system Index F
FIFA International Soccer
Grade: B
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1993)
Reviewed: 2014/7/2

screenshotConsidering it was the very first FIFA title, International Soccer is impressive. My buddy George purchased this back in the day, and although most of my friends were not soccer fans, we still had fun with this. FIFA International contains teams representing 49 countries. Ron Barr introduces each contest with some quick tidbits as you're treated to a panoramic view of the stadium. Once the action begins the field is rendered with an isometric view that shows a limited but sufficiently large section of the field.

The players look small and fuzzy. It's a treat to see headers, back-kicks, and bicycle kicks, but they don't happen often enough. The basic controls let you pass, shoot, or lob the ball. While not in possession of the ball, tapping the C button gives you a highly-effective speed burst. Passes tend to be weak, forcing you to use the shoot button to execute a long pass or clear the ball.

The gameplay is remarkably similar to real soccer. It's not easy to maintain possession, and when the ball gets in close proximity to the goal, the action gets really exciting! After a score your player will perform celebratory slides and flips. One funny aspect of the game is how goalies rarely make easy saves. Instead, they usually perform stretched-out, diving two-handed grabs as the crowd lets out a collective gasp. When this happens for a slow roller, it's unintentionally hilarious. The digitized chants are amazing but the crowd noise is unpleasant due to low audio quality and static.

FIFA is surprisingly deep, allowing for adjustments of coverage, strategies, and formations. Want more goals? Just set the game type to "action" instead of simulation. FIFA International Soccer was originally packaged with EA's four-way-play, a small device which allows up to four people to play at once. The game also boasts a 60-page manual and a password-backed league option. This is a quality title, and the fact that casual players can enjoy FIFA International Soccer proves how great it is. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

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Save mechanism: Password
1 to 4 players 

If you like this game, try: FIFA International Soccer (3DO)
FIFA Soccer 95 (Genesis)
FIFA 2001 (Playstation 2)
Sensible Soccer (Jaguar)
NASL Soccer (Intellivision)

FIFA Soccer 95
Grade: B+
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1994)
Reviewed: 2014/7/2

screenshotFIFA 95 capitalizes on the solid gameplay of the original FIFA International Soccer (Electronic Arts, 1994) while applying some much-needed polish and a little razzle dazzle. The players are much sharper and the field appears less grainy. There are ads along the sidelines, making this one of the first video games to contain advertisements.

The animation is noticeably smoother and faster. You'll see a lot more headers and bicycle kicks, and they are far more emphatic. Passes travel much farther, making ball control easier. There's even a nifty give-and-go play. On the downside, the ball has an annoying tendency to ricochet between players like a pinball. Long shots tend to "bend" which is quite pleasing to the eye.

Defense can be problematic because the steal and switch-player functions are assigned to the same button. When tackled, players will writhe around on the ground in pain. Soccer players are such drama queens! Unlike the first game, the clock is displayed in the upper left corner at all times. The goalies have additional animations, and it's especially fun to see their reactions during shootouts.

Upon scoring a goal, pressing buttons allows you to initiate digitized audio clips including fireworks and horns. But it's the ability to stretch out the obligatory "GOOOOOAL!" call that might be the highlight of the entire game. The crowd noise is not perfectly clear but sounds a heck of a lot better than the first game. With solid gameplay and over 200 authentic teams, FIFA Soccer 95 is pretty much everything you could hope for from a second-year franchise. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: Battery
1 to 4 players 

If you like this game, try: FIFA International Soccer (Genesis)
FIFA 2002 (Playstation 2)
NBA Live 97 (Genesis)
FIFA Soccer 96 (Genesis)
FIFA International Soccer (3DO)

FIFA Soccer 96
Grade: B-
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1995)
Reviewed: 2014/7/2

screenshotWatching the World Cup in Brazil has inspired me to look back on my old FIFA games which have held up extremely well. As the third game in the long-running series, FIFA 96 marked a major step forward in terms of realism. The motion-captured players look better and take longer, smoother strides. On the downside, they tend to all look the same and seem to have less personality.

The goal nets look more realistic, but I prefer the well-defined look of the old games over the new "saggy" look. Goalies are dressed in different colored outfits to set them apart on the field. Passing feels accurate, but players have an annoying tendency to change direction before receiving a pass. I really like how there are more rebounds off the goalies, allowing for more scoring chances.

In terms of audio, the crowd chants have been re-recorded so they sound very clear. The problem is, the chants don't blend in with the general crowd noise, and actually sound like they belong in a different game! Another flaw is how the screen "blacks out" before goal kicks and throw in plays. I have no idea why the designers did that, but it's annoying as hell!

The game also seems to have its share of bugs, as my friend Brent discovered when he tried to throw in the ball and threw it into the stands instead. FIFA 96 was the first in the series to use real player names, and 237 teams are represented. Die-hard soccer fans will appreciate the increased realism and can probably bump up the grade by a letter. Those who played the previous games however are likely to detect a slight dip in the fun factor. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: Battery
1 to 4 players 

If you like this game, try: FIFA 2002 (Playstation 2)
Realsports Soccer (Atari 2600)
FIFA International Soccer (3DO)
FIFA International Soccer (Genesis)
FIFA Soccer 95 (Genesis)

Fantasia
Grade: F
Publisher: Sega (1991)
Reviewed: 2017/4/24

screenshotI can't believe it took me this long to review a Genesis title as common as Fantasia. I remember seeing this lining the shelves of used game shops back in the day, and now I know why. This is one of the most inept platformers ever made. I can't fathom how it could turn out so badly considering the artfully-crafted Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (Sega, 1990), released a year before. Fantasia puts Mickey in the role of sorcerer's apprentice, wielding spells and pouncing on animated objects like brooms and flying books.

This game suffers from just about every design flaw you could come up with. You could just go right down the list ticking off the boxes. Platforms blend into the scenery. Foreground objects like chains and bottles obstruct your vision. Sound effects are muddled. When you collide with enemies it's not obvious who took damage. Poor platform placement makes it impossible to land squarely on a ledge without touching whatever is patrolling it. The controls are laggy as hell, and you won't realize the extent of the problem until you try leaping between moving platforms.

Press the jump button and by the time Mickey responds both platforms are already moving away from each other. Even if you land squarely on your target, half the time you fall through it anyway. To defeat enemies you have to push down to put Mickey into "pounce mode", yet there's no audio or visual cue to distinguish this from a normal jump. Spells are effective but they run out immediately, so what's the point?

Fantasia becomes a battle of attrition as you stumble through castles and swamps while absorbing mandatory hits from all sides. If the game didn't heap on free lives at every turn, no one would ever finish it. To its credit, the opening scene features some nice "Phantom of the Opera" organ music, and stage two serves up a gorgeous vision of Cinderella's castle glistening in the night sky. But any signs of Disney charm are fleeting at best. Fantasia is a wretched game that squanders a primo license and illustrates just how bad a platformer can be. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: easy
Our high score: 56,900
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse (Genesis)
Castle of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse (Sega Master System)
Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion (Nintendo 3DS)
Land of Illusion starring Mickey Mouse (Europe) (Sega Master System)
Great Circus Mystery Starring Mickey and Minnie, The (Genesis)

Fatal Labyrinth
Grade: C
Publisher: Sega (1991)
Reviewed: 2015/12/6

screenshotContributed by scotland of the RPG Crew.
On the outskirts of a nondescript medieval town an ominous castle rises up to cast a nefarious shadow. Armed with a tiny knife you are foolish enough to enter the castle on a one-way journey to bring back the light. Fatal Labyrinth is a basic dungeon crawler that harkens back to a form of turn-based hack-and-slash goodness tabletop gamers enjoy. It's Rogue-like in design with randomized floor plans and unpredictable magic item effects.

This random element elevates the replay value, and that's important because death is permanent and requires restarting. Experience makes your character more formidable, but more critical to success are weapons and armor you find abandoned on the floor. A kick-ass weapon can ease your troubles considerably. You can only carry so much however, and there are times you litter enough to make Iron Eyes Cody cry.

Turn-based combat is initiated by bumping into monsters. Should you find yourself surrounded be prepared to take more whacks than Lizzie Borden's father. Consequently, fighting in doorways is a trademark of this game. As in Gauntlet your warrior requires food for sustenance, but keep an eye on your portion control or you'll be bumbling about like your bloated uncle after Thanksgiving dinner. Food doesn't heal directly but provides you with more turns to catch your breath and restore hit points.

While exploring dungeons you'll contend with pits, alarms, and relentless monsters. Stairs lead you to the next level, but don't use them until you fully explore the current floor. Monsters become more menacing with each level and ascending too soon can be fatal. Fatal Labyrinth can have a happy ending, but like a good arcade game it's really the journey that counts. Ironically your success is measured by the quality of your funeral. Leisurely-paced with simple mechanics and randomly-generated levels, Fatal Labyrinth represents a different kind of fun. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: None
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Dungeon (Atari 2600)
Golden Axe (Genesis)
Final Fantasy (Guest Review) (NES)
Sword of Fargoal (Commodore 64)
Swords and Serpents (Intellivision)

Fighting Masters
Grade: F-
Publisher: Treco (1992)
Reviewed: 2010/2/18


screenshotI've seen my share of sorry-assed fighting games over the years, but Fighting Masters lowers the bar to alarming depths. How low? Bubsy the Cat could trip over this friggin' bar! That's low, people. I knew I was in for a perfectly miserable time when I witnessed that horrible title screen with its seizure-inducing lightning flashes and cringe-worthy thunder effects. Fighting Masters is a case of someone trying to cash in on the one-on-one fighting craze of the early 90's.

Its controls are minimal, the characters are embarrassing, and the stages are devoid of detail. The fighters are a weird hodgepodge of humans and monsters including a crab monster (Zygrunt), a guy with an elephant head (Mastodon), and a miniature Easter Island statue (Goldrick). The boring stages typically place the fighters in front of a stone wall or a plain red building. The controls are extremely shallow, utilizing only two buttons! That's right - the A button isn't even used!

You are pretty much limited to jump attacks which involve one fighter grabbing the other, jumping a mile in the air, and body-slamming his opponent to the ground. It's hard to tell who's taking the brunt of the damage as matches degenerate into repetitive slam-fests. The physics is best described as hilarious and pitiful collision detection will have you taking hits from unseen forces. The game doesn't even bother keeping score, and it doesn't need to, because when a gamer plays Fighting Masters, we all lose. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Motorodeo (Atari 2600)
Thunder Blade (Sega Master System)
Bubsy (Jaguar)
Karate Champ (NES)
Miniature Golf (Atari 2600)

Fire Shark
Grade: B
Publisher: Dreamworks (1990)
Reviewed: 2003/5/23

screenshotFire Shark is a turbo-charged version of the arcade game 1942. This highly regarded shooter certainly delivers in terms of sheer firepower and number of enemies. Your biplane is swarmed by dozens of enemy forces from the air, ground, and sea. Fortunately, your powerful guns are up to the task, and you also have a supply of devastating bombs. The bombs take out a large area, and you can time their detonation by holding the deploy button. There are three types of weapons, and each can be powered-up to an insane degree.

Fireshark is a shooter lover's shooter. The action is fast and furious with no hint of slowdown. The graphics are a little weak, especially the desert and water backgrounds, but the animation is smooth and flicker-free. Fire Shark is a little on the easy side, mainly because the power-ups bounce around the screen until you catch them. It's cool how your plane catches fire when hit, allowing you to get off a few extra shots before going down. This one's a winner. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 122150
1 player 

If you like this game, try: 1943 (NES)
Thunder Blade (Sega Master System)
Ninja Spirit (Turbografx-16)
1942 (NES)
Free Food For Fish (Odyssey 2)

Flashback
Grade: B+
Publisher: US Gold (1993)
Reviewed: 2012/3/14


screenshotIn 1995 Flashback was billed as a "CD ROM game in a cartridge" and it really does live up to that description! Cutting-edge for its time, this science-fiction adventure incorporates life-like animation and cinematic cut-scenes. Back in the day I loved showing off the dramatic opening sequence to my friends, and frankly it's still a lot of fun to watch. Flashback is a sophisticated platformer with a serious tone and a "shades of Blade Runner" storyline.

On a quest to find your identity, you begin in a lush jungle before visiting "New Washington" and other futuristic locations. The layered scenery is amazing. You move between contiguous screens while collecting items, disabling traps, and shooting mutants. The game tries to be realistic, so you don't actually see the bullets when you fire your gun. Your character sneaks, runs, and grabs ledges with fluid motion.

There's a lot of emphasis on stealth and item manipulation, so a slow, deliberate approach works best. If I had to knock this game for anything, it would be the control scheme. It's not particularly intuitive, and it can be tedious and frustrating to the novice player. The three buttons are overloaded with functions and it really takes a lot of practice to perform basic moves like running jumps.

The level designs are unforgiving, and the first few screens will demoralize all but the most determined player. I hate how my guy will overlap with an enemy, so we're both firing and nobody's hitting anyone. The difficulty actually eases up as you progress, so hang in there. The musical score is sparse but effective, adding a layer of atmosphere and tension. Flashback was a groundbreaking title, and if you can survive the initial learning curve you're in for a compelling journey. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: Password
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Flashback (Sega CD)
NBA Live 96 (Super Nintendo)
Prince of Persia (CD) (Turbografx-16)
Fear Effect (Playstation)
King of Fighters 99 (CD) (Neo Geo)

Flintstones, The
Grade: D
Publisher: Taito (1993)
Reviewed: 2021/1/7

screenshotI knew something was wrong with The Flintstones as soon I heard its musical intro. That familiar theme song sounds decidedly off-key! You play the role of Fred, clubbing random enemies while collecting stars and leaping between grass-covered platforms. The colorful scenery features stone huts, hazy mountains, and a bright blue sky with wispy clouds. The first baddie you encounter is a hideous green head with red hair and a carrot nose. The jumping controls work differently than you'd expect. After jumping you'll want to keep the button depressed so you can grab a ledge and pull yourself up. Positioning is critical and it takes a while to get the hang of it.

The stage design is flat-out awful. In the very first stage you'll find yourself running across a narrow strip of land while flying fish nip at you as sharks break through the ground below your feet. The game can't even keep up with the frenzy of activity, dropping frames and slowing the action to a crawl. I had to switch to the easy difficulty just so I could play the freaking game.

In easy mode The Flintstones is mildly enjoyable, especially when Fred mounts a fire-breathing pterodactyl. But just when things start getting good you're dumped into a perilous underwater stage. Here you find yourself swimming through pitch-black caverns, taking damage from everywhere. Smacking a jellyfish causes the screen to light up, revealing an underground maze where every wall is lined with spikes! This stage is an ordeal, especially with octopi blowing you around with fans!

Stage three is a welcome change as you drive across the desert in a car while collecting stars. The problem is, deadly cacti in the foreground look just like the harmless ones in the background! The Flintstones is bush league. For a big-name license, I can't get over the lack of play testing that went into this. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: easy
Our high score: 125,100
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Flintstones: The Rescue of Dino & Hoppy (NES)
Go Fish! (Atari 2600)
Shark! Shark! (Intellivision)
Meteoric Shower (Colecovision)
Spelunker (NES)

Forgotten Worlds
Grade: C-
Publisher: Sega (1989)
Reviewed: 2014/7/8

screenshotIn this side-scrolling shooter one or two players control musclemen in jetpacks. Forgotten Worlds employs a strange control scheme I've never seen before and hopefully will never see again. Two buttons allow you to rotate 360 degrees in either direction as enemies converge from all directions. It's hard to remember which button turns which way, and sometimes I'll just continuously rotate in one direction, hoping my overwhelming firepower will carry the day. Enabling the auto-fire option is a no-brainer.

Mowing down flying lizard men is fun, but those invincible green worms in the water stage are a real pain in the ass. The first boss is some kind of brown orifice, and it's hard to tell if you're inflicting damage. With other bosses like the gold dragon, you won't even know where you're supposed to shoot! The graphics lack detail, perhaps because this was such an early Genesis title. The post-apocalyptic, partly-submerged city looks interesting, but most of the stages are just plain dull. Occasionally you'll encounter a shop where you can purchase weapons, power-ups, armor, extra lives, and hints.

The shopkeeper is an innocent-looking blonde chick. Creepy carnival music plays as you peruse weapons like a flamethrower and bouncing shots. I prefer the homing missiles due to my inability to properly aim. The highlight of the game from a visual perspective is the impressively large Samurai robot boss. The soundtrack is okay but sounds like an Indiana Jones rip-off. The two player coop mode is a nice feature, but despite its steady framerate I didn't love it. True to its name, Forgotten Worlds is a unique but not particularly memorable gaming experience. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 79,300
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Forgotten Worlds (CD) (Turbografx-16)
R-Type Delta (Playstation)
Dragon Spirit (Turbografx-16)
Caliber 50 (Genesis)
Twin Eagle (NES)

Frogger
Grade: B
Publisher: Sega (1998)
Reviewed: 2012/10/20
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThis pleasant surprise arrived at the tail end of the Genesis lifecycle. Frogger was originally released for home systems way back in 1982, but this version is more faithful to the arcade. Frogger's timeless gameplay involves hopping across a crowded five-lane highway and then crossing a treacherous stream of floating logs. The graphics are slightly grainy but bursting with vibrant color. The finely detailed visuals include colorful cars, animated swimming turtles, and even motion-captured frog animation. No, not really.

Pleasant tunes play throughout the game (including Yankee Doodle Dandy), and they all have a friendly piano quality. You get five frog lives, and despite the tight controls you'll go through them quickly. The traffic is dense, and if you hop on the very edge of a log, you'll slide right into the water. The screen layout places the vital indicators on the right side, which scrunches the actual game screen a little bit. Maybe that's why the coves on the far side of the river look so narrow.

Instructions are displayed when the game is in "attract mode", but there are no options or variations. That's surprising considering several variations were present in the original Atari 2600 version. A two-player mode is available, but you'll need to pass a single controller back and forth. Now that's what I call lazy programming! Frogger is a little skimpy for a 16-bit title, but its classic gameplay is beyond reproach. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: slow
Our high score: TT 26,740
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Frogger (Colecovision)
Frogger II: Threedeep! (Atari XEGS)
Frogger (Tiger Game.com)
Frogger, The Official (Atari 2600)
Vectrex Frogger (Vectrex)


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