system Index M
Major League Baseball Featuring Ken Griffey Jr.
Grade: B-
Publisher: Nintendo (1998)
Reviewed: 2006/5/25

screenshotWhile it fails to live up to the legacy of its SNES predecessors, MLB Featuring Ken Griffey does adopt a similar easy-to-play, arcade style. The controls are simple and games progress at a brisk pace. You still need to aim a "batter cursor" to hit the ball, but it's not especially hard to make contact. At least you don't have to wait for the catcher to toss the ball back to the pitcher. Fielding is fun, and the running system is one of the most intuitive I've seen.

Remarkably, the game stumbles badly when it comes to graphics. Apparently the game employs some kind of "smoothed over" rendering technique that causes everything to look blurry and indistinct. Players mirror the mannerisms of their real-life counterparts, but their bodies tend to be extremely top-heavy. The animation is nice however, and the game consistently provides a good camera angle.

Still, MLB lacks the level of quality usually associated with a Nintendo title. There are some notorious bugs, including one that makes playing a season practically impossible. You'll witness bizarre occurrences like a runner from first being tossed out at second after a solid base hit. In a game at Camden yards, the attendance was announced at over 48,000, yet the stands were practically empty!

There's no instant replay feature, which is another major no-no for a modern baseball game. The lack of commentary is equally lame, although Ken Griffey does chime in on occasion. I was hoping Major League Baseball Featuring Ken Griffey would offer the same brand of fun as his SNES series, but its ugly graphics and numerous quirks prove otherwise. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Ken Griffey's Winning Run (Super Nintendo)
Ken Griffey Major League Baseball (Super Nintendo)
MLB 2006 (Playstation 2)
Ken Griffey Jr.'s Slugfest (Nintendo 64)
World Series Baseball 98 (Saturn)

Mario Golf
Grade: B+
Publisher: Nintendo (1999)
Reviewed: 2003/11/16

screenshotIt's interesting how similar Mario Golf is to Hot Shots on the Playstation. I suppose that could be considered a compliment, since Hot Shots is by far the best golf series for the Playstation. Mario Golf's graphics are higher in resolution however, and you get to play as your favorite Nintendo characters instead of weird freaks.

Mario Golf is easy and fun, and with few lulls in the action you can whiz through eighteen holes in just a few minutes. Adding replay value are some nice bonus modes. "Ring mode" challenges you to hit the ball through rings in addition to making par. "Club slots" mode randomly selects your three clubs for each hole, forcing you to employ unusual strategies. In "speed golf" you must finish a course as fast as possible, and while it would have made for a perfect split-screen contest, it's one-player only (rats!). There's also a betting screen that lets you to challenge your friends for the longest drive or closest shot to pin.

Mario Golf is mostly good, but there are a few negative aspects. Lacking a manual camera control, it can be hard to tell where you're aiming, and the wire-frame grid that conveys hills and valleys tends to get in the way. The round ghost in the corner makes for a lousy wind indicator, since it's hard to tell which way he's facing. Finally, although fourteen characters and six courses are available, you'll begin with only four golfers and a single course, which kind of sucks. Still, this is a quality golf game that should keep you occupied for many lazy afternoons. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

If you like this game, try: Hot Shots Golf (Playstation)
Golf (NES)
Hot Shots Golf 3 (Playstation 2)
Great American Golf 2 (Philips CD-i)
PGA Tour Golf (3DO)

Mario Kart 64
Grade: B-
Publisher: Nintendo (1997)
Reviewed: 2000/7/30

screenshotThis is a slick 3D update of the classic SNES game, and while Mario Kart 64 is certainly good, it's not great. Up to four players can select from eight characters and sixteen imaginative courses. Each track provides a completely unique racing experience, and many feature some cool shortcuts. The control is fair, but gaining traction can be frustrating, especially on the more narrow tracks. A wide variety of crazy powerups add strategy and chaos. Unfortunately, the AI leaves something to be desired because Mario Kart 64 seems intent on keeping all of the races artificially close! And don't you think that special shell that goes after the leader is just a little bit unfair? A few of the tracks are too long, and that rainbow track is just plain boring. Personally I prefer Diddy Kong Racing over this. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Battery/Controller pack to save "Ghosts"
1 to 4 players 

If you like this game, try: Diddy Kong Racing (Nintendo 64)
Mario Kart DS (Nintendo DS)
Crash Team Racing (Playstation)
Powerboat Racing (Playstation)
Mickey's Speedway USA (Nintendo 64)

Mario Party
Grade: A-
Publisher: Nintendo (1998)
Reviewed: 1999/11/11

screenshotThis innovative title ushered in a whole new genre of video games: the party game. Mario Party is a board game at heart, where players roll dice and move between spaces on a map. Yes, there are 56 action mini-games included (!), but if you're looking for nonstop action, you may want to look elsewhere. Mario Party is well-designed, mixing the strategic gameplay of a board game with the excitement of an arcade title.

The object is to collect the most stars, but you also collect coins, which indirectly help you obtain stars. Players take turns moving down paths on the board down that branch but eventually converge back together. Colored spaces trigger different events to occur. Once each player has taken a turn, all four players engage in a randomly-chosen mini-game. These games are preceded by simple instructions, and are usually a lot of fun to play. Many are based on classics like tug-of-war, hot potato, or musical chairs. Although a few rely on fast button mashing or rotating the joystick, none are particularly abusive on the controllers.

After a set number of turns, the game ends and awards "bonus" stars for certain accomplishments before determining the ultimate winner. Mario Party is most fun with four players, but if you only have two or three, the computer can control the other characters. The one-player mode is pretty lame in comparison. My friends enjoyed Mario Party, but some complained that it takes too long to play. Even on the quick setting, a game can easily exceed an hour and a half. If you have the attention span however, Mario Party delivers some terrific multiplayer mayhem. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: Battery
1 to 4 players 

If you like this game, try: Pac-Man Fever (GameCube)
Mario Party 8 (Wii)
Backgammon (Atari 2600)
Mario Party 10 (Wii U)
Mario Party: Island Tour (Nintendo 3DS)

Mario Tennis
Grade: B
Publisher: Nintendo (2000)
Reviewed: 2007/8/22

screenshotThis Nintendo All-Star sports extravaganza attempts to mimic the addictive gameplay of Sega's Virtua Tennis (Dreamcast, 2000), and with fairly decent results. Fourteen of your favorite Nintendo characters are represented, including Yoshi, Peach, Toad, Boo, and Donkey Kong. The courts look simple but clean and attractive. The big yellow ball is easy to follow, and the color of its streak indicates what type of shot was taken.

My main issue with Mario Tennis is its control scheme, which is far less intuitive than Virtua Tennis. Hitting combinations of the A and B buttons result in a number of various shots, including lobs (hit A then B), drop-shots (hit B then A), low slices (hit B twice), high top-spins (A twice) and smashes (A and B). And that's not all. You can "charge" your shots by holding in A or B, but unlike Virtua Tennis this causes you to "freeze" in place, and you'll have to press Z to "snap" out of it. The fact that the manual dedicates twelve pages to explaining the controls says it all.

Mario Tennis is fun and competitive once you get a feel for it, but even then the game lacks that natural "flow" of Virtua Tennis. One annoying feature is how the instant replay automatically kicks in after every shot! I don't think I've ever wanted to see any of those!

The game supports one to four players, and a tournament mode lets the solo player ascend the ranks. There's a doubles tournament included, but for some reason you can only play with a CPU partner - not a friend! There are a few wacky "bonus" games included, but these range from headache inducing (rings mode) to vomit inducing (tilting court). Mario Tennis is a quality title with a lot of bells and whistles, but I wish Nintendo would have shown a little constraint in the control department. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

If you like this game, try: Mario Tennis (Virtual Boy)
Mario Power Tennis (GameCube)
Super Tennis (Super Nintendo)
Hot Shots Tennis (Playstation 2)
Mario Tennis Aces (Nintendo Switch)

Mickey's Speedway USA
Grade: B
Publisher: Rare (2000)
Reviewed: 2016/4/24
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThe Nintendo 64 is well known for slick kart racers, most notably Mario Kart 64 (Nintendo, 1996) and Diddy Kong Racing (Rare, 1997). Mickey's Speedway USA managed to fly under my radar however. It's developed by Rare, the makers of Diddy Kong Racing, so you know the quality is there. The racers include Mickey, Mini, Goofy, Donald, Daisy, and some fat cat named Pete. This group may lack the street cred of Mario and Donkey Kong but they can still burn some rubber.

The outstanding controls make it easy to powerslide around corners and unleash weapons like baseballs and toy airplanes. Rumble effects can be felt when kicking in your turbo or riding over a rickety bridge. The courses showcase scenic locations from around the country including the Grand Canyon, the hills of San Francisco, and the casinos of Las Vegas. The tracks all tend to have that hazy look, and sometimes the track boundaries are vague. The Seattle and Chicago tracks have you doing laps in the sewer!

The laps are ideal in length - usually about one minute long - and there are some fun shortcuts. I noticed the city stages (including the docks of Philadelphia) tend to incorporate a lot of confusing 90 degree turns. The game waits a good 15 seconds before bothering to tell you when you're heading in the wrong direction (a "death sentence" according to my friend Brent). In terms of audio, it would have been nice had they recorded more than one voice sample per character. Hearing Mini squeal "weeeeeeeee!" every ten seconds will get on your nerves.

Still, the game is cheery and a lot of fun. Playing solo lets you unlock new characters and enable cheat codes. The four-player split-screen includes a battle mode in addition to races. The game keeps a running tally of wins for each player, even as you move from mode to mode! If you enjoy kart games Mickey's Speedway USA probably deserves a place in your collection. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

If you like this game, try: Diddy Kong Racing (Nintendo 64)
Mario Kart 64 (Nintendo 64)
Crash Team Racing (Playstation)
Diddy Kong Racing DS (Nintendo DS)
Mario Kart DS (Nintendo DS)

Micro Machines 64 Turbo
Grade: B+
Publisher: Nintendo (1999)
Reviewed: 1999/8/30

screenshotMicro Machines lets you race tiny toy cars (and boats) around normal household environments including a kitchen table, desk, pool table, and swimming pool. There's even a beach with sand castles! A super party game, Micro Machines allows up to eight players to play simultaneously using four controllers (two people per controller!). Unlike most racers, this game isn't played on a split screen. The camera simply follows the leader, and those who fall behind (off the screen) lose. It's a blast to play, especially with the wacky assortment of weapons available (like the big sledge hammer).

The one player modes are less exciting, but they do allow you to unlock bonus cars which you can save and use later. The tracks convey a good sense of humor and attention to detail. The main problem with Micro Machines 64 has got to be its limited overhead view, which doesn't let you see much of the track ahead. If you go too fast, you may find yourself flying off the table before you even see it coming! As a result, success in this game is largely a matter of memorizing the tracks. Still, you can't beat Micro Machines for chaotic, multiplayer racing action. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.

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Save mechanism: Controller pack
1 to 8 players 

If you like this game, try: Micro Machines (Super Nintendo)
Micro Machines (NES)
Micro Machines V3 (Playstation)
Micro Machines (Playstation 2)
Micro Machines (Genesis)

Mortal Kombat 4
Grade: B-
Publisher: Midway (1997)
Reviewed: 2011/12/6
Rating: Mature 17+ (animated blood and gore, animated violence)

screenshotMortal Kombat 4 marked the series transition from 2D to 3D graphics, and as you might expect, there were some growing pains. On the positive side, the new polygon graphics are smoothly rendered and fluidly animated. The action is roughly twice as fast, and I found the frenetic pace refreshing. Swinging camera angles provide dramatic viewpoints, especially of fighters who get their bodies contorted and limbs snapped.

On the downside, the fighters and stages have a lot less personality. The character models lack the subtle details of their digitized cousins, and their faces look blank and generic. The stages lack that dark, mysterious quality that made the original ones so fascinating. Not only do they lack detail, but they lack a sense of layering as well. The controls haven't changed, and scoring is facilitated by the unsatisfying "consecutive win" system used in the last few MK games.

One new element that's completely squandered is the use of weapons. How in the hell do you pick up one of those things?! Even in the rare case that you do, it usually gets knocked out of your hand before you even get a chance to swing it. The instruction manual contains biographies for all of the characters, but fails to mention any special moves or fatalities. Bogus! Actually the moves are available from the pause menu in the game, but only in practice mode. In terms of moving the series into 3D, Mortal Kombat 4 served its purpose but didn't do much else. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Mortal Kombat 4 (Playstation)
Mortal Kombat II (Sega 32X)
Ultimate Mortal Kombat (Nintendo DS)
Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 (Super Nintendo)
Mortal Kombat: Special Forces (Playstation)

Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero
Grade: D
Publisher: Midway (1997)
Reviewed: 2011/12/6
Rating: Mature 17+ (animated blood and gore, animated violence)

screenshotAs a huge fan of the Mortal Kombat, the idea of a side-scrolling adventure through its dark, mysterious world is stuff dreams are made of. Sadly, Mythologies turned out to be one of the most infuriating video games I have ever picked up. You really have to wonder what the designers were smoking. The fighters look similar in size and appearance to the MK fighting games, but they seem to be hand-drawn instead of digitized. The locations include a lot of dark temples and cliffs bathed in moonlight.

The atmosphere is about right, but the environments lack the subtle details that fans of the series crave. I noticed that the live-motion video scenes of the PS1 version have been replaced with still frames and text. The control scheme is an absolute nightmare. You get all of the normal moves (two punches, two kicks, run, block), but there's an additional "turn" button. This was necessitated by the fact that you sometimes have to battle multiple foes at a time - one on each side. The problem is, this "turn" button is not particularly responsive and it's really awkward to use in the heat of battle.

Adding insult to injury, your character will sometimes turn on his own to facilitate a certain attack. The bottom line is that you always seem to be facing the wrong way, and it drove me up a wall. The designers would have done us all a big favor by just limiting the battles to one-on-one.

There are other problems as well. The jumping controls are inexact and the collision detection is horrible. You'll go to perform your trademark uppercut and half the time it will pass through the guy like he's a freakin' ghost. Combine unforgiving stage designs (pillar traps) with those awkward controls, and it's a recipe for frustration. It's a shame because with a little quality control this would have been a terrific companion to the series. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

If you like this game, try: Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero (Playstation)
Mortal Kombat (Game Gear)
Mortal Kombat II (Sega 32X)
Mortal Kombat 4 (Playstation)
Mortal Kombat 4 (Nintendo 64)

Mortal Kombat Trilogy
Grade: B
Publisher: Midway (1996)
Reviewed: 2011/12/6
Rating: Mature 17+ (realistic violence, realistic blood and gore)

screenshotWith all the characters and backgrounds from the first three Mortal Kombat games, Trilogy packs a punch. There are 26 playable characters up front and four unlockable fighters. I always thought the Playstation version was pretty good, but this is clearly superior.

First off, there are no aggravating load screens to sit through. Next, the graphics are much more attractive with larger characters and more vibrant colors. It actually looks like they used some new digitized actors (Johnny Cage for one). Most stages exude that dark mysticism that defined the series, although a few of the urban locations (taken from MK3) are a lot less compelling (the subway comes to mind).

The menacing soundtrack is well done, but the voice samples sound extremely muffled and it's hard to understand what the commentator is saying. The controls map well to the N64 controller, although you're forced to use those little yellow buttons. The block button is easy to forget about until you reach more advanced foes in later stages. The run button however seems totally unnecessary.

In addition to the normal one-on-one modes, you can play 2-on-2 or 3-on-3. The 8-player tournament is a joke. How many times do you find yourself with seven Mortal Kombat players sitting around your house looking for something to do? One brand new element is the "aggressive" meter which feels like it was tacked on for the sake of adding something.

Likewise the "Brutalities" are dumb. It looks like the bones of 50 people are raining down! Finally, Midway only lists one special move per character in the instruction manual, which is pretty lame. Mortal Kombat Trilogy serves up enough spine ripping, skull-cracking goodness, but it isn't the end-all-be-all I was hoping for. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 8 players 

If you like this game, try: Mortal Kombat Trilogy (Playstation)
Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 (Super Nintendo)
Mortal Kombat 3 (Genesis)
Mortal Kombat 4 (Playstation)
Mortal Kombat 3 (Playstation)

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