system Index B
Baseball Advance
Grade: B+
Publisher: Sega (2001)
Reviewed: 2003/8/12

screenshotAh yes, there's nothing like an old-fashioned Sega baseball game. This one brings back fond memories of the SportsTalk and World Series Baseball games for the Genesis. The graphics mimic the style of the Genesis World Series games, with large, realistically animated players. The behind-the-batter view gives you a close-up view of the strike zone, but you'll need to learn a whole new swing system to hit the ball.

First, you move a circle around the strike zone in anticipation of where the pitch is coming. Then you hold the swing button before the pitch comes (even before the wind-up), releasing it to swing. It takes some getting used to, and can be maddening until you figure it out. But once you get it, it's not so bad. Actually, this is the most fun I've had with a baseball game on a portable.

The pitching and fielding controls are perfect - playing defense is even more fun than batting! I love how you can dive for grounders and turn double plays. The players are supposed to look like they're breathing heavy, but it looks like they're all shrugging their shoulders - pretty funny. All the MLB teams are included, but only four stadiums: Safeco, Wrigley, Fenway, and Pacific Bell Park. It may come up a little short on features, but for pure fun, Baseball Advance is hard to beat. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: High Heat Major League Baseball 2003 (Game Boy Advance)
World Series Baseball (Game Gear)
World Series Baseball (Genesis)
World Class Baseball (Turbografx-16)
Realsports Baseball (Atari 5200)

Batman Begins
Grade: B
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2005)
Reviewed: 2020/4/10
Rating: Everyone

screenshotWhen I play a slick 2D platformer like Batman Begins, I wonder why games like this are limited to portables. Its side-scrolling style may seem old-fashioned, but Batman Begins boasts striking visuals and is actually quite sophisticated. The fluidly-animated characters appear digitized, and I love how Batman's cape bellows out as he glides through the air.

The adventure begins in the snowy mountains of China, and like Bruce Wayne in the movie, this is where you'll learn the ropes. Eventually you progress to Gotham where you duke-it-out with crooks in industrial locations. A few of these thugs look like actors from the West Side Story, and I was expecting them to break into a dance number at any time. The rich scenery has a distinctive weathered look, and the rain and snow effects add atmosphere.

Batman has a wide range of moves including a rolling kick and an uppercut that can take out three thugs at a time (now that's old school!) Fighting is extra satisfying thanks to the little health meter under each enemy. Batman Begins also incorporates stealth elements - for better or worse.

I like the idea of getting "the drop" on enemy thugs, but certain stages require you to remain totally unseen and boy does that get tedious. Batman Begins features nicely illustrated cutscenes and a soundtrack worthy of a Hollywood action flick. The stealth elements tempered my enthusiasm, but it's still great to see an old-school take on a new-school film. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Batman: The Animated Series (Game Boy)
Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap (Sega Master System)
Batman: Vengeance (Game Boy Advance)
Wayne's World (Super Nintendo)
Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (Jaguar)

Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu
Grade: C
Publisher: Ubisoft (2003)
Reviewed: 2020/4/10
Rating: Everyone

screenshotBatman: Rise of Sin Tzu has a unique visual style that some may find off-putting at first glance. Instead of the "clean" look, the characters appear somewhat pixelated and grainy. This is offset however by their fluid, motion-captured movements. There were animations in this game that actually made me sit up and say "wow!" The jumping and gliding controls feel effortless, and that's good because you'll be required to make a few "leaps of faith". I love the way Batman easily grabs onto any ladder and will quickly slide down the rails.

The combat is a little repetitive, but mainly because you're fighting the same bald guy over and over. I once kicked that bastard in the shin 20 times straight! Whenever you're running across a ledge and see an open window, rest assured "that guy" is about to emerge. The fighting action looks good but tends to be a bit slow and laborious. I'm not sure if new moves unlock as you go, but at some point I began tossing these guys around like rag dolls. Even more satisfying is smashing wooden crates over their heads. The music is pretty badass and the sound effects are noticeably crisp as well.

The stages however all look pretty much the same, whether it's downtown, China Town, or City Hall. You're always running across building ledges while jumping between fire escapes. I groaned whenever I reached a timed sequence, which requires you to pull a lever and quickly dash to some unlocked location before the clock runs out. The stages are relatively short and the game provides frequent passwords. In the end Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu looks good, but its high production values can't overcome its monotonous gameplay. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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Save mechanism: password
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Batman: The Animated Series (Game Boy)
Batman: Rise of Sin Tzu (Xbox)
Batman: Vengeance (Game Boy Advance)
Xenophobe (Atari 7800)
Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes (Xbox 360)

Batman: Vengeance
Grade: C
Publisher: Ubi Soft (2001)
Reviewed: 2020/4/10
Rating: Everyone

screenshotAfter playing through several marginal Game Boy Color (GBC) Batman games, Batman Vengeance feels like a shock to the system. Its frenetic intro features a first-person view of a camera whizzing around the buildings of Gotham City! Whoa! The first stage is set on rooftops with the Gotham skyline looming over a blood-red sunset. The lighting is terrific and those water tanks add realism.

Batman looks heroic with his cape blowing in the wind, but the bad guys look a little silly running back and forth in the small areas they're guarding. Some goons are armed with missile launchers, but fortunately Batman can survive a missile directly to the face at point blank range. I know because it happened to me a lot!

The platform gameplay includes a lot of jumping, gliding, grabbing a ledge, and pulling yourself up. Is it just me or do the controls feel backwards? I always attack when I mean to jump. Another annoyance are those ubiquitous steam vents situated in the most inconvenient spots. And boy oh boy is it easy to slip off of ledges. Walk within a foot of the edge and you slide right off. You only get one life but are equipped with several health packs.

Spicing things up are overhead Robin stages and even vehicle stages! The overhead driving looks amazing, reminding me of Spy Hunter (Colecovision, 1984). Easy-to-remember passwords (like GOTHAM) are presented between stages. The problem with Batman Vengeance is that the stages are only moderately fun. It's interesting to see what comes next, but I was always glad to leave the previous stage behind. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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Save mechanism: password
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Spy Hunter (Game Boy Advance)
Spy Hunter (NES)
Batman: The Animated Series (Game Boy)
Batman Gotham City Racer (Playstation)
Spy Hunter (Playstation 2)

Boktai: The Sun Is In Your Hands
Grade: C-
Publisher: Konami (2003)
Reviewed: 2011/9/20
Rating: Everyone

screenshotI can't resist a good gimmick, so I was intrigued when a friend told me about a Game Boy Advance cartridge that lets you harness the energy of the actual sun to destroy vampires. It sounds far-fetched but it's true! This anime-style adventure puts you in the role of "Solar Boy", assisted by a fairy named Otenko (Messenger of the Sun).

Boktai is a mix of stealth, combat, exploration, and thought-provoking puzzles. You view the action from an isometric perspective while exploring outdoor trails, multi-tiered dungeons, and maze-like castles. Your weapons tend to be light-based and short-ranged. The cartridge itself has a small square sensor, and when it detects sunlight you can recharge your solar-powered weapons!

Another innovative feature is the game's internal clock. The time within the game reflects the actual time of day, and this has a dramatic bearing on events. For example, zombies roam outside when it's dark, but they stay in their dungeons during daylight hours. The game has a lot of shambling undead creatures (including mummies), and you can often conserve ammo by staying out of their sights. This emphasis on stealth is understandable considering the game was developed by Hideo Kojima, the mastermind behind Metal Gear Solid (Playstation, 1998).

When you're caught, certain monsters release their purple blobs that cling to you, slowing you down and draining your health. What a drag! It's almost as bad as having to slowly drag a coffin from a castle tower all the way down to an outside area. Painful! Boktai annoyed me often, but I could appreciate certain aspects of the game. The characters are cleverly animated (despite their small size), the inventory system is easy to navigate, and you can save your progress at any time.

While the game is much easier to play in direct sunlight, that's really not an ideal way to play your Game Boy! Not only is it probably bad for the system, but the glare on the screen makes it hard to see what's going on. The best arrangement I found was to sit near a window on a sunny day. The game is thoughtfully designed but it's light detection is more gimmicky than fun, and it's really hard to play at night. Boktai is an interesting diversion for a while, but I found that its innovations were gradually eclipsed by its tedious nature. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

If you like this game, try: Metal Gear Solid (Playstation)
Clock Tower 3 (Playstation 2)
Metal Gear (NES)
Mega Maze (Philips CD-i)
Critical Depth (Playstation)

Breath of Fire
Grade: C
Publisher: Capcom (2001)
Reviewed: 2007/6/14
Rating: Everyone

screenshotSubmitted by RPG correspondent Jonathan Hawk
This Breath of Fire port is much the same as the original Super Nintendo title (1994), except Capcom added two elements that greatly improve the experience. First, you can now save anywhere - a necessary feature for a portable title. Doing a "field save" lets you return to the exact same spot where you left off, and dying returns you to your previous save point.

The graphics have been improved as well, with better-looking character sprites and menus, as well as brand new "still image" cut-scenes. Breath of Fire's solid gameplay hasn't changed since its SNES days, but the extra save feature and new glitz livens it up a little. Still, if you already have this game for Super Nintendo, this updated version might not be worth your while. See the Breath of Fire (SNES, 1994) review for further details. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Breath of Fire II (Guest Review) (Game Boy Advance)
Punch-Out!! (NES)
Super Street Fighter 2 (Super Nintendo)
Spiderman vs. the Kingpin (Sega CD)
Super Mario World (Super Nintendo)

Breath of Fire II
Grade: B+
Publisher: Capcom (2002)
Reviewed: 2007/6/14
Rating: Everyone

screenshotSubmitted by RPG correspondent Jonathan Hawk
Much like the GBA Breath of Fire port, Breath of Fire II features revised graphics and the addition of a quick-save option. The fine audio of the SNES version has been preserved pretty much intact, and the sprites have been modernized. New character art, backgrounds, and an overhauled menu system are among the key revisions. Like Breath of Fire, Capcom has incorporated some nice looking static cut scene images. Newcomers should consider buying this simple and fun RPG, but owners of the SNES version can probably bypass it. See SNES review Breath of Fire 2 (SNES, 1995) for further details. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
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1 player 

If you like this game, try: Breath of Fire (Guest Review) (Game Boy Advance)
Defender II (NES)
Capcom Vs. SNK 2 (Playstation 2)
Breath of Fire 2 (Guest Review) (Super Nintendo)
Punch-Out!! (NES)

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Wrath of the Darkhul King
Grade: B-
Publisher: THQ (2003)
Reviewed: 2008/9/30
Rating: Teen (mild violence)

screenshotAlthough cut from the same cloth as its predecessor (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Game Boy Color, 2000), Wrath of the Darkhul King offers a far more interesting brand of hack-n-slash action. The characters are rendered in a slick pseudo-3D style, and Buffy herself looks a lot like she did in the TV show! This girl has a slew of weapons at her disposal, including axes, crossbows, crosses, holy water, and of course, wooden stakes.

Since each weapon is limited in supply, you're forced to experiment with whatever's available, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Just be sure not to accidentally hit that poorly-placed "quit to main menu" option when perusing the weapon selection screen! Oddly enough, the worst part of the game is its unforgiving training stage, which forces you to execute some unreasonably difficult jumps towards the end.

The game gains traction after that, offering a nice balance of combat, puzzles, and secrets to discover. I really like how you have to stab a vampire directly in his heart to kill him - just like in real life! The cemetery, museum, and forest locations are mildly interesting, but the city areas tend to be repetitive and dull. Likewise, the underground crypts look like every platform game you've ever played, with their maze-like layouts and spiked pits.

The production values are commendable, with a foreboding soundtrack and impressive cut-scenes. Not only do these scenes feature still photos of the show's actors, but there's a lot of funny text dialogue to go along with them. It's not for everyone, but fans of the television show may be pleasantly surprised. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

If you like this game, try: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Xbox)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Game Boy Color)
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Game Boy Advance)
Mystery Science Theater 2600 (Atari 2600)
Mansion of Hidden Souls (Sega CD)


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