophobic mazes with endless canals, gates, and switches. These confined areas hardly convey the feeling of plundering and pillaging on the high seas, and the multiplayer mode is even more disappointing. You would think that five pirate ships battling in the open water would be an absolute blast, but there's minimal strategy as the ships trade shots back and forth. Making matters worse, when they move apart, the view scales out so far that you can barely see them! Shipwreckers isn't terrible, but it definitely feels like a missed opportunity. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 5 players 


Shooter Space Shot
Grade: D-
Publisher: A1 Games (2000)
Reviewed: 2001/6/8
Rating: Everyone

screenshotCould they have come up with a less imaginative name for this? Space Shot is a 3D side-scroller in the same vein as Einhander, but in terms of fun it's not even in the same ballpark. This generic shooter is part of A1's line of $9.99 games, and you get what you pay for. It might have have respectable five years ago, but the constant slowdown, pixelated scenery, and boring enemies make it seem positively archaic. You're equipped with a rapid-fire weapon and lock-on missiles. By positioning your ship, you can lock onto a series of targets and release a barrage of missiles, which by far is the highlight of the game. Stage intermissions present some very cheesy Japanese animation sequences you'll want to skip. Shooter Space Shot can only recommend this to shooter fans on a very tight budget. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


Silent Hill
Grade: A
Publisher: Konami (2000)
Reviewed: 2004/10/11
Rating: Mature (violence, blood, gore)

screenshotSilent Hill begins by flashing a disclaimer about the game's graphic violence and disturbing scenes. It's certainly warranted, because this survival horror classic sends chills down my spine and makes my blood run cold. If Resident Evil is the Night of the Living Dead of video games, then Silent Hill is the Exorcist. The opening cinematic depicts a car crash, followed by a father's desperate search for his daughter in a nearby deserted town. With moody lighting and amazing audio, Silent Hill creates the most intense atmosphere I've ever experienced in a video game. You view your character from behind (like Tomb Raider), and the camera swings around to capture the most dramatic viewing angles. The creatures you encounter are weird and unsettling, and the line between fantasy and reality is constantly blurred as you navigate a surreal, ever-changing world. For much of the game you explore pitch-dark rooms with the help of a flashlight, and your limited visibility really adds to the tension. But the scariest aspect of Silent Hill is its eerie sound effects that increase in volume as danger approaches, heightening your sense of paranoia. The tension can reach unbearable proportions, making it difficult to play the game alone or with the lights out. There are plenty of "find the key" puzzles, but they tend to be more thought-provoking than frustrating. I found myself slowly drawn into the game even as I became more and more anxious. Silent Hill is a legitimate classic, and perhaps the most terrifying video game ever made. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


Silhouette Mirage
Grade: D-
Publisher: Working Designs (1999)
Reviewed: 2008/7/11
Rating: Everyone

screenshotSilhouette Mirage is one of those quirky anime-style games that you either love or hate. You play a cute little witch named Shyna in this highly unconventional 2D platform/fighter/shooter. Shyna appears either red or blue depending on which side she is facing, and each color enables you to harm a certain class of creature (Silhouette or Mirage). If she's not the correct color when she shoots something, no damage is done and she loses vitality. The developer (Treasure) would later use a similar scheme in their cult-hit Ikaruga (GameCube, 2003), but at least in that game enemies were either black or white. Here, they come in all shapes and colors, including green jack-o-lanterns, blonde rag dolls, tiny fairies, and big stomping mechs. It's rarely obvious which enemies respond to what color, and when it comes to bosses, it seems like you're always on the wrong side! You can "flip" your color via the triangle button, but that initiates a tedious animation. Making matters worse are an excessive number of moves, some of which look effective (like the "grand slam") but apparently inflict zero damage. Then there are various colored meters and indicators whose purpose is never clear. In addition to non-intuitive gameplay, Silhouette Mirage has an incomprehensible storyline conveyed through endless text dialogue. I'm sure Treasure fans will eat up the whimsical prose, but others will just be annoyed. On the bright side, the game's production values are definitely "up there". Clever use of scaling and rotation facilitate some nifty effects, including satisfying explosions with chunks of metal flying every which way. There's a beautiful castle and an appealing downtown stage with a striking night skyline. The game does have its moments, including a funny encounter with a lizard sporting an outrageous Australian accent. In the city, people in an apartment complex get mad at you for making noise and begin throwing TVs and other appliances. Despite the sporatic humor, Silhouette Mirage comes off as one big inside joke. After completing each frantic stage I found myself asking, "What the hell was that all about?!" My friend Jonathan (and long-time Treasure fan) defended the game by saying "You have to be in the mood for it" and "I've played much worse." Denial can be an ugly thing. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


Sled Storm
Grade: B+
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1999)
Reviewed: 2013/3/1
Rating: Everyone

screenshotMy love of snow led me to purchase this game, and it paid off. Sled Storm is a realistic snowmobile racer with blizzard conditions, icy mountain scenery, and good multi-player support. The races deliver white-knuckle thrills as you bound over hills, careen through valleys, and sideswipe your opponents to gain position. A steady frame-rate keeps the action running smoothly - even on the four-player split screen! The controls are simple but you have the ability to lean into your turns. Catching air and performing tricks lets you rack up points for upgrades, but sometimes it's not worth the risk of a wreck. I love how the sleds bounce softly over the slopes and kick up snow behind them. The courses are ideal in length and come in two flavors: snocross and open mountain. The snocross tracks are closed motorcross-style courses with banked turns and bumpy sections. I prefer the mountain tracks that wind through scenic forests and along harrowing cliffs. Ramps and hidden shortcuts are abundant and add replay value. You can destroy obstacles like fences and snowmen for points, and I earned 7500 points for running over a rabbit (and yes, I feel bad about that). The steering feels about right and sliding along icy patches is especially fun. The single-player championship is addictive, and I like how CPU racers tend to wipe out, giving you a chance to come from behind. That's important considering you need to finish first to advance. The soundtrack is dominated by Rob Zombie's blaring "Dragula", but it could be worse, right? Not really! It seems like every "extreme" game of the late 1990's had to license that annoying song. Still, this game is one of the best of its kind. Whether playing alone or against friends, Sled Storm provides ageless competitive winter racing action. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 


Sol Divide
Grade: C
Publisher: XS Games (2002)
Reviewed: 2003/9/10
Rating: Everyone (violence)

screenshotAs the release of PS1 games has slowed to a trickle, I've noticed that most new titles tend to be derivative and low quality. Sol Divide however caught me by surprise with its old school style. The Playstation was never known for its 2D games, but Sol Divide is classic 2D all the way. It's like one of those old medieval hack-n-slash games (Golden Axe comes to mind) - only without the gravity. That's right, your warrior floats around, as do your enemies, which include eyeballs, skeletons, wizards, and dragon-riders. Sol Divide looks like a shooter from a distance, but hand-to-hand combat is much more effective than your weak projectiles. That's too bad, because close combat also means you'll sustain constant cheap hits. A guard would have come in handy! Fortunately, almost every defeated enemy drops some kind of health or power-up to sustain your energy. Your warrior can also cast of number of powerful spells, including fire, thunder, freeze, lightning, and the all-powerful "death" spell. Graphically, Sol Divide is stunning. The magnificent fantasy backgrounds are a sight to behold, some looking nearly photographic. Digitized bosses like dragons, golems, and minotaurs appear to have been animated using stop-motion techniques like those used in films like Clash of the Titans. Sol Divide could have been a surprise hit if it played like a conventional shooter. As it is, it looks better than it plays. Other drawbacks include lack of memory card support, and the fact that you don't even get a score! Even so, the extraordinary visuals kept me wanting to see what the next stage had in store. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Soul Blade
Grade: A
Publisher: Namco (1997)
Reviewed: 1999/7/15
Rating: Teen

screenshotAs the predecessor of the Soul Calibur games, Soul Blade is a high-quality 3D fighter with fighters who brandish weapons like swords, poles, hammers, daggers, and clubs. This is easily one of the best looking fighters you'll find on the Playstation, and its music video intro is absolutely incredible. The bouts take place on raised platforms, and in one particularly impressive stage you battle on a raft drifting down a river. The variety of weapons allow for some innovative moves, and the gameplay tends to be fast and furious. The two-player versus mode is great, but there's also a cool story mode that lets you collect and upgrade your weapons. Easy to play and easy on the eyes, Soul Blade is a stand-out fighter for the Playstation. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Space Invaders
Grade: D-
Publisher: Activision (1999)
Reviewed: 2000/8/10
Rating: Everyone

screenshotActivision likes to reintroduce old classics with a new coat of pain, but this effort was less than successful. Granted, Space Invader's updated graphics are fine, with large 3D aliens and fantastic explosions, but where's the challenge? In the original arcade game, even clearing one wave was a major accomplishment, but here the waves of invaders are nothing but warm-ups for bosses. And with the exception of the very first boss, those are easy as well! Part of the problem is the huge size of the invaders, which makes them hard to miss! The high-altitude mother ships, which required excellent sharp-shooting skills in the original game, are sitting ducks here. I also noticed that Activision went way overboard with the power-ups. Once you obtain a shield and double-shot, you're pretty much unstoppable. You'll be playing till the cows come home - and hating every minute of it! And remember those protective barriers of the arcade game? In this edition, they not only protect you, but blow up any invaders they touch! The original Space Invaders game is included in this package, but only if you complete the disappointing "updated" version. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Speed Racer
Grade: D+
Publisher: Jaleco (1998)
Reviewed: 2000/11/23
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThe best thing about this rare game is the intro, which plays the entire animated opening of the Speed Racer TV show. That catchy theme song was the soundtrack to my childhood! "Adventure's waiting just ahead!". Too bad the game itself is just a mediocre Ridge Racer clone. It's hard to complain about the graphics though. The frame-rate is surprisingly smooth and there are three good-looking tracks included, although they do "overlap" (a la Ridge Racer). You have all the Mach-5 accessories at your disposal, including the auto-jack (jumping), the rotary saws (cutting trees), the special tire belts (rough terrain), and even the homing pigeon. So far, it sounds like a dream come true for Speed Racer fans, right? Sadly, this game never lives up to its potential. The accessories are only useful on the not-so-hidden shortcuts, and activating the correct one while driving is a major hassle. Cutting through grassy hedges doesn't slow you down, so cutting corners is the order of the day. The audio is really bad. An annoying announcer repeats the same phrases over and over, and the sountrack is weak. There's no two-player mode, and the analog controller is not supported. In the end it looks like Jaleco took a generic racing game and slapped the Speed Racer license on top of it. Gotta love that theme song though! © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


Spin Jam
Grade: C
Publisher: Empire (2000)
Reviewed: 2001/3/22
Rating: Everyone

screenshotYes, it's another puzzle game, but this one isn't a Tetris clone. No, Spin Jam quite original, not to mention surprisingly fun and addictive. Played on a rotating, flower-shaped playing field, you shoot colored bubbles into the "petals" from the center, attempting to burst them all. Clearly Spin Jam was inspired by another classic puzzle game, Bust A Move. Before each game, you select a Pokemon-type character, but as far as I can tell, these have no effect on the actual gameplay. In the single player game, you must complete stages that gradually increase in difficulty, and once you get the hang of it, you'll be hooked. There's not much in the way of graphics, but the catchy electronic music takes me back to my 16-bit days. Spin Jam's gameplay is fun enough, but the user interface could use some serious work. First off, the main menu is in dire need of text! Does Empire really expect people to know what those weird icons are supposed to mean? In addition, the two-player split screen mode is a major letdown. Instead of clearing stages, both players participate in one never-ending stage, and things get out of hand right away. For the solo player however, Spin Jam is a safe bet. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Spyro the Dragon
Grade: B
Publisher: Sony (1998)
Reviewed: 1999/7/15
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThis impressive, go-anywhere adventure puts you in control of a cute, fire-breathing baby dragon . Spyro's cartoonish graphics look superb and its stages are absolutely huge. Unlike other games of its time, you can see areas far away, allowing you to glide from high peaks to distant locations. Spyro's ability to glide is great fun, as is using his fire breath as a weapon. The scenery in Spyro the Dragon has a cool medieval thing happening that I find appealing. The difficulty climbs at a gradual pace until you reach the "big tree top" stage, which is insanely hard. Aside from that however Spyro is a charming little adventure that will appeal to all ages. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


Star Wars: Dark Forces
Grade: F
Publisher: LucasArts (1995)
Reviewed: 2005/5/18

screenshotThis may have been great on the PC, but Dark Forces on the Playstation gives me a massive headache. It's a remarkably sloppy first-person shooter, and its only redeeming feature is the fact that it's set in the Star Wars universe. You assume the role of a generic rebel named Kyle Katarn who is attempting to thwart the activation of the Empire's latest weapon. I found the game practically unplayable, mainly due to the pitiful framerate. The action is so choppy that it's difficult to navigate or aim with any degree of precision. There's only one strafe button, and using a shoulder button to aim up or down is a real drag. Dark Forces doesn't even look good, suffering from ugly textures and poorly-designed stages. In one particularly atrocious stage, you're forced to crawl around in a sewer for what seems like an eternity. The stormtroopers and Imperial Officers appear short and squat, but I do like how they fall back as you mow them down. Dark Forces is strong on the audio tip. The musical score is intense, and its familiar sound effects are lifted straight from the films. But that's a small consolation. Technically deficient and devoid of fun, I can't even recommend Dark Forces to Star Wars fans. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


Star Wars: Episode One The Phantom Menace
Grade: D+
Publisher: LucasArts (1999)
Reviewed: 2005/5/18
Rating: Teen

screenshotPhantom Menace is a great-looking game that loosely recreates the film's storyline. All of the diverse movie environments are rendered in colorful 3D, and superb cut-scenes effectively glue the stages together. The voice acting is also commendable, despite not having been done by all the original actors. That brings us to the gameplay. How come whenever a game allows you to save at any point, it overcompensates by being incredibly difficult and frustrating? Yes, you will need the patience of a saint (or better yet a cheat code) to make it all the way through this perilous adventure. The analog control is sufficient for walking around, but leaping across narrow columns (a common task) is frustrating as hell! Another problem is the limited overhead view some stages offer. It's reasonable when your direction is clear, but in expansive areas like Mos Eisley you're forced to "feel" your way around the edges. The lightsaber controls allow you to skillfully deflect laser bolts, but there are so many frickin' enemies that you're often overwhelmed. Phantom Menace has its share of action sequences, but too much of its gameplay revolves around tedious puzzle solving. In the end, the frustration outweighs the fun. A music video is included as a bonus, but it looks terribly grainy. Phantom Menace should attract a lot of Star Wars fans, but only die-hards will be able to see it through to the end. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


Star Wars: Jedi Power Battles
Grade: B
Publisher: LucasArts (2000)
Reviewed: 2005/5/18
Rating: Teen

screenshotOh yes, this is the game Star Wars fans have been waiting for! In contrast to last year's Phantom Menace, Power Battles doesn't waste your time with tedious puzzles. No, this is non-stop arcade action, much like the SNES Star Wars games - only this time in 3D. You can play as one of five Jedi knights, slashing your way through all the imaginative locations you saw in the film, from the metropolises of Coruscant to the jungles of Naboo. Best of all, two players can battle side-by-side. The graphics are clean and sharp, and the character movements look realistic. The stages are linear and each culminate with the obligatory boss encounter (although most are not from the film). A clever control scheme allows you to deflect laser blasts back at the enemy (block after they fire). Interestingly, the main problem with Power Battles is the same one that plagued its 2D ancestors - frustrating platform jumping! Chances are, you'll deplete most of your lives by falling off cliffs, which typically send you all the way back to the previous checkpoint (arrggh!). This problem is exacerbated in the two-player mode, where both characters are expected to make the same difficult leaps at the same time! Give me a break! Jedi Power Battles does have an "easy" difficulty setting, but that won't make the jumps any easier. Even so, Power Battles looks terrific and packs a great deal of action and excitement. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Star Wars: Masters of Teras Kasi
Grade: F
Publisher: LucasArts (1997)
Reviewed: 2005/5/18
Rating: Teen

screenshotAn ill-advised title if I ever saw one, Teras Kasi was a clumsy attempt to cram the Star Wars universe into a 3D fighting game. You may recall that 3D fighters were at the height of their popularity in 1997, and LucasArts simply couldn't resist jumping on the bandwagon. On paper, Masters of Teras Kasi doesn't seem half bad. Trust me, it's bad. The all-star lineup includes Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Leia, Chewbacca, a Tusken Raider, and everybody's favorite bounty hunter, Boba Fett. There's also a chick named Arden Lyn who's never even appeared in any of the movies. I suspect she was included to boost the number of female fighters (to two). While each character has his own unique combat skills, none lend themselves particularly well to hand-to-hand combat. Example: the Tusken Raider has a frickin' stick for a weapon. How can he be expected to compete against Boba Fett, armed with a blaster and rocket? It doesn't take much of an imagination to think of even more lopsided match-ups. The entire premise is ludicrous, which becomes painfully obvious when you actually try to play the thing. The special moves are very hard to execute, and get this - shooting your blaster is considered a special move! That's right - you actually need to execute a complicated sequence of button presses simply to pull the trigger! You'll be playing as Han Solo, and Leia will be beating the living [expletive] out of you as you try in vain to get off a single shot! Heck, with controls this bad a Jawa could kick Han's ass. In terms of graphics, the quality is uneven. The fighter selection scenes feature awesome rotating holographs, but in combat the fighters look far less impressive, with chunky bodies and faces that border on hilarious. Incidentally, LucasArts put a lot of effort into the lighting effects. Talk about misplaced priorities! They're hardly spectacular, and the background scenery is incredibly dull! Masters of Teras Kasi is what happens when a substandard concept is poorly executed. Did anything good come out of this game? Yes, a newfound appreciation for Tekken. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Star Wars: Rebel Assault II
Grade: C-
Publisher: LucasArts (1995)
Reviewed: 2005/5/18
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotThis game is a bastard child of the full-motion video (FMV) craze of the mid-90's. Long on graphics but short on gameplay, Rebel Assault II is a collection of target-shooting and ship navigation stages loosely held together by less-than-captivating live-action cut-scenes. Filmed against fake-looking matte paintings, the actors used props left over from the three original movies. The acting performances are abysmal - and thank God - because otherwise these scenes would have been completely forgettable. Rebel Assault's 15 stages include space battles, stormtrooper shootouts, tunnel navigating, and even a speeder bike chase in the woods. The first stage has you simply shooting at Tie Fighters, and this rekindled fond memories of Star Wars: The Arcade Game (1983). Rebel Assault's visuals are great, but its controls leave much to be desired. The shooting crosshairs don't feel responsive and the collision detection is lacking. For example, shooting a stormtrooper in the head doesn't seem to register - but a body shot will. The stages where you navigate through tunnels or canyons can be a nightmare, and memorization is usually more critical than skill. The stormtrooper stages would be ideal for a lightgun, but sadly my gun couldn't reach the edge of the screen. One aspect that really saves the game is its tremendous audio. The rousing musical score (taken directly from the films) is inspirational and occasionally exhilarating. Rebel Assault features a slick stage select screen, and it even saves your high scores. It may be a bit shallow, but based on looks alone, Rebel Assault II should attract Star Wars fans. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


Street Fighter Alpha
Grade: B
Publisher: Capcom (1995)
Reviewed: 2011/3/31

screenshotAfter endless iterations of Street Fighter 2, most fighting fans were primed for Street Fighter 3. Instead, Capcom released the ambiguous "Alpha" series, suggesting these games were actually prequels (rolling eyes now). That was lame, but as a rabid fan I was powerless to resist this tantalizing new chapter. While purchasing the game at Best Buy I recall the cashier telling me how jealous he was, and then proceeding to slam the game on the counter in an attempt to remove the plastic security box. Later I would discover he inadvertently smashed the bottom of the box (sigh). I took the game over my friend George's house where me and the guys used to congregate on Monday nights (while slamming beers and watching football). Everybody was totally psyched until we realized how super-long the loading screens were! I swear we spent more time staring at "Now Loading..." than actually playing the freakin' thing. It's a shame because Street Fighter Alpha is a rock-solid 2D fighter. The characters are larger and better animated than previous entries. The backgrounds and music use the same anime style as past Street Fighter games, but are less memorable. The Bourdon Street stage is attractive enough, but other areas like the train depot and Great Wall look bland. The Coliseum stage reminded me of the fight between Bruce Lee and Chuck Norris in "Return of the Dragon". The game itself plays well and the special combo gauge adds depth. Street Fighter Alpha is actually more enjoyable today because you can play it from the faster-loading PS2. Street Fighter Alpha is nice to own for collecting purposes, but for optimal fighting pleasure I would direct you to its sequel, Street Fighter Alpha 2. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Street Fighter Alpha 2
Grade: A
Publisher: Capcom (1996)
Reviewed: 2011/3/31

screenshotIn 1996 a debate raged about which system had the best version of Street Fighter Alpha 2 - the Saturn or Playstation. No definitive answer was reached - until now. In order to finally settle this age-old dispute I had to consult with the foremost Street Fighter expert in the entire world. As luck would have it, that turned out to be my friend Chris who lives just a few miles away. And if you think the odds of that were slim, consider that I also live just a few miles from a restaurant with the "World's best fried chicken". Um... winning! Street Fighter Alpha 2 was the pinnacle of the Alpha series, raising the high water mark for 2D fighting in general. It added three new fighters (Gen, Sakura, Rolento) and brought back old favorites Zangief and Dhalsim. Easy to learn but hard to master, this game has incredible depth and playability. For hardcore players the super gauge has multiple levels of power and you can even perform custom combos. The stages have been given a visual overhaul and are far more intriguing. I'll never forget the first time I saw that hulking Harrier jet plane rise up behind my character in the Hong Kong stage. In another stage you can see a kid in a window playing a video game. And what's not to like about the party cruise stage with scantily clad Darkstalkers mingling with the crowd? It just goes to show that hand-drawn, 2D backgrounds will beat 3D-rendered backdrops any day of the week. So what is the best version of Alpha 2? To find out, Chris and I first played a few rounds with the Saturn version. After getting my ass handed to me repeatedly, we were primed to try the Playstation edition. Chris meticulously examined the graphics, audio, and controls. He was determined to declare that one of the two versions had the edge. After literally minutes of deliberation an exasperated Chris came to a stunning conclusion: They were exactly the same! That's right, he couldn't find any substantial differences between the two games! The Saturn version does include an extra survival mode and illustration library, but they don't carry any weight. In terms of sheer gameplay, both are equally superb. So finally, after 15 years of non-stop trash talking, Playstation and Saturn fans everywhere can put their differences aside and embrace each other in the spirit of peace and harmony. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Street Fighter Alpha 3
Grade: A
Publisher: Capcom (1999)
Reviewed: 2008/2/17
Rating: Teen

screenshotAs a fan of Street Fighter 2 (SF2) since it arrived on the Super Nintendo in 1992, I've purchased more iterations of the series than I'd care to admit. Since most SF2 sequels only offered slight improvements, many fans got tired of the incremental upgrades and the popularity of the series waned. In retrospect however, Street Fighter Alpha was better than many gave it credit for. Although widely regarded as a stopgap measure to tide gamers over until Street Fighter 3, the Alpha series actually did a remarkable job of maintaining the classic formula while expanding the roster and enriching the gameplay. As the last edition of the Alpha series, this game is pretty freaking amazing. The huge 32 character roster includes many new faces and old favorites like Honda and Blanka. In terms of presentation, Alpha 3 is off the charts, with flashy set-up screens dishing out the eye candy faster than you can absorb it. The gameplay is deeper than ever, allowing the player to choose between three fighting styles (X-ism, A-ism, V-ism) which affect the complexity of executing super moves. The action is fast and furious, although matches tend to run longer than traditional Street Fighter bouts. The only thing that didn't impress me about SFA3 is the uneven quality of the background graphics. Some stages look grainy and washed out, and most lack the personality and clever animations Street Fighter fans have come to expect. Likewise the music isn't particularly memorable. In addition to arcade and versus modes, there's a World Tour mode that lets you adopt a character and pump up his abilities by completing series of challenges. Alpha 3's load times are minimal and there's a convenient auto-save. I would probably argue that the Alpha Series peaked at number 2, but this third edition still packs a wallop. Note: This game is also available on a PS2 compilation. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Street Fighter Collection
Grade: A
Publisher: Capcom (1997)
Reviewed: 2008/2/17
Rating: Teen (animated violence)

screenshotThis two-disc set contains arcade-perfect versions of Super Street Fighter 2, Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo, and best of all, Street Fighter 2 Alpha 2 Gold. Oddly enough, despite being the first of two Street Fighter collections, this first one includes some of the later games in the series. The first game in this collection, Super Street Fighter 2, was actually the fourth game in the series. It introduced four new characters: Cammy, Dee Jay, Fei Long, and Thunderhawk. This arcade port gave me a new respect for the SNES version, which features identical graphics but better audio. The music here sounds a bit harsh, and the voices muffled. The second game in this collection is Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo. It offers a lot of minor tweaks, but its primary claim-to-fame is its three levels of "turbo speed". Some Street Fighter fans insist on cranking up the speed, but I personally find it too frantic when both players are hopping around like fleas. The third and final game in this collection is Street Fighter Alpha 2 Gold, which comes as a shock to the system. The fighters are more detailed and rendered in more of an anime style. Quite different from the other two games, most of Alpha's characters are brand new, and a fresh set of backgrounds provide for some memorable scenes. The men's room stage is very comical (with guys at the urinals), and the huge hovering jet in the downtown stage looks amazing. In one stage you can actually see a little kid playing an NES through the window of a house! Alpha's gameplay ups the ante with advanced techniques like a super combo bar, custom combos, and alpha counters. The super-combos provide a satisfying way of turning the tables when you're down. I noticed the bouts in Alpha last longer because attacks tend to incur less damage. I'm not sure what the "Gold" indicates in the title, but this is probably the best Street Fighter game I've played (including Alpha 3 and Street Fighter 3). I would definitely recommend using an arcade-style joystick with all of these games, because the digital pad of the standard Playstation controller is pretty stiff to be executing "sweeping" motions. Considering this is a two-disc package, Street Fighter Collection seems a little sparse, offering no bonus material. The load times are modest, but there's no auto-save feature. All things considered however, this is a pretty outstanding collection. Note: These games are also available on PS2 compilations. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Street Fighter Collection 2
Grade: A
Publisher: Capcom (1998)
Reviewed: 2008/2/17
Rating: Teen (animated violence)

screenshotLogically speaking, this is what the first Street Fighter collection should have been, offering the first three iterations of the insanely popular Street Fighter 2 series on a single disk. Street Fighter 2: The World Warrior is an arcade-perfect port of the original one-on-one fighting bonanza, featuring eight colorful characters hailing from around the globe. The Championship edition provides the ability to play as the four bosses, and tweaks the special moves somewhat (including the addition of Honda's cheap moving hand-slap). Turbo Hyper Fighting gives the action a speed boost, and once you get used to the faster pace, it's hard to go back to the original game. My friend Chris who is a certified Street Fighter fanatic steadfastly maintains that Street Fighter 2 Turbo was the high point of the entire Street Fighter franchise. This disk also includes artwork, useful tips, and even unlockable secrets. An arcade style joystick is recommended for maximum enjoyment. The load times are respectable, but the game has no auto-save, which is a bummer. Street Fighter Collection 2 is not only a great package but a nice piece of history as well. Note: These games are also available on PS2 compilations. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Street Fighter EX Plus Alpha
Grade: D+
Publisher: Capcom (1997)
Reviewed: 2008/7/11
Rating: Teen

screenshotMost Street Fighter games have aged like wine over the years, but EX Plus Alpha? Not so much! This much-maligned title marked the series' temporary but ill-advised foray into the realm of 3D. It didn't help to be saddled with the title "Street Fighter EX Plus Alpha" - an absolute abomination of a name! Not only does this lack a real name, but its lacks an identity. Let's face it - this could be any generic 3D fighter. Yes, there are a few familiar faces, but mostly a bunch of oddball newcomers (don't even get me started with the ridiculous "Skullomania"). The character models are very blocky, and even the blonde bombshell Blair looks positively chunky. The backgrounds are dull and flat, as if little or no effort was put into them. Despite the bland visuals, the animation is fairly smooth. The action occurs on a 2D plane, although fancy throws are depicted via dramatic camera angles. A few are somewhat impressive, like how Dhalsim slithers around his opponent's body before throwing them down. It's very easy to initiate throws in this game (intentionally or otherwise), so you'll be seeing plenty. EX is playable but doesn't have that crisp, responsive feel of a real Street Fighter game. The music covers a wide range, but some of the tunes seem jazzy and inappropriate. Street Fighter EX Plus Alpha is the unholy bastard child of Tekken and Street Fighter. It may have been an interesting novelty item in the late 90's, but now it's just bad. My friend Chris claims this game is not worthy of the Street Fighter name, and I think he's right. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Strider 2
Grade: A-
Publisher: Capcom (2000)
Reviewed: 2008/3/5
Rating: Everyone

screenshotLargely overlooked upon its release, this two-disc package is a remarkable treat for gamers with old school tastes. Not to be confused with the lackluster Strider Returns (Genesis, 1990), Strider 2 is a sparkling gem designed specifically for the Playstation. It combines artistic character sprites with exciting layered 3D environments. This offers players the best of both worlds with simple, engaging gameplay set in rich environments with moving camera angles. The main character "Hiryu" can climb on anything, and he can swing his sword in a rapid-fire manner at the endless hordes of ninjas and levitating robots. A double-jump move is a welcome new addition, as is the "boost" meter which augments your slashes with heat-seeking "waves" of light! The fantastic intro stage has you leaping between buildings at night with a gorgeous city skyline looming in the background. From there you'll visit a castle, a lab at the South Pole, and finally, a space station. The jumping and slashing platform action is great, with bad guys that explode impressively and leave blue coins in their wake. You'll face some truly imaginative adversaries like bird-men armed with hockey sticks, and outrageous bosses like a robotic woolly mammoth! Strider 2 might seem boss-heavy, but none of them take long to defeat. Each stage is divided into several brief encounters, and you're constantly being whisked off to new locations. Between stages the storyline is conveyed via slick illustrations which look absolutely razor-sharp - even on my big plasma TV. Fans of the original Strider will witness many familiar sights, including a winding dragon you can climb on and a gravity-defying stage with a floating "core". Strider 2 has a whimsical side as well, with pixelated icons shaped like cows serving as bonuses. The only thing that bothered me about Strider 2 is its unlimited continues, which allow you to complete the game in roughly an hour. It's still possible to play for best time and score however, which are saved to memory card. The option menu includes a rapid-fire option to help avoid thumb strain. Strider 2's second disk holds an arcade-perfect version of the original Strider game, which is yet another fantastic game. I took Strider 2 for granted back in the day, but I won't be making that mistake again. NOTE: Interestingly, the disc containing Strider 2 is (mis)labeled as "Strider", and the one with Strider is labeled as "Strider 2". © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


Strikers 1945
Grade: B+
Publisher: Agetec (2001)
Reviewed: 2013/3/1
Rating: Everyone

screenshotAs the owner of the Neo Geo (MVS) version of Strikers 1945, I was expecting this PS1 edition to be a second-rate translation - at best. Well, that's not the case at all. This vertical airplane shooter is every bit as fun as the Neo Geo edition, and its graphics are actually sharper, brighter, and more colorful. I've played Dreamcast shooters that don't look this good! The green and brown-tinged landscapes are nearly photo-realistic, and even with hundreds of moving objects there's no slow-down to complain about. You get your pick of six different souped-up WWII-era planes, and I love how your selection determines your starting stage. One or two players can unleash a devastating degree of rapid-fire mayhem, and plentiful weapon icons boost your firepower to the brink of insanity. When all else fails, unleash a "support attack" which pretty much obliterates everything on the screen (and serves as a shield to boot). Under the normal difficulty you'll need to use these just to escape imminent death every 15 seconds or so. The game offers two play modes with really bad names: "original 1" and "original 2". Both are "boxed" by black bars, but the second mode shifts the screen in an unsightly way, so avoid it. Striker's difficulty is up there, so be sure to turn the skill level down to very easy (or lower)! Rankings are saved to memory card. Strikers 1945 arrived late for the system, so a lot of people missed out on this under-appreciated shooter. Don't be one of them. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 196,900
1 or 2 players 


Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo
Grade: B
Publisher: Capcom (1997)
Reviewed: 2009/8/12
Rating: Kinds to Adults

screenshotThis Street Fighter spin-off takes a Tetris-style puzzle game and embellishes it with music, sound effects, and Capcom characters from Street Fighter II and Darkstalkers. The game itself is good, and the fancy window dressing doesn't hurt either. The Street Fighter characters include Ken, Ryu, Chun Li, and Sakura. The Darkstalkers are Morrigan, Felicia, Donovan, and Hsein-Ko. These characters are rendered in a stylized anime style, and have little bearing on the gameplay. I really don't like Ken with that sissy ponytail, and Morrigan looks really dumpy with her hair down. Each side of the screen features a rectangular box that colorful gems fall into, one by one. You stack gems strategically, using the occasional "crash gem" to clear all gems of the same color. It's simple enough for beginners to grasp, yet experts can plan and execute elaborate chain reactions. When your opponent performs a combo, "counter gems" with numbers on them fall into your side. These turn into regular gems after several turns, but in the meantime they tend to pile up and muck with your plans. Puzzle Fighter's gameplay is enjoyable but less intuitive than other puzzle games like Tetris 2 or Bust a Move. Even after becoming fairly good at it, I never felt as if I had fully grasped all the rules. Capcom fans will be delighted with the graphics and sound. The backgrounds are mini-versions of stages from the fighting games, and some of the music is remixed versions of familiar tunes. Some of the new music is excellent, particularly the song that plays throughout the Chun Li stage. Most of the sound effects are taken directly from Street Fighter II. An arcade mode allows you to play the CPU for high score, which is recorded to memory card. The CPU opponent is pretty relentless, and if you let him stick around for too long, prepare for an avalanche of counter gems. There's also a head-to-head versus mode and a puzzle mode that lets you unlock goodies. Puzzle Fighter might not be the most addictive puzzle game around, but it may be the most stylish. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


Syphon Filter
Grade: B+
Publisher: 989 Studios (1999)
Reviewed: 2000/10/11
Rating: Teen

screenshotDespite what you've heard, Syphon Filter is not a lousy Metal Gear Solid clone with a dumb name. No, this is a a very good Metal Gear Solid clone with a dumb name! This third-person espionage thriller features action comparable to the Die Hard movies. You begin in downtown Washington DC, trying to foil the plans of a terrorist leader and his operatives who are planting bombs in the subway. Although the graphics lack the style of MGS, Syphon FIlter seems to contain more mayhem, blood, and explosions. Dramatic "action movie" music adds to the tension, and the effectively use of footsteps and enemy voices add realism. The controls are responsive, although turning around quickly can be a problem. The vibration function is particularly effective, mimicking everything from the kick-back of a shotgun to rumble of a passing subway train. There are seventeen weapons that you'll find pretty much lying all over the place. The missions are well-designed with a female guide that provides regular updates over your radio. Thankfully, Syphon Filter is also a very forgiving game, providing plenty of flak jackets and checkpoints. If you finished Metal Gear Solid and want more along those lines, check this out. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 



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