The game utilizes two controllers, so having a second player as a copilot is a good idea. Unfortunately the scenery is not the least bit convincing. The horizon is blue and the ground is white dots. If the ugly graphics don't turn your stomach the sluggish frame-rate will do the trick. Maneuvering an enemy into your sights is such a hassle! You'll swing from one side to the next, struggling to center your target.
Your missiles look like big yellow tennis balls slowly blinking their way across the screen. If an enemy is close enough you can fire your machinegun and hear the "ting ting" of bullets striking metal. The CPU provides an autopilot mode but instead of charting a steady course he weaves all over the place like a drunk driver! The combat is so unsatisfying. When an enemy is destroyed it just vanishes from the screen. If not for a "level complete" message I would never know I was making any progress at all! F-16 Fighting Falcon is a combat simulator that simply wasn't ready for prime time. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Each side-scrolling stage contains several large, stationary aliens that must be defeated in order to initiate a boss encounter. Zany enemies come in all forms, from green fish to blue blobs to rotating flowers. Honestly, I can't even tell what most of those things are supposed to be. When defeated, baddies drop bouncing coins which can be snatched up and used to purchase weapons, bombs, and speed upgrades. You'll certainly want to upgrade your firepower, since larger foes can absorb a lot of hits. I love the seven-way shot weapon, but the smart bomb isn't quite as devastating as I would like (it won't destroy larger foes). Avoid the speed upgrades because they make your ship very hard to guide with precision.
The difficulty is up there, and the collision detection won't cut you any slack. Sometimes you'll think you're in the clear, only to have a wayward rotating missile clip your wing and send you to day-glow heaven. Fantasy Zone's graphic quality is pretty amazing, with a screen resolution that seems higher than most Master System games. The colors are remarkably vibrant and the scenery looks crisp and well defined. When destroyed, your ship bursts into a nice pattern of snowflakes. I appreciate Fantasy Zone's novel approach, and shooter fans should welcome the change of pace. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
The opening stage looks amazing as you leap between buildings and catapult off springs. But Flash does not control well. He runs like he's on a Slip-N-Slide and his spin-attack is totally out of control. You tend to overshoot your mark, plowing through non-moving thugs before hurling yourself into a lake of fire, bed of spikes, or meat grinder. When standing still Flash has a ray gun attack with a range of one whole centimeter. And just when you start to figure out what the [expletive] going on, the timer runs out and you die. Was that really necessary?
At least the game looks good with vibrant colors that leap off the screen. Buildings are richly textured and the city skyline looks great against the sunset. "Mayor Trickster" posters can be seen on the walls, which I assume is some obscure villain. The soundtrack isn't bad although it sounds like the composer drank two pots of coffee before recording it. There's no score on the screen but you are presented with a score in the unlikely event that you complete a stage. The Flash will appeal to collectors but frankly it's poorly designed and too hard to play. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
The red lock-on indicators only appear briefly, so by the time you launch it's often too late. Fortunately your cannon is pretty effective and you can hold down the button to shoot continuously. The graphics are a mess. Not only do the enemies scale abruptly into view, but when objects overlap unsightly visual glitches occur. It's hard to tell when you're taking hits with all the junk on the screen, and your shield indicator was designed by a moron. It's a symbol of a red ship surrounded by a constantly flashing circle. WTF?
The best aspect of the game is the ability to select from one of four stages. The first is set in open space, and the others let you glide over planets of molten lava, windy deserts, and striped meadows. About half-way through each stage you'll fly through a psychedelic tunnel with enough flashing lights to trigger an epileptic seizure. Trying to navigate these narrow corridors is futile, even with the un-helpful prompts like "turn left!" One crash brings your game to an abrupt - and merciful - conclusion. Your score isn't even displayed until the end of the game. The only thing good about Galaxy Force is that it makes Galaxy Force II (Genesis, 1992) seem a lot less awful. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
The next stage is a car chase that lets you shoot gangsters hanging out the windows while a plane drops bombs from above. You can even shoot out the tires for bonus points. The subsequent stages, which take place on a city street, a saloon, a nightclub and a dock, are more conventional but still very challenging and fun. When gangsters get shot, they turn into transparent, rising angels, and you can even shoot down the angels!
You can also take aim at bottles on the wall of the saloon, and even mice that scamper across the floor (which turn into tiny mice-angels, of course). Then there's the bonus stage that features a hidden key embedded in a multi-layered brick wall - it's a blast. Gangster Town also has a two-player simultaneous mode. The light gun control is fair, but it seems to register slightly to the right of where I aimed. Overall, this fantastic light gun game should not be missed. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
And guess how you defeat these five vampires? A wooden stake? Garlic? Holy water? Nah, you just punch them! C'mon, if you're going to make a game about vampires, you have to at least follow the rules! The game has no atmosphere at all and the music is as goofy as the graphics. Control isn't so hot either. Why do I keep falling through the floors?? Ghost House also features some annoying slow-down, and sometimes it will even freeze up for no reason. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
The main screen is comprised of city blocks, and it looks more colorful and detailed than what you'll find in other versions. You can actually see the little Gatekeeper and Keymaster characters wandering the streets! You select from four cars (including the hearse), which you then equip with gadgets like a PK energy sensor, ghost vacuum, and traps. As you cruise up the vertically-scrolling streets, elaborate building facades offer some nice scenery. That's good, because cruising between locations is a major part of the game.
Fortunately your trips are mercifully short and you do not need to worry about gas. Upon arriving at a flashing city block (indicating PK activity), you'll see a new screen with up to five ghosts flying around the building exterior. The Ghostbuster dudes look sharp in their brown uniforms, and the translucent green "slimer" ghosts look pretty wild.
Catching them is really the highlight of the game, but there's not a lot to it. Except for the slimers, most of the ghosts in this game look like flying bananas. Despite its eye candy and streamlined gameplay, Ghostbusters is still confusing and repetitive. I got sick of returning to my headquarters to empty my traps, and that off-key music drove me nuts. This Master System version of Ghostbusters is better than most, but frankly, that's not saying much. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
As your knight makes his way through graveyards, villages, and caves, danger lurks at every turn. Ghouls 'n Ghost's most distinguishing feature is its difficulty, and this version is no different. It seems like every one of those chests contains that evil magician who turns you into a chicken or an old man. At times it's insanely difficult. There are unlimited continues, and you'll find yourself playing into the wee hours of the morning if you're really bent on beating this game. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
The game alternates between an offensive stage and a defensive stage. During the offensive stage, you destroy as many enemy ships as you can while avoiding their onslaught. The defensive stage only requires you to shoot down missiles approaching a planet's surface. The graphics are nice, and a different planet is featured in the background of each stage. The space shuttle that picks you up after you complete a stage is a nice touch. The background music has a computer/space theme, and it's not too annoying. Global Defense isn't a classic, but it's fun to play for a while. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
The inspired music is also very similar to the Genesis. The only aspect of the game that truly suffers is the animation - it's somewhat choppy and lining up your man with enemies can be a bit tricky. The options are also a bit thin. You can only control the Conan-like Tarik (no woman or dwarf), although you can select from three types of magic. But the biggest omission has to be the disappointing lack of a two-player mode. Despite these shortcomings, Golden Axe still makes for a very satisfying one player experience. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
The controls are a disgrace. You can't can't move diagonally and you get stuck on every rock, bush, and grain of sand. It's infuriating when you can't enter a hole because you're one pixel off. I'm going out on a limb to declare these the worst controls of all time. Unfortunately you have to slay several creatures to reveal any hidden holes. Inside a hole you'll typically find an old woman or fairy. The old woman will try to sell you something, but your only options are "want" or "don't want". Well... what if I just don't have enough money?! In that case you'll get chewed out either way. Fairies try to offer clues but you can't trust them!
One instructed me to "move a blue rock" to reveal a dungeon entrance. In fact, you need to strike the rock with your sword five times! Thank goodness for the FAQ! The side-scrolling dungeons aren't much better. You can only face forward (what?!) and bats fly through walls to drain your life. During boss fights you can't tell if you're inflicting damage until the boss finally explodes into sparkles. The game's primary claim to fame seems to be its password feature, but jotting down that 32-character code isn't much fun. Even when you use a password you start back at the beginning. I'll stop short of saying I hate Golvellius, but a game this poorly designed will bring you nothing but pain and misery. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Unfortunately, once the ball is put into play the whole game goes to hell in a handbasket. The screen switches to a view of the whole field, where the fielders move slow as molasses. It's like controlling a team of 90-year-old men, only slower. The diamond doesn't look so hot either thanks to those stupid narrow dirt paths between the bases. Ironically, the field on the small "radar" screen looks far more realistic!
The umpire makes audible calls, but some are really hard to make out amidst all the fuzz. When a foul ball is hit, he sounds like he's screaming like a maniac! The crowd sounds like a jumbo jet flying overhead, and for some reason they go NUTS over foul balls (which are painfully abundant by the way). Great Baseball is truly bad, but it does have something I've never seen in another baseball game - balks! I wish they would have put that misplaced effort into playtesting instead. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
On the bright side, players scamper quickly down the court, and I like how you shoot by releasing at the top of your jump. While you can't dunk per se, it does look like you're throwing the ball down when you shoot close to the basket. The mind boggling free-throw shooting mechanism is needlessly complex with too many moving parts. Throw-ins are also problematic because you often can't see who you're throwing to, resulting in a lot of high, up-for-grabs passes. That sucks, but what ultimately ruins the game are its unnecessary penalties. These are called completely at random, and even the act of catching the ball can draw a "charging" foul.
Oh well, at least the games are short. The non-stop background music and fuzzy voice synthesis fall squarely into the "so bad they're good" category. I like the cheerleaders on the sidelines, even though they are larger than the players and resemble the cavemen from the Geico commercials. At half-time there's a modest little show, but it's still more than what you'll see in any modern basketball game. There's definitely some old-school charm here, but with gameplay this erratic it would take a massive dose of nostalgia just to make Great Basketball seem... good. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
The controls are remarkably unintuitive. The play selection screen forces you to sit and wait as it slowly cycles through all eight possible formations. You must hit a button when your play is highlighted, and you can engage in all sorts of theatrics to "bluff" your opponent. The passing game is pathetic, and I hate how the runningback stops dead when he reaches the goal line, as if he's saving his energy for the extra point attempt. The playing field looks pretty good, except for that goofy eagle logo on the 50-yard line. The fat players are easy to follow, and although there is some flicker, it doesn't detract from the abysmal gameplay.
Great Football's audio includes static-laden digitized crowd noise, and it sounds like they're chanting "Eddie! Eddie!" Short musical tunes play throughout the game, and while you might expect them to be annoying, they're actually somewhat endearing. The one-player mode is really odd. You only play on offense, trying overcome a computer opponent that's been spotted points. When it comes to pigskin action, it doesn't get much worse than Great Football. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
There's no caddy to help select your club so you'll need to know the "flying distance" for each club (see instructions). Upon choosing your shot direction a vertical power meter suddenly appears and quickly moves upward. You really need to be ready for it, especially if you intend to hit a soft shot. Frankly it's far too easy to overshoot your target. The golfer's swing animation is smooth enough but it looks to me like he completely misses the ball.
The ball flies off the tee anyway, moving through the air in a floaty manner. Upon reaching the green you'll hear a bell that gives the false impression the ball landed in the cup. Nope! An exceptional shot will reward you with an illegible voice that sounds like a zipper being yanked up and down. Putting is tough because the game doesn't bother to tell you your distance. This game doesn't do you any favors, but if you're willing to put a little effort into it Great Golf is a worthy challenge. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Immediately after face-off however, you immediately realize how worthless the controller is. You'll spin it like mad with your thumb, only to watch your player creep a half-inch. At first I thought my controller was broken! Before you can get off a pass off a swift CPU-controlled player snags the puck and speeds off toward your goal.
The rink is spread over three screens, and when the screen flips from one to the next, you lose control of your player. Calling this unplayable would be an understatement! I can't imagine anyone persevering through an entire game, because a mere two minutes of this inflicts more suffering that any human should endure.
From what I hear, these controllers were originally quite expensive, so you have to feel for the poor kid in 1986 who saved up his allowance all summer long just to purchase this steaming pile of dung. The saddest part is, this could have been a respectable game had Sega allowed it to be played with a normal controller. I suspect this was a case of greed on Sega's part, so in that case I'm glad Great Ice Hockey was a total bust. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
I'd recommend playing Great Soccer with one hand, so you can use the other to hold your nose. Playing this is a painful experience, as the ball tends to be kicked around endlessly in the same small area. At least the scrolling field doesn't look bad, and the ball does rotate nicely. High-pitched background music whines nonstop and will have you lunging for the volume control. I reviewed Great Soccer with longtime friend and Master System expert Eric V., and even he was astonished by how putrid this wretched piece of garbage is. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
I'm glad there's plenty of time to easily camp under it because the physics is a joke! After traveling at a constant speed over the net, the ball seems to stop in mid-air and fall straight down. Sometimes the ball will hit the ground and suddenly take off like a rocket! Worst of all is when the ball drifts backward, as if taken by a gust of wind! We're playing indoors people!! Is this a volleyball or a balloon?!
Setting the ball for teammates is easy but executing a spike is hard. One button lets you jump high and the other lets you slam it down in mid-air. The problem is, since the ball is off the screen it's hard to time your jump. On the rare occasion you do execute a spike I have to admit it's pretty sweet. Upon scoring a point all the members of the team perform calisthenics in unison. Great Volleyball is a curiosity. Sega should have put "Great" in quotes, as apparently they were using the more obscure definition "poorly designed and awkward to play". © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.
Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum