Publisher: Taito (1991)
For 2D shooting fans, Sagaia is one of the simple pleasures of life. While unspectacular on the surface, this side-scroller's 28 branching stages present an irresistible challenge. Your ship is armed with both rapid-fire missiles and bombs, and there's no penalty for unleashing them both with reckless abandon. Power-ups in the form of shield icons augment your current weapon, so you can snatch them all without having to be selective. Less thinking equals more fun! Certain weapons fire both up and down, which are useful when flying through cannon-fortified caverns. Enemies tend to appear in groups, and eradicating every last one will net you a big fat bonus. Sagaia's aquatic-themed enemies include lobsters, jellyfish, and seahorses. Fish bosses don't overstay their welcome and turn red when near death (like a good boss should). Keep an eye out for floating mines which you can shoot to wipe out everything on the screen (like a remote smart bomb). My main beef with Sagaia is how enemies can absorb many shots, offsetting the benefits of the rapid-fire shooting. Those pesky seahorses are prime offenders. The stages are pretty generic and advanced levels tend to recycle old enemies and bosses. The music is fair, but occasionally it drifts into Hanna Barbara cartoon territory. The sound effects are weak, and destroying enemies sounds like you're popping balloons. Sagaia isn't particularly memorable, but its "keep it simple" style goes a long way. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: normal
Our high score: 919,450
Publisher: Taito (1991)
Our high score: 42,400
Save mechanism: Password
Publisher: Takara (1994)
After playing the 3DO version of this game, there's really no going back. On the Genesis, Samurai Shodown just looks like another run-of-the-mill Street Fighter wannabe. It's a 2D fighter with Asian-inspired fighters that carry sharp weapons. Some of the characters are pretty cool, but the graphics are nothing special, and the sound is just lousy. The scratchy voice samples are hard to take, and the minimal background music won't exactly have you singing in the shower. The gameplay isn't much better - the action feels very slow and lethargic. Worst of all, the Genesis isn't capable of executing the snazzy 3D scaling that's the trademark of the game (not to mention its one original feature). At least the six-button controller is supported. But only diehard fighting fans will want to try this one. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Scooby Doo Mystery
Publisher: Sunsoft (1995)
Save mechanism: Password
Publisher: Sage's Creation (1990)
My friends were dismissive of Shadow Blasters but this obscure title is an underrated gem in my book. You play the role of four ancient warriors in six stages: mountain, street, glen, harbor, forest, and "future". When one character dies you select another, effectively giving you four lives. The fact that you can select between both characters and stages
ratchets up the replay value considerably. The graphics aren't anything to write home about with grainy backdrops and people rendered with black outlines. That said, the visuals have an old school charm and the ominous music is quite enjoyable. Each warrior has his own weapons, from knives to boomerangs to flaming dragons. You'll battle samurai warriors, serpents, flaming birds, floating heads, and annoying hopping pinecones. You can jump, duck, toss projectiles, and unleash a special attack. The environments could use more pizzazz but I like how there are alternate routes you can take. The control, firepower, and difficulty is right on point. It's hard to tell what some of the icons are for, but collecting gray ones will power up your attack. Each stage concludes with an obligatory boss in the form of a floating head, a rock golem, or giant brain. Don't forget your special attack! The gameplay is very basic but fun to play for high score. The fact that there's a highly-playable two-player simultaneous mode is icing on the cake. Shadow Blasters may not look like much but rest assured it's a worthy addition to the collection. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 104,500
1 or 2 players
Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi
Publisher: Sega (1990)
Our high score: 299700
Shadow of the Beast
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1991)
I recall playing this one on my Atari ST computer way back in the day. At the time Psygnosis was considered the "new hotness" of game developers. I never cared for Shadow of the Beast then and still don't. I do like its surreal landscapes, featuring mountains with holes and skeletal rock formations that call to mind the Alien films. I believe "Gigeresque" is the word I'm looking for. You control an alien creature with an elongated head that reminds me of MDK
(PS1, 1997). While collecting keys and other items you're assailed by creatures like giant grasshoppers, minotaurs, and birds. At first you can only punch and kick, but periodically you'll obtain a weapon. The stylish graphics and moody electronic score convey a dreamlike quality. The gameplay however is hurting!
The character animation is so bad it looks like I'm fighting statues
. It's hard to determine the purpose of most items and large monsters kill you on contact
. Most of the time Shadow of the Beast makes no sense. In the first underground area you must break an orb to obtain a weapon, yet punching has no effect. No, you need to use a series of jump-kicks instead. How are you supposed to know that?!
You're often required to complete tasks in a specific order and sometimes you seem to lose items or abilities for no apparent reason. The music may be good but the sound effects are practically non-existent
. Shadow of the Beast exudes a lot of style but I'm afraid there's very little beneath its grand exterior. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 3072
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1994)
Our high score: 268,133
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Sega (1993)
Publisher: Sega (1993)
Shinobi III is one of the best ninja games I've ever played. The graphics, sound, and control are all spectacular. The first stage is set in the wilderness, with ninjas hiding in the trees. It's pretty cool, except for the guy walking around with the bucket on his head (what the?). In the second stage, you fight armed guards in a high-tech, biological test facility. The action never gets repetitive because the scenery is constantly changing, and there are plenty of surprises. You have several attacks and power-ups at your disposal. The bosses are incredible, and there are even some nice high-speed levels that let you ride a horse or jet-ski. The audio is remarkably good, especially the sound of your weapon slashing into human flesh! If you like ninja games, you cannot afford to live without this one. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: SLN 24420
Publisher: Data East (1992)
Back when I lived at home with my parents my friends would often lounge around my room playing Side Pocket. Its awesome title screen features some guy standing next to his sports car at river's edge gazing at a gorgeous city skyline. My friends loved to imitate the gravelly, chain-smoking voice that announces "Siiiiide Pocket
!" This billiards title may lack customization options and fancy 3D angles, but it's so
much fun. The two-player modes are fine but you can't beat the addictive goodness of the one-player pocket game. Played in series of cities across the USA, you must obtain a certain score to advance to the next town. The idea is to sink balls in order (consecutive or by number), with a supply of "stocks" keeping track of allowed misses. This system gives you a little leeway so you can experiment with some imaginative shots. The controls are intuitive and a dotted guide line makes it easy to set up your next shot and play the angles. Angles are limited by the resolution, but you can compensate by applying english. The shiny balls roll smoothly around the table and I love the sound of them clicking against each other. The physics is a little quirky and I really wish there was more separation during breaks. Spicing things up are randomized bonuses and opportunities to execute trick shots on tables lined with wine glasses. A score is awarded after each round, but I wish there was a running tally as well. What makes Side Pocket stand out is how it conveys the atmosphere of a smoky pool hall. The jazzy lounge music is relaxing and the intermission screens show sophisticated ladies in come-hither poses. I think one just winked at me! Side Pocket is an arcade-style pool game with style to burn. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 6,100
1 or 2 players
Simpsons, The: Bart Vs. The Space Mutants
Publisher: Acclaim (1992)
Bart Vs. The Space Mutants features bright cartoonish graphics and compelling gameplay, but its difficulty is insane
! When it takes me several days
to complete the first stage, that tends to have a detrimental effect on the game's grade! The colorful intro shows the Simpson family snuggled up on the sofa watching TV as aliens land outside and begin infiltrating society disguised as normal people. These aliens are seeking specific items to complete their doomsday machine, so Bart must run, jump, and skateboard through five stages in order to snatch up (or hide) these items from the aliens. The first stage is set on a city street where Bart must track down 24 purple items, and a helpful "goal counter" on the bottom of the screen keeps you posted on his progress. You'll achieve your goals by spray-painting flowerpots, dumping paint, and knocking clothes off a clothesline. In one special case, Bart needs to prank call Moe the bartender in order to lure him out and spray-paint his apron. The sidewalks are crawling with small bouncy aliens that Bart has to duck under or jump over. Sometimes it's necessary to purchase specific items from stores including wrenches, cherry bombs, and bottle rockets. Bart Vs. The Space Mutants is actually quite fun to play, but it's relentlessly unforgiving
, requiring you to complete every single goal
flawlessly! If that's not enough, each stage ends with a boss encounter like a water-balloon tossing bully. Later stages promise madcap action in a shopping mall, amusement park, and museum. If only I could get that far! Since there's no password, you're always doomed to repeat the early stages, and considering the difficulty, that oversight is unforgivable. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Core (1995)
Despite some outstanding visuals, Skeleton Krew falters due to its repetitive, headache-inducing gameplay. You can choose from one of three "skeleton warriors", but they just look like regular guys with all that heavy armor on. You play from an isometric diagonal view, and the stages look like futuristic dungeon mazes. The control scheme allows you to rapid-fire, rotate, and strafe, making it easier to mow down legions of monsters that continuously materialize around you. That leads me to my main complaint - there's too many freakin' things to shoot! The monsters just regenerate over and over, which is really annoying in certain levels that require you to clear them all out before progressing. The shooting action gets old really quick. In most stages I discovered it was less painful to simply navigate the maze and avoid combat altogether. Another annoying aspect is bosses that take forever to die, and you can't tell if they're taking damage! I really can't find fault with the graphics. The stages are fairly generic, but the pseudo-3D characters are nicely animated, and it's fun to watch them explode. But it's just eye candy as far as I'm concerned. Even with the two-player simultaneous mode, this game doesn't have lasting play value. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.