3DO Reviews S

Samurai Shodown
Grade: A-
Publisher: Crystal Dynamics (1993)
Reviewed: 2002/2/18

screenshotThis was one of the better fighting games spawned by the 2D fighter epidemic of the early 90s. In fact, Samurai Shodown has got to be one of the most beautiful games I've ever laid eyes on. Its colors are so rich and vivid, and the Street Fighter-style graphics look fantastic. There are 12 very interesting characters to choose from, all brandishing swords and other sharp weapons. The game plays much like Street Fighter 2, with three kicks, three punches and an assortment of special moves.

One unique feature is how the screen scales out when the fighters are spread apart, although this gimmick really doesn't add much to the gameplay. The gorgeous backgrounds are Asian-inspired, and the fact that none of the voice dialogue has been translated is probably for the best.

I had a great time playing this game. Despite some slow-down the action and animation is first-rate. Unfortunately, the six-button controller is not supported, so you need to hold a shoulder button to activate your kicks, which works fine. Samurai Shodown is one of those game that make you wish ALL 3DO games were 2D! © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Shadow: War of Succession
Grade: F
Publisher: Tribeca Digital (1994)
Reviewed: 2010/3/12

screenshotShadow: War of Succession is a one-on-one fighter with digitized characters, splashing blood, flawless victories, and fatalities. Gee, all that sounds very familiar. By the time you hear a fighter shout "Your soul is mine!" you'll realize that Shadow is a Mortal Kombat perpetrator of the worst kind. The animation is so choppy that it looks like the game is cycling through four snapshots of each fighter. The screen zooms in and out like Samurai Shodown but it doesn't help.

The characters lack any legitimate martial arts moves, relying instead on pure magic. Some hurl glowing missiles shaped like claws and others can teleport all over the place. The collision detection is monumentally bad and the special effects are pathetic. To give you an idea of just how poor the gameplay is, consider that I was able to win several matches in a row by doing nothing but continuous uppercuts.

Two of the seven characters look like overdressed versions of Mileena and Sonya (of Mortal Kombat fame), but most are average Joes. The guy in the trench coat looks like he should be hanging out behind an adult movie theater. War of Succession does contain one visually striking stage depicting a digitized New York City skyline at night, but the remaining backdrops (subway, pier, etc) are remarkably bland.

I have to believe that Shadow was rushed out at the height of the 2D fighter craze, and by the time everybody realized it was crap, it was too late to pull the plug. I would give this game an F- except for the fact that the game it ripped off was so damn good! © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Shock Wave
Grade: C
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1994)
Reviewed: 2012/1/17

screenshotTypical of the 3DO, this first-person shooter combines full-motion video (FMV) with first-generation 3D graphics. Its ten missions send you to locations around the globe to wipe out invading aliens. Shock Wave's intro mixes CGI graphics with live actors and the production quality isn't bad. The dialogue is reasonable but the actors seem to be trying just a little too hard. The CGI is better than average, and the scenes of your ship being deployed to the Earth's surface look amazing.

The opening mission begins over open water as you approach the pyramids of Egypt. The bright colors look terrific and the steering controls are responsive. Shock Wave doesn't burden the player with complicated navigational controls. You can aim up or down, but your ship always floats a safe distance above the surface. You'll automatically glide over mountains but you'll need to avoid crashing into structures like buildings and pyramids. Fortunately the scenery tends to be sparse.

Live actors periodically appear on your display to keep you posted on your progress and objectives. The missions are very linear in design and you'll incur damage if you stray off course. There are some interesting alien vessels to blow up including two-legged walkers, spider-like crawlers, and fish-shaped fighters. Your crosshairs turn red when an enemy is in your sights, making it easy to blast them with your rapid-fire lasers or guided missiles. Unfortunately there's no effective evasive maneuver, so you can take a lot of damage while bearing down on a target.

Upon losing a ship you'll have to restart the current mission from the very beginning - even if you reached the boss! Nooooo!!! Shock Wave's animation is impressive in the early going, but the frame-rate gets choppy later on when enemies congregate together. The scenery looks good while flying over Egyptian Deserts and Peruvian mountains, but Las Vegas is disappointingly bland. Shock Wave may have been impressive in its day, but the years have reduced it to a by-the-numbers shooter. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 4250
1 player 

Shock Wave 2: Beyond the Gate
Grade: C
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1995)
Reviewed: 2012/1/17

screenshotThe first Shock Wave was a serviceable first-person flying shooter, and this sequel expands its scope quite a bit. There's a lot more variety and storyline, although the game retains the same brand of alien butt-whipping mayhem. Shock Wave 2 begins with a sinister intro depicting alien space pirates along with a ragtag band of mercenaries wearing baseball caps and Hawaiian shirts. The CGI effects used to render the aliens and robots are not the least bit convincing, but they are not lacking entertainment value.

You can now select the order of the missions, and in addition to flying you can man turrets and drive hovercraft. These add variety and their control schemes are easy to grasp. The explosions are more elaborate than the first game with flying chunks of debris and enemy ships that crash-land when damaged. The frame rate is smooth at first but becomes dodgy when a lot of stuff is going on. Instead of linear missions, most feature wide-open levels that force you to hunt around for your objectives with the help of a scanner. Not all missions are of the "kill everything" variety, and you'll need to watch briefing videos to determine what you're expected to do. But even then it's easy to get confused.

The game is held together by an over-engineered menu interface composed of cryptic buttons and panels. It's so hard to navigate and the so-called "help screen" is worthless. I think I need a help screen for that help screen! You need to be a dedicated gamer to enjoy this game. Shock Wave 2 expands upon the premise of the original but its bloated interface and mysterious mission objectives may prompt a lot of gamers to just say hell with it. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

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Slam and Jam
Grade: A-
Publisher: Crystal Dynamics (1995)
Reviewed: 2006/2/13

screenshotWhoa, this game is amazing. Slam and Jam's characters may be rendered with 2D sprites, but man, these guys are huge. Better yet, they're fluidly animated and scale with minimal pixelation. You view the action from one end of the court from a camera located at about the height of the basket. While not always an ideal view (it's hard to judge depth), it works fine for the most part.

Slam and Jam's gameplay is clearly inspired by NBA Jam (SNES, 1993), with frenetic, non-stop action and lenient foul calling. There's plenty of razzle-dazzle including behind-the-back passes, tip-ins, and tremendous alley-oops. The players really elevate and hang on the rim after dunking - even pulling down the backboard a bit. Slam and Jam seems very offensive-minded at first, but once you learn to whale away on the steal and block buttons, you'll be executing turnovers left and right.

Van Earl Wright does a nice job with the voice-overs, enthusiastically shouting lines like "Drives the lane!", "Cleans the glass with authority!", and "Delivers the thunder!". Unfortunately, there's no NBA license and it's hard to root for fictional players like Jay Chisholm, Jose Peck, Adrian Blatt, and Peter Pence. Also, if you plan to play a full season be aware that this game will consume a huge chunk of your memory storage (5K bytes). Still, 3DO fans looking for some arcade-style sports action can't go wrong with Slam and Jam. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Slayer
Grade: C+
Publisher: Strategic Simulations (1994)
Reviewed: 2009/11/13


screenshotWith its official-looking "Advanced D&D" seal, you'd expect Slayer to remain faithful to the board game, and you'd be right. In fact, its oversized 58-page instruction booklet reminds me of a hardback D&D rulebook with its pages of tables, illustrations, and even a monster guide. I thought D&D was enjoyable enough with paper, dice, chips, and soda, but there's something to be said for seeing its fantasy world fully visualized.

Slayer's intro really gets you psyched up as you watch a mysterious figure disappear into a dark fortress as an organ plays a haunting refrain. A first-person adventure, the idea is to conquer dungeons by collecting items and hacking away at monsters. Each stage is a series of corridors and rooms with its own distinctive music and scenery. A small window at the bottom of the screen maps your immediate surroundings, but the full map is only accessible via the pause menu.

The creatures are illustrated with so much detail and texture that they appear 3D from a distance. Among the creeps you'll face are goblins, trolls, mushroom men, worms, red slime, elementals, and ghosts. Fighting monsters and collecting items is fun. Melee isn't hard once you get used to charging in and immediately pulling back. Your inventory screen depicts a body diagram that makes it easy to manage your armor and items. One peculiar aspect of the game is how you have both "hit points" and "food" meters to maintain.

Slayer was advanced for its time but the game has not aged well due to its poor controls. Your movements are jerky and inexact, making it tough to line up enemies and doorways. The right trigger is used to strafe but it's also used to look up and down, and that's problematic. Thank goodness it's impossible to fall into pits! The dungeons tend to be flat labyrinths with each room looking like the previous one. Scattered portals transport you from place to place, making it hard to maintain your bearings.

The minor-key electronic score sets an ominous tone, but after looping a few times it can get annoying. I have to give Slayer a lot of credit for letting the player save his progress at any time via the pause menu. And if your system's internal memory is full, it's no problem, because the game even provides a mechanism to clear out old files! Slayer shows its age in the control department, but this is still a highly-playable dungeon romp. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.


Space Ace
Grade: D-
Publisher: ReadySoft (1994)
Reviewed: 2019/4/27

screenshotDragon's Lair rocked the arcades in 1983 and I still remember people crowding around the arcade cabinets just to get a glimpse of its slick, full-screen animation. The laserdisc phenomenon was short-lived however, as its novelty had waned by the time Space Ace arrived in 1984. Fast forward ten years and both games were being sold on the first generation of CD-based consoles. It just goes to show how far ahead of the technology curve these games were! Of course, gameplay was never their strong suit.

Space Ace doesn't have much of an introduction. Some dorky guy and his hot girlfriend are being attacked on an asteroid in outer space, and the action unfolds so fast you might not know what's going on. A rock will flash (if you're lucky), indicating you need to jump towards it, and you have a fraction of a second to respond. If you're too late you'll watch an animation of the blue space villain taking pleasure in your demise. You get five lives but the checkpoints are so spaced out (no pun intended) you'll often need to repeat the same sequence of moves. It's more a matter of memorization than skill, and watching the same scenes over and over is irritating. Beeps provide audio feedback, and you don't get penalized for early moves; just incorrect ones.

Space Ace still has appeal thanks to the entertaining, whimsical animation of Don Bluth. His scenes are bursting with color and the characters animated with style and humor. Unlike other CD systems of its time, the 3DO could render these scenes in their full-screen glory. Unfortunately frames of animation were lost making the game even harder to play. The audio is strong with amazing robotic voices and zapping sound effects. You'd expect the home version of an arcade game to come with a slew options such as enabling clues or adjusting the difficulty, but nope! Considering Space Ace was more of a novelty than anything else, this barebones edition may be a very tough sell. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Space Hulk
Grade: D
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1995)
Reviewed: 2005/3/16
Rating: Teen (13+) (animated blood and gore)


screenshotI'm pretty sure there's an interesting concept buried in this game somewhere. Space Hulk looks like any other generic first-person shooter on the surface, but it also contains a healthy dose of real-time strategy. You need to direct a squad of well-armored "terminator" robots on a series of missions through monster-infested labyrinths. Successfully completing missions requires issuing specific orders to each robot such as follow, advance, retreat, cover, and open door.

The action is viewed via an overhead map, but you can take direct control of any robot at any time, causing the screen to switch to a first-person view. With this point of view, you can move around freely, shoot, or engage in hand-to-hand combat. I spent a good portion of the game playing from the map view, manipulating robots as if they were pieces on a board. Space Hulk's graphics are exceptional, showing off the 3DO's ability to render rich textures and realistic lighting. As you roam the hallways, the doors and walls look nearly photo-realistic. Unfortunately, the frame-rate is lousy, and consequently navigating the hallways is more awkward than it should be. The well-designed creatures look fearsome (especially up close), and blasting them results in a generous amount of blood sprayed over the walls.

I gave it a chance, but frankly Space Hulk is not my kind of game. I like the concept of issuing orders to the other robots and working as a team, but it's easier said than done. The game favors strategy over shooting, and there's a substantial learning curve involved. The robots move slowly, making the game seem to drag at times. I was able to complete a few of the early missions, but as the objectives grew more complex Space Hulk started to give me a headache. This game demands more brains than brawn. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Space Pirates
Grade: F
Publisher: American Laser Games (1994)
Reviewed: 2005/3/16

screenshotIn the early 1990's interactive live video was considered the future of video games, which may explain oddball titles like Space Pirates. This cheesy title has all the production values of an early-80's music video. Its shallow gameplay involves aiming a cursor and shooting at live-action "space pirates" that jump out of the scenery. You can also use a light gun if you own one of these ultra-rare 3DO peripherals.

The acting is so awful that it's almost worth watching. Apparently filmed in a rented warehouse, the acting skills are a notch below those you'd see at a neighborhood haunted house around Halloween. The gameplay really sucks. You don't have much time to react to the action on screen, but once you've been through a scene, you know exactly where the pirates will pop out. I haven't tried the light gun with this but I found the control pad to be pretty sorry. Each time you fail some old man rags on you about how you let everybody down. Hey, at least I'm not stuck in some crummy FMV game!

Topping things off, I found it disconcerting when the evil villain says "winners don't do drugs!" during the intro. Since when do we listen to the bad guys? Does this mean we should do drugs? Mixed messages like this are what put teenagers on a path to addiction, crime, and despair. Fortunately, no teenagers actually played this game, because they were too busy playing good games on their Genesis and Super Nintendo systems. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Stellar 7: Draxon's Revenge
Grade: C+
Publisher: Dynamix (1993)
Reviewed: 2007/11/8


screenshotMuch like Battlezone (Atari 2600, 1983) updated for the 90's, Stellar 7 put you in a floating tank on colorful distant planets, blasting any polygons that move. Too bad it's saddled with a ridiculous name that makes people not want to play it! The graphics are commendable, with clean visuals and an exceptionally smooth frame-rate.

While tracking down alien craft using your handy radar display, you can also employ special powers using buttons that line your dashboard. I was expecting these to elevate Stellar 7's gameplay to the next level, but they proved disappointingly lame. One is a cloaking device, and another lets you detect enemies with cloaking devices. Another one lets you ram enemies, and yet another is for dropping mines. Even the "super cannon" is only a marginal improvement over your default weapon.

Enemy tanks are pretty tame but those flying "skimmers" are a real pain in the ass because you have to lead your shots to nail those bastards. There are some very nice explosion effects and the clear techno music helps you get into a groove. The instruction manual recommends that you "keep moving", and that's probably the best advice I've ever heard in my entire life. Otherwise you're a sitting duck. Once your tank is destroyed, you can record your high score to a top-10 ranking chart. Stellar 7: Draxon's Revenge could use some pizzazz, but it serves its purpose as a slick arcade shooter for the 3DO. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Strahl
Grade: C
Publisher: Media Entertainment (1995)
Reviewed: 2014/11/19
Rating: Guidance for 12 & under (contains violence involving inanimate objects, strong language, non-sexual nudity)

screenshotStrahl is a full-motion-video (FMV) game in the tradition of Dragon's Lair (Readysoft, 1993). FMV games never really caught on but I still find them fascinating. The intro tells an incomprehensible tale of an old wizard forcing some guy to endure a series of tests to obtain eight gems. It sounds like the narrator is reading to a kindergarten class for crying out loud.

Strahl is the name of our agile hero thrust into a series of chaotic situations. The danger is non-stop as the ground crumbles beneath his feet and giant creatures attempt to swallow him whole. The stages are selectable which really helps the replay value for a game like this. A typical stage has you slaying golems with a sword while leaping between falling rocks. The full-screen animation is on par with old Japanese cartoons like Speed Racer but not quite up to Dragon's Lair standards.

As you watch the action unfold arrows prompt you to quickly dart in a certain direction or swing your sword. You can't always tell what's going on but the non-stop action is always exciting. You'll battle giant snakes, animated statues, a white dragon, and a huge marshmallow man. Sometimes you need to rapidly tap the B button to charge your "power meter". When you die you'll need to restart the stage, but since they're only a few minutes long, it's no big deal. After a while you start to memorize the moves but your lives and continues are limited. There's no score but there are eight stages and 45 (!) different endings based on your performance. Strahl is better than your garden variety FMV title, and it should especially appeal to anime fans. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.


Super Street Fighter II Turbo
Grade: A-
Publisher: Capcom (1994)
Reviewed: 2002/4/11


screenshotI have mixed feelings about this one. Street Fighter 2 is an all-time classic 2D fighting game, but this version isn't as great as it could have been. The graphics, for one thing, are only slightly better than the SNES version, and don't look as sharp as 3DO's Samurai Shodown. They seem somewhat fuzzy, and some colors flicker. The music sounds a little jazzier than the SNES, but the voice samples are muffled.

Perhaps the biggest letdown is the fact that this game didn't support my six-button controller. I think a special controller is required? It's still playable with a three-button controller (five including the shoulder buttons), but that "P" button doesn't cut it as a sixth button. The game offers three speed settings: Level one is like slow-motion (ugh), and level three is insanely fast (forget it), but level two is just about right.

The biggest surprise is the inclusion of additional moves I never saw on the SNES. I was really surprised to see Zangief's glove, Dhalsim's upward flame, and Blanka's jump-spin. This is the kind of stuff that makes Street Fighter fans feel giddy as a schoolgirl. Street Fighter 2 on the 3DO is somewhat of an underachiever, but you'll be hard-pressed to find anything much better on this system. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Super Wing Commander
Grade: C+
Publisher: Origin (1994)
Reviewed: 2011/1/20


screenshotReaders who think I hate PC gaming will be interested to hear how much I enjoyed playing Super Wing Commander. Ported from the PC, this first-person space shooter leveraged all the technology of its era including pre-rendered cut-scenes, digitized graphics, and an epic musical score. You play the role of a novice pilot on a large vessel called the Tiger Claw. In its "lounge area" you'll converse with fellow pilots with distinctive personalities. Their illustrated faces are static except for moving lips and eyes, and it looks unnatural as hell (but in a funny way). Their over-the-top ethnic accents suggest that they were summoned from all around the world.

Each mission is preceded by an elaborate flight preparation sequence which shows your pilot being fitted with armor and transported to his ship via a series of automated contraptions. It's fun to watch! After launch you'll experience a brand of space shooting that feels like an evolution of Star Raiders (Atari 2600, 1982). Your cockpit view is loaded with gauges and screen displays, and your hand can be seen gripping the flight stick at the bottom of the screen. The dogfighting action is fun thanks to red brackets that highlight enemy ships and blue brackets that indicate allies. A handy arrow in the center of the screen directs you to the nearest enemy if they happen to be out of view.

I like the idea of fighting alien ships as a team, and you can even convey orders to your wingman like "form up" or "attack my target". It's exciting to hear both your allies and enemies over your radio ("I shall eat your heart!") The ships are nicely rendered with large, scaling digitized sprites. You're armed with both guns and missiles, but they tend to be fairly weak and their sound effects muted. It's not uncommon to have your weapon systems knocked out early, forcing you to limp through the remainder of your mission.

Destroying an enemy is satisfying thanks to a brilliant explosion followed by chunks of pixelated wreckage. Unfortunately, when battles get intense the frame-rate tends to stutter badly, even pausing momentarily. During lulls in the action a handy autopilot feature lets you effectively fast-forward to the next encounter. The game was clearly designed for a keyboard and not a seven-button controller, so I'm glad the back of the disk case contains a quick-reference guide for the button combinations. Between missions you can view your rankings and save your progress. Super Wing Commander is a little rough around the edges, but I enjoyed its brand of space combat a lot more than I thought I would. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 


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Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum, Moby Games