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Eight character types are available, including warriors, wizards, knights, and archers. Characters accumulate levels and experience as they progress, and gold can be used to purchase power-ups. Legend's detailed graphics are pretty amazing, as is its epic musical score. The locations tend to be maze-like, but contain enough surprises to keep things fresh. I have to admit that sometimes it's hard to locate secret switches necessary to access new areas. Fortunately, the constantly shifting camera always provides a decent view of the action.
One hilarious aspect of Gauntlet Legends is its imaginative power-ups, which can endow you with "lightning breath", turn you into a giant, or shrink your enemies to humorous effect. The bosses are nothing short of incredible. The first is a huge red dragon, and it looks like something from a movie. With such elaborate visuals, it's surprising how the gameplay remains so faithful to the original game.
Even the comical voices have been retained, so you'll be treated to priceless lines like "Wizard needs food badly!", "Dwarf is about to die!", "Hey! That food was MINE!" and my personal favorite, "Mmm...I like food!" Gauntlet Legends is a must-have for fans of multiplayer games. I once played this one for seven hours straight with a friend, and probably would have continued if it wasn't 3AM. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Geist Force was clearly derived from Star Fox (SNES, 1993) as you glide over a planet surface while blasting polygon enemies into shards. Upon booting the disk you're presented with a debug menu with the label "last updated 4/23/1999". The menu lets you select "Start Game", select stages 1 thru 6, Mike's room, and Nimai's room. The first few options let you play a portion of the game, and some of the others let you explore unfinished stages. Nimai's Room loads some kind of sound test widget, but I couldn't get my Dreamcast mouse or keyboard to operate it.
Selecting "start game" treats you to a very elaborate CGI intro video of a planetary invasion. It's a shame there's no audio because it's a lot of fun to watch. The actual game is playable to a modest degree, but clearly the project had a long way to go. The system thrashes like crazy as the stages load and members of your squad check in via a window in the lower corner. They speak Japanese and sound pretty excited.
The action begins as your ship descends onto a smooth planet surface. In stage one you'll blast plant-like aliens over water and rolling green meadows before chasing two-legged creatures through a rocky gorge. The fluid animation and colorful textured scenery is inviting, and I really like the look of those curved gauges across the top of the screen (even though I don't know what they mean). It's fun to unleash rapid-fire missiles and cluster bombs which reduce buildings and massive boulders into a thousand polygons.
The gameplay seems appealing at first, but when things heat up the collision detection goes to hell and the frame-rate fluctuates like mad. The game usually locks up before you can advance more than a stage or two. It's not unusual to collide with the scenery and become trapped in another dimension. What really struck me about Geist Force is its beautiful, surreal sights. There are towering waterfalls, misty river valleys, floating cities, and some gorgeous sky-scapes. If you're a Dreamcast fanatic, this disc provides a tantalizing look at what might have been an amazing game. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
There are three ships to choose from, each represented on the menu screen by a smoking-hot lady. The stages are rendered with remarkable richness and color saturation is used to good effect. The visuals are forgettable however, outside of the flower-adorned space station of level three. Your enemies look like high-resolution holdovers from the 16-bit era. Pulsating techno music helps you get into a groove but it's more chaotic than melodic. The shrill noise of stage three reminds me of Archie Bunker's wife's voice. I do love the end-of-stage music however.
What really makes Ghost Blade appealing is its fine-tuned gameplay. Your firepower is formidable from the start with weapons that are all slight variations of the "pillar of death" (no homing missiles). Your normal shot has wide coverage but focused fire lets you bear down on specific targets while sacrificing speed. The stages are relatively short and the bosses don't overstay their welcome. Ghost Blade offers three continues and the top eight high scores are saved with initials.
A two-player simultaneous mode is available but the slowdown is pronounced. I wish this mode had a separate high score table because it's easier to rack up astronomical scores with a partner. Also, it would be nice if your best score was saved instead of your last score. The glossy manual is short on content but I enjoyed the colorful artwork. Ghost Blade won't win any awards for originality, but it's a great game to play when you don't want to use your brain. Just let your instincts take over, enjoy the fireworks, and try to remember to blink every once in a while. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
There are four ships to choose from, each with its own brand of fantastic firepower, and the ship you select determines which stage you'll start on. The five stages are short but far more interesting than those in Mars Matrix, including a river valley, a volcanic area, a railroad, and a floating continent. Blasting planes, tanks and boats cause gold medals to rain down, and catching them racks up your bonus multiplier.
Giga Wing's relentless onslaught of enemies, coupled waves of missiles and falling bars results in some of the most insane visuals ever witnessed in a video game. Sometimes you can barely find your ship amidst it all! How will you survive? Well, your firepower is formidable from the start, and the power-ups are abundant. Your "reflect force" lets you repel enemy shots by holding in the fire button, and it's awesome to redirect torrents missiles back to their originator! The shield takes a few seconds to recharge, but I like how there's an audible "ok" heard when it's armed.
You also have a limited supply of bombs that obliterate everything on the screen. Even so, I'd recommend sliding the difficulty level down to easy. I wish Giga Wing didn't have unlimited continues, because that takes the challenge out of finishing the game. Remember, your main goal is to achieve the high score - and these things are high. There are so many digits that Capcom highlighted the billions just to make them easier to read! That's pretty silly, but Giga Wing is a remarkable title that really shows what the Dreamcast is capable of. I may have taken this for granted in 2001, but I certainly don't anymore. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Like the first game, you select from a number of aircraft with crazy firepower from the very start. The stages include a city, factory, and "cloud sea", but this time the scenery is fully rendered in 3D. This provides for some vertigo inducing heights, high-speed dives, and dramatic camera angles. At times it's hard to tell which way is up - not that it matters since your path is predetermined. Complementing the impressive visuals is an operatic musical score that provides some epic flare but gets kind of annoying after a while.
In addition to rapid-fire cannons, you have the ability to "reflect" enemy missiles with a shield that recharges every few seconds. On top of that, there's a supply of bombs that inflict carnage on a massive scale. The controls are pretty much the same as the first Giga Wing, but a rapid-fire button is also included, preventing you from accidentally engaging your reflect shield. That's not really an issue through, since you'll need to use the shield constantly. I'm telling you, Gigawing 2 is so relentless with its non-stop waves of missiles that you're almost always on the defensive! You rarely have the opportunity to aim at anything!
Not only is this less fun that the original game, but extreme slow-down accompanies the more graphically intense sequences. A four-player mode is included (give me a break!) but that just seems gratuitous considering you can barely discern what's going on in the single-player mode. I did enjoy the two-player co-op mode however, where both players share the same score. The user interface has been cleaned up from the first game, including a nifty auto-save. Most will regard Giga Wing 2's gameplay as "too much", but the game's still a winner thanks to its insane firepower and off-the-charts eye candy. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
The game provides an overhead view of the city, and the characters are very small. When you drive a vehicle, it looks like a clip from one of those police chase shows. You can move freely around the city, and an arrow always points you to your next destination. It's fun to randomly shoot people and carjack vehicles (did I just say that??), but the missions are where the real challenge is.
The main problem with his game is the control. You're forced to use the analog controller, which is fine for driving, but it's hard to get your man to walk in the right direction - a big problem when you're running from police. Also, too much time is spent trying to find the phones. The sound is terrific, with realistic city background noises, and radio stations that play when you're in the car. Overall, GTA2 is somewhat interesting, but the control holds it back. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Thankfully, Grandia II's gameplay is every bit as compelling as its story. Combat encounters aren't random, and monsters wander freely throughout dungeons and over land. It's actually possible to avoid fights if you're careful. Strategy plays a key role in the battle system. Approaching an enemy from the rear gives you an advantage, and likewise, enemies can also sneak up on you!
Combat is turn-based, but the characters are quite active on the screen, pausing only to let you input commands. A meter at the bottom of the screen indicates whose turn it is, and certain moves can affect the meter and slow enemy attacks. Winning battles earns you points towards purchasing magic spells and special attacks for your party. Your party can have up to four characters in it at a time.
Grandia II is graphically stunning; the world is detailed down to the smallest object on a shelf. The developers at Game Arts really stretched the Dreamcast to Soul Calibur-esqe limits with breathtaking visuals embodied by reflections in marble floors, cascading waterfalls, and remarkable effects from magic spells.
Additionally, a fully rotating camera eliminates tricky viewing angles. The characters are smooth 3D models but rendered in the traditional style of 16-bit RPGs. Dialog boxes feature hand-drawn, anime depictions of the characters, with roughly a half-dozen different facial expressions. The game even flawlessly integrates 2D animation at certain points throughout the game, such as during special attacks during the battles.
Grandia II's audio couldn't be much better, and the voice acting features a generous amount of well-known American animation voices (they didn't include a Japanese track). Each monster has its own distinct grunt or growl, the environments have "natural" sounds, and the background music is expertly composed. As an awesome bonus, the game comes with its musical score on a second separate CD! Some might claim Grandia II has a slightly rehashed plot, but I couldn't wait to get home from work every day to play another 6 hours of this superb RPG. If you own a Dreamcast, Grandia II most definitely belongs in your library. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
The idea is to embark on a series of missions to thwart the holiday plans of the happy residents of Whoville. I like how the Grinch scampers around and the sound of his footsteps in the snow. By smashing presents and performing random pranks the Grinch uncovers blueprints that let him assemble elaborate inventions like the Rotten Egg Launcher and Grinch Copter. The orchestrated soundtrack is easily the highlight of the game, but the sound effects are another story. The Grinch screams OUCH whenever he touches anything - including musical notes. And what's that constant scratching sound?
The control scheme is needlessly complicated. Simply equipping a weapon is a frustrating chore, and using it will probably require consulting the instruction manual. Frequent annoyances include bees that swarm you, police that freeze you, and little brats that won't just leave you alone! Inside City Hall you'll find a maze that will leave you with a splitting headache. When the Grinch dies he exclaims "it's unbearable!" No kidding! Fortunately you can save any time and the pause menu offers checklists of tasks to be performed. The Grinch has enough holiday spirit to keep you coming back each year, but be advised its irritating stages and bad controls may shrink your heart three sizes. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
As an arcade conversion, you'll play Gunbird 2 with black bars along each side of the screen, and sadly the VGA adapter is not supported. Instead of a ship you control one of seven flying Capcom characters including a pixie named Marion, Alucard of Castlevania fame, Morrigan from Darkstalkers, a robot, and a chubby guy on a magic carpet. In addition to rapid-fire shooting you also have a charge attack, close attack, and bombs. As you become familiar with the game you'll learn how to best employ each one.
Each character has unique weapons, like swarming bats, whirling blades, or stars that home in on elusive targets. Gunbird 2's stages look like works of art as you soar over meticulously illustrated 2D environments teeming with activity. There's a quaint Venice-like city with exquisite architecture, a dusty Wild West town, a castle surrounded by fall foliage, and a gorgeous snowy village at night. It's hard to absorb all the detail but that just adds to the replay value.
I love how the stages are randomly selected so you get to enjoy them all. Upon taking down a large, screen-sized boss, a smaller boss will emerge from its ashes. The musical score is bouncy and fun and the Japanese voices add authenticity. You get unlimited continues, but your score resets when you use them (rightfully). You could argue Gunbird 2 is a little short, but this is an arcade experience. You play for high score and it's a great way to get a quick fix before bedtime. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Unfortunately the first mission is a serious turn-off with its endless instructions. You're placed in a barren location with two other mechs (Fang 2 and Fang 3) and a chick in a transport vehicle (Oasis). Your commander refers to your team as "white dingos", which sounds a heck of a lot like an ethnic slur! The scenery looks really hazy and the game is not exactly "pick up and play". In fact, it's pretty much the opposite!
You'll want to consult the manual to learn the controls, and even then it takes plenty of practice. In time you'll learn to dash, jump, hover, lob grenades, and use a sniper rifle. The dash command is handy but it seems like you're always hitting it accidentally. The control scheme would be ideal for the twin stick controller used with Virtual On: Oratorio Tangram (Sega, 2001), but it doesn't work with this game (*sad face*).
Gundam Side Story is verbose and complex, but I tried my best to get into it. You wander around landscapes blasting tanks and missile launchers, but your toughest adversaries are enemy mechs. Swift and dangerous, these will dart from side-to-side to avoid your missiles. Sometimes they will bear down upon you and attack melee style, which is terribly disconcerting due to the first-person view. The controls seem unresponsive at times, possibly due to taking damage.
The key to success is directing the two other mechs by issuing commands from an incredibly clunky menu. You can send these guys all over the map to attack specific targets, and watching them in battle is interesting. The problem is, you often don't know where to go and it's hard to locate enemies. It's easy to wander off the battlefield accidentally, causing your mission to abort if you don't immediately re-enter. Gundam: Side Story has a steep learning curve, and once you think you have a handle on it, you'll still find yourself wondering what the [expletive] is going on. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
You control an armored warrior blasting through colorful, surreal sci-fi landscapes. The gorgeous (and lengthy) opening stage features marble columns, lush foliage, and cascading waterfalls. The resolution is a little low by Dreamcast standards, but those pixels just give Gunlord its old-school charm. Enemies include bugs, trolls, and plant-like creatures that can blend into the landscape. You get rapid-fire weapons, smart bombs, and a guided beam that can "hose down" all foes 360 degrees around you.
Enemies attack from all angles so you'll want to take them out from a distance whenever possible. It's satisfying to watch the larger baddies explode into flying chunks. Your warrior easily leaps between platforms and can also roll into a ball to negotiate narrow passages. It's fun to collect shiny purple diamonds, especially with all the multiple routes and secret areas. The controls are very precise but it's not unusual to get caught up on a pixelated edge here and there.
I love how a raging thunderstorm rolls in at the end of the first stage. Wait a second - are those monsters holding umbrellas? Best. Game. Ever. Stage two offers a nice change of pace with some flying shooting action. Checkpoints are frequent, several continues are available, and you always pick up right where you left off.
The difficulty is perfectly tuned. Gunlord is superb on many levels, and its electronic soundtrack is no exception. Both relaxing and invigorating, these gentle rhythms really get you into the flow of things. I only regret not buying the limited edition which includes the soundtrack disc. Memorable audio effects include screeching insects, voice power-ups, and thunderous bass-filled explosions.
The high score screen is saved to memory card automatically. Did I mention the gorgeous artwork in the instruction booklet? Gunlord might not look like much at first glance, but given the chance this amazing game will breathe new life into your Dreamcast console. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
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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