system Index S
SNK 40th Anniversary Collection
Grade: A-
Publisher: NIS (2018)
Reviewed: 2020/6/18
Rating: Teen

screenshotI'm so gung-ho over arcade compilations I picked this up despite already owning the Nintendo Switch version. Can you believe that? While both are pretty much the same, this PS4 edition includes two extra games. Perhaps they weren't included on the Nintendo version because they're a little on the violent side.

Beast Busters is a first-person shooter where you move a reticle around the screen, gunning down legions of zombies rendered via colorful scaling sprites. It's fun for a while but quickly becomes mind-numbing. The other new entry is SAR: Search and Rescue. This Alien-inspired shooter features large characters and plenty of flying blood and guys.

The remaining 23 games include a healthy portion of Rambo-style shooters like Guerilla Wars, P.O.W. and all three Ikari Warriors games. Funny how the most bad-ass sounding game of all "Psycho Soldier" actually features a little girl fighting robots, with the sound of a young girl singing in the background the whole time. Prehistoric Island is a side-scrolling dinosaur blaster I could play all day. Bermuda Triangle and Guerilla War provide dual-stick control, letting you move and aim independently. Paddle Mania is a table tennis game with strange controls. The collection also includes the NES role-playing game Crystallis and one-on-one fighter Street Smart. For all the old timers out there's an arcade-perfect version of Vanguard.

You can also expect some quirky Japanese games like Athena, Mobile Munch, and Fantasy. The museum mode is outstanding, walking you through SNK's entire catalog from 1978 through 1989, explaining how each new game ushered in some kind of enhancement or breakthrough. The interface is well designed and the music has a very chill vibe. Some arcade compilations feel tossed together to make a quick buck, but SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is first class all the way. If you're a collector of rare antiquities like me, this will be a proud addition to the collection. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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If you like this game, try: SNK 40th Anniversary Collection (Nintendo Switch)
Guerilla War (NES)
Street Fighter Collection 2 (Playstation)
SNK Arcade Classics 0 (Japan) (PSP)
Namco Museum 50th Anniversary (Playstation 2)

Salt and Sanctuary
Grade: C+
Publisher: Ska Studios (2016)
Reviewed: 2018/9/25
Rating: Mature (violence, blood and gore, partial nudity)

screenshotReview contributed by DaHeckIzDat of the RPG Crew and edited by the VGC.
If you combined Dark Souls (PS3, 2011) with Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PS1, 1997) you'd end up with something like Salt and Sanctuary (S&S), an obscure download-only game combining strong elements of both. You play as a sailor whose ship is attacked by a sea monster and wakes up on the shore of a mysterious fog-enshrouded island. You must then venture forth to... rescue a princess or something. The game puts very little effort into the story but gives you ample freedom to explore.

S&S is an open world side-scrolling platformer with branching pathways blocked either by locked doors or high-level enemies. The graphics are rendered in two dimensions but are no less haunting for it, conveying an isolated, abandoned feeling like Silent Hill (PS1, 2000). Characters appear somewhat Muppet-like up close but usually the camera remains at a safe distance. It's possible to fall vertically out of one area and into another, and the lack of a map makes getting lost easier than it should be.

The ambient soundtrack features minimalistic guitar riffs while exploring and expansive gothic choirs during boss fights. The combat is faster than Dark Souls but it still utilizes a stamina gauge to limit your attacks, blocks, and dodges. A wide range of weapons includes swords, spears and bows, allowing you to dictate how you want to play the game. Sanctuaries act as save points and are filled with NPCs who sell items, upgrade weapons, or warp you to other sanctuaries. Killing monsters earns you salt which is spent to level up. Dying costs you your salt, and you have to return and avenge your death to reacquire it.

Yes, the game is clearly using the Dark Souls formula. The high difficulty kept me on edge but the boss fights can be an exercise in frustration, mainly due to shoddy mechanics. Dodging in a 2D plane isn't very effective when bosses engage in long, sweeping attacks. More often than not I found myself standing still and blocking every hit, anxiously waiting for an opening to attack. While not as fine-tuned as Dark Souls or as accessible as SotN, Salt and Sanctuary is still a solid and challenging adventure that should appeal to fans of the games that inspired it. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

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If you like this game, try: Bloodborne (Alternate Review) (Guest Review) (Playstation 4)
Silent Hill 3 (Playstation 2)
Silent Hill 2 (Playstation 2)
Demon's Souls (Guest Review) (Playstation 3)
Silent Hill (Playstation)

Samurai Shodown
Grade: D
Publisher: Athlon Games (2019)
Reviewed: 2020/12/6
Rating: Mature 17+ (blood and gore, partial nudity, violence)

screenshotOriginating on the Neo Geo, Samurai Shodown (Neo Geo, 1991) was the first one-on-one fighter to popularize weapon-based combat. I also featured a nifty scaling feature to maintain the tightest view. The series ran until 2003, and has since laid dormant for over 15 years. The first thing I noticed was how this modern reboot reprised the same dramatic intro of the original game. Very nice!

The fighting action remains strictly 2D (thankfully) but the fighters are rendered in a 3D style similar to Street Fighter IV (Xbox 360, 2009). All the familiar faces have returned including Hanzo the ninja, the masked Tam Tam, face-painted Kyoshiro, and the hulking Earthquake. New female characters include sexpot Shiki and the nerdy (but still hot) Wu Ruixiang. The graphics aren't particularly impressive but the animation is nice. I love Earthquake's ominous lumber and the way Shiki maneuvers onto an opponent's back before slashing his neck!

The action is a buffet of chopping and slicing action, and the controls feel responsive enough. Sometimes a character will roll towards you blades whirling, and that might be a good time to block. It's possible to lose your weapon amid the fracas and be forced to fight bare-handed until you retrieve it. There's actually very little blood, although over the course of a match it tends to become splattered over the fighter's bodies.

The problem with this game is that instead of taking inspiration from the original trilogy, it feels like a continuation of the ill-conceived Samurai Shodown 4 and 5. The lack of an arcade mode truly stinks. There's no foreground scenery to shatter and no power-up icons to collect. Zooming is not even a factor because get this: the game won't even allow the fighters to separate more than a few feet! The stages are scenic but hopelessly boring. Even the pirate ship stage comes off flat, with just a couple of blokes in the background milling around on their coffee break. It's a far cry from the raucous crowds and eubelient wildlife of the original game.

If you're an offline gamer there are plenty of options but none are particularly good. The story mode is a slog with its cookie cutter narrative, constant load screens, and low difficulty. The highlight is the levitating boss chick who gets naked every once in a while. The survival mode is so easy I quit after plowing through a dozen foes. Gauntlet mode poses a reasonable challenge, as you battle through all the stages for consecutive victories. But again, the loading tends to drag things out. Offline stats are saved, which is good, but in general this new Samurai Shodown feels like an uninspired, by-the-numbers effort. The programmers were competent but the designers forgot about what made the original series so much fun. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Samurai Shodown 2 (Neo Geo Pocket)
Samurai Shodown Anthology (Wii)
Samurai Shodown Anthology (Playstation 2)
Samurai Shodown (Neo Geo)
Super Street Fighter IV Arcade Edition (Xbox 360)

Samurai Shodown VI
Grade: C
Publisher: Limited Run (2016)
Reviewed: 2021/1/27
Rating: Teen (crude humor, suggestive themes, violence)

screenshotWhen I ordered this PS4 edition of Samurai Shodown VI it had slipped my mind that I already have this game in my Samurai Shodown Anthology (Wii, 2007). Doh! Is there any advantage to owning a PS4 edition? Well, the finely-detailed backgrounds look sharper in high definition but the game is still presented in 4:3 ratio. I do find it interesting how the left side of the touchpad serves as select and the right as start. It's probably the best use for that worthless thing I've seen to date!

Shodown VI delivers classic 2D fighting action with layered backdrops and artistic sprites. Some may regard it as a course correction for the series, reprising the referees, interactive items, and scoring system of the original games. The stages are gorgeous and the massive roster incorporates just about every character ever to appear in the series. Of the new fighters, Iroha and Ocha Maro are two standouts. Iroha is the hottest chick I've ever seen in a video game, with a provocative special move that takes place behind a curtain revealing her sexy silhouette. Ocha Maro is an unconscious girl strapped to a monstrous contraption, and her special move involves a bizarre puppet show.

Shodown VI's control scheme is well-suited to the PS4 controller, with the four main attacks assigned to face buttons. Unfortunately the shoulder buttons are loaded with ambiguous functions like "throw item", "use item", "special", and "spirit use". Instructions would have been nice. The controls feel highly responsive but the collision detection feels off at times and it's so hard to drain that last sliver of your opponent's life. The arcade mode is not particularly hard but I can't figure out how to rank into the high score screen to save my life. Samurai Shodown VI may appeal to Shodown veterans, but it's too inscrutable a game to attract new fans. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

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If you like this game, try: Samurai Shodown Anthology (Wii)
Samurai Shodown Anthology (Playstation 2)
Samurai Shodown (3DO)
Samurai Shodown (Neo Geo)
Samurai Shodown V (Neo Geo)

Shaq-Fu: A Legend Reborn
Grade: C
Publisher: Mad Dog Games (2018)
Reviewed: 2020/3/15
Rating: Teen (crude humor, drug reference, mild language, partial nudity, sexual themes, violence)

screenshotThe original Shaq-Fu (Genesis, 1994) was a bit of a joke so I wasn't expecting much from this budget title. Instead of a one-on-one fighter The Legend Reborn is a side-scrolling brawler along the lines of Streets of Rage (Genesis, 1991). It kicks off with the longest load screen I've ever seen. Get used to that because whenever you die the game takes forever to reload. Hmmm... maybe digital media isn't such a bad idea after all!

The good news is, you get to listen to Shaq's dope new rap jam ("Shaq Fu; I'm down with the crew. Yen Lo Wang - I'm coming for you.") I love it!! The action begins in China, in Shaq's home village of Hunglow (he was adopted you insensitive clod!) Taking to the streets he beats up disappearing ninjas, fat guys with shields, and dudes in rice hats using vicious combos and his size-22 sneakers. Shaq and his sensei trade hilarious banter during the action in a comedic tribute to The Karate Kid.

Your attacks are very satisfying, especially when you round up eight guys and slug them all at the same time. The fighting does get a little monotonous, especially when you dispatch twenty dudes and twenty more drop in. The game gains some traction in stage two where Shaq decides to "clean house" in Hollywood. Now this is one cause I can get behind! This stage is more varied, letting you roll buckets like bowling balls and operate cranes to knock down the oncoming hordes. I love the slow-motion kicks and flying enemies that smack into the camera lens.

The game progressively gets more and more outrageous, with funny product placements, insane bosses, and a refreshing lack of political correctness. The fun goes into overdrive when Shaq transforms into a rapid-punching "Shaq Diesel" mech or a needle-firing "Shaq-Cactus". While crude at times the game's lighthearted, self-deprecating style is appealing, and the cartoon violence is hardly objectionable. What tempers the fun (besides the soul-crushing load times) is the wildly uneven difficulty, including certain enemies that seem almost impervious to attack. That said, Shaq Fu: The Legend Reborn manages to feel bold, fresh, and old-school at the same time, delivering a level of ass-kicking few games can match. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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If you like this game, try: Shaq Fu (Super Nintendo)
Renegade (NES)
Final Fight One (Game Boy Advance)
Batman Begins (Game Boy Advance)
Streets of Rage (Sega Master System)

Shovel Knight
Grade: A
Publisher: Yacht Club Games (2015)
Reviewed: 2015/11/11
Rating: Everyone

screenshotFew download-only games graduate to the world of physical media but Shovel Knight is truly deserving. On the surface this "8-bit platformer" is a loving homage to the NES era, offering addictive 2D action with retrograde graphics and audio. But this friendly, whimsical adventure is far more than that.

Shovel Knight boasts more charm and imagination that any modern title in recent memory. Its low-resolution cut-scenes with scrolling text are refreshing and fun. A map screen lets you choose your path, gradually unlocking new areas and side quests. Villages allow you to upgrade, purchase items, and converse with townsfolk.

The controls are dead-on. Shovel Knight can whack enemies with his shovel or bounce on them like a pogo stick. He'll face rats on propellers, bubble-blowing dragons, skeletons, wizards, and knights of all flavors. In an era where most publishers are too cheap to include proper instructions, the 40+ page glossy illustrated manual is a real treat.

The layered backgrounds are rendered with pastel colors to produce some truly striking images. The lush opening stage not only features excellent Mega Man-style music, but a majestic palace in the background offers a tantalizing foreshadowing of things to come. One stage is clearly modeled after Castlevania with its shadowy gothic scenery and ghostly adversaries. The water stage is probably the best of its kind. Instead of slowing things to a crawl, the water alleviates gravity to let you leap exceptionally high.

There are innovations all over the place, like platforms that "blast off" when you hit their switch or snail shells that wildly bounce around the screen while clearing obstacles. Losing a life costs you one-fourth of your gold (a fair trade-off) and saving occurs automatically on the map screen. The MIDI soundtrack offers a fine selection of heroic, toe-tapping tunes.

Shovel Knight is not the kind of game you expect to play on your Playstation 4, and thank goodness! The fact that this is available at a bargain price is just icing on the cake. Buy this game now!! Note: Also available for the Wii U and 3DS. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Shovel Knight (Wii U)
Mega Man Anniversary Collection (Playstation 2)
Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap (Playstation 4)
Pandemonium! (Playstation)
Joust (Atari 2600)

Skullgirls 2nd Encore (Japan)
Grade: D
Publisher: Autumn Games (2015)
Reviewed: 2016/11/28

screenshotI purchased Skullgirls thinking it was some kind of Halloween game but that's not really the case. It may have occult undertones but the game really isn't that creepy. The graphics are appealing with bright, stylish anime visuals.

The character roster includes a lot of freaky dudes and scantily-clad females. There's a nurse named Valentine, an Egyptian Queen named Eliza, and a robot ninja named R. Fortune. Cerebella is a chick with huge mechanical arms on her head and Painwheel is an undead girl armed with spinning blades. Of the few male characters Peacock looks like something from a black-and-white Looney Tunes cartoon and Big Band is a behemoth with a marching band under his trenchcoat.

The first time I played Skullgirls I made the mistake of choosing a shape-shifter named Double and I had no [expletive] clue what the hell was going on. All of the characters change forms extensively, and the battles amount to pure chaos with objects flying, people disappearing, and fighters constantly morphing.

The imaginative stages have an artistic, oil-painted look. They incorporate brilliant skylines, mysterious city streets, a glitzy casino, and an opulent Egyptian temple. The electronic music during the battles is great, but the jazzy "showtime" menu music is cheesy. What really hurts Skullgirls is a lack of progression.

Despite a wide range of modes (story, survival, arcade) the game doesn't record your accomplishments or high scores. You just unlock art and maybe rank into the online leaderboard (good luck with that). In survival mode your health doesn't even recharge between stages. My friend Brent and I gave the versus mode a try and our conversations were hilarious. "Did I do that or you?" "I don't even know who I am!" Skullgirls 2nd Encore has a fresh style but its gameplay made me feel like I wasn't in on the joke. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Double Dragon (CD) (Neo Geo)
Arms (Nintendo Switch)
Street Combat (Super Nintendo)
Art of Fighting (Neo Geo)
Ninja Crusaders (NES)

Soul Calibur VI
Grade: D-
Publisher: Bandai Namco (2018)
Reviewed: 2019/2/20
Rating: Teen

screenshotThe first Soul Calibur (Dreamcast, 1999) set the bar pretty high for 3D fighters but its numerous sequels have been less inspired. With Soul Calibur VI Bandai Namco clearly has no idea where to go with this franchise. The game gets off on the wrong foot, forcing you to sift through a hundred pages of EULA whether you're playing online or not. This garbage has to stop because it's ruining gaming.

The primary mission mode is a miserable exercise in paging through boring text and Crayola-quality illustrations. Fates intertwined... consumed by evil... astral fissure... whatever! I never liked the create-your-own character concept because you always end up with some generic chump. This mode is so poorly designed I couldn't figure out how to quit and had to restart the entire game to do so!

The story mode is similar but features actual characters from the game. Buried in the main menu is an arcade mode but even that is botched. Most of the 20 playable characters will be familiar to fans, including Astaroth, Voldo, Maxi, Cervantes, Yoshimitsu, Ivy, and Sophitia. The character models look pretty good... by PS3 standards. The perfectly-curved females look so artificial - like wax figures.

Stage locations feature some wondrous sights like temples, ports, and rolling hills. If only you could see them! For some inexplicable reason they are blurred out! The fighting action is respectable with tight controls and some brutal combinations. There's no blood but it's still painful to watch the mighty Astaroth stomp all over poor little Xianghua. Occasionally the game kicks into a slow-motion sequence culminating in some kind of rock-paper-scissors clash. I find it annoying how when a fighter is teetering on the edge of a cliff some kind of invisible barrier prevents them from falling off. It feels so 1998.

The matches are now best of five, which drags things out something awful. When you lose a match in arcade mode you can just quit or start over. There's no score or sense of progression, making it feel like a waste of time. Bandai Namco really "mailed it in" with Soul Calibur VI, and I'm still waiting for them to reimburse me for my time spent scrolling through that God-forsaken EULA. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Soul Calibur (Dreamcast)
Soul Calibur V (Xbox 360)
WWF Attitude (Dreamcast)
Soul Blade (Playstation)
Soul Calibur II (Xbox)

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Grade: B
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2019)
Reviewed: 2020/1/28
Rating: Teen (mild language, violence)

screenshotWe all expect EA to go after the big bucks online, but Jedi: Fallen Order is an old-fashioned single-player offline adventure just like momma used to make. It stars an up-and-coming Jedi named Cal who looks a lot like Shaun White. The first stage takes place in a rainy salvager shipyard with all the random droids, exotic creatures, familiar starships you'd expect from a Star Wars Adventure. There's even a sweeping orchestrated score that really adds to the cinematic quality.

The gameplay is a potent mix of exploration, platforming, combat, and puzzle solving. Coming off the heels of Shadow of the Tomb Raider (Xbox One, 2018) I had no problem climbing, jumping, and hanging from perilous ledges. It's impressive how effortless it is to transition between rope swings to wall runs. The platforming does occasionally go a little over the top, and there were times when I felt like Sonic the Hedgehog bouncing on plants or riding giant birds.

I like the simplicity of Fallen Order. You don't need to scour every corner of the map, pick up extraneous items, or manage an inventory. The pathways are well-marked on your 3D map and any area worth investigating is highlighted with a glow. Lightsaber combat incorporates well-timed parries to deflect stormtrooper laser bolts right back at them. It works great one-on-one but defending yourself in a crowd is problematic to say the least. Half-way through the game I turned down the difficulty to "story" level, allowing me to slice through stormtroopers and zombies (!) as if they were butter.

Your force powers let you push, pull, and pause large moving objects, which come in handy for puzzles. It's fun to momentarily freeze huge, mechanical pistons that would otherwise pulverize you. A cute little two-legged droid named BD-1 perches on your back, letting you interact with computers while also providing hints in puzzles areas.

There's a wide variety of planets to travel between including Chewbacca's home world of Kashyyyk and the ice world of Illum. The fan service is off-the-charts, with droids, characters, and ships hailing from every movie and spinoff. The story gets better as you go, with surprising plot-twists and cameos that intersect the films in surprising ways. The game has a few jaw-dropping moments, like commandeering an AT-AT walker in a swamp or going toe-to-toe with an AT-ST.

It's an epic journey but bugs have a way of taking you out of the moment. I was willing to downplay most of these at first, but when I was forced to reload during a pivotal scene near the end I was pissed. Considering EA's vast resources this game really should have been bulletproof. Still, there's no denying the fun. Once I started playing this I didn't really feel like playing much else. Jedi: Fallen Order gives fans what they want: an epic story-driven adventure that's unmistakably Star Wars. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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If you like this game, try: Shadow of the Tomb Raider (Xbox One)
Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (Xbox 360)
Tomb Raider Underworld (Xbox 360)
Rise of the Tomb Raider (Xbox One)
Star Wars: The New Droid Army (Game Boy Advance)

Star Wars: Battlefront
Grade: C
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2015)
Reviewed: 2015/12/19
Rating: Teen (violence)

screenshotBattlefront immerses you in the Star Wars universe like few games can. In addition to revisiting memorable locations from the original trilogy, you can assume the roles of characters like Han Solo, Leia, Darth Vader, and Boba Fett. You'd expect the Emperor to kick ass, yet his ability to wield lightning is surprisingly limited.

The most notable aspect of Battlefront is its graphics. The visuals are so photo-realistic that when R2-D2 rolls across the title screen you think you're watching a video clip. Likewise the sweeping musical score and memorable sound effects are used to excellent effect. Characters toss out amusing lines but it's fairly obvious they are not voiced by the original actors.

Although noted for its online play, the PS4 edition of Battlefront does include some offline action. Five exciting training modes let you fly an X-wing through the canyons of Tatooine, ride a speeder-bike on Endor, and even participate in the epic battle of Hoth. Unfortunately these missions highlight the game's non-intuitive controls. The first time you play you'll have no idea what's going on. The button functions are a mystery and flying controls feel reversed. Using a tow cable to bring down an AT-AT walker inexplicably requires you to manipulate some squirrelly golf meter! I did enjoy locking onto Tie fighters while dogfighting, and weaving around trees and ducking under logs on a speeder bike is quite thrilling.

Battle mode lets you engage in ground warfare against computer-controlled bots. You can also play with/against a friend locally (split-screen) or online. I noticed a few quality control issues. The distance markers are so tiny you can barely read them. Also, I wish the game consistently assigned red and blue colors to the imperial and rebel sides. The environments look absolutely sensational, especially Hoth with its powdery ridges and inviting blue ice caves. Other locations include dusty Tatooine and the rainy jungle of Endor. Survival mode pits you against waves of increasingly difficult enemies. These local modes are nice but they are no substitute for a full-blown campaign/story. In fact, they feel like an appetizer for the online play.

I wasn't impressed with the online stuff at first, but sure enough I got hooked. These massive battles have the look and feel of an epic movie scene, although my slow Comcast connection resulted in some herky-jerky animation. There's a wide variety of scenarios to choose from, combining ground and air combat. Most are team-oriented so even if you're awful no one will notice. Overall Star Wars Battlefront looks like a million bucks yet doesn't feel like a fully-realized title. That said, it makes you feel like you're in a Star Wars movie, and that's worth something. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Great American Golf 2 (Philips CD-i)
Star Wars Chess (Sega CD)
Star Wars Return of the Jedi (Game Gear)
Star Wars: Rebel Assault II (Playstation)
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron (Nintendo 64)

new Star Wars: Battlefront II
Grade: D
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2017)
Reviewed: 2021/3/25
Rating: Teen

screenshotI have fond memories playing the original Star Wars: Battlefront (Xbox, 2004) in co-op split-screen, running and gunning around exotic planets like Dagobah and Hoth. Star Wars: Battlefront II should have been a slam dunk. It's got all your favorite characters, locations, and of course that epic soundtrack. I was pleased to find a fully-customizable arcade mode playable solo, online, or via split-screen co-op.

A pretty elaborate campaign that puts you in the role of a captured special forces soldier. If the fact that she's a female doesn't come unexpected, the fact that she works for the Empire might. At one point during an Endor mission you look up to witness the (second) Death Star explode in the sky, reflecting a dramatic moment in the saga. It seems like most of the soldiers I'm shooting are female. Maybe the designers should have focused a little less on diversity and a little more on gameplay.

Battlefront 2 is saddled with the most ass-backwards controls I've ever used in a third-person shooter. It's so hard to move and aim that I found myself constantly tinkering with the control options - to no avail. You'll be tempted to play as a "hero" like Luke or Darth Maul, but hacking away with your lightsaber becomes a monotonous slough. Infantry is the way to go but only head shots are effective and it's hard to tell where enemy fire is coming from. Once I was peering through a scope looking for a shooter in the dense jungle, only to discover she was standing in plain sight five feet in front of me! This ridiculous situation happens all the time and looks like something from a Police Squad episode!

I can't stand the arbitrary invisible walls that constrain each battlefield, often preventing you from reaching the most interesting spots! I also hate seeing the message "Defeated - no troops left" when I'm still alive! I feel like the old guy from Monty Python's Holy Grail movie ("I'm getting better!")

Even the user interface is bad. The ability selection screen is so poorly designed I couldn't figure out how to exit the thing, much less configure my abilities. And the first time you're subjected to one of the snail-paced load meters, you won't know whether to laugh or cry. You can play online but you'll recall Electronic Arts found themselves in hot water for their unethical use of loot boxes in this game. EA really botched Star Wars: Battlefront II. I've never seen a company do so little with so much. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Star Wars: Battlefront (Playstation 4)
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (Game Boy)
Metal Slug First Mission (Neo Geo Pocket)
Star Wars (NES)
Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks The 80s (Playstation 2)

Steep
Grade: F
Publisher: Ubisoft (2016)
Reviewed: 2017/2/10
Rating: Teen (language)

screenshotNo, Steep is not a game about making tea, but that's an honest mistake. I'm always up for a good snowboarding title but was dismayed to discover this game requires you to be connected to Ubisoft servers at all times. They don't really advertise that fact, and the tiny "requires Internet connection" blurb on the packaging might be the understatement of the year. Once you register your account and curse Ubisoft under your breath you're obliged to sit through a time-consuming connection process. My friend Brent inquired in disbelief "You have to go through this every time you play the game?!" As I've always said, if a game requires permission from a remote server to play, you don't even own the game.

I tried to make the best of a bad situation but things were about to get a whole lot worse. The premise of Steep is free exploration of an expansive mountain range via skis, a snowboard, wingsuit, or paraglider. The lack of structure is supposed to be a good thing, but Steep is a disorganized mess. There are objectives scattered all over the place but little sense of progression. You can use binoculars to scout out new locations, but what's the point when you can just access the overhead map?

The game itself is a colossal bore. There's no sense of speed whatsoever - even when soaring headfirst down a cliff in a wingsuit. While skiing or snowboarding it feels like you're just going through the motions while weaving around trees and rocks. The narrator's insistence that "This is our time! This is living!" is a little hard to swallow when you're wedged in a crevasse. I can't believe the game gave me credit for finding "points of interest" and "memorable moments" considering I never noticed anything even vaguely interesting. The featureless, repetitive slopes must be generated by some kind of algorithm. We Ski (Wii, 2008) had more to see.

The controls are terrible. Figuring out how to come to a stop is a never-ending challenge. During one ski run I found myself turned around and couldn't figure out how to face forward again. In paraglider and wingsuit mode your character tends to obstruct your view, which is especially annoying during "proximity challenges." The parts of the game where you're flying through hoops rekindled painful memories of Superman (Nintendo 64, 1999). If there's a point to playing Steep it was completely lost on me. I'd rather watch tea leaves sit in hot water. At least there's a payoff. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: We Ski (Wii)
Skiing (Atari 2600)
Winter Extreme Skiing and Snowboarding (Super Nintendo)
Ski Run (Europe) (Atari 2600)
Kawasaki Jet Ski (Wii)

Street Fighter V
Grade: B
Publisher: Capcom (2016)
Reviewed: 2016/3/5
Rating: Teen (mild language, suggestive themes, violence)

screenshotAre we really only up five? I'm pretty sure I own at least 25 Street Fighter games out there! Anyway, in terms of pure fighting prowess Street Fighter V is second to none. The fighting engine is deep, layered, and finely tuned. If you peek into its 450-page strategy guide you'll come to realize that every frame of animation (60 per second) is significant. Street Fighter V is the "chess" of fighting games, and you could probably design a college course around its engine. Fortunately you don't need to be an expert to enjoy the game.

It's fun to beat up on friends in versus mode, and the controls feel so good it makes me want to blow my money on an expensive joystick. The stylized character models feature exaggerated attributes consistent with the traditional illustrated Street Fighter style. Chun Li looks cute in her new policewoman outfit and Dhalsim now sports a gray beard. The artistic stages are teeming with activity but lacking in memorable detail. The 16-character roster (all unlocked) features familiar faces like Ken, Ryu, Chun Li, Cammy, Vega, Dhalsim, Zangief, and M. Bison. Die-hard fans will recognize more obscure characters like Birdie, Mika, and Karin. Nash is Charlie with a Frankenstein makeover. The four new characters include a middle-eastern named Rashid and the creepy magician F.A.N.G. Laura is a curvy Latina and Necalli is a dreadlocked savage with moves like the old Thunder Hawk.

Critics have lamented the lack of single-player modes in Street Fighter V and they have a point. The shallow story mode consists of a handful of super-easy fights tied together by "stories" that barely even qualify as fully-formed ideas. Your other option is the survival mode, which at first glance seems like the only mode you'll ever need. You maintain a single life bar through a series of one-round matches, purchasing "battle supplements" between bouts to recover health or increase an attribute like attack power.

I'm grateful high scores are recorded offline for all characters and skills levels, but I still miss an old-fashioned arcade mode. I just like the idea of facing every character once in best-of-three matches with fresh life bars. When you're spending points every three matches just to replenish your life, it feels like you're treading water.

The online action is exciting if you have enough patience. It's time-consuming to set up a match and for some reason the game forces me to use my favorite character (Ryu). Several items of the main menu prompt the message "coming in March". Street Fighter V definitely has enough cylinders under the hood, but there's something to be said for releasing a game when it's actually done. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Street Fighter Alpha 2 (Saturn)
Street Fighter Alpha (Saturn)
Criticom (Saturn)
Skullgirls 2nd Encore (Japan) (Playstation 4)
Street Fighter Anniversary Collection (Playstation 2)

Surf World Series
Grade: D
Publisher: Vision Games (2017)
Reviewed: 2018/8/23
Rating: Everyone

screenshotWhile scouring Amazon for a surfing game I discovered this one lurking in the proverbial bargain bin. Surf World Series doesn't make a great first impression. The tutorial takes place in a wave pool (!) with graphics reminiscent of a PS2 title. Lessons about carving waves and riding inside "the curl" are easy to digest at first, but advanced lessons needlessly pile up the complicated tricks. I've been playing this game for weeks and still don't get the convoluted trick system.

Events are short and sweet, set in exotic locations around the world. So why are these locations only identified by three-letter codes like BRA, PRT, and RSA? Would it kill them to spell out "Brazil"?! I mean, there's enough room on the screen! Despite the so-so graphics I did enjoy the different time-of-day and weather conditions. Timed events challenge you to try to reach a target score while completing optional side quests. Once you get the hang of it the game really isn't that difficult. In fact, it's kind of hard to wipe out!

What really bothers me are the boring, predictable wave patterns. Real surfers spend a lot of time looking for just the right wave, but here you might as well be back at the wave pool. I also dislike events that require you to perform specific stunts "perfectly", making it easy to get stuck. This game is too mechanical and I'm always forgetting how to execute some elaborate maneuver.

Then there's also the lack of geography. You're always staring out towards the ocean, never getting a view of your exotic surroundings. The only hint of surfer culture is the laid-back music which I have to admit is pretty darned good. But Surf World Series didn't make me feel like a surfer; it made me feel like a guy sitting on a couch mashing buttons. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

If you like this game, try: Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer (Game Boy Advance)
Championship Surfer (Dreamcast)
Surf's Up (Wii)
Kelly Slater's Pro Surfer (Xbox)
Trick Shot (Atari 2600)


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