Dreamcast Reviews K

Kao the Kangaroo
Grade: F
Publisher: Titus (2000)
Posted: 2005/9/12
Rating: Everyone

screenshotI wasn't expecting much from Kao the Kangaroo; I would have been satisfied with a cutesy, easy-to-play platformer. But this... is awful. A butt-ugly Crash Bandicoot rip-off, Kao somehow manages to be both dull and infuriating. It's no surprise that Titus, creator of some of the worst games known to man, is responsible for this tripe. The gameplay is tediously slow, with badly designed stages and poor collision detection.

As you painstakingly hop through each stage, you must defeat enemies by punching or swinging your tail. To break up the monotony, there are some simple puzzles, along with some hang-gliding and snowboarding stages. The very first thing that annoyed me about Kao was its jerky animation. Especially when you turn, the scenery rotates in a stilted manner that's not at all pleasing to the eye.

The game adopts the same visual style as Crash Bandicoot, but with far less polish and attention to detail. The jungle environments look blocky and artificial, and their narrow passages make you feel boxed in. The idea of placing your own checkpoints seems nice on paper, but turns out to be a monumental pain in the ass. The so-called "bonus" stages are even more tedious than the regular stages, as you navigate narrow platforms to collect useless coins.

The camera is normally trained behind your kangaroo, but occasionally it swings around to the front. Inexplicably, the controls don't adjust to compensate for the new angle, which is just confusing as hell. In addition to the unintuitive controls and awful graphics, Kao's clownish music provides the final nails in its cheaply fabricated coffin. Much of the music sounds as if it was generated by a Casio keyboard - it's revolting! I had always wondered why I heard so little about Kao the Kangaroo, but now I understand completely. Garbage like this gives the Dreamcast a bad name. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Karous/Crow (Japan)
Grade: D
Publisher: Milestone (2007)
Posted: 2007/8/4

screenshotKarous is an odd, cel-shaded vertical shooter with sophisticated gameplay and understated visuals. It's uniquely artistic with mysterious overtones and a hypnotizing soundtrack. The first thing you'll ask when you start playing is, "What the hell am I?!" You appear to be controlling a raggedy black flying creature vaguely resembling a crow.

In addition to spraying blue projectiles, you can unleash a sword for close attacks, or activate a large red shield. Employing different techniques increments three counters in the corner on the screen, but since I can't read the Japanese manual I couldn't really determine the subtle nuances of the game. Considering the graphics are cel-shaded, the visuals are remarkably bland and the use of color restrained. Enemies taking damage blink red, which looks striking against the dull gray backgrounds.

The first few stages are completely forgettable, but advanced stages feature modest green foliage and city streets with neon lights. Even more boring than the scenery are the repeating gray airships you shoot down. Karous is a strange game. A small shield guards the front of your ship when you're not shooting, and you can actually set the controller on the floor and watch your ship cruise through most of the game unharmed (bosses are timed so they don't need to be attacked). The fact that I scored a few million points in this manner didn't sit well with me.

The bass-heavy synthesized music isn't remarkable, but has a cool club vibe that gets under your skin. The game is supposed to save high scores, but I couldn't get that to work. Hardcore shooter fans looking for something to sink their teeth into can probably bump up the grade by one letter, but casual Dreamcast fans can safely avoid Karous. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: JDH 29,273,670
1 player 

King of Fighters Dream Match
Grade: A-
Publisher: SNK (1999)
Posted: 2020/1/7
Rating: Teen

screenshotThis one-on-one slugfest delivers just about everything a 2D fighting fanatic could ask for. King of Fighters Dream Match begins with an anime musical introduction that's a lot of fun to watch. The 38 beautifully-rendered fighters include all your SNK favorites like Terry Bogard, Chin the drunken boxer, androgenous King, sexy Mai Shiranui, and that mini Freddy Kreuger dude.

The default three-on-three team battle is something King of Fighters pioneered, although one-on-one is also an option. Gotta love that ebullient female announcer ("Lound One! Leady... go!") Anybody who's played Street Fighter II (SNES, 1992) can dive right into Dream Match. It uses all the standard joystick maneuvers and it doesn't take long to get a feel for each fighter. Students of the game should appreciate the colorful, 30-page booklet which outlines all of the moves.

The gameplay is heavy with combos and counters, although moves tend to be less over-the-top than similar games. Certain fighters do seem to have a distinct advantage, like Ralf with his rapid-fire "gatling" punches. Goro Daimon's ground pound is so powerful it even knocks down the spectators! You play until all your fighters are eliminated, and the winner of each round recoups some life.

I love the artistry of the stages which perfectly blend 2D and 3D graphics. The Mid East features a bustling market and Spain's temple stage offers moody lighting. I like how sights on the horizon have a certain softness, conveying realism and depth. The Japan street stage would have been much better without that overpass obscuring the skyline.

There's a bevy of options and the game saves high scores with initials. Even the loading is quick. King of Fighters Dream Match was released during the apex of 2D fighting technology, and it plays as well as its name would imply. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

King of Fighters Evolution
Grade: B+
Publisher: SNK (2000)
Posted: 2020/1/7
Rating: Teen

screenshotReleased only a year after King of Fighters Dream Match (Dreamcast, 1999), Evolution tries to shake up the formula but the results are mixed. Like the previous game you assemble a trio of fighters, selecting a fourth as well to play the "striker" role. Hitting the Z button during a match prompts your striker to swoop in and try to deal a strategic blow. If nothing else it amps up the chaos.

The scoring has changed as well. Instead of a conventional points system you score "ability points" determined by some esoteric formula. It's disconcerting how my ability points go both up and down between matches. I don't get it. Accumulate enough points and you unlock additional strikers. This adds a sense of progression but undermines the short-term enjoyment. The screen layout is confusing; I'm still not sure what all these gauges and symbols mean. Moves tend to be on the hand-to-hand variety, or should I say foot-to-head?

The fighting action is quite polished and there are 33 warriors to choose from. New to the crew are the stylish K Prime and powerful Maxima who delivers thunderous body slams. Certain characters are somewhat annoying like the little kid Bao and the girl named "Whip" who shrieks while jumping all over the place. And of course you get all your favorites like Joe Higashi, Terry Bogard, and everybody's favorite hottie Mai Shiranui.

Not only are the stages works of art but each is introduced with a brief cinematic sequence. Locations include an amusement park, airport, museum, and sewer. The schoolyard stage looks amazing in a downpour, as does the huge airplane on the tarmac looming over you. There are several modes in this game but I favor the timed survival which takes you through a series of rapid-fire, one-round matches. It's a great way to tour the stages. Overall King of Fighters Evolution is an uneven entry to the series but fans no doubt will take it in stride. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

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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