Publisher: Electronic Arts (2000)
I don't know much about soccer, but I've always found these FIFA games to be entertaining nonetheless. Highly realistic graphics detail the players down to the muscles in their legs. Players change facial expressions to show joy or frustration, and even argue with the officials. Most of the action is seen from high overhead however, so much of the graphic detail is lost during the actual game. The stadiums and crowd look great, and the weather conditions are convincing, even though it rains all the time! The controls include a shoot, pass, lob, and turbo button. Holding a button down lets you head the ball, and double tapping lets you to perform a bicycle kick. On defense there are conservative and aggressive "tackles". FIFA is easy to play, but the multiplayer mode can be confusing because of the constant player switching. As in real soccer, there's not much scoring. The two British commentators add realism and stay on top of the action. They're occasionally hilarious, so be sure to crank up the commentator volume and turn down the crowd (why does EA always set the crowd noise so high?) The game doesn't have any major flaws. You can be just about any professional team in the world, and the game is fully customizable. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2001)
This groundbreaking soccer series returns with slightly refined graphics and gameplay. Whether it's worth upgrading from FIFA 2001 depends on if you're a hardcore fan or casual gamer. The frenetic gameplay is exceptionally fun, despite the lack of scoring inherent in soccer games. Responsive controls really put you on the field. Sliding into an opponent, making a crisp pass, or executing a well-timed header is quite satisfying. The player graphics are stellar, and their reactions look great even from a distance. Slow motion, cinematic cutaways add drama, but they also reveal some downright scary-looking player faces. The stadiums and grass look incredibly realistic, and 3D cameramen follow the action up and down the sidelines. Background chants from the crowd add atmosphere, and the play-by-play is solid (although the color commentary doesn't add much). Although FIFA 2001 is loaded with options and playing modes, one element is conspicuous in its absence: The World Cup! You can QUALIFY for it, but not compete in it. Isn't that like having a football game without a Super Bowl? Interestingly enough, Electronic Arts has announced a NEW soccer game to be released soon called World Cup Soccer. Hmmm... very suspicious. Besides that bit of controversy, FIFA 2002 is a fine soccer game that even non-fans will enjoy. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: 2K Games (2006)
Rating: Mature (mature humor, partial nudity, violence)
Though I'm not very familiar with the TV show, several of my friends have told me that the Family Guy is quite a funny cartoon, in a politically incorrect kind of way. From what I can surmise from the game, it combines the silliness of the Simpsons with the irreverence of South Park. Unlike South Park however, the humor is far less "in your face" and more appealing to adults. The cell-shaded graphics are pleasing to the eye, and the tongue-in-cheek dialogue will make you smile. You assume the roles of Peter the overweight dad, Brian the sarcastic dog, and Stewie, a well-spoken and very intellectual infant. The game's charm lies in its short but sweet stages. You'll get to punch old ladies, sneak around men's showers, and blast hospital orderlies with your ray gun. The shooting action is well done, and using mind control to solve puzzles is a neat idea. In one stage you manipulate a pervert in order to distract a group of nurses ("Could you examine this lump for me?") But the best part is hopping on women's stomachs in the pregnancy ward, causing their babies (and later missiles) to come flying out. Family Guy definitely pushes the limits, but it never seems gross or mean-spirited. The worst aspect of the game would have to be its tedious stealth stages, including one where you sneak the dog around a police station. There's quite a bit of platform jumping as well, and the jumping controls could be better. Unlike the PSP version, I sometimes needed to use the right stick to adjust my view, which can be annoying. I noticed a few minor glitches as well, such as getting stuck in the scenery on occasion. Still, Family Guy is entertaining most of the time, and I like how it mixes up the gameplay styles. If you're a fan of the show, bump up the grade by one letter. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sony (2000)
Fantavision was one of the PS2 "launch" titles, and I recall reading in a magazine how it really didn't have much to offer. They were right. Fantavision is a unique puzzle game where you "catch" and detonate firework flares in particular sequences. The more you manage to catch and detonate at once, the higher you score. Complicating matters is the fact that you can only collect flares of the same color, unless you employ a "multicolored" flare to "chain" colors. A thorough tutorial explains the types of flares, items, and various techniques you can employ, but once I started playing I found the action to be mindless and repetitive. I suppose it's mildly satisfying to set off an exceptionally long chain, but there's really no goal in Fantavision and the game seems to drag on and on as you rack up outrageous scores. The firework effects are less than spectacular, and the attractive city backgrounds are barely noticeable once the action gets underway. Fantavision may appeal to some young kids, but there's just not enough game here for me. I don't care for the queer name either. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Tecmo (2001)
Rating: Teen (blood, gore, violence)
Unlike most survival horror games, which tend to focus on blowing heads off zombies with shotguns, Fatal Frame takes a more traditional approach, featuring an authentic haunted house with real ghosts. There are no giant alligators, no huge demonic monsters, and no insane lab experiments gone awry. I made it a point to play this game alone with the lights out, and let me tell you, it effectively scared the hell out of me. You control an Asian woman searching for her brother in an old, decrepit Japanese mansion. The rooms are pitch black, strewn with antiques and odd contraptions, and the walls and floors are in various stages of decay. Like any good horror movie, Fatal Frame uses odd camera angles, minimal lighting, and jarring sound effects to maximize the paranoia level. The ghosts are transparent apparitions, and are truly frightening to behold. Your only defense is a special camera that lets you neutralize the ghouls by taking pictures of them. Looking through the viewfinder gives you a grainy, first person perspective of things, giving the game a "Blair Witch Project" quality (the game even claims to be "based on a true story", believe it or not). "Shooting" the ghosts can be pretty intense, as they slowly approach as you snap away. The camera can also be used to reveal clues not visible to the naked eye. The storyline is also propelled by audio tapes you find lying around the mansion. I found listening to these tapes to be far more effective than reading pages of text like you do in most survival horror games. Beyond the incredible scare factor, Fatal Frame follows a pretty standard formula of collecting items and solving puzzles, and the control takes some getting used to. The woman's movements are stiff, and the constantly changing camera angles make you disoriented, which is especially stressful when a ghost is bearing down on you. In addition, there could be more save points. At times I found myself frantically searching for the next save spot after playing for an hour straight! Now that's
scary! Fatal Frame is an ideal Halloween game. The cool camera feature and terrifying visuals make for an unforgettable gaming experience. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Fatal Fury Battle Archives Volume 1
Publisher: SNK (2007)
Rating: Teen (mild suggestive themes, violence)
For the longest time I considered Fatal Fury a second-rate Street Fighter 2 knock-off, but Battle Archives has given me a renewed sense of appreciation for the series. Much like the Art of Fighting Anthology (SNK, 2007), this package contains arcade-perfect renditions of Fatal Fury, Fatal Fury 2, Fatal Fury Special, and Fatal Fury 3. There are some basic customization options (control, auto-save, audio), but no bonus materials. All four games offer the same brand of 2D fighting action, but each sequel delivers a progressively richer, more cinematic experience. Not only does the number of fighters increase, but the number of moves expands as well, allowing matches to become more unpredictable and chaotic. One unique aspect of Fatal Fury is the ability to fight on two planes - the foreground and background. Moving between planes is tricky (and confusing at times), but it does provide opportunities to lay a quick hit on your opponent. All four games are playable, but you may be surprised by how slow
they are compared to modern fighters. The first Fatal Fury offers a paltry three playable characters, but the sequel expanded the roster to eight characters, including Asian hottie Mai Shiranui. Fatal Fury Special offers 15 fighters, with Mai still as the lone female. Fatal Fury 3 features some of the best artwork in the series. Although limited to ten playable characters, it does incorporate the "breast bounce" physics guys find exciting. Fatal Fury's imaginative layered backgrounds are rendered in brilliant colors and a meticulous attention to detail. The locations include an amusement park, aquarium, subway depot, and a crowded beach. The time of day changes with each round, dramatically transforming the scene in the process. Equally impressive is the music, some of which incorporates voice samples. While not as catchy as those in Street Fighter 2, these tunes are still interesting and diverse. The digitized sound effects are crisp, and the stereo effects are downright striking. Astute players will notice subtle details like how your character's face (next to the health bar) cringes when taking a hit. I love how enemies will shout "No! no! no!" as you repeatedly kick them in the crotch. In Fatal Fury 3, defeated fighters are thrown toward the screen
using some effective scaling techniques. I also love how the game "map" is strewn with the bodies of fighters you're defeated. If you care at all 2D fighters, Fatal Fury Battle is an absolute treasure trove. I would have preferred a few extras, but these games alone are worth the price of admission. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Fatal Fury Battle Archives Volume 2
Publisher: SNK Playmore (2008)
After playing the first Fatal Fury compilation, I figured I had seen all the series had to offer. Not even close! Apparently SNK also released three "Real Bout" editions of Fatal Fury, which take the series to the next level!
Well, not really, but it sounded good. The first game, Real Bout Fatal Fury, kicks off with a stunning opening stage set on a pier with a purple sunset and palm trees and hotels in the background. This may be the best-looking fighting stage ever!
On both ends of the pier are wooden walls, and it's possible to destroy these and even kick your opponent into the water!
This type of "ring out" is not something you normally see in a 2D fighter, but it's [expletive] awesome! In another stage you can kick your opponent down an elevator shaft!
Unfortunately, when playing solo you always begin on the same stage, and must defeat no less than three fighters in a row
to advance! It can be really frustrating when you have to contend with cheap opponents like Sokaku (who constantly bursts into flames) and that annoying little guy named Jin. Reaching stage two requires far too much effort! The power meters on the bottom of the screen are gaudy as hell, displaying stuff like "GO! S. POWER!" in big, flashing, red-and-yellow letters. It looks hideous, reminding me of those "Everything must go!" signs you see in stores going out of business. One thing that's totally hilarious is the demoralized "game over" voice - check it out for a good laugh. The second title on the disk, Real Bout Fatal Fury Special, addresses several issues of the first game, offering short, one-on-one contests that begin on random stages. Unfortunately, the backgrounds are far less detailed and there are no ring-outs. The third game, RB2: The Newcomers, is as uninspired as its name, offering familiar backgrounds and a mere two new characters (Li Xiang Fei and Rick Strowd). Fatal Fury Battle Archives Volume 2 is interesting to collectors but unnecessary for casual gamers. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: THQ (2003)
This game is fine to play on a lazy summer afternoon, but I couldn't find much to get excited about. The storyline faithfully follows the film, so you'll be able to control Dory and Nemo's dad in addition to the loveable clownfish himself. Although the stages are rendered in lush 3D, about half of them employ an old school, 2D style of play as you dodge enemies, avoid traps, and traverse maze-like reefs. It's also possible to hide in coral and attack enemies with bubbles. In the 3D stages, you typically swim through rings while moving toward or away from the screen. Man, I really got sick of those after a while. This game has a way of taking a cool concept, like outrunning a Great White Shark, and absolutely beating it to death. I have never been so happy to see puzzles, which occasionally break up the monotony. My favorite stage of all involves finding a series of fish hiding in an aquarium. Finding Nemo's colorful graphics are gorgeous as you'd expect, rivaling the clips shown from the film (and there are many). The fish swim in a fluid manner and the backgrounds are scenic yet unobtrusive. This is certainly one of the better-looking games I've played on my PS2. The controls are perfectly good, and a superb orchestrated soundtrack ranges from tranquil to intense. Stages are reasonable in length, with frequent checkpoints. The difficulty is easy, although collecting all of the bonus items can be a challenge. There are no glaring flaws with Finding Nemo, but I found myself growing weary of it about halfway through. Younger kids and Nemo fans can safely bump up the grade by one letter, but those looking for some excitement should look elsewhere. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Fire Pro Wrestling Returns
Publisher: Spikes (2007)
I was intrigued by the title of this game: Fire Pro Wrestling Returns! Returns?
Did it leave?
Was it ever here to begin with?
Like most gamers, I had never heard of Fire Pro Wrestling, but its old-school graphics and rock-bottom price made it worth checking out. The wrestlers are rendered in 2D, but they are surprisingly high in resolution and well animated. The number of moves is pretty astonishing. You'll watch the CPU play against itself for ten minutes and rarely see a repeated move. Fire Pro definitely has some potential, but only the most diligent gamers will overcome its learning curve. With controls spread over seven pages
of the manual, this game is anything but pick-up-and-play. The instructions do a lousy job of explaining the basic mechanics, and don't even mention how to pin your foe for the win! It's not always easy to "line up" with your opponent, so you'll find yourself executing flying kicks at thin air. When grappling, the player who gets the upper hand seems very random, and this encourages button-mashing. I tried to get the hang of the game, but never felt fully in control. Another big issue is the incomprehensible user interface which makes setting up a tournament an utter nightmare. You get about a million different wrestlers to choose from, but they all have the same pudgy builds. When playing my friend Scott he commented "Man, this has so much potential - if we could only get it to work!" Dedicated wrestling fans can bump up the grade by a letter, but few others will make much sense of this. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Firefighter F.D. 18
Publisher: Konami (2004)
Rating: Teen (blood, mild language, violence)
Firefighting has never been a major video game genre, but Firefighter F.D. 18 does a respectable job of balancing realism with non-stop, arcade-style gameplay. In some regards F.D. 18 feels more of a shooter
than a fire rescue simulation. Holding the R1 button blasts your hose, and you can creep forward with the left stick while zeroing in on the "hot spots" with the right stick. The fire looks convincing and is satisfying to extinguish. Each mission has a number of people to rescue, but you only need to reach them - not carry them out (thank goodness). The victim locations are always displayed on your radar, and occasionally you'll need to break through walls or climb through vents to reach them. Your handy axe makes it easy to smash obstacles in your way. Who left all of these crates lying around anyway? When a trapped victim says "thanks for saving me", it feels a lot like House of the Dead 2 (Dreamcast, 1999)! Firefighter F.D.'s gameplay is forgiving, and you can even run directly through small fires and "shake off" the flames afterwards. Moving from room to room sounds a bit repetitive, but there are constant explosions, electrical shots, falling debris, oil slicks, and even robots
to keep things interesting (or frustrating, as is sometimes the case). Arcade elements include health packs and "boss" fires - complete with their own meters! These "monster" fires appear to have a life of their own, and you can even hear a weird "scream" when they're defeated. One thing the game has working against
it is the bland, repetitive environments. The maze-like office buildings are uninteresting, and crawling through vents is a chore. One thing F.D. 18 has working for
it is its intriguing, cinematic style. Its storyline involves a blonde reporter and a psychotic arsonist, and its movie-quality musical score is outstanding. Dramatic and intense, with an ominous undercurrent, the soundtrack lends real weight to the subject. Fighterfighter F.D. 18 may not set the world on fire, but its nice pacing and excellent production values make this one worthwhile if you have any interest in the subject. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sony (2001)
Despite my affinity for dance music and rhythm games, I didn't find Frequency as appealing as I expected. The game is a virtual ride through a musical tunnel composed of various "tracks", each representing a different instrument in the song, like bass, voice, guitar, or drums. Each track is three "notes" wide, and by hitting buttons matching the symbols you pass over, you can get that part of the song going, and then switch to the next track. I could see where they were going with this, and it's certainly an original concept, but the pieces don't quite come together. For one thing, the control scheme isn't very comfortable. To hit the three notes, the game recommends you use the shoulder buttons, but that's pretty counter-intuitive when you think about it. You also have the option of using the square/triangle/circle buttons, which make far more sense, but these will cause your fingers to cramp up big time. Although it's sonically appealing to hear different parts of the song kick in, once you get one thing going like drums or bass, it seems like another sound goes away, so you can never play the song fully. The screen is probably more complicated than it needs to be with various gauges, numbers, and power-ups. The graphics are functional, but the tunnels all look the same. Of course, a major factor in any music game is the song selection, and Frequency has its moments. Although featured artists like No Doubt and Fear Factory provide some worthy tracks, the best stuff comes from low-profile artists like Akrobatik, the Dub Pistols, and Lo Fidelity All-Stars. In the end, Frequency was definitely on the right track, but didn't quite hit the mark. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, Gaming Age Online