Genesis Reviews U-V

Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3
Grade: B-
Publisher: Williams (1996)
Reviewed: 2009/10/31
Rating: Mature (realistic blood and gore, violence)

screenshotThis "Ultimate" edition is a weak attempt to repackage Mortal Kombat 3 (MK3) and appease some disenchanted fans. Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 returns two vital characters missing from MK3: Scorpion (a fan favorite) and the original masked version of Sub Zero. The fact that the unmasked version is also included seems to break every law of nature. It's just not right! And where in the hell is Rayden? What happened to Sheeva?

Several new characters are present, but they feel tacked on to say the least, with even more Scorpion palette-swaps like Rain (purple), Ermac (red), and Noob Saibot (black). Geez, hasn't that dead horse been beaten enough?? The fighting engine has been tweaked a bit and there are new fatalities, so the underlying fighting engine is solid.

The game certainly plays well. Another purported new "feature" are the multiplayer modes that support four or eight players. Who in the hell asked for that? Nobody, but it sure was easy to program! UMK3 also features a few new backgrounds, but nothing worth writing home about. Clearly Midway was trying to squeeze as much as they could out of the series for one last 16-bit incarnation, but I doubt if gamers turned off by MK3 would even bother with this. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 8 players 

Universal Soldier
Grade: C
Publisher: Accolade (1992)
Reviewed: 2008/10/30

screenshotMuch like the low-budget Jean Claude Van Damme/Dolph Lundgren flick of the same name, Universal Soldier won't disappoint you if you don't expect too much. You play a soldier named Luc in this side-scrolling platform shooter, where you avoid traps, leap between platforms, explore underground caves, and blast everything to bits. The game has little in common with the movie, but a lot in common with the game Turrican (Accolade, 1991).

The similarities are downright astonishing until you realize they were both published by Accolade. Yes, this was a pretty transparent attempt to make some quick cash on a movie license. The initial stage is set in a forest with grainy scenery and an ugly color scheme. Your soldier brandishes some serious firepower, but can only shoot forward.

To compensate, you're armed with a "laser whip" which you can position 360 degrees around you. You also have one "super weapon" per life that literally wipes the screen of enemies. There are tons of power-ups icons lying around - so many that you actually begin to get tired of picking them up! Enemy soldiers don't die easily, and when they do, it looks like they're flying off the screen.

Universal Soldier also features a lot of swarming creepy-crawlies - both biological and mechanical. Like Turrican, you can transform into a spiked ball and effectively plow through a line of foes. While the graphics are generally uninspired, a few details caught my eye, like the way water splashes on your head and little stars appear when you're dizzy.

The soundtrack of stage one is very intense, but the happy-go-lucky music of stage two would be better suited to a Sonic game. Universal Soldier offers continues and provides passwords between stages. Fans of the movie may be disappointed, but shooter fans will have their hands full with this one. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 92,664
1 player 

Unnecessary Roughness '95
Grade: D-
Publisher: Accolade (1994)
Reviewed: 2005/8/14

screenshotWith a name like Unnecessary Roughness, I was eagerly anticipating one of those crazy, over-the-top sports spectacles, along the lines of NBA Jam. Instead, the game unwisely attempts to be a realistic football game! It contains all of the real NFL teams and players, but if Accolade expected to compete with Madden, they were badly mistaken. Unnecessary Roughness doesn't offer anything that Madden doesn't do better.

Yes, there are two viewing angles - distant during passes and close during runs, but that's been done before in Joe Montana II Sportstalk Football (Genesis, 1991). The graphics are weak. In the far view, the players have ugly black outlines surrounding them. They look much better close-up, but their animation is rough. At any given time a player is either standing perfectly straight or laying flat on his back.

When receivers (and defenders) reach the quarterback's "target", they just stand around like buffoons waiting for the ball to arrive. What's worse is how a defender can literally be on top of the receiver, only to have the receiver still make the catch! I saw one receiver make a catch who was nowhere near the ball. The passes "float" something terrible and there's no shadow to judge the height of the ball (although the ball does get "big" while in midair).

The running game isn't much better. There's little time to make decisions when running up the middle, but sometimes you can break loose on the outside. Even the kicking game is flawed thanks to the ridiculously tiny goal posts. Play calling is definitely simpler than Madden - you only need to choose one play/formation, which thankfully speeds up the game. I love football games in general, but Unnecessary Roughness is far more unnecessary than rough. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Urban Strike
Grade: B+
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1994)
Reviewed: 1999/12/21

screenshotThe first two Strike titles allowed you to blow up targets all over the world. These campaigns take place in the dense cityscapes of New York, San Francisco, and Las Vegas. You get to control two types of helicopters, as well as a ground vehicle, and in some stages you can run around and attack on foot! This is probably the ultimate Strike game, and if you're not sick and tired of this series by now, this should do the trick. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Save option? Password
1 player. 

Valis
Grade: D-
Publisher: Renovation (1991)
Reviewed: 2019/3/2

screenshotRenovation published some great 16-bit titles in the 1990's, including personal favorite Gaiares (Renovation, 1990) and the critically-acclaimed Gain Ground (Genesis, 1991). I always liked the Valis series but it occurred to me I had never played the original. Tracking down a complete version was not cheap, and the intro does not inspire confidence. It lacks audio, and the text crawl is so slow someone might as well be typing it!

Valis stars a Japanese schoolgirl named Yuko who acquires magical powers from the Goddess Valia. The opening stage takes place in a city where you battle floating plants, dark samurai warriors, and cartwheeling robots. I love the look of those skyscrapers soaring into the blue sky, and if you want a better view just jump onto a rooftop. The musical score kicks ass, enhanced with some excellent drum fills.

Valis sounds great but the gameplay seems to be stuck in low gear! The collision detection is about the worst I've ever seen, and I hate how enemies simply disappear when hit. You have a magic meter and health bar, and ubiquitous power-ups make it easy to keep them full. This is one of those games where you stop bothering to collect health because you're already maxed out! Upon defeating a boss this message is displayed: "Stage complete. Get Fantasm Jeuly". I think that's supposed to be jewelry.

This jewelry gives you magic powers which are woefully ineffective on bosses. I'm still trying to figure out how triggering an earthquake kills creatures in the air. Valis is super easy until you reach the underground lava stage. It's not really a matter of maintaining your health; you can fall into the lava without taking damage for Pete's sake!

No, the true challenge is maintaining your sanity as you move from one dead end to the next while desperately trying to locate the exit! The slide move is easy to forget about, but it's surprisingly useful for clearing small gaps. Advanced bosses absorb up to 50 hits, making these fights feel like battles of attrition. I'm afraid the first entry in the Valis series has not aged well at all. I much prefer the PC Engine CD remake Valis (Turbgrafx-16, 1992). © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.


Valis III
Grade: B
Publisher: Renovation (1991)
Reviewed: 2006/2/24


screenshotSide-scrolling hack-n-slash fans will feel like they've died and gone to old-school heaven when they play Valis III. This game has it all - sweet parallax scrolling, anime cut-scenes, a cool electronic soundtrack, and an absolutely incomprehensible storyline. The intermissions try to tie up loose ends from previous Valis games, tossing out all sorts of odd names like "Valna", "Kolilanba", and my personal favorite, "Glames".

The text dialogue scrolls awfully slowly, so only die-hard Valis fans will savor the dramatic storyline - most players will skip it. The initial stage appears to be set in modern-day Japan. Isn't it amazing how those city skylines always look so cool in these old 16-bit games? Most of the other stages feature fantasy settings including a magical forest and a lake with a tower in the center.

Valis III's familiar mechanics will have you jumping between platforms and hacking at monsters, but this game is easier to play than most. Jumping can be problematic until you master the "long jump" (press up diagonally), but once you have that down it's no problem at all. Your sword unleashes a wave of energy, so you can even reach foes from a distance. In addition to your standard attack, you can unleash magic and execute a handy roll move. Pressing the A button lets you cycle between several characters at any time, and they're all chicks.

Nicely-illustrated enemies include floating jaws, transparent swamp creatures, floating coins, and levitating eyeballs. Many of the creatures defy description, but most are very imaginative and fun to watch. The bosses are relatively unspectacular, but refreshingly easy to defeat. As good as Valis III is, the unlimited continues and lack of a score takes its toll on the replay value. Anybody can beat the game if they sit in front of it long enough, and once it's complete, there's little incentive to return to it. Still, for the first time through anyway, Valis III is pure side-scrolling bliss. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Vapor Trail
Grade: C+
Publisher: Renovation (1991)
Reviewed: 2006/4/20

screenshotThis well-designed vertical shooter has a lot going for it. Vapor Trail offers three selectable fighter planes, each with its own unique combination of weaponry, power, and agility. You're allotted three ships, each with three units of "life", so you can withstand multiple hits before going down in flames. The A button shoots, B provides rapid-fire, and C triggers an evasive "roll" maneuver. Weapons and power-ups appear on a regular basis, including guided missiles and a devastating flame attack.

Not all of the weapons are desirable however. The one that looks like swirling bubbles may be the most idiotic thing I've seen in a Genesis shooter. Vapor Trail's backdrops look terrific, featuring multi-layered mountains, tunnels, and overpasses. In one scene you fly up the side of a building as an awesome city skyline emerges in the background. The shooting action is intense, with most enemies being of the tank, helicopter, and jet fighter variety.

In terms of audio, Vapor Trail boasts some seriously kick-ass music that conveys a true sense of urgency. The voice synthesis, on the other hand, is so awful you could mistake it for Donald Duck complaining about a bee in his picnic basket. It's so heinous that you actually want to hear it, just so you can make fun of it.

Vapor Trail also includes a two-player simultaneous mode, albeit with some minor slowdown. My main beef with this game is how your score immediately disappears upon losing your last life! Yes, even during the "continue" countdown! Unless you're paying very close attention, you never know what the high score is, which hurts the game's replay value. It's too bad, because otherwise Vapor Trail ranks quite high in the crowded pool of Genesis shooters. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: SDZ 120000
1 or 2 players 

Vectorman
Grade: A-
Publisher: Sega (1995)
Reviewed: 2014/1/13

screenshotVectorman may have been the last great official release for the Genesis. This frenetic platform shooter was developed late in the system's life cycle, and you can tell the developers knew what they were doing. In addition to some of the best run-and-gun action on the Genesis, Vectorman boasts impressive scaling, rotation, and amazing pseudo-3D effects. The main character is a funny dude composed of green spheres. Shooting televisions reveal power-ups, including some that transform him into interesting shapes like a drill, fish, or hand grenade.

In human form it's fun to blast robots by unleashing a steady barrage of shots. Occasionally you'll find a weapon which provides more potent (but temporary) firepower like five-way shots, rapid-fire, or spinning "bolos". We're seen this kind of game before, but rarely done this well. The control is perfect and the action is fast. I love the flags flapping in the wind in the opening stage, and the arctic ridge zone reminded me of the planet Hoth from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.

The stage designs can be repetitive but I like how there are lots of hidden areas to uncover. There's a visually-arresting bonus stage where you guide a car along an elevated track (overhead view) with a gigantic robot trying to crush you from below. The bosses can be a real headache, especially since they have no health meter. If you get frustrated, just switch to the "lame" difficulty setting like... umm.. a friend of mine did. Understated techno music nicely complements the futuristic action. Vectorman is a classic title for the Genesis, pushing the technology to its limits without sacrificing the fun. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: Lame
Our high score: SLN 147,870
1 player 

Vectorman 2
Grade: B-
Publisher: Sega (1996)
Reviewed: 2014/1/13

screenshotThe original Vectorman was pretty sweet, and Vectorman 2 offers more of the same run-and-gun mayhem. The first stage is set in a dark swamp, and the silhouettes of black trees over the deep blue night sky look gorgeous! You can't go far without falling into underground caverns with glowing red walls. This is where it occurred to me that Vectorman owes a lot to the Earthworm Jim (Genesis, 1994) series.

Both platform shooters feature wacky heroes who can assume multiple forms. One thing the Vectorman series has going for it is an easy (ok, lame) difficulty level that allows novice players (and impatient reviewers) to make substantial progress with minimal frustration. Vectorman 2 is a quality title, but it's less satisfying than the original game. Most creatures can absorb a ridiculous amount of firepower, and many have shells that make them impervious to your shots.

The special weapons are great (love the ricochet), but they are hard to come by and never last long. Likewise you can change forms into a scorpion or tank, but too often you revert back before you even get a chance to enjoy your newfound powers. The stages are painted with vivid colors, but some of them kind of suck. The roller skating stages are really hard to control, and my friend Steve languished in the endless tree-jumping stage.

I never like the "blast through dirt" stages in Earthworm Jim, and the "blast through rock" stage here is nearly as annoying. Even the bonus stages tend to be shallow and feel like outtakes from the first game. One thing I do like is the enhanced voice effects, which have Vectorman saying things like "I'll take that" in a hollow, metallic voice. The difficulty level is a bit higher, but it's offset by an abundance of bonus lives. Vectorman 2 doesn't quite live up to the original, but if you couldn't get enough of the first game this one probably won't let you down. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: Lame
Our high score: 155,420
1 player 

Viewpoint
Grade: D
Publisher: Sammy (1994)
Reviewed: 2015/9/30


screenshotI love Zaxxon (Colecovision, 1982) with its pseudo-3D isometric perspective, and I'm surprised more shooters didn't adopt this approach. Viewpoint offers a similar perspective but you don't change altitude, instead moving freely around a flat plane. Viewpoint was originally released for the powerful Neo Geo system, but the Genesis version does a remarkable job of mimicking its 3D-polygon look.

The sense of depth is terrific as you're attacked by giant goldfish, square slinkies, and amazing bosses like a giant crab. With rapid-fire shooting and fantastic graphics, what's not to like? Well, the slow-down. Not only is the pace of the game plodding, but it becomes excruciating when there's a lot of activity.

Viewpoint is very erratic. There are stretches in the game where nothing seems to be happening. Other sections require you to avoid traps like tiles that rise and fall, but it can be hard to tell what you can or can't fly over. The boss encounters look magnificent but the battles are protracted and turn out to be kind of boring. I swear I had to shoot that damn crab about 1000 times. The game also suffers from a sample-heavy soundtrack that tries to be quirky but is just annoying. Viewpoint is a unique title for the system but as a shooter it fails to satisfy. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 75,640
1 or 2 players 

Virtua Fighter 2
Grade: D
Publisher: Sega (1996)
Reviewed: 1999/11/13

screenshotThis is Virtua Fighter? Virtua Fighter is supposed to be a 3D game, but this version is just a second-rate 2D fighter. There's nothing "Virtual" about this game at all. Sega just used the name, and in my opinion, it's misleading. Anyway, this mediocre fighting game has decent graphics but nothing in the way of innovation. The whole gimmick to Virtua Fighter was the 3D angles, and without that the game seems pointless.

Eight characters from the series are included, and I have to admit that they are colorful and well detailed. There are plenty of moves for each fighter, but the moves don't look very spectacular, and most are punch/kick variations. This game is a button-masher. It lacks the personality and playability of other fighting games like Street Fighter or Eternal Champions, and the voice samples are awful. Just to illustrate how lame this game is, one of the three bullet items on the box reads "Choose between 6 different fighting uniforms per character!" Big deal. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.

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Save mechanism: Save feature? No
1-2 players 

Virtua Racing
Grade: A
Publisher: Sega (1994)
Reviewed: 2004/4/24


screenshotTo bring Virtua Racing to the Genesis, Sega packed extra chips into an oversized cartridge in order to support the game's demanding 3D polygon graphics. This game boasts visuals and gameplay unmatched for the system, and is very similar to the 32X version. Although the polygon count and number of colors are slightly lower in this version, the gameplay is just as good. Granted, there are only three tracks (compared to five on the 32X), but these are the three better tracks, complete with bridges, tunnels, and overpasses.

Other minor differences include only one type of car (formula) and audio effects that sound muffled. Since the Genesis only supports a modest number of colors, the road tends to look like a patchwork of blue and gray squares. But in terms of fun, Virtua Racing has withstood the test of time very well. Even the split-screen mode is a pleasure to play. Incredibly, this game originally sold for an astronomical $100. NOTE: This cartridge will NOT work in a Sega 32X-equipped console. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


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