Your speed is determined by how high you are on the screen, and it's best to move at the same rate as other traffic. Keep an eye out for the red Sega truck, which effectively upgrades your weapon from a weak peashooter to devastating rockets. Collecting letter icons in the road lets you upgrade to a sports car and eventually a jet! At that point, the game turns into a Xevious clone as you shoot down aircraft and bomb targets on the ground.
The concept behind Action Fighter is absolute money, but a few rough edges prevent it from being an elite Master System title. First off, I hate how you instantly explode when you touch a freakin' guardrail. Since the road tends to suddenly branch or become narrow, you'll be crashing on a regular basis, disrupting the flow of the game. If the guardrail just slowed you down, that would have made the game much better.
By the same token, I found the controls to be extremely touchy. There's nothing worse that being outfitted with brand new weapons, only to suddenly veer into a guardrail accidentally! Other flaws include the cheesy looping soundtrack and the fact that your score doesn't truly seem to convey how well you played. Action Fighter is fast and addicting, but could have benefited greatly from some fine tuning. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
As you begin your assault you'll face small but relentless waves of enemy planes. I like the way they rotate and peel off their formations. My wrist gets really tired from tapping the fire button, but then I remember I can just hold it in. Duh! The second button drops bombs. Aerial Assault is extremely challenging, partly due to crossfire conditions created by planes in the air and anti-aircraft fire from land. The first stage is set over water with gorgeous clouds blooming on the horizon. You can fly low to take out ships but be careful not to crash into the water.
Icons provide power-ups but it's hard to tell them apart. The triple-shot weapon is sweet, but many other weapons are just plain irritating (like the one that fires in the direction you move). A speed-up icon is helpful, but if you grab more than one you'll find yourself careening out of control! The problem is, these icons move so far up and down they are almost impossible to avoid!
The first boss is a mammoth battleship but the fact that it doesn't sink after a protracted battle is anticlimactic. The second stage takes place up in the clouds where you'll contend with missile barrages and... lightning? How am I supposed to dodge that?! The looping music is okay but some of the "bloop bloop bloop" weapon sounds are weak. It has its flaws, but there's something about Aerial Assault that keeps me coming back again and again. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
The graphics are not the problem with Afterburner - it's the animation that sucks. The frame-rate is so choppy it's hard to tell what's going on in the heat of battle. When your plane goes down in flames you usually have no idea what the [expletive] hit you. There's little sense of speed or control. You can survive by shooting like a madman and continuously performing barrel rolls, but that's not much fun. Your heads-up display is sparse with a useless map in the corner and no score displayed.
The planes are exceptionally well detailed but the flat scenery is dull. Are those trees sticking out of the ocean? Those gray "smoke" circles that trail your plane before you crash look absolutely pathetic. The music sounds like it's being played on a toy piano, so unless you're a toddler it's not likely to pump your adrenaline. Lacking even a minimal degree of playability, Afterburner for the Master System should have never seen the light of day. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Fortunately for Alex, all of the pieces are conveniently located in his house. To gather them up you'll move between floors, explore rooms, speak with people, and collect random items. It's like Maniac Mansion, except for the fact it makes no sense. If you try to put on a suit of armor, you die. If you turn on a computer, you die. There are bizarre messages posted on the wall like "Sega #1" and "Katie is the fattest".
When you ask your father for a piece of the map, he'll give you a "fake" one the first time, so you have to ask a second time. Who came up with this garbage? In one case a lady won't give you an item unless you take an actual test with math, science, and history questions! I actually failed the first time! Stage one is mainly trial and error, so thank goodness you get a password after completing it.
Stage two is a shoddy side-scroller where you battle ninjas in a forest. It's crazy hard thanks to unforgiving collision detection and deplorable controls. A single hit sends you all the way back to the beginning of the stage. The final two stages include a village area where you need to "pray" exactly 100 times in order to acquire a critical item! This game is an atrocity, and I'm still trying to figure out why it's called "High Tech World". I've played my share of bad games, but this one is Verizon Customer Service bad! © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
The game's opening stage makes a terrible first impression as you make your way down a series of platforms nestled between two cliffs. Instead of bumping blocks and pouncing on creatures, you use your fist to break blocks and defeat enemies. Hitting certain blocks reveals a bag of money, but sometimes a "phantom" will appear and take your life.
The controls are not exactly crisp and the collision detection is also erratic. My friend Chris noted that the control scheme is the exact opposite of Mario, which can be a little disconcerting. The first stage is a bear, but if you survive that, things improve dramatically. You can shop for items between stages, and if you can afford a motorcycle you'll be able to plow through stage two with no trouble at all.
The boss encounters are literally rock-paper-scissors contests. Who could have possibly thought that was a good idea?! I can see how someone who played Miracle World as a kid would have fond memories of it, because the game has an innocent charm. But any objective observer would have to agree that this has some serious issues. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
In the first stage you battle ninjas in the streets and the colorful scenery looks terrific. It's easy to slash bad guys with your sword and there are plenty of power-ups including darts and a screen-clearing "tornado". Best of all, you can transform into a fireball by swinging on poles and fence posts! Not only is this a great attack, but it also lets you break through walls or soar over dangerous obstacles. The collision detection is very forgiving, and you can even fall into water without dying!
Alex is easy to control, with the exception of when he's on a ladder, in which case he tends to get very squirmy. Advanced levels are tricky to navigate (plenty of spikes and pits) but there are plenty of hearts to replenish your life. The stages are reasonable in length and even contain hidden areas and alternate routes. There's no password, but a limited number of continues are available. Alex Kidd has put his fans through hell and back, but those who kept the faith are in for a pleasant surprise. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Stage one is practically blinding at times with its pink and yellow color scheme. There's a modest amount of voice synthesis ("find the magic balls!") but the piercing sound of Kidd's digitized scream will make you cringe. The more you hear it, the more you want him to suffer. The stages feature a hodgepodge of disjointed themes including a toy land, an aquarium, a desert, a forest, and a space station. There are some truly bizarre sights, like the dog who regurgitates the letters B-O-W-W-O-W, and a naked guy in the Halloween stage who farts bubbles in your direction. Stay classy, Sega!
The controls are improved from the first game. You can't punch but you'll collect some kind of weapon during each stage. It would be nice if you had that weapon up front so you didn't have to sustain so many cheap hits. The stages are now timed - and they don't leave you a second to spare! Each stage feels like a speed-run, with each hit knocking a few seconds off the clock. The game features fourteen stages, and with unlimited continues, it's quite possible to see them all. Whether you'll want to is another story, because this weird platformer is more obnoxious than fun. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
The space stations look generic, but each stage introduces a new set of large, colorful aliens. Predictably, the first set is inspired by the creatures from the Alien films (except they are red). Although the aliens look terrific, they aren't very bright and tend to wander aimlessly. Your initial firepower is woefully inadequate - a peashooter that fires about three feet.
The severely limited range forces you approach aliens to kill them, and it's usually safer to avoid them altogether. I recommend you upgrade your weapon as soon as possible to lasers or fireballs. Each stage ends with an obligatory boss encounter on a black screen with just you and the monster. I will admit that some of these shape-changing freaks are pretty disgusting.
The one thing I hate about Alien Syndrome is how the aliens simply materialize out of thin air with little warning. Not only does it look cheesy, but it accounts for too many cheap deaths. I also found the controls to be somewhat slippery and inexact, making the game harder than it really should be. Alien Syndrome is certainly playable but ultimately unremarkable and forgettable. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
The first thing that bugged me about this game was the lack of a rapid-fire button. In order to get off a lot of shots, you need to tap the fire buttons incessantly, which is annoying and hard on your hand. The gameplay is good though. The enemies come in all shapes and sizes and there's never a dull moment.
The bosses are large but static; they simply float side to side while dropping bombs on you. The repetitious background music got on my nerves. The best aspect of this game is the power-ups. In the first stage, you can accumulate a great deal of firepower, and this can carry you a long way. Unfortunately, once you die, it's back to the weak single-shots, and after the first level the power-ups are few and far between. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Add in poor collision detection and over-caffeinated music and you have the makings of a major headache. The ability to collect weapons like cannonballs, fireballs, and arrows seems promising but it's awkward to cycle through them and most prove useless. The boundaries of the maze are lined with colorful vegetation but the screens look so similar it feels as if you're moving in circles. Aztec Adventure does have one uniquely bizarre feature, and that's the ability to make animals "join up" with you and fight by your side.
You do this by - wait for it - throwing money at them! Who came up with this idea? Well, in the 1500's the Spanish conqueror Cortez did in fact ally himself with indigenous Mexican tribes in order to defeat the Aztecs. Still, it's tacky, and the execution of this feature is flat out abysmal. Instead of mauling enemies the animals just sort of meander around aimlessly, eventually drifting off the screen. This game is horrible! Aztec Adventure is Sega's attempt to create a cute, cuddly version of one of the most bloody, destructive chapters of history. I am at a loss for words. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Using your Bat-a-rang to defeat the Penguin's lackeys is fun. You'll take down bomb-tossing acrobats, trigger-shy bozos, and fat rolling clowns. You'll battle through the streets of Gotham, Shreck's department store, and the rooftops before descending into the sewers. Swinging between platforms with your grappling hook is an integral part of the game, but the controls are absolutely abysmal. Sometimes you can pull yourself up onto a higher ledge, and sometimes you can't. All too often you'll just plunge into the abyss. Touching a villain means instant death, and even touching a parked truck is fatal! C'mon now!
In the department store clowns spring out from any door you approach, so keep your distance. Collecting bat-shaped icons let you improve your speed, increase your Bat-a-rang damage, or earn a new life. The best part of the game is how each stage offers two routes to choose from. I like how this adds challenge and variety, but Eric was not impressed. The game has no score and no password. Batman Returns isn't a bad-looking game but its clumsy controls and one-hit deaths prove a lethal combination. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
The real challenge lies in trying to snag the food icons that occasionally travel across the top of the screen. You need to press down-and-up to leap, and it's hard to get the timing right in the heat of battle. Periodically the thugs clear out and a sub-boss appears to break up the monotony. These specialized martial artists each have their own distinctive fighting style, and many carry weapons.
At this point Black Belt is already on par with most fighting games of its era, but then it takes things to the next level. The end-of-stage boss battles are presented in a "close up" view with larger, more detailed characters! They don't exactly fill the screen, but for the Sega Master System, they look positively huge. And these guys really mean business!
The best strategy is to let the boss unleash his fury, and then move in to land a few quick hits when he's catching his breath. Upon defeating a boss, your character will automatically unleash a flurry of rapid-fire kicks or punches as a "finishing move" of sorts. It's kind of awesome, but mostly silly. Black Belt won't win any awards, but if you can embrace this game in all of its absurdity, you might be surprised by how much fun you have. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
The 3D effect is not good, and it made my eyes dry out. You'll experience a lot of double vision that will have you wondering if you're looking at a pair of objects, or just bad 3D. Not only is it hard to tell what you can or can't shoot, but you also don't know what things can hurt you! Unfortunately, that means you'll need to assume that everything can hurt you all the time!
Your only saving grace are the power-ups. If you can crank up your firepower and tack on a few escorts you can inflict substantial damage - at the cost of substantial slow-down. Unfortunately, you'll often pass through a vital power-up because you're on the wrong plane! Ugh! The visuals improve with the second stage which features metal towers rising out of water, but the steep difficulty makes it hard to get that far. Blade Eagle 3D is an ill-advised title that serves as a cautionary tale for future shooters with 3D aspirations. Note: This game requires the Sega 3D glasses. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Bomber Raid's gameplay is simple and fun as you blast targets over jungle, desert, and sea locations. The looping enemy planes and huge destroyers look great, but what in the heck are those rotating flying square things supposed to be? Keep moving when tanks or cannons are in the vicinity, because their turrets are always trained on you. Bomber Raid's power-up system is bizarre. The icons appear almost constantly! Most reveal either a weapon boost (P) or speed increase (S). At first the weapon icons cause your narrow missiles to become longer, which frankly doesn't make much of a difference. After collecting a few more your shots become wider, and eventually you're firing large circles.
Enjoy it while it lasts, because losing a plane puts you all the way back at square one. The speed power-ups are helpful at first, but eventually your plane becomes hard to control, at which point you'll want to avoid them like the plague. On rare occasions you'll encounter a special power-up which adds an escort plane (or two) by your side. These escorts would be great if they didn't tend to fire sideways and backwards! WTF? Also annoying is the monotonous, happy-go-lucky music. Your high score is displayed at the end of each game, egging you on to try again. Bomber Raid could have been better designed, but at least its heart is in the right place. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
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Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum