Publisher: Seismic (1990)
This old Genesis shooter is a "holy grail" of sorts, having achieved near legendary status while being extremely hard to locate. It took me forever to finally find a decent copy on Ebay for a reasonable price, but now that I've played it, I can see what all the fuss is about. M.U.S.H.A. (Metallic Uniframe Super Hybrid Armor) is certainly one of the best shooters you can get for the Genesis, and easily the best of the vertical variety. What's so special about it? Well, the controls are surprisingly complex, the graphics are terrific, and you can amass some serious firepower. You control a giant flying mech, and your main weapon is rapid-fire shots that can be powered up to the width of your ship. Collecting icons will augment your firepower with special weapons, which include lasers, missiles, and rotating spheres. Touching an icon that matches your current special weapon will augment its power up to four levels. On top of that, you can earn "options" by catching power cells that fall from certain targets. These "options" take the form of small pods that fly alongside your ship and provide extra firepower. But wait - there's more! By using the A button, you can position these options in six different formations, including forward, 3-way, back, reverse, roll, and "free", which puts them into a "search and destroy" mode. You can fire everything at once by simply holding B and C, and can even adjust your speed via the pause menu. The graphics are terrific, with large, detailed enemies and no slow-down even when things get crazy. Unlike other shooters where you see the same enemies over and over again, MUSHA seems to have an inexhaustible supply of new targets. Many of the bosses are huge faces grafted into high-tech machinery, and they look wild. The scenery is also commendable. The first stage has traditional Japanese temples moving on a network of rails over the ocean below - very original. Another stage features a floor that drops out, revealing a gaping chasm below. Scaling is used to good effect in several parts of the game - very impressive for 1990. The music is highly regarded by some, but I thought it was about average. Overall, if you're a serious shooter fan, you owe it to yourself to track down a copy of this engrossing game. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 6550580
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1991)
When I think of classic Madden, this is the game that comes to mind. You know you're in for a treat when you hear that weird, funky electronic music kick in during the intro screen. The gameplay isn't much different from the first Madden, but the number of options has gone through the roof! Now you can select from all 28 professional teams (plus an All-Madden team) and a ton of plays. Weather conditions, including the white asphalt "snow" and rain, really affect gameplay. You can play head-to-head or with a teammate, and players can be injured or substituted. Other nice features include tipped-passes, unsportsman-like conduct calls for late hits, and an easy-to-use instant replay feature. The impressive 80-page(!) manual contains not only complete instructions for playing the game, but also descriptions of all the formations and pages of team statistics! Madden '92 was made after the season where the referee's calls could be overturned, and this feature is included. Of course, there's no way two people playing against each other are ever going to agree to overturn a call! The game has a wicked sense of humor as well. When a player is injured, a ambulance comes speeding out onto the field, running over several other players in the process! © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1992)
Madden '93 was hardly the upgrade it was made out to be. Besides a few minor improvements and a handful of new features, this is the same as Madden '92. The best new feature is the battery backup, making it easier to play a whole season. Eight all-time great teams are also included. Madden '93 was the first football game to make a big deal out of the coin-toss, and unfortunately not the last. Other additions include a QB stop clock play, a no-huddle offense, a crowd behind the goalposts, and a few new animations. The play calling screen is different but not really an improvement. The worst new feature is the low-quality digitized John Madden voice, which will make you wince. The crowd noise is also irritating. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1993)
Madden '94 was the first Madden game to be endorsed by the NFL, believe it or not. It also introduced some major new features, like faster gameplay, larger players, 80 teams, and support for the four-player multi-tap. Minor additions include a reverse angle replay and an expanded playbook. This game was also the first to let you "flip" your plays - a major innovation. The graphics are a mixed bag. Yes, the players are larger and look more realistic, but they are almost too
big, and tend to crowd the screen. Also, they run like fruitcakes shaking their butts from side to side. The running is easier in this edition, and tackling is harder. The biggest improvement of all is the speed in which you can select your plays. The sound is better but still rough, and you still get John Madden's grainy commentary. He loves to say "boom" every now and then after a big hit. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Save option? Battery
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1994)
This was the first Madden game to be endorsed by both the NFL and
the NFL Players Association. The graphics look very realistic - the players are properly proportioned without the black outlines, and the animation is improved dramatically. But the biggest innovation is the elimination of the passing windows! Now the receivers are each assigned a button, just like the modern football video games. New moves include straight-arms and high steps. This was the first Madden which let you execute two-point conversions. The sound is crystal clear, and the game moves along at a brisk pace. My friend Eric and I actually jumped when the referee shot a gun (!?!) signaling the end of a quarter. This is truly a great football game! © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Save option? Battery
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1995)
Believe it or not, Madden '96 was step backwards
for the series. Yes the fields look better than ever, with realistic-looking grass and end zone insignias. There are some cool new moves including laterals, fair catches, and over-to-top dives. But the gameplay is way
too fast, making the game virtually unplayable! There are other flaws as well. This game brags that it is the first to feature left-handed quarterbacks. Yes, you can now control a left-handed Steve Young. But he's also African American, just like every other player in this game (including the kickers)! If you can overlook that, maybe you can also overlook the fact that tackled players look like squashed bugs. This may be the worst Madden game ever. How the mighty have fallen! © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Save option? Battery
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1996)
After the disastrous Madden 96, I was glad to see the series return to form in 1997. The gameplay has been slowed down (thankfully) so players move at a more reasonable pace. In addition, the graphics have been enhanced with sharper-looking players and realistic animation sequences. As usual, there are more options in this game than you would ever need, but they're always nice to have. New features include player fatigue, the ability to save your greatest plays, and a five receiver passing mode. The quality of the sound effects, including Madden's commentary, is beyond reproach. I couldn't find any obvious flaws in this Madden '97. This may be the best football game ever made for the Genesis. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Save option? Battery
Mario Andretti Racing
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1994)
Mario Andretti Racing feels like a next-generation Pole Position
(Atari 5200, 1983). It may not blow you away with its graphics but the game is loaded with options and playability. I was shocked
when I saw it let you race Indy, stock cars, and sprint cars. I enjoy sprint car racing, but it's pretty obscure so the game gets extra points for that. Modes include single race, two-player split-screen, circuit, and password-backed career. The stock and sprint cars require some practice to get a feel for, but I felt right at home with the precision handling of the Indy cars. Andretti Racing's graphics aren't particularly detailed but the smooth framerate goes a long way. Methodically working your way up the ranks by passing cars at just the right time is satisfying. Most races require a visit to the pitstop which is accompanied by digitized animations. I love how your radio transmits updates like "you're in third", "low fuel", and "good lap!" If your tires become worn you can spin out, and I like the fact that the CPU racers can spin out too! The action is presented via split-screen, but the single player mode offers several options so you don't waste the top half of the screen. You can use it to display the overhead map, a rear view, or simply remove it altogether in favor of the big blue sky. Mario Andretti Racing is more forgiving than Super Monaco GP
(Sega, 1993) and thanks to its extensive features it covers a lot more ground. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 5:42:78
Save mechanism: password
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Sega (1993)
Like most futuristic games, Mazin Saga's intro screens convey an ominous tale. In case you missed it, the earth was thrust into a holocaust in 1999 after being attacked with biological weapons from another dimension. Have you noticed how game developers of the past always assumed something absolutely catastrophic was going to occur in 1999? Being more sophisticated in 2006, we now know that the future is almost always boring
. Mazin Saga is saddled with an idiotic name and premise, but as a side-scrolling brawler, it has teeth. You control some sort of humanoid robot who bears a striking resemblance to my old "Mazinga" Shogun Warrior toy (remember those?). As you battle clawed warriors and shape-changing mutants, you'll employ the standard punches, jump-kicks, and "special" attacks. The characters are a bit small, and their black outlines look cheesy. The gameplay is effective however, thanks to tight controls, interesting stages, and gigantic bosses. The burning post-apocalyptic cities look beautiful, and scenes like India in the snow are pretty imaginative. The bosses tend to assume huge skeletal forms, and most can't even fit on the screen. With multiple animated joints, their movements are both fluid and freaky. Just don't rest after beating one of these titans, because next you're thrust into a one-on-one battle against a rival robot (Street Fighter 2 style!). Mazin Saga packs a serious punch, and I'm surprised how this has remained under the radar for so long. If side-scrolling brawlers are your thing, you'll want to hunt this one down. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
McDonald's Treasure Land Adventure
Publisher: Sega (1993)
This well-constructed platformer stars Ronald McDonald the clown of fast food fame. The unexpected high level of quality is explained by the fact it was developed by legendary developer Treasure. The game boasts dazzling graphics, outstanding controls, and a catchy soundtrack. In fact, the music in stage one sounds like something straight out of a Sonic game. The stages are bursting with eye candy and the scene with a starry night sky looks amazing. Some of the more trippy stages (like the pirate ship) call to mind Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse
(Sega, 1990). Crisp controls let Ronald jump, fire magic stars, and use a scarf to pull himself up to higher ledges. You'll fight clowns, cuddly dragons, and what appears to be Dopey of the Seven Dwarves. The stages are short and no two are alike. One minute you're navigating waterfalls and the next you're leaping across a train loaded with circus animals. Collecting gems and flowers replenishes your life, and gold can be used to buy health and continues. The gameplay really doesn't falter until the final stage which plays like a poor man's Earthworm Jim
(Genesis, 1994). The boss encounters are odd because they require
you to sustain some damage
just to make the boss vulnerable. My friends thought that was pretty dumb. What puts Treasure Land over the top is its surreal visuals which straddle the line between Willy Wonka and Alice in Wonderland. You never know what bizarre predicaments you'll find yourself in, like hopping between twirling ballerinas in a train tunnel for example. It's a short game and you can probably conquer its four stages in a single sitting. If you want more of a challenge, try the normal difficulty and use your gold as score (don't spend it). I'm surprised there aren't more McDonald's references besides the golden arches and cameo appearances by Hamburglar and that lazy ass Grimace. Short, sweet, and wonderfully weird, McDonald's Treasure Land Adventure is better than you would expect. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: Normal
Our high score: 8060
Save mechanism: password
Publisher: Data East (1994)
Just like Snickers satisfies hunger, Mega Turrican satisfies your urge to blow things up. In this side-scrolling shooter you forge through a robot-fortified bio-mech laboratory, post-apocalyptic landscapes, and slimy alien lairs. The completely unnecessary back-story tells the tale of an ancient evil that's returned after eons of peace. And get this - YOU
are the only one
who can save the universe from it! What are the odds of that?
I was never keen on the original Turrican
(Genesis, 1991) but Mega Turrican offers a sweet combination of platform jumping and rapid-fire shooting. All of the weapons kick ass. The "laser" unloads huge green balls of energy, "multiple" unleashes a barrage of missiles, and "rebound" ricochets projectiles around enclosed areas. Tack on some homing missiles and a supply of smart bombs, and you'll make that ancient evil wish that he had stayed his ass home!
You can only fire sideways, but that's partially offset by the fact that you can pounce on weaker enemies. Crisp controls make it easy to jump between ledges, but in some cases it's necessary to use your "plasma rope" to pull yourself up to higher ground (like Bionic Commando). This rope is a pain in the ass because you need to stand still to use it and it's tedious to adjust. It kills the momentum of the game, which is otherwise an action-packed blast-a-thon. You have the ability to roll up into a ball (ala Metroid), but whenever I tried it I usually rolled right off the screen and died. I enjoyed collecting diamonds for bonus points, but I hate how touching falling water
is fatal. Heck, even bubbles
do substantial damage. It's not perfect, but when Mega Turrican hits its stride, the carnage is a joy to behold with minimal slow-down. The stages, while fun to play, are not aesthetically pleasing. The designers were intent on incorporating as much detail and color as they could into the scenery, and some of the results will turn your stomach. That alien lair is a complete rip-off of the Alien movie franchise. The audio is appealing with its edgy, futuristic sound intermingled with an ominous piano loop. Mega Turrican isn't a standout title but its simple brand of rapid-fire shooting has an infectious quality that kept me coming back. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 46,600
Publisher: Sega (1992)
The Menacer is an oversized, futuristic light gun released to compete with Nintendo's Super Scope. Sega's model is far more versatile and practical. Its scope and stabilizer are detachable, allowing it to be held like a regular handgun. The accuracy is decent if you sit about six feet away from the screen and increase the brightness of your television. Using the scope provides for more accurate aim, but it's more comfortable to drag a jittery crosshair around the screen. The Menacer is packaged with a cartridge containing six mini-games. In Pest Control the object is to guard a small pizza being overrun by roaches. You only view a small section of the screen at a time, but hitting a special button will expose the whole screen momentarily. As if the premise wasn't disgusting enough, the sight of pizza-engorged insects will turn your stomach. It's an unpleasant game, and if I never play it again, I'm okay with that. Space Station Defender depicts a planet surface with alien pods that materialize at random. You shoot the aliens that appear, occasionally recharging by pointing at the lower part of the screen. It's far too easy and repetitive. The third game is called Ready, Aim, Tomatoes, and it's the best of the bunch. As a spin-off of Toejam and Earl
(Genesis, 1991) you aim at wacky targets like cupids, militant ducks, and frolicking businessmen. The catchy music and quirky animations are entertaining. The controls are forgiving, and power-ups like rapid-fire and time slow-down add to the fun. The two alternating stages (green meadow and beach) look great, but there should have been more. Whack Ball is the most original entry. Instead of shooting, you guide a circle around the screen, knocking a small ball against bricks along the edges. The idea is to change the color of the entire perimeter without letting the ball escape through an opening. It's a neat concept and a nice change of pace. Front Line is an uninspired military shooter with tanks, planes, and helicopters that move slowly across the screen. Turn your machine guns on close enemies and save your missiles for distant targets. Rockman's Zone is the worst game, featuring a camera that slowly pans a set of buildings as cardboard cutouts appear in the windows. An audible "shoot!" alerts you to thugs, making it easy to avoid civilians. Pointless and uneventful, there are long stretches where nothing happens at all. This Menacer cartridge isn't too exciting. It seems designed with the goal of having gamers say, "hey, this gun really works!" Note: The Menacer does not
work on HDTVs. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: Ready, Aim, Tomatoes
Our high score: 50,470
Publisher: Sega (1991)
If you thrive on one-man-army shooters like Rambo: First Blood Part 2
(Sega Master System, 1988), then Mercs is your game. After being dropped off on a beach you mow down enemy soldiers, blow up a camp, take down a chopper, and fight on the deck of a battleship. You can even commandeer jeeps and man turrets. I really enjoy the vibrant, VGC-friendly arcade graphics. Your firepower is exceptional but shooting angles are limited. For best results use a solid joystick. You fire in the direction of your movement, so it's a good idea to forge ahead guns blazing. You'll absorb your share of enemy fire but there's always a juicy lamb chop or roasted chicken in one of the crates ahead. If Mercs has one weakness, it's the audio. The music isn't memorable (or even hummable) and the sound effects are awful. When you spray enemies there's no sound as the bullets silently wash over them. This makes the violence far less satisfying than one would prefer. And when your soldier takes a shot he sounds like he's coughing up a damn hairball
for Pete's sake. You'll be tempted to dive into the arcade mode but original mode is where you'll find the meat of the game. Not only does it offer remixed stages, it incorporates safe houses that let you stock up on supplies. Best of all, entering a safe house adds a man to your squad, effectively awarding you with an extra life. I love the guy named Burner who whips around a flame thrower, frying everyone to a crisp. The graphics rating does take a hit however with the third "mountain" stage. I'm not sure what the designers were going for, but that hazy layer of grainy "fog" is hard on the eyes. Even so, Mercs is highly recommended for gamers looking to unleash their inner Rambo. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: Original
Our high score: 70,950
1 player only
Michael Jackson's Moonwalker
Publisher: Sega (1990)
Michael Jackson may have been a weird dude, but you can't question his talent. The guy wrote a slew of catchy songs and performed them with his own distinctive style. Moonwalker was released as Michael's reputation was shifting from "strange" towards "bizarre", which probably limited the game's sales. Even so, this is a well-crafted platformer that's fun to play. The game involves Michael saving kids while subduing thugs in bars, streets, garages, and graveyards. He doesn't actually fight
anyone, but instead blows them off the screen by throwing pixie dust (no joke). When your "star magic" meter is full, you can toss your hat at enemies, causing them to explode on contact. When your star power is at maximum, you can force all the bad guys on the screen to participate in an elaborate dance number - a fate worse than death! Completing a stage requires locating a certain number of kids hidden behind various doors and windows, and scouring each area can feel very tedious. Saved kids fly off the screen on a little rocket, which looks pretty bizarre. After all are saved, Bubbles the Chimp hops on your shoulders and guides you to a boss encounter, which is really just a parade of generic bad guys. Moonwalker is remarkable in a number of ways. Michael moves with fluid grace and a large number of his signature moves are on full display. It's fun to watch him gallivant around a bar while performing various spins and poses. In addition to thugs, Michael sometimes has to deal with attack dogs, and it's really a trip
when you make the dogs dance! One the later stages is a graveyard crawling with zombies, and those guys look genuinely creepy. Moonwalker's music is sensational. I cranked up the volume while playing this game through my stereo, and my friends were amazed by the strong bass and overall quality. Each stage offers a fine rendition of a classic track, including Smooth Criminal, Beat It, and Billy Jean. Moonwalker is a treat for gamers and its sheer novelty makes it a fine addition to any Genesis collection. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: easy
Our high score: 10870
Publisher: Codemasters (1993)
The box for this game says "UK No. 1 Best Seller", with rave reviews plastered all over the back. I assume they were referring to Micro Machines games of the past, as the brand carried a lot of weight at the time. First made popular on the NES, this overhead racer let you race toy cars around kitchen tables, pool tables, gardens, and other everyday locations. Not limited to cars, you'll also race speedboats, tanks, and flying choppers. Micro Machines looks terrific on the Genesis with crisp graphics and super-smooth scrolling. To earn points you must take a commanding lead on your opponents until they fall out of view. This is challenging when you don't know where the tracks lead, but once players become familiar with the tracks the races become drawn out and somewhat boring. Only the tanks have weapons and there aren't any special items to spice things up. I also suspect the game is a little buggy after witnessing the losing car inexplicably declared winner. The music is lousy. But my biggest gripe is the lack of a four-player mode - only two players can go head-to-head. That's a bitter pill to swallow considering the SNES version offered four-player support. If a Genesis multitap had not been released in time for this, Codemasters should have waited for it. I love the Micro Machines series but this feels like a neutered version at best. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Data East (1990)
Midnight Resistance really got my adrenaline pumping! It's one of those rapid-fire side-scrollers where you blow away wave after wave of nondescript bad guys. You control a soldier with mad firepower. Enemies literally go up in smoke when shot, but they often drops keys that you can use to buy new weapons. Before each stage, you can choose from a number of weapons and power-ups. My favorite is the three-way shot that fires large spheres - power that bad boy up and you're nearly unstoppable. There are also some useful secondary weapons like guided missiles or "rain" attacks. Unfortunately, after you use a continue, you're back to the standard gun, which means you won't last long. The enemies are mainly generic soldiers, but you'll also face some large vehicles like tanks and fighter jets. The large mechanical bosses are relatively easy to beat thank goodness. Part of what makes Midnight Resistance so fun is the controls. By holding the B button, you can fire in one direction while running in another. Another control option allows you to use B to rotate your fire, but I found that needlessly confusing. While Midnight Resistance is undeniably fun, it is less impressive technically. The graphics are varied and colorful, but slowdown occurs quite a bit. In some stages, the game pauses to draw the next screen, which is pretty lame. But those problems wouldn't keep me from recommending this intense shooter. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: CJS 34,000
Publisher: Ocean (1994)
Boy and boy does this game suck! A platformer with split-screen coop? "Sign me up!"
Be careful what you ask for. The Adventures of Mighty Max is a platformer based on a cartoon series that ran in the 1990's. I noticed the title screen music is blatant rip-off of Prince's song "Cream". So you select from three kids to play as, and then one of two hopelessly generic stages: space or volcano. Whatever you decide is a losing proposition. I opted for the space stage with its repetitive metal platforms and floating space junk in the background. You shoot wandering robots with your ping-pong ball gun but it only disables them temporarily. This game would be far more satisfying if you could blow up those damn robots. These controls are wack. You can't navigate the stages with any kind of precision, which is frustrating. You jump high like a flea, even when you don't want
to jump high like a flea! After wandering aimlessly for what felt like an eternity I consulted the manual to see what the [expletive] I was supposed to be doing. Apparently you're supposed to pick up metal "weapon pieces" and transport them into portals scattered around the stage, usually near the top. The problem is, while carrying pieces you move slow as a turtle and can't jump. Therefore it's necessary to employ gadgets like rafts, balloons, magnets, and seesaws to elevate them to the top of the screen. Suffice to say it's all a colossal pain in the ass. The split-screen coop just exacerbates the situation. Ubiquitous icons are worth 1000 points a pop, but what good is that when you can't complete the first level? And why are there penguins in the volcano? The Adventures of Mighty Max is part puzzle, part action, and all misery. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 153,200
Save mechanism: password
1 or 2 players
Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers
Publisher: Bandai (1994)
Unlike the SNES version of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers
(SNES, 1994) which featured side-scrolling stages, the Genesis got a no-frills, one-on-one fighter. The title screen includes the Power Rangers theme song, but when the vocals kick in it sounds like the singers have laryngitis. The cut-scenes depict the evil Rita Repulsa who summons one villain after another. Before each battle you select one of five power rangers of various colors, each of which wields a special attack like a sword or flaming arrow. Special moves are executed using Street Fighter II-style movements (quarters rolls, charge). I find it amusing that the black Power Ranger actually is a black guy. He's my favorite because of his spinning attack that's pretty much unstoppable. The first round pits you against a monster called Minotaur, and after you beat him he transforms into a giant. Your Power Ranger then calls in some huge mech to handle this beast. The game alternates between small-scale and large-scale combat, but the characters are really the same size on the screen - it's the scenery that makes them look big. In addition they move slower, which gives the illusion of mass. The backdrops depict buildings and waterfalls, but they are static and lacking in detail. The fighting action is mediocre. The controls are okay, but the collision detection is suspect and there seem to be missing sound effects. The cut-scenes feature digitized scenes from the show, but the voice samples are incomprehensible. Late in the game a playable character called Dragonzord is introduced who looks like a Mecha-Godzilla clone. I finished the story mode in under 45 minutes and for the rest of the day I couldn't stop singing that "Go Go Power Rangers"
theme song. I might have cut this game some slack if it had a score or password, but there's nothing but unlimited continues. After you beat it, all that's left is a versus mode that lets you play a friend as a monster or Ranger. Fans of the show might want to give Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers a shot, but there's only about an hours' worth of entertainment here - tops. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Acclaim (1993)
Arguably the most controversial video game in history, Mortal Kombat offered one-on-one fighting with digitized characters and over-the-top violence that's anything
but realistic. Spurting blood is the order of the day, and battles culminate with gory finishing moves. Gamers thrived on the carnage, but the outcry from parents was enough to have Congress hold hearings on video game violence. These would eventually prompt the gaming industry to establish the ratings system we have today. While comparisons to Street Fighter 2 are unavoidable, Mortal Kombat has a distinctive look and feel of its own - with style to burn! Home versions were released simultaneously for both the Genesis and SNES, but only the Genesis version retained the gore of the arcade game. Guess which sold the most copies? Actually, the gore is disabled by default, but entering the button sequence ABACABB during the intro lets you play the game how it was meant
to be played. Can gratuitous blood and outrageous violence really enhance the gameplay? Hell yeah!
Landing a barrage of punches is all the more satisfying when blood flies, and what better way to celebrate a victory than to rip out your opponent's spine?
It's a great feeling! Mortal Kombat's basic controls consist of two punches, two kicks, and a block button. Be sure to use a six-button controller, or else you'll be forced to hit Start
to block (ugh!). The game's memorable cast includes thunder god Rayden, special ops chick Sonya, masked criminal Kano, martial artist Liu Kang, Hollywood action hero Johnny Cage, and a mysterious pair of ninjas named Scorpion and Sub Zero. Goro is a hulking, four-armed boss who is just as intimidating as he sounds. Mortal Kombat's controls are stiff compared to Street Fighter 2, but its gameplay is fun in its own way. Some of the special moves are pretty entertaining, like Sub-Zero's freeze ray, Sonya's leg throw, and Johnny Cage's groin punch. Matches tend to be short and sweet, and the fatalities really aren't that hard to execute. The manual doesn't list the special moves or fatalities, but hey - that's what they invented the Internet for, right? And who can forget those awesome "test your might" bonus stages that let you karate-chop stacks of wood. The rough voice synthesis is inferior to the SNES version, but the music is outstanding. Mortal Kombat has evolved over the years, but this original still holds a lot of charm. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: easy
Our high score: 1375000
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Acclaim (1994)
An excellent sequel to a blockbuster game, Mortal Kombat 2 (MK2) is regarded by many as the pinnacle of the series. A logical extension of the original, MK2 offers an expanded roster, new stages, and a wider range of finishing moves. The graphics are noticeably sharper and the controls more responsive. You can really get into a zone once you get a few moves down. The cast has grown from seven to twelve with additions like the hat-tossing Kung Lao, Reptile (a green palette-swap of Scorpion), and hottie twins Mileena and Kitana. The toothy Barakka may be the ugliest
fighter ever to appear in a video game! Sonya has been cut from the roster. The blood appears less chunky than the first game, and you don't need to enter a code to enable it. The stages are quite imaginative, especially the one with the floating monks and swirling vortex. In the "bridge" stage you can see two guys fighting in the background, and one of them is on fire!
MK2 offers more moves and fatalities per character, and you even have the option of performing a "friendship" (kind gesture) or "babality" (transform your opponent into a baby). These goofy new finishing moves silenced the game's critics and provide some comic relief. Unfortunately, the fatalities are more difficult to execute in this game, requiring you to enter a more complex sequence of buttons. Another annoyance is the digitized dork who occasionally pops up in the lower right corner ("toasty!") - so annoying!
Still, Mortal Kombat 2 is a legitimate classic that packs some of the best fighting action you'll experience on a 16-bit machine. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Williams (1995)
Rating: Mature (realistic blood and gore, violence)
Mortal Kombat 3 (MK3) is widely regarded as the point when the franchise "jumped the shark". While MK3 is certainly bigger than its predecessor, it seems to take a quantity-over-quality approach that makes it feel like a watered-down sequel. The four-armed Sheva is a compelling (but cheap) new character, but most of the other newcomers are too boring to even mention. And adding robots was not
the best idea. Before each contest a slick match-up screen is displayed, depicting the fighters going head-to-head in cool poses. The stages are departure from the mystical worlds of previous games, instead featuring trashy urban landscapes like a city street or subway. The backgrounds sport a digitized look, but due to the system's limited color palette they appear grainy, static, and bland. Occasionally you'll punch an opponent through the ceiling and the battle will continue in the area above - a cheesy but amusing little gimmick. A new "run" button has been incorporated, but it's completely unnecessary and only serves to needlessly complicate the controls. MK3's biggest sin however is its unceremonious axing
of several key characters, including Scorpion (!) and Rayden. Sub Zero is back, but he's now unmasked!
As if losing his mystique wasn't bad enough, he looks like freakin' David Hasselhoff! Oh the humanity of it all!
MK3's gameplay is admittedly much faster than MK2 - probably in response to all of the Street Fighter Turbo games it had to compete against. Mortal Kombat 3 isn't bad as 2D fighters go, but most fans of the series have mixed feelings about it - and justifiably so. My friend Chris even contends this game forever tainted the legacy of the franchise. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Tengen (1991)
I remember picking this up on sale at Toys R Us in the early 90's, thinking it was going to be a big hit at my house (especially with a girlfriend and little sister around). But nobody ever played it much. Ms. Pac-Man is an early example of a publisher releasing a classic game on a far more advanced platform, yet still managing to botch it up. How many times have we seen that
before? From the look of the options menu, this should have been the ultimate Ms. Pac-Man game. You get two-player simultaneous modes, four skill levels (including "crazy"), and you can enable the Pac-Man "booster", allowing you to zip around the mazes at twice the speed! There are four sets of mazes (36 total) including arcade, alternate, extra large, and mini. You can even select your starting stage! The graphics are slightly more detailed than the arcade version, and the sound effects, music, and intermissions are faithful to the original coin-op. So what's the problem? It's the control, man - the control
!! Ms. Pac-Man's directional movements are extremely touchy and unforgiving to say the least. Almost every time you die, it's because the defective controls sent you off in the wrong direction. The Genesis controller is definitely no substitute for a good joystick. There's another issue regarding the two-player simultaneous play. Since all the mazes (except mini) scroll up and down, when the players spread out, one tends to scroll off and is forced to play "blind". Despite its flaws, there are some terrific variations in this cartridge that you won't find elsewhere. The new mazes are well designed, and the boost option allows you to be super aggressive and clear out each maze in a hurry. But if you ever wondered why this cartridge never made much of a splash, now you know. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: big maze + speed
Our high score: 40340
1 or 2 players
Mutant League Football
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1993)
The concept behind this game is so wild, it makes you wonder why there aren't more
games like this. Mutant League Football plays like Madden, except the players are monsters and the fields are laden with hazards. There are sixteen teams with names like "Psycho Slashers", "Screaming Evils", and "Forty Whiners". The players are bands of trolls, robots, aliens, skeletons, super-humans, and other species. The seven-on-seven gameplay allows for larger, more detailed players than Madden. Obstacles litter the field like pits, rocks, and mines. It all sounds like a recipe for fun, but Mutant League Football is less than the sum of its parts. The graphics are muddy and indistinct, especially when players are bunched up. The action is so choppy that it's hard to tell what the [expletive] is going on! The quality of play is nowhere near Madden standards. Running the ball is tough because there's no concept of forward progress. The passing windows lead you to believe your receiver is in the clear, only to discover he's just two yards to your left! The controls are lousy and the framerate slows to a crawl after a pass is completed. It's hard to tell who caught the ball, or even your player was tackled or not! Wacky audible plays let you stick dynamite in the ball, use a rocket pack, bribe the ref, or kill the ref (literally). In the NFL, all of these plays are illegal, but I will give Mutant League credit for being unpredictable. I enjoy chaos as much as the next guy, but the game is confusing and luck plays a huge role. The blaring music can get on your nerves, and the coach's indecipherable gibberish is annoying. I did enjoy the interactive half-time show. Mutant League Football is an example of a great concept falling victim to sloppy execution. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Mutant League Hockey
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1994)
On paper at least, Mutant League Hockey looks like a surefire hit. You take EA's award-winning hockey engine, substitute monsters for players, and let the hilarity ensue. Hell, this may be the best premise of all time!
The stylized menu screens are a feast for the eyes with their medieval themes, over-the-top animations, and wacky sound effects. Once you hit the ice however the players aren't very well defined and the arenas aren't especially interesting (save for the monsters in the crowd). The action degenerates quickly once things are set in motion. Weapons and traps create pure chaos as you witness decapitations, impalements, and body parts strewn over the ice. It sounds great, but hazards like mines and fire pits prove far more aggravating than entertaining. All the gimmicks really take their toll on the gameplay, in the form of choppy scrolling, erratic frame-rate, and stuttering animations. It's not a pretty sight. The controls feel nearly as loose as the collision detection. When things get hectic it's hard to tell what the [expletive] is going on, much less locate the puck. The close-up fights look amazing, but they become repetitive and wear out their welcome. Hearing the coaches babble gibberish during every stoppage is tiresome. The two-player action is a mess, but the game isn't half bad when played solo. If nothing else, it gets a heck of a lot of mileage out of its sheer novelty value. You never know what you're going to see in Mutant League Hockey. But once you get past all the gore, wacky hi-jinx, and goofy antics, you're not left with much of a game. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Dreamworks (1992)
This isn't a well-known game, and there's a perfectly good reason for that. Compared to similar side-scrolling brawlers like Streets of Rage or Final Fight, Mystical Fighter is an utter embarrassment. Despite donning an ancient Japanese theme, the characters are bizarre and the scenery is as static as it is boring. You'll fight a lot of big, fat sumos dressed in traditional garb, and weird, skinny Golem-like creatures. We all know how old 2D fighters tend to recycle the same characters in different color palettes, but Mystical Fighter takes this concept to the extreme
. The fighting action is as shallow as it is repetitive. In addition to standard kicks and punches, there are a few special moves, including the Blanka-inspired rolling attack, and a "spin throw" which lets you execute a silly helicopter-like spin. The controls are crisp and the animation is smooth, but the gameplay is easy and unsatisfying. The modern soundtrack sounds terribly inappropriate for a game like this. Mystical Fighter is just one of those oddball titles that probably never should have seen the light of day. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 120300
1 or 2 players