Neo Geo Reviews E-L

Eight Man
Grade: C-
Publisher: SNK (1991)
Reviewed: 2003/6/17

screenshotYou can usually pick up this side-scroller for pretty cheap, but there's a reason for that. The game provides some generic punch and kick action, but nothing more. Eight Man himself looks like a full-grown Mega-Man - in other words a complete dork. Still, as fast as Eight Man moves, you're not likely to notice how dumb his outfit looks. The action is spastic with multitudes of explosions and endless look-alike thugs. The action is fast and repetitive, and you can get into a Matrix-like groove in the middle of it all. Unlike other games like Ninja Combat, Eight Man can handle just about everything thrown his way. He has rapid-fire kicks and punches, as well as bombs for tight situations. There's some platform jumping, but nothing too difficult. The characters are large and colorful but not interesting, and the bosses are forgettable as well. The single unique aspect of Eight Man is the "running" stages, which lets him do his thing while running at blazing speeds. But since your enemies move just as fast, the gameplay isn't much different after all, and in fact these stages are less fun. The two-player simultaneous mode is supposed to incorporate some cooperative moves, but the screen gets too hectic to tell what's going on. Stick to the single-player mode for best results. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Fatal Fury
Grade: C
Publisher: SNK (1991)
Reviewed: 2005/8/17

screenshotThis is it - the very first fighter for the Neo Geo. Designed to compete with Street Fighter II (SNES, 1992), Fatal Fury certainly holds its own on the graphical level. The large fighters and multi-layered scenery are done in exactly the same style, and the backgrounds even change between rounds (as day turns to night). A few of the characters look somewhat like their Street Fighter counterparts. Joe Higashi is a kickboxer along the lines of Sagat, and Michael Max bears more than a passing resemblance to Balrog. Some of the more original characters include Richard Myer who can fight while standing on his head, and Tung Fu Rue, an elderly Asian man who transforms into a Hulk Hogan look-alike. Terry Bogard (a long time SNK favorite) is an American decked out in jeans, a red Michael Jackson jacket, and a trucker cap. Duck King sports a mohawk haircut and MC Hammer-style baggy pants. It's a shame only three characters are playable (Terry Bogard, Andy Bogard, and Joe Higashi). The number of moves is limited, and special moves are often hard to execute. Still, they do inflict major damage, resulting in surprisingly brief matches. The time limit for each round is 45 seconds - half that of Street Fighter 2. One unique feature is how the characters battle on two planes, moving between the foreground and background. This inter-plane movement is mostly automatic however, and it can be confusing. I really love the scenery - particularly the carnival, subway station, and beach. The rain in the Howard Arena stage looks like crap though! It's just a bunch of white lines! A terrific bonus stage lets you arm-wrestle a guy by tapping a button, and it's pretty intense. Despite clearly showing its age, Fatal Fury still packs some old school charm. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Fatal Fury Special
Grade: B
Publisher: SNK (1993)
Reviewed: 2003/7/15

screenshotI was initially exposed to the Fatal Fury series through the two SNES carts that play like second-rate Street Fighter II (SF2) clones. But Fatal Fury Special (FFS) is a different story. Sporting terrific graphics and amazing playability, this one-on-one fighter is terrific. The 15 characters are huge and diverse, although I personally think there are too many ugly fat guys and not enough females (only one!). I noticed some definite resemblances to SF2 characters, particularly Sagat (Joe) and Chun Li (Mai). The backgrounds are colorful, imaginative, and many scroll sideways, but what's with the purple water? Anyway, the gameplay is what really counts, and Fatal Fury Special delivers big time. There are two punch and two kick buttons, and the SF2-inspired special moves are easy to execute. The CPU opponent is surprisingly clever and won't fall for the standard strategies. One original aspect of FFS is the ability to fight on two planes. By pressing A and B together, you can move between the foreground and background, and can even execute special attacks while moving between them. It's a cool effect and it adds a new dimension to the gameplay - literally. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Football Frenzy
Grade: D+
Publisher: SNK (1990)
Reviewed: 2002/9/6

screenshotFootball Frenzy had some serious potential, but serious flaws in the passing game prevent it from being great. Fast, button-tapping arcade action is what this game is all about, and Football Frenzy certainly lives up to its name. The players are large and nicely animated, and tapping the A button increases your speed. The defense can always see what play you choose, but it doesn't make much difference. Running the ball is a lot of fun and you can sometimes squeeze between a gang of tacklers. But passing? Forget it! Most of your receivers are off-screen, and the softly thrown balls are easily picked off by defenders. Half of the passes are intercepted! That's a shame, because Football Frenzy has some killer features. The camera zooms in on running plays, and the tackles look great. Cheerleaders provide a provocative halftime show, and best of all, the music absolutely rocks! I'm telling you, these tunes really get your adrenaline going. But without a decent passing attack, Frenzy ultimately falls short. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Ghost Pilots
Grade: B+
Publisher: SNK (1991)
Reviewed: 2004/11/13

screenshotSome might criticize this vertical shooter for not showing off the Neo Geo's full capabilities. It's true, but there's no denying that Ghost Pilots is still a lot of fun. Although its gameplay is slower than other Neo Geo shooters, the challenge is less insurmountable and you can really get into a zone playing it. You pilot WWII-era planes, taking out tanks, ships, and enemy aircraft flying in formation. Comparisons to 1942 are obvious, but Ghost Pilots is much better, with huge sprites, nifty scaling effects, and a two-player simultaneous mode. The action is smooth and easy to control, and the military-style music adds a sense of urgency. Your plane's guns can power up to three levels, and you also have a supply of bombs. I appreciate how the bombs absorb incoming missiles, doubling as a shield. The background scenery is clean but unspectacular, and the bosses tend to be generic mechanical beasts. After finishing the first stage, you can choose one of two stages to play next, as well as the type of bomb you'd like to employ. Ghosts Pilots limits you to three continues, so you probably won't blow through the game in one sitting. The high scores are not saved, which is a bummer. But as one of the more affordable Neo Geo shooters, Ghost Pilots is definitely worth tracking down. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Karnov's Revenge
Grade: B+
Publisher: Data East (1994)
Reviewed: 2008/1/6

screenshotNow this is a hard game to grade! Karnov's Revenge (aka Fighter's History Dynamite) may be the most blatant Street Fighter 2 (SF2) rip-off ever produced. But it is good! In fact, it almost plays a better game of Street Fighter 2 than Street Fighter 2! The overall design and style of the game is identical, from the character selection menus, to the familiar controller movements, to the post-fight victory screens. Even many of the fighters seem like SF2 clones. Only the freaky "Clown" and that "Ryoko" kid (both rather unlikable) stand out as original characters. Jean looks like a gay version of Guile, decked out in suspenders and holding a rose. Despite its derivative nature, Karnov's gameplay is extremely engaging, with well-balanced characters and intuitive controls. The animation rivals SF2 and the nicely-rendered backgrounds feature interesting animations and breakable props. A wide range of exotic locations are represented, including an Asian temple, a tranquil waterfall, the stage of a rock concert, and an African savannah with animal spectators. The scenery changes slightly between rounds, often reflecting day turning into night. My personal favorite is the magnificent city night skyline - it has a real Streets of Rage vibe. Karnov's audio is also high quality, offering numerous voice samples and well-composed background music that increases in tempo as a round nears conclusion. One original aspect of the game is how parts of fighter's outfits can break off, like a chest protector or mask. This triggers a cheesy "boing" sound effect, indicating your foe is dazed. There aren't many surprises, but if you appreciate one-on-one fighters, the overall quality of Karnov's Revenge is hard to deny. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

King of Fighters 94
Grade: A-
Publisher: SNK (1994)
Reviewed: 2009/3/14

screenshotKing of Fighters 94 (KoF94) is a 2D fighting extravaganza that unites fighters from several popular SNK franchises, including Fatal Fury, Art of Fighting, and Ikari Warriors. SNK knows a thing or two about 2D fighting, and King of Fighters reigns supreme. While it basically copies the Street Fighter 2 formula, KoF94 does introduce a few innovations. First, there's the concept of three-man teams. You select the fighting order, and when one member is defeated, the next one steps in (as your opponent recovers some health). There are eight pre-configured teams including the Fatal Fury team (Joe Higashi, Terry Bogard, Andy Bogard) representing Italy. England features three females including Mai Shiranui who is positively babelicious. The Korean team has a mini Freddy Krueger named Choi and the massive ball and chain-swinging Chang. The American team is stereotypical, featuring an oversized football player and a tall black guy armed with a basketball attack. There's a gay guy (Benimaru), a lesbian (King), and an old Asian guy (Chin) who serves as the comic relief with his drunken boxing antics. You can play one-on-one, but the team battles are far more interesting. The controller's four buttons map to two kicks and two punches, with combinations allowing you to dodge and charge. Each character has three special moves, and those familiar with Street Fighter 2 will pick up on the controller movements needed to execute these right away. The battles are nicely paced and ideal in length, but the character balance is suspect. The bad-ass Brazilian team is led by military guy with an eye patch named Heidern who deals an exorbitant amount of damage. Despite some mild pixelation, the colorful, layered stages are the ultimate in 2D eye candy, and each is introduced with a brief animated sequence. You'll battle in front of a helicopter crash in the Brazilian jungle, clash in a sunny park with London Bridge looming in the background, and witness a gorgeous orange sunset in New York City. Your fighting partners linger in the background, and under certain conditions can be called in for "assist attacks". The game's voice samples are hard to make out, but the background music is a nice blend of guitar and electronic beats. Brazil's edgy soundtrack has a brooding undercurrent, but China's playful melody is a little cheesy. There's a high score screen, but the scores are not saved, and you'll need 188K just to rank in, which is pretty excessive. Overall, King of Fighters 94 is a top-notch fighter that established a franchise that would endure even after the Neo Geo system had faded from the scene. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

King of Fighters 94 (CD)
Grade: D
Publisher: SNK (1994)
Reviewed: 2009/3/14

screenshotKing of Fighters 94 (KoF94) is a terrific game, but this CD version can't do it justice. The main problem is the constant, annoying load screens, which typically run about 20 seconds each. When you first fire up the game, you watch a monkey juggling three balls. When the main menu is finally displayed, you select your mode, and then sit through another load screen. After selecting your fighters, there's another load screen. By this time you've already sat through three load screens, and haven't even thrown a punch yet. That [expletive] ain't right! There are no loads during the match, and once a match is decided, you'll sit through one final load screen as the victory (or defeat) animation is loaded. When a game makes you wait 30 seconds just to see your character collapse in defeat, it's like rubbing salt in the wound. If you don't mind the exorbitant waits, the game itself is outstanding (see Neo Geo cartridge review for full details). The only way this CD differs from the cartridge is the soundtrack, which is slightly higher in fidelity than the cartridge version. Some of the background music has changed for the better (China) but some has also changed for the worse (Brazil). King of Fighters 94 is an amazing fighter, but this CD version might as well be called King of Monkey Juggling 94. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

King of Fighters 95
Grade: A
Publisher: SNK (1995)
Reviewed: 2009/3/14

screenshotYou have to love these King of Fighters games. First SNK adopts the Street Fighter 2 formula, then they expand upon it, and then they beat it like a dead horse for years and years (not that I would ever condone beating a dead horse). King of Fighters 95 offers some welcome new additions and tweaks, but the core 2D fighting engine remains rock solid. There are still 24 fighters to select from, but it's a different group than KoF94. There's a lot less diversity, with no black guys and only a handful of women. Most of these characters are so generic it's hard to tell them apart, and names like Kyo Kusanagi and Takuma Sakazaki don't help matters. Unlike KoF94, you can now build you own teams out of any of the available characters, which is great. The special move list is greatly expanded, with some characters sporting as many as eight. And if you thought the backdrops in KoF94 were an eyeful, wait until you feast your eyes on the imaginative stages of KoF95. The smoky jazz bar looks phenomenal, the waterfall stage is breathtaking, and even the industrial plant looks beautiful. The Greek pier features inviting blue water and nifty splashing effects. Your teammates watch from the background, and I like how they react appropriately to your performance. The electronic music is engaging and helps emphasize the uptempo pace of the battles. Eight skill levels are available, and you can "rank in" to the high score screen with a mere 20K, making it easy to record your high scores. It's not a huge step forward, but King of Fighters 95' does a brilliant job of tweaking an already winning formula. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

King of Fighters 95 (CD)
Grade: D-
Publisher: SNK (1995)
Reviewed: 2009/3/14

screenshotKing of Fighters 95 is one of my favorites in the series, but I can't stomach this CD version. Sure, you get all the thrills and eye candy of the cartridge, but at the cost of frequent 15-30 second load screens! SNK dropped the juggling monkey from the opening load screen, but the new rotating logos aren't any better! Give me back my monkey!! If you thought the number of load screens in KoF94 was excessive, rest assured this edition is far worse! Now you have to wait for each character to load between rounds in a match! Considering there are six players in the default "team" battles, that's a lot of loading, and it really disrupts the flow of the action. The load screen feature small black and white illustrations of the fighters - as if that will ease the pain! This CD does offer one feature not found in the cartridge version, and that's the ability to save your place and continue later at the same stage. That really doesn't seem very useful to me - I would have much preferred it to save high scores instead. I love Kings of Fighters 95, but if there were any truth in advertising, SNK would have named this "King of Fighters 95 Now Loading". © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

King of Fighters 96
Grade: A
Publisher: SNK (1996)
Reviewed: 2009/3/14

screenshotKings of Fighters 96 (KoF96) continues a proud tradition of spastic 2D combat, and also introduces one of the most significant innovations in the history of gaming. Yes, of course I am talking about bouncing breasts - the hallmark of any quality fighter. Granted, only one fighter (Mai Shiranui) is equipped well enough to have this feature on full display, but it's quite the spectacle to behold. The roster has been bumped up to 27 fighters this time, and while I'd love to tell you who was added and subtracted, these guys all look alike! Okay, one new character is an older woman named "Mature". Wow, where does SNK come up with such imaginative names? KoF96 offers a few subtle refinements to the basic gameplay, incorporating "bridge" moves, escapes, dashes, and not-so-devastating "diss" move. KoF veterans will eat it all up, but beginners will get by on a steady diet of button mashing. The attacks are more devastating that ever in this game, with some dealing half-a-life-meter worth of damage! Once again, the stage backgrounds do not disappoint. Two of favorites are the rotating restaurant and the dock, both of which feature dazzling city skylines at night. Some stages even boast changing weather conditions. It's easy to rank into the high score screen, but after entering your initials you'll have to wait for the screens to cycle before seeing your final score. Another minor annoyance is only having a mere 20 seconds to assemble your team. The "survival mode" is an interesting new addition, letting you face 29 opponents in rapid succession (with the option to save in progress). No question about it, KoF96 is yet another superb entry in a continuing line of amazing 2D fighters. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

King of Fighters 96 (CD)
Grade: D-
Publisher: SNK (1996)
Reviewed: 2009/3/14

screenshotLike the other King of Fighters CD games, this one annoys the VGC to no end with the frequent and lengthy load screens. They seem to be even more ubiquitous in King of Fighters 96, if that's at all possible. The initial load time is a killer, and having to wait for each character to load during the course of a match is just unacceptable. Since the moves in this edition deal substantial damage, the rounds tend to be shorter, effectively makes the load times feel longer. The music was redone for this CD version, and it sounds too much like "real" music. Personally, I prefer my tunes with an electronic, synthesized old-school flavor. As with KoF95, you can save your game in progress, but who gives a [expletive]? King of Fighters 96 is a perfectly good fighter, but life's too short to waste time on this excruciating CD edition. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

King of Fighters 97
Grade: A-
Publisher: SNK (1997)
Reviewed: 2009/3/15

screenshotAs the fourth entry in the popular 2D fighting series, King of Fighters 97 (KoF97) shakes things up by incorporating two modes of play: Advanced and Extra. To say these are poorly explained would be incorrect, because they are never explained at all. From what I can surmise, "Extra" is equivalent to the normal mode, and "Advanced" adds new features like the ability to charge up your power gauge to three levels. Regardless of which you choose, KoF97 features the same enjoyable, rapid-fire 2D fighting action fans would expect. Five moves are listed in the manual for each of the 29 characters, and while most are straightforward, a few are so complex you're more likely to perform them by accident. One interesting new character is Ryuji Yamazaki, a suave gentleman who fights with one hand in his pocket! I've always been intrigued by the background graphics in KoF games, but KoF97 is not spectacular in this regard. The Disney-style theme park, tropical Bali resort, and bright Monaco stages are probably the most eye-catching of the bunch. I do like how the look of certain stage changes between rounds, with day turning to night in some outdoor venues. Each round is now introduced by a slender, attractive babe. If there's one area where KoF97 clearly falters, it's the audio. Apparently the developers were trying to have the music reflect the culture of the stage, but the tunes sound muffled and lack energy. Some stages have no music at all - just crowd noise. When the high-tech club stage has no music, that just sucks. The character select screen doesn't give you nearly enough time (20 seconds), and the victory screens are incredibly lame ("Announcing the victors. Here they are.") When Mai Shiranui appears on these screens she has the shoulders of a linebacker and a head the size of a peanut! I do like how the high score screen appears immediately after you enter your initials. King of Fighters 97 tries to rock the boat, but it's not entirely successful. But even a mediocre King of Fighters game can kick the ass of most other 2D fighters. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

King of Fighters 97 (CD)
Grade: D-
Publisher: SNK (1997)
Reviewed: 2009/3/15

screenshotFew games have pushed my sanity to the brink like King of Load Screens 97 - whoops I meant King of Fighters 97. Trust me - it's an honest mistake! Sitting through these rampant load screens is a lot like driving to work behind a school bus that stops to pick up a new kid at every block. The game even requires a load if you're about to play as the same character you're already fighting. Hello - isn't that guy already in memory?? Does changing the color of his outfit really require a load?! Throw me a bone, SNK! Another drawback of this CD version is that the backgrounds don't tend to change between rounds. As with the cartridge, the soundtrack is generally forgettable and occasionally irritating. Reviewing these King of Fighters CDs is draining my will to live. When will the hurting stop?? © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

King of Fighters 98
Grade: A
Publisher: SNK (1998)
Reviewed: 2009/3/15

screenshotMany fighting game aficionados consider King of Fighters 98 (KoF98) to be the best in the series. I'm not one to argue, but let's face it - there's not a whole lot of difference between any of these games. Hell, I wouldn't be surprised if they shared 95% of the same code! What's notable about KoF98 is how it attempts to return the series to its roots. The roster has jumped from 29 fighters to a whopping 38, mainly due to a bunch of returning characters. Some of these guys have not been seen since KoF94, including my homeboys Lucky Glauber and Heavy D. In terms of backgrounds, the scenery exudes a "back to basics" quality, and there are no longer chicks introducing each round. You'll ride a floating raft in China, brawl in an open-air market, and crack skulls in a train station. There's nothing spectacular really, and the graphics are actually more pixelated than previous KoF games. Even so, they exude a certain old-school charm that harkens back to Street Fighter 2. Likewise, the synthesized music is terrific and adds a layer of tension to the fast-paced fighting mayhem. It's a major improvement over the audio-challenged KoF97. The three-on-three team gameplay is basically the same, but a new "advantage system" gives the second and third fighters an edge to keep things exciting. The character selection screen now gives you more time to assemble you crew (forever, to be exact), and a "roulette" function lets you select random characters (for every match!). A new practice mode is included to hone your skills. The high score screen isn't presented immediately after you enter your initials, but that's a minor inconvenience. King of Fighters 98 got the series back of track, and despite the lack of razzle-dazzle it's hard to find fault with this well-crafted fighter. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

King of Fighters 98 (CD)
Grade: D-
Publisher: SNK (1998)
Reviewed: 2009/3/15

screenshotIf you want to experience the wonders of King of Fighters 98 but can't afford the cartridge, this CD edition will make you miserable. The full color loading screens look flashier than ever, but at 20-30 seconds, they are also longer than ever! You can slap lipstick on a load screen, but it's still a terrible thing. Making matters worse, there's a substantial pause before the load screen even appears. I can only assume it's loading the load screen during that time. If that's the case, SNK should have included a load screen for the load screen. Yes, I am losing my mind. Experiencing the best in 2D fighting should not be this painful. See cartridge review for more information on a playable version of this game. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

King of Fighters 99
Grade: A
Publisher: SNK (1999)
Reviewed: 2009/3/15

screenshotA lot of gamers like to rave about King of Fighters 98, but if given the Pepsi challenge I suspect King of Fighters 99 (KoF99) might come out on top. This remarkable 2D fighter features a unified control scheme and graphics that take the system to the "next level". There's still a power meter that can be charged up to three levels, and this can also be used to initiate new "counter" and "armor" modes. Best of all, the innovative new "Striker system" lets you call upon a fourth member of your squad to deliver a strategic blow in the heat of battle. Yeah, we've seen this kind of thing in previous KoF games, but those "assist attacks" were extremely limited. Here, you get three "strike bombs" per match, and you can employ them at any time. KoF99's character roster has been trimmed to 32, but that includes six new characters. In the tradition of SNK's imaginative naming conventions, there's a woman with a whip by the name of - you guessed it - Whip! The best new character is K' (pronounced "K Prime"). What makes him so cool you ask? Well, duh - check out his name! Not cool enough? How about that silver hair!? Did I mention he can wield fire? Hello! He's wearing black leather for crying out loud!! Not all of the new faces are as appealing. Bao and Xiangfrei act like annoying children, and why are there three Kyo's (Kyo, Kyo-1, Kyo-2)?! Can you say personality disorder? The game screen has been reorganized a bit, with the power meter moved to the top (under the life bar), making room for your striker icons on the bottom. But what really left an impression with me is KoF99's fantastic stages. The dinosaur museum has a looming T-Rex skeleton, and the sewer stage unexpectedly turns into a rollercoaster! The courtyard stage begins as bright and sunny, but clouds roll in as the match progresses, culminating in a massive downpour! This rainstorm is one of the most visually arresting scenes I've ever witnessed in a video game. Even less spectacular stages like the street outside of the Chinese restaurant have a lot of interesting, subtle details (check out the shadows on the wall). KoF99 did throw me for a loop with its new "battle ability point" scoring system. It's actually possible for you to lose points between matches, and I don't get that. Another source of confusion is the intro which refers to this as "episode 5". It's six by my count! But for a series with more iterations than SNK can count, King of Fighters 99 feels surprisingly fresh. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

King of Fighters 99 (CD)
Grade: D-
Publisher: SNK (1999)
Reviewed: 2009/3/15

screenshotGee, I wonder why the King of Fighter cartridges cost a mint, yet these CD versions are available for under $20? I know exactly why! I mean, it takes two hours to load one match! Okay, I'm exaggerating, but I'm also convinced that these load screens trigger a warp in the space-time continuum, causing time to slow to a crawl. To its credit, this CD is fully reproduces the amazing effects of the cartridge version, including the changing weather conditions. The CD also contains a bonus art gallery not available on the cartridge version. But unless you're doing 25-to-life in a prison somewhere, you have better things to do with your time. The only thing these inexpensive CD versions are good for is to provide an English instruction manual to go with your Japanese Neo Geo cartridge. I wouldn't be surprised if these CDs actually raised the value of the KoF cartridges! © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

King of the Monsters
Grade: D
Publisher: SNK (1991)
Reviewed: 2010/11/27

screenshotThis game's intro predicts that in 1996 the earth would be ruled by giant marauding monsters. Once again, SNK was way off! Dumb asses! King of the Monsters is a series of one-on-one battles inspired by movies like Godzilla and King Kong. The action takes place in six Japanese cities, and there's some fun scenery including a lighted Ferris wheel and a big red suspension bridge. The night stages are especially attractive with the buildings all lit up. You have six monsters to choose from, including a Godzilla clone (Geon), an ape (Woo), a slime monster (Poison Ghost), a stone creature (Rocky), a giant bug (Beetle Mania), and a cheesy oversized superhero called "Astro Dude". The monsters can roam the screen freely, and when they maul and throw each other they leave devastation in their wake. Three buttons let you punch, kick, and run, but the most effective move is your special attack which must be charged over a few seconds. It's a shame King of the Monsters feels more like a professional wrestling game than a Saturday afternoon creature feature. The monsters often grapple with each other, which leads to body slams, pile drivers, back-breakers, and clotheslines. You even have to "pin" your foe to defeat him - and he'll always kick out of your first two attempts. I'm not a huge wrestling fan, and I wish SNK had put more emphasis on interacting with the urban scenery. Yes, buildings get crushed as monsters get tossed around, but it's not a major part of the strategy. Occasionally you can pick up and toss a plane or tank, but the act of throwing is so sluggish that you usually get nailed in the process. I find it unfair how you can drain your opponent's health completely, yet he can still fight normally and pull out the victory. Winning the grapples seems to be a matter of luck, and the basic kick/punch attacks are weak. The small playing fields are heavily constrained by electric barriers which you're constantly bouncing off of. Two players can team up against another pair of monsters, but it just feels like two battles going on at the same time. The background music is weird, and it's really hard to make out the radio commentator. King of the Monsters has a great premise but fails to live up to its potential. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: Easy
Our high score: 73,500
1 or 2 players 

King of the Monsters 2
Grade: B-
Publisher: SNK (1992)
Reviewed: 2010/11/27

screenshotIt's no classic, but King of the Monsters 2 is a heck of a lot more interesting that the original game. The visuals scream "arcade!" with their vibrant colors, super-sized creatures, and plentiful eye candy. There are only three selectable characters this time: the Godzilla-like "Super Geon", the humanoid "Astro Guy", and the robotic ape "Woo". New moves like jump attacks and "death blows" make the fighting feel less monotonous, and you no longer need to "pin" your foes (thank goodness). But the most dramatic innovation is the stage designs. Instead of fighting in a small confined area, you forge through the city, prodded by annoying "Hurry up!" arrows. Destroying buildings is more satisfying because they crumble to the ground in dramatic fashion and release bonus point icons. Many are actually recognizable landmarks. It's easy and fun to smash ships and planes and then use them as projectiles. I find it amusing how the cities have generic names like "American City" and "French City". The American city features a big white house with the pillars in front. Hmmm, I wonder what city that is? The French City has a really tall tower that looks awfully familiar. Certain areas feature divided elevations (like a harbor and a waterfront) that you can jump between. You'll leave nothing but rubble in your path, and in the desert stage you can literally create your own Grand Canyon! The bosses come in many gruesome varieties, but it takes too long to chip away at their health meters, and that slows the momentum of the game. Bonus battles have been incorporated, but these are just mindless, carpel-tunnel-inducing button mash-a-thons. A level select feature would have been nice, but overall this represents a logical evolution of the series. Instead of feeling like a glorified wrestling title, Kings of the Monsters 2 has the feel of an over the top monster flick, as it should. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: Normal
Our high score: 31,270
1 or 2 players 

Last Resort
Grade: B
Publisher: SNK (1992)
Reviewed: 2004/2/21

screenshotWith Last Resort, we're approaching the upper reaches of the Neo Geo shooter food chain. It's one of the better-rated shooters for the system, and certainly one of the more difficult. In fact, the stream of expletives that flew out of my mouth as I continuously died at the hands of this game is nearly unmatched. The box cover states, "Earth is under attack. You're the Last Resort". You know, that isn't exactly the vote of confidence you look for before embarking on a mission to save the world. It sounds like they asked everyone else before finally settling on my sorry ass. Anyway, Last Resort is one of the best looking side-scrolling shooters you'll ever see. The first stage features a gorgeous city skyline effectively rendered in vibrant red hues, and the second stage features torrential rain and a partially submerged city. Enemies are mainly metallic ships, and their pilots actually eject as their ships explode. This visual effect seems quite amazing at first, but is overused during the course of the game. Objects in this game tend to be quite large, and you'll often find yourself running short on screen real estate. Last Resort's gameplay is intense and relentless. Your ship is equipped with a round pod that functions as both a shield and extra gun (much like R-Type). You can "charge up" this unit to inflict major damage, which is critical to your survival after the first stage. One aspect of the game I dislike is how enemies can materialize around you suddenly. Last Resort's high energy, adrenaline-pumping music is absolutely first-rate. This is a quality shooter, but its difficulty will make you grateful for the unlimited continues. It's much easier with two players, although slowdown is an issue and it can be hard to tell what's going on amidst all the mayhem. If you're looking to buy a copy of Last Resort, I'd recommend the CD version over the far more expensive cartridge. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

League Bowling
Grade: B+
Publisher: SNK (1991)
Reviewed: 2007/4/11

screenshotLeague Bowling combines simple controls, brisk pacing, and sparkling graphics to produce an irresistibly fun ten-pin experience. Up to four players can compete in a game, and even more impressive is how a well-executed split screen lets two players bowl simultaneously! I've never seen that before in a bowling game, but it's a terrific idea. The bowlers are spiky-haired punks, and it's a shame you can't be the top-heavy blonde who appears in the cut scenes. League Bowling's controls are as simple as they need to be - no more. Once you position your bowler, you use a "control meter" to apply spin, followed by a power meter. Excellent scaling effects show the ball approaching the pins, and the physics of the pins bouncing around is convincing enough. The collision detection seems slightly off however, as the edge of the ball will sometimes clearly pass through a pin. Goofy animations accentuate particularly good or bad rolls, showing your bowler falling off a building or being run over by a truck. In addition to the normal bowling, two other modes include Strike 90 (bigger points for marks) and Flash (random points for marks). Personally, I don't really see what these extra modes have to offer. Also included is a "link" function that lets you chain two Neo Geos together (via a port in the cartridge) for some four player simultaneous action. I can't imagine many gamers being able to take advantage of that, but it would be pretty cool. All in all, League Bowling is just plain fun, and may well be the best bowling game of all time. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 


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Screen shots courtesy of NeoGeo.com