3 Ninjas Kick Back
Publisher: Sony (1994)
Based on a movie series for kids, 3 Ninjas Kick Back stars three white pre-teen boys trained to be ninjas by their Japanese grandfather (?). The platform-jumping, hack-n-slash action is fast and exciting. You'll swing on vines, battle ninjas, collect orbs, and flee from Indiana Jones-style boulders. There are plenty of items to collect including throwing stars you can hurl three at a time. Each stage is introduced by video of the grandfather, but he talks so slow! We don't have all day grandpa!
The control scheme could use some work. Pressing up to grab a vine is non-intuitive and it's hard to execute special moves. You'll contend with cheap hits like birds that approach from below and ninjas who hurl stars from offscreen. Blind jumps can send you plunging into a fire or trap. Deadly spikes in the underground stages blend right into the stalagmites that line cave passages. Some stages offer radically-different alternate routes, and that really elevates the replay value. Late in the game there are even some remarkable first-person 3D stages. One lets you skateboard through a neighborhood while hurling discs at hockey players. The other is a wild hang-gliding stage where ninjas can latch onto your glider and punch you in the face. Good luck getting that far with limited continues and no password. The cartoonish graphics are fair but the orchestrated musical score doesn't feel like it belongs in the same game. 3 Ninjas Kickback is fun despite of itself. I question many of its design decisions but the game gets over on sheer playability. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: normal
Our high score: 21,920
Publisher: JVC (1993)
It's hard to get excited about a pseudo-3D shooter like AH-3 Thunderstrike. Military simulations don't tend to age well, and Thunderstrike is no exception. The game straps you into a helicopter equipped with rapid-fire machine guns, guided missiles, and rockets. It's a lot like a first-person Desert Strike
(Genesis, 1992), only your strategy is generally limited to blowing up a set of primary targets. Ten selectable missions take you to locations over land and sea all over the world, but the terrain is always noticeably flat. Your helicopter's movements are sluggish, especially when adjusting your altitude. Occasionally you'll find yourself wanting to "back up" when you overshoot a target, but moving in reverse is so slow that you're better off coming around for another pass. Flying low to the ground makes your machine guns more effective, but it also makes you vulnerable to running into trees. That's okay, because like everything else, trees blow up when shot as if they were flammable tanks. Thunderstrike's visuals look muddy, making it hard to make out your targets, or even determine if they're destroyed or not! The plumes of smoke emanating from wreckage look more like stacks of gray rocks. What saves this antiquated shooter from the bottom of the barrel is its simple, arcade-style gameplay. Targets are locked onto automatically, surrounded by red brackets and labeled "primary" when applicable. Thunderstrike contains a few obligatory CGI cut-scenes, but their gee-whiz factor has long since faded. You can save your progress after each mission, and there's also a high score board. Hard on the eyes and lacking excitement, AH-3 Thunderstrike is one of the more forgettable entries in the Sega CD library. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 44600
Advanced Dungeons and Dragons: Eye of the Beholder
Publisher: Sega (1994)
This sophisticated first-person RPG is aimed towards patient, strategy-minded gamers. The remarkably deep gameplay is surprisingly faithful to the D&D board game. A wide range of characters are available to populate your four-person party, and you have total control of each character's inventory, down to what's in each hand. Besides fighting and exploration, you can rest, gain experience, pray for spells, scribe scrolls, turn undead, eat, pick locks, and even adjust the marching order. The attention to detail can be overwhelming at times, but hardcore D&D players will appreciate that. You begin your quest in the subterranean bowels of a city. The screen displays a first person view of the dungeon on the left, the characters on the right, and directional controls and miscellaneous information across the bottom. The dungeons consist mainly of narrow hallways, and they are populated with a nice variety of creatures including spiders, zombies, skeletons, golems, hellhounds, and the multi-eyed, globular Beholder. The graphics are about average, but the audio really stands out. Along with crystal clear sound effects, there's a thumping techno soundtrack that provides a shot of energy to the proceedings. The user interface takes some getting used to. You have to move a cursor arrow around the screen, selecting objects and action buttons. It takes some time to learn how to perform critical actions like attack, cast spells, or rearrange your party. It's extremely important to order your characters correctly, since only the front two characters can fight hand-to-hand. Unfortunately, you can't pause during battles (which are in real time), so you better know what you're doing before start trouble. The first time I charged into battle I accidentally rearranged the party's inventory several times while my characters were methodically slaughtered! I hate it when that happens. But after a rough start, the game gradually grew on me and I became somewhat proficient at it. The first few puzzles and monsters are relatively easy to build up your confidence. There's just one flaw that I couldn't seem to get over, and that's confusing dungeon design. It's bad enough that all the hallways look the same, but then they introduce the concept of "fake" walls and portals that send you to God-knows-where. Throw in a map that's basically just two dots on a huge grid and confusion is the result. That's too bad, because otherwise Eye of the Beholder is a fun, immersive experience that really does play like D&D. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1991)
Sega didn't do the Sega CD system any favors by releasing Afterburner 3 as one of its early titles. Not only is it unimpressive from a technical point of view, but it's arguably less playable
than Afterburner II for the regular Genesis. This first-person airplane shooter places you in an F-14 Tomcat as you fly through stages differentiated primarily by their color schemes. The scenery on the ground is mainly limited to rows of bushes, although in one particularly sad stage it looks like you're flying over fields of cinder blocks
. The air combat is extremely shallow. The idea is to position your crosshairs over enemy planes in the distance so you can "lock in" on them and unleash heat-seeking missiles. You then need to roll from side-to-side to avoid the onslaught of incoming missiles. This fire-and-forget style deprives the player of the satisfaction of ever seeing an enemy shot down. You can press A to engage your Vulcan cannon, but it's impossible to tell if it has any kind of effect. It's hard to tell what's going on in general thanks to the rough scaling and spluttering frame rate. The default cockpit view is lousy, and by the time you see a big pixelated bomb on the screen, it's too late to react. The trademark Afterburner soundtrack is clear enough, but since when does that justify a CD title? If you must play this, I recommend setting the difficulty level to easy and using all three continues. At the very least you'll make it to the advanced stages, which will confirm your suspicions that you really weren't missing much. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: Easy w/ continues
Our high score: 13,017,400
Publisher: Fun Games (1994)
Android Assault is basically just your standard side-scrolling 2D shooter. There isn't anything here that couldn't have been duplicated on a regular Genesis, with the exception of the music, which isn't so hot anyway. Heck, the soft jazz of the first stage is more suitable for a PGA Golf game! You'd think that at least the voices would be clear, but inexplicably, they sound terribly fuzzy! And what's up with the title screen? It says "Bari-Arm" instead of Android Assault. It looks like Sega changed the name without even bothering to fix the title screen. The graphics are just average, even with the multi-layered backgrounds. The scenery is mainly space ships or caves - nothing exceptional to catch your eye. In most stages you can scroll the screen up and down a little bit. Unfortunately, the scenery tends to repeat, as do the sub-bosses that reside in them. Most of your foes are weird, misshapen hunks of metal not unlike those in Lightning Force, and their slow missiles aren't hard to dodge as long as you avoid the crossfire. One thing Android Assault does have going for it is the weapons. There are four to choose from, and each alters the way you play the game. The orange "thunder cracker" gives you a wide spray, the green "burning wave" is powerful but straight, the blue "satellite bombs" deliver 360 degrees of destruction, and the red "chase cannon" shoots guided missiles. Each can be powered up several levels, and you'd be wise to stick with the same weapon once you build it up. Your ship looks pretty generic at first, but it turns into a flying mech warrior when your weapon is completely powered up. It looks cool, but your larger size makes you a bigger target. When you take a hit, you lose a level of weapon power instead of a life, which I think is a good idea. One key technique is the ability to "charge" your weapons. When you're not firing, a meter at the top of the screen displays a charge level, and the longer you wait, the more devastating the blast you can unleash. This is crucial
to beating the bosses, who otherwise take forever to defeat. Overall I'd say Android Assault is worth playing, even if it was a poor choice for a launch title. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1994)
What does a real Tasmanian devil look like? Where does the platypus live? What kind of sound does a bald eagle make? Who gives a [expletive]? This well-intentioned CD is not a game at all, but an interactive, multimedia animal encyclopedia, containing over 1300 photographs, 80 video clips, 2500 pages of text, and 2 hours of audio. Unfortunately, its clumsy user interface is awkward to navigate and the load times are terribly aggravating. The main screen is a map that lets you explore different habitats, such as an island, rain forest, desert, etc. There's also a search option that will present you with a list of all available material. BEWARE - it takes a good minute just to compile this list, and you can't abort it! You'll just have to sit there staring at a black screen. Actually, just about every bit of material requires at least a few seconds to load. The photos aren't bad looking, but the videos are small and grainy. Surprisingly, I tended to enjoy the sound clips the most. There's a wealth of textual information, most of which is interesting and easy to read. While I was under the impression that all the animals featured here were all from the San Diego Zoo, certain animals, like the gray whale, made me suspicious. There's some nice bonus material like animal stories and zoo information thrown in to round out the package. This CD has its fair share of bugs too, and I'm not talking about the ones that crawl around. A few video clips didn't work, and the whole program locks up on occasion. But since we now have modern software and the Internet, this disk isn't very useful anyway. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1992)
Batman Returns for the Sega CD is actually an enhanced version of the Genesis game, incorporating brand new audio, more elaborate cut-scenes, and impressive new driving stages. Is it worth the upgrade? Hells' yeah
! These driving stages are no joke! Viewing the action from behind your Batmobile, the road smoothly undulates as enemy vehicles scale in from the distance. As you pound them with machine gun fire and guided missiles, they catch on fire before exploding into huge fireballs (daddy like!). The gothic scenery is terrific, and the "winter wonderland" stage is ideal to play on a snowy night. Unfortunately, the driving stages nearly wear out their welcome early, as the first stage just drags on for entirely too long. The platform stages look and play identically to the Genesis version, except the audio has been completely redone. The sound effects are noticeably cleaner, and the surreal background music is much
better. I was surprised what a big difference it made! You also get a nifty new option menu where you can adjust the game type (full, driving, or platform), skill level, controller settings, and more. The cinematic cut-scenes employ a lot of pixelated scaling effects, but they're still a trip to watch. Batman Returns is truly a "stand out" game for the Sega CD. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1995)
Rating: Kids to Adults (animated violence)
Since the driving sequences were such a hit in Batman Returns
(Sega, 1992), Sega opted to make Batman and Robin nothing but
driving. As you weave the Batmobile through traffic and engage your turbo boost, it almost feels like an early version of Burnout
(GameCube, 2002). The non-stop driving wears thin in a hurry though, and the controls are not up to the task. Steering is imprecise, and colliding with any vehicle sends you bouncing around like a pinball. When trailing certain vehicles, villains will drop bouncing objects that behave like heat-seeking missiles! One stage places you in a "virtual reality" world, but there are far too many hazards to overcome. You'll be wishing Sega had incorporated some side-scrolling action just to break up the monotony. Still, Batman and Robin's graphics and animation are pretty impressive for a 16-bit system, and the adrenaline-pumping music is terrific. Many popular villains make appearances, including Poison Ivy, the Joker, and the Riddler. Lengthy, full-screen cut-scenes divide the stages, and although somewhat grainy they're still fun to watch. The final stage is actually a flying sequence that's visually pleasing but not satisfying to play. Come to think of it, that sentiment holds true for pretty much the entire game! © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Older Games (2003)
First developed in 1994, Battle Frenzy went unreleased until Older Games recently picked up the rights. It's an interesting title, but to fully appreciate it you have to understand its historical context. The breakthrough PC hit Doom spawned all sorts of first-person shooters in the early 1990's. The Sega Genesis wasn't capable of a decent first-person shooter, but the Sega CD had the potential thanks to its built-in rotation and scaling capabilities. Battle Frenzy reveals the limitations of the Sega CD system, but it's still a remarkable game. The object is to destroy all the reactors in a space ship infested with aliens and robots. Scattered throughout its rooms are keys, weapons, mines, and exploding barrels. You'll encounter intimidating alien robots that look like a cross between terminators and demons from hell. I love how they growl as you approach, and they also disintegrate nicely when you pump lead into them. The levels are completely flat and relatively short, and an on-screen auto-map makes it easy to determine your position (impressive). The main faults with Battle Frenzy are its abysmal frame-rate and touchy controls, which actually go hand-in-hand. There's no strafing (ugh!), and it's far too easy to get caught up on corners while navigating narrow corridors. Aiming is problematic, but fortunately your weapons are so powerful that simply spraying usually does the job. The control issue is magnified however when you blow up the reactor at the end of each stage, because then you must race back to the starting point before a countdown expires. For reasons beyond my comprehension, control becomes nearly unmanageable at this point - and just when you need it most! Other issues include the presence of annoying mines and the fact that doors don't look much different than walls. On the bright side, there's a two-player split-screen mode that's surprisingly good! Although it's labeled "Versus" on the menu, it's more cooperative since you can't shoot your partner. I was pleasantly surprised to see the split-screen mode run faster
than the normal one, making it an exception to the rule. Another positive aspect is the music, which effectively alternates between high-energy techno and dark, menacing tones. Sega CD fans and classic game collectors will probably find Battle Frenzy to be an interesting relic, but I doubt casual gamers will appreciate it. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Bill Walsh College Football
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1993)
This college pigskin contest is identical to the Genesis version, but there are a few extra bells and whistles. The biggest improvement has got to be the enhanced crowd noise. It sounds incredibly lifelike, especially compared to the vomit-inducing noise heard on the Genesis version. The music is also drastically improved. According to the box, this CD contains "enhanced graphics throughout", but you'd have to be pretty observant to notice. Another bonus feature is a series of Bill Walsh video clips, in which he describes just about every aspect of the college game, but only die-hards will be able to sit through these. One disappointment is that despite the higher capacity of a CD, there are still only 48 teams available. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Bignet (1992)
One of the first games available for the Sega CD, Blackhole Assault generated little fanfare - and for good reason. Its title sounds like a bad adult film, and its gameplay is about as trashy. A background story is conveyed through choppy animated cut scenes that aren't any better than what you've seen on the Genesis, only longer. The overdramatic introduction features a pissed-off captain with bright red skin. Why is his skin that color? Is sunburn a common problem in 2160? After the lengthy build-up, you finally get to see what this game is really all about: Robot fighting! That's right, Blackhole Assault is nothing more than a one-on-one fighter with the most boring cast of characters EVER! There are eight generic machines in all, and thanks to the Sega CD's limited color palette, most are either green or purple! It's actually hard to tell them apart during battle. The box claims "High-intensity, photo-realistic CD graphics" but I couldn't disagree more. Many of the dull backgrounds feature nothing more than barren planet surfaces! And the gameplay is dreadful. The moves are just standard kick/punch/crouch combinations and the controls are NOT what I would call responsive. I can usually find at least one redeeming quality in any game, but I can't think of ANY reason to ever pull Blackhole Assault off the shelf. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1994)
This unusual title gives new meaning to the mantra "be the ball". Bouncers is played by two basketball-shaped characters with eyes, feet and hands. There's not much to this game, and I'm really not sure how it qualified as a CD title. Each contest is played on a court one screen in size, with a net on each side and colorful scenery in the background. Scoring is not as easy as you might expect. You can jump, but only about halfway up to the basket. In order to get sufficient air, you'll need to vault yourself off of the other player
. It's harder than it sounds because the other ball is constantly moving, trying to do the same thing to you. It's a novel concept, but it doesn't work very well at all. The awkward, unresponsive controls don't help matters. Heck, most of the time you end up inadvertently knocking the other ball
into the hoop. It's a shame the controls suck, because Bouncer's graphics are nice and the music isn't bad either. There are a few power-ups, but for every one that helps you, there's another that gives you lead feet. There are several zany locales to choose from, including a jungle, a haunted house, stormy ruins, and an underwater shipwreck. I was hoping Bouncers could deliver on its bizarre premise, but it's practically unplayable. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Bram Stoker's Dracula
Publisher: Sony (1993)
If you own a Sega CD you really owe it to yourself to track down a copy of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Instead of a glorified version of the Genesis game, this actually does a good job of showing off the CD technology. The stages feature three dimensional
scenery that actually rotates
as you walk through it. It's the most amazing effect I've seen on the system, elevating an otherwise mediocre title to noteworthy status. The game conveys atmosphere, and the spine-tingling sounds and orchestrated soundtrack make the action feel epic in scale. It's a shame the gameplay is so disappointing. Playing as a digitized Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves) you creep through forests, graveyards, and castles while unleashing your martial arts fury on bats, squirrels, and spiders. These creatures wouldn't be a problem if they didn't converge from all directions (gah!)
. And who are these guys who keep clunking me over the head with a chalice? The jumping controls are lacking, and I have no idea how to get past those bear traps without sustaining damage. Eventually you encounter vomiting zombies and winged demons, but they look cartoonish next to the digitized sceney. The control scheme is confusing and there's some lag to your punches and kicks. When you're trying to fight a monster while getting pelted by tiny creatures, it feels overwhelming. And it's just plain dumb when you "punch" ethereal ghosts and it makes a ker-pow
sound. In one stage you walk through a library with books flying all over the place, and since you can't run, it's a nightmare. Fortunately you get five lives along with three continues. Sandwiching the stages are full-screen cut-scenes from the film, but they look horribly grainy, have no dialogue, and cannot be skipped. That said, the game is challenging and worth pulling out around Halloween. Despites its flaws I still consider Bram Stoker's Dracula a showcase title for the Sega CD. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 10,770
Publisher: Good Deal Games (2001)
You know, even if the game isn't very good, it's always a thrill to play a new
game for a classic system. Formerly a shelved 1994 Sony project, Bug Blasters is no prize, but you have to appreciate Good Deal Games for at least allowing this one to see the light of day. As the story begins, LA has been overrun by giant bugs, and a band of Ghostbusters-wannabes called the Exterminators are out to save the city. Not only do these guys look and act like the Ghostbusters, but even their theme song sounds the same! You have to wonder if Sony held back on this for fear of copyright infringement. The acting is as bad as you would expect, and the dialogue can be hard to stomach at times. But Bug Blasters does have a few things going for it. The video is grainy but full screen (!), and there is virtually no
load time. Bug Blasters uses the same type of "aim and shoot" gameplay as Tomcat Alley, but with less success. There are often dozens of bugs flying around the screen, but the collision detection is weak and shooting one requires as much luck as skill. I did notice that you can tap the shoot button quickly to increase your chances of a hit. Also like Tomcat Alley, it's the pyrotechnics that really steal the show. After shooting each bug, you get to see a nice clip of the thing blowing up. Secondary weapons like flares and grenades are available, but you probably won't need them. The gameplay is pretty simplistic, although at times you'll want to be careful not to shoot another member of your team. One thing that really bothered me was that no matter how many bugs you kill, the number of insects flying around the screen is always the same. At least there are some large "claymation" bosses to add some variety. Bug Blasters is not a great game, but collectors should certainly take notice. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Good Deal Games (2006)
I've become quite the skeptic when it comes to old, previously unreleased games being resuscitated years later. My first question usually is, "what's wrong with it?" If you're looking for a top-of-the-line fighter like Street Fighter 2 or Mortal Kombat, Burning Fists is probably not for you. However, if you're a 2D fighter nut who with an appreciation for the old school, this may be worth checking out. Burning Fists is anything but original. Except for a few novel attacks (like elbow drops and rolling kicks), it simply recycles ideas from other, better 2D fighters. It plays fairly well however, and at the very least offers an exceptional soundtrack and a few interesting stages. Most of the fighters are blatant Street Fighter rip-offs, with look-alikes for Ryu, Chun-Li, Guile, Balrog, and Blanka. Blanka's clone not only hails from South America, but even has the same green skin (c'mon now!). The single original character is an armored warrior from Kenya who loves to shake his long wiggly stick. The eight stage backdrops are a mixed bag, but Chile is undeniably beautiful with its looming pyramids and purple sunset. The Daytona USA stage looks dull, but the sound of race cars whizzing by is pretty amazing. Burning Fist's graphics are about on par with Eternal Champions, and a notch or two below Street Fighter 2. The animation is smooth enough, but a lot of the moves look "unnatural" at best. The collision detection is erratic at times, and the vocal effects are redundant. You can't adjust the best-out-of-five match configuration, and the CPU opponent isn't very sharp. The highlight of the game is its killer soundtrack. All of the songs are well produced, and a few are simply outstanding. I also need to mention a few technical landmines you'll want to be aware of. Do not
press the Start button during a fight, or you may find yourself trapped
in the pause mode from hell. In addition, the game froze when I tried to play it on my 32X-equpped front-loading Sega CD system. Despite its uneven quality however, I still enjoyed Burning Fists. It's easy to play, and takes you back to a time when 2D fighters were king. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Chuck Rock II: Son of Chuck
Publisher: Core (1993)
Like so many Genesis titles ported to the Sega CD, this one contains the exact same gameplay only with a cartoon intro and enhanced audio. The intro is rendered with "digital cell animation" and it looks pretty good for the Sega CD. The colors are vibrant and the animation fills the entire screen. This sequence explains some background information about Chuck's arch-enemy "Brick Jagger", and we also learn that Chuck's wife has an amazing rack!
Looks like someone finally found a worthwhile use for FMV! Son of Chuck provides a new "hard" difficulty option, probably to attract gamers who already mastered the Genesis version. The star of the game is a club-swinging infant who fights wacky cavemen, dinosaurs, monkeys, crabs, and sharks. One of the more interesting elements is your ability to ride on animals, including an ostrich. Son of Chuck's soundtrack was unremarkable on the Genesis, but this one features clear stereo sound with deep bass. Its diverse musical style ranges from cheesy synths to jazzy horns to festive steel drum music. Many sound effects have been digitized, and this is most noticeable when you hear the alligators "burp" in the water stage. Chuck Rock II may not be a substantial upgrade from the original, but it does represent a modest improvement. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: normal
Our high score: 54450
Publisher: Good Deal Games (2002)
Good Deal Games (GDG) has been a valuable proponent of retro-gaming for years, resurrecting several unreleased titles for classic consoles like the Sega CD or Philips CDi. Since no good deed goes unpunished, I summarily trashed
GDG's first two titles, Bug Blasters and Star Strike for the Sega CD. I feel pretty bad about that, so it's a relief that I can give Good Deal's latest game, Citizen X, a passing grade. While the documentation admits this is an "unfinished" game, if not for a few subtle details you'd never know. Citizen X is mainly a standard side-scroller with full motion video (FMV) clips interspersed with the action. The small clips (50% of the screen in size) effectively establish the storyline and introduce new villains, but have no real bearing on the gameplay. The acting is bad and the script is worse, but that's all part of the fun. Playing as a dorky-looking guy in red tennis shoes, you collect items and use them to subdue terrorists that have made the sewers into their headquarters. The bad guys range from bald musclemen to martial arts experts to demented clowns. Your fighting abilities are limited to a simple punch, but simply running past these thugs is usually your best bet. The graphics are grainy and look like they were drawn with a crayon, and the repetitive sewer screens would be intolerable if not for the useful map. Let's face it: the idea of running around sewer mazes is not very enticing to most gamers who survived the 90's. At least some of the animations are interesting, like the muscleman fighting (or is he eating?) a sewer rat, or the maniac clown performing pantomime. The sound effects are somewhat muffled, but the cheesy music really grew on me. The controls are decent, but it's hard to use the dynamite without blowing yourself up. Only two minor things reveal Citizen X to be unfinished. At one point, a villain cannot enter a room, but you can see him flickering on the edge of the screen. Also, in some of the FMV there are short scenes missing (indicated by "scene missing" text). But neither of these will detract from your enjoyment of the game. There's nothing outstanding here, but the gameplay is unexplainably addictive. Citizen X is typical of the early-90s video games that tried to incorporate cheesy FMV with standard platform action, and Sega CD fans will love it. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 3750
Publisher: Sony (1993)
Most of its stages are cut-and-pasted from the Genesis cartridge, but CD-quality music, film clips, and a "radical" 3D snowboarding stage elevates this Sega CD edition above the rest. Cliffhanger kicks off with some extremely grainy film clips that only consume about half of the screen. The video might look rough but it's a step up from comic-book panels of the other versions (on second thought, maybe not). There's about 20 minutes of movie footage in the entire game. Cliffhanger is a side-scrolling beat-em-up with platform-jumping and wall-climbing challenges sprinkled in. You play a mountain climber named Gabe who must defeat the evil Qualen and his army of henchmen on snowy mountain peaks. I find it amusing how the environments were so rocky in the movie yet are perfectly flat in this game. The fighting action is faster and more responsive than the SNES version, which is good. The stages are lifted directly from the Genesis with the exception of a new snowboarding avalanche sequence. This impressive stage uses scaling sprites to deliver pseudo-3D thrills - not unlike the driving scenes in Batman Returns
(Sega CD, 1992). As you steer Gabe on a snowboard down a narrow path strewn with trees and rocks, a relentless avalanche encroaches from behind. Hearing the roar of rushing snow is unsettling, and when the snow starts building around your ankles, it's downright alarming.
Unfortunately, this stage is so insanely long you practically need to memorize the entire course
to survive. A checkpoint would have been nice. It's frustrating to breeze through the fights only to piss away all your lives on that single stage. Cliffhanger's audio is a definite improvement over the Genesis version. The groans and grunts sound clear and the orchestrated soundtrack reminds me of Raiders of the Lost Ark. My friend Eric remarked that he actually prefers the synthesized Genesis music because it "makes him feel like he's playing a video game." That's an interesting point of view. Overall Cliffhanger on the Sega CD is a pretty neat adaptation of the film, offering a richer, more immersive experience than the other versions. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 7 lives
Our high score: 58500
Publisher: Sega (1992)
A "laserdisc" style game in the tradition of Dragon's Lair, Cobra Command lets you pilot an attack helicopter on a series of action-packed missions. Your flight path is completely preordained, although when prompted you'll need to hold the directional pad in order to avoid collisions. Enemy planes, helicopters and tanks emerge from the scenery, and you must quickly aim your crosshairs to blast them. While some gamers may scoff at Cobra Command's linear gameplay and semi-interactive controls, classic game enthusiasts will appreciate this game for what it is (and what it's trying to be). The graphics are always interesting and sometimes exhilarating as you buzz New York skyscrapers, the Grand Canyon, and Easter Island. There are ten stages in all, but they're pretty short and play exactly the same each time. I enjoyed playing Cobra Command the first few times, but clearly its replay value is limited. There are continues but no password feature, so you'll always need to play through the early stages. The graphics and animation are good for the Sega CD, but the rudimentary animation reminded me of an old Speed Racer cartoon. Still, the varied locales and non-stop action kept me forging ahead. The audio is pretty weak, with scratchy voice samples that are hard to decipher. Cobra Command is okay as long as you don't mind full-motion video games. Most casuals gamers probably won't "get it", but die-hard Sega CD fans should find it worthwhile. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Digital Pictures (1994)
Rating: Mature (realistic violence)
An artifact of a strange time, Corpse Killer is a full-motion video (FMV) shooter with light-gun support. The video area consumes roughly half of the screen and the quality is marginal. The opening scene establishes the first-person perspective as you parachute onto a zombie-infested tropical island and get stuck in a tree. You know you're in for a low budget affair when the first zombie has gobs of gray makeup on his face but nothing on his hands
. You immediately team up with a Rastafarian named Winston and a blonde reporter named Julie. Winston is a cool cat but Julie was clearly not hired for her acting ability. Her lines incorporate awkward sexual innuendos like "Cool tool - I bet you know how to... turn it on.
" As you cruise around the island (via grainy cut scenes) your goal is to rescue fellow soldiers captured by a diabolical scientist. I enjoyed the tropical scenery coupled with the dark voodoo imagery. The bongo drums set the mood as you venture into areas like a graveyard, a swamp, and a beach covered with shipwrecks. The shooting action however leaves much to be desired. As a camera slowly pans the scenery, digitized zombies float toward you. They look like poorly-paid extras, and when shot they shout "doh!
" like Homer Simpson. The game supports the Menacer light gun, but the accuracy is horrible
. You're better off dragging a crosshair around the screen with a normal controller. At least then you can unleash a rapid-fire torrent of bullets. Corpse Killer is shallow but I discovered some subtle strategy. You'll want to focus on the monsters on the right side of the screen, as the leftmost ones tend to scroll off before they can reach you. By shooting the flashing "shadow figures" you can wipe out everything on the screen. The video intermissions are the highlight of the game, and Vincent Shiavelli deserves an Oscar for his mad-voodoo-scientist role. The scenes are fun to watch once or twice, but after that you'll be happy to skip them. A "data pod" screen allows you to save your progress and watch additional video clips. A map lets you select missions, but there's not much variety. Corpse Killer is not a good game by any stretch of the imagination, but if you're fascinated by FMV games, this is an interesting relic. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 1,225,272
Save mechanism: Backup RAM
Publisher: Warner Bros. (1995)
Some regard it as a cheesy futuristic action flick, but Demolition Man (a film starring Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes) was a potent combination of action and humor. Watching it recently I was surprised how well it predicted futuristic technology (including self-driving cars). The Genesis version of this game was great so I expected big things from its CD cousin. What I discovered was the identical game except for some grainy cut-scenes (from the film), load screens, and slightly enhanced audio. The video only consumes a small portion of the screen and falls well below VHS tape quality. Once the action kicked in I thought the graphics looked slightly touched up but frankly that may have been a figment of my imagination. The soundtrack is clearer than the Genesis but not necessarily better. The gameplay delivers action-packed run-and-gun action with plenty of gratuitous explosions that rock the screen. In addition to side-scrolling action, occasional overhead stages provide a nice change of pace. Unfortunately the programming seems a little sloppy. The music cuts out periodically and the game will freeze up on occasion (especially if you pause). Demolition Man for the Sega CD is a lot like so many other CD adaptations. Instead of the technology elevating the quality of play, it hampers it. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 42,800
Publisher: Sega (1993)
Double Switch is Night Trap for the people who want a REAL challenge. I didn't get far in this game, but it wasn't for lack of effort! Double Switch is so tough that it's almost unfair. Here's the scenario. You are in control of cameras and traps in a building containing seven large rooms. Your job is to trap bad guys who are terrorizing the residents. You also need to trap the handyman who's messing things up. Did I mention you need to locate codes on boxes in each room? And oh yeah - if you let a bad guy flip the power switch in the basement, it's game over. I'm not kidding, and it IS as tough as it sounds. You must tune into certain rooms at certain times, and with so much concurrent activity going on, it's impossible to keep up. You have to constantly flip between rooms, preventing you from truly enjoying the bad acting and cheesy dialogue. You really have to memorize the sequence of events in order to be in the right place at the right time. But unlike Night Trap, trapping bad guys isn't easy. Yes, you can see a map of the trap locations, but the camera views change, and it's tough to tell what part of the room you're looking at. On a positive note, the acting is a step up from Night Trap, featuring celebrities such as Debra Harry (of Blondie) and Corey Haim (of The Lost Boys). There are plenty of babes in distress, and there's even an upbeat music number. It's a shame that the difficulty is so excessive. And who's the marketing wizard who came up with the boring title and lame cover illustration? © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1993)
You'd expect a CD game based on a vampire-infested 1899 London to be pretty exciting, but Dracula Unleashed is basically a slow, plodding mystery. It's played by moving a cursor around the screen and clicking on objects or icons. The idea is to collect various items and take them to the right places at the specific times, causing the storyline to unfold in the form of live-action video sequences. Unfortunately, if you miss a key event, your game will end abruptly. Fortunately you can save at any time. While Dracula Unleashed sometimes provides clues to keep you on track, the gameplay tends to be more "trial and error" than true detective work. The story isn't very suspenseful or compelling, and there's virtually no payoff until you get three-quarters through the game. The visuals consist of grainy video clips and well-drawn illustrations. I'd have to admit that the acting is respectable for a CD game, and the characters are likeable enough. I didn't recognize any actors in the cast. The downtown scenery is convincing except for the graveyard which looks like some dirt in front of a stone wall - lame! If they would have used an actual, decrepit old graveyard, it would have raised the game's grade at least by one letter. Some of the special effects, such as the floating bodies, are very well done, but the flashing eyes look terribly fake. Dracula looks a lot like Dracula from the 1992 film, but you only see him near the end of the game. There's some gore, but the Sega CD's trademark pixelation prevents it from being particularly explicit. The sound effects are terrific, especially when you ride in the carriage, and the music is well orchestrated and creepy. The user interface could be more streamlined, but it's acceptable once you learn a few shortcuts. Dracula Unleashed is a good-looking game, but only patient gamers will be able to deal with its slow pace. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 7478
Publisher: Readysoft (1993)
I like the Sega CD system - really, I do. But after playing Dragon's Lair on systems like the Jaguar CD, CD-I, and 3DO, it's pretty hard to bear it on the Sega CD. The system's color palette is far too meager for the cartoon quality graphics, and as a result the full-screen video is awfully grainy (it burns!) But once you get your eyes adjusted to the marginal video quality, you'll find a Dragon's Lair game that's every bit as good as the other versions - if not better. The introductory video clips are great and put me back in the arcades of 20 years ago (boy, has it been that long?). The controls are pretty forgiving, allowing you to enter a few extra incorrect commands without dying. I noticed that all the death scenes are intact, which is good considering they tend to be abbreviated in other versions. And it's always cool to see our hero disintegrate into bones after using your last life. There are unlimited continues, but they do set you back a few rooms. I found it interesting that the instruction manual includes instructions for literally EVERY ROOM. All in all, Dragon's Lair on the Sega CD is quite decent - as long as you haven't played it on any other systems. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
ESPN National Hockey Night
Publisher: Sony (1994)
This game opens with about five or six intro screens that will make you wish CD technology had never been invented. Once it finally begins ESPN National Hockey Night looks just like the Genesis version, only with gratuitous video clips. Having Bill Clement introduce the match-ups via extra-grainy full-motion video (FMV) is actually a step down
from his digitized Genesis appearance. On the ice the action is slightly better than the Genesis. Perhaps it's my imagination, but I feel like the controls are tighter and my teammates more aggressive. Passing and checking are still problematic but I enjoy the player animations and uptempo pace. One aspect that far surpasses the Genesis is the audio. You wouldn't think realistic crowd noise would be a big deal, but it sounds amazing!
If you crank up the stereo it really envelops you. Likewise the sound of the puck click-clacking off the boards is great. It's a shame the audio briefly cuts out before each face-off. Another interesting CD-related feature is how the game will abruptly stop in its tracks - as if it crashed or something. Nope, it's just loading a video clip
of an actual hockey play meant to highlight a devastating check or spectacular glove save. It's not very convincing though, especially since the teams in the video are different from the ones playing!
Did they think we wouldn't notice? Well, considering how grainy the footage is, maybe they were right. There's some novelty value there, but it gets old having to wait ten seconds for a three-second clip to load. Oh well, at least you can adjust the frequency. You'd think the FMV technology might be used for elaborate intermission reports, but no such luck. There are some missed opportunities here, but I think ESPN Hockey Night still manages to edge out the Genesis version, if just barely. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
ESPN Sunday Night Football
Publisher: Sony (1993)
ESPN had the right idea with this game, trying to make it look as close as possible to an actual ESPN Sunday Night telecast. The results are mixed, but I'll give them credit for trying. Each contest begins with an awesome full motion video introduction highlighting the home team, and if the graphics don't get you excited, the familiar music will. Manning the Sportscenter booth, Chris Berman welcomes you to the game and comments briefly about each team. But once the action begins, the illusion of watching a televised game wears off, and all you're left with is a second-rate Madden. The players are small and tend to flicker, and the crowd looks like static! The audio is decidedly un-TV-like, consisting of fuzzy crowd noise and precious few voice comments. The control scheme takes some getting used to, and the passing isn't nearly as precise as Madden. That's not to say the game isn't playable; it's just a bit of a letdown after a big buildup. Once you reach halftime, it's back to the booth with Chris Berman, and this time you're treated to video highlights of "other games in progress". This is the kind of stuff I love - too bad they didn't include any cheerleader clips. Overall ESPN Football is just an average game, but I give it extra credit for presentation. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Ecco The Dolphin
Publisher: Sega (1993)
Ecco is a non-violent adventure where you solve puzzles and ultimately save the world (naturally) using a dolphin. In case it looks awfully familiar to you, that's probably because it's the exact same game as the Genesis version, only with enhanced audio and some full motion video clips. Okay, I'll admit that the new age background music is relaxing and suits the game perfectly. But then again, the music in the Genesis version wasn't bad either. Overall, it's difficult to justify the upgrade considering this CD version has loading periods that you don't have to put up with on the Genesis. It's still a fine game, but it doesn't appear that Sega made much of an effort here. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Eternal Champions: Challenge From The Dark Side
Publisher: Sega (1995)
Rating: Mature (animated violence, animated blood and gore)
With tighter gameplay, cleaner graphics, and a full suite of modes, Challenge From the Dark Side is a substantial step up from the Genesis version of Eternal Champions. The obligatory video intro depicts how each of the game's fighters originally met their demise. As one of my friends remarked, "this has more back-story than the Bible!
" Once you begin fighting the differences are immediately noticeable. The graphics are much sharper, the animation is more fluid, and the hits sound crisp. The revamped soundtrack is stronger, with one song that actually sounds like New Order. The nine-man roster is joined by four new fighters including Ramses the pharaoh, Raven the Voodoo priestess, Dawson the cowboy, and a female pirate named Riptide. The backgrounds are less grainy and more colorful. Interesting backdrops include a ship on stormy seas, a high-speed mine-cart ride, and a skull-shaped cave in the jungle. The overhauled audio boasts clear voices and sound effects. For the solo player there's a lot more depth, although that character selection screen looks pretty sorry. Three skill levels are available and you can participate in a wide range of tournament variations. If Eternal Champions has a weakness, it's the fact that it's still Eternal Champions, saddled with the same flawed engine. Expect fishy collision detection and difficult-to-perform special moves that deal minimal damage. Matches run too long and there are too many annoying "disappear" moves. Sometimes you'll accidentally perform a taunt, leaving yourself open to attack. The defensive-minded CPU turns every contest into a war of attrition. Eternal Champions is known for its fatalities and this is one area where the game truly shines. There are literally dozens of gory death animations, and they are a joy to behold! The only thing more satisfying than beating the crap out of a friend is watching him get devoured by a great white shark afterward! Eternal Champions isn't a top-tier fighter, but I feel like it reached its potential on the Sega CD. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
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