system Index A-C
Area 51
Grade: A-
Publisher: Midway (1995)
Reviewed: 2011/10/20
Rating: Mature (17+) realistic violence

screenshotWhen it comes to light gun games, they just don't make 'em like this anymore! Area 51 was a mainstay in the arcades and it's easy to see why. It used photo-realistic scenery, live actors, and claymation-style aliens. You are a soldier trying to bring order to the Area 51 base after detained aliens have run amuck. The action is "on rails" meaning you have no control over your movement.

That's fine, because you'll want to focus on your sharpshooting. You'll clear out warehouses, hangars, and offices as aliens and zombified soldiers pour out of the woodwork. It's very satisfying to see barrels explode and splatter nearby aliens. My favorite part of the game is when you're being driven around an airfield in a jeep, blasting barrels and causing mayhem at high speeds.

The shooting might seem shallow on the surface, but there are special weapons and secret rooms you can unlock by hitting strategic targets (like windows). As much as I loved the Playstation version, the Saturn rules when it comes to light gun accuracy, which puts this edition a cut above. Area 51 packs a few surprises, but even if it didn't, there's plenty of fun to be had. As icing on the cake, you can even team up with a friend. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 80,231
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Area 51 (Playstation)
Maximum Force (Saturn)
Maximum Force (Playstation)
Target: Terror (Wii)
NBA Live 96 (Super Nintendo)

Grade: A-
Publisher: Sega (1995)
Reviewed: 2002/3/26
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotI was expecting Astal to be a dull, generic side-scroller, and the corny, overwrought intro didn't help matters. But once I started playing, I was captivated. The scenery is a pastel-colored fantasy world, and the hand-drawn graphics are wonderfully artistic. Beautiful, tranquil background music complements the visuals perfectly. The characters are large and colorful, most ranging from fantastic and bizarre. Just wait until you see the bosses - these 3D monstrosities are simply amazing.

Of course, the fancy presentation wouldn't mean squat if the gameplay wasn't any good, but it is. The side scrolling action is slow and deliberate, but there are some innovative attacks that spice things up. You can smash the ground, toss enemies, throw things down from the air, and use a devastating breath attack.

Best of all, you have a bird companion that can perform special attacks, gather items, and occasionally save your life. It's possible for a second player to take control of the bird, which is a nice touch. Astal provides a few continues, but unfortunately there's no password feature. It takes a while to master the controls, but it's worth the effort. Astal is an attractive, underrated side-scroller. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Skeleton Warriors (Saturn)
Raiden (Lynx)
Thunder Blade (Sega Master System)
Tekken Advance (Game Boy Advance)
Poy Poy (Playstation)

Bases Loaded '96: Double Header
Grade: D+
Publisher: Jaleco (1996)
Reviewed: 2007/4/19
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotThis has got to be the weirdest [expletive] baseball game I've ever played. I'm still not sure what to make of it. In a feeble attempt to convey a 3D look, Jaleco rendered the players on the pitcher/batter screen in a style that calls to mind Pinocchio or those hideous nutcracker soldiers. With perfectly round heads and visible joints, these guys look positively freaky!

Once the ball is put into play however, Bases Loaded '96 takes on a completely different look, with flat fielders that are pixelated beyond belief! Blocky graphics of this magnitude might be appropriate for an Atari 2600 game, but on the Saturn it's just embarrassing! There's no way to slide into bases, and dives are useless because they get no distance at all (your fielder just stretches out on the ground). And why is there an umpire where the second baseman should be?

Also odd is how the game goes awkwardly silent between innings as a huge black and white picture of the leadoff batter is displayed. All of the major league teams are included, but there are only eight stadiums, and frankly they look awful. It sounds like a mess, but believe it or not, Bases Loaded '96 is not a bad baseball game at its core.

The contests are nicely paced, the controls are responsive, and the CPU plays an intelligent game. If you could play this with your eyes closed, you'd probably enjoy it. It's just a shame the players had to look like animated dolls spawned from the bowels of hell. Equally likely to send chills up your spine is the game's shrill, otherworldly organ music. Bases Loaded '96 is the evil clown marionette of baseball games. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Bases Loaded 2: Second Season (NES)
Tecmo Super Baseball (Genesis)
Bases Loaded (NES)
High Heat Major League Baseball 2003 (Game Boy Advance)
Ken Griffey's Winning Run (Super Nintendo)

Batman Forever The Arcade Game
Grade: F
Publisher: Acclaim (1996)
Reviewed: 2011/12/18
Rating: Kids to adults (animated violence)

screenshotWhen you turn on this game you're greeted with impressive views of the sleek Batmobile as dramatic music booms in the background. The character selection screen renders Batman and Robin with rotating 3D models that look simply amazing. There's no reason to suspect you're about to play one of the worst video games in history, but you are. Batman Forever is meant to be a side-scrolling brawler along the lines of Streets of Rage, but it's an unmitigated disaster.

The graphics are dark and muddled, and the characters are severely pixelated when they scale out. The poor frame-rate, coupled with flashing point values, raining icons, and flying bodies make it hard to tell what the [expletive] is going on. Sometimes you can't even find Batman in the midst of the chaos! The stages offer sharp digitized backdrops, but there's minimal interaction with the scenery. Can someone tell me why wrecking balls keep falling from the sky?

The characters slide around as if they were on ice-skates. The control scheme crams a half-dozen functions into three buttons, leaving most of the buttons unused! You can only hold one power-up at a time, and since it's triggered with the punch button, it's hard to use them strategically. Batman has an annoying habit of latching onto anything in the vicinity, so while trying to reach a power-up you'll keep grabbing nearby goons. Ugh!

When you do snag an icon, a deep, guttural voice utters something unintelligible. Some power-ups make you invincible and others inexplicably shrink you! According to the manual certain icons are meant to have "random" effects. Really? The back of the box boasts how the "unique combo system allows up to 400 hits". Apparently Acclaim was trying to see how many bad ideas they could cram into a single game.

Batman Forever seems easy at first, but once a baddie gets his dirty mitts on you he'll drain your entire life meter. Adding insult to injury, the action is plagued by rampant slow-down - incomprehensible for a 2D game on the Saturn. A two-player mode lets Batman and Robin fight together, but that just doubles the confusion. If you're still not convinced that the game's designer was clueless, consider that the high score screen lets you enter four letters.

The sweeping orchestrated musical score is lifted from the film but it's completely wasted. This game is even more shameful when you consider all of the excellent Batman titles that appeared on the 16-bit systems. My friend Eric got Batman Forever for Christmas in 1996 and afterward he vowed to never buy another game by Acclaim. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended variation: med
Our high score: 171170
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Doom (Saturn)
Batman Returns (Game Gear)
Batman Forever (Super Nintendo)
Batman Forever (Game Gear)
Final Fight One (Game Boy Advance)

Batsugun (Japan)
Grade: B+
Publisher: Banpresto (1996)
Reviewed: 2009/5/15

screenshotAs one of my favorite Saturn shooters, Batsugun delivers high-powered vertical action with arcade appeal. The screen is only slightly cropped, and the bright, crisp graphics look like something you'd see in a Neo Geo game. The first stage is peculiar in that it's hard to tell if it takes place underwater or in outer space. The bubbles ultimately give it away, but those roving tanks look very much out of place patrolling the sea floor.

Subsequent stages feature sparkling shorelines and scenic waterfalls, and I like how they are layered to convey a sense of depth. The shooting action is pretty standard as you can toggle between two gun configurations and unleash "bombs" to deal widespread damage. There's a lot of stuff happening on the screen, but the frame rate keeps up with the action nicely. Destroyed enemies leave golden "checkmarks" in their wake to collect, and I like how point values sometimes appear on the screen.

The electronic soundtrack is exceptionally good, and the music in the opening stage sounds like something you might hear in Thunder Force 3 (Genesis, 1991). As much as I like Batsugun, I'll be the first to admit the game suffers from "diarrhea of the firepower". By the third stage, you're spraying missiles like a freakin' fountain outside of a Vegas hotel! When your missiles literally consume the entire screen, lesser enemies are instantly disintegrated before they can even make an entrance!

As you can imagine, the two-player coop mode is just too much. Also problematic is how your ship can drift partially off the bottom of the screen, making it fair game to unseen missiles. Batsugun's over-the-top gameplay isn't unique for the Saturn, but it's undeniably fun, and its slick visuals give it a leg up over the competition. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Raiden (Lynx)
Galaxy Force II (Genesis)
Doom (Saturn)
Tanks But No Tanks (Atari 2600)
Firepower 2000 (Super Nintendo)

Battle Arena Toshinden Remix
Grade: F
Publisher: Sega (1996)
Reviewed: 2004/3/31
Rating: Teen

screenshotThis 3D fighter originally made its debut on the Playstation in 1995, where it impressed the heck out of video game players who weren't accustomed to such advanced 3D graphics in a fighting game. This "remixed" version for the Saturn is not only a minor disaster, but also a major embarrassment for a system that had an inferiority complex to begin with.

I took the time to compare this game side-to-side with its Playstation counterpart, and the difference is night and day. The characters models in this Saturn version look downright ugly, and the textures are pitiful compared to the smooth, polished Playstation graphics. Blonde bombshell Sophia looks like a linebacker with those huge shoulders, and the backgrounds are plain and boring.

Even the gameplay feels slow and laborious, and the control is far from responsive. Toshinden Remix offers neither the depth of a Virtua Fighter 2 nor the style of Fighting Vipers, and the computer AI is atrocious. Using Sophia, I was able to strike my opponent with the same attack about 25 times in a row to win a match. If this is the remixed version, I'm glad I missed out on the original. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Fighters Megamix (Saturn)
Night Warriors - Darkstalker's Revenge (Saturn)
Battle Arena Toshinden (Playstation)
Fighting Vipers (Saturn)
Tekken 2 (Playstation)

Battle Garegga (Japan)
Grade: B+
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1998)
Reviewed: 2020/5/2

screenshotThis import will set you back a few bucks but it's not the worst investment you can make. Perhaps it's the baseball fan in me, but I always want to pronounce this Battle Galarraga. Battle Garegga is a hyper-kinetic vertical shooter where you blast tanks, planes, boats, and cannons while weaving through their torrents of missiles. I own a lot of shooters for the Saturn, and to be honest they're all pretty similar. Still, I can't seem to get enough of this one.

The first thing that caught my eye was the publisher, Electronic Arts. Why didn't they release this in the USA? The game lets you choose between four planes, each of which manages to be formidable without resorting to gimmicks. Your main guns are awesome, but special attacks pack a few surprises as well. One plane unleashes a devastating flamethrower, while another deploys heat-seeking missiles from the rear, effectively delaying the destruction by a second or two. Enemy explosions come in 31 flavors including bright flames that flare out across the screen. There's a lot of falling icons to collect, and while I don't know what any of them mean, you definitely want to go after the bigger ones.

Garegga's graphics are the sharpest and most high-resolution I've seen on the Saturn. You could argue they are too fine. Incoming missiles look like skinny gray pencils and tend to get lost in all the flying shrapnel. Stages feature storm clouds, desert valleys, and factories with layer upon layer of armaments. The colors are bland but I dig the retro-futuristic vibe. Each stage is relatively short and the bosses never overstay their welcome. Only the final stage which reprises all of the previous bosses feels tiresome. Battle Garegga is an exhilarating title, delivering the sharpest shooting action you'll find on the system. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Hyper Duel (Japan) (Saturn)
Strikers 1945 Plus (MVS) (Neo Geo)
Mission X (Intellivision)
Darius Plus (Japan) (Turbografx-16)
Donpachi (Japan) (Saturn)

Battle Monsters
Grade: F
Publisher: Acclaim (1996)
Reviewed: 2010/6/15
Rating: Teen 13+ (animated violence, animated blood)

screenshotMortal Kombat spawned dozens of shameless copycats, and Battle Monsters is particularly cringe-worthy. This one-on-one fighter falters on every level. How long did it take Acclaim to come up with that title? The fighters are an unlikeably weird collection of digitized human freaks and computer-generated beasts.

La Pa is a ballerina who continuously shouts "hi!" while relentlessly beating you down. Skythe is decked out in a goofy bird outfit, Deathman is a dead-ringer for Frankenstein, and Headless Harn carries his head in one hand as he fights. Naga is meant to resemble Medusa, but her motion-capture actor lacks female proportions. She's a man baby yeah! Chili and Pepper are a pair of hideous laughing clowns with white skin and wild red hair. Clowns are creepy in general, but this duo is especially disturbing.

The gameplay is a mess. The choppy animation makes it hard to track the fighters as they frantically hop around, and constant scaling results in rampant pixelation. The AI is a complete joke, with CPU opponents dealing as much damage to themselves as they do to you. When they're not falling flat on their backs after jumping off a platform, they're pulling statues down on top of themselves.

The stage designs are horrible. In the one with floating islands, the illusion of depth is so poor that it looks like you're going to hit your head on those things! The multi-level temple stage is a nightmare to navigate, and the generic cave stage looks like something from an NES title. Two huge sets of flickering candles serve as the most unsightly health meters ever seen in a video game. I sometimes use the adage "so bad it's good", but Battle Monsters is so bad that it goes overshoots good and goes all the way back around to bad again, where it lands with a resounding thud. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 82500
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Mortal Kombat II (Sega 32X)
Killing Time (3DO)
Dead In The Water (Playstation)
BloodRayne (GameCube)
Mortal Kombat 3 (Super Nintendo)

Bug Too!
Grade: D+
Publisher: Sega (1996)
Reviewed: 2013/7/4
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThis sequel addresses one major problem of the original game, namely its highly unimaginative stages. Bug Too's opening set of stages ("Weevil Dead 2") features a horror theme with plenty of macabre sights and hair-raising sound effects. A dark mansion looms in the distance as you navigate between floating islands adorned with gravestones and iron fences. Screams and groans can be heard over a haunting organ theme. Enemies are bugs dressed as zombies and vampires, but their wacky animations are hard to make out. Adding fog effects to this stage was probably not the best idea.

Another notable stage boasts an Indiana Jones theme with gorgeous exotic locations. Other stages that would seem to have potential (carnival, space, psychedelic) are pretty blah. The game plays just like the original Bug, as you explore confined mazes while pouncing on enemies and collecting gems. There are a few more hazards and puzzles - for better or worse. Certain stages feature paths that loop around, prompting you to ask, "Wasn't I already here?"

The platform action is mediocre. In some cases you can walk straight down a wall, and sometimes you'll plunge to your death. The jumping is forgiving but the collision detection is not. Bonus stages offer a variety of mini-games like a space shooter, a racing game, and a Q*bert homage. Bug Too also offers a choice of playable characters, including an ethnically insensitive bug sporting an Afro and platform shoes ("Chill homie!"). The new characters don't add much except for their wacky animations and voice clips. Bug Too is saddled with the same issues as the first game, but at least it offers a few memorable sights and sounds. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Q*bert (Atari XEGS)
Super Bee (Europe) (Odyssey 2)
Q*bert (NES)
Q*bert 3 (Super Nintendo)
Q*bert (Atari 2600)

Grade: D
Publisher: Sega (1995)
Reviewed: 2013/7/4
Rating: Everyone

screenshotWhen it came to 2D platformers, Sega perfected the art. Bug tries to take the action to the third dimension via an awkward hybrid of 2D characters and blocky 3D scenery. The star of the game is a zany insect who spouts cringe-worthy one-liners like "watch it, buddy!", "ooo- hurt me!", and "buzz off!" His corny animations and goofy voice (performed by a female no doubt) are serious turn-offs. Bug can move on all axis (including ceilings and walls) but his movements are slow and confined to narrow paths.

The gameplay is pretty standard as you jump between platforms, pounce on creatures, ride levitating platforms, and collect floating gems. Modest scaling effects convey the illusion of moving into or out of the screen, but the depth perception sucks. Pouncing on grasshoppers and dung beetles is satisfying thanks to exaggerated sound effects, but the collision detection is lousy, and it's hard to tell who's taking damage. The repetitive stages twist and turn all over the place, and there are hidden areas and bonus objects to discover.

Despite taking place on a "movie set", the stages are incredibly generic. You can pretty much guess all the environments: forest, desert, swamp, snow, etc. The underwater stage is best thanks to its soothing blue visuals and relaxing steel drum music. The bosses are another highlight, including a rock-tossing giant and a fish-throwing octopus. Bug's graphics aren't anything to write home about. The characters are rendered in a pseudo-3D style but they appear surprisingly pixelated. They don't even compare to the characters in Donkey Kong Country (SNES, 1993). Checkpoints are few and far between, and you'll stare in disbelief the first time you realize you need to restart a stage from the very beginning.

Special icons let you spit at or zap enemies, but these abilities are short-lived. The close camera makes it hard to anticipate and react to dangers ahead, and cheap hits abound. The bonus stages are of the "fly through the rings" variety that were so popular in the 90's. Like the lead character, the music tries to be zany but is mostly just annoying. Continues are available but the convoluted save system is the worst ever devised. The "game over" screen actually features the bug sticking out his exaggerated ass. Not exactly Sega's proudest moment! I realize Baby Got Back was a hit at the time, but c'mon now! Bug has it moments but it should be a heck of a lot more fun than it is. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Bubsy 3D (Playstation)
Donkey Kong Jr. (NES)
Donkey Kong Country (Super Nintendo)
Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii)
Jewel Master (Genesis)

Bulk Slash (Japan)
Grade: B
Publisher: Hudson Soft (1997)
Reviewed: 2017/3/16

screenshotIt's a shame Bulk Slash was never released in America because this is a 3D title with the charm of a 2D shooter. We're talking about rapid-fire shooting, memorable bosses, and pumping electronic music. You control a robot who toggles between flying and running on foot. Your rapid-fire cannon is effective, and if you wait for it to charge you can unleash eight heat-seeking missiles at once. Most missions involve destroying a series of targets scattered across an island.

Flying is a fast way to get around and allows you to lock onto multiple enemies from the air. My initial instinct was to go for bombing runs but there's really not enough room (or visibility) to execute these effectively. You're better off dropping down to the ground and slashing at protective tanks and cannons with your powerful sword. In classic 2D games pixelated graphics are considered an endearing trait, and Bulk Slash made me feel the same way about Saturn's 3D graphics. It's satisfying to blast angular cannons into chunky flying shards. The explosions are satisfying and leave all sorts of power-ups and bonus icons in their wake.

Bulk Slash boasts some impressive scenery, with the rainy city at night serving as a showcase stage. Early on you have the option of teaming up with a bubbly girl who talks non-stop and screams bloody murder when you take a hit. She actually does provide a valuable service, and that's directing you to your next target. Targets can be hidden in the scenery, sometimes tucked between skyscrapers or in an enclosed arena.

Bulk Slash is fun but hamstrung by the Saturn hardware. You can't see very far and the draw-in is excessive. The streets are very narrow and sometimes claustrophobia-inducing. Don't get too excited when you see "mission complete" because the boss is yet to come! Using the triggers to turn isn't particularly intuitive or precise, and trying to keep a flying boss in your line of sight can be a disorienting experience. If you die in battle you'll have to restart the stage from the beginning. Still, Bulk Slash has a likeable arcade style that keeps you coming back. It even records high scores. This is a game unlike anything I've played before, and coming from me that's saying a lot. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 216,720
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Ray Storm (Playstation)
Mission X (Intellivision)
Marine Wars (Atari 2600)
Charge 'N Blast (Dreamcast)
Star Fortress (Colecovision)

Burning Rangers
Grade: B-
Publisher: Sega (1998)
Reviewed: 2006/3/14
Rating: Everyone (animated violence)

screenshotAs the last Saturn title developed by the Sonic Team, Burning Rangers is often mentioned in the same breath as great Saturn exclusives like Nights into Dreams, Panzer Dragoon, and Sega Rally. Having mentally prepared myself for the video game experience of a lifetime, I was initially somewhat disappointed. Although the box boasts about "brilliant 3D graphics", in fact the visuals are excessively pixelated, with visible seams in the scenery and clipping problems galore.

Burning Rangers does boast some original gameplay however, which ultimately won me over. You control a futuristic, jetpack-equipped, fire-fighting soldier who extinguishes flames with blasts of a laser weapon. As you traverse the floors of a power planet, marine research laboratory, and space station, you'll extinguish flames, rescue whiny victims, and battle the obligatory bosses. Blasting fires is fun and satisfying, especially when you first hold down the fire button to charge your shot. Explosions occur randomly in your path, but these are preceded by a whistling sound, so you have time to pull down immediately in order to leap back.

The game's packaging mentions something about "8 levels", but in fact there are only three, and skilled gamers will probably whiz through this game in about an hour. Burning Rangers makes a big deal out of its "voice-directed navigation system", but all that means is a woman's voice tells you where to go. You'll be glad she's there, because the metallic hallways and generic rooms all look pretty much the same. The underwater stage is especially confusing to navigate with all of its identical-looking tunnels.

By far the most helpful thing the woman tells you is "you're going the wrong way". Other voices are less helpful, like the guy who urges you to "hurry up - but don't rush!" Rescuing civilians should be satisfying, but you may opt to leave them for dead when you hear how pathetic and whiny they are. Cowering woman: "Why is this happening to me?" Ranger: "I'm here to rescue you, you ungrateful [expletive]!" Okay, I added the expletive myself, but it was well deserved. Burning Ranger may not have lived up to the hype but it still provides more entertainment value than most Saturn titles. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

If you like this game, try: Fire Fighter (Atari 2600)
Rush Rush Rally Reloaded (Dreamcast)
Last Bronx (Saturn)
Burning Soldier (3DO)
Night Warriors - Darkstalker's Revenge (Saturn)

Chase HQ Plus SCI (Japan)
Grade: B+
Publisher: Taito (1996)
Reviewed: 2014/12/28

screenshotThe Saturn had its share of impressive arcade translations and this is one of them. Chase HQ is an old-fashioned racer with scaling sprites and enticing backdrops that never get any closer. You play the role of an undercover cop speeding down highways in diverse locations with variable weather conditions. The colorful skylines look gorgeous, but some of the roadside scenery could use a little work. Why are there buildings hanging off of that bridge? Why is that road lined with boulders? And why am I forced to ride through muddy bogs, popping off little green bushes as I go?

Your goal is to catch up to the highlighted bad guy and ram him until his car breaks down. On your way to his location you can pump up your score by passing consecutive cars (which inexplicably explode on contact). Weaving through traffic is a lot of fun but staying on the road requires going easy on the accelerator. It's really easy to slide off the road, and that can be frustrating. As you might expect from a coin-op port you don't get much time to complete your mission, but the five continues extend the game to a reasonable length.

Chase HQ is worth the price of admission, but the disc effectively doubles your pleasure by including a second game called SCI. It's basically Chase HQ II, and it adds the ability to shoot a gun from your car. Being able to damage bad guys from a distance is great, but having to press X in addition to the accelerate, brake, and shift buttons can tie your fingers in knots. Both games have unintentionally funny moments, like hearing the elated voice of your cop over the radio ("yahoooo!") or noticing spelling mistakes like the "Criminals hear" arrow. And watching cops rough up the bad guys after each chase is all part of the fun. If you're looking for some arcade-style racing action, Chase HQ plus SCI delivers quite a one-two punch. Note: A Gameshark or Action Replay device is required to play imports on North American consoles. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 1,302,550/2,416,750
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Chase HQ (Turbografx-16)
Chase HQ 2 (Genesis)
Super Chase H.Q. (Super Nintendo)
APB (Lynx)
Pole Position (Vectrex)

Christmas Nights Into Dreams
Grade: NA
Publisher: Sega (1996)
Reviewed: 2007/4/19
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotIntended as a promotional disk for Nights Into Dreams (Sega 1996), this highly sought-after novelty CD is fascinating to play, especially during the holidays. Not only does it feature a playable demo of the game's first stage (and boss), but the visuals change based on the time of the year as determined via the system's calendar! Once December arrives, the lush green landscapes transform into a festive Christmas motif. It's hard to resist the holiday spirit with all of the blinking lights, trees, candles, wreaths, ornaments, and elves. Lively renditions of Joy to the World and Jingle Bells play in the background, and there's even a clock on the title screen that counts down to the big day. Upon completing the two stages, you win "presents" in the form of karaoke songs, concept art, and even extra game modes. Christmas Nights Into Dreams must have been very special back in 1996, and it's still a treat today. Reeking of Christmas through and through, this is a terrific addition to any Saturn collection. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
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1 player 

If you like this game, try: Christmas Crisis (Philips CD-i)
Daze Before Christmas (Europe) (Super Nintendo)
Reindeer Rescue (Atari 2600)
Christmas Country (Philips CD-i)
Outlaw Golf: Holiday Golf (Xbox)

Clockwork Knight
Grade: C+
Publisher: Sega (1995)
Reviewed: 2011/12/18
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotClockwork Knight is not a bad platform game, but as a launch title I can see how this might fail to inspire confidence in a new system. It begins with a jazzy Babes-in-Toyland musical number. Apparently Sega was trying to tap into that coveted 50-70 year old demographic. If you're a fan of Bette Midler or Nathan Lane I'm sure you'll be tickled pink.

The game itself is a 2D side-scroller embellished with modest 3D effects. You play a lanky toy soldier with a big mustache, long nose, and rosy cheeks. He's not particularly endearing and somewhat ugly. The relatively short stages take place in several rooms of a typical house including kid's rooms stocked with toys. You'll encounter clowns, robots, toy helicopters, and a lot of weird objects I really couldn't make heads or tails out of.

You'll jump between Lego platforms, knock over books to form bridges, and ride toy trains. You can attack foes with a key and toss items like footballs. Some of the bosses are creepy (like that freaky blue baby doll), but the Transformers robot that turns into a jet is pretty neat.

As a launch title Clockwork Knight may have been ill-advised from a marketing point of view, but the game itself isn't half bad. The graphics aren't spectacular but there's some clever use of 3D and each stage has secret areas that add to the challenge. A roulette bonus round lets you bet coins you collect, but it's a losing proposition. Clockwork Knight is a little hokey, but 2D platformers generally age better than their 3D counterparts, and this one plays very well. . © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 144,800
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Clockwork Knight 2 (Saturn)
Toy Commander (Dreamcast)
Bravoman (Turbografx-16)
Haunted House II 3D (Atari 5200)
Soccer Kid (Jaguar)

Clockwork Knight 2
Grade: C
Publisher: Sega (1996)
Reviewed: 2011/12/18
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotThe first Clockwork Knight wasn't exactly a run-away hit but apparently it sold well enough to merit a sequel. Clockwork Knight 2 looks and plays just like the original but offers a new set of stages. Once again they take place in the rooms of a typical house, including a kid's play room, a study, and a bathroom. Playing the role of a little toy soldier you'll attack toys with a key, leap between platforms, and hit switches to open new areas.

Some stages use cannons to propel our hero between multiple planes, not unlike Donkey Kong Country. In one of the more exciting stages you ride a horse-carriage over elevated tracks, bumping off other toys in your path. It's great fun and boasts the game's best graphics and animation. Also notable is the bathroom stage with water that rises and falls as you hop between rubber duckies. Clockwork Knight 2 might have been a strong title if not for the frustration factor.

The game has a lot of deadly drop-offs, and some of the boss battles are ridiculously hard. The one where you face the paper animals is next to impossible, no matter how many lives you have in reserve. The game has a happy-go-lucky soundtrack not unlike Super Mario Bros., and the song that plays over the title screen ("Well well... let me tell you what it's like...") is terrific. Clockwork Knight 2 has its moments, but it will probably only be of interest to those who enjoyed the original. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 116,040
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Super Mario All-Stars (Super Nintendo)
Clockwork Knight (Saturn)
Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)
Donkey Kong Jr. (NES)
Donkey Kong Junior (Atari 2600)

Corpse Killer: Graveyard Edition
Grade: D+
Publisher: Digital Pictures (1994)
Reviewed: 2013/3/14
Rating: Mature (realistic violence, blood and gore)

screenshotThis FMV (full-motion video) title is available on many platforms but I actually prefer this Saturn edition. Corpse Killer tries hard to be an interactive B-grade horror flick. You play the role of a soldier out to rescue three comrades held captive on a zombie-infested island. Veteran actor Vincent Schiavelli gives a terrific tongue-in-cheek performance as the mad scientist responsible for it all. The other actors include a helpful Rastafarian named Winston and an unintentionally hilarious blonde reporter named Julie.

I was anxious to use my Saturn Stunner with this game - one of the most accurate light guns around. Imagine my dismay when I discovered this game offers no light gun support! Maybe Digital Pictures got so many complaints about the poor gun control in previous versions that they decided to ditch it altogether. Oh well, the game is still playable with a normal controller - and probably more accurate. The six buttons come in handy because you can fire different weapons without having to toggle between them.

Corpse Killer boasts a generous amount of blood splattering as you spray bullets at zombies that float through the air. This "Graveyard Edition" contains some additional footage including a scene where Winston is attacked by zombies rising from graves. The cut-scenes are entertaining to watch at first, but you'll soon fall into the habit of hitting the right trigger to skip them. Corpse Killer is set in some great locations including a graveyard, fort, and beach, but the video quality is surprisingly mediocre.

The video consumes the entire screen but the graininess and pixelation are extremely pronounced. Incoming projectiles like knives and grenades tend to blend in with the scenery. Still, I like how you can shoot special icons to replenish your health. The poorly written instruction booklet omits some critical information, like how aborting a mission gives you the opportunity to save your progress and access a mission select screen. It's hard to recommend Corpse Killer with a straight face, but FMV fans will find it amusing enough. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 1,143,768
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Corpse Killer (3DO)
Corpse Killer (Sega CD)
Corpse Killer 25th Anniversary Edition (Playstation 4)
Corpse Killer (CD) (Sega 32X)
Operation Wolf (NES)

Cotton 2: Magical Night Dreams (Japan)
Grade: C
Publisher: Success (1997)
Reviewed: 2017/6/24

screenshotCotton may be a celebrated shooting series in Japan but Cotton 2 didn't win me over. I can't fault the graphics. Each level is a lush, layered fantasy world, and the stage featuring stone ruins against a sky of swirling storm clouds looks amazing. Playing the role of a whimsical witch on a broom you'll fire magic at leaping wolves, fairies, insects, and spinning dragons. Expect a few bizarre adversaries like a floating deer skull surrounded by mice in Santa Claus outfits. Don't try to make sense of this game.

Defeated enemies drop colorful crystals you can collect. In addition to shooting you can grab and throw objects for big points. I like how taking a hit reduces your power level instead of killing you outright. A colossal Bigfoot creature serves as the first boss, and I love his epic collapse when he's defeated. Cotton 2 sounds like a winner, so what's the problem? Well, your main weapon requires you to tap the button incessantly, so I hope you have a controller with a turbo setting. Throwing objects is key to scoring big, but it's awkward to both shoot and grab stuff at the same time. I found myself forgetting to shoot in favor of tossing everything I could get my hands on.

Oversized sprites and narrow passages force you into tight spots, so you can imagine what the two-player simultaneous mode is like. I was really disappointed with the lack of a Halloween theme. There are hints of it here and there, like a pumpkin-headed creep, but in general this game lacks atmosphere. The music is nothing special and the sound effects are abrasive. Cotton 2 gets credit for eye candy but I found its gameplay more chaotic than fun. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 281100
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Cotton: Fantastic Night Dreams (Japan) (CD) (Turbografx-16)
Santa Claus Saves the Earth (Game Boy Advance)
Spelunker (NES)
Cybernator (Super Nintendo)
Castle Shikigami 2 (Playstation 2)

Courier Crisis
Grade: D
Publisher: GT Interactive (1997)
Reviewed: 2015/7/11
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotThis has to be one of the most obnoxious games I've ever played! Courier Crisis puts you in the role of a bicycle delivery boy speeding through bustling city streets delivering items around town. The game seems to bend over backwards to be unlikeable. The polygon graphics are downright ugly, with blotchy, pixelated building facades. I like how stages take place in different sections of town including Chinatown, a business district, and "skid row". The waterfront area would probably be more interesting if it actually had some water.

An arrow at the top of the screen directs you to your next stop but the street layouts make no sense. There are lots of dead ends and no map to refer to. Your biker gets stuck on every trash can and rabid dogs chase you all over town. The sharp turn button is useful but the narrow streets are cluttered and congested with slow-moving trucks. Thank goodness you can plow through pedestrians on the sidewalk! The "stunt" aspect of the game is a bust. You need to collect an icon just to perform a stunt, and who has time to goof off with the clock ticking down?

The voices are supremely annoying, the worst offender being your unfunny boss who admonishes you after each level. Likewise the abrasive punk music has the same "in your face" vibe. The levels are mercifully short, and it feels like there's more loading than playing. Ironically this game was the precursor to Crazy Taxi (Dreamcast, 1999), a game that's universally loved. Courier Crisis has a serious attitude problem, but it paved the way for bigger and better things. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 5395
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Crazy Taxi 3: High Roller (Xbox)
Super Runabout (Dreamcast)
Crazy Taxi 2 (Dreamcast)
Dudes with Attitude (NES)
Spiderman The Movie (Game Boy Advance)

Crime Wave
Grade: C+
Publisher: Eidos (1996)
Reviewed: 2006/9/29
Rating: Kids to Adults (animated violence)

screenshotThis poorly-named title caught me off-guard. Despite its law enforcement connotations, Crime Wave is really a Twisted Metal-style car combat game. Given an isometric view of a city, your goal is to locate, chase, and destroy one "target" vehicle after the next. It's actually a lot of fun. The cars resemble toys and the detailed scenery is fun to explore. A red arrow on the edge of the screen indicates your next target, but navigating the traffic-filled streets is not easy.

You can only see a small section of town at a time, and the overhead map isn't very useful. Once your opponent is in sight, your car can unleash some serious firepower via the trigger buttons. Your opponents are also armed but not very aggressive. Cars begin to smoke as they take damage, and finishing them off results in a satisfying explosion. Crime Wave has a nice arcade sensibility to it, and the music really kicks ass.

Unfortunately, the Saturn hardware seems to really struggle with the game. The framerate stutters pretty badly in the single-player mode, and it's practically unbearable in the two-player split screen mode. Had the camera been pulled out slightly and the frame-rate smoothed-out, this game would have been awesome. As it is, Crime Wave is flawed but still entertaining in its own unique way. . © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 400
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Vigilante 8 (Playstation)
Twisted Metal Small Brawl (Playstation)
Twisted Metal (Playstation)
Twisted Metal 3 (Playstation)
Critical Depth (Playstation)

Grade: F
Publisher: Vic Tokai (1995)
Reviewed: 2004/3/31
Rating: Teen

screenshotOn paper, Criticom probably looked promising, but this 3D fighter turned out to be a major flop. Set in deep space, the background story involves a relic that has drawn several mysterious life forms together to engage in hand-to-hand combat. The dramatic cut scenes and eerie music convey a bleak, desolate world.

The interesting assortment of characters includes space pirates, killer robots, and aliens that wouldn't look out of place in the Star Wars cantina. I especially like the creepy demonic woman and her supernatural body movements. The fighter images on the character selection screen are quite intimidating, but once a match begins, you're stuck with stiff, blocky character models.

Unresponsive controls and choppy animation make it hard to tell what's going on, and sometimes your fighter even ends up facing the wrong direction! There's no blocking, but you do have an evasive roll maneuver. Certain characters seem to have the unfair ability to grab and throw at will. The battle platforms are elevated, so it's possible to fall off the edges. Most of the backgrounds are uninspired, barren planet surfaces. When all is said and done, Criticom's lackluster gameplay doesn't live up to its compelling theme. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Karate Champ (NES)
Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader (GameCube)
Plasma Sword (Dreamcast)
Mansion of Hidden Souls (Sega CD)
Battle Arena Toshinden (Playstation)

Crypt Killer
Grade: C-
Publisher: Konami (1997)
Reviewed: 2010/6/15
Rating: Teen (animated violence, blood and gore)

screenshotThis shallow light gun escapade lets you blast oncoming skeletons, zombies, and mummies in temples, caves, and swamps. I enjoyed Crypt Killer on my Playstation despite its less-than-optimal controls, and I hoped the Saturn version might address that shortcoming. Guess what? I was right! The targeting in this version is very good and you don't even need to adjust the brightness of your TV or calibrate the gun.

What I did not anticipate however is the degraded graphic quality. The Playstation version was never much to look at in the first place, and this Saturn version seems to run at half the resolution! Yikes! The trees in the forest stage look absolutely horrendous with their blocky trunks and chunky leaves. When a skeleton pops up close to the camera, the excessive pixelation reaches Atari 2600 proportions.

I'll be the first to tell you that graphics aren't everything, but they are something, and Crypt Killer is hard on the eyes. The gameplay is still moderately enjoyable, especially if you want to give your brain a rest. You can sit back and fire away as you're automatically guided through mummy-infested ruins, caves haunted by pirates, and canals well-stocked with green lizard men. Crypt Killer is fun but repetitive. In the winding staircase scene, you continuously shoot at the same place as mummies pour out from the edge of the screen.

The difficulty is reasonable until you reach a boss. Assuming the forms of mythical creatures like a six-headed hydra, these things can take a lot of punishment. Crypt Killer won't win any awards, but its simple arcade charm makes it worthy of a quick romp. The Playstation version lacks good controls and the Saturn lacks decent graphics, so light gun fans will have to pick their poison. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: continues
Our high score: 400,000
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Crypt Killer (Playstation)
Point Blank (Playstation)
Skeleton+ (Atari 2600)
Killer Satellites (Atari 2600)
Cyber-Core (Turbografx-16)

Cyber Speedway
Grade: D-
Publisher: Sega (1995)
Reviewed: 2006/3/14
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotIt's easy to see why Cyber Speedway never made a name for itself. Compared to Wipeout (Playstation, 1995), this futuristic racer looks pretty hokey. Despite the smooth, shiny vehicles depicted on the box cover, you actually control some very ugly, boxy-looking hovercrafts. Twelve tracks are spread across six planets, including all of the obligatory climates: glacial, volcanic, tropical, desert, etc.

The courses aren't particularly pleasing to the eye due to considerable pixelation, unsightly seams, and rampant pop-up. At least the tracks are wide enough, and each planet offers its own distinct color scheme and terrain. The planet Evoflammas boasts deep lava trenches, Terra has tracks that dip into the water, and Vastitas features giant flying red centipedes.

The controls are responsive enough, but I could never quite comprehend the needlessly complicated boost controls. You can fire weapons at opponents, but they're so weak that it's not even worth the trouble. Even direct hits do little more than briefly slow down your target. Another issue is the easy difficulty level, which allowed me to breeze through the game without breaking a sweat.

Cyber Speedway's soundtrack consists of a bunch of acoustic guitar numbers, and while there's nothing wrong with them, they seem awfully inappropriate for a futuristic racer. The game's "story mode" attempts to add depth, but it just forces you to sit through a bunch of still graphics and endless dialogue. Cyber Speedway may not be the worst racing game for the Saturn, but it's close. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: POD Speedzone (Dreamcast)
Wipeout (Playstation)
Wipeout 3 (Playstation)
Wipeout: Omega Collection (Playstation 4)
Powerboat Racing (Playstation)

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