system Index D
Danny Sullivan's Indy Heat
Grade: A
Publisher: Tradewest (1992)
Posted: 2007/7/1

screenshotAs a late arrival on the NES, many gamers missed out on this overhead racer the first time around. With its toy-sized cars, screen-sized tracks, and quick races, Danny Sullivan's Indy Heat is like a dream come true for old-school fans. Despite its small scale, Indy Heat boasts better visuals and more strategy than most NES racers. The tracks are rendered exceptionally well from an isometric point of view, giving them a distinct sense of depth.

Each of the nine courses sports a different configuration, and there's plenty of eye candy among the crowds in the stands, trucks, trees, and buildings. A tall scoreboard in the center clearly shows the lap count of each racer, and a tiny man waves the white and checkered flags. There are even men that hold up "PIT" signs when it's time for maintenance. Each race consists of five cars, and if you have a multi-tap, you can connect four controllers and challenge a group of friends! Can you guess who's driving that yellow car that always seems to win? Yeah - that's Danny Sullivan!

The controls are simple as can be, but there's plenty of strategy involved with timing your turbo boosts and using the pit stops in the most efficient manner. The tracks tend to be narrow, so there's a lot of bumping going on as you jockey for position. In the pit area, tiny crew members leap out to work on your car, which looks funny but impressive at the same time. This is one of the few games where pit stops really do make a difference! Between races you can easily and quickly use winnings to upgrade your vehicle. Expertly designed and programmed with care, Indy Heat sets the high water mark for old-school racing fun. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

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High score: 148
1 to 4 players 

If you like this game, try: Hot Wheels: All Out (Game Boy Advance)
Indy 500 (Atari 2600)
Super Off Road (Genesis)
Sega Touring Car Championship (Saturn)
Enduro Racer (Sega Master System)

Days of Thunder
Grade: F
Publisher: Mindscape (1990)
Posted: 2022/8/27

screenshotWow, this is pretty bad. I was hoping for some melodramatic Tom Cruise action but all I got was endless laps around a featureless oval track. The scaling of the little cars might be more impressive if there were some jockeying for position going on. Instead you'll be lucky to hold onto last place without blowing out your tires.

Days of Thunder immediately subjects the player to severe boredom in the form of a five-lap qualifying run. It was bad enough in Pole Position, but since that was the actual title of the game, it was justified. Here I wish I had the option to skip it. I'm going to come in last anyway; just stick me back there to begin with.

Five laps feels like an eternity, so when you discover the first "real" race is 12 laps (or worse, 30) it's downright demoralizing. Every race is the same. There's no gear shifting. You hold in the accelerator down the straightaway, and then tap the brakes on the curves so your tires don't rub against the upper rail. If they do, they turn red and you'll need to make a pit stop.

About half of the 25-page instruction manual is dedicated to manipulating your pit crew. Don't get me wrong; the crew is nicely animated and I love the sound of those drills removing the lug nuts. But by the time you change the tires and refuel, not only are you in dead last, but all the other cars have long since finished the race!

I'm still trying to figure out what the draw of this game was in 1990. The only thing it had going for it was its pseudo-3D graphics, making it look vaguely realistic for its time. Fast forward to present day and I can't think of a single reason someone would waste their time with this, outside of morbid curiosity. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Fatal Run (Atari 7800)
Pitstop (Colecovision)
Final Lap Twin (Turbografx-16)
Pole Position (Atari 2600)
Pole Position (Atari XEGS)

Defender II
Grade: C-
Publisher: HAL (1988)
Posted: 2000/3/10

screenshotKnown as Stargate in the arcade, Defender II never approached the popularity of the original. This is a good-looking translation, but many key features are missing. Why is it that when you catch a humanoid, you don't have to return him to the planet surface? And what happened to the inviso-shield and hyperspace controls? Considering they were included on the Atari 2600 version, their absence here is glaring. Defender II also tends to be too fast, making it difficult to avoid collisions, especially when changing direction. If anything, this game makes me want to play the original Defender. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended: A
High score: 27,100
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Stargate (Atari 2600)
Defender (Atari 5200)
Defender (Game Boy Advance)
Arcade's Greatest Hits: Williams (Playstation)
Space Ranger (Philips CD-i)

Defenders of Dynatron City
Grade: C-
Publisher: LucasArts (1991)
Posted: 2016/5/27

screenshotDeveloped by LucasArts, you'd expect Defenders of Dynatron City to be more than your garden-variety side-scrolling beat-em-up. And it is! You begin by assembling a team of imaginative superheroes. Jet Headstrong has a hammer for a head and Buzzsaw Girl rolls around on a spinning saw. Monkey Boy tosses bananas and Radium Dog can float through the air. Rounding out the roster are Miss Megawatt and a robot named Toolbox. You only control one hero at a time but can toggle between four, and it's fun to experiment.

Your first order of business is to rid the streets of pesky silver robots that run, jump, and hover. The fighting action leaves a lot to be desired and that's a serious liability for a fighting game. It's difficult to line up with the robots and when you're right on top of one your attacks don't even register. The superheroes are poorly balanced. Buzzsaw Girl's projectiles are super effective, but trying to "hammer down" a flying robot with Jet Headstrong is frustrating as hell. I couldn't get the special moves to work, and the counterintuitive map will have you moving in circles.

The best aspect of the game by far is the scenery. The storefronts are meticulously detailed including a drug store, bank, library, nightclub, and auto repair shop. You can even enter most of the buildings! If you manage to clear the streets the remaining stages take place in a mall, sewers, and factory. It's a shame there's no score, continues, or password. I love the concept behind Defenders of Dynatron City and its eye candy is off the charts. But man, its fighting action leaves a lot to be desired. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

If you like this game, try: Ocean City Defender (Atari 2600)
Crash Bandicoot 2: Cortex Strikes Back (Playstation)
Super Cobra (Atari 5200)
Super Monkey Ball (GameCube)
Super Huey (Atari 7800)

Demon Sword
Grade: C
Publisher: Taito (1989)
Posted: 2010/2/23

screenshotIf my initial review of Demon Sword was pretty harsh, I blame it on my short attention span. Several readers requested I give it another shot, especially after my favorable review of Legend of Kage (Taito, 1986). Kage was the direct predecessor of Demon Sword, and both games feature very similar gameplay. You control a ninja warrior leaping between bamboo treetops while attacking enemies that come flying in from every direction. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon has nothing on this game!

One thing I hate about Demon Sword is your ninja's outfit. He appears to be wearing a red dress with a slit up the side, and that's not a good look for him! You can throw stars in any direction and slash with a sword that's remarkably effective considering how tiny it is. Careful - you could poke somebody's eye out with that thing! Eventually you'll acquire fragments which elongate your sword, and this gives the game a sense of progression.

Your ninja can jump a country mile, and while gliding through the air is fun, it's possible to land in spikes, fire, or a bottomless pit. That's not cool. I really like the skeletal enemies you face - especially the dogs. Foes struck by your stars will get back up after a few seconds, and I'm not crazy about that. The controls are better than those in Kage, and the scenery is far more detailed. Unfortunately, it's also very repetitive, and you'll often have the uneasy feeling that you're moving in circles.

Each level features several locked doors, some of which hold treasure or a sub-boss. When you obtain magic (like the ability to hurl fireballs) you'll want to save it for the end-of-level boss, because killing a boss with normal weapons takes too long. Speaking of bosses, the second one is a dead-ringer for George Washington, and I'm pretty sure the third boss is the Pope.

Demon Sword doesn't display your score at the conclusion of the game, which is annoying. The in-game music grows on you, but that deplorable intro tune is the video game equivalent of fingernails on a chalkboard. All in all, Demon Sword isn't so bad. It definitely expands upon the Kage formula, but I wouldn't say it necessarily improves upon it. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

High score: 1150
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Ninja (Atari XEGS)
Ninja Crusaders (NES)
Legend of Kage (NES)
Legend of Kage 2, The (Nintendo DS)
Kung Fu (NES)

Desert Commander
Grade: A-
Publisher: Kemco (1989)
Posted: 2019/5/18

screenshotThis one came highly recommended by a reader and sure enough it's a winner. Desert Commander feels like the spiritual predecessor of Advance Wars (Game Boy Advance, 2001). At first glance it doesn't look like much. The graphics are very basic as you move square markers around a scrolling battlefield, setting positions of tanks, infantry, anti-aircraft guns, bombers, fighters, etc. Each army begins on separate areas of the map but once units get within range they can attack each other.

The actual battles play out automatically on a split-screen, with random explosions taking out units on each side. The attacker always goes first, and that makes a big difference because you can wipe out half of your adversary before they can even return fire. The interface for managing your units is surprisingly simple and the action moves along at a brisk pace. The CPU opponent is smart and quick at making decisions. Things become more intense as your units dwindle and the turns become shorter.

It's interesting how one critical battle can turn the tide. Pressing the start button brings up a map, and select shows the statistics of what's left on the battlefield. That's necessary because it's hard to remember if that generic tank icon represents one lone tank or a whole squad. Keep an eye out for strategic locations you can use to resupply or dig-in. A triumphant military march plays in the background, and it fits the game perfectly. Whether played versus a friend or the CPU you're bound to be enthralled by Desert Commander. It's easy to get into but hard to quit. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Advance Wars (Game Boy Advance)
Military Madness (Turbografx-16)
Advance Wars 2 (Game Boy Advance)
Seek and Destroy (Playstation 2)
Tanks But No Tanks (Atari 2600)

Destination Earthstar
Grade: F
Publisher: Acclaim (1989)
Posted: 2001/3/26

screenshotThis first-person space shooter may look better than Star Raiders (Atari 1982), but it's certainly not as fun to play. As with most games of the genre, you first locate your enemies on a galactic map and then hyperwarp to their location. Thankfully, you don't need to switch to a separate screen for the map, and traversing the sectors is pretty easy. Unfortunately, the boring battles that ensue are not worth the trip.

Armed with lasers and completely useless torpedoes, you encounter enemies that resemble imperial transports from Star Wars, and these typically appear one at a time. Earthstar's sloppy animation prevents you from ever feeling in control. Enemies tend to jump across the screen schizophrenically, forcing you to shoot fast and hope for the best before they zoom off.

At that point you'll have to slowly turn your ship 180 degrees to get them back in your sights. It takes several hits to destroy anything, making the battles feel long and arduous. The screen contains a slew of gauges on the lower half, but as it turns out, it's mostly just for show. Perhaps a more appropriate name for this lame shooter would have been Destination Bargain Bin. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

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High score: 6000
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Star Master (Atari 2600)
Star Raiders (Atari 5200)
Star Raiders (Atari 2600)
Star Wars Arcade (Sega 32X)
Galactic Space Wars (Fairchild Channel F)

Dig Dug II
Grade: D+
Publisher: Namco (1989)
Posted: 2006/7/18

screenshotSometimes it takes more than bright graphics and an innovative concept to make a good video game. The original Dig Dug has that certain intangible quality to it, with gameplay that's aged like wine. Sadly, Dig Dug II is just the opposite. It's less than the sum of its parts. All of your favorite characters have returned, but the gameplay is completely revamped.

Wandering freely around a flat island, the idea is to drill into the ground, creating fissures that cause large chunks of the island to break away into the sea, sending your foes to Davy Jones's Locker. It sounds like a blast, but the controls are surprisingly counter-intuitive. You can only drill in certain spots, and it's not readily apparent which half of the island is going to break off. More often than not, it's the side you're standing on! You can still pump enemies full of air, but blowing them up won't earn you any high scores.

As the stages progress and the islands begin to assume odd shapes, Dig Dug II becomes more of a puzzle game than an arcade title. I can certainly appreciate how its sharp graphics and excellent music stay true to the original, but frankly, this game is not very fun. Much of the blame lies with the awful controls. My friend Steve was so unimpressed that he asked me if this was some sort of "bootleg" game! Without an ounce of the magic of the original, Dig Dug 2 has largely faded into obscurity. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

High score: 30,800
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Dig Dug: Digging Strike (Nintendo DS)
Dig Dug (Atari 5200)
Mr. Do! (Atari 2600)
Dig Dug (Atari 2600)
Mr. Do (Colecovision)

Dizzy the Adventurer
Grade: D
Publisher: Codemasters (1993)
Posted: 2018/4/16

screenshotThe Aladdin "deck enhancer" was a peculiar add-on for the NES that promised to be "the future in console play". This cartridge-shaped device offered a 64K memory upgrade for "better graphics and bigger games" with an "extensive library of exclusive titles". It never came to fruition, reducing the Aladdin and its handful of small black cartridges to novelty status. Dizzy the Adventurer was an ill-advised pack-in title starring a hero bearing a striking resemblance to Humpty Dumpty.

The game is a mildly-fun combination of platforming and puzzle-solving. The platform action is aggravating, as Dizzy has the annoying habit of going into an uncontrollable roll after jumping. When you see a row boat floating your way your first inclination is to jump on it, yet you end up rolling off into the water. Naturally, water is fatal to the touch.

I have to admit some of the caves and castles are pretty neat to explore. It's also satisfying when you solve a puzzle and see those flashing point values on the screen. Dizzy can carry up to three items at a time, and when used in the right way these tend to open up new areas. A pickaxe breaks a boulder blocking a cave and a coin grants you a ferry ride, for example. You exchange items with characters just loitering around and the dialog is mercifully brief.

Unfortunately the mechanics for using items is a little obtuse. It would never occur to me that dropping a rope and logs next to each other would result in a bridge appearing. Just don't drop them on top of each other, because that doesn't do anything. The three item restriction is a real drag, forcing you to constantly backtrack to retrieve something you were forced to drop much earlier in the game.

Throughout the entire game you're subjected to high-pitched, whining music that can't be shut off. I like the puzzle element of Dizzy the Adventurer, but the game demands a lot of patience and a pair of earplugs. Note: This game only runs via the Aladdin Deck Enhancer. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

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High score: 15,300
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Micro Machines (Aladdin version) (NES)
Fantastic Adventures of Dizzy, The (NES)
Tetris Plus (Playstation)
Quattro Adventure (NES)
Blaster Master: Blasting Again (Playstation)

Donkey Kong
Grade: A
Publisher: Nintendo (1984)
Posted: 2012/7/29

screenshotThis is a superior home version of the Donkey Kong arcade game, boasting crisp, vibrant graphics and perfectly responsive controls. I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise considering Nintendo invented the game in the first place. Each of the three screens involves scaling girders while avoiding hazards in order to rescue the hottie held captive by Kong.

Grabbing the hammer lets you smash barrels and fireballs, but don't get cocky because it will not make you invincible. Lucrative bonus points are earned by grabbing out-of-the-way items like umbrellas and pocketbooks. This edition has all the subtle details of the arcade including barrels that bounce and hammers that gleam.

Everyone recognizes the hero as Mario, but many mistake the damsel in distress as Peach or Princess Toadstool. According to the manual, her name is actually Pauline! The game's audio is actually more robust than the arcade, and Mario's shoes are as squeaky as ever. The one thing missing is the fourth "conveyor belt" screen, and frankly I'm surprised it was left out. Donkey Kong on the NES is a title that embodies platform gaming at its purest. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended: B
High score: 39,900
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Donkey Kong (Atari 7800)
Donkey Kong Junior (Colecovision)
D2K Arcade (Intellivision)
Donkey Kong Jr. (NES)
Donkey Kong (Colecovision)

Donkey Kong 3
Grade: D-
Publisher: Nintendo (1984)
Posted: 2012/7/29

screenshotSome of you may be thinking, "What? There was a Donkey Kong 3?!" The unfortunate answer to that question is yes, and this ill-conceived abomination nearly sent the ape to a premature retirement. A radical departure from its predecessors, DK3 is less groundbreaking than it is disappointing. Mario is nowhere to be found, which turned out to be an excellent career move on his part. Instead the game stars Stanley, Mario and Luigi's illegitimate brother.

The screens are configured with Donkey Kong hanging from two vines at the top, aggravating bees' nests on either side. The bees swarm down and steal flowers lined across the bottom of the screen. To protect them you move side-to-side while firing bursts of bug spray at the oncoming insects. Shooting Kong pushes him higher up the vines, and the stage ends when you push him to the very top. Not many games advocate spraying pesticides on live animals! Where the [expletive] is PETA when you need them?!

Donkey Kong 3 doesn't feel like a Donkey Kong game at all. Chris speculated that this was originally a dead side project until somebody at Nintendo said, "Hey, if we put a monkey in this we can call it Donkey Kong!" Playing DK3 is about as fun as drinking non-alcoholic beer. Annoying worms block your shots and constantly tapping the fire button is hard on the wrist. More of a curiosity than anything else, Donkey Kong 3 was one ill-advised experiment I'm sure even Nintendo would like to forget. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended: B
High score: SLN 49,600
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Donkey Kong Jr. (NES)
D2K Arcade (Intellivision)
Donkey Kong Junior (Atari 2600)
Donkey Kong Junior (Colecovision)
Donkey Kong Junior (Intellivision)

Donkey Kong Classics
Grade: A
Publisher: Nintendo (1991)
Posted: 2004/7/25

screenshotYou can't go wrong with both Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. on one convenient cartridge. Both of these games are superb adaptations of the arcade originals, and both offer two skills levels. There's nothing here you won't find on the individual carts however. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
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1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Donkey Kong Jr. (NES)
D2K Arcade (Intellivision)
Donkey Kong Junior (Colecovision)
Donkey Kong Junior (Atari 2600)
Donkey Kong 3 (NES)

Donkey Kong Jr.
Grade: A
Publisher: Nintendo (1984)
Posted: 2012/7/29

screenshotYou don't see many sequels as inventive or enjoyable as Donkey Kong Jr. This underrated title maintains the flavor of the original game while introducing a completely new style of play. The jungle graphics look especially lush in this version as Donkey Kong's diminutive son attempts to save the caged ape from the clutches of Mario. Instead of traversing steel girders, junior climbs vines and hops on grass-covered platforms.

The vertically hanging vines are easy to move between and fun to scuttle up and down on. Complicating matters are egg-dropping birds and small munching "jaws", but you can dispose of these pests by strategically dropping hanging fruit. Donkey Kong Jr. is far more challenging than the original Donkey Kong, but this version is more forgiving than most.

The four screens include the blue "electric" platform stage, which my friend Chris maintains is just silly and doesn't fit the theme. The chains screen doesn't include the breaking ropes (as seen in the Colecovision version), but you do get a sweet "ending" animation of Donkey Kong falling and being caught by his son. Imaginative and fun, Donkey Kong Jr. is a worthy sequel to one of the greatest video games of all time. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended: B
High score: CJS 28,900
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Donkey Kong Junior (Colecovision)
Donkey Kong Junior (Atari 7800)
Donkey Kong Junior (Atari 2600)
D2K Arcade (Intellivision)
Donkey Kong Junior (Intellivision)

Double Dragon
Grade: B+
Publisher: Trade West (1988)
Posted: 2020/6/4

screenshotDouble Dragon popularized the side-scrolling, beat-em-up genre, eventually spawning a line of sequels. The game kicks off with a shocking scene of a gang leader punching a beautiful girl and carrying her off. Brutal! Playing as Billy Lee you set out to take back the mean streets from these lawless thugs. You'll face a wide variety of unlikely goons including aerobic instructors and Frankenstein looking-dudes. It's satisfying to rapidly punch them until they keel over before blinking into oblivion. As you progress you'll acquire new moves like uppercuts, jump-kicks, and head butts.

Enemies catch on to your tricks however and will learn to duck under jumps and roundhouse kicks. I like how you can throw objects, smashing barrels over their heads. And when you brandish weapons like nunchucks or baseball bats, you can actually hold onto them for some period of time to inflict major damage. Heck, you can even transport them up ladders. One way to quickly dispatch foes is to knock them off ledges.

There's a few graphic glitches here and there but nothing that detracts from the fun. The only thing missing from Double Dragon is the "double". The two-player mode is turns-only, but it's not so bad considering how much fun the single-player mode is. The game has a cinematic flair, like when the first boss meets his demise by falling off a conveyor belt. The familiar Double Dragon theme is great but some of the later music is a little "out there". I wasn't expecting Double Dragon to age this well, but rest assured it still packs a punch! © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended: A
High score: 37410
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Double Dragon (Genesis)
Double Dragon II: The Revenge (NES)
Double Dragon (CD) (Neo Geo)
Double Dragon 3 (Genesis)
Super Double Dragon (Super Nintendo)

Double Dragon II: The Revenge
Grade: A-
Publisher: Acclaim (1989)
Posted: 2020/6/4

screenshotDouble Dragon II: The Revenge offers better graphics, more realistic fighting, and most importantly, two-player simultaneous action! The opening cut-scene depicts the murder of Billy's girlfriend! Pretty heavy stuff for an NES game. Our heroes Billy and Jimmy Lee look really sharp with those stylish bouffant hairdos! The controls take some getting used to. One button attacks left, and the other attacks right. Depending on which way you're facing, the same button might execute a forward punch or back-kick. I guess the idea is to let you defend yourself from both sides as enemies converge.

Once again the city is being terrorized by aerobic instructors. Some baddies even enter the screen doing cartwheels! When will the cardio carnage end?! And what's with the boss that disappears and reappears in the same spot? Worst. Superpower. Ever. Unlike the first game special moves like throws and spin kicks are available up front so you can get right down to business. I love those one-two combos - especially when you finish with a mighty uppercut! What I dislike is how the weapons suddenly disappear from your hands after just a short period of time. Double Dragon II has good variety including climbing buildings to get a nice view of the skyline. Just make sure you don't fall off a ledge!

According to a recent CDC study falling off ledges is the number one cause of death for ninjas who fight in public! One dramatic stage features a fight aboard a helicopter, and when the boss gets sucked out of the door it feels like a scene from an action movie. Later stages include an underwater lab with environmental hazards like spikes on ceilings, so watch your head. The two-player action is enjoyable despite some noticeable slowdown and flicker. There are three skill levels to choose from. Double Dragon II is just as solid as the first game, but the two-player action puts it over the top. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended: A
High score: 16290
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Double Dragon (NES)
Double Dragon (Genesis)
Double Dragon (CD) (Neo Geo)
Ocean City Defender (Atari 2600)
Jimmy Connors' Tennis (Lynx)

Double Dragon III: The Sacred Stones
Grade: D
Publisher: Technos (1990)
Posted: 2020/6/4

screenshotThe first two Double Dragon games were easy-to-play beat-em-ups but Double Dragon III pulls no punches. I can't get over how frustrating this game is. Not only is the difficulty dramatically increased, but you only get one life! Just making it to the first boss feels like a major accomplishment. The gameplay feels substantially different from the others but not in a good way. Yes, the moves are a little more sophisticated with more frames of animation. You can grab a dude, vault over him, and throw him a mile. But your basic punches and kicks are much less effective.

Bad guys also tend to sprint onto the screen and jump-kick you before you can react. Get stuck between two thugs and it's game over. On top of everything, the bad guys now work together to orchestrate team attacks! I might think that was cool if I wasn't getting my ass kicked so badly. I did notice I could hit select and choose a nunchuck weapon via a confusing interface. This works great but only lasts a short period of time. Some of the bad guys look a little too much like the good guys, which confuses the two-player action.

The scenery is fairly uninspired, and the fact that there's no score makes it even less satisfying when "game over" appears. I've never felt less guilty over using a Game Genie, and even with that it's a struggle. You get multiple characters to toggle between after mission two, but how many people will make it that far? Double Dragon III was a potentially good game ruined by an unreasonable difficulty. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Renegade (NES)
Double Dragon (NES)
Double Dragon (Genesis)
Double Dragon (CD) (Neo Geo)
Super Double Dragon (Super Nintendo)

Double Dribble
Grade: B-
Publisher: Konami (1987)
Posted: 2005/8/2

screenshotDouble Dribble is an arcade-style, four-on-four basketball title. The action is fiercely competitive with two players, and the CPU serves as a worthy opponent with three skill levels. On offense you simply shoot or pass, and on defense you steal or block. There's no turbo button (that wasn't invented yet), but the swift players move with fluid motion. The passing controls are crisp, but the highlight of the game occurs when a player goes up for a dunk. This causes the to screen to switch to a close-up showing a huge player slamming the ball down. It's very satisfying, despite the fact that the graphics are rendered in black and white.

I also love the well-designed foul-shooting system, consisting of a simple ring moving up and down over the hoop. It requires good timing, and is far superior to the overcomplicated schemes employed by modern basketball games. The court itself looks terrific, but it can be hard to determine which player you're controlling. Defense is especially tough because there's no audible cue when a steal occurs. Once the player with the ball blows by the defender, he's home free, violating the unwritten rule stating "the defender should always be slightly faster than the man with the ball".

Double Dribble's audio is rough, mainly limited to the basketball pounding against the hard wooden floor. The teams are uneven, providing a convenient excuse when you're getting your ass handed to you (not that this ever happened to me). As you might expect from Konami, there's a terrific halftime show complete with cheerleaders and mascots. Although somewhat uneven, Double Dribble still provides for a very fun and easy-to-play game of hoops. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: One-On-One Basketball (Atari 7800)
Tecmo Super NBA Basketball (Super Nintendo)
Ultimate Basketball (NES)
Pat Riley Basketball (Genesis)
Takin' It To The Hoop (Turbografx-16)

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Grade: F
Publisher: Bandai (1989)
Posted: 2022/11/4

screenshotAs chronicled famously by The Angry Video Game Nerd, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde may be the most infuriating NES game of all time. It begins innocently enough as you take a stroll down a road on a sunny day, only to be attacked by everything in the world for no reason. You'll hunch over your TV in disbelief as the poor controls contort your hands into claws. Your veins will bulge and teeth clench as you find yourself getting struck by lightning over and over. It's all you can do not to go completely mad.

You begin the game as Dr. Jekyll, an upstanding gentleman in a suit with a cane, walking through a quaint English village with pristine houses. The countryside seems so peaceful until you find yourself being pelted with rocks by kids, and then mauled by dogs and cats. Worse yet, a man in a top hat places bombs in your path! What did you do to deserve this kind of treatment?!

Your cane is useless as a weapon so you're relegated to jumping around to minimize the damage. When your health is depleted the scenery becomes ominously dark as you transform into the hideous Mr. Hyde. Now you're automatically walking left, but won't get far before a bolt of lightning strikes you dead. What the hell?

This is one of those poorly-designed games that requires an FAQ. As Dr. Jekyll your goal is to walk as far to the right as possible. If you turn into Hyde and retrace all of your steps in the opposite direction, it's game over. By killing random creatures like floating skulls, hopping chicken legs, and demonic babies you can regain your original form.

The controls are pretty bad. Jeckyll walks painfully slow and when a bomb goes off anywhere in the vicinity he gets sucked into the explosion. Playing as Hyde lets you unleash a "psycho wave", sending a projectile dancing around the screen. For some reason you need to press up while hitting a button to use it. Why? To make your life more miserable I assume.

I might be more likely to buy into the whole two-games-in-one thing if they weren't both so wretched. There's some pleasant scenery and elegant music in this game that's utterly wasted. There's no score either. You're provided unlimited continues, but they're unnecessary, because playing Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde just once is more than enough. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

If you like this game, try: Chip N Dale Rescue Rangers (NES)
Mr. Do! (Atari 2600)
Noddy: A Day In Toyland (Game Boy Advance)
Slime World, Todd's Adventures in (Lynx)
Monster Party (NES)

Dr. Mario
Grade: B-
Publisher: Nintendo (1990)
Posted: 2010/8/21

screenshotThis is one of those simple, unassuming games that quickly becomes an obsession. It's like a drug! In the tradition of Tetris, your goal is to clear out red, blue, and yellow "viruses" by piling up falling pills. The viruses actually look like little animated gremlin heads. Each pill has two colored halves, and lining up four halves of the same color will make the whole set disappear. If you play your cards right, you can trigger some slick chain reactions.

Dr. Mario isn't much to look at, with featureless backgrounds and a lot of small moving pieces. The single player mode is enthralling however, and the head-to-head mode lets each player set his own difficulty level. The audio isn't anything to write home about, with only two corny melodies available that are bound to get your nerves after a few refrains.

Dr. Mario must have been a hit on the NES because it was later re-released for the SNES and N64. Despite being one of the few video games my wife enjoys playing, she was rather critical of this NES version. Compared to the N64 edition, the visuals look indistinct and even I have to admit the difference is pretty dramatic. There are better versions out there, but Dr. Mario is inherently fun on any platform. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended: 10/Med
High score: MM 18,000
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Tetris and Dr. Mario (Super Nintendo)
Dr. Mario 64 (Nintendo 64)
Tetrisphere (Nintendo 64)
Tetris 2 (Super Nintendo)
Puzzle Link (Neo Geo Pocket)

Dragon Spirit: The New Legend
Grade: B-
Publisher: Bandai (1990)
Posted: 2007/5/22

screenshotThis NES edition of Dragon Spirit is less challenging than the Namco arcade version, but that turns out to be a mixed blessing. New Legend incorporates a storyline between stages, but you'll be wise to skip past these brainless cut-scenes. The overcomplicated intro almost suggests an RPG, but rest assured Dragon Spirit is a straightforward vertical shooter. You control a flying dragon blasting monsters with your fiery breath over islands, jungles, caves, and even deep in the sea.

Much like Xevious, you can shoot missiles at foes in the air and bomb those on the ground. Unlike the arcade version of Dragon Spirit however, you can't shoot and bomb at the same time. I think it's better this way, since it adds a bit more strategy. Your missiles and bombs are unleashed in a rapid-fire manner, which is great for spraying pterodactyls or carpet-bombing deadly plants on the ground. There are ample power-ups which tend to drift toward you, including some that let you grow a second or third head to double or triple your firepower.

Dragon Spirit's graphics are colorful and vibrant, but while some creatures look great, many appear to be shapeless blobs. You're bound to confuse some of them with the pixelated background scenery. While I enjoy Dragon Spirit's rapid-fire shooting, I found this version to be a bit easy. Each of your three dragons can withstand a number of hits before dying, and your enemies don't stand much of a chance against your considerable firepower. Also, there's never more than a few enemies on the screen at a time. If you're looking for a standard shooter, Dragon Spirit will do the trick, but it probably won't set your world on fire. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

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High score: 92,740
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Namco Museum Volume 5 (Playstation)
Dragon Spirit (Turbografx-16)
Breath of Fire II (Guest Review) (Game Boy Advance)
Mission X (Intellivision)
Xevious 3D/G+ (Playstation)

Dragon Strike
Grade: D
Publisher: SSI (1992)
Posted: 2013/12/13

screenshotYou'd expect a game sponsored by Advanced Dungeons and Dragons to be a complex dungeon crawler, but Dragon Strike is an exception to the rule. This is actually an overhead shooter that puts you in control of a fireball-hurling dragon. In each large rectangular stage you fly in all directions while ridding the countryside of wizards, giants, beholders, catapults, fortresses, ships, and dragons. Since the areas are more tall than wide, you typically work your way up the screen.

You can select between three dragons (red, blue, gold) and it really does make a difference. Each has different armor ratings along with unique primary and secondary weapons. The landscape beneath you varies in elevation, and advanced stages are more like mazes. The control pad lets you toggle between high and low planes, but the abrupt scaling looks bad. Judging the geography is difficult, and often you won't know you're hitting ground until you get "knocked up" to the higher plane. The cliffs look okay but the water is just a bunch of squiggly lines.

The dragons flap their wings with fluid motion, but when defeated they spin around like a top, and that looks cheesy. Enemies drop icons that let you replenish your strength, but I really wish the game restored your health between stages. You'll need full health facing a boss, especially one like the giant Kraken that requires about 25 hits to defeat! There's no score but there is a password feature. Dragon Strike has originality going for it, but it didn't exactly set my world on fire. I like the concept but it's just too awkward to play. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

Save: Password
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Eidolon, The (Atari XEGS)
Blue Max (Atari XEGS)
Wonder Boy in Monster Land (Sega Master System)
Advanced Dungeons and Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin (Intellivision)
Parashooter (Arcadia 2001)

Dragon Warrior
Grade: B-
Publisher: Nintendo (1989)
Posted: 2011/2/1

screenshotSpecial report by RPG correspondent Jonathan Hawk
"A slime approaches!" Known by many as the granddaddy of console RPGs, Dragon Warrior was nothing less than a trendsetter for its time, even though some of its elements were represented in earlier games. Known as Dragon Quest in Japan, the series was known to shut down the country with each new release as citizens would line up to buy it. In this first chapter you play the role of a nameable hero descended from the mighty Erdrick. Your ancestor thwarted great evil once before, and now it's time to accept your lineage and save the world once again. You are the only playable character, a party of one.

The game sports a top-down view for exploration, and there's no world map, so get used to walking around a bit. You must bring up a menu for common actions like talk, search, and "stairs", and this naturally slows things down. The sprites are colorful and imaginative as you stroll through towns, desert, ruins, swamps, and of course dungeons. The game's simple music is enjoyable if not repetitive, and it changes in different locations. The encounters are random, and the combat is turned-based and first-person in nature. Boy howdy is there a lot of it.

I remember playing this as a child, but now I wonder how I had the patience to suffer through all the grinding (that's killing monsters to level up, for you non-RPG fans). At least the illustrations of the monsters are pleasant, thanks to the handiwork of Akira Toriyama (known also for Dragon Ball and Chrono Trigger). Your only roadblock to exploring the world as you please is the increasingly difficult monsters you face as you stray far from home. But get this: there are no boss fights! As you level-up your character receives a small arsenal of spells such as sleep, heal, and "hurt".

You can periodically upgrade your sword, armor, and shield. I find it very convenient how your new piece is automatically equipped and the old one is automatically sold. You can buy items but sadly lacking is one that restores magic points. If you die (and you will), you awaken before the king with half the gold you've acquired (mugged by monsters, no doubt). This instills in the player a fear of death, which some games lack entirely. One slightly aggravating limitation is how you can only save your progress in a single location - by speaking to the king.

The plot itself is simple, and there are really no story points aside from "rescue the princess" and then "defeat the big bad guy". There are benefits of a simple story with few quests however, like not having to remember what you were doing after you walked away from the game for too long. To sum up, Dragon Warrior was challenging but becomes repetitive as the game draws on, and that save feature is a hassle. It's fun though, and absolutely a trailblazer in the world of console RPGs. As a child, this was the game that turned me on to the genre, and sent me out into the back yard to fight imaginary monsters for gold and experience. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Chrono Trigger (Guest Review) (Super Nintendo)
Shining Force (Guest Review) (Genesis)
Wonder Boy in Monster Land (Sega Master System)
Final Fantasy (Guest Review) (NES)
Sword of Fargoal (Commodore 64)

Dragon's Lair
Grade: F
Publisher: Bluth Group (1990)
Posted: 2004/9/10

screenshotIt's ironic that an arcade game known for its ground-breaking graphics and audio is probably the worst game ever to grace the NES. A 2D adaptation of the famous (infamous?) laserdisc game, Dragon's Lair excels in terms of presentation but is an utter nightmare to play. You assume the role of Dirk the Daring, a knight attempting to rescue a princess in a mysterious castle. The graphics are beautifully illustrated, with very large characters and detailed castle interiors. Impressive classical string music also complements the theme.

It's a shame that the game is practically unplayable. Like the arcade version, cheap hits abound and only through tedious trial and error will you forge ahead. Actually, it's worse than the arcade because you have a lot more options available at any given time. It doesn't help that Dirk is so freakin' unresponsive - it takes a full second for him to duck after you press the directional pad down.

The stage objectives are completely counter-intuitive, and luck plays a critical role. The very first screen involves crossing a bridge to enter the castle, and I was so baffled that I had to resort to a walk-thru just to survive it. Dirk is so fragile that even jumping into a wall causes him to shatter into a pile of bones! Dragon's Lair for the NES is a complete debacle, and I can't imagine anyone deriving any degree of enjoyment from this. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

High score: 210
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Space Ace (CD) (Jaguar)
Dragon's Lair (Philips CD-i)
Dragon's Lair II: Timewarp (Philips CD-i)
Dragon's Lair (Playstation 3)
Dragon's Lair Trilogy (Wii)

Duck Hunt
Grade: B-
Publisher: Nintendo (1984)
Posted: 2022/5/1

screenshotDuck Hunt was included with each NES system to give players something to do with their Zapper light guns, which in turn was a gimmick to get systems into toy stores. In retrospect however Duck Hunt was the perfect introductory light gun game. It's simple, family-friendly, and fun. It's also one of the most memorable NES titles.

Unlike modern gun games there's no calibration or set up screens to mess with. You don't need to crank up the brightness or play in a dark room. The game just works, and quite well! Granted, if you sit a foot away from the screen you'll do better, but that's cheating! I recommend sitting six feet away, which puts the gun at about five feet.

The first variation (of three) has you looking over a meadow with a tree and a bush. A sniffing dog walks past before jumping into the tall grass. Ducks fly out of the grass at a time, and you get three shots to hit each one. When shot, the duck looks shocked as feathers fly and it twirls to the ground. It's more comical than violent. The dog holds up each duck you shoot, and will laugh at you if all your shots miss.

Ten ducks are released during each round and hitting all ten rewards you with a sweet 10K bonus. After round ten your quota is increased, and that combined with the increased duck speed makes for a real challenge.

If that first variation is too slow the second might be your cup of tea. This time two ducks emerge at a time but you still only get three shots. It's a lot tougher but also a lot more satisfying when you tag both of them, causing the dog to hold up the pair. If you're a real pro you can try the "clay shooting" variation at the mountain range. This one provides much smaller targets and you get a lot less time to take your shots.

With its charming music and animation, Duck Hunt is probably the most famous light gun game of all time. If not for the irritatingly loud click of that trigger I might be inclined to play this more often. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended: B
High score: 66,200
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Barker Bill's Trick Shooting (NES)
Marksman Shooting/Trap Shooting (Sega Master System)
Safari Hunt (Sega Master System)
Hogan's Alley (NES)
Gumshoe (NES)

Duck Tales
Grade: B
Publisher: Capcom (1989)
Posted: 2013/7/13

screenshotMany gamers have fond memories of the Duck Tales television series, which no doubt helped earn this title a devoted following. It's notable is that this Disney game was produced by Capcom - making it extra attractive to collectors. The game puts you in the role of Uncle Scrooge out to save his nephews in exotic places like Transylvania, the Himalayas, the Amazon, African Mines, and even on the moon! The fact that you can select from one of five "lands" gets things started on the right foot.

The graphics are remarkably sharp and vibrant, and festive harmonized music perfectly sets the mood. Adversaries include bats, apes, bees, ghosts, aliens, snow bunnies, and even mummified ducks! Uncle Scrooge's main attack is hopping around on his cane like a pogo stick, bouncing creatures right off the screen. You can hop around continuously, but this really makes you vulnerable to flying enemies. You will also discover that some enemies (like the flowers) are impervious to attack. Your pogo stick also allows you to reach high ledges and elevated treasure chests.

Collecting diamonds increases your point total, and ice cream cones replenish your health. Both of these items have exactly the same shape, which is confusing. The branching stages feature alternate routes and even some Super Mario World-style hidden areas. As in Quackshot (Genesis, 1991) you must find a key item in one stage to make progress in another. Vines and chains take you underground or up into the sky, but you can't jump from these, just awkwardly fall from them. In general the game is surprisingly tough and unforgiving. Duck Tales won't cut you much slack, but it will ultimately win you over with its good humor and Disney charm. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

High score: CJS 432,000
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Duck Tales (Game Boy)
Duck Tales Remastered (Wii U)
Deep Duck Trouble Starring Donald Duck (Game Gear)
Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)
Chip N Dale Rescue Rangers (NES)

Dudes with Attitude
Grade: F
Publisher: American Video (1990)
Posted: 2012/11/24

screenshotIt tries to be offbeat and convey a hip attitude, but Dudes with Attitude feels more like a lame puzzle game concocted by a few clueless executives in a boardroom. My friend Scott had a few choice adjectives to describe this, but I'll spare you the profanity. Each screen is a configuration of walls, obstacles, and "treasures" to collect. You control a smiley face with sunglasses, constantly moving from side-to-side while bouncing off walls. You can nudge him up and down, but pressing sideways causes the game to emit an obnoxious buzzing noise.

You'll collect gems, diamonds, hearts, and coins, but you need to be the correct color to snatch them up. You change colors by touching "attitude converters" which look like colored mugs. If you clear a screen before time runs out, you receive a password and advance to the next screen. Since the basic concept is so weak, the developers decided to complicate matters by incorporating invisible walls (ugh!) and special icons that wreak havoc on the controls (gah!).

It's impossible to cross "water blocks" without first touching a boat icon. Who in their right mind could have possibly thought this was a good idea? The game quickly progresses from a mindless romp to a full-blown headache, and the "hip attitude" is unconvincing to say the least. Dudes with Attitude has an option to create your own levels, but even if I were stranded on a desert island with this game I could find something better to do with my time. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

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Save: Password
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Puzzle Link (Neo Geo Pocket)
Wind and Water Puzzle Battles (Dreamcast)
Meteos (Nintendo DS)
China Syndrome (Atari 2600)
Q*bert's Qubes (Colecovision)

Dusty Diamonds Softball All-Stars
Grade: B+
Publisher: Broderbund (1990)
Posted: 2002/5/14

screenshotDusty Diamonds is a real gem of a baseball game. You construct a team from a set of comical characters with oversized heads that include witches, goblins, and aliens. Dusty Diamonds plays 95% like regular baseball, but are a few minor rule changes. Foul balls are considered outs, and it's possible to catch the ball well beyond the "home-run line". Unlike regular baseball, the gameplay is fast and entertaining. You get a behind-the-batter view during the pitches, and a wide angle view of the field once the ball is hit. Perhaps the best part of the game is its wacky playing fields, located in six interesting locations including a cliff, an island, and a schoolyard. Each has its own little quirks that add an element of unpredictability. Fun and easy-to-play, Dusty Diamonds puts the fun back into baseball. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
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1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: RBI Baseball '95 (Sega 32X)
World Class Baseball (Turbografx-16)
Super Baseball 2020 (Neo Geo)
Hardball (Atari XEGS)
RBI Baseball 18 (Playstation 4)

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