The power-ups come early and often, allowing you to accumulate multiple satellite orbs (called "options") which shoot alongside of your ship. The caves you explore and enemies you encounter are biological in nature, so expect a lot of worms, giant claws, and oozing sacks of puss. I really don't like having to shoot my way through those fleshy walls, especially when they can regenerate and swallow you up. The first boss, a grotesque floating eye with swirling arms, became a trademark of the series.
The second title, Life Force, is actually a re-release of Salamander with a new color scheme and selectable power-ups. The music is a little cute and the voice effects are cheesy ("destroy violent antibiotics!"), but there's no denying the intense, action-packed gameplay. The horizontal stages are much better than the vertical ones. The vertical areas are too difficult, especially when you're dodging huge orbs and enemy ships materialize out of nowhere.
The third title is Salamander 2 (1996), and this "modern remake" is a real treat. It smartly retains the classic Salamander gameplay while giving the graphics a 3D makeover. The long slithering things are back, but this time they're bigger and slimier. This game is like a high-tech version of Bio Hazard Battle (Genesis, 1992). The first boss appears to be the familiar eyeball monster, but it's immediately swallowed up by a larger, nastier beast! Wow - that caught me off-guard!
All three games are extremely hectic, and once you accumulate four or five options, it can be hard to keep track of your ship on the screen! High scores are saved automatically, but I couldn't figure out how to switch between the three games without manually resetting the console. I'm really glad I picked up one of those heavy duty Saturn joysticks back in the day, because it is tailor-made for twitch shooters like these. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
That's great, but whose idea was it to make everyone the same color? When several get bunched up, it's impossible to tell which ball is you! The control scheme lets you accelerate, jump, and turbo boost. Power-ups appear in the form of triangles on the course, and I love how they shatter as you roll over them.
Scorcher requires a careful, deliberate approach because it's easy to roll off the edge of the course and the braking system sucks. Advanced stages are especially hard because the roads are narrow and there are fewer barriers to keep you on track. Upon initiating a speed boost the trailing green smoke makes it look like you've unleashed a mega-fart.
The controls are not good. The steering wheel works better than expected but it's not a miracle worker. The most appealing aspect of the game is its desolate, post-apocalyptic atmosphere. The elevated tracks run through dark industrial areas, abandoned freeways, canals of toxic waste, and twisting tunnels.
They look impressive, thanks in part to some programming trickery. Darkness effectively hides the fact that there's minimal scenery in the foreground, and fantastic digitized backdrops convey the illusion of an expansive world in the distance. The silhouettes of dead trees in the opening stage look creepy, and the futuristic city skyline of the third stage looks spectacular. I love how the sun shimmers against those glass buildings.
Complementing the postmodern visuals are pulsating techno beats that perfectly match the overall tone. The game offers a championship mode and time trial modes, and best times are recorded. Scorcher has a few interesting audio/visual elements, but the gameplay doesn't exactly set the world on fire. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Scud is fun for the first minute or two, with waves of robots entering the screen in various formations for you to blow to bits. Occasionally a pudgy little human appears in the scenery, but it doesn't seem to matter if you blast him or not. Unfortunately, the fun degenerates quickly as the same waves of targets appear again and again ad nauseum. It's as though Sega was trying to address the common complaint that light gun games are too short by making the game twice as long as it should have been. The repeating 2D visuals are extremely uninteresting, and the incoming enemies feature the Saturn's trademark pixelation.
There are a few unique elements, like enemies with shields that you need to knock back with continuous shots, and zombies that remove their heads and hurl them at you. Sometimes you can choose your path, but wherever you go into a stage, it all looks the same. Playing with one gun is far too difficult, but playing two-handed is too easy, allowing you to keep forging ahead for as long as you can tolerate it. Playing Scud is simply a miserable experience that Saturn owners should try to avoid. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
In order to raise the stakes (and send this review into the stratosphere) I purchased Sega's "mission stick" designed for aim-and-shoot titles. Space Harrier is the perennial "fire into the horizon" jet-pack shooter. You'll frantically blast away at saucers, stone faces, and slinky dragons while avoiding trees and columns on the checkerboard ground. Advanced stages offer some truly surreal landscapes. The mission stick didn't turn out to be a good fit for Space Harrier because its auto-center makes it hard to remain in one place (except the middle of course).
The second game, After Burner II, is an intense jet-fighter where you lock-onto targets into the distance before unleashing heat-seeking missiles. The fast-moving ground scenery conveys an alarming sense of speed, with each stage featuring a vivid new color scheme. The chaos is off the charts as the screen becomes cluttered with spinning planes, bursting explosions, and trails of smoke. As bewildering as it can be, After Burner is quite a rush. I'm not convinced the mission stick helps but it did make me feel like I was steering a plane, so that's something.
Last but not least is Outrun. This time you're in a convertible with a blonde racing through branching, exotic stages. The vibrant beach scenery and kick-ass soundtrack makes the opening stage feel exhilarating. The manual recommends using the steering wheel controller but the mission stick works great! Steering feels surprisingly comfortable and there's something awesome about using the trigger to brake. I could play this all day! Sega Ages is a return to the good old days when games were bright, fun, and quick. Just pop this in when you need a quick shot of adrenaline. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
The three tracks (desert, forest, and mountain) aren't spectacular, but offer bright, attractive scenery with minimal pop-up. The silky-smooth frame rate really helps you get into a groove, and the jazzy soundtrack isn't bad either. You can view the action from behind your car, or try the more difficult first-person angle. Helpful voice and arrow cues alert you to upcoming turns and hazards. Like any good off-road racer, the key is executing controlled power slides over slippery terrain. Careening around corners half-way out of control is exhilarating, and banging into other cars is all part of the fun.
Playing modes include practice, championship, two-player split screen, and time attack. The game automatically saves your best times, which enhances the replay value. You can customize your car and even compete against "ghosts" from previous runs. As a well-balanced blend of driving realism and arcade fun, Sega Rally Championship is arguably the best Saturn game of all time. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
The one and only thing it has to offer is pure velocity. Yes, the sensation of speed is quite convincing as the pavement whizzes below your boxy race car. If only you could steer! I'm normally quite proficient at video game racers, but on these narrow roads I was constantly banging into walls. Even with the "3D" analog controller, I was oversteering like a [expletive] [expletive]. I don't even know what a "touring car" is, but apparently they are forced to race on the most boring tracks on earth.
There's really nothing to see outside of the wall-lined courses, and the high speeds make it hard to anticipate upcoming turns. But the worst part of Sega Touring Car, by far, is when you ACCIDENTALLY pull into that God-forsaken pit stop area. Like most racers, the pit stop is just a waste of time and if you use it, you're guaranteed to lose. I suppose the same could be said about playing this game. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
The characters are completely digitized and smoothly animated, and even the multi-layered backgrounds have a photo realistic look. Shinobi has many new techniques, including about a dozen stab/slash moves, and the ability to hang from rails and block projectiles. He can even swing his sword like a baseball bat and swat enemy projectiles back the other way!
There's no shortage of gore either. Enemies get cut in two, with the top half sliding slowly off the bottom. There are nine quality levels, and one has more tree fighting than Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Before each new level there's a movie-quality video segment that explains the story line. Shinobi Legions far surpassed my expectations. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Moves include jump, block, several sword attacks, and a selectable special attack. In addition to skeletons, you'll also face rabid dogs, huge birds, and some impressive bosses. The 3D scenery is well rendered but not particularly intriguing. There are some platforms to jump, but only a few. The characters are large, finely detailed, and have a "claymation" quality to them.
Some stages feature snow, which is always a nice bonus. Apocalyptic background music really adds to the intensity. Skeleton Warriors is hard as hell, and you'll soon discover that it will take more than non-stop hacking to beat this game - use your special attacks strategically. There's even a slick 3D hoverbike level to break up the monotony. Skeleton Warriors is a surprisingly good time. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Each game is a fast-moving, up-and-down contest with plenty of spectacular plays. The control is tight, allowing you to block, rebound, steal, pass, and dunk with ease. You can even perform advanced maneuvers like shaking defenders and setting picks. The dunks are definitely NBA Jam-inspired, with guys flying through the air from well beyond the free throw line. Sometimes they even hang on the rim - always a crowd pleaser!
As offensive-minded as this game is, it's still quite possible to steal the ball and block shots. There's no NBA license, so the players are fictional with the exception of Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabaar, who perform all of their signature moves. Slam and Jam's audio is above average, with crisp sound effects and intermittent play-by-play. It's not the most realistic game in town, but if you're looking for a fun basketball game, this is it!! © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Between levels you can watch over-acted video clips which attempt to weave a lame storyline into the game. Why bother? The game box brags about "over 40 minutes of video starring Claudia Christian", but watch a few minutes of the video and you'll understand why they don't use video clips in games anymore. The gameplay itself is fair. There are plenty of things to shoot at and the explosions look nice.
Lasers are your main weapon, but a limited supply of heat-seeking missiles swarm on all potential targets. The graphics are decent, and the corner of the screen has a little video box which lets you see and hear other members of your squad. Despite the lousy control, Solar Eclipse isn't a total loss. You might even have some fun with it. But probably not. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
The marbled tiles and stone walls are beautifully textured, and I loved the periodic downpours that occur in the Rusty Ruins zone. Water puddles splash as you run through them, rope bridges sway, and you'll even spot animals lurking in the scenery. But what really makes this version exceptional is its beautiful music. The flowing beats, soothing pianos, and dramatic vocals put you in a relaxed, dreamlike trance. This might be the best music I've ever heard in any video game!
Sadly, Sonic 3D Blast suffers from the same issues that hampered its Genesis counterpart. Namely, it's just not that good. Judging jumps is hard, the collision detection is suspect, and your momentum tends to carry you into danger. Collecting wandering birdies can be a tedious chore, especially when dealing with proximity mines and other annoying hazards.
The stages are incredibly uneven in quality. To reach the gorgeous winter zone you'll need to survive the nightmarish "Spring Stadium" stage with its assortment of painful devices - akin to a torture chamber, only less pleasant. The map on the pause screen is useless, and the half-pipe bonus stages are a carbon copy of those in Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Genesis, 1992). At least the "bridge" bonus stages in the Genesis Sonic 3D Blast were original!
The lack of a save mechanism is a tremendous oversight considering this isn't the kind of game you can zip through. Sonic 3D Blast is playable on the Saturn, but compared to Sonic's 2D adventures this one rings hollow. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
This type of mechanism has been seen in other games including Ray Crisis (Playstation 2000) and the Panzer Dragoon series. It's very satisfying to use, especially when it comes to locating weak spots on bosses. The B button deploys bombs, and you'll be wise to use them defensively. In addition to 2D sprites, Souyugurentai employs 3D polygons to render bosses and scenery.
The stages are quite inventive. In the first stage you fly over a city at night, and the lighted bridges and skyscrapers are a beautiful sight. The second stage takes place over a space station with a looming blue planet in the background. The third stage is set over a desert, and it's wild to see the sand kicked up by vehicles riding across the dusty terrain. I also love the way the supply trucks tumble when you blast them from behind. The next stage is a throw-back of sorts, combining elements of Galaga and Asteroids.
It's really hard to find fault with this game. Constant power-ups keep your firepower potent, and the bosses are mighty but not unreasonable. The two-player simultaneous mode is fun because the increased visual chaos is offset by slow-down, keeping the difficulty on an even keel. So don't let the name scare you away. I play this game every day and I love it. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
You issue commands to each robot from a map screen, and you can even watch them perform their duties from this overhead viewpoint. Taking control of any individual robot gives you a nice first-person view of the action, allowing you to navigate hallways and blast creatures as you would in any Doom-style game. Although the frame-rate is far smoother than the 3DO version of Space Hulk, the hallways look far more pixelated.
Also problematic is how the cursor moves way too fast on the map screen. Space Hulk's gameplay requires a lot of trial and error along with a heavy time investment. In my humble opinion, it's just not worth the effort. It may have been an adequate 3DO game, but on a system like the Saturn, it just doesn't measure up. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Right off the bat, the controls just don't "feel" right. Pushing up causes Spot to walk diagonally, which is counter-intuitive. The game is played in a 3D space, but the awkward viewpoint and unforgiving collision detection make it impossible to gauge your jumps. You'll leap up to grab an object, but if you're even slightly off, you'll miss and appear to pass right through it.
The stages feature some exciting themes, including a pirate ship, haunted house, jungle, and even a Jurassic Park-inspired area. So how come they're so frickin' boring? Probably because the stage designs are painfully uninspired, loaded with cheap hits and spiked pits. The controls are so bad that I would sometimes accidentally jump off the side of the pirate ship!
The 3D scenery is plush and attractive, but the creatures resemble flat, 2D cartoons! Spot's music, sound effects, and stage intros are nice, but who cares when the gameplay sucks this bad? Losing a life means you have to restart the entire stage - unreal! When the game ends, you hear a director exclaim, "Cut cut! This is not working. I don't think you're made for this business." I think that pretty much sums it up. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
The courses tend to be wide-open and easy to navigate, although that's partially due to the game's lousy collision detection, which sometimes lets you pass right through obstacles like barrels. The turn control could be better as well - it's not easy to "carve" the more narrow sections. The tricks are a cinch to perform (especially compared to Coolboarders), and you get plenty of opportunities to catch air. There are even rails to grind - unprecedented for a snowboarding game in 1997.
The courses are generally unspectacular, but occasionally they'll wind through some scenic caverns or quaint little towns. In addition to normal downhill trails, you also get alpine and "snow park" courses which let you practice different skills. There's a lot of good in Steep Slope Sliders, but the game falters on occasion. First, it's awfully easy to get "stuck" in the middle of the course, and it's frustrating as you attempt to "hop" your way back onto the main trail.
After practically every run, the game prompts you to enter your initials and save, which is a real hassle. And instead of letting you change courses between runs, the poorly-designed menus force you to quit back to the main menu first! Finally, the soundtrack is bizarre and generally bad. It's got this new age/techno thing happening, but the repetitive beats sound like a broken record. Turn it down so you can hear the "whoosh" of the snow instead. Steep Slope Sliders has some problems, but if you want a good winter game for the Saturn, this won't let you down. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
This Saturn edition still has load times, but they're quite reasonable (under 15 seconds). Although subtitled "Warriors' Dreams", this is really a gamer's dream. The Alpha series took Street Fighter 2's basic gameplay and spiced it up with a new line-up, larger characters, and more fluid animation. The roster includes newcomers Sodom, Birdie, Adon, Rose, Guy, and a Guile clone named Charlie. Returning fighters include Ryu, Ken, Sagat, and Chun Li (now wearing tight blue pants).
The fights are crazy fun and can be enjoyed by gamers of any skill level. Novice players will experience limited success by button mashing, but experts will uncover all sorts of subtle techniques to hone their skills. The "super combos" are tricky to pull off, but very satisfying when they work. For beginners, an "auto" mode lets you execute super combos without all the fancy joystick movements.
The new "alpha counter" reversals look great, although I can only seem to pull them off by accident. The new victory icons that represent the deciding moves of each round (throw, special, etc) are a nice touch. The fresh set of backgrounds include a train depot, the Roman Coliseum, and the Great Wall of China. Bourbon Street (of New Orleans) is represented, but it looks awfully sparse.
In general the stages are very understated and lack the charm of those in Street Fighter 2. Likewise the uninspired music tracks sound like Street Fighter 2 outtakes. There's no auto-save feature, but high scores and "master rankings" can be saved manually. But these are minor quibbles considering the quality of Street Fighter Alpha's gameplay, which is outstanding. Saturn fans were justified in bragging about this game. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Several familiar faces return to the cast, including Bison, Akuma, Dhalsim, and Zangief. Newcomers include a cute schoolgirl named Sakura, an old Asian guy named Gen, and a weapons-equipped military man by the name of Rolento. The layered backgrounds are more rich and dynamic than those in the first Alpha. The party cruise stage with its scantily clad women offers ample eye candy, but the most amazing sight is the huge hovering jet fighter in the downtown roof stage! Holy cow!
Alpha 2's gameplay is solid as ever, and adventurous gamers can indulge themselves with new "custom combos". A survival mode is now available in addition to arcade, versus, and training. There's an autosave function, as well as a gallery of unlockable illustrations. Street Fighter Alpha 2 is billed as a "precise translation" of the arcade game, and it's hard to argue. Not even Street Fighter Alpha 3 (Playstation, 1999) could touch this masterpiece. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
The one-on-one fighting feels like Street Fighter II (SNES, 1992) given a Mortal Kombat (SNES, 1993) makeover. Playing digitized characters from the film is fun, and Kylie Minogue playing the role of Cammy (with turnaround victory pose) almost makes up for that clownish Blanka. There's a new guy named Sawada who's about as generic as they come. The fighting action may not be as fluid or responsive as a "real" Street Fighter title, but the graphics aren't bad and the moves aren't too difficult to execute. Yes there is sporadic slowdown and CPU opponents pull off moves impossible for a human (I don't recall seeing "double fireball" on the move list).
The stages are digitized sets from the film, but they come off as somewhat bland. Despite its flaws the game has a certain charm. Upon choosing a character you see a little clip of them flexing. Van Damme attempts to pronounce each character's name... with some difficulty. The intriguing "movie battle mode" lets you take Guile through a branching storyline interspersed with scenes from the film. "Street battle" is a straight-up arcade mode that retains high scores. This game reeks of the 1990's - for better or worse. Hardcore fighting fans may scoff but Street Fighter: The Movie is a fascinating glimpse into a strange time in fighting game evolution. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
The animated sequences are hard to make sense of if you don't know Japanese, although I did get a laugh out of the bizarre romantic scenes and goofy musical numbers. The shooting stages look slick but play like garbage. Your forward gun is next to worthless, and it's hard to tell which of the scaling enemies are even in your line of fire. It doesn't matter anyway because your guided missiles automatically lock onto targets all over the screen. They zig-zag around completely beyond your control, and it's kind of cool to watch.
It's possible to switch from jet to mech form, but there's no clear advantage to doing so. My friend Dennis and I thought we had finished this game in one sitting, until we realized there was a second disc. Macross fans may regard Super Dimension Fortress as a collector's item (complete with glossy manual), but this shooter is not fit for general consumption. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Screen shots courtesy of Moby Games