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Games are rated relative to other games for the same system.

Dreamcast Reviews B

Grade: C+
Publisher: Crave (2001)
Posted: 2001/7/25
Rating: Everyone

screenshotYou might think this two-dimensional shooter is a throwback to the 16 bit era, but the Genesis could never have handled anything this intense. You control a tiny man with a booster pack flying through enclosed areas and blasting everything to oblivion. There are lines of stationary targets as well as flying creatures. Your targets are so tiny that it's tough to tell what they're supposed to be. As you destroy objects, giant fruit appears in their place that you can collect for bonus points.

Your firepower is, in a word, awesome. You can choose between guided or bouncing missiles, and can fire them non-stop. On top of that, your special attack unleashes hundreds of projectiles in all directions - all without any slowdown! Bangai-O has a few anime cut-scenes and plenty of weird Japanese humor. As you play through the various stages, the game automatically saves your place. Bangai-O is a nice change, but it does get repetitive. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Battle Crust
Grade: B
Publisher: JoshProd (2018)
Posted: 2019/8/10

screenshotMost modern 2D vertical shooters tend to be of the "bullet hell" ilk, pitting overwhelming firepower against waves of insurmountable projectiles. Battle Crust is not that. Its pacing, audio, and visuals harken back to the 16-bit era when shooters were a little more reasonable. In fact, this looks like a Sega Genesis game!

The text intro details some conflict between the "earth government" and "universe government" over a new metal called "battle crust". The gameplay is typical as you fire shots at pods and flying machines, unleashing the occasional charged blast to take care of the big guys. Like most vertical shooters, the action only consumes the middle third of the screen.

The graphics feature modest scaling and the explosions look a bit cheesy. If it sounds like I'm disparaging Battle Crust, I don't mean to. It's extremely playable and the bosses (including a giant termite and mechanical eye) are well designed. I'm not really sold on the time-consuming charge attack. At first I found myself charging more than my wife but soon realized my relentless rapid-fire was often safer.

Most of the scenery is forgettable, offering views of metal fortresses, green mountains, and bright blue skies. Stage three however is a beauty, taking you over a city at night complete with lighted towers, bridges, and skyscrapers. Pretty spectacular. This is also when the game gets tough, crowding you off the screen with large freighters.

The soundtrack conveys a weird, otherworldly quality reminiscent of Bio Hazard Battle (Genesis, 1992). I only wish the game recorded high scores. Battle Crust is a surprisingly strong title for the Dreamcast. It doesn't try too hard, but what it does it does well. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 104,602
1 player 

Blue Stinger
Grade: D+
Publisher: Activision (1999)
Posted: 2012/12/15
Rating: Mature (blood, animated violence)

screenshotYou could write this off as cheesy, second-rate survival horror, but Blue Stinger has a quirky, Japanese vibe that's appealing. It's set on the monster-infested "Dinosaur Island", which connects to barge structures via long, enclosed metal walkways. The scenery tends to be industrial in nature, but there are also some residential areas with a grocery store, arcade, video store, and pub. Not only are these places richly detailed, they are plastered with interesting ads and video monitors. I love reading the Hassy soda ads and watching digitized images flash across the screens. The retail area is decorated for Christmas, which seems odd for such a bizarre, futuristic world.

Blue Stinger's graphics are smooth but the blurry textures, ugly seams, and awkward camera angles are showing their age. You alternate control between two characters: a young guy named Eliott and a gruff sea pirate named Dogs. Switching between them seems unnecessary at first, but it's nice to swap one in when the other is low on health. You're also accompanied by a fairy for no apparent reason other than the fact that it's a Japanese game.

The monsters tend to be mutated people with multiple limbs that creep around silently. Your auto-aiming mechanism is pretty sweet, but I wish the creeps didn't regenerate so often. Killing a creature results in a fountain of blood and raining coins. Collecting these sparkling, ringing coins makes you feel like you're playing Sonic the Hedgehog.

Blue Stinger is an expansive adventure, and I couldn't imagine playing it without an FAQ on hand. You'll need to collect a slew of ID cards and enter a lot of numeric key codes. It's easy to go in circles thanks to the repetitive locations and lousy mapping system. Some of the doors look like walls. In one storage area you need to use one specific crate to access a switch, even though there is another very similar crate in the room.

Beverages replenish health, but your character takes his sweet time to drink it - not cool in the middle of a boss battle! Uneven save points and frustrating swimming controls will demoralize all but the most resolute adventurers. The orchestrated music is great, but the poorly-translated dialogue and stilted voice acting make for some of the most bizarre conversations I've ever witnessed. As is often the case, these faults give the game a certain charm. Blue Stinger never takes itself too seriously, and that might just be its saving grace. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Bomberman Online
Grade: B
Publisher: Sega (2001)
Posted: 2002/3/15
Rating: Everyone

screenshotBomberman has been around forever, and this old game hasn't changed much. Up to four players walk around a maze trying to blow each other away with strategically placed bombs. Sure it's fun, but it's still the same game you've been playing for 10 years (if not longer).

Sega tried to inject new life into it by adding a slew of new modes and customization options, but the original four-player "survivor mode" is still the best of the bunch. Although the battlefields are rendered completely in 3D, the characters are flat sprites. The good news is that the 3D graphics don't hamper the gameplay like they did in some of the Playstation versions.

Perhaps the main attraction of this game is that you don't need to invite three friends over since you can play it online. The single player modes didn't appeal to me at all. If you've never played Bomberman, don't hesitate to buy this game, but if you have one or more Bomberman games already, you can probably live without this. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Border Down (Japan)
Grade: A
Publisher: G Rev (2003)
Posted: 2008/8/10
Rating: Everyone

screenshotWhoa! This side-scrolling shooter really rocked my world! Border Down takes the genre to new heights by honing an age-old formula to near perfection. First, let's talk about the incredible graphics. Starting with the awe-inspiring cityscapes of stage one, this game was meant to be gawked at.

The enemy craft and bosses are extremely original in design, and I love how they fluidly rotate into view from the background. The textures are so smooth and seamless that you barely even notice that this is a 2D game with 3D graphics. The massive explosions, fire, and smoke effects are some of the best I've seen in any game.

But Border Down is more than just a pretty face - the game plays like a dream! Your default weapon is effective, and the controls are completely intuitive. Holding in a button fires a constant stream of shots, and tapping it unleashes heat-seeking missiles. It's an ingenious scheme that works like a charm. You also have an ultra-powerful beam weapon that you'll want to reserve for the big guys. I love how this thing cancels out incoming beams, and obliterates weaker projectiles!

The game is slightly boss-heavy, but they don't tend to overstay their welcome. High scores are saved with your initials to a rankings screen. The electronic music isn't exceptional, but at least it has a nice old school vibe. It's a shame Border Down wasn't available during the Dreamcast's heyday, because this really shows off the system's power. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Bust-A-Move 4
Grade: C
Publisher: Acclaim (2000)
Posted: 2006/1/18
Rating: Everyone

screenshotWhen Bust-A-Move first burst onto the gaming scene in the mid-90's, it captivated players with its addictive balloon-popping gameplay and drew immediate comparisons to Tetris. Like so many popular puzzle games, much of its allure lied in its simplicity, leaving little need for a sequel. Of course, that hasn't stopped Acclaim from beating this golden goose to death.

Bust-A-Move 4 (BAM4) attempts to further branch out the franchise by incorporating cute, cuddly characters and storylines for each one. Bad move! Not only does the character selection have minimal impact on the actual gameplay, but the infantile giggles and bubbly kiddy voices will drive you up the wall! Some characters take up too much real estate on the bottom of the screen, to the point of obstructing the playing field!

I recall one time where I had some girl on a pogo stick jumping up and down in front of my side - very irritating! Other un-asked-for features include "pulley" mechanisms in the puzzle modes, and "chain reactions" in the versus modes. Chain reactions occur when you break off more than one color at a time, and they typically clear a lot of bubbles away for you - automatically. While these certainly create a more fast-paced, unpredictable style of play, they also lead to a lot of cheap, undeserved victories.

I was totally sucking in one game, just about to lose, until one lucky shot triggered a crazy chain reaction, clearing my entire side and awarding me the victory! I didn't even know what the heck was going on! You can turn off the chain reactions in the options menu, by the way.

BAM4 offers plenty of playing modes, but where's the four-player split screen? It would have been a natural considering this is Bust-A-Move 4 (duh!!). There's a new "puzzle edit" mode, but for the life of me, I can't imagine why anyone would be the least bit interested in that. On a positive note, the controller's vibration function is used to good effect, and I like how the two-player mode allows both players to choose different skill levels. And despite the numerous distractions, the core gameplay is undeniably fun.

BMA4's simple graphics are colorful and appealing, but the music is uneven. It seems that for each song I really liked, there was one that I absolutely hated. With Bust-A-Move 4, Acclaim was clearly just following the old video game adage, "if it ain't broke, just add more features". Personally, I'll pass on the fancy window dressing and stick to Bust-A-Move 2. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Buzz Lightyear of Star Command
Grade: F
Publisher: Activision (2000)
Posted: 2016/2/25
Rating: Everyone

screenshotYou expect some basic quality control from Disney, but I guess Buzz Lightyear of Star Command fell between the cracks. Fire this up and you're prompted for stereo or mono sound. Was this game made in the 1960s? The intro is an awkward mish-mash of footage from Toy Story and cheap animation lifted from a television cartoon. The game itself is just as sloppy.

The first stage has Buzz running around a farm of all things! Our hero is cell-shaded but the enemies are so blocky it's appalling! Comprised of a dozen polygons (if that), their flat faces appear to have been scribbled on by a preschooler with a magic marker. Each stage takes place on a new planet where you chase a villain down a branching path as a timer ticks down. Along the way you'll jump over pits, gather triangular tokens, and be attacked by robots and drones.

The shooting controls are so deplorable, you'll struggle to hit something right in front of you! The strafing is useless; instead of sliding over smoothly, Buzz hops side to side! Even the act of picking up items is complicated! Items are encased in force fields with prices on them. That's right, you need to collect items in order to collect items.

In stage two you'll chase some hot chick with a humongous head through a volcanic cave. Space slugs drop on you from out of nowhere, causing Buzz to run out of control towards the nearest lava pit. You only have so much time to complete each stage, but you never know how much time is left until a 15-second countdown appears. By then it's too late! The hoverboard is useful but that lousy jetpack won't even fly you safely over a pit! The camera is so disorienting you often find yourself headed in the wrong direction.

After completing the first two stages I denied access to stage three because it required three medals and I only had two and a half! Really?? Even Buzz's quips are really unfunny and frankly I don't think that's Tim Allen's voice. Aggravating and disjointed, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command is a disaster of galactic proportions. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, Gaming Age Online, Shinforce, Sega.com, Racket Boy, Wikipedia, GameSpot, Video Games Museum, Moby Games, Sega Dreamcast.com, The Dreamcast Junkyard, CD Romance