Dreamcast Reviews P-Q

POD Speedzone
Grade: D
Publisher: Ubi Soft (2000)
Reviewed: 2002/2/2
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThis futuristic racing game has sub-par graphics and sound, and the lackluster gameplay can't make up for it. The tracks dip and wind through barren canyons, but there's not much to see. There are alternate routes and short cuts, but you often find yourself going the wrong way, wondering where you went wrong. The vehicles and tracks are rather plain and dull. The racing action is pretty weak too, and power-ups fail to inject a lot excitement. In an effort to defend the lousy physics, my friend Scott pointed out that we were "racing on another planet like Mars or something." Whatever! The only thing POD has going for it is its Internet racing option. Other than that, this one is completely forgettable. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
1 or 2 players 

Pen Pen TriIcelon
Grade: D-

screenshotPen Pen TriIceLon kicks off with a lame cartoon depicting goofy animals engaged in wacky arctic hijinx. It might not be so bad if not for that obnoxious circus music! Horrible, just horrible! It's like the game wants you to hate it! Pen Pen's premise isn't so bad. I like the idea of racing through courses composed of snow and ice, and a four-player split-screen mode is always welcome.

The animal selection screen features a penguin, a walrus, a shark, and umm... what the [expletive] is that thing? And is there a reason why these animals are so [expletive] ugly? Each race is composed of three distinct events that flow into each other. The belly-surfing action is the most fun, allowing you to slide along open stretches of ice while pressing A to propel yourself. So far so good.

Next you need to swim through a narrow channel cluttered with obstacles. Not quite as fun. Finally you'll waddle through a crazy obstacle course, occasionally smacking an opponent along the way by hitting the "attack" button. I really hate how my animal stops and turns to mug for the camera after he gets smacked. The swimming and waddle events are marred by poor camera angles, unforgiving collision detection, and a general lack of fun.

When playing the split-screen, these issues are exacerbated to the point where players can become hopelessly stuck. Pen Pen offers four unique courses sporting themes of sweets, toys, jungle, and horrors. Would a normal "winter wonderland" theme have been too much to ask for? It would have been a hell of a lot better than these ugly, gaudy courses that wind their way through frozen jungles (ugh!) and junky haunted houses (gahh!).

In addition to the bad music, the repetitive "cute" sound effects really got on my nerves. And was Tri-Ice-Lon really the best name they could come up with? Really Infogrames?? Pen Pen should have been a light-hearted romp, but its problematic gameplay and cheesy style prove to be a major turn-off. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Plasma Sword
Grade: B
Publisher: Capcom (2000)
Reviewed: 2003/6/4
Rating: Teen (animated violence)


screenshotThis easy-to-play, offensive-minded 3D fighter didn't get much attention when it came out, but Plasma Sword is a quality game. It reminds me more than a little bit of Battle Arena Toshinden (Playstation), but it's actually the sequel to the unpopular Playstation game Star Gladiator. Set in the future, Plasma Sword provides twenty-two diverse creatures that wouldn't look out of place in a Star Wars cantina.

There are several laser-equipped robots, a hairy wookie-like creature, a conehead freak with yo-yo weapons, a catlike creature with Wolverine claws, and assorted aliens of every type. The character models are somewhat chunky by today's standards, but cleanly rendered and smoothly animated. The gorgeous backgrounds depict fantastic cities of the future, magnificent ruins, and desolate planet surfaces. At times I had to pause play just to get a better look at the scenery.

Plasma Sword plays similar to other Capcom fighters, with plenty of combos, juggles, and Street-Fighter-style special moves. Some fighters are armed with glowing weapons including swords, rings, and even a chainsaw! When a character's "plasma power gauge" becomes full, he can perform some devastating assaults. I like how you can wipe out a huge chunk of your opponent's life with a single special move or well-timed combo.

On defense, there's a useful sidestep move that lets you avoid projectile attacks. Besides the run-of-the-mill gameplay, the only real flaw I could find was the weak endings in the single player mode. The main villain is pretty cool looking, but what kind of name is "Bilstein"? Couldn't they come up with something more intimidating than that? Oh well, Plasma Sword is definitely a keeper if fighting games are your thing. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Power Stone
Grade: A
Publisher: Capcom (1999)
Reviewed: 2004/9/17
Rating: Teen (animated violence)

screenshotGames like this exemplify why hardcore gamers love the Dreamcast so much. Power Stone is a breath of fresh air in a tired 3D fighting genre, brimming with innovative ideas and wild arcade action. It's difficult to believe this was an early Dreamcast game, because few fighting games have surpassed it in terms of graphics and gameplay. Power Stone pits two warriors in close-quartered environments like a factory, courtyard, or pirate ship. The attractive battlegrounds are the ideal size so the characters can move around freely but not wander too far apart.

The fights are hyper and chaotic, and the torrid pace admittedly takes some getting used to. In addition to hand-to-hand combat, the simple control scheme makes it easy to bombard your opponent with boxes, barrels, and whatever else you find lying around. Weapons range from huge hammers to machine guns to rocket launchers. Collecting three "power stones" temporarily transforms your fighter into a "super being", making your opponent wise to flee until the effect wears off.

Power Stone's characters are nicely rendered in Japanese anime style, and they are a likeable bunch. The one obligatory oddball is the bizarre "Mad Clown", who looks like a cross between Beetlejuice and the Mummy. Power Stone is a blast to play, and the one-player mode is as addicting as it is relentless. Any respectable Dreamcast fan should have this gem in their collection. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Power Stone 2
Grade: B+
Publisher: Capcom (2000)
Reviewed: 2004/9/30
Rating: Teen (animated violence)

screenshotA logical extension of the first Power Stone, this impressive sequel features more characters, four-player simultaneous action, and multi-level stages. Like the first game, this is a 3D brawler with arenas that are loaded with weapons and interactive objects. But Power Stone 2 ups the ante with four-player simultaneous mayhem, and it is crazy.

The twelve anime-style fighters are colorful and distinct, and a few are quite comical. But what really sticks out about Power Stone 2 is its incredible, dynamic stages. From high-flying airships to submerging submarines to Indiana-Jones inspired temple ruins, these stages are perfect for gamers with short attention spans. They change on the fly, and fighters often get tossed into multiple rooms or scrolling areas in the course of a single battle.

Some areas allow you to man huge turrets and shoot a barrage of missiles at your opponents. But while the stages are quite a spectacle, once their novelty value wears off, you'll start to tire of them. Some would say they actually tend to detract from the fighting action, and the changing camera angles can also be a problem.

The two-player matches are hectic enough, so as you can imagine, the four-player mode is lively but VERY confusing. I prefer the excellent one-player Adventure mode that lets you collect items in a series of branching battles. Dreamcast collectors will want Power Stone 2 in their collection, but it's not an easy game to track down. It's definitely one of a kind, but I prefer the simpler brand of melee of its predecessor. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

Project Justice
Grade: C+
Publisher: Capcom (2000)
Reviewed: 2014/3/11
Rating: Teen (animated violence)

screenshotI'm a big fan of Rival Schools (Playstation, 1998) but feel less enthused about this sequel. The ridiculous storyline involves a group of high school kids trying to untangle a convoluted mystery by kicking the living [expletive] out of each other. The 20 characters offer plenty of variety including jocks, geeks, giddy schoolgirls, geeky professors, and a sexy nurse. The athletes tend to incorporate sporting equipment into their attacks. Natsu will spike a volleyball in your face, Momo will pepper you with tennis balls, and Shoma will slug you with a baseball bat.

Project Justice offers clean, high-resolution graphics, but instead of enhancing the visuals they seem to water them down. The character models are sharp but plain, and the stages are aesthetically pleasing but lack interesting detail. The courtyard and rooftop stages are beautiful, but the stadium, mountain, and even amusement park stages come off as dull. It seems 3D backdrops can never match the artistry of their 2D cousins.

The fighting action has a lot of depth, but doesn't flow as well as Rival Schools. Your "team" is now composed of three characters instead of two. When both players attack at the same exact moment, a cool lightning bolt strikes between them. I also like how your health gauge "melts away" with each hit. The game has a distinctive Japanese flavor, with outrageous special moves that are as bizarre as they are funny. When your "burning vigor" gauge is completely full, you can bum-rush your opponent with all three characters at once, unleashing a series of devastating blows.

It's a little disconcerting however with the wild camera angles, quick cuts, and multiple people running around. A few attacks are super lame, like the one that looks more like a synchronized dance routine! The arcade mode lets you play through the story (snore) or shoot for a spot on the high score screen. Project Justice may lack the freshness of Rival Schools, but it still has that Capcom seal of quality. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Psyvariar 2 (Japan)
Grade: B+
Publisher: Success (2004)
Reviewed: 2009/4/11

screenshotYou know this is a real import because you can't pronounce its name. Psyvariar 2 is a sharp, rapid-fire vertical shooter with a cool twist that sets it apart from the rest of the field. You begin by selecting a female or male character, and while they both look like robots in the game, the chick seems to have more potent firepower. The attractive 3D scenery is very futuristic as you soar between skyscrapers, wind through tunnels, and navigate space stations.

The controls are limited to two buttons: shoot and bomb. You shoot in a rapid-fire manner, and your targets tend to be high-tech aircraft, including some that slither around like sharks. One of the better bosses is a robotic spider with three glowing eyes. His movements mimic a real spider so well that it's kind of freaky. Bosses tend to unleash hundreds of projectiles in criss-cross patterns. A natural response would be to yell "you gotta be kidding me!" but try to remain calm and look for a seam.

Typically if you can find a "safe spot" early, you can remain there untouched for most of the barrage. Surviving the torrent is particularly satisfying because you earn "buzz points" for near misses with projectiles, which in turn intensifies your firepower. It's a novel idea that really dares you to "thread the needle" and linger near errant missiles. The concept works great, thanks in part to some extremely forgiving collision detection. The explosions are some of the best I've seen, and I love how their bright flames dissipate into black smoke (although the boss deaths are a bit too over-the-top).

Ported directly from the arcade, you play Psyvariar 2 on a heavily cropped vertical screen, and some of the text and icons are extremely tiny. This is a one-player only game, and while the continues can be turned on or off, you can't set them to a specific number. The soundtrack really kicks ass, layering a melodic piano and soothing vocals over pulsating techno beats. Psyvariar 2 is yet another exceptional Dreamcast shooter than never made it to the states, and it breaks my heart. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 1608700
1 player 

Quake III Arena
Grade: B+
Publisher: Id (2000)
Reviewed: 2004/1/15
Rating: Mature (Animated violence, blood and gore)

screenshotI'm not a PC gamer and don't do that "online thing", so it's surprising how much I enjoyed Quake III Arena. Arena was designed for Quake experts who don't give a crap about the single player scenarios, but instead want to demonstrate their skills against the best players in the world. My first impression of Quake III Arena was not good. I tried to play the single-player mode with the Dreamcast controller, and got completely obliterated over and over by relentless cpu opponents.

Finally, I remembered the wise words of my friend Scott Z, who once proclaimed that first person shooters HAD to be played with a keyboard and mouse (with Halo being the one possible exception). So I hooked up my little-used Dreamcast keyboard and mouse, and sure enough, it made all the difference in the world. The mouse provides incredibly sensitive and precise control, and with a little practice, I started doing better.

The one-on-one matches aren't so hot, but the multiplayer mode (even with 3 CPU opponents) is a blast! There's no shortage of firepower, and your opponents get blasted into nice bloody chunks. I love how you get constant updates about who's recently bit the dust and how you're currently doing. The warriors include a wide variety of humans, undead creeps, and alien freaks. There's even a skeleton and walking eyeball thrown in for good measure.

The arenas range from medieval to futuristic, and the level of detail is quite impressive. They tend to be just spacious enough, and every wall and doorway is ornately decorated. The game looks terrific, although my friends steadfastly maintain that the PC version looks far better (whatever!). The only stages I didn't care for were the platform-laden outer space ones. The music consists of some grinding, high-octane guitar stuff - not great by any means, but appropriate enough. If you like first-person shooters and you have a Dreamcast keyboard and mouse, you can't go wrong with this. © Copyright 2004 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