system Index T-Z
Thrash Rally
Grade: B
Publisher: Alpha Denshi (1991)
Reviewed: 2012/6/22

screenshotIt may not look spectacular, but Thrash Rally offers a nice change of pace from the one-on-one fighters that dominate the system. At its core, this is a simple overhead racer in the spirit of Auto Racing (Intellivision, 1980). The screen scrolls every which way as you adjust your direction to keep your car on the road. The cars are tiny, and the low-resolution visuals look like something from the Genesis. In addition to a selection of cars, you can drive a motorcycle, dune buggy, or a truck.

The courses wind both on and off-road, and they tend to be ideal in length (read: short). You'll cruise through a number of scenic locations including Italy, Finland, and Kenya. It's fun to peel through shallow streams and jump over sand dunes. The screen zooms out a bit when you "catch air", giving the game a slight Bump N Jump (1982) flavor. You'll be tempted to slow down and gawk at the colorful scenery, but there's no time for that. There are plenty of cars on the road, but the weird collision detection will have you running over more cars than you bump into. This glitch inadvertently makes the game more fun because it's easier to maintain your momentum.

The controls take a while to get used to, and even on straightaways you'll find yourself making constant slight adjustments. Thrash Rally includes two modes: World Rally and Paris Dakar Rally. I became obsessed with the Dakar Rally which is one long track that's tough to finish before the timer expires. When I finally made it, there was exactly zero seconds remaining! Thrash Rally may not be a showcase title for the Neo Geo, but it's certainly no slouch in the fun department. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 50
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Test Drive V-Rally (Dreamcast)
Hot Wheels: All Out (Game Boy Advance)
Neo DriftOut (CD) (Neo Geo)
Bump N Jump (Intellivision)
Power Drive Rally (Jaguar)

Top Hunter (CD)
Grade: C
Publisher: SNK (1994)
Reviewed: 2004/11/13

screenshotI was hoping for a poor-man's Metal Slug, but Top Hunter is a different type of game. This whimsical side-scroller emphasizes hand-to-hand combat and features gorgeous arcade graphics. Your main attacks are punches and throws, but occasionally you'll find weapons and even commandeer robots. Grabbing and throwing bad guys might sound like fun, but once you use a gun in this game, you realize Top Hunter would have been much more fun as a straight shooter.

The screen has a foreground and background layer, and the C button lets you jump between them. The interactive scenery is rich with detail, but it can be hard to tell if an object is in the foreground or background. You and a friend can join forces to kick butt side by side, but as you might guess, the two-player action only adds to the confusion. The three lengthy stages are set in forest, fire, and ice environments. Each stage has a few lever mechanisms that activate traps or expose new areas.

The best aspect of Top Hunter is its graphics. Despite the cartoonish look of the characters, some of the huge monstrosities you encounter are truly astonishing in both size and detail (the giant snow monster in the ice stage comes to mind). Top Hunter has unlimited continues, but they can totally ruin the challenge and fun factor. If you have the discipline to limit your continues (or not use them), Top Hunter can be a good time. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Metal Slug Advance (Game Boy Advance)
Metal Slug 2 (CD) (Neo Geo)
R-Type (Sega Master System)
Metal Slug XX (PSP)
K.C.'s Krazy Chase (Odyssey 2)

Top Players Golf
Grade: F
Publisher: SNK (1990)
Reviewed: 2015/5/19

screenshotTop Players would be a respectable golf game on most platforms, but on the Neo Geo this is just not cutting it. You can tell this was an early title from the opening cut-scene with its low-resolution scenery and cartoonish golfers. Two fictional courses are available, each with an imaginative set of holes that allow for multiple approaches. Too bad you never get a decent view!

The user interface is a nightmare. Selecting the "course" button lets you toggle between several views of the course, one more unhelpful than the next. The one-press swing meter doesn't really make much sense with the fade and draw areas near the top of the meter. You won't know the distance to the pin unless you ask your "caddy" who looks more like a bubbly 12-year-old girl. When consulted, she exclaims "Take my advice - if you dare! Or make your own choice! It's up to you!!" *Cringe*.

When you hit the ball it looks as big as a softball flying through the air. Sometimes it only travels half the distance for no apparent reason. The graphics are cheesy and the water looks heinous. The best aspect of the game is its relaxing piano music, which sounds like something out of a Peanuts cartoon. Top Players Golf is playable once you get a feel for it, but you tend to expect more from a Neo Geo sports game. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: NES Open Tournament Golf (NES)
PGA Tour Golf (3DO)
VR Golf 97 (Saturn)
Golf (NES)
Pebble Beach Golf Links (3DO)

Treasure of the Caribbean (CD)
Grade: B-
Publisher: NCI-Le Cortext (2011)
Reviewed: 2015/7/29

screenshotThis late-release Neo Geo CD title is a hidden gem. I've played my share of puzzle games and thought I'd seen every variation imaginable. I was wrong. Treasure of the Caribbean has an intriguing twist along with an appealing swashbuckling theme. You select from a group of vaguely pirate-like characters, each equipped with a unique power-up. Two players (or one with CPU) play simultaneously, stacking pairs of oddly-shaped objects. What the hell are those things anyway?

The columns are staggered a bit so you can't get clean rows across. That turns out to be a good thing, as it makes it much easier to get four continuous objects of the same color to explode. You can even create a group of objects that snake through the entire wall. Chain reactions send "ghosts" over to your opponent, causing gravestones to fall and muck up his business in a big way.

Sometimes you'll have a massive number of these gravestones dropped on your side, but don't fret. Treasures of the Caribbean is actually more fun when your back is against the wall. And don't forget to use your one-time special attack, which lets you turn the tables in a hurry.

The controls are terrific but it's kind of cheap how you can rotate a piece in place indefinitely. What's to keep you from doing that for the entire game? The music is a mixed bag. For every song with a swashbuckling vibe, there's one that sounds more like a nursery rhyme. The pirate theme could have been better utilized, but Treasure of the Caribbean is still more enjoyable than I expected. If you own a Neo Geo CD, this is a worthy addition to the collection. . © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 31,903
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Columns (Genesis)
Yoshi's Cookie (NES)
Pac-Man (Neo Geo Pocket)
Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo (Playstation)
Puzzle Link (Neo Geo Pocket)

Grade: B
Publisher: Sammy (1992)
Reviewed: 2010/11/27

screenshotThe Neo Geo is not technically capable of rendering real 3D graphics, but you'd be hard-pressed to tell when you witness Viewpoint's amazing textured visuals. As you fly a ship diagonally up a canal, cannons rise up from the ground, metallic creatures emerge from the sides, and floor tiles "flip" to create a dynamic obstacle course. I was pretty blown away by Viewpoint - until I remembered that its spiritual predecessor, Zaxxon, was released ten years prior!

One fundamental difference is that you don't need to worry about adjusting your altitude in Viewpoint because your ship always floats just over the surface. Each canal features a dazzling array of robotic creatures including slinkies, land fish, spinning turtles, laser-shooting flowers, and giant crabs. The animation is smooth, and while slowdown does creep in occasionally, it's hardly a detriment.

You can tap a button to fire rapidly, or hold it in to unleash a charged shot. Side-cannons triple your firepower and pressing B unleashes one of several special weapons. In this case, these weapons really are special. The best is the "wall of flames" which marches up the screen and consumes everything in its path. It's probably the most effective and satisfying weapon I've ever used! The swarming homing missiles are also a visual treat.

Some stages have interactive elements such as levers you need to shoot to open gates. Hazards can rise up from out of the ground and strike you from beneath, and they can seem pretty cheap if you aren't expecting them. In some sections medium-sized characters will linger around for too long, sometimes impervious to attack.

Losing a ship sometimes means you'll need to repeat a long, tedious stretch, and that really sucks. This is a very difficult game, so there's no shame in playing the easy mode. The soundtrack is an eclectic mix of beats with a few hip-hop samples tossed in. Viewpoint is a real Neo Geo standard that helped define the system, so it's a fine addition to the collection if you can afford it. And despite its age, it's still more imaginative and visually appealing than most modern shooters. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 67240
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Viewpoint (Genesis)
Power Strike (Europe) (Sega Master System)
Zaxxon (Colecovision)
Viewpoint (Playstation)
Laser Blast (Atari 2600)

Voltage Fighter Gowcaizer (CD)
Grade: D
Publisher: Technos (1995)
Reviewed: 2004/1/31

screenshotThis bizarre one-on-one fighter would be commendable on most systems, but for a system like the Neo Geo stocked with so many great fighters, this is just plain mediocre. The characters are completely over-the-top, bringing to mind the shape-shifting freaks of Darkstalkers. There's a guy with bat wings, a four-armed robot, a magician, a Captain America look-alike, and two scantily clad, long-legged females. The boss is a man and woman fused together to form one awesome warrior.

Gowcaizer appears to use the same engine as Art of Fighting, with huge characters and a camera that zooms in and out. The controls are more like Fatal Fury, with two punch and two kick buttons. All the characters have crazy special attacks, many of which defy proper description. While some of these are somewhat amusing, they tend to make the fights overly chaotic and loaded with cheap hits. Shaia, for example, can sit back and continuously pound you from a distance with her remote ball. After winning a match, you can acquire one of your opponent's special moves which is displayed on the screen.

The spectacular backgrounds are probably the highlight of the game, with marvelous unconventional scenery like a burning city, the interior of a church, and a concert stage. Although Gowcaizer's gameplay doesn't stand out, its music certainly does. That's because it features real Japanese singing, and while it seems funny at first, eventually the horrible noise becomes unbearable. Voltage Fighter Gowcaizer isn't particularly fun to play, but it certainly is bizarre. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Darkstalkers (Playstation)
Fatal Fury Special (Neo Geo)
Real Bout: Fatal Fury Special (Neo Geo)
Fatal Fury Battle Archives Volume 1 (Playstation 2)
Marvel Super Heroes (Saturn)

Windjammers (CD)
Grade: A
Publisher: Data East (1994)
Reviewed: 2007/9/5

screenshotEvery once in a while an oddball title will come out of left field and turn out to be a total blast. I picked up this Japanese CD for about 15 bucks (new), but it's probably the most intense head-to-head Neo Geo game I've ever played. Otherwise known as "Flying Power Disc", Windjammers is so simple and easy to play that you could almost consider it a glorified version of Pong.

One competitor guards a goal on each side of the screen as players toss a Frisbee back and forth. Catching and returning the disc in one quick motion adds velocity, and executing Street Fighter-style "sweeps" causes the disc to curve. There are even a few "special moves", including some that set the disc on fire.

Windjammer's graphics are perfectly fine, but since the action is viewed from overhead, there's not much to see. Still, I love the court located on a bright beach, which gives the game a certain summer vibe. The other courts are more high-tech, including some with obstacles in the center that redirect the disc unpredictably. Windjammer's gameplay is fast and furious, with short but sweet 90-second matches.

The electronic soundtrack has an old-school flair, and I also like the clanking sound effects of the disc bouncing off the metallic boundaries. As icing on the cake, a nifty bonus stage lets you control a dog chasing a Frisbee on a beach, jumping over sun-bathing babes in the process. My friends immediately took to Windjammers, unanimously proclaiming it to be an "A" title. My buddy Steve even called it "sponge-worthy", which is quite the accolade. Windjammers has remained under the radar for a long time, but I think it's about time for a coming-out party. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 49302
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Windjammers (Nintendo Switch)
Street Hoop (CD) (Neo Geo)
Super Tennis (Super Nintendo)
King of Fighters 99 (CD) (Neo Geo)
Piece O' Cake (Atari 2600)

World Heroes
Grade: C
Publisher: Alpha Denshi (1992)
Reviewed: 2015/4/4

screenshotThis game's intro features some unidentified man saying "You came at the right time. Use the time machine to go all over the world. Where the strong people are. I pray for a healthy battle." What the heck is a healthy battle? World Heroes is one of several quality 2D fighting series to grace the Neo Geo. Its innovative controls utilize only three buttons: punch, kick, and throw. Tapping a button initiates a quick hit and holding it down unleashes a stronger attack.

The two main characters, Hanzo and Fuuma, are remarkably similar to Ken and Ryu of Street Fighter II (SNES, 1992). When Hanzo throws a projectile it sounds like he's yelling "I screwed up!" Other fighters include clones of Bruce Lee (Dragon), Joan of Arc (Janne), and Genghis Khan (J. Carn). Brocken is a dead ringer for M. Bison (also from Street Fighter II) although his limb-stretching moves are more similar to Dhalsim. Rasputin is a magician whose hands and feet become huge when he attacks. Muscle Power (yeah, that's his actual name) is a Hulk Hogan look alike who excels at throw moves.

The matches are a little slow and it's not unusual for the clock to run out. Still, I enjoy the deliberate pace of the game. The big, colorful fighters are nicely animated although the blinking circles beneath them do not resemble shadows. The collision detection isn't perfect and occasionally way off. The attractive stages include a bell tower (with scampering rats), a caged city rooftop, and Mount Fuji complete with sparring monkeys! A bonus stage lets you pulverize a large boulder until it resembles a statue of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In addition to the normal mode there's a death match that incorporates unwelcome hazards like electric beams and spikes. Occasionally the game will tell you you're about to engage in a "hair-splitting battle". That doesn't sound very dangerous to me. Unintentional humor notwithstanding, World Heroes is a heck of a good time. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 394,300
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: World Heroes Anthology (Playstation 2)
Bruce Lee (Commodore 64)
Street Fighter Anniversary Collection (Playstation 2)
Super Street Fighter 2 (Super Nintendo)
Brutal Unleashed: Above the Claw (Sega 32X)

World Heroes 2
Grade: B-
Publisher: ADK (1993)
Reviewed: 2015/4/4

screenshotThe first World Heroes was a likeable but somewhat sluggish one-on-one fighter. This worthy sequel picks up the pace and adds six new fighters to the mix, bringing the total to 14. These new additions represent some of the more memorable and fanciful characters of the series.

There's a huge football player named J. Max who bulrushes opponents and throws ghostly footballs. Mudman is a masked medicine man whose wacky antics might not be considered politically correct in this day and age. Captain Kidd is a traditional pirate, Erick is a burly Viking, and Shura is a Thai kick-boxer. Ryoko, a Japanese Judo expert, is only the second female in the series.

Interesting new stages include a treasure-filled cave with a skeleton cheering from on top of a pile of coins. I love how his head rolls off his body after the match. The city street stage looks amazing with its neon lights and looming skyscrapers in the distance. Other stages of note include a majestic Asian temple, a tiki village, and a Japanese courtyard with the cherry blossoms. The controls presented on the "how to play" screen are not totally correct. The A and B buttons are still punch and kick, but C is now used for taunt. The throws are more or less automatic.

One interesting new element is your ability to deflect projectiles back toward your opponent. The action is quicker than the first game and the matches are shorter. There are some character balance issues though. With smaller fighters like Ryoko it's hard to get even close to Erick with that big axe of his. World Heroes 2 feels rough around the edges but its new characters and fantastic backdrops really beef up the entertainment value. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 571,900
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: World Heroes Anthology (Playstation 2)
World Heroes Perfect (CD) (Neo Geo)
Pit Fighter (Lynx)
Street Fighter Collection 2 (Playstation)
Brutal Unleashed: Above the Claw (Sega 32X)

World Heroes 2 Jet
Grade: B
Publisher: ADK (1994)
Reviewed: 2015/4/5

screenshotI'm not sure what "Jet" signifies (another word for turbo?) but this game adds more razzle-dazzle to the already-impressive World Heroes 2. Two new fighters have joined the ranks. Jack is a lanky dude from London who looks like a hybrid of Jack the Ripper and Freddy Krueger. I like the fog in his rooftop stage, but the scenery could be more detailed. Ryofu is a Chinese warrior wielding a long bladed weapon. His stage is set on a boat viewed from bow to stern.

The two-player mode now gives you the strategic option of adjusting your character's attack, defense, and speed capabilities. New moves include a tricky "fake feint" which fools your opponent into thinking you're in a dizzy, vulnerable state. That's pretty cool! For the solo player there's a brand new tournament mode. This begins with a lot of pomp and circumstance as the camera pans over from the flashy outdoor arena to a nearby skyscraper, zooming in to reveal your fighter posing on a balcony!

The tournament is divided into five days, each comprising three single-round fights. The tournament stages are different from the normal game, featuring throngs of spectators in various locations. Winning two of the three fights lets you advance to the next day. At the end of each day you're presented with a match breakdown that includes the "deciding move" for each fight. Apparently my most effective move is the "killer crotch kick".

Less impressive is the new scoring system which results in numbers like 117.60. What the heck does that mean? Jet also includes training mode, but nothing with a conventional scoring system. When it comes to pure head-to-head fighting action this game is top shelf. My friends regard World Heroes Jet as the pinnacle of the series, and they may be right. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 117.60
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: World Heroes Anthology (Playstation 2)
Tricky Kick (Turbografx-16)
Killer Instinct (Super Nintendo)
Chop Suey (Atari XEGS)
Street Fighter Collection 2 (Playstation)

World Heroes Perfect (CD)
Grade: F
Publisher: ADK (1995)
Reviewed: 2015/4/5

screenshotThis prompted my friend Brent to inquire "Have you ever considered doing a list of games with the most arrogant sounding names?" World Heroes Perfect is the fourth and final installment of the exotic one-on-one fighting series. It's super rare in cartridge format, so instead of taking out a second mortgage I opted to review the economical CD version. Some Neo Geo games play fine off a CD, but not fighting games. Whenever you select a different character you initiate a whole new load process.

I played Perfect with some friends as the last leg of a World Heroes marathon, and it was almost unbearable. If games with long load times are considered "beer friendly", this one might just turn me into an alcoholic. You spend more time watching that little dog jump up and down on the load screen than playing the actual game. And when you finally play disappointment quickly sets in.

In two-player mode the winner must continue to use the same character, and you always seem stuck on the same stage. The stages are poorly designed and some are downright annoying. The volcano stage looks like something on the Genesis, and the dinosaur stage is so cheesy I was expecting Barney to show up. The control scheme now uses all four buttons (two punch and two kick) which makes a lot of sense. There's also a new "hero" meter that adds some depth. The old scoring system has returned, probably because nobody could figure out the one in World Heroes Jet.

The characters have been rebalanced to favor the smaller quicker characters. This wasn't a bad idea but I think they went overboard. The action is so fast that smaller characters can jump around like fleas as the large characters struggle just to react. When J. Max is defeated it sounds like he's yelling "Sheeeeet!" World Heroes Perfect is a flawed game. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but the term "Perfect" tends to do that. I found this game far more palatable on World Heroes Anthology (PS2, 2008). © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 2,311,501
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: World Heroes Anthology (Playstation 2)
King of Fighters 94 (CD) (Neo Geo)
King of Fighters 99 (CD) (Neo Geo)
King of Fighters 98 (CD) (Neo Geo)
King of Fighters 95 (CD) (Neo Geo)

Zed Blade
Grade: C-
Publisher: NMK (1994)
Reviewed: 2018/1/2

screenshotZed Blade is one of those pick-up-and-play side-scrolling shooters that let you unleash rapid-fire shots at large, colorful sprites. Your ship is armed with multiple weapons including a forward shot, backward shot, missiles, and bombs. Crisp explosions punctuate the action and power-ups are ubiquitous. The soundtrack is a chaotic jumble of samples and beats, but it does have a vague "Get Ready For This" vibe.

You'll select between three pilots and various weapon loadouts. It's not hard to stave off the waves of jets, tanks, and mechs. They tend to materialize out of gray squares - an unique effect that's not particularly impressive. Upon snagging a power-up or two you'll be shooting projectiles in all directions with no slowdown in sight. Unleashing a bomb conjures a wall of destruction that marches across the screen.

Your ship is a huge target but the slow-moving orange projectiles are pretty easy to avoid. When you reach the end of each stage the message appears "Warning - a major enemy is approaching" (hint: it's a boss). Even colossal robot joggers have little chance against your firepower.

Zed Blade is accessible enough but its stages are its achilles heel. They are boring at best and annoying at worst. The opening stage offers a forgettable repetitive landscape, the second is set on a gray moon, and the third is a space stage with annoying "cosmic slime" enemies. The slime is about as hard to get rid of as phlegm in the back of your throat. Zed Blade's arcade appeal is ultimately undone by its lazy, unimaginative stage designs. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 306320
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Space Raiders (Arcadia 2001)
Robotech (Game Boy Advance)
Firepower 2000 (Super Nintendo)
Aerial Assault (Game Gear)
Demon Attack (Odyssey 2)

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