Publisher: Acclaim (1995)
D is a bone-chilling, spine-tingling first-person adventure where you control a woman wandering around a huge mansion attempting to discover what happened to her father. This game is unique because it's played in real time
, and it ends exactly after two hours after you start playing, unless you finish it, of course. You can't even pause or save your place, so make sure you have two hours free before you undertake this intense adventure. The plodding pace made me impatient at first, but I soon got caught up in the creepy atmosphere. D is effectively frightening and has some genuinely intense moments. Chilling sound effects and ominous music are used effectively, and the first person graphics, although somewhat grainy, are good enough to immerse you in this dark world. Movement is smooth but also very SLOW - slow enough to make retracing your steps feel tedious. Fortunately the puzzles tend to be straight forward, so you won't get stuck in any room for too long. Your character automatically moves toward vital objects, and there are no red herrings to be found. Unfortunately, by the time you get to disk 2, the slow movement and endless puzzles start to get tiresome. The replay value is gravely wounded by the fact that you can never skip the cinematics, which are often lengthy and annoying. But overall D is a spooky and worthwhile trip, at least the first time through. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Acclaim (1995)
Rating: Kids to Adults
It's cool to see an old-school, side-scrolling shooter on the Saturn, especially when you consider how many great shooters were made for the Genesis. If you've played G-Darius on the Playstation, this version is very similar, but I actually prefer this one because the screen is less cluttered. For you Genesis veterans, this gameplay takes a page from Thunder Force. There are loads of weapons and power-ups to help you dispatch of your enemies, which tend to be fish-inspired. The bosses are large and fully rendered in 3D. The backgrounds aren't very impressive but there are some eye-catching explosions. And even when there's a lot of action on screen, it's not too difficult to tell what's going on (a problem with many other modern shooters). Two people can play at the same time, which is always a nice feature. After completing a stage, you can choose your next stage, which provides some decent replay value. If Darius Gaiden has a weakness, it might be the music. These opera-style tunes just don't get my adrenaline pumping. But overall this is a solid shooter. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Cyberdreams (1993)
Here's an interesting PC title that somehow migrated to the Saturn - in Japan! Fortunately this import is highly playable thanks to its simple controls and English voiceovers. Dark Seed is a point-and-click adventure - something you never see anymore. You control a digitized guy named Mike living in a mysterious old mansion who finds himself experiencing dreams both supernatural and extraterrestrial in nature. The nightmares are rendered in gory detail via some rather unsettling cut-scenes. In one, his head is split open by aliens and a substance is injected into his brain! Mike scales nicely as moves around his house and over to a nearby town and graveyard. I find it amusing how Mike is always speaking out loud when no one's around, stating the obvious like "this road seems strangely empty, andÉ unoccupied.
" Be sure to have Mike shower and take his medicine each morning, or else he'll complain non-stop about his splitting headaches ("My head feels like it's about to explode!
") You make Mike walk by clicking an arrow, and you can toggle the cursor into a question mark (to investigate) or hand (to search). Moving it to the top of the screen displays your inventory, along with a floppy disk "save" icon. For the benefit of non-Japanese gamers, the buttons down the left side of the save screen are load, save, return to game, and exit. Sorry, I can't help you with the various text clues conveyed via books, notes, and newspaper clippings. You'll figure it out - especially if you have an FAQ on hand (wink wink). The best part of Dark Seed is its brooding storyline, which conveys a tale of an alternate dimension clearly inspired by the movie Aliens. The atmosphere becomes pretty intense thanks to the nicely-illustrated scenery, digitalized sounds, and surreal organ music. Sadly, some pretty big design flaws rain on the parade. Many critical objects, like a hair pin or glass shard are really
hard to see. You sometimes need to examine an object multiple times
to expose a critical clue. There are actions you need to take early in the game (like hide items) which make no sense (until later). Even when using a walk-through, Dark Seed is difficult to finish, so I can only recommend it to determined gamers with a lot of patience. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1995)
Rating: Kids to Adults
As a Saturn launch title, this did not
compare favorably with the Playstation's Ridge Racer. With its chunky scenery, rampant draw-in, wacky physics, and cheesy soundtrack, Daytona USA may be the most hilarious
racing game of all time. I don't think that's what Sega intended. Even so, the bright arcade graphics and simple controls are hard to resist. You select between four stock cars and three tracks (not including mirrored versions), and compete with up to 40
other cars! Weaving through traffic is fun, so why am I not moving up the ranks? Are you telling me I've already lapped
these guys? No, something's not quite right here. Equally suspicious is how CPU cars erratically dart between lanes. Your steering is not particularly responsive, and the brake sends you into tail slides you'll rarely recover from. I picked up Sega's official driving wheel to use with this game, and while it didn't improve my score, it did make the experience slightly more realistic. Your car actually models damage which affects its performance - a pretty advanced feature for the time. Pitstops are available, but unless you're undertaking the 80-lap endurance mode (and you won't), they are useless. Daytona USA is not much to look at. The pop-up/draw-in effect is so severe that you can't see things in the distance - things like the road
for example! It's especially bad when you drive over a bridge and watch it being constructed before your very eyes. It leaves you with the impression that either the Saturn can't process 3D graphics very well or this game was rushed for launch. There's plenty of interesting sights including a Space Shuttle on a launch pad, but most of it doesn't appear until you're halfway past it. The cloud "reflections" whizzing over your back window look fake, and they keep moving even when your car is at rest. If you pay close attention you'll notice subtle details in the scenery like flying birds and galloping horses, but why does that statue have "Jeffrey" engraved on it? There's a lot of weirdness in this game, like how "GOAL!" is displayed as you cross the finish line. What is this, soccer?
The option menu even has a setting for "enemy level". Since when did these cars become my enemies?!
But the most bizarre aspect of Daytona USA by far has to be the music, which sounds like a Japanese lounge single belting out cheesy-Latin pop tunes with incomprehensible lyrics. These songs are so unintentionally funny you can't help but ask yourself, "What was Sega thinking?!
" The song "Sky High" is the most hilarious of the bunch, and to this day I can sometimes be heard singing "I'm gonna fly-y-y sky high!
" in the shower. Oddly enough, it's the quirks and flaws of the game that give Daytona USA an endearing charm. On a technical level it may be a mess, but it has a "so bad it's good" quality that keeps me coming back. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Daytona USA Championship Circuit Edition
Publisher: Sega (1996)
Rating: Kids to Adults
This "Championship Edition" feels a lot like an apology
from Sega for the original Daytona USA, which was a complete mess by the way. You can tell this is a more polished effort simply by looking at that sharp menu screen. You now have eights cars to select from as well as five bright tracks that are a joy to race. Granted, three of the tracks are actually "remixed" versions of those in the original game, but they look better and suffer from less pop-up. The two new tracks are especially good. One is a highway that runs alongside an amusement park with a working rollercoaster. Yes, I actually pulled over and onto the shoulder to watch that thing go around. The other new track takes you through a desert with running trains and hot air balloons. Daytona's arcade mode provides a formidable challenge, as it's really hard to reach the next checkpoint without the timer running out. The steering is more responsive than the first game, but the braking controls are still a mystery. It seems like banging into walls and barriers is the way to go. Like the first game, using a pit stop is the worst mistake you can make, and it will pretty much guarantee your defeat. The new split-screen mode is a welcome feature, but the pop-up is pretty dreadful. I find it hilarious how the trailing player gets "LOSER" plastered across his screen - how humiliating is that?
I like the music in this game, despite the fact that the opening tune sounds like a parody of every hair band of the 80's. Some songs from the first game have been brought back minus the vocals of that Japanese lounge singer. I never thought I'd say this, but I really miss that guy. Daytona Championship Edition isn't as memorable as the first game, but it's a far more competent arcade racer. This is probably what the original Daytona should
have been. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1995)
Rating: Kids to Adults
Despite a title screen that depicts a woman engulfed in flames, Decathlete really isn't painful to play. Like so many other Olympic-style games, it is fast-paced, easy-to-learn, and unintentionally hilarious. But why in the world is Decathlete limited to just two players? At the very least, some kind of multi-tap should have been supported (if not included). Each event is introduced with a quick tutorial, although this feature is inexplicably omitted for the first event, the 100-meter dash. The contests are fun but uneven in terms of difficulty. The shot-put requires only a single, well-timed button press, but the pole vaulting is so complicated I couldn't figure it out. The controls in the javelin event are erratic, causing you to become "stuck" in mid-throw. The character models look awful, with angular bodies that do absolutely no justice to the curves of the female athletes. The guys appear to be wearing thongs, and that's never
a pretty sight. The stadiums aren't much to look at, but the soaring skyscrapers and desert mesas looming in the background look great. Although Sega Sport's slogan in 1995 was "We Sweat the Details", you'd never know from all the rough edges, including laughable text ("Let's Go Next Game!") and irritating audio glitches (especially during the 1500 meter dash). I do like how it automatically saves world records and high scores though, and it's pretty easy to get "on the board". Despite its faults, Decathlete is still amusing to play against a friend. Sega would release a much improved sequel for the Dreamcast called Virtua Athlete. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Detana Twinbee Yahho Deluxe
Publisher: Konami (1995)
I didn't have high hopes for Detana Twinbee ("Here Comes Twinbee"), but the more I played it the more I enjoyed this light, whimsical shooter. Twinbee hails from the Parodius Team which has a reputation for making wacked-out shooters. You'll soar over colorful Candy Land worlds while shooting floating pigs, rubber duckies, rainbow-colored cats, kamikaze silverware, dancing flowers, and other random targets. As in Xevious you can shoot foes in the air while bombing targets on the land below. There's a wealth of special weapons including 4-way shots, homing missiles, a flamethrower, and a big red boxing glove. The graphical style is anime to-the-max
, with melodramatic cut-scenes and vibrant stages alive with activity. This is one of the prettiest shooters I've seen, but it can be hard to discern targets from other animated objects. Shooting clouds release falling bells, and shooting these bells changes their colors while pushing them up the screen. Grabbing the bells gives you power-ups and bonus points, but they're such a pain in the ass! You're always inadvertently shooting them when you want to snatch them up! Bombing enemies on the ground reveals fruit you can collect, giving the game an old-school charm. The two-button controls are simple (shoot and bomb) although sometimes the bomb button doesn't seem to work for some reason. Slowdown does rear its ugly head at times, even in the single-player mode. Twinbee's audio features a wonderfully catchy theme song that I would almost certainly sing along to if I knew Japanese. The level of challenge is relatively low, which is good since I can't read the instruction manual. I do appreciate how the message "Thank you for playing this game" appears at the end. How thoughtful! Twinbee is lightweight, quirky, and mildly annoying, but it's so damn cheerful that it's almost impossible to dislike. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 1,258,930
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Sega (1998)
Rating: Teen (13+)
Living up to its name, this 3D brawler offers pure arcade fun. Unfortunately Fox couldn't afford to license the likeness of Bruce Willis for the box cover, so they slapped on a picture of some sweaty alcoholic in a wife-beater instead. You play the role of John McClane out to rescue a group of hostages held by terrorists in a tall office building. One of the hostages happens to be the president's daughter, and she has giant, freaky-looking hands. Die Hard Arcade has chunky polygon graphics, but its gameplay is actually 2D in nature, since you can only engage foes lined up on the same horizontal plane (a la Streets of Rage). The Virtua Cop-style visuals are clean and nicely animated with literally dozens of attack combinations. Some enemies beg for mercy after they've been beaten down, and I love how McClane throws his gun after running out of ammo. He'll also perform devastating head butts when pinned to the ground, and act appropriately when kicked between the legs. There are always plenty of weapons lying around, including hatchets, pipes, pepper spray, and rocket launchers. Unlike most games of this style, Die Hard Arcade does not
throw an endless barrage of bad guys at you. No, once you clear out a handful of enemies, you're quickly whisked off to the next room. The game has an oddball sense of humor, most evident in the hilarious bathroom stage. There's a guy doing his business in a urinal, dudes running around in jockey shorts, and everybody is slipping on loose rolls of toilet paper. The game also lets you fight alongside a friend, with player two assuming the role of a blonde chick. Die Hard's pacing is brisk, but you're constantly sitting through load screens. Don't let your guard down during the cut-scenes however, because you're often prompted to jump or throw a well-timed punch. There's a "violence" option on the option menu, but that just causes cheesy chunks of "blood" to fly around during combat. My main issue with Die Hard Arcade is its lack of scoring. Obviously your goal is to complete the game, but that's not easy, and a score would have been a nice way to gauge your progress. Oddly enough, a retro bonus game called Deep Scan included. It's probably the slowest arcade game ever made, yet still somewhat fun. The lack of scoring is a problem, but otherwise Die Hard Arcade is a top-notch Saturn title. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atlus (1997)
This game's predecessor, Donpachi (Atlus, 1996), walked a fine line with its vertical scrolling mayhem. Dodonpachi, on the other hand, gleefully hurls itself over the edge, plummeting into the abyss of shooter insanity. Too much is too much, and this series has passed the point of diminishing returns. Dodonpachi is one of those "manic" shooters where everything on the screen has way
too much pent-up hostility! The destruction quotient is astounding, and destroyed objects leave gold stars in their wake - which I happen to find irresistible!
Your ship wields a beam of destruction that cleanly wipes away waves of tanks, aircraft, and cannons. You'll soar over rocky gorges and high-tech landscapes, but there's not a whole lot to see. Like its predecessor, the well-designed controls are comfortable and leave some room for strategy. You get plenty of bombs, so don't hesitate to use them as a defensive measure. Enemies tend to bombard you with waves of missiles, but if you hang back, you can usually find a seam to slip through. The forgiving collision detection helps too. The action is nicely paced, but the visuals are a little rough. The screen is vertically cropped, although your bomb supply fills some of that black space. The scenery tends to be bland and indistinct, and the explosions are very pixelated. The voice samples are clear enough, and are provided by a female speaking English. You have the option to play alongside a friend, but with firepower this overwhelming, the two-player mode is unmanageable. Dodonpachi doesn't seem fair, but it's not the player who's overmatched - it's your enemies! Once you build up to maximum firepower, your fury practically consumes the entire display
, making it impossible for most of your foes to even enter the screen!
And is it really any fun when you're just mindlessly annihilating everything in sight while collecting stars that fall into your lap? Well yeah, it is, kind of. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Atlus (1996)
This vertical shooter pushes the limits in terms of firepower and on-screen activity. But while Donpachi teeters on the edge of sensory madness, it never crosses the line. The action gets pretty intense, but you never feel overwhelmed. You select from three fighter ships with slightly different weapon characteristics. The background scenery offers traditional locations like a forest-entrenched base and a naval port. The snow stage provides a nice change of pace, and in certain areas you can see tiny people scampering along the ground. You enemies generally consist of jets, boats, and helicopters of all shapes and sizes. Bosses are huge mechanical beasts with multiple armaments that can be destroyed one by one. Donpachi's explosions are exceptional. In addition to the typical "clouds of fire", some bosses feature flames that shoot out from their sides. Your firepower is devastating, but you'll want to crank up the difficulty (to normal at the very least) if you want a legitimate challenge. In the easier difficulties, power-ups are far too abundant and the "MP" icon (maximum power) is just plain cheap. Holding the A button unleashes a steady, concentrated beam, but your ship moves slowly. The C button sprays missiles, but your ship is more agile. It's a neat trade-off that provides a layer of strategy. You also have a load of bombs which come in handy for neutralizing a barrage of incoming missiles. Larger enemies expel projectiles by the dozens, but the missiles are well defined and tend to move slowly. Donpachi suffers from some slow-down (especially with two players), but if anything, you'll welcome
it! One thing I found very interesting is how despite being a Japanese import, the voice synthesis is entirely in English!
"Enemy port dead ahead. Fire at will kid!" The quality of the voice samples is pretty awful though. Accompanied by unpleasant static, they sound like something you'd hear in a Genesis game. In addition to the arcade mode (with unlimited continues), there's a nice "score attack mode" that lets you play individual stages for high score. Donpachi is one of those rare shooters that strikes a fine balance between reason and chaos, and I like that. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Id Software (1996)
Rating: Mature 17+
Doom is a classic first-person shooter that originated on the PC but later appeared on many consoles in the mid-90's. This Saturn edition is seriously weak, especially compared to its Playstation cousin. The graphics look washed out and the sound effects lack punch. Why in the heck does it sound like I'm taking damage when I walk down steps? What really hurts the game however is the lousy frame-rate. After a few levels the slow, jerky visuals can give you a massive headache. And when the frame-rate slows, the controls become sluggish and inexact. Even opening a door looks choppy. The back of the box claims the game is "deathmatch-ready with two-player link capabilities" but as far as I can tell that is completely false. As is often the case, Saturn owners got the short end of the stick. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
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Publisher: Acclaim (1996)
Rating: Teen (animated violence, blood, and gore)
I see this all the time - a game with crazy potential ruined by an outrageous difficulty level. A digitized 2D side-scroller, Dragon Heart features sharp digitized sprites, decent control, and well-designed stages with gorgeous scenery. The gameplay is old school at heart, consisting of jumping action interspersed with a series of one-on-one battles. The game's production values are beyond reproach, with fantastic backdrops and characters decked out in convincing medieval gear. The well-rendered scenery includes a mysterious forest, a rocky mountainside, a well-fortified castle, and a courtyard filled with impaled bodies. There's no shortage of gore as most enemies burst into fountains of blood when defeated. As the title implies, you'll face several dragons on your quest. Defeating a dragon earns you its respect, allowing you to summon it when you need a hand. Calling on a dragon (using the L button) initiates an impressive sequence where it flies in from the distance and proceeds to incinerate all enemies on the screen. Some stages let you "ride" dragons from a first-person perspective, but these FMV (full motion video) sequences feature minimal control and are mainly just eye candy. Dragon Heart's stages are relatively short and you can purchase supplies between them. Unfortunately, the difficulty level is far beyond what most gamers are willing to tolerate. Each enemy requires an inordinate number of hits to defeat, and your "endurance meter" drains with each swing of your sword. Trust me, nothing ruins a game like an endurance meter. To retain your stamina, you must play extremely conservatively, slashing only occasionally and blocking constantly. As an unfortunate side effect, the battles tend to go on forever and are often reduced to both warriors hunched down, slashing at each other's ankles. It's unintentionally comical. When you die, you're forced to exit to the main menu and reload, which is aggravating. After failing to make substantial progress the old-fashioned way, I resorted to my Gameshark cheat cartridge, which I used to equip my character with maximum armor and sword strength. This allowed me to play the game more like a traditional hack-and-slash, and it was far more fun, and allowing me to reach stages I would have never seen otherwise. Dragon Heart really does have a lot to offer, but most gamers will never know. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Dungeons and Dragons Collection (Import)
Publisher: Capcom (1999)
In the mid-90's I would drool over screenshots of Dungeons and Dragons Tower of Doom in the preview section of my favorite video game magazine. Unfortunately, that game never made it to the USA, and over the years I completely forgot about it. Then recently I discovered that the game was available as a Japanese import under the name of Dungeons and Dragons Collection. D&D Collection is a two-disk set that includes both Tower of Doom and its sequel, Shadow Over Mystaria. It doesn't come cheap though, costing up to $100 (or more) on Ebay. It's important to note that these games will not
play on an American Saturn console without a special device. A Saturn Game Shark is all that's required to play Tower of Doom, but the second game requires a 4MB memory extension, which I found in the Action Replay 4M Plus cartridge. Is D&D Collection worth the investment? It's hard to say. Tower of Doom's sprite graphics are stunning, with huge monsters pulled straight from the D&D Monster Manual, including kobolds, troglodytes, ghouls, scorpions, ogres, and hell hounds. And just wait until you see that huge dragon! You can be a fighter, cleric, elf, or dwarf, and each has his/her own unique style of play. Lavishly illustrated scenery ranges from forests to caves to ghost ships. Best of all, the stages branch, providing more replay value than your typical side-scroller. An elegant orchestrated soundtrack compliments the fine visuals. The action itself is basically hack-n-slash, but depending on your character class you may also have projectile attacks or spells. Responsive controls let you defend, jump, slide, crouch, and dash. The battles are fine, but the animation is a somewhat rough, and it can be hard to tell what's going on at times. It's fun to encounter new monsters, but when they start making return appearances later in the game, the action starts to wear a little thin. I enjoyed some of the fine graphical details, like how arrows break in half when they are blocked, or how a troll will dance around if you set it on fire. Tower of Doom's sequel, Shadow of Mystaria, further develops the same basic formula with extra characters (including a magic user and thief), a streamlined magic selection system, additional moves, and the ability to change characters when you continue. While most critics consider Mystaria to be much better, I found it to be somewhat boss-heavy. Some of the creatures have outrageous life bars and take forever to defeat. There's quite a bit of Japanese dialogue in these games, so much that it inspired me to want to learn Japanese. On the downside, both games feature an excessive number of load screens, and the unlimited continues remove most of the drama and suspense. D&D Collection is one of those odd games where its sum is less than its parts. I'm happy to have it in my game library, but to be honest it's not as fun to play as it looks. Still, if you're into 2D medieval combat games like Golden Axe (Genesis), you'll appreciate D&D Collection for what it is. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Earthworm Jim 2
Publisher: Sega (1994)
Rating: Kids to Adults
The Earthworm Jim franchise is known for its fantastic intergalactic worlds, rapid-fire shooting, and offbeat sense of humor. You'll haul pigs to solve puzzles. You'll fight giant ants carrying human babies. You'll ride "granny chairs" while avoiding old women falling from the sky. The first boss is a freakin' goldfish in a bowl
for Pete's sake! Earthworm Jim 2 is genuinely funny, inventive, and dare I say... overrated?
The game's fun factor never rises to its level of charm and good looks. The rapid-fire shooting is satisfying, but aliens are often hidden behind rock walls. Jim can leap pretty far, but he sometimes fails to grab hold of ledges. The stages tend to wind their way all over the place, making it hard to tell if you're heading in the right direction. In the stage entitled "Lorenzo's Soil", you're equipped with a special gun that lets you burrow through dirt. It's a boldly original concept - and one I hate
with a passion! It's actually more painful on the Saturn version than it is on the Genesis. That stage lasts an eternity
. Several other stages tested my patience as well, including the excruciatingly slow "blind cave salamander" maze. Still, Earthworm Jim 2 offers a wide variety of stages loaded with surprises, funny animations, and wacky digitized noises. There's a password option, but the fact that it's a series of random objects makes it really hard to write down. The graphics are obviously sharper than the Genesis, and some of the planet-scapes are visually arresting. The audio is clear and the music has a relaxing, laid-back vibe. Despite these upgrades however, I didn't find this any more enjoyable than the Genesis game. If fact, I think I enjoyed it less
. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
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