Magical Chase (Japan)
Publisher: Palsoft (1991)
As with many rare shooters, this whimsical side-scroller seems to have attained cult status over the years. In Magical Chase you are a flying witch blasting through hordes of nonsensical foes in fantasy worlds. You'll encounter flying clocks, rubber duckies, teddy bears, unicorn bunnies, and all sorts of goofy animal hybrids who are hard (if not impossible) to describe. I can't vouch for the mental state of the programmers, but they definitely need professional help. Two star-shaped companions augment your firepower and double as shields. The action is pretty intense and most defeated foes drop gems you can snatch up. These are cashed in for weapons and health at a floating store run by a jack-o-lantern dude. Despite heavy use of pastel colors, the stages themselves are bland at best and repetitive at worst. Typical locations include castles, forests, and airships - not very imaginative. The game reminds me a lot of Fantasy Zone
(Sega Master System, 1986). So is Magical Chase worth breaking your piggy bank for? Not by a long shot! Most foes can absorb an inordinate number of hits, making your weapons feel extremely ineffective. Many defeated enemies don't explode or disappear, but instead float harmlessly off the screen. It's especially unsatisfying when a boss denies you the satisfaction of watching him explode! The control scheme is counter-intuitive and the game is boss-heavy. Don't get me wrong - Magical Chase has a peculiar sort of charm, and shooter fans will be glad to have this oddball in their collection. Gamers on a budget however will be happy to know they can safely bypass this run-of-the-mill shooter. Note: This Japanese PC Engine game was played on an American Turbo Duo using a hardware converter device. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: Medium
Our high score: 146,460
Publisher: NEC (1990)
For a game released in 1990, Military Madness is pretty amazing. Its hexagonal maps and statistical displays may scare some gamers off, but this is one of the more accessible turn-based war games I've played. I didn't even need to read the manual before playing. Each stage places two armies on a map, with the goal being to wipe each other out. The map features roads and geographic formations that really do affect the strategy. During each turn you methodically move and attack with each unit. In the early stages your units are limited to tanks and infantry, but the game gradually introduces powerful new units like aircraft and self-propelled artillery. Once transports and factories are introduced, a wide range of possibilities opens up. Most of the game is played on the overhead map, but during attacks you're treated to a separate screen showing the exchange of fire. These screens also display percentages indicating exactly how geographic formations and other factors (like flanking) are affecting the outcome. The short animated attacks sequences are satisfying and fun to watch. If you think Military Madness sounds like Advance Wars
(GBA, 2001), you are correct. The fact that this came out ten years
prior makes it all the more impressive. The well-designed user interface makes it easy to execute orders, and a helpful in-game guide provides extensive details about each unit. The action moves along at a brisk pace and the computer never takes long to make a decision. The sound effects are distinctive and the spirited music is exceptional. At the end of each level you're presented with a graphical display showing the flow of the battle. You can compete against the CPU or a friend, but the password system is confusing. When the only two-player option is "two player continue", confusion is bound to ensue. Still, once you fully immerse yourself into Military Madness, you'll see the genius of it. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Monster Lair (CD)
Publisher: Hudson Soft (1989)
It wasn't the Halloween game I was expecting but Monster Lair turned out to be far better than I imagined. Its title screen calls to mind Sonic the Hedgehog
(Genesis, 1991) with its sparkling blue waters and lush green islands. You control a chubby little hero resembling the dude from Adventure Island
(NES, 1987). The bright arcade graphics and crisp controls are appealing. As the screen continuously scrolls left you leap between floating platforms while unleashing considerable firepower. You'll face a hodgepodge of cuddly adversaries including fluttering pelicans, giant snakes, blue monkeys, and squid leaping out of water. Weapon icons appear early and often but even your default pea-shooter is effective. Weapons include cannonballs, whirling blades, and giant bullets that explode on impact. I personally prefer the "screw" with its penetrating power and the bubble shot with its wide coverage. Your weapon power is somehow tied into your life bar but I'm not sure how that works. Each platform section is followed by a brief flying sequence culminating with an easy boss encounter. I love the flow of this game. It's great fun to snatch up all the bonus fruit and watch bonus points appear all over the place. The audio delivers some truly outstanding music that reeks of 90's gaming. After using three continues you rank in with your best score. As if that's not enough, the game even supports two-player coop. Easy, breezy, and fun, Monster Lair is a little slice of classic gaming heaven. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 138,700
1 or 2 players
Mr. Heli (Japan)
Publisher: Irem (1989)
Mr. Heli is a rapid-fire shooter in the whimsical arcade style of Ordyne
(NEC, 1989). You control an chubby orange helicopter. Stages scroll in all directions as you venture through volcanic caves, dungeons, and clock towers. You'll shoot down flying tanks, knights, and robots all rendered in a cute style. The controls are suspect. One button fires continuously forward yet its range is severely limited. The second button fires missiles upwards
, and this can be upgraded to homing missiles (yes please!
). When you land, these missile become bombs that explode below you after a second or two delay. By destroying blocks you reveal crystals that can be used to to purchase upgrades. The stage designs leave much to be desired. Especially in advanced levels there are a lot of narrow passages that make it hard to avoid projectiles. The size of your helicopter proves to be a liability, especially against huge bosses that crush you into corners. The quirky title screen tune is cringeworthy and the music during the game isn't much better. Mr. Heli's colorful graphics might look good, but the more you play the less appealing it becomes. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 69,760
Publisher: Hudson Soft (1990)
Neutopia is commonly described as Zelda for the Turbografx, and that description is dead-on. The most obvious difference between this any other Zelda game is that the main character's hair is brown instead of blonde. Neutopia looks, sounds, and plays like Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (Super Nintendo, 1992), albeit with slightly less polish. Even the storyline is familiar. An evil wizard has kidnapped the princess, but our hero can't save her until he obtains eight medallions spread across the land. Subtle details practically scream of Zelda, like octopuses shooting projectiles from the water, the constant beeping heard when your health runs low, and the way your character triumphantly raises a newly-acquired item. As you wander between contiguous land areas, you encounter dungeons, merchants, and people offering advice. You'll fend off wandering monsters with your sword and shield, blow up obstacles with bombs, and consume potions to replenish your health. Each dungeon offers a variety of enemies and simple puzzles, culminating with an obligatory boss encounter. Despite its derivative nature, Neutopia is irresistibly fun and its production qualities are impressive. The game saves your progress to memory, and even provides a password. I enjoyed Neutopia, but the stage design could have used some work. Often I couldn't figure out what to do next and ended up wandering in circles. Still, this is a quality adventure that Turbografx fans will savor. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: NEC (1992)
Much like Altered Beast on the Genesis, this side scroller allows you to transform into wild animals while battling monsters from beyond the grave. I really, really wanted to like this game. The graphics are exceptional, with spooky scenery set in graveyards, catacombs, and deserted villages. Night Creatures looks like a more serious version of Ghouls and Ghosts, and the creatures you encounter make quite an impression. There are nearly 40 different monsters if you include the bosses, and they tend to be surprisingly creepy. The effective visuals are matched by a haunting refrain that plays in the background. Unfortunately, the gameplay does not live up to the presentation. The interface used to switch weapons and transform is awkward, requiring you to pause the game. Your character takes a lot
of cheap hits and is constantly dying. Even transforming into animals drains your life, so you can only do it sparingly. My best advice is to punch while squatting, which seems to make you much less vulnerable to attack. Night Creatures lets you save your place if you're running on a Turbo Duo, but overall this title feels like a missed opportunity. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: NEC (1990)
This is a fighting game for shooter fans. I say that because you control a ninja who can amass a huge degree of firepower. He begins with a simple sword, but this weapon can be powered-up multiple times and its range extended substantially. Other weapons include stars, knives, bombs, and chains. Some power-ups even create mirror images of your ninja, who mimic your actions and multiply the damage you inflict. And if you think doubling your firepower is fun, wait until you get two or three mirrors! Enemy ninjas attack all directions (including under the floor), and they explode when you kill them. The collision detection strongly favors the player; some of my sword slashes killed guys that appeared to be far out of range. Only against the bosses do you need to be extra careful in this game. I really liked the carnage I could unleash in Ninja Spirit. There's not much technique required, but it's definitely a good twitch game. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Ninja Warriors, The (Japan)
Publisher: Taito (1989)
Having enjoyed Ninja Warriors
(SNES, 1994) I figured I'd give the original
PC Engine game a try. It seemed like a good idea at the time!
So why is my ninja dressed in red and hobbling around like girl in high heels? Under closer scrutiny I realized my ninja was a chick!
I would have never suspected that from the generic cover. It turns out you can toggle between a female and male from the main menu. Regardless of your choice you're in for a level of monotony that might be described as brutal
. Instead of employing agility and stealth like any respectable ninja you stumble down the street while mindlessly slashing at everything. Soldiers approach but don't brandish their weapons until you're already in the act of stabbing them. Some can fire weapons from a distance but your throwing stars make short work of those guys. Setting your turbo switch to maximum transforms you into an unstoppable stabbing machine, and squatting makes you nearly impervious to danger. There's no point in jumping because it just exposes you to cheap hits. You'll eventually encounter creepy monkey hunchbacks that leap away whenever you attack them - so inconvenient!
The backgrounds depict a war-torn city but there's nothing much to see. The second stage takes place on a military base and features a super annoying boss who disappears and reappears all over the place. Ninja Warriors is an abysmal affair and frankly I'm shocked a sequel even got the green light. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 58,290
Order of the Griffon
Publisher: TTI (1992)
Once you get over its quirks Order of the Griffon is a nifty little licensed Dungeons & Dragons RPG. You'll assemble a party of four characters (fighter, mage, cleric, thief, etc) and there's not a heck of a lot of customization (none in fact). That's fine because new D&D characters don't usually live very long so no use falling in love with them. While exploring castles and dungeons you get a first-person view presented in a screen window. Expect a lot of perfectly square rooms, 90-degree turns, and repetitive scenery. What you see looks detailed, but the contents of many rooms are described via text only, and that's lame. The sound effects are sparse (when present at all) but the renaissance-style music adds ambiance. Before heading out into the wilderness to you'll want to battle-harden your crew by engaging in a few local skirmishes. Once you finally set out your party looks like a tiny icon on a world map. During encounters the view switches to a closer overhead view. I couldn't help but notice my characters on this screen look nothing like those on the inventory screens. You often have to scroll around to locate your enemies, which is kind of tedious. You take turns moving your characters a distance determined by class and attributes. Dwarves are slow as molasses but boy are they tough! Mages are pitifully weak yet can wield spells from afar. The early battles are pretty comical since about 80% of attacks result in "miss". Things become more interesting as your characters level up. Once you get a feel for the controls the pacing is remarkably brisk, and it helps that the game isn't hampered by CD technology. My main complaint is the lack of a map while exploring dungeons, causing you to waste time moving in circles. I also dislike the frequency of unavoidable wilderness encounters. Watching your party get winnowed away is disheartening, especially when you've just completed a mission and are just trying to get home. Be sure to frequently save via memory or password. It's a rough gem, but Order of the Griffon isn't a bad little RPG to cozy up with on a rainy Saturday afternoon. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: password/memory
Publisher: NEC (1989)
I remember Ordyne as a standout title on Namco Museum Volume 4
(Playstation, 1997). Yeah, I know that's not saying much considering the quality of that collection. Ordyne is a whimsical little shooter with childlike graphics that can be played by two people simultaneously. You control little kids flying miniature planes and shooting at large, colorful objects. The game's whimsical nature and pastel color schemes really bring to mind Fantasy Zone. Your plane comes equipped with both missile and bomb weapons. Upon destroying a series of identical objects, bundles of balloons appear carrying "crystals" which can be used to upgrade weapons. Besides purchasing weapons at the floating "Space Inn", there's also a lottery ship that rewards you with random bonuses. The ability to buy and experiment with various weapons is easily the highlight of the game. The action moves at a leisurely pace, and is definitely on the easy side. Enemy projectiles move slowly and are shaped like large, orange circles. After breezing through the initial "airship" stage, and then through caverns filled with floating orange donuts, the challenge finally kicks in with a treacherous underwater stage. My friends weren't particularly impressed, but this likeable shooter is a natural for younger gamers. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: NEC (1990)
With its bright graphics and laid-back style, Outrun is truly a classic. This PC Engine version certainly does the game justice, but is it as good as its Genesis cousin? Keep reading to find out! The opening stage is a beautiful beach adorned with palm trees, surf shacks, and blooming cumulus clouds. One noticeable difference in this version is that the sky is actually a teal color instead of deep blue. It looks fine but feels a bit subdued. The graphics and music are actually clearer than the Genesis, yet the audio is less "full". The gameplay is exciting as you weave through traffic and the tension mounts as you approach the next checkpoint as the timer ticks down. When you crash your convertible the passengers are not
violently ejected from the vehicle, which is disappointing. It takes a while to get back up to speed, especially since you're forced to switch into low gear to get started. It's not easy to tell which gear you're in, and unlike the Genesis version (which dedicates a button to shifting gears) it's easy to accidentally slide back into low gear. Fortunately the collision detection is highly forgiving - perhaps to a fault. The branching course offers excellent replay value, taking you through vineyards, ruins, deserts, and a "cloudy mountain" that looks like a tidal wave washing over you. At the conclusion of your game a map shows the route you took. The high score screen features a dramatic sunset and bittersweet music that makes you feel sad your joyride has come to an end. The Genesis version gets the nod from me, but the fun of Outrun can't be denied on any system. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 3,534,000
Publisher: Data East (1990)
Just when I thought shooting games got no better than Download (NEC, 1990), Override comes along and rocks my world! This is a shooter of the vertically-scrolling variety, but it's equally superb. Override is quite possibly the fastest shooter I've ever played! I could barely control my ship until I realized the second button adjusts your speed. You'll probably want to keep it near the lowest setting. Your oversized ship makes for a big target but your rapid-fire cannon helps even the odds. You power it up by collecting pods and also acquire secondary weapons via floating icons. Icons rotate colors and if you select your current weapon color you'll augment it up to three levels. A high level of excitement is derived from buying yourself enough time dodging crossfire to snag an icon when it's just the right color. When fully powered-up the gameplay is ecstacy. Getting hit reduces your power and at the lowest level you're vulnerable to death. The background graphics are pretty standard as you glide over forests, barren landscapes, and well-fortified enemy entrenchments. There's a stage that features trains and another with tanks pouring out of bunkers. The bosses are interesting in design but predictable in their movements. I found the difficulty to be fair, at least until I hit stage four which incorporates buildings you cannot fly over. Not only does this constrict your movement, it prevents you from reaching some valuable icons. I really couldn't get enough of this game. Override is an outstanding shooter that hits the sweet spot of the 2D shooting formula. Note: This game will not run natively on a non-Japanese system. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 371,220
Publisher: Taito (1991)
As the third entry in the Bubble Bobble
(NES, 1988) series, Parasol Stars is pure arcade sugar. The visuals are so colorful and vibrant, objects practically leap off the screen. The whimsical graphics are complemented perfectly by a playful musical score. One or two players control chubby kids (Bubby and Bobby) armed with "parasols" (umbrellas). These allow you to glide, stun creatures, and collect "elements" like water and electricity. The object is to clear a series of platform-laden screens of creatures. Your adversaries are typically cute, cuddly versions of creatures like unicorns, lions, and bats. The gameplay sounds pretty straightforward but you would not believe
it is! Words cannot describe the chaos! As creatures converge on you, you tend to go buck-wild
, sending objects flying in all directions as juicy bonus items pop up all over the place. These include fruits, vegetables, jello molds, cheese, cake, and other delectable treats. Point values appear as you snag them, but these values seem very random. You might gather ten corn cobs for 60 points each, or collect a dozen eclairs for 3,000
points each! Parasol Stars has the look and feel of an old-fashioned arcade coin-op, but the fun factor takes a dip when the screens get bigger and scroll sideways. Suddenly it becomes hard to tell what creatures (or items) are remaining, which is especially confusing with two players. Still, it's easy to see why Parasol Stars ranks as a favorite among the Turbografx faithful. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: GWC 846,490
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Hudson (1989)
Power Golf somehow won me over despite a phethora of faults and annoyances. The game's graphics are not particularly impressive, although the scrolling overhead view always provides a decent angle. Once you've selected a club and set your aim, a small window appears containing your golfer (who looks like the kid from Caddyshack) and a three-press swing meter. The shot meter moves crazy
fast, making your tee shots exceptionally difficult. Even the most experienced players will themselves hooking and slicing a lot of shots into the woods. Still, gamers looking for a serious challenge will relish trying to tame these ruthless controls. Less forgivable is how your club ranges are not
displayed on the screen. Yeah, they're listed in the instruction booklet, but who wants to bother with that
? In addition, there's no caddy to "recommend" a club for each shot, so you'll need to experiment. Once you get a feel for the controls, you can even apply backspin and control the trajectory of your shot. The ball scales dramatically to indicate its height, and the greens have arrows to indicate slope. The game moves along at a brisk pace, so you can play eighteen holes in about twenty minutes. I love the "lounge music" that plays in the background - it's classic old-school all the way. Modes include stroke, match, and a competition mode that supports up to three players. Why the number of players is limited to three is beyond my comprehension. Power Golf can't compete with the classic PGA Tour titles on the Genesis, but if you're up for a challenge, give it a shot. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Prince of Persia (CD)
Publisher: Hudson Soft (1992)
I vaguely recall playing Prince of Persia back in the day and hating
its tedious brand of platforming jumping. This is not the kind of game you play for instant gratification. Its slow, deliberate pace feels more like Tomb Raider than your typical 2D romp. The game is set in a stone fortress where you step on weight-activated switches to open gates and spring traps. Your Prince moves with fluid motion, giving me flashbacks of... well... Flashback
(Genesis, 1993). The graphics look extremely sharp and I love the flickering torches against the craggy stone block walls. The controls were innovative for its time. You can creep slowly, perform running jumps, and grab ledges. Falls are deadly, so perfect timing is paramount. Unfortunately this game was designed for a keyboard, and the controller doesn't provide the proper degree of precision. There's a lot of trial and error involved, and it's frustrating. Still, once you get the hang of it, the game is enjoyable enough. A save feature is available from the pause menu, but before you get too excited, you should know that it never puts you back exactly where you left off. Prince of Persia is a good-looking platformer, but the music really steals the show with its hypnotic middle-eastern rhythms. It's probably the only reason they could justify shipping this game on a CD. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Nexat Soft (1990)
The premise of this side-scrolling shooter is to "escape the world of your own mind". Well, if that world resembles this weird-o-rama game to any degree, it's time to get off the crack pipe. The initial stage of Psychosis reminded me of Bio Hazard Battle
(Genesis, 1992). Set on a beach cluttered with lab equipment, you face all sorts of odd, indescribable life forms. From there you move to a flower-filled cave with floating Asian masks, and then to a stage lined with colored tiles. The programmers obviously used the "anything goes" premise as an excuse to toss in any frickin' thing
they could come up with. Your ship rotates nicely, and is guarded by a pair of pods you can shift into various formations. Weapons include the forward shooting wide beam, a "back laser" that can be angled in any direction, and the poorly-named "thunder", which creates two electric fields above and below your ship. The graphics are not particularly attractive, and there's an annoying amount of flicker. The futuristic soundtrack is decent, but the sound effects are weak. Three continues are available, but the game doesn't even bother to display your score once you lose your last life. Psychosis is a playable diversion, but it certainly doesn't compare favorably to the other fine shooters the system has to offer. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: NEC (1989)
This classic shooter is great on any system, but it really
shines on the Turbografx-16! With bright, crisp graphics and no slowdown, this is easily the best version of R-Type I've played. R-Type is a typical side-scroller in many ways, but its depth and challenge far exceeds most games of its kind. You can shoot your main cannon rapidly or "charge up" for a single powerful shot. Personally, I prefer to set the turbo switch on the controller for rapid-fire. One key element is the handy "power pod" - a remote weapon with much strategic value. You can attach this pod to your ship or deploy it to other areas of the screen. Once you acquire the pod and a few power-ups, your firepower becomes enormous. Enjoy it while it lasts, because once you lose that ship, your weapons are gone, and that really hurts. The stages are your typical space stations and slimy caverns, but the enemies and bosses are quite disgusting. R-Type is not for the faint of heart, and less skilled gamers are bound to get frustrated. Certain stages force you to move in certain predetermined patterns to survive, and even when you know the pattern it's hard to stay alive. For dyed-in-the-wool shooter fans however, R-Type is hard to beat. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Hudson Soft (1991)
I've reviewed several versions of Raiden as of late, and while all are good, this Turbografx-16 edition is probably the best. It combines the sharp graphics of the Jaguar version with the crisp, responsive controls of the Genesis. Raiden is a vertical shooter that takes you over green farmlands, rail yards, ports, and space stations as you blast armored foes like tanks, trains, and helicopters. Power-ups abound, and floating icons let you toggle between a red and blue main weapon. The red offers wider coverage, but the concentrated blue is better for putting the bosses out of their misery. The game offers great explosion effects, and I love how enemy airships catch on fire after taking damage. If this Raiden seems easier to play than most, it might have something to do with the fact that you get to use the entire screen!
Other versions dedicate the right third to scoring information, but on the Turbografx this information is simply overlaid at the bottom of the screen. Works like a charm. Your ship handles like a dream, and the collision detection is forgiving - maybe too much so. There were a few times when I thought I got clipped by a passing helicopter only to emerge unscathed. The soundtrack is likeable but lacks the richness of the Genesis version. Still, when taking the Pepsi challenge of Raidens, I'm going with the Turbografx every time. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 171,200
Publisher: Hudson (1993)
Riot Zone tries to be another Streets of Rage (Genesis), but it lacks the depth and challenge. The characters are large and well-drawn, and Tony looks exactly like Axel from Streets of Rage. Heck, not only does he sport the same blond hair, t-shirt, and jeans, but he even has the same moves
! The motley crew of thugs includes a lot of obese men and sexy women in skirts and high heels. The background graphics are mostly dull, and at times just plain ugly
. The audio is equally mediocre, with unrealistic sound effects and a forgettable musical score. Riot Zone's gameplay is easy and repetitive, with no weapons or interesting items to use. Three buttons are used to jump, attack, and activate your special attack. Your only strategy involves tossing one bad guy into another one. And when I say this game is easy, I mean it! I finished this game in one sitting without even breaking a sweat! Perhaps the most offensive aspect of Riot Zone is the lack of a two-player mode! Considering the storyline involves two partners, it's unforgivable! © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
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