system Index W-Z
Winter Heat
Grade: A
Publisher: Sega (1997)
Posted: 2007/12/31
Rating: Everyone

screenshotWhen I pulled this game off my shelf recently, I could have sworn that I'd reviewed it before. Sure enough, upon loading it up and viewing the rankings, I saw high scores achieved by me and my friend Steve dated last February! That's right - not only does Winter Heat save the initials of the high score/world record holders, but records the dates as well! That's awesome.

Despite its age, Winter Heat stacks up to be the most enjoyable winter Olympics game ever made. There are eleven events, and only two buttons (speed and action) are required to play. The A and C buttons are both assigned to "speed", so you can tap them in tandem. Each event is preceded by some brief instructions, and the loading times are minimal. The events are so short, so it doesn't take long to play the entire circuit. Not only can you compete against up to six friends (via the multi-tap), but you can also play the game for high score.

The graphics are cheerful and bright, exuding a polished arcade look. The athletes include some huge Scandinavian dudes, but also some cute snow bunnies. The snow-covered trees and pixelated spectators look chunky, but the distant mountains look beautiful, and the look and feel of a frosty environment comes across well. Although the digital controls are somewhere harsh for events that require finesse, they are certainly responsive.

Events like the downhill and bobsled convey an exciting breakneck sense of speed. Several events allow two players to race at the same time, including speed skating, cross-country, and slalom. After the winner takes the podium, you're treated to highlights of his performance as the credits roll. High scores are saved automatically. Winter Heat is an outstanding Saturn title, and I really can't recommend this game enough to fans of winter sports. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

High score: 9474
1 to 6 players 

If you like this game, try: Nagano Winter Olympics 98 (Playstation)
Winter Sports 2008 (Playstation 2)
Winter Games (Commodore 64)
ESPN International Winter Sports 2002 (GameCube)
Salt Lake 2002 (Playstation 2)

World Series Baseball
Grade: B+
Publisher: Sega (1995)
Posted: 2023/5/6
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotWorld Series Baseball has aged well, partly due to its use of digitized player sprites over chunky, first-generation polygons. Aging less well is the musical introduction which is an embarrassing amalgamation of baseball commentary and second-rate hip hop beats.

While I found the visuals clean and inviting, the players look generic and don't assume their real-life stances. My friend Eric remarked how they all look like Hammerin' Hank Aaron at the plate, and he's not wrong! You can select from all the MLB teams with their full rosters, but there are only four stadiums: Fenway, Wrigley, Astrodome, and Yankee. Fenway and Wrigley are the best due to their trademark green monster and ivy-cover fences, respectively.

I love the game's simple pick-up-and-play style. The controls are intuitive and exaggerated diving controls make snagging fly balls a lot of fun. You need a keen eye at the plate as pitches come in very quickly. I love the crack of the bat and the smack of the ball hitting the glove. The game moves along at a brisk pace so you can play nine innings in about a half hour.

The commentary is basic but serviceable. It's funny how he'll sometimes drag out foul ball calls ("it's slicing...") long after the ball has disappeared into the crowd. And when I say "crowd" I mean a static pattern of pixelated squares and water faucet sound. There's no instant replay option, although the game might automatically present one after a dramatic home run. Eric figured out how to overrun the bases which is pretty neat. The umpire is annoying, yelling stee-riiike in an obnoxious manner.

Hearing the announcer introduce batters brought memories flooding back. Kirk Gibson. Cecil Fielder. Pat Listach. Lou Whitaker. Travis Fryman. Roger Clemens. Chuck Knoblock. Kirby Puckett. Playing this game is like entering a time machine. And when the camera pans up to that moonlit sky, it almost captures the feeling of sitting with your dad at the ballpark on a cool summer night. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Ken Griffey Major League Baseball (Super Nintendo)
RBI Baseball 18 (Playstation 4)
World Championship Baseball (Intellivision)
Realsports Baseball (Atari 5200)
RBI Baseball (NES)

World Series Baseball 98
Grade: A
Publisher: Sega (1997)
Posted: 2023/5/6
Rating: Kids to adults

screenshotWith World Series Baseball 98, Sega finally "made the leap" to embrace the 3D polygon graphics that had revolutionized the gaming industry of the time. What's remarkable is how smoothly the series made the transition. Not only do the players look terrific, they don't compromise its arcade gameplay one bit. In fact they enhance it.

The intro shows an exciting montage of clips from MLB past (Babe Ruth) and "present" (Cal Ripken). Interesting how they included the clip of Jeffrey Maier stealing the fly ball from Tony Tarasco, turning it into a home run during that controversial playoff game.

The new 3D visuals allow for TV-style camera angles including players stepping up to the plate and dramatic collisions at home plate. While the pitchers look a bit robotic with their perfect postures, the animations are rich. Pitchers adjust their caps and shake off pitches. Batters assume their real-life stances and react emotionally to strike outs. I'm not used to seeing Cal throw a temper tantrum like that!

The pitching and batting system are much more sophisticated. The pitcher has a cadre of pitches he can aim with precision. The ball comes in slower, making them easier to anticipate. A new "guess the location" feature gives the batter an advantage if he can guess the correct quadrant of the pitch. These new mechanics add depth without slowing things down.

I like how a customization screen is presented before each game, allowing you to set the weather, designated hitter rule, number of innings, etc. On the field I noticed a lot of cool subtle details. When runners reverse direction when running bases, their feet slide in the dirt. The CPU is smart, expertly navigating the bases and placing bunts to push runners. The cinematic camera will occasionally tilt up to provide a nice view of the skyline, albeit pixelated.

On the subject of Cleveland, it was neat to see so many of their old players from their glory days like Jim Thome, Manny Ramirez, Julio Franco, and David Justice. The Yankees were well-stocked with big names like Derek Jeter, Wade Boggs, Paul O'Neill, and Joe Girardi. It's fun just to peruse the old rosters.

The new umpire is still annoying and there's still no instant replay feature. I don't care. World Series Baseball 98 is not only a showcase sports title for the Saturn, but one of the finest baseball games I've ever played for any system. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: World Series Baseball II (Saturn)
Baseball Stars Professional 2 (Neo Geo)
Realsports Baseball (Atari 5200)
Cal Ripken Jr. Baseball (Super Nintendo)
Grand Slam (Playstation)

World Series Baseball II
Grade: A-
Publisher: Sega (1996)
Posted: 2023/5/6
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotRunning on the same engine, World Series Baseball II feels like a more fleshed-out version of the first game. It now contains all the ballparks and the video intro spotlights the new Jacob's Field of the Cleveland Indians. I love the detail put into the stadiums but wish they could have done something about that "plaid" crowd. Also, didn't the field in Kansas City have running water fountains?

Among the new features is the ability to play as the 1998 expansion teams Arizona Diamondbacks and Tampa Bay Devil Rays. I noticed you can "create your own expansion team roster" since they didn't have any rosters to go by! World Series II also has enhanced stat-tracking and camera angles. I never had any issues with the camera in the original game, but I have to admit these new ones are closer to the field and more exciting.

The gameplay is terrific. You have full control over your pitches and I love how fielders automatically camp until long fly balls. It's very easy to field and send your baserunners. Sadly the game is still missing an instant replay feature. I didn't think I felt there was a need until I encountered a questionable call at home plate.

World Series II is more lively than the original. Batters at the plate are more animated, waving their bats while in their stances. The commentator has a lot more to say. When a pitch hits a batter he'll go "He got 'em! That's gotta sting like the dickens!" When a pitch runs inside he'll go "Oooo - that was close!" Some comments seem out of place like "That was a great pitch. What will he throw next?"

Once again, the rosters take me back to the 90's. My O's were loaded to the hilt with sluggers like Brady Anderson, Roberto Alamar, Mike Devereau, and of course Cal Ripken. Familiar names on opposing teams include Bip Roberts, Mike McFarlane, Jose Offerman, Robin Ventura, Frank Thomas, and Harold Baines.

A new option on the main menu - MLB highlights - is nothing more than an advertisement for the Official World Series VHS tape. Perhaps it was part of the deal to secure the World Series title. Anyway, World Series Baseball II does a remarkable job of retaining the winning gameplay of the original while sprucing things up in a number of ways. And you really can't overstate the value of having all the stadiums. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Cal Ripken Jr. Baseball (Super Nintendo)
Cal Ripken Jr. Baseball (Genesis)
High Heat Major League Baseball 2003 (Game Boy Advance)
World Series Baseball 98 (Saturn)
MLB 99 (Playstation)

X-Men Vs. Street Fighter (Japan)
Grade: A
Publisher: Capcom (1997)
Posted: 2018/6/3

screenshotOne area where the Saturn excelled over the Playstation was 2D fighters, and X-Men Vs. Street Fighter is a prime example. Granted, it requires a 4MB memory expansion cartridge (included) to deliver an arcade-perfect translation with no frame drops. Playing X-Men Vs. Street Fighter rekindled those feelings of wonderment I felt seeing this in the arcade for the first time. The ample eye candy, fluid animation, colorful characters, and high-flying combat are mesmerizing.

Modern fighters feature more complex fighting systems but pound-for-pound this reigns supreme. The character selection includes eight Street Fighter favorites: Dhalsim, Bison, Chun Li, Zangief, Cammy, Nash, Ryu, and Ken. On the X-Men side you have Magneto, Juggernaut, Sabretooth, Storm, Gambit, Rogue, Wolverine, and Cyclops. While the superheroes might seem to have an advantage, the characters actually match up pretty well. I am surprised however that Juggernaut doesn't inflict more damage considering his massive size.

The load times are well-masked by flashy intro graphics. Each battle is a two-on-two slugfest, allowing you to freely swap characters. The pacing, difficulty, and match length are just right. X-Men Vs. Street Fighter also has a vertical element you don't see in many fighters. I'm not sure how, but it's possible to launch yourself high in the air, causing the screen to zoom upward. This not only facilitates aerial attacks but offers breathtaking views of a towering Buddha statue and the Manhattan skyline.

The vibrant stages are rendered with a comic book flair with familiar characters lurking in the background. When the city street collapses into a sewer or when an industrial plant catches fire, it's almost sensory overload. The combo-rich fighting lets you get into a rhythm and there are plenty of unexpected attacks like Rogue's kiss.

The games do overscan a bit on my TV, making it a little difficult to see the edges. After each game you can rank in with your initials which are automatically saved. It's a shame this Saturn version of X-Men Vs. Street Fighter was never released stateside because when it comes to 2D fighters this one is hard to beat. Note: I play this using an Action Replay 4M Plus cartridge. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

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High score: 276000
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse (Super Nintendo)
X-Men 2: Clone Wars (Genesis)
X-Men (NES)
Street Fighter Anniversary Collection (Playstation 2)
Street Fighter Alpha 2 (Saturn)

X-Men: Children of the Atom
Grade: B-
Publisher: Capcom (1996)
Posted: 2013/4/25
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotChildren of the Atom is regarded by many as "the one that started it all." This arcade extravaganza would usher in a new breed of game that applied the Street Fighter formula to superheroes. You might be tempted to write off X-Men: Children of the Atom as old and outdated, but don't be so hasty! Its cast of characters includes five X-Men (Wolverine, Psylocke, Cyclops, Storm, Iceman, Colossus) and six villains (Spiral, Silver Samurai, Omega Red, Sentinel, Juggernaut, Magneto). Two of the villains (Juggernaut and Magneto) cannot be selected by the player.

All of the characters are bright and colorful, and a few of the villains are positively huge! The control scheme incorporates three punches, three kicks, a run button, and a super jump. Most special moves are simple quarter-roll movements, and when your X-Power meter fills up you can unleash hell. The super jump is kind of a big deal because the action often moves far above the ground, and certain characters even have the ability to hover or fly. This dynamic makes it important to know which attacks aim downward and upward.

The battles are action-packed but occasionally the animation is hard to follow and the collision detection can be a little off. The stages feature gorgeous venues like a sunny beach, an undersea headquarters, and the deck of an aircraft carrier. The scope of this game is limited but that works in its favor. The character selection doesn't feel overwhelming and it's fun to compete for score in the arcade mode. The slower pace encourages more strategy and less button pounding. Children of the Atom may be old, but it's spry. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

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High score: 197500
1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse (Super Nintendo)
X-Men (NES)
X-Men 2: Clone Wars (Genesis)
X-Men Vs. Street Fighter (Japan) (Saturn)
Marvel Super Heroes (Saturn)

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