Scooby Doo Mystery
Publisher: Acclaim (1995)
I'm really amazed by how well Scooby Doo Mystery turned out! Not only does it look and sound just like the TV show, it even plays
like the TV show! You control of Scooby and Shaggy who move together as a team while gathering clues, encountering monsters, and making sandwiches. As you explore a pirate ship, carnival, or mansion (depending on the mystery), you'll often run into your friends Thelma, Daffney, and Freddy. Thelma explains the clues you find, Daffney supplys you with scooby snacks, and Freddy offers hints on what to do next. The stories are actually quite linear, with new areas that open up gradually. Most of the puzzles are pretty easy. You'll have your share of exciting run-ins with monsters, and also engage in entertaining mini-games. The graphics are cartoon quality, with excellent music lifted straight from the TV show. Not only are the controls responsive, but the interface for interacting with characters is also well designed. I do have a few minor complaints. First, touching certain objects like rats will drain your life, but since Scooby and Shaggy don't react at all, you don't even realize you're losing health. Next, at the beginning of the second mystery I became very
stuck, and that was no fun at all! Finally, since the mysteries always play the same, I suspect the game's replay value is pretty modest. At least a password feature is included so you don't have to replay old mysteries. All in all, Scooby Doo Mystery is a quality title that does a fine job of weaving a story into an entertaining game. And I probably would have given this an "A" if it wasn't for you snooping kids!! © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1994)
Apparently Shaquille O'Neil has an interest in the martial arts that he wants to inflict upon the rest of the world! Too bad for us! This shallow one-on-one fighter lets you play as Shaq himself performing Kung Fu against exotic warriors and occult creatures. At best, Shaq Fu comes off as a third-rate Street Fighter clone. Its design is typical, but the characters are surprisingly small and not very well balanced. Thanks to a lack of moves and lousy controls, each bout degenerates into a button mash-a-thon. The special moves seem very
similar to Street Fighter 2 (*cough*rip-off*cough*), and the bouts tend to run for far
too long. Besides challenging a friend, you can also indulge in a story mode which is basically a string of CPU battles intertwined with some laughable cut scenes. I tend to enjoy fighting games, but Shaq Fu clanks off the rim like one of Shaq's foul shots. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: ASC (1992)
As a simple-yet-fun swashbuckling adventure, Skuljagger equates to pure summer joy. This exotic platformer puts you in the role of a clean-cut pirate out to destroy an ugly bastard named Skuljagger. The gameplay is pretty standard as you leap between ledges, collect floating gems, and slay guards with your sword (after ducking under their bullets, of course). There are only two or three types of enemies per stage, but I like how they don't regenerate, making it easier to explore. Your sword has good reach, but flying enemies like giant wasps swoop in from odd angles, making the jump-slash attack your best friend. Whimsical fruit power-ups include cherry balloons, orange grenades, and grapes that turn you into a big purple bouncy ball. I love the tropical scenery featuring lush islands, quaint villages, and crumbling ruins. The first stage offers a nice view of distant green islands in a shimmering blue sea. Even the warehouse stage is inviting thanks to the vine-covered ruins seen through the windows. There are alternate paths and hidden areas to discover, but I hate how you're sometimes expected to make "leaps of faith" onto platforms out of view. Spicing things up are the occasional opportunities to man cannons to sink ships in the distance. The soundtrack is better than average, and the difficulty is reasonable. 75 pages of the 80-page manual are dedicated to a colorful illustrated comic which explains the background story. Skuljagger may be a conventional platformer at heart, but I never seem to get tired of playing it. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Password
Publisher: Nintendo (1997)
I was expecting this cartridge to offer a brand new Space Invaders with fancy 16-bit graphics, but instead Nintendo opted to bring back the classic in its original form! That's not a bad idea considering the original Space Invaders had not been previously available for a console before. Not only do you get the classic game as it was in 1978, but also four color variations including black and white, color, color background, and cellophane (simulated color strips on screen). Its great to play Space Invaders again, but I have to admit that its not the kind of shooter you can play for hours on end. Perhaps that's why Nintendo threw in a great two-player, split screen competitive mode. A pleasant surprise, it effectively pushes this cartridge over the top. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Toho (1992)
Craving some SNES shooting action? Space Megaforce is a highly regarded vertical shooter that many people missed because it came out early in the system's life. Boasting eight
different weapons, each with six
levels of power, you've got so much firepower that you might forget about your supply of bombs. You can charge up your weapons something fierce, which is also a protective measure. I like how taking hits reduces your weapon power before it kills you outright. Also, it's nice how touching scenery and walls is not
fatal, as it is in most shooters. Unfortunately, the weapons aren't well balanced, so when you get a full-powered laser your main objective suddenly becomes to avoid
other weapon power-ups! Megaforce's graphics aren't spectacular, but they do make good use of the "mode 7" effects in certain backdrops. The game's weak link is its audio, which falls flat with generic background tunes, muffled voices, and weak sound effects. Space Megaforce is undeniably fun, although a bit on the easy side. There's also a "short" version of the game included in case you're in a hurry. Not bad at all. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Spiderman/X-Men: Arcade's Revenge
Publisher: LVN (1992)
Arcade's Revenge makes a fine first impression, but it wears off quickly as the game slowly descends into mediocrity. The graphics and animation look great, and uptempo music makes you feel energized. In the first stage you play as Spiderman who must deactivate a series of bombs in a building. Your web-slinging skills are necessary to scaling the building, but the control scheme is awkward. You can only shoot web sideways and touching anything
sends you into a free-fall. You can easily cling to walls, but this is annoying when you don't want
to cling to walls! Spiderman must disarm the bombs in a certain order. This is annoying and tedious, but get used to it, because you'll have to replay this stage every time you put in the game
! That's right, the selectable levels (featuring X-Men characters) aren't available until after
you complete the first stage! Subsequent stages are diverse but bizarre. Gambit battles giant chess pieces while avoiding a huge rolling balls. Storm swims through her stages, and Wolverine battles giant toys in a fun house. I couldn't tell if I was playing X-Men or Mickey Mouse's Castle of Illusion! The X-Men characters are a little easier to control than Spiderman, but the gameplay is just so-so, and the game is in dire need of a password feature. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Nintendo (1993)
When I first purchased Star Fox back in 1993, it was a truly groundbreaking title. The cinematic opening sequence showing a squad of ships taking off from a hangar was a showcase in of itself. Everyone I showed the game to was blown away by its 3D polygon graphics and shifting camera angles. These cutting-edge visuals were made possible by a special graphics chip embedded in the cartridge itself (which also added to the price). The characters in Star Fox are personified animals, and you play the role of Fox McCloud, a brave star pilot out to defeat an evil Emperor (who's a dead-ringer for Dr. Zeus from Planet of the Apes, by the way). The action can be viewed from a first-person perspective or from behind your ship. Your squad is composed of a falcon (Falco), rabbit (Peppy), and frog (Slippy), but they're mainly only good for comic relief. When they're not getting in your way, you're constantly having to bail them out by shooting down enemies on their tail. As a shooter, Star Fox has not aged well. The polygon graphics don't look so bad, but the choppy frame rate, rampant slow-down, and lagging controls take their toll on the fun factor. Most stages take place on the surface of a planet, and there are some impressive sights like hulking robots carrying construction materials. Other stages are set in outer space, but these tend to be somewhat disconcerting. Your targeting system is very constrained in the third-person view, and the crosshairs are surprisingly jumpy in first-person. The explosions are fantastic, and I love how bosses fall apart piece by piece, making their destruction all the more satisfying. While not terribly addicting, Star Fox remains entertaining thanks to its thoughtful design and high production values. The heroic orchestrated score is outstanding, and hearing it will instantly transport you back to 1993. This was also the first game I can recall where the stereo sound effects really
got my attention. Star Fox may not be the "A+" title it once was, but this landmark game is still fascinating to look back on. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Kemco (1994)
I had never heard of the Stone Protectors before, but apparently this was a kid's TV show in the mid-90's. Fortunately you don't have to be familiar with the show to enjoy this obscure side-scrolling brawler. Stone Protectors has a style of play similar to Battletoads or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT), with wacky characters and bright, cartoonish graphics. To be honest, I found the five "heroes", who are supposed to be in a rock band, to be pretty ugly. These short, squat fighters look like troll punks on steroids. The lizard warriors you fight look pretty cool though, and I love how their armor flies off as you beat them up. The graphics are crisp and well defined, and the collision detection is right on the money. The jazzy music is pleasant enough, and the sound effects really caught my ear. Each character has a ton of kicks, punches, special moves, throws, and even weapons at his disposal. You can even dispatch foes using devastating "musical" attacks. The stages take place in diverse but repetitive environments including snow, caves, elevators, and a beach. The non-stop fighting is fun for a while, but sometimes it seems like the waves of enemies will never end! I also don't like how only certain characters can pick up particular weapons. It's not for everyone, but if you enjoy this type of game, Stone Protectors is while your while. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Irem (1993)
I can't fathom how a respectable video game developer like Irem (of R-Type fame) could produce such a heinous piece of garbage. Often described as Street Fighter for homos, Street Combat's flamboyant graphics, creepy animation, and bouncy music will make you cringe
. The main character (Steven) looks like a chick, and when he's defeated he makes some really suggestive poses! Other characters include a freaky clown in white tights, a robot named Helmut, and a Guile look-alike named G.I. Jim. Street Combat's controls are unresponsive, so by the time you manage to pull off some fancy move, your opponent has already moved out of the way. The attacks are not
what I would call "balanced". Why bother punching when you can just perform your deadly "arm spin" over and over? That's what I did, and using this "special attack" continuously I was able to defeat every character (including the boss) without losing one fight! As bad as it is weird, Street Combat may be the worst one-on-one fighter ever made! © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Capcom (1992)
Street Fighter 2 revolutionized fighting video games when it hit the scene in the early 90's. As a matter of fact, this was the main reason that many people (including myself) ran out and bought a Super Nintendo console. Since this cartridge was nearly arcade-perfect and only available for the SNES, it spelled the beginning of the end of Sega's console dominance. The game's eight diverse fighters hail from all over the world, and each has their own distinctive fighting style. Easy to learn but difficult to master, Street Fighter 2's basic gameplay and control scheme became the fighting game standard, copied by endless clones. Harder kicks and punches inflict more damage, but are tougher to land. With numerous special attacks and the ability to block (by holding the joystick away from your opponent), the gameplay is remarkably deep. The meticulously detailed backgrounds are fascinating, and the theme songs are some of the best ever composed for a video game. This cartridge also provides the ability to customize your control scheme, and it annoyed me to no end how each of my friends always
had to modify their settings before every
bout. Street Fighter 2 stands as one of the all-time classics, right up there with Pac-Man and Space Invaders. It led to many sequels, each of which offered minor enhancements but no significant changes to the gameplay itself. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Street Fighter 2 Turbo
Publisher: Capcom (1993)
This first sequel to Street Fighter 2 is very similar to the first, except now you could play as one of the four "boss" characters, including Vega, Bison, Sagat, and Balrog. This brings the character selection to twelve. There are also numerous speed settings, allowing for faster and more exciting matches. Otherwise this is basically the same game, and many fans didn't think it was worth the upgrade, especially since its initial price tag was $70! © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Strike Gunner S.T.G.
Publisher: Vap (1992)
This pathetic vertical shooter was released early in the system's life cycle when people were pretty desperate for SNES titles. Strike Gunner's back-story explains that by 2008 we have dismantled all of our nuclear weaponry, leaving us defenseless when hostile aliens invade from space. Let this be a lesson; we need to stock up now!
Before each stage you choose from a smorgasbord of special weapons, although it's not clear what any of them do. In the endless opening stage Strike Gunner gives new meaning to the term monotonous. Your jet glides slowly over a featureless jungle as you mindlessly blast helicopters and jets that appear over and over in the same predictable formations. You're equipped with a rapid-fire cannon and a special attack. Although your special weapon is limited, the meter drains slowly so feel free to unleash it with reckless abandon. The first stage is a mind-numbing exercise, and if you lose a few lives you'll probably be too bored to notice. Should you have the intestinal fortitude to reach stage two, you'll find yourself staring at the same jungle scenery
. An auto-fire feature protects your hand from carpal tunnel, but what will protect your eyes?
These repetitive graphics actually gave my eyes
carpal tunnel! Things get slightly more interesting when you reach the desert, but most gamers will be unconscious by then. Strike Gunner supports two-player simultaneous play (with "combination" attacks), but it's plagued by terrible slowdown on top of the boredom. I even hate the layout of the screen which wastes real estate on both sides and displays very little information. Strike Gunner is abysmal, and I consider it a pox
upon my entire collection. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 106,000
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Nintendo (1994)
Considering the high quality of the first SNES game to use the FX chip (Starfox), I'm really surprised what a worthless piece of junk
this is. Hard on the eyes and even harder to play, Stunt Race FX is about as likeable as Rosie O'Donnell
. Starfox made fine use of the FX chip, but Stunt Race was in way over its head. Its polygon graphics allow for angular hills, banked turns, and various camera angles, but the action is slow, choppy, and unresponsive. The cars resemble dune buggies with eyes for headlights. Is that supposed to look cute?
The controls exhibit terrible lag, and trying to compensate results in wild swerving from side to side. The problem is exacerbated by the wide cars with their big, bouncy tires. Worse yet, the low camera makes it difficult to anticipate upcoming turns. There's no need to concern yourself with the other racers, because simply steering straight will require your total undivided attention. Stunt Race offers three modes, and each tends to suck
. The "speed mode" lets you compete in races against CPU-controlled opponents, but these long, arduous races will leave you feeling nauseated
. The tachometer may read 130 MPH, but it feels more like 5 MPH! The "Aqua tunnel" track (which goes underwater) is entirely too ambitious, and likewise the "Night Owl" track looks okay but plays like a nightmare
. The desert stage is as boring as can be. "Bonus stages" challenge you to drive a big rig through a course of pylons, but they are so unpleasant that "punishment stages"
would be a more appropriate name. In the "stunt mode" you drive through an obstacle course while collecting stars, but where are the stunts? The battle mode offers two-player split-screen action, but as you can surmise, it's a lost cause. Stunt Racer FX is so repugnant, it almost makes me want to lower the grade for Starfox!
© Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Super Adventure Island
Publisher: Hudson Soft (1992)
It was a fun platform game for the NES, but this 16-bit edition of Adventure Island reeks of mediocrity. The animated intro shows your girlfriend being turned to stone by an evil specter called Dark Cloak. Don't you hate
it when that happens? Super Adventure Island's cookie-cutter stages feature all the standard environments like forests, caves, mines, snow, etc. The scenery looks clean but incredibly ordinary. You can toss hammers or boomerangs, with boomerangs being a far more effective option. Unfortunately the game often forces
you to use hammers by putting a hammer icon in an unavoidable spot (like a narrow ledge). Enemies include walking candles and spear-chucking natives, but it's the tiny, hard-to-hit creatures (like flies) that will annoy the hell out of you. The controls are decent, and I like how you can throw upwards in addition to sideways. The new super-jump (duck and jump) is vital to surviving boss encounters. Speaking of which, I hate
how when you die at the hands of a boss you restart at the beginning of the preceding
stage! It's demoralizing to say the least. The audio is an annoying combination of obnoxious sound effects and cheesy music. Super Adventure Island is the kind of mundane platformer you forget about the instant you turn it off. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: SLN 39,200
Publisher: Hot-B (1991)
My friends and I always got a kick out of King Salmon for the Genesis, so I was anticipating big things from Super Black Bass. More of a simulation than an arcade game, there are many types of lures at your disposal. The problem is, finding the "correct" shape and color can be a tedious exercise in trial and error. You begin by trolling around a lake while using a depth finder to determine if fish are nearby. After casting, you're given an overhead view of the water, but you need to look close because the fish tend to blend in with the surface. Once you hook a fish, he'll aggressively resist and even leap out of the water. Sometimes it's wise to just let the line out until he gets tired. Once the battle concludes, you'll often discover it was just a "runt" after all. Every now and then you'll spot a large shadowy figure on the lake bottom, and you know that's "the big one". Super Black Bass' controls are very well designed, and so intuitive that I didn't even need to consult the manual. The graphics are only fair, but they do make use of the SNES scaling effects. I really like the sound of water washing up against the boat, but what's that constant bellowing? A beached whale? I could also do without that banjo music that plays as you putt around in your boat. Super Black Bass is one of those games that requires practice and time investment. Unless you're a die-hard fishing fanatic, it's a bit of a drag. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Hudson Soft (1993)
Most systems have some sort of definitive multi-player "party" game, and Super Bomberman is "that game" for the Super Nintendo. On the surface, it doesn't look like much. The action starts with a short man in each corner of the maze. By clearing out walls and strategically dropping bombs, the goal is to be the last man standing. With multiple explosions leading to massive chain reactions, Bomberman's dynamic gameplay results in some wild and unpredictable battles. Power-ups give players the ability to drop multiple bombs, toss bombs across the screen, or unleash larger explosions. A variety of battlefields introduce complicating factors like trampolines and conveyer belts. Personally I prefer the raw simplicity of first stage, because the fancy ones tend to randomize the chaos more. Super Bomberman's graphics are modest but the controls are right on, and catchy music plays throughout the contests. The single-player adventure mode challenges you to clear out monsters in progressively difficult stages, but the multiplayer mode is "where it's at". You will definitely need a multitap for this one. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Super Bomberman 2
Publisher: Nintendo (1994)
Super Bomberman 2 ranks near the top of my list for "unnecessary sequels". Basically the same as the original Bomberman, this game offers a few more stages, power-ups, and options. Of course, anybody who has played the original Bomberman knows that fancy stages don't really add anything to the game. In fact, they usually detract from its simple yet wonderfully addictive gameplay, which is why most people won't bother with the new stuff here. The single-player mode is mildly amusing, featuring some cool new items like dynamite bundles that maximize the destruction you can unleash. But the real fun lies in the multiplayer battle mode, and the new team mode is a great idea. Other than that, there's nothing new, and I actually prefer the music of the original game. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Hudson Soft (1994)
As a big fan of Bonk's Turbografx adventures, I was pretty pumped when I heard about his SNES escapade. Super Bonk borrows elements from the original Turbografx trilogy while placing the bald-headed cave-boy in a new set of stages. Okay, some of these stages are best described as recycled
. For those of us accustomed to seeing the little caveman in prehistoric worlds, it's kind of a shock to see him in front of a modern city skyline in the first stage. As in previous adventures Bonk defeats enemies like alligators and pterodactyls by performing head-butts or diving headfirst at them. Bonk fans will recognize familiar elements like the ability to grow large or tiny, slide through narrow tubes, vault from tree branches, and climb up walls using his teeth
. One new element is the ability to throw flowers plucked from the ground, but it's not very useful. The stages are new but some are very
familiar, and no Bonk game would be complete without the obligatory trip through a dinosaur's digestive track! Super Bonk looks like classic Bonk on the surface (better even), but the controls are not quite right. It's very hard to gain any momentum, and you can no longer change direction at the drop of a dime. As a result the controls feel stiff, and the cloud-bouncing stages are a nightmare
to navigate! In the original game it was a challenge to send Bonk into a rage, but here it happens early and often. Not only does Bonk become invincible, but he remains that way for an inordinate period of time! And when he's like that he looks like a hideous freak
. Still, I must admit that it's fun to plow through buildings in his "Bonkzilla" form. There's some good stuff here, but the watered-down difficulty ruins the game. I can pretty much play this thing indefinitely. The easy bonus stages are so common you eventually make an effort to avoid
them. Other missteps include an ill-conceived power-up that lets you build bridges (really?
) and a boss named Blue Balls (c'mon now). I'll give the developers credit for cramming every Bonk-ism they could think of into this cartridge, but without the challenge it's an unsatisfying romp. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 317,240
Super Caesar's Palace
Publisher: Virgin (1993)
Super Caesar's Palace is obviously a very realistic casino simulator because I blew $2000 in about 15 minutes! You control a guy wandering around an empty casino with several floors and an incredible array of games to choose from. These include video poker, blackjack, slot machines, roulette, craps, keno, red dog, horse racing, and even "scratchers". The controls are simple - you just move a floating hand around to place bets or press buttons. I found this game easy to get into and quite entertaining. Now for the complaints. When you begin play you must register for an ATM account used to keep track of your money. There's nothing wrong with that, except having to copy down that huge
password! Also, I think the game would have been far more realistic and immersive if they had some more patrons in the casino. Otherwise, this is one of the better gambling titles I've played. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Battery
Super Castlevania IV
Publisher: Konami (1991)
As the first Castlevania title to appear on a 16-bit system, Super Castlevania IV is everything a fan could ask for and more. This huge action/adventure improves upon the original NES games in every way, and even pays homage to them by recreating some old stages. As vampire hunter Simon Belmont, you'll explore mountains, graveyards, forests, ruins, riverbanks, and dungeons on your quest to confront Dracula. Castlevania veterans will smile when they see familiar adversaries rendered in bright colors and high resolution. New enemies lurk as well, include floating horse-heads(?), flying insect men, and stone golems that break up into smaller monsters. Parallax scrolling depicts colorful, layered medieval scenery, and striking down foes results in a dazzling display of flames and flying body parts. It looks terrific, but it did occur to me that the flashy visuals somewhat undermine the dark, gothic atmosphere established by the first three games. Castlevania IV features twelve expansive stages, and it's amazing how much gameplay Konami has packed into this cartridge. The presentation is first-rate, and the controls are outstanding. For the first time, you have complete
control of your whip. Not only can you aim it up, down, and diagonally, you can even wave it around to kill small pesky creatures such as bats. Perilous leaps still play a major role in the gameplay, but the crisp, responsive controls make even the most risky jumps a breeze. Navigating stairs, a tricky proposition in previous Castlevanias, is no problem at all in this game. A fantastic soundtrack incorporates a surprising number of musical styles besides the traditional minor-keyed organ hymns. I do have a few minor quibbles. I'm not a fan of the instant death spike traps - I don't think touching one spike should cause you to lose an entire life bar. Second, I found swinging from the whip - a new move - to be trickier than it should be. There's some slow-down here and there, and I hate how the password is given in rows of symbols
. Even so, I found Super Castlevania IV to be easier and more enjoyable than any of the NES titles. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Super Double Dragon
Publisher: Tradewest (1992)
I find it shameful that magazines once heaped praise upon this pathetic game. Super Double Dragon is plodding and repetitive, with lousy controls that lack that "crisp" feel you need in a side-scrolling brawler. Super Double Dragon is exceedingly easy, and those who can tolerate its excruciating pace won't have a problem beating it. There are some nice hold moves and a cool roundhouse kick, but punching is your best weapon, since that defeats foes even when you don't even make contact
! Now that's what I call bad collision detection! Also effective are the occasional weapons, which include nun-chucks and boomerangs. You'll face the same set of thugs over and over again - albeit in different colored outfits. You'll want to keep your distance from enemies, because they tend to stun you, which leaves you open to more attacks. Each stage takes an eternity to finish, and everything seems to move in slow motion. So why was Super Double Dragon's reviews so favorable? I'm guessing it had something to do with the graphics and sound. Although the locales are generic (airport, casino, Chinatown, train) the sharp, colorful visuals are striking, and the soundtrack truly kicks ass. Once you get past the flashy presentation however, the gameplay falls somewhere between "boring" and "unbearable". Do I want to continue? No thank you! © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Super Empire Strikes Back
Publisher: LucasArts (1993)
Empire Strikes Back is widely considered to be the best film of the original Star Wars trilogy, so I was terribly anxious to get my hands on this game back in 1993. In fact, my buddy Eric and I took the day off so we could drive over to the mall and pay a whopping 75 bucks each for the thing! I recall how the clerk asked his manager if he could give us a free game guide, but that jerk replied, "Nah - save 'em for later." Had that cashier not given us one anyway (to share), a serious beating would have ensued. Upon arriving back at my house (with McDonald's in tow) we were giddy with excitement, and Empire did not disappoint. The game gets off to a strong start with some beautiful ice-planet stages where you ride a Taun-Taun through blizzard conditions. Unlike the first Super Star Wars, Empire packs ample lightsaber action, and Luke can even perform various "Force" powers. Best of all, there's an ambitious 3D stage where you pilot a snowspeeder to destroy mammoth AT-AT Walkers! The scaling is a bit choppy by today's standards, but it's still cool to fly around freely and trip up the Walkers with tow cables. After Hoth, you head to the swamps of Dagobah, and then onto the beautiful Cloud City for an encounter with Boba Fett. The final stage pits Luke against Darth Vader in a dramatic climax that had me absolutely mesmerized. A much-needed password mechanism is provided so you can save your progress between stages. The main problem with Empire is its severe difficulty, which is aggravated by cheap hits you can't see coming. Who in the hell came up with the idea for "spouting crystals" in the Hoth stages?! Also, slowdown does rear its head when the action gets hectic. Even so, Empire's sky-high productions values, excellent controls, and fascinating stages make it an experience worth having. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Password
Super Ghouls 'N Ghosts
Publisher: Capcom (1991)
This medievel side-scroller is a complete remake of Ghouls and Ghosts (Genesis, 1989) with entirely new stages and monsters. New areas include a haunted pirate ship and a snow stage (who asked for that, by the way?). The graphics, special effects, and music are significantly better than the Genesis version, but the gameplay is about the same. You control a knight running through a series of locations while destroying monsters and collecting power-ups. Although this game should have rated higher than its Genesis counterpart, it doesn't, due to a few major issues. First, the action tends to get slow
(read: slow-motion) when the action gets hectic, and when you die, you're sent way
back to the start of the stage. At least the Genesis version let you continue fairly close to where you left off. Even unlimited continues don't help when you keep keeling over just before the end of a stage. Super Ghouls 'N Ghosts would have been a great game had it been more forgiving. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Super Mario All-Stars
Publisher: Nintendo (1993)
With the four original Super Mario Bros (NES) games included, this cartridge packs an enormous amount of classic gameplay for the dollar. It contains the first Super Mario Bros, the Lost Levels, Super Mario Bros 2, and Super Mario Bros 3. The Lost Levels, which was not originally released in the U.S., adds additional levels to the original game. Super Mario Bros 2 is the one odd-ball of the bunch, offering a different kind of gameplay. Instead of pouncing on enemies, you dispatch them with roots which you pull out of the ground. The graphics and sound in all these games have been enhanced slightly, and four save slots are available for each game! This package is first-class all the way. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Battery
Super Mario Kart
Publisher: Nintendo (1992)
Not only is this one of the best SNES games ever, but it single-handedly created an entire new genre of video games! Instead of aiming for realism, Super Mario Kart strips racing down to its essense with simple yet fun go-cart action. The racers are classic Nintendo characters, each with a variety of speed and handling capabilities. Thanks to some marvelous SNES "mode 7" effects, the ground moves and rotates smoothly underneath your cart, conveying a sense of speed. Although the tracks are totally flat, their textures range from smooth, to wood, to gravel. Tracks also contain speed boosts, traps, ramps, and power-ups. Turtle shell power-ups serve as missiles to shoot at your competitors. One power-up causes your fellow racers to shrink
for a few seconds. Not only does this look hilarious, but it gives you the opportunity to squash them as well! The single-player mode is challenging enough, but the two-player split screen is even better. The outcome of each race is usually in doubt, but never feels unfair or cheap. An innovative battle mode is also available that lets players fire shells at each other in open arenas. In typical Nintendo fashion, a cute trophy presentation screen celebrates the winners of each game. Innovative and fun, Super Mario Kart is a must-have for any serious SNES collector. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Super Mario World
Publisher: Nintendo (1991)
As the original pack-in game for the Super Nintendo system, Super Mario World is certainly a worthy successor to the NES series. It manages to expand the Super Mario universe without sacrificing the fun or addicting gameplay. In addition to sharper graphics, Mario has new moves at his disposal including the ability to throw turtles, fly, and ride around on a little green dinosaur named Yoshi (his first appearance in the video game!). The "world" is huge compared to previous Mario games, with a nice variety of settings including my favorite - haunted houses! A battery backup allows you to save up to four games in progress. High in quality and super fun, this should be standard issue for all SNES owners. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Battery
Publisher: Nintendo (1994)
My first encounter with Super Metroid was in 1994 at a local video game store. Upon hearing it referred to as the "best video game ever" by an employee, I tried out a copy they had on display. After whizzing through the brief initial stage where you escape the underground lab, I left feeling unimpressed. Well, thanks to my short attention span I missed out on one truly incredible game. It took me ten years
to finally experience this science fiction masterpiece! Super Metroid redefined what a side-scroller should be, with an unprecidented degree of depth and variety. On the surface, it looks like a generic cave exploration game with the usual shooting and platform jumping. But the more you play, the more this finely crafted game unfolds and sucks you into its fascinating little world. The graphics are phenomenal, with amazing visual effects like sweltering heat waves and scaling enemies. Despite being set in a series of underground tunnels, Super Metroid doesn't feel the least bit boring or repetitive. Each section is unique and brimming with amazing detail. In one room I found a bunch of tiny green creatures gnawing on a corpse, and they scattered as I approached. Enemies come in an amazing assortment, from lizard creatures, to crawling plants, to giant insects you can shoot the wings off of. And the mammoth gigantic bosses were monumental for their time. The game is perfectly paced, so just when you think you're getting stuck, you discover a new weapon, item, or ability that opens up a slew of new possibilities. Special items include an electronic grappling hook, an ice beam, and an x-ray scope to expose hidden passages. And there are plenty of secrets to discover. But beyond its imaginative graphics and crisp control, it may be Super Metroid's audio that stands out the most. Edgy and intense, the infectious soundtrack perfectly suits the game's ominous theme. When it comes to finding fault with this game, I am at a complete loss. It's definitely hard but never cheap, and the save points are reasonably spaced. Super Metroid may not be the best game ever
, but it certainly is one of the best SNES games I've played. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Tradewest (1992)
I went nuts over the Genesis edition of Super Off Road, so it's no surprise that I'm bonkers for this one as well. The graphics are cleaner and slightly more detailed in this SNES version, but otherwise it's almost exactly the same. Minor additions include a flag-waving man at the starting/finish line, and bails of hay scattered throughout certain courses (which are slightly annoying). The gameplay consists of four tiny cars racing around a series of dirt tracks a single screen in size. The courses are loaded with bumps, ramps, and rolling hills, making for a wild ride. The cars move fast and the physics is just bizarre! The controls boil down to accelerating and steering, although you also have a limited number of "nitros" that provide turbo boosts. The top three finishers in each race are awarded prize money, and between contests you can use your money to soup up your car. That gray CPU-controlled car is incredibly good, and nearly impossible to beat. I really wish the game was more customizable, and where's the four-player mode?? It could have been better, but Super Off Road is simple and fun in an old-school way. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Super Off Road: The Baja
Publisher: Tradewest (1993)
At first glance, Super Off Road: The Baja looks like Road Rash with trucks, judging by its rolling hills, sparse scenery, and gritty music. But the game's poor controls and marginal gameplay prove otherwise. I don't know why they even put "off road" in the title, considering whenever you veer off the narrow road you slow to a stop! And it's nearly impossible to stay on the road because it twists and turns all over the place. The controls aren't a factor in the easy early stages, but later stages prove nearly unplayable. The trucks look pretty good, but everything else looks awful
. There's nothing interesting about the repetitive scenery except for that old man riding on a tractor who gets in your way every five seconds. You'll lose money for running him over, but it's worth the price of not having to navigate around his sorry ass. Baja's races contain eight excruciatingly lengthy sections, and you'll spend more time keeping an eye on your damage gauge than your opponents. You can upgrade (or downgrade) your vehicle between sections of the race, and there is a password feature. Super Off Road: The Baja is anything but super. It's one big mess. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Super Play Action Football
Publisher: Nintendo (1992)
I suspect Play Action Football was merely a stop-gap measure to hold sports fan over until Madden arrived for the SNES. The highlight of the game is its intro, which depicts a player throwing a scaling football directly at you! Thankfully two large hands reach up and grab the ball just before it can smash through the glass of your TV and tumble into your living room! Super Action Football carries an NFL license, which is surprising considering how generic it is. You have the option of playing as pro, college, or high school teams, and for the latter two, you can select the team name and colors. Play Action's diagonal point-of-view provides the absolute worst
possible perspective for a football game. I couldn't come up with a worse viewpoint if I tried! A vertical "scanner" indicates the location of the players, but I found it impossible to reconcile with the main screen. A sufficient number of plays and audibles are available, but the play diagrams lack labels and are hard to read. Play Action's rousing theme song is good, which is fortunate because restarts with each snap
. Running the ball is no problem thanks to a nifty stiff-arm move, but completing a pass requires an act of God. The players are so huge that you never actually see
your receivers on the screen. Playing defense is equally frustrating, as you're constantly being held by linemen. After each play players scatter like roaches, followed by a pause as you wait for the referee to appear on the bottom of the screen - even if he has nothing to say! Most of the time he just stands there like a dork, and it's unintentionally hilarious
. My buddies were literally rolling on the floor
with laughter. Occasionally the game cuts away from the action to show a bunch of ugly people watching the action on a TV in the concession area. If it looks like they're watching a trainwreck, well now you know why. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Super Punch Out!!
Publisher: Nintendo (1994)
I don't know how I missed out on this one back in the day, because I love
arcade-style boxing games. A worthy successor to the NES hit (Punch Out!!, 1987), Super Punch-Out's graphics even surpass the arcade game. You view the action from behind your semi-transparent boxer, providing an optimal view of your opponent. The directional pad lets you dodge, duck, and block, with the Y and B buttons serving as your left and right punches. Instead of earning "star" punches, the A button lets you unleash special attacks when your meter is full. These include an uppercut, hook, or a quick flurry. There are plenty of fresh new faces to beat the crap out of, including the geriatric Gabby Jay, Rastafarian Bob Charlie, Dragon Chan, Aran Ryan, Narcis Prince, and the Mad Clown. Each of the 16 fighters has his own technique, and part of the fun is figuring out how to defeat each one. The cartridge has a battery back-up for up to eight players, which not only saves your progress but the high scores and best times as well. Super Punch-Out is awesome, but not as awesome as it could be. Punches seem somewhat soft due to muffled sound effects and slight pauses when you make contact. It's cool to see a mouthpiece go flying, but none of these punches seem particularly devastating. Another issue is the lack of rounds. You just keep playing until one fighter registers a KO. This takes away some suspense and doesn't feel like real boxing. Plus, trainer Doc Lewis isn't around to lift your spirits. Super Punch-Out comes off a little flat, but arcade fans will still love its stylized brand of boxing action. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Battery
Publisher: Irem (1991)
This SNES edition of the popular space shooter is probably best known for its immense difficulty level. This cartridge was very popular when it came out, but mainly because there were few other shooters available for the system. In retrospect however, Super R-Type's flaws are obvious. The graphics are sweet but the level designs aren't very impressive. The bosses tend to be forgettable mechanical monstrosities, and more often than not I found myself asking "where am I supposed to shoot this thing?!" There are some cool power-ups, but they are spread too thin throughout the levels. One technical problem is serious slowdown that occurs when many objects are on the screen - a problem many early SNES titles have in common. Another annoying aspect is how upon losing a ship the game sends you all the way back
to the beginning of the stage!! Give me a break - the game is hard enough as it is! Super R-Type gives you unlimited continues, but you might need them all to finish it! © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Super Return of the Jedi
Publisher: LucasArts (1994)
As the final chapter of the Super Star Wars trilogy, LucasArts seemed to get everything right in Super Return of the Jedi. The gameplay hasn't changed much since Super Star Wars, but Jedi is the most forgiving of the three games. In fact, it's almost easy
compared to Empire. The action begins in Jabba the Hutt's palace before moving to the forest moon of Endor (home of the beloved Ewoks), and culminating at the new Death Star. You can select from several characters for most stages, including a bikini-clad Princess Leia (now
we're talking). Jedi's graphics and attention to detail are stunning. As an example, Jabba's gamorrean guards actually have saliva
dripping from their mouths! The stage backdrops, particularly those set in the lush forests of Endor, look gorgeous. One major gameplay innovation is a new defensive move for Luke: the lightsaber block. This plays an instrumental role in defeating Vader, and ultimately the Emperor. Another new element, floating icons, will earn you a bonus life should you collect 100 of them. These add a fun, Super Mario Bros. flavor to the game. The 3D speeder bike stage isn't as impressive as I remember, but it's not so bad. The Millennium Falcon shooting stage is probably the weakest part of the game. Jedi does a nice job of following the storyline of the film, skillfully building to the exciting finale. With the same action-packed gameplay as its predecessors but lacking the frustration factor, Super Return of the Jedi is a fitting conclusion to an excellent series. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Password
Publisher: Nintendo (1992)
Nintendo was pushing the light gun concept to the limit when they released this bazooka-shaped accessory. It looks pretty cool with its shoulder rest and side-mounted scope, but it's just not practical. Keeping both arms raised is tiring, and the fact that the gun packs six
AA batteries doesn't help! That said, the thing is pretty accurate. The manual recommends sitting ten feet from the TV (really?) but it works fine from about six feet. Super Scope comes with a cartridge packing six separate light gun games. Three of them (Intercept, Engage, and Confront) are simple shooters that let you target missiles, scaling jet planes, and buzzing UFOs. The simplistic gameplay harkens back to Subroc on the Colecovision (1983). The SNES scaling capabilities are used to good effect. There's a nice sense of depth and leading your shots is essential. Unfortunately, the dry, repetitive gameplay tends to induce coma, requiring a surprise appearance by Mario (chased by Bowser in a biplane) to revive the player. Next up are a few interesting Tetris-inspired games. In "Blastris A" the blocks fall sideways and you shoot them so they fit snugly into place. This game has some surreal, carnival-like music that really gave me the creeps! "Blastris B" is based on Tetris 2, so you shoot blocks to toggle their color, creating groups of like-colored blocks. The ensuing explosions cause nifty chain reactions, but the challenge ramps so slowly that I could feel my arm cramping. The final entry "Mole Patrol" is an instantly forgettable version of whack-a-mole. Super Scope 6 has a few innovative ideas sprinkled throughout, but like Sega's Menacer collection, once the novelty wears off it starts to feel like a chore. Note: The Super Scope only operates on old-style, CRT televisions. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation(s): Confront
Our high score: 175,600
1 or 2 players
Publisher: LucasArts (1992)
Both me and my friend Tuan received Super Star Wars for Christmas in 1992, and I can still remember him calling me up and proudly proclaiming this to be the "best video game ever!" For Star Wars fans, this was indeed a thrill. Not only did the game's storyline follow the movie (more or less), but the graphics and sound were state of the art. Although most stages follow the standard platform jumping/shooting formula, a few innovative 3D stages let you drive vehicles, including a sandspeeder on Tatooine and an X-Wing in the Death Star's trench! The 3D animation looks a little rough now, but it was amazing back in the day. The outstanding visuals portray every character, monster, and location you can remember from the film - and then some! The adrenaline-pumping Star Wars theme sounds crystal clear, as do the digitized sound effects and voice bits. Depending on the stage, you might control Luke, Han, or Chewbacca. The controls are tight, but I must admit you're too often asked to make "leaps of faith". Some of the platform jumping can be downright tedious, with the hellacious Java sandcrawler stage serving as a prime example. The stage difficulty uneven, and cheap hits are also a problem. The only way I've managed to finish the game is to locate the "secret cave" containing 99 extra lives. Since there's no save or password feature, you may find yourself playing into the wee hours of the morning, and by then the jumping and shooting will have gotten pretty old. A better option is to obtain the cheat code, which lets you select your stage. It's not perfect, but Super Star Wars is a quality title, and it's the main reason at least one of my friends purchased their SNES system. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Super Street Fighter 2
Publisher: Capcom (1994)
This was the third edition of Street Fighter 2 to appear on the SNES. It added four brand new characters, bringing the grand total to sixteen. Of the new challengers, Fei Long, is a Bruce lee look-alike, Cammy is a scantily clad British soldier, Dee Jay is a tall guy from the Caribbean, and T. Hawk is a huge American Indian in a sissy pink outfit. The game also includes a new tournament mode for multiple players, and I recall having fun with that way back in the day. Super Street Fighter's graphics have been tweaked from the previous game to look slightly more realistic, and the music has been remastered for better or worse. Most regard this as the ultimate Street Fighter game for the SNES. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Nintendo (1991)
Super Tennis offers plenty of bells and whistles, but its lackluster gameplay prevents it from greatness. The characters are rendered in a Japanese anime style, and the detailed courts come complete with ball boys and line judges. The oversized tennis ball is easy to follow, and pleasant music plays throughout the matches. The controls provide every shot you would need, including lobs, slices, and overhead smashes. Executing these shots is frustrating however. You have to hit the button at exactly the right time (not
when it's bouncing), and you can't
swing while on the run. I was also annoyed by the constant faults on the serves. You can select between single, doubles, or a tournament mode. Hard, lawn, and clay courts are available. Super Tennis has some nice features, but its core gameplay could use some work. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Password
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Atlus (1992)
This conventional side-scroller is completely un
remarkable. I've never played a game so spectacularly average
in my life. Super Valis IV's presentation is clean but uninspired, and its platform gameplay is utterly predictable. Playing as a sword-wielding female warrior, you hop around ledges and strike down creatures through six mythology-inspired stages. Special weapons are unleashed by pushing the directional pad up while pressing the attack button. If that doesn't remind you of Castlevania, wait until you see the fire-breathing dragon statues. Valis IV feels like an amalgamation of every side-scrolling adventure I've ever played. That's not to say it's a bad game. The controls are responsive enough, and being able to switch between weapons adds strategy. The crisp, colorful scenery includes burning ruins, flowery meadows, and jewel-encrusted caves. In the meadow stage, the buildings in the distance caught my eye, including one that resembled a tower from Lord of the Rings. Your adversaries include knights and archers, but there are also a few original creations like winged women with spears. The "mechanical monkeys" in the fourth stage resemble dogs made out of fortune cookies, a concept I found somewhat disturbing. Most enemies aren't particularly aggressive and move in predictable patterns. Each stage ends with the obligatory boss encounter, and these include a grim-reaper look-alike and a tiger-riding knight. The electronic background music is respectable but forgettable. In the final analysis, Super Valis IV serves its purpose but that's about it. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
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Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum, Console Classix, Moby Games