Turbografx-16 Reviews S

Samurai Ghost
Grade: C+
Publisher: Namco (1992)
Reviewed: 2006/4/27

screenshotIf you think you're pretty good at platform games, I'd suggest giving Samurai Ghost a try. This impressive-looking side-scroller is a real showcase title for the Turbografx-16. With its elaborate backgrounds and huge characters, I thought I was playing a Neo Geo game! The gameplay is all about sword slashing, platform jumping, and various combinations of the two. Your Samurai Ghost is an imposing figure with white skin and flowing red hair. The controls are mainly limited to jumping and sword thrusting, and they take a lot of getting used to. The colorful, detailed enemies include skeletal dogs, floating wraiths, giant crows with swords(!), archers, and floating eyeballs. My least favorite is definitely the skull-headed spider, which binds your legs with its webbing. The first few stages of the game are set in volcanic areas (check out the heads in the ground), but eventually you move onward to wave-swept beaches, ice-covered plains, and flower-filled forests. The Laughing Place features a twisted circus theme. Since your character is technically a ghost, you'll also have the opportunity to walk on water and clouds. Sadly, Samurai Ghost looks much better than it plays. The collision detection is fishy, the power-up system is more confusing than it is useful, and mandatory hits are the order of the day. Between stages you'll be greeted by a hideous witch who spews unintentionally hilarious lines such as "How a pity you are", and "Don't be inattention". Samurai Ghost has a weird style that's kind of freaky. Overall, it adds up to an interesting but unexceptional gaming experience. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Seirei Senshi Spriggan (Japan)
Grade: B
Publisher: Naxat Soft (1991)
Reviewed: 2014/5/12

screenshotSeirei Senshi Spriggan may not look like much, but this Japanese vertical shooter packs a punch. Feel free to skip the lame intro, which looks like it would be boring even if I could understand Japanese! Once the action begins you control a flying mech against giant skulls, twitchy spiders, flying fish, and a menagerie of other random enemies. The opening stage is kind of *meh* but I like the second stage with its ominous stormclouds, flying castle, and scurrying little people. The third "water" stage is so damn flashy and fast-moving, it's almost nauseating. What makes Spriggan so much fun is its innovative weapon system. By collecting three orbs of one color you can unleash some extreme firepower (did someone say five-way shot?). Collecting combinations of orbs produces a variety of weapons, and experimenting is half the fun. One weapon even causes shrapnel of destroyed enemies to take out other nearby targets. You can also jettison an orb at any time, which acts like a bomb. Often a friendly mech will fight by your side. I appreciate the support buddy, but you are confusing me! Smart bombs periodically float down the screen, and you'll want to snag these at the last possible moment to maximize the damage. With such ubiquitous firepower, even novice players can survive the first few stages. One annoyance is how certain enemies can absorb a ridiculous number of shots. Still, you'll find yourself playing Spriggan again and again. When you feel the need to unleash massive firepower after a hard day's work, this shooter will not let you down. Note: This is a PC Engine import disc. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 194,760
1 player 

Shockman
Grade: D-
Publisher: NCS (1992)
Reviewed: 2009/4/14

screenshotFor its first few stages, Shockman feels like a second-rate Mega Man. After that, it becomes a third-rate Mega Man. It begins promising enough in the opening stage with an inviting city skyline and background music that sounds like "Dreaming of Me" by the Depeche Mode. In a brief cinematic a little kid transforms into a little kid in a costume. Wow, that's really unimpressive! During his transformation, there's a flash of light but no sound effect! You'll think the game is broken, and sadly, it won't be the last time! Shockman is also severely lacking in the creativity department. The action is uninspired, and while you can fire rapidly at generic goons, you're better off running right by them! The first boss is remarkably gruesome and looks out of place in a game like this. The cut-scene dialogue is so awful you might think it's supposed to be funny. An anchorwoman reports, "The Ryo Empire is invading the earth. Escape as soon as you can." Huh? Where are we supposed to go exactly?? When I reached an underwater shooting stage I thought the game would take a turn for the better, but that just sucked even harder. The game doesn't keep score, but you can always "continue" if you're a glutton for punishment. The graphics aren't bad and the music has a comforting old-school vibe, but Shockman's marginal quality makes it one of the lesser titles in the Turbografx library. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Side Arms
Grade: B+
Publisher: Radiance (1989)
Reviewed: 2004/4/3

screenshotIf you've ever wanted to put those little turbo switches on your Turbografx controller to good use, Side Arms is your game. The action here is very straightforward - push one button to shoot left, and the other to shoot right. And unless you want carpal-tunnel syndrome, you'll want to set both buttons to "max turbo" for that rapid-fire effect. As a side-scrolling shooter, Side Arms is not remarkable, but it is undeniably fun. The first stage has you flying over a destroyed port city at night, and the blue water and black sky look very attractive. After the first boss however, you'll descend underground and spend most of your time flying through uninteresting caverns. I do like how you can't crash into the walls - it's nice not having to worry about that for a change. With the exception of a few centipede-like creatures, most of the enemies are static and generic. What makes Side Arms such a blast is your overwhelming firepower. You can switch between weapons on the pause screen, and each can be powered up to an impressive degree. The "transformation alpha" power-up temporarily turns you in a "mech" that fires in eight directions at once, and it's awesome while it lasts. Once you ramp up your firepower, you'll breeze through the first stage with no problem. When you die and lose your weapons however, it can be hard to return to your previous glory. The bosses are surprisingly easy to beat, especially that "wheel of fortune" thing. There are also a few off-beat bonus items like a strawberry and a cow. Sure, we take cow power-ups for granted now, but in 1989 they were quite the novelty. Side Arms is one of those guilty pleasures that's fun because you don't have to think too much. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Silent Debuggers
Grade: F
Publisher: Data East (1991)
Reviewed: 2009/4/14

screenshotSilent Debuggers is a sophisticated, high-tech dungeon crawler that you'll forget about the minute you shut it off. Assuming the role of a space "debugger", your mission is to exterminate aliens in six levels of a space station, preventing it from self-destruction. In the cheesy intro, an androgynous redhead introduces himself (?) as your partner. "I'm Leon. Be my buddy. Debuggers do the dirty work and I love it." Is it just me, or does that sound like something you'd hear in a gay bar? Equally amusing is how the manual describes the space station as "evil". How can an inanimate object be evil? Silent Debuggers is played from a first-person perspective, and each level is a maze of hallways that all look exactly the same. The illusion of movement is adequate but jumpy as you move in 10-foot increments. Sensors indicate your proximity to the monsters, which typically reveal themselves as big heads with dangling arms. Silent Debuggers makes fine use of stereo effects to indicate your target's direction. If you turn down a hallway and the sensor audio becomes muffled, that means you're headed in the wrong direction. But even when you track down the creep, he moves so fast the game turns into an unpleasant game of cat and mouse. When you finally blast him, his arms catch fire and he unleashes a shrill scream. It's satisfying the first time, but after that the game becomes monotonous and unsatisfying. Leon guides you from a central computer room and provides upgraded weapons and items. Advanced levels introduce unwelcome complications like power outages, ammo shortages, and losing the use of your sensors. The game's single bright spot is its soundtrack, which would have been better used in a side-scrolling shooter. Silent Debuggers tries to be a sophisticated space adventure, but just because a game has a lot of pieces doesn't mean it's going to add up to anything. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Sinistron
Grade: B-
Publisher: IGS (1991)
Reviewed: 2006/3/25

screenshotWho can resist a good Turbografx shooter? Not me! Sinistron is not exceptional in any way, but its familiar gameplay and adrenaline-pumping soundtrack will give old-school gamers a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. The side-scrolling action is fairly typical as you blast your way through space stations, caverns of living tissue, and combinations of both. You'll also need to traverse asteroid belts and gaseous tunnels. Your vessel is long but narrow, with two "plasma droids" providing protection from above and below. Acquired weapons include normal red shots, blue lasers, and heat-seeking missiles. One noteworthy feature is your ability to open your ship's "jaws" to expand your attack radius. Sinistron is a blast when you're fully powered up, but it can be a drag when you die and have to revert to your weak peashooter. You can configure your controller for rapid-fire (recommended), but this precludes the use of your "charge" weapon, which releases a circle of energy around your ship. Sinistron's graphics are clean but not very distinctive. My favorite stage is the red gaseous tunnel with its periodic flashes of lightning. The "biological cavern" of stage three is colorful but loaded with cheap hits. Your adversaries are forgettable in design, and many blend in with the scenery. Most bosses are strange masses where you can't tell the head from the tail. One aspect of the game I dislike is how your shots form blue circles when they strike a target - it looks cheesy. The sounds effects are weak, but the catchy, layered musical score is quite good. This isn't a standout shooter by any means, but Sinistron provides the quality shooting action you'd expect from the Turbografx. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Soldier Blade
Grade: B+
Publisher: Hudson Soft (1992)
Reviewed: 2007/5/16

screenshotOn the surface, Soldier Blade is a less-than-spectacular vertical shooter against armies of non-descript machines. The space station backgrounds are nicely detailed, but most of the scenery appears static and uninspired. Enemies assume the form of jets, tanks, cannons, and large shapeless chunks of metal floating in the sky. That's okay, because none of them stick around for long. Soldier Blade may not look like much, but in terms of pure gameplay, this is a shooter fan's dream. Unlike most shooters that ramp up gradually, Soldier Blade turns up the heat immediately. Not only does the action get off to a fast start, but it never lets up, and your firepower is devastating from beginning to end. When you're spraying the screen with green waves, or wiping away enemies with your blue electric beams, you start to wonder, "How could I possibly die?" In addition to your awesome main weapons, you have a special attack that performs your dirty work for you, including one that resembles a ghostly head that "sits" on enemies while zapping their strength. It's nice how the game alerts you about enemies sneaking up from behind, and I also like how taking a hit reduces your firepower instead of destroying you outright. The bosses are forgettable but well spaced and thankfully don't overstay their welcome. There's no slow-down or break-up to speak of, and topping it all off, the electronic soundtrack is terrific! When you complete a level, a message appears saying, "Operation Complete - You Are Now A Woman". Okay, my friend Jonathan added the woman part but I thought it was pretty funny. If shooters are your thing, you really can't go wrong with Soldier Blade. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Somer Assault
Grade: D
Publisher: Atlus (1992)
Reviewed: 2005/4/27

screenshotInnovative in concept but less than fun to play, Somer Assault puts you in control of a slinky-type device moving end over end while sticking to walls and ceilings. Gravity is not a factor, but it takes time to grasp the controls. Each of the twelve stages is an elaborate maze ending with a zodiac-themed boss. Unfortunately, it's never quite clear where the end of each maze is, so you're forced to wander aimlessly. Along the way you'll encounter missile-firing chess pieces, orbs, and other floating dangers. Your slinky can fire back however in a rapid-fire manner (crank up the auto-fire). Therea are portals that teleport you to different sections of the maze, but not only do these needlessly confuse matters, but they sometimes send you all the way back to the beginning! Inexplicably, there's no score with to measure your progress in this lousy game. The game's only strength lies in its catchy, middle eastern-inspired background music. Somer Assault is certainly original and technically sound, but in terms of gameplay it's a bore. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Son Son II (Japan)
Grade: B+
Publisher: NEC (1989)
Reviewed: 2013/10/10

screenshotNot to be written off as just another cute anime platformer, Son Son II is insanely fun and surprisingly deep. The main character is a monkey-boy who pokes enemies with a bo-staff to turn them into fruit. If you use the turbo function on the controller (and why the hell wouldn't you?) you can poke rapid-fire, which is awesome. Your staff has a long reach, and it's satisfying to poke a row of enemies and watch them all simultaneously burst into fruits and veggies. Those who grew up with Pac-Man should feel comfortable with the apples, oranges, and grapes. But beware that Son Son II will take you out of your produce comfort zone by incorporating lemons, green peppers, watermelons, corn on the cob, and a wide assortment of other nutritious bonus items. In fact, just playing this game is equivalent to eating three servings of vegetables. Out to stop you are natives, carnivorous plants, ghosts, bats, and annoying little blobs. The platform jumping is addictive and the vine climbing has a sweet Donkey Kong Junior flavor. In terms of presentation Son Son II features inviting green forests, bright blue skies, and happy-go-lucky background music. The basic gameplay is satisfying enough, but Son Son II takes things to the next level by letting you buy weapons and items at shops. It's hard to determine what some of the items are (I can't read Japanese!) so it took me a while to figure things out. Some of the advanced stages are confusing to navigate, but this is still one of the more satisfying romps you'll experience on the Turbografx. Note: This game is Japanese and requires a converter to play on American systems. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 57,650
1 player 

Sonic Spike Volleyball
Grade: F
Publisher: IGS (1990)
Reviewed: 2010/2/3

screenshotI trashed this game in my original review a few years back, but at the behest of several readers I gave it a second look. I hate to say it guys, but it still sucks! Sonic Spike Volleyball (SSV) tries to improve opon Kings of the Beach (NES, 1988) but fails miserably. The game makes a decent first impression with its colorful courts and large, well-defined players. Wow, those pudgy women look a heck of a lot like guys! In order to present the tightest possible view, the screen scrolls from one side of the court to the next. Particularly during serves, this is problematic. Once the ball travels over the net you barely have a split-second to line up your player with the white arrow indicating where the ball will land. The player animation is choppy, making the controls feel touchy and inexact. If your opponent unleashes a spike, you'd better be in perfect position to block, because otherwise you have zero chance of returning his lightning-fast shot. Setting the difficulty to easy makes the ball easier to follow, but then you feel like you're playing in slow motion! Sonic Spike's scenery is colorful but static, and the looping music gets obnoxious after a few minutes. I enjoy beach volleyball as much as the next guy, but Sonic Spike is just too hard to play. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

Splash Lake (CD)
Grade: C
Publisher: NEC (1992)
Reviewed: 2005/4/27

screenshotSplash Lake is a peculiar puzzle game that could have been a hit if not for its extreme difficulty. Unlike most puzzle games, this one takes a while to wrap your mind around. As a yellow, bird-like creature, you hop around on connected blocks floating on water. The object is to clear the screen of wandering creatures by "dunking" them into the water. This is done by "pecking" strategic blocks, causing sections of platform to collapse. It's a very clever idea and somewhat intriguing once you get the hang of it. It's never easy though. You'll always need to be on the correct side when you peck that last block or you'll inadvertently sink yourself. I'm normally good at puzzle games, but I couldn't make much progress in Splash Lake. Even the first screen requires a great deal of effort, and the difficulty ramps up steeply from there. While the game supports four players, it's alternating turns only, which is disappointing. Another issue is the bizarre scoring system. After scoring only a few hundred points for painstakingly executing several difficult moves, I would then inexplicably earn 50K for accidentally sinking myself! It had some potential, but Splash Lake is too difficult and unintuitive to recommend. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

Splatterhouse
Grade: A

screenshotSplatterhouse serves up a generous portion of glorified violence and gore, and I like that! You control a muscle-bound psycho named Rick who wears a hockey mask just like Jason from Friday the 13th. His girlfriend is being held captive in a mansion, and he'll need to bash his way through a parade of gruesome monsters to save her. Chained zombies spew green vomit, corpses fall from the ceiling, and giant red slugs burst from chests. You'll fight shambling ghouls, slimy worms, undead werewolves, and a towering dude inspired by Leatherface of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Fortunately there are plenty of potent weapons lying around including two-by-fours, shotguns, and meat cleavers. Smacking a zombie with a board causes it to splatter against the wall, and it looks pretty sweet. Some side-scrollers are repetitive, but Splatterhouse keeps things fresh with short stages that are full of surprises. You'll battle chairs and silverware in a kitchen, slosh through a sewer, and creep though a room of mirrors. The excellent soundtrack perfectly matches the macabre subject matter. Splatterhouse is the perfect game for Halloween because playing it is like walking through a virtual haunted house. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 28,700
1 player 

Strip Fighter II (Japan)
Grade: D-
Publisher: GameExpress (1993)
Reviewed: 2013/3/20

screenshotThis novelty item attempts to add a sexy twist to the Street Fighter 2 formula, pitting six female fighters against each other. The obligatory Chung Li knock-off looks okay, and Medusa looks fine in her red pumps and snake bikini. The other chicks however look more freakish than sexy. And with names like Bella and Martha, it's clear that the developers were out of touch with stripper naming conventions (Destiny, Angel, Candy, Chastity, Desiree, etc). Strip Fighter 2's graphics aren't too shabby, and one could argue they're in the same ballpark as the Street Fighter 2. The characters are detailed but their animation is stiff, slow, and floaty. The soundtrack is surprisingly strong, but the stage locations aren't very memorable. The snowy Japanese village looks nice, but the park with the static waterfall looks terribly fake. The one-on-one fighting action is weak but the game is playable. The controls suffer from a three-button control scheme - one of which is used to toggle between punches and kicks (ugh). Hits are punctuated by a strange visual effect that's probably supposed to be blood. Jump-kicks often deliver two hits, which feels unnatural but strangely satisfying. Some special moves are Street Fighter-derived, but most tend to be of the "what the [expletive] just happened" variety. A few ill-conceived moves incorporate the butt or breasts, but the less said about those, the better. The "stripping" element only comes into play in the single player mode. Winning a round treats you to a digitized photo of a scantily-clad babe, and upon winning the second round she gets butt-naked (with the lower region blurred). Since the default difficulty is pretty low it's not hard to see everything the game has to offer. My friends Scott and Chris were not impressed with the digitized babes, and Chris remarked how one looked like Zangief! My friend Steve, on the other hand, thought the girls looked pretty hot - especially the one who looked like Zangief! Strip Fighter II is a marginal Street Fighter knock-off, and I'm still trying to figure out if it's meant to be funny or not. Note: A converter is required to play this Japanese game on an American system. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: 6 stars
Our high score: 201,900
1 or 2 players 

Super Star Soldier
Grade: B+
Publisher: Hudson Soft (1991)
Reviewed: 2006/4/27

screenshotReaders have been begging me to give this one another look for some time, since I apparently mistakenly reviewed it the first time around with my turbo switch set to "on". As with certain other T-16 games (Splatterhouse comes to mind), that can have a detrimental effect on a game's playability. Now that I've played Super Star Soldier as it was intended, I can verify that it is a genuinely terrific vertical shooter. The weapons are satisfying, the difficulty is fair, and there's no slowdown, even when things get crazy (and they will). This game skillfully straddles that fine line between exciting and chaotic by throwing just enough stuff at you at any particular moment. The stages are typical, including the obligatory space stations, water planets, and deserts with swirling sands. It's the weapons that really steal the show. You can select between red missiles, blue rings, yellow flames, and green lasers. When the laser is fully powered, you can practically wipe the screen with it (sweet). All of the weapons are effective, and once you tack on the homing missiles or protective pods, the game reaches a level of mayhem that most shooters can only dream about. I also like how taking a hit only degrades your firepower instead of destroying your ship outright. Of course, once you acquire your preferred weapon, you'll face the problem of avoiding other weapon icons. That can be problematic because the icons sometimes like to "hang out" in the field of play. The legions of tanks, cannons, and ships you'll face are forgettable, but the large bosses with so many moving parts are interesting. The only thing that truly annoyed me about Super Star Soldier were those green "beans" in stage four - they're hard to avoid and even harder to destroy. In addition to the main game, there are some entertaining "2 minute" and "5 minute" modes, which challenge you to maximize your score within these fixed periods of time. Super Star Soldier is one of many fantastic shooters for the Turbografx. With its brisk pace and tight controls, you'll really get into a groove playing this one. © 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