Dreamcast Reviews M

MDK2
Grade: C
Publisher: Interplay (2000)
Reviewed: 2013/12/19
Rating: Teen (animated blood, animated violence)

screenshotMDK2 is an absolute paradox. One minute I'm thinking it's the most kick-ass shooter ever made, and the next I want to cast it into the fiery depths of hell. Like the original MDK (Playstation One, 1997), this third-person platformer features surreal sci-fi landscapes, sniping action, and an off-kilter sense of humor.

Grasping the basic controls can be a challenge. Never has the lack of a second stick on the Dreamcast controller been more glaring. The one analog stick is used to look around and aim, forcing you to use the face buttons to move. The right trigger shoots and the left trigger jumps. Hitting jump while in the air deploys a skeletal "parachute". This less-than-intuitive scheme is necessitated by the fact that you need to constantly keep moving while shooting enemies. Heck, in some cases you even need to keep moving while sniping! When you're not sniping, you're circle-strafing.

The textures are smooth, but the characters look chunky due to a low polygon count. The gorgeous sci-fi stages are accented by beautiful lighting effects. Unfortunately certain areas are too dark and poorly defined, making it hard to tell where you can or can't land. Enemies tend to be green aliens, and those with high-pitched voices call to mind the lowly minions of the Halo series. In addition to the main character Kurt, some stages let you control a chain-smoking, four-armed dog named Max. Max can equip and fire up to four guns at a time! Eat your heart out, Lara Croft! My least-favorite playable character is the professor who can combine items to create weapons - with much difficulty!

MDK2's difficulty is definitely "up there". One FAQ states that bosses are easy to defeat once you know what to do, but nothing could be further from the truth! One boss has more than a dozen health meters, and many stages are crippled by lousy visibility. Max's vertically-oriented jet-pack stage is an absolute nightmare. Fortunately well-placed checkpoints automatically save your progress, triggering a long, satisfying beep of the VMU. The audio effects are terrific and the pumping techno soundtrack is a good match for the ultra-modern graphics.

Sadly, MDK2 has its share of bugs. Especially in the early going I encountered cut-scene glitches and the periodic loss of audio effects. When you die, your body will typically become partially embedded in the scenery. My feelings toward MDK2 fluctuated wildly as I reviewed it. How can a game be so good and so bad at the same time? © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.


Magforce Racing
Grade: D+
Publisher: Crave (2000)
Reviewed: 2006/4/11
Rating: Everyone


screenshotMagforce attempts to mimic the futuristic hovercraft racing thrills of Wipeout (Playstation, 1995), but it's a lukewarm effort. There are a few vertigo-inducing drops and loops, but the game fails to convey that sense of breakneck speed you look for in a racer. Still, the frame-rate is smooth, and I like how the tracks are sufficiently wide.

Magforce Racing's single innovation is its "magnet button", a minor gimmick that lets you defy gravity on certain sections of the track. I found it to be fairly worthless. What this game really needs is a map and a real countdown at the beginning of each race (it counts down to two!).

But worst of all is the lame weapon system. Yes, there are missiles, lasers, and mines, but hitting an opponent is rare, and even scoring a direct hit only slows him down momentarily. Worse yet, you often end up plowing into the back of the guy you just shot, slowing you down in the process!

The clunky, oversized vehicles are uninteresting, and the background scenery mainly consists of generic buildings and barren landscapes. The sparse electronic soundtrack is appropriate but equally forgettable. On the bright side, my friends were impressed with the four-player split-screen mode, and best times are automatically saved to memory card.

A single-player mode challenges you to finish first on all the tracks so you can advance to the next class, but inexplicably, the menu screens do not indicate which tracks you've already beaten! Magforce Racing is not a terrible game, but with no distinguishing characteristics, it offers little incentive to play. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

Maken-X
Grade: B-
Publisher: Atlus (2000)
Reviewed: 2006/4/11
Rating: Mature (animated violence)


screenshotI recall seeing Maken X in all of the bargain bins years ago, but as it turns out, it's quite a gem in the Dreamcast library. I was expecting a total dud, but a few minutes into the game I found myself saying, "Hey, this is pretty cool!" Maken X (pronouncing "mockin X") has a unique style of play I haven't seen since Crossed Swords (Neo Geo, 1991). It's a first-person sword fighting game, where you block, dodge, and slash your way through room after room of evil freaks.

Atlus kept the control scheme simple, which was probably a good idea. X is used to slash, A jumps, Y locks onto an opponent, and the right trigger is used to strafe. Simply pulling back on the analog stick initiates a block. While it sounds simplistic, there's ample technique involved, especially in the later stages. When facing multiple foes at a time, careful timing and strategic positioning is paramount.

Your mask-wearing adversaries are a colorful bunch, including agile red skaters, overweight armored warriors, and brawny thugs armed with rocket launchers. It's easy to navigate the imaginative stage locations, which include the inside of a gigantic airplane, an opulent Indian palace, and the rainy streets of Hong Kong.

What makes Maken-X effective is its ultra-smooth, 60 frames-per-second visuals that keep you firmly in control - even in the midst of chaos. Adding variety is your ability to "brainjack" other characters, which essentially lets you switch characters and weapons. Each playable character has a unique skill, such as the ability to vault over enemies and attack them from behind.

If there's one thing bugged me about Maken X, it's the gratuitously complex storyline involving traveling through alternate dimensions, a sword with a mind of its own, and conspiracies galore. I think storylines in video games are vastly overrated, and once you sit through one of these half-hour intermissions, I think you'll agree. There's also the issue of repetitive enemies, some of whom can be tedious to dispatch. If you can look past those issues, however, Maken X offers a formidable challenge and an intriguing game playing experience. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Marine Fishing
Grade: A
Publisher: Sega (2000)
Reviewed: 2000/12/12
Rating: Everyone

screenshotSega Bass Fishing was an excellent early Dreamcast title, and this sequel improves on it in many ways. In Bass Fishing, all you could catch was bass, but in Marine Fishing, 15 different varieties of fish are available, including blue marlin, sailfish, tuna, and Mako shark!

Unlike Bass Fishing where it was easy to catch a fish, these fish battle you to the bitter end, making it more satisfying when you haul one in. The scenic fishing spots are large and wide open. You can post your catches on-line, and even save your fish in your own personal aquarium. There are mini games and over 200 bonus items to unlock. Be sure to use Sega's Fishing Rod controller for maximum fun and realism. Marine Fishing may be the best fishing game I've ever played. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 2300
1 player 

Mars Matrix
Grade: B+
Publisher: Capcom (2001)
Reviewed: 2014/3/11
Rating: Everyone

screenshotIt's the year 2309, and the newly-colonized planet of Mars has declared its independence. Earth doesn't even want to hear all that. As any good gamer knows, there's only one way to resolve intergalactic conflict: shoot everything that moves and ask questions later! Or don't even bother! Back in 2000 I really didn't really know what to make of Mars Matrix with its inescapable waves of missiles and raining gold bars. Since that time however I've developed an unhealthy appetite for these "bullet hell" shooters.

On the surface, Mars Matrix is a chaotic vertical shooter with grainy, somewhat pixelated graphics. As you fly over the industrialized planet surface you're attacked by hulking airships, tanks, mechanical spiders, and boiling tea kettles! Color gradients convey texture and depth, but there's nothing here I'd characterize as "eye candy".

When it comes to pure shooting and destruction however, Mars Matrix hits the spot. You're armed with a rapid-fire shot and a medium-range auto-piercing weapon. Best of all is your ability to consume incoming missiles and then propel them outward to obliterate all enemies. Be sure to save that for times when you're being overwhelmed. Keep in mind that flying over attackers will not harm you - only their missiles pose a threat.

Mars Matrix is relentlessly difficult but also intoxicating. I love catching the gold bricks, and those mammoth gold blocks are irresistable. The industrial musical score isn't very tuneful. In fact, the first stage sounds like a T-Rex in a meat grinder! Continues are available but you only "rank in" with your first credit. The game records several pages of high scores (with initials) and these scores are so long it's comical (zillions!?)

As a sweet bonus, your cumulative scores are used to unlock new modes and bonus materials. Mars Matrix won't win any beauty contests, but if you're in the mood for some balls-to-the-wall shooting action, this is what you want. Note: Use an arcade-style joystick if at all possible. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Marvel Vs. Capcom
Grade: B
Publisher: Capcom (1999)
Reviewed: 2011/3/13
Rating: Teen


screenshotCapcom pioneered the fighting game genre and Marvel superheroes kick ass, so what happens when you put them together? Suffice to say, it is on like the proverbial Donkey Kong! Marvel Vs. Capcom (MvC) takes 2D fighting to new heights in terms of frenzied action and actual altitude.

The Capcom side of the roster features Chun Li, Ryu, and Zangeif (of Street Fighter fame), Mega-Man, Morrigan (Darkstalkers), and Captain Commando. Representing Marvel is Spiderman, Captain America, Venom, War Machine, Hulk, Wolverine, and Gambit. MvC's 2D graphics are a visual feast for the eyes. The characters are huge and animated with style. The layered 2D backdrops are expansive but not particularly detailed or memorable.

Each contest is a two-on-two "tag team" match, although a third "guest" character can be called in to provide a strategic quick hit. This guest is randomly chosen from a large grid containing second-tier characters like Thor and Arthur (of Ghouls and Ghosts). MvC's two-on-two format is ideal because matches are quick but still long enough to allow for some strategy. The laws of gravity have been alleviated for this game, and high-flying attacks cause the screen to scroll upwards.

The overloaded control scheme doesn't map well to the Dreamcast controller. Since the three punches and three kicks use up the main buttons, you'll need to hit combinations to call in a guest or switch fighters. MvC's style of play is conducive to button mashing, but even then you'll regularly stumble across some jaw-dropping moves. It's easy to lose track of your character in the midst of the chaos, especially when a third fighter enters the fray.

Still, Marvel Vs. Capcom is thoroughly entertaining arcade fare. High scores are saved to the VMU, but you'll need to manually load and save them. In addition to the standard modes, there's even a "Cross Fever" mode that lets four players fight simultaneously. I'm sure that's not the least bit confusing. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Marvel Vs. Capcom 2
Grade: A+
Publisher: Capcom (2000)
Reviewed: 2011/3/13
Rating: Teen

screenshotGamers couldn't get enough of the first Marvel Vs. Capcom, and this sequel blows the roof off with an unheard-of 56-character roster! Only 24 are available from the outset, but even that is an impressive number. Returning from the first game are favorites like Spiderman, Hulk, Wolverine, Chun Li, and Morrigan. Newcomers included are Jill Valentine (Resident Evil), Servbots (Mega Man), Akuma (Street Fighter 2), and Cable (Marvel). Has there ever been a hotter chick in a fighting game than Psylocke? That girl is stacked!

I don't care much for shape-shifting types like Anakaris the mummy or Amingo the flexible cactus, but I guess that just comes with the territory. I've never even heard of oddball characters like the pirate chick Ruby Heart, the monkey girl Sonson, or the kid in the mech (T. Bonne).

MvC2's matches are as chaotic as ever, and this time the contests are three-on-three. You only control one fighter at a time, but you can swap them out at will, or call upon them to administer timely "assists". The new format pushes the limits but adds more strategy as you strategically rest characters to recuperate their strength.

The controls have been streamlined to perfection. Now there are only two punch and two kick buttons, leaving two buttons for calling in partners. As in the first game, the screen scrolls up as the characters battle in mid-air, and there are some absolutely outrageous special attacks. Iron Man has the biggest gun ever (where does he keep that thing?), and Ruby Heart's pirate ship practically consumes the entire screen as it plows into its helpless victim.

The backdrops are now rendered in high-resolution 3D polygons, and while I still prefer the 2D illustrated look, there's something to be said for those smooth graphics. MvC2 is loaded with extra features including an auto-save and an option to view your high scores. Between matches you see where your current score falls in the rankings, and it's exciting to move up the chart.

You'll gradually earn points to unlock new characters, stages, and outfits. This is one game that just keeps on giving. With tremendous replay value and ridiculous arcade gameplay, Marvel Vs Capcom 2 is one of the best fighters I've played on any system - much less the Dreamcast. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Metropolis Street Racer
Grade: B
Publisher: Sega (2000)
Reviewed: 2002/2/2
Rating: Everyone

screenshotNow we're talking about some serious racing action! MSR was developed by the people who made Project Gotham for the XBox, and the similarities are unmistakable. Metropolis Street Racer is a very realistic racing simulator with tracks set in a variety of real cities.

The graphics are noticeably brighter and more colorful than Project Gotham, featuring cities painstakingly modeled after the real things. The cars also look detailed and shiny, and handle remarkably well. The courses are fairly simple, but it still can be hard to judge the turns. The difficulty is a bit excessive, and you'll need to master the hand brake to do well. A highly original "Kudos" system rewards good driving technique with bonus points, but unlike Gotham, you can also LOSE Kudos, which really sucks!

Complementing the fine graphics is a superb soundtrack that will have you tapping your toes to a wide array of songs. My main problem with MSR is all the menus you need to trudge through. Even in the so-called "quick-start" option, it seems like you need to go through a dozen menus just to set up a two-player game. Not for the squeamish, MSR is a racer for gamers who crave a real challenge. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Mortal Kombat Gold
Grade: C
Publisher: Midway (1999)
Reviewed: 2003/6/4
Rating: Mature (animated violence, animated blood and gore)

screenshotMortal Kombat Gold is basically a polished version of Mortal Kombat 4, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The gameplay is reasonably good, with beautiful graphics and silky smooth action. Although the characters are rendered in 3D, the gameplay is still primarily 2D.

Compared to the much blockier Playstation version, Gold looks like a whole new game altogether. I especially enjoyed checking out the mysterious background scenery and violent special moves. The 20 characters include most of your original favorites like Scorpion, Sub Zero, Raiden, Mileena, and Sonya. A few of the fighters from MK3 have also survived including the yellow robot warrior Cyrax.

While Gold promises some "Dreamcast only" surprises, the gameplay is largely unchanged. There are weapons that appear at random, but they rarely have much impact. And unfortunately, one of the best moves from MK4, the sidestep, doesn't work very well here. According to the instructions, you must "tap" the right trigger twice to get it to work, but it's extremely erratic, and you can't even reconfigure it on the options screen! That problem sucked a lot of the fun out of the game, and that's a shame, because otherwise this is a good-looking fighter. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Mr. Driller
Grade: C
Publisher: Namco (1999)
Reviewed: 2011/1/25
Rating: Everyone

screenshotI feel like I should like this fast-moving puzzle game a lot more than I actually do. Mr. Driller is a cute little fellow who drills down through colorful blocks while trying to avoid the mini-avalanches he triggers. Like any good puzzle game, both skill and strategy is involved. I always thought that moving quickly downward was the best strategy, but a friend demonstrated that a slower, more deliberate approach can really pay off.

I love Mr. Driller's crisp arcade graphics and brisk pacing, but I could never quite wrap my brain around the strategy. I understand how some blocks will join with each other and some will disintegrate, but I found it hard to process on the fly. The controls are responsive enough, and the upbeat musical score sounds like something you'd hear in a Sonic game. I really don't quite "get it", but Mr. Driller seems to have developed a very devoted following among the Dreamcast faithful. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Ms. Pac-Man Maze Madness
Grade: B
Publisher: Namco (2000)
Reviewed: 2001/3/20
Rating: Everyone

screenshotWith the success of last year's Pac-Man World (Playstation), it's no surprise that Ms. Pac-Man is making a comeback as well. But instead of being a typical 3D adventure, Maze Madness is more old-school. The levels are much like the 3-D mazes in Pac-Man World, but they are more elaborate and linked together to form large stages. It's a winning combination of classic Ms. Pac-Man gameplay and modern 3D graphics.

There are four major theme worlds: Egyptian, Ice Caves, Harbor, and Halloween. Each stage offers several challenges such as collecting all of the dots, collecting all of the fruit, or making it through in a certain amount of time. It's hard to dislike this game! You can feel the vibration of Ms. Pac Man eating the dots, and the stages are full of surprises. There's some switched-pulling and crate-pushing action ala Crash Bandicoot, but nothing too complicated. In addition to the standard ghosts, there are other characters you'll have to deal with as well. In a nod to the classics, there's even a centipede that wonders through some of the stages!

The controls are simple (no buttons!), and the music is exceptional. Maze Madness is fun to play and will appeal to all ages. In addition to the main game, there's also an arcade-perfect version of the original Ms. Pac-Man, which of course is one of the greatest video games of all time. The one bad thing about this game is the multiplayer modes.

There are some original ideas here, like playing as ghosts or bombs, but these games are rather unpleasant to play. You have to contend with CPU controlled players (unless you have four people), and the gameplay is utterly confusing. I would have preferred that they included a two-player simultaneous version of the classic Ms. Pac-Man - THAT would have been fun. But nevertheless, Ms. Pac-Man fans looking for some solid one-player action should pick up this disk. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 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