Turbografx-16 Reviews E-L

Fantasy Zone
Grade: B
Publisher: NEC (1989)
Reviewed: 2004/4/21

screenshotI've never been a huge fan of Fantasy Zone, but this version is the best I've seen. This is not your typical shooter. The stages are awash with pastel colors, looking like something from a fairy tale or a really bad acid trip. You control a small pod-shaped ship as the screen scrolls slowly to the left or right. You can pick up the pace by pressing against the sides of the screen, but that's risky, so it's best to sit back and proceed at a more leisurely pace. Fantasy Zone is ideal for young kids, with its cute enemies and unhurried gameplay. Your goal is to clear out all of the large, stationary enemies in each stage, whose locations are indicated on a scanner at the bottom of the screen. Smaller creatures approach in waves, but your rapid-fire shooting can handle them with no problem. Some creatures drop coins, and you can periodically shop for weapons, bombs, and other goodies. Be sure to purchase the 7-way shot - the best weapon in the game by far. Not only does it spray half the screen with projectiles, but it single-handedly bumped up this game's grade by a letter. The bombs don't tend to be especially useful, except for the "smart" bombs, which obliterate everything on the screen. Each time you purchase a weapon its price goes up, which encourages you to try others. Every stage ends with a boss encounter, but these bosses are not particularly interesting or hard to defeat. I do like how they break apart when destroyed, and be sure to scarf up all the coins they leave behind - that's where you earn the big bucks! Fantasy Zone's graphics are whimsical and fun, but you'll hardly even notice them once the action heats up. The music and sound effects are thoroughly forgettable, but overall I found Fantasy Zone to be a pleasant change of pace. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Fighting Street (CD)
Grade: D+
Publisher: NEC (1989)
Reviewed: 2002/5/3

screenshotBelieve it or not, this game is actually Street Fighter One. Yes, this is a genuine artifact of video game history. Its sequel, the phenomenal Street Fighter II (SF2), completely revolutionized fighting video games. While Fighting Street is much less impressive, you can still see the writing on the wall in terms of gameplay potential. Capcom originally released this one-on-one fighter in 1987, and considering the time period, the graphics aren't too shabby. The characters are smaller and more pixelated than those in SF2, but still relatively large compared to other fighting games of the time. Only Ken and Ryu are selectable, and they look similar to their later incarnations, except Ryu has red hair and ugly red shoes. In the one-player mode, you face off against ten other combatants. Of these, only Sagat made it to SF2, although the black dude named Mike looks a lot like Balrog. A blue ninja named Geki looks like Sub-Zero with Vega's iron claw. Three of the other characters (Gen, Birdie, and Adon) resurfaced later in some of the many SF2 sequels. The background graphics are dull and static, and the muffled voice samples are hard to stomach. When the losing fighter collapses to the ground in defeat it sounds like someone dumping Jello into a bowl! The gameplay itself is similar to the Street Fighter 2, but much slower and less refined. Two buttons are used for kick and punch, and jumping and blocking (both high and low) are executed using the directional pad. The three special moves include the fireball, dragon punch, and a turn kick. Other similarities to SF2 include the look of the title screen and the world map screen with the tiny airplane. Fighting Street isn't very good, but it laid the groundwork for better things to come. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Final Lap Twin
Grade: C-
Publisher: NEC (1989)
Reviewed: 2007/5/16

screenshotWow - could NEC come up with a more awkward-sounding title?? This racer is basically Pole Position on a split-screen. I thought that sounded like a good idea, but after playing Final Lap Twin, I'm not so sure. The graphics are exactly like Pole Position, but the gameplay is far more forgiving. Instead of crashing into other cars, you just bump against them. The only thing you need to really worry about is hitting signs on the side of the road. While certainly easy to play, Final Lap Twin lacks tension and drama, especially when it comes to "threading the needle" between cars. Racing against a friend is mildly amusing, but playing solo isn't much fun at all. The AI absolutely stinks, with your opponent constantly hounding you no matter how well you race. I wouldn't normally hold graphics against a game of this nature, but I couldn't help but notice how dull and unimaginative the backgrounds look. Even the original Pole Position had better scenery! The one highlight of the game is its RPG-style "quest mode", where you gradually earn money to upgrade your car while racing challengers in various towns. Although kind of bizarre, I found it somewhat addictive. Final Lap Twin is not a total loss, but it's still weak by racing standards. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Final Zone II
Grade: D+
Publisher: Telenet (1990)
Reviewed: 2014/12/4

screenshotYou can tell this one is going to be ridiculous from the title alone, which makes no sense at all. During the intro (which features surprising gore) a space ship is blown up and several survivors in mech suits escape to a nearby planet. If CDs can hold so much data, why are these cut-scenes displayed in such small windows? The character voices sound way too young and missing audio effects cause action scenes to be strangely quiet. Once the game begins you guide an armored soldier upward through sparse jungle while unleashing rapid-fire bullets at enemy soldiers that pour out of the woodwork. Your shots have good range and enemies will walk right into your line of fire if you wait long enough. Enemies fire three bullets at a time and each one removes another chunk of your life. It doesn't help that you begin with half a life bar. To maintain your health it's best to wait for power-up icons to turn into an "H" before collecting them. Following the first stage is an unintentionally hilarious cut-scene in which a soldier dies in our hero's arms. The stunted voice acting and homo-erotic dialogue are so precious, they almost make this game worth owning. Stage two is similar to the first but takes place on a barren landscape strewn with dead trees and wreckage. What's notable about this stage is its easy-listening jazz music. It seems entirely inappropriate but it is awesome! I'd love to burn it to CD. The third stage shifts gears, offering vertical shooting action along the lines of Tiger-Heli (NES, 1986) or Twin Eagle (Nes, 1989). I wish Final Zone II had a score or save feature, but all you get is endless continues. The game has "bad" written all over it, but after a few plays you start to appreciate the absurdity of it all. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Forgotten Worlds (CD)
Grade: B
Publisher: NEC (1992)
Reviewed: 2004/4/3

screenshotLoaded with innovative elements, this side-scrolling shooter is a heck of a lot of fun. You control a muscleman in a jet pack, flying over city ruins while blasting flying lizardmen and alien spacecraft. The control scheme in Forgotten Worlds is particularly unique. Two buttons used to rotate him left and right, providing a 360-degree shooting range. Although this rotation is somewhat slow, it gives you the ability to "spray" your shots as well as concentrate on enemies below or behind. The problem is, the Turbo Duo controller only has two "normal" buttons, so you'll need to use the "Run" button to rotate counter clockwise, which is very awkward. There's a handy auto-fire feature on the options menu, but no way to reconfigure the buttons, which is a shame. Once you get a handle on the control scheme however, the game is a blast. Your weapons are quite powerful, and the action can get pretty crazy. The first boss looks like a giant anus, but the rest of them look awesome, including a golden dragon and a war god that's several screens in height. Defeated enemies leave blue "money" discs for you to snatch up, and at the beginning of each stage you can buy new weapons, health, and other helpful items. Although the high-octane music is generally good, the "shop" screen has a really weird, almost childish tune. At first I couldn't stand it, but then it started to grow on me, and now I kind of like it. Forgotten Worlds is fun, but there are a few issues. When you guy dies, he falls flat on thin air, which looks bad and seems like a programming oversight. Slow-down can get pretty rampant during certain stages. Finally, much of the dialogue will leave you scratching your head, like "You cannot stop me with paramecium alone!" Huh? Aren't paramecium microscopic organisms? Despite its rough edges however, Forgotten Worlds is still an engaging shooter you'll find yourself playing over and over again. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Formation Armed F (Japan)
Grade: C+
Publisher: Big Don (1990)
Reviewed: 2013/5/12

screenshotThis vertical shooter will coax you into playing over and over again, if only because it's so deceptively simple. Formation Armed F looks like a generic shooter from the outset, and for the most part, it is. As you fly through caverns you'll encounter ships flying in patterns and weird insect-like creatures. One button is used to fire, and you'll want to crank up the turbo. Games like this are the reason God created turbo in the first place. There is no shortage of power-ups, and before long you acquire a pair of "options" that shoot by your side (and also serve as shields). The second button is used to deploy these options in various formations (on a limited basis). You can take advantage of this ability to place them far ahead of you, effecting eliminating enemies as they are entering the screen. Placing them behind you seems handy, since a lot of enemies emerge from below. Just keep your ship away from the top edge of the screen, because that area is fraught with danger. A lot of power-ups will appear up there, and while you'll be tempted to snag them, don't do it! Wait until they gradually drift down instead. The enemies in this game are tricky. You might think you've let one pass, only to have it turn around and ram you from behind. My friend Chris said they anticipate your movements, but I think he's giving the game too much credit. The collision detection is a little fishy at times, but in general the game is fun. The difficulty would be pretty easy if the game wasn't always forcing you into tight places with its winding caverns and dense asteroid belts. Also, enemy missiles sometimes blend in to their surroundings. Formation Armed F is not exceptional, but if you enjoy vertical shooters this game may put you into a hypnotic trance. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 81,800
1 player 

Galaga '90
Grade: A+
Publisher: NEC (1990)
Reviewed: 2001/4/25

screenshotAn A+?! Has the Video Game Critic finally lost his mind?? No, Galaga '90 is so extraordinary that it pretty much justifies buying a whole Turbografx 16 system. I'm a huge Galaga fan (who isn't?), but I didn't think any sequel could match the brilliant gameplay of the original. But not only does Galaga '90 push the series to new heights, it does so while preserving the classic look, sound, and control that made the original such a winner. Like the old Galaga, levels consist of space bugs flying around in patterns before settling into formation. There are a wide variety of enemies here, including some fat turtle-looking things that burst into nice explosions. Some enemies drop exploding bombs, and others merge to form larger foes. In a nod to its predecessor, you can double your firepower by "sacrificing" a ship and later rescuing it. Been there done that, right? Well, what would you say about tripling your firepower?! Yes, this game is out of control. In addition to the normal and "challenge" stages, there are even a few "boss" stages that add some extra spice. The background music mimics the style of the original game, but expands upon it. Galaga 90's graphics are smooth, colorful, and vibrant. There are even some non-intrusive, nicely-drawn background graphics. And don't be afraid to use the turbo feature on your controller; this game was tailor-made for that thing. Galaga '90 is a top-notch shooter, and an absolute must-have for every Turbografx owner. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: SW 426,900
1 player 

Gate of Thunder (CD)
Grade: A+
Publisher: Hudson Soft (1992)
Reviewed: 2006/6/1

screenshotAfter playing a mediocre shooter like Psychosis, I need to kick back with Gate of Thunder to remind myself what a great shooter is really like. Play this game for five minutes and you'll understand why shooter fans flock to the Turbografx and Turbo Duo. Gate of Thunder is fantastic - a prime example of everything a shooter should be. At first glance it may look like a standard side-scroller, but few other shooters are even in the same ballpark as this. Stage locations like space stations, asteroid belts, and mine tunnels may sound boring and typical, but Gate of Thunder's fantastic, dynamic environments make each feel like an intense thrill ride. Some even boast 3D effects that affect the field of play. Perhaps most appealing aspect of the game is its awesome weapon system. Unlike most shooters, good power-ups are supplied early and often. Once you equip the side cannons, "chasers" (homing missiles), and a shield, you're ready to wreak tremendous havoc. Acquiring a new weapon doesn't replace your old one - it's just another addition to your arsenal, and you can switch between weapons at any time. To deal with enemies sneaking up from behind, simply double-tap the fire button to aim backwards. And when you weapons reach maximum power, it's possible to unleash a screen-wiping "energy blast". You'll face an army of interesting metallic beasts, many of which sport moving limbs. Gate of Thunder's explosion effects are satisfying, and the game never displays any hint of slowdown. In terms of audio, Gate of Thunder features clear voice synthesis and a driving guitar soundtrack. While the music may not be particularly catchy or memorable, it certainly manages to get the adrenaline pumping. If that wasn't enough, the game features several levels of difficulty (including "devil"), and a high score that's displayed at the top of the screen at all times. Gate of Thunder is instantly engrossing and insanely fun. All shooters should be this good. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Genji Tsushin Agedama (Japan)
Grade: B+
Publisher: NEC (1991)
Reviewed: 2016/9/16

screenshotGenji Tsushin Agedama is a colorful side-scroller with whimsical characters, odd predicaments, wacky humor, and flamboyant graphics. It embodies the spirit of Japanese gaming! You control a kid running across a constantly-scrolling screen while blasting a parade of animals and random animated objects. It's possible to mow them down with rapid-fire shots but then you'd be missing the point of the game! Charge attacks are what this game is all about, so lay off that turbo (for once!). Holding in the fire button fills a meter across the top of the screen. Icons at various intervals allow you to determine both the strength and nature of your attack. You might release an intense energy beam, a flood of water spouts, or a set of genies. There are many possibilities and experimenting is half the fun. The opening stage takes place on a sunny city street, and the eye candy is off-the-charts with layers of shops in the foreground and pagodas looming in the distance. Stage two features island scenery and shimmering blue water. The platform action is forgiving, and that's good because the game contains an excessively long waterfall jumping sequence. You never know what the end-of-stage boss encounter will have it store, whether it's a minotaur, a flying pirate, or spear-toting banana. Charming and playable, Genji Tsushin Agedama reminds you that video games don't need to make sense to be fun. Note: PC Engine games like this do not run natively on the Turbografx-16. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 919,500
1 player 

Ghost Manor
Grade: F
Publisher: Turbo Tech (1992)
Reviewed: 2013/3/20


screenshotI tend to gravitate towards platformers with spooky themes, but no matter how hard I tried, I could not bring myself to like Ghost Manor. The background story is conveyed through about 20 screens of text, and paging through it wouldn't be so bad if they showed more than five words at a time! The game stars a dorky kid with a large head. In the first stage you'll jump between ledges in an underground cavern before making your way up a mountainside. There are a few creepy ghouls in this game and the catchy music is done in the same style as Zombies Ate My Neighbors (SNES, 1993). In order to make any progress in Ghost Manor you'll need to locate a key which is tucked away in a really unlikely place. I had to watch a freakin' video on the Internet to find it! I hate it when I have to do stuff like that. The platform jumping is atrocious. Slides give the game a "Chutes and Ladders" feel, but most of the time you're trying to painstakingly move upward on the screen. The ledges are widely spaced and less-than-responsive controls make it hard to judge your leaps. There are slanted platforms you'll slide off if you don't immediately start jumping around like a flea. Even if you do, you'll sometimes fall right through them anyway. Often the only way to ascend is to catch a ride on a rising spirit or elevator, but waiting for them to come around takes forever! And when you finally reach the upper platforms, trolls and demons appear out of nowhere and send your ass plummeting back to the bottom. With bad controls and poorly designed stages, Ghost Manor is just one big ole bucket of misery. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 8600
1 player 

Godzilla (CD)
Grade: B-
Publisher: Hudson Soft (1993)
Reviewed: 2007/3/4

screenshotI've always been a big Godzilla fan, and as a kid I even had that 2-foot tall Godzilla Shogun Warrior. Up until the release of Godzilla Destroy All Monsters (GameCube 2002), this Turbo Duo CD was probably the premiere Godzilla game. It's a one-on-one, Street Fighter 2-style brawler starring all of your favorite creatures from the old Japanese monster flicks. The 16-beast line-up includes Rodan, Gigan, Ghidorah, Megalon, Hedorah the smog monster, and Mecha-Godzilla. The gameplay borrows heavily from Street Fighter 2, but the action is much slower and more deliberate. That makes sense when you consider we're dealing with lumbering beasts towering over 60 meters high. Some of the more powerful attacks are tricky to execute (up, left, right, button?) but most of the basic moves are no problem. I especially enjoyed unleashing Godzilla's fire breath, which you can direct at several angles. You'll witness a lot of unusual attacks, like Gigan's "chainsaw stomach", or Rodan's ability to generate tornados (I think I actually saw that in a movie once). The only creature I found to be particularly "cheap" was the "Biollante" water monster, whose tentacles seem impossible to defend against. Incidentally, he's not available in two-player versus mode. Health meters tend to deplete slowly, but since there's only one round, the matches are ideal in length. The creatures look respectable enough, although I do wish they were larger. The stages are surprisingly sparse, and the one with the frozen ocean waves looks especially bad. There are a few surprises however, like when a building collapses under your weight, or seeing two other monsters fighting in the distance in the Megalon stage (just like the movie). The audio is strong, with unique digitized sound effects for each creature. Hearing Godzilla's distinctive roar is always a treat, and the game's sweeping musical score also adds to the overall experience. Godzilla's gameplay may be too slow for most casual gamers, but fans of the big green lizard will relish every bit of this rare title. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Hit the Ice
Grade: D+
Publisher: Taito (1992)
Reviewed: 2017/3/8

screenshotHit the Ice is a three-on-three arcade hockey game, which sounds promising until you hear that zany carnival music playing over the title screen. Yikes! You assemble your team from a collection of maniacal brutes, including goalies that resemble Jason from Friday the 13th. I like the look of the wacky characters but the gameplay is a little slow. Gamers used to the frenetic mayhem of NBA Jam (SNES, 1994) will find themselves desperately searching for a turbo button - in vain I'm afraid. The CPU controls your teammate but you can make him pass or shoot. The key to success is to constantly harass your opponent. Smack him with your stick, kick him in the crotch, or sending him flying head over heels. Unlike other versions of this game the oversized puck moves smoothly and is easy to follow. You can wind up and aim your shot, and when you go top-shelf it's satisfying to watch the net fling back. If you can hold in the shoot button for five seconds it's possible to unleash a "super shot". After scoring a goal it looks like your players are punching themselves in the face. Huh? Fights let you punch your opponent in the face, but they are infrequent. Fans in the seats hold signs that say "GO!" The audio effects leave much to be desired, especially those scratchy voices. Hit the Ice is mildly entertaining but the periods run too long. Considering the constant back-and-forth, one five-minute period is more than enough. I love its concept but Hit the Ice feels more like a novelty item than a game. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

Impossamole
Grade: D-
Publisher: NEC (1991)
Reviewed: 2010/2/3

screenshotIn the early 90's, some misguided game publishers believed that if you took a small, furry creature and stuck him in a platform game, you'd have the makings of a hit. I've seen reviews in old magazines describe Impossamole as an average platformer, but they give it too much credit. The game stars a mole in a cheesy Superman outfit, and he's neither cute nor cool nor likeable. He battles some really bizarre creations including cameras with legs, guys who hop around in diapers, and evil storm clouds that release deadly raindrops. Impossamole's gameplay is flawed on a fundamental level. Your kick attack is effective, but too often you'll find yourself overlapping with enemies, subjecting yourself to a string of cheap hits in the process. Kicked enemies turn into boxes you can toss, but the high trajectory of your throws makes it nearly impossible to actually hit anything. Weapons you find include a shotgun, but it's not terribly effective since enemies can withstand multiple shots. One weapon shoots bubbles at enemies and sends them floating to the top of the screen - very unsatisfying! Most underground areas have low clearance, and you're constantly pelted with falling rocks that can't be avoided. Many enemies are invincible and need to be avoided altogether. The scenery in the first stage is boring as hell (forest, house, cave), but later stages are more interesting. The Amazon stage features a thunderstorm at night and Ice Land has a beautiful holiday theme. The Bermuda Triangle offers a rich blend of tropical scenery and aliens from space. But the most appealing aspect of the game is the music. Its shrill, bouncy style is weird but very distinctive, and it's got "16-bit" written all over it. Despite a few highlights, Impossamole is a sub-par platformer. It's playable if you can compensate for its flaws, but as a gamer you shouldn't have to do that. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 21,000
Save mechanism: Password
1 player 

Insanity
Grade: D
Publisher: Aetherbyte (2009)
Reviewed: 2015/2/22

screenshotOne of my favorite classic games is Berzerk (Atari 2600, 1982), so I was excited to see Insanity adopt the same run-and-gun formula. You control a spaceman navigating a series of screens with electrified walls and deadly robots. It can be intimidating to find yourself in a room with ten robots between you and the exit, but don't panic. If you just wait a few seconds half of those dumb robots will walk into walls and fry themselves. Your character is pudgy so squeezing through narrow passages is part of the challenge. You can fire in eight directions, but don't try to clear the room. If you take too long an invincible "robot master" (round face) will suddenly appear, smashing any robots in his path. Despite what its name would imply Insanity is remarkably slow and mundane. It doesn't get remotely challenging until about the 10-minute mark, and by then a lot of gamers will have lost interest. The best thing about Insanity is its audio. The electronic music is mesmerizing and robots utter lines like "block all exits", "you will die soon", and "fight like a robot sissy". Wait - did he just call me a p***y?! The words are hard to make out, but in fairness those metallic voices are exactly how you would expect human-killing machines to sound. Less impressive is the game's artwork which looks like something doodled by a third-grader in the margin of his notebook. Insanity is not bad, but the slow-ramping difficulty will require some patience on your part. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 18,570
1 player 

It Came From The Desert (CD)
Grade: C+
Publisher: NEC (1992)
Reviewed: 2001/10/25

screenshotIt Came From The Desert pays homage to the low-budget monster films of the 1950s, and in that respect it hits the nail right on the head. Based on a true story, a small desert town has been invaded by giant mind-controlling ants, which are turning its residents into bloodthirsty "ant zombies". You play the hero trying to stop the chaos, but of course nobody wants to believe your story until it's too late. The game is mainly a series of full motion video clips containing some rather decent tongue-in-cheek acting. The video is grainy but entertaining enough to draw you into the storyline. It Came From the Desert has a style of its own, making good use of dramatic music and sound effects. Occasionally you're challenged to mini arcade-style games in the form of side scrolling, overhead, or target shooting stages. These are generally fun, especially the gory stages that require you to save people being eaten alive by ants! The controls in the side-scrolling levels are pretty lousy, but even when the ants prevail, you never actually "die" - you just find yourself back where you started. You can save your game at any time, but after a while the action gets tiresome. Most people probably won't make it to the end, but fans of old monster movies will appreciate the work that went into this unique title. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

JJ & Jeff
Grade: B-
Publisher: Hudsoft Soft (1990)
Reviewed: 2016/11/25

screenshotboxMy friend Scott looked at the cover of JJ & Jeff and remarked "this looks good". What's remarkable is how he managed to keep a straight face. The cover features two dorky white guys (think Beavis and Butthead) assuming wacky poses. If it's not the most unappealing cover ever, it's up there. You only control one of these guys, which always strikes me as odd for "buddy" games. As you stroll through neighborhoods you can kick fences, lampposts, and water fountains to dislodge coins and bonus fruit. You're attacked by giant flies, groundhogs, and poop-dropping birds. Why in the world is that bird carrying a swirly pile of dog doo?! You can fend off attackers by kicking them with your puny leg, but pouncing on them (Mario style) is more effective. Expect to absorb your share of cheap/mandatory hits, and I hate that irritating buzzing noise when your life is low. The scenery looks generic and sparse, and you can expect to spend a lot of time in the sewers. The humor in this game falls into the category of "so-bad-it's-good". Once per level you'll enter a restroom where some random dude dispenses advice while recharging your health meter. Elevators transport you to bonus areas in the clouds, and slot machines earn you extra lives. It may not sound promising, but JJ & Jeff is actually a heck of a good time. It benefits from tight controls, crisp collision detection, and an easy-going style. It's satisfying to see point values appear around the screen and even the lounge music grows on you. JJ & Jeff well surpasses its low expectations. Give it a try. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 59,800
1 player 

Jack Nicklaus' Turbo Golf
Grade: F
Publisher: Accolade (1990)
Reviewed: 2014/5/12


screenshotIn the early 90's console technology limited golf games to perfectly flat courses. Jack Nicklaus' Turbo Golf attempted to buck the trend, incorporating hills, contours, and texture into its courses. In retrospect, the technology was not ready! Each hole is previewed with Jack's digitized face and some words of advice. Had he been perfectly honest, he would have suggested hitting the power button immediately! Instead you're forced to wait upwards of 10 seconds for every shot view to be rendered, block by block, from left to right. Casual players need not apply - you have to be dedicated to play this game! You'd expect to be rewarded for your patience, but the screen actually looks like a swampy mess! There's so much clutter and rough edges, you can't even tell where the fairway is! Want to take a quick peek at the overhead view? Rookie mistake! Upon leaving and returning to the main screen, you'll have to wait for the screen to be redrawn all over again. To aim your shot you move a tiny white ball across the top of the screen, and it's not the most intuitive thing. Beware of trees, because they might as well be brick walls! The wind gauge is incomprehensible, and I have no idea how to read the greens. Somehow I managed to get through a round, probably due to the low difficulty. It's easy to stay on the course and the ball is attracted to the hole like a freakin' magnet! Still, most gamers will not stand for so much waiting. The Golden Bear deserved better than this, may God rest his soul. Oh wait he's not dead. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu
Grade: A-
Publisher: Hudson Soft (1992)
Reviewed: 2007/3/4

screenshotIn the 90's my friends and I would get together to go see Jackie Chan movies like "Rumble in the Bronx" and "First Strike". Not only did the films always contain two or three amazing fight scenes, but Jackie always maintained a very whimsical, self-deprecating tone. I'm finally getting a chance to play Jackie's video game, and I'm really impressed! This has got to be one of the most engaging platform titles I've played on any system! Granted, the gameplay is pretty typical as you jump between moving platforms, beat up martial arts goons, and gather power-ups by punching innocent animals (take that frog!). But Action Kung Fu is more forgiving than most games, and its controls are outstanding. I can't recall the last time I was able to hop between perilous, collapsing ledges with such ease. Heck, you can even fall into the water without suffering instant death! The crisp visuals feature large characters with oversized heads, but the main hero is a dead ringer for Jackie Chan! The backgrounds are colorful but somewhat sparse and could really use a little animation. Your attacks include punches, jump-kicks and fireballs, but icons will bestow you with one additional special move. There are some amazing bosses and several enjoyable Street Fighter 2-style bonus stages as well. Even the audio is exceptional. Jackie's attacks are punctuated with digitized yells, and the rhymic, high-energy music reminded me of something out of a Sonic game. Jackie Chan's Action Kung Fu is a lengthy journey but there's no password, just several continues. Fortunately, the game's so much fun that you probably won't mind restarting it from the beginning. There's no official score, but the number of "orbs" you collect kind of serves than function. Although somewhat rare, this is one quality title I would not hesitate to recommend. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

John Madden Duo CD Football
Grade: B
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1993)
Reviewed: 2010/9/23

screenshotJohn Madden Duo CD Football is what happens when 16-bit football collides with full-motion video (FMV). It's not pretty, but the game's use/misuse of CD technology is undeniably entertaining. The title screen shows a digitized Madden waving his arms wildly like he's doing some kind of dance. You're then treated to a stadium "fly by" that's pretty wild despite its extreme pixelation. The playing field looks almost identical to the Genesis Madden. The graphics are sharper, but the animation is not quite as smooth or fast. As a result plays take longer to unfold and players tend to bunch up. Still, the core gameplay is classic Madden so you know you're in for some competitive fun. Thanks to a fast clock and quick player substitutions, the pacing is brisk. The control scheme feels a little strange because the "Run" button is used as one of your three action buttons. Running the ball is pretty easy, and even when you're stuffed you'll typically pick up two or three yards. Passing is more difficult because the passes tend to "float" in the air. The kicking game is challenging because the meter is super fast. But the most distinctive aspect of Madden Duo is its frequent use of cheesy FMV interludes. These grainy clips play in a box on the screen, and since there's a silent pause as each clip is loaded, it's not exactly a seamless process. The opening coin toss looks promising enough, and I liked seeing chain measurements during the course of the game. Some clips are shown with annoying frequency ("first down!") and others are unintentionally hilarious. The "fans" in the stands are nothing more than a bunch of programmer geeks whooping it up. After each touchdown a skinny white kid in a yellow uniform performs an awkward "celebration", looking more like Napoleon Dynamite than an actual player. A referee fires a gun to signify the end of the game, which is just bizarre. The back of the box oversells the FMV aspect of Madden Duo big time, claiming that through the "miracle media of CD", "you won't need to watch the pros again". I will give the game credit for showing a "key replay" during its half-time and post-game shows. The fact that this feature is even included is impressive enough, and the fact that it really works is nothing short of amazing. Madden Duo Football won't make me quit watching the NFL, but Madden's unholy marriage of 16-bit graphics and FMV is a sight to behold for classic gaming fans. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Keith Courage in Alpha Zones
Grade: D-
Publisher: NEC (1989)
Reviewed: 2004/4/4


screenshotConsidering how bad this is, I'm shocked that NEC made Keith Courage the "pack-in" game for the Turbografx-16 system. What a lousy first impression! Keith Courage in Alpha Zones wallows in platform game cliches and poor design. Lacking its own identity, it feels like a bastard child of every mediocre platformer I've ever played. Our hero Keith, who resembles a little kid, begins each stage in the "overworld", a non-threatening area with tiny enemies, easy-to-perform jumps, and God-awful music. The overworld's main purpose is to let you purchase weapons, restore health, or purchase advice. Once you're ready, a rainbow teleports you to the "underworld", where the real action takes place. In this cavernous alternate universe, Keith dons his powerful "Nova suit". The Underworld is loaded with monotonous platforms and a mish-mash of creatures like spiders, skulls, bouncing faces, and pistol-shaped freaks. Since enemies regenerate constantly, you're better off just avoiding them when you can. Many materialize out of nowhere, making the simplest platform jumps an exercise in frustration. Beds of red spikes line the caverns, and touching them brings your game to an abrupt conclusion. The collision detection isn't so hot, but this often works to you advantage as you can sometimes whack things with your sword that should be out of reach. The underground areas are so repetitive that I thought I was going in circles when I really wasn't. Keith Courage is awfully generic and seriously lacking in the fun department. The designers tried to piece together a lot of disjoint ideas, resulting in an awkward mess. You get unlimited continues, but it's unlikely you'll want to use them. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Last Alert
Grade: D+
Publisher: NEC (1990)
Reviewed: 2014/12/4

screenshotLast Alert is a one-man-army shooter similar to Rambo (Sega Master System, 1986) and Ikari Warriors (NES, 1986). This game seems awfully bland for a CD title. The cut-scenes feature embarrassing voice acting and preposterous storytelling frequently interrupted by disc access delays. Apparently an evil organization is attempting to rule the world by orchestrating random acts of chaos. According to the top FBI agent (who has the voice of a 15-year-old) only one man can stop them: Guy Kazama! I guess our special forces with their years of intense military training are free to sit this one out. The first stage is thoroughly unimpressive as you forge through a side-scrolling canyon. Enemies fire bullets that travel the exact same speed that you walk. You can fire three shots at a time but it's hard to hit the diagonals. Your bullets have unlimited range but the lack of a strafe control is glaring. I have no idea why enemies hide behind barrels because you can shoot right through those things. I love how every enemy you shoot performs a little pirouette before slumping over in his own blood. The collision detection is loose but it works to your advantage. What makes Last Alert remotely interesting are the special weapons you pick up. The side-cannons really ratchet up your firepower and the heat-seeking missiles are gangbusters. Some weapons you'd expect to kick ass however are surprisingly weak. Grenades only affect a tiny area and the flamethrower is so ineffective you'll want to ditch it immediately. Each stage ends with the obligatory boss like a tank or strongman. The boss voices are so bad I swear they hired Bert and Ernie to perform them. There's something endearing about Last Alert's lousy production values, but I don't think anyone will mistake this for a good game. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 52,450
1 player 

Legend of Hero Tonma
Grade: C-
Publisher: Irem (1993)
Reviewed: 2004/4/20


screenshotSo who was the marketing wizard who came up with the dumb name for this one? Legend of Hero Tonmo offers some fast-paced, side-scrolling action that combines rapid-fire shooting with Mario-style jumping. As you explore ruins, forests, and caves, regenerating monsters badger you constantly as you shoot and jump frantically. The graphics sparkle, and the renaissance-style background music complements the visuals quite nicely. There's mad potential here, but Tonma has issues too serious to ignore. First off, the main character looks like a little kid in a Superman outfit - not cool at all. Next, the controls let me down more than a few times. Finally, the bosses are entirely too hard to defeat. You have to hit them dozens of times, and it takes forever to bring one down. Adding insult to injury, dying at the hands of a boss takes you all the way back to the middle of the stage! C'mon! There are a generous number of power-ups, but not enough to overcome the high difficulty and frustrating gameplay. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Legendary Axe
Grade: B-
Publisher: NEC (1989)
Reviewed: 2004/4/20

screenshotA Turbografx-16 classic, Legendary Axe delivers its own unique brand of hardcore hack-n-slash action. The gameplay itself is close to what I expected, but some of the level designs leave much to be desired. My friend Scott went so far as to rename this "Legendary Disappointment", but it's really not that bad. Your character, an axe-slinging caveman, hacks monsters, swings on vines, leaps over lava pits, and collects power-ups. The graphics are superb, with large characters and detailed environments. You encounter dozens of interesting creatures, each with their own distinct style of attack. The controls are responsive enough, but the gameplay is marred by petty annoyances. For one thing, little creatures like bats never seem to leave you alone, and they serve no useful purpose at all. The cave stages have multi-layered scenery that can obstruct your view at the worst times. Most creatures require plenty of hacks to kill, leaving you exposed to a lot of cheap hits. Finally, power-ups are practically required if you want to have a chance against any of the bosses. The background music is absolutely outstanding however, and you get three continues to keep your quest going. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Legendary Axe II
Grade: A
Publisher: NEC (1990)
Reviewed: 2005/4/27

screenshotLegendary Axe II is more than just a fine sequel - it's one of the best hack-n-slash adventures I've ever played. Like the first edition, you control an axe-wielding barbarian, leaping from platforms and whacking monsters like there's no tomorrow. What's not to like? Well, our hero's outfit, for one thing. He appears to be decked out in a pair of tiny Speedos! Will somebody please slap some pants on this guy!? Otherwise this game is a real treat. The creatures you encounter are amazing, including masked acrobatic freaks, giant skeleton warriors, and relentless green zombies that keep coming even after you slice them in half! The new "sickle and chain" weapon has excellent range and is extremely satisfying when it comes to knocking down those flying freaks. There's also a supply of bombs at your disposal via the Run button. Not just a side-scrolling affair, the game's seven stages twist and turn in every direction. Some of the end-of-stage bosses are so over-the-top that they're borderline comical. My favorite is the little hunchback swinging around that huge ball and chain. The stages take you through underground temples, crypts, and watery caverns. There are plenty of surprises, like skeletal arms that burst through cave walls. There's a certain amount of platform jumping involved, but the controls are crisp and the difficulty is fair. Ominous orchestrated background music adds to the overall experience. Without a doubt, Legendary Axe II is one of the best titles for the Turbografx-16. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Lords of Thunder (CD)
Grade: A
Publisher: Hudson Soft (1993)
Reviewed: 2006/6/1

screenshotThis sophisticated shooter is amazing in so many ways. Like Thunder Force 3 (Genesis, 1991), you can select the order in which you play eight distinct stages. Next, you choose from one of four sets of "armor", each providing different weapon combinations. Finally, before each stage you can purchase items from a store, including extra life, power-ups, bombs, and even continues. The shooting action is seriously intense. Despite a remarkable number of objects moving on the screen at any given time (including huge transport ships), there's no slowdown to contend with. Unlike Gate of Thunder, you control a mech robot instead of a ship, so when you touch down on a planet surface, you'll run along it instead of blowing up. One button is used to engage rapid-fire, and the other deploys devastating "bombs", which often assume the form of summoned magical creatures. When in close proximity to an enemy, you'll automatically deal a powerful blow with your sword. Destroyed enemies produce gems that boost your vitality and provide currency for use at the shop. Gathering up gems is fun, but you'll often place yourself in peril trying to collect these rewards. The stages contain all the obligatory locations (ice planet, volcanic planet, water planet, etc), but the backgrounds are gorgeous, with shifting environments that keep you on your toes. Your enemies are quite memorable as well, including foot soldiers that arrive in Viking ships or on massive flying turtles. Unlike other shooters where you blast the same things over and over, Lords of Thunder is constantly tossing new adversaries your way. The difficulty is severe, and only by using continues and stocking up on items was I able to make much progress. If there's one aspect I dislike about the game, it has to be the grinding guitar soundtrack. Imagine one long, headache-inducing guitar solo and you'll understand why I was tempted to turn down the volume. Other than that, Lords of Thunder is a superb game that will challenge even the most skilled gamers. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


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Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum, Racket Boy, Moby Games, The PC Engine Software Bible