The game opens with six (six!) driving stages. Viewing the action from behind your Batmobile, the road smoothly undulates as enemy vehicles scale in from the distance. The gothic, industrial scenery is terrific, offering a "winter wonderland" vibe ideal for a snowy night. Despite the awkward controls it's fun to fire hockey pucks and guided missiles at motorcycles, cars, and trucks. The destruction is satisfying to behold, with motorcycles going up in flames before exploding.
That firetruck boss however is way over the top. Lighting it up with missiles isn't enough - you have to knock clowns off of its ladders while avoiding its massive flamethrower. In my experience you'll want to ram the ladders before falling back to avoid the flames. As if these stages weren't hard enough, they are also timed, so even when I do survive there's usually only a few seconds to spare.
The platforming portions of the game look and play identical to the Genesis, except the audio has been completely redone. The sound effects are noticeably cleaner and the surreal background music is arguably better. The question is, why didn't they use the award-winning score from the actual film? Isn't that what movie licenses are for?
It's fun to grapple between building ledges while pummeling the [expletive] out of those pesky clowns. It may not be the smoothest or sharpest platformer, but the action is varied and the gritty graphics add to the dark atmosphere. Batman Returns packs a lot of replay value into an epic adventure no other system can claim. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
Battle Frenzy exposes 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 primary 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.
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.
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.
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.
The game doesn't make a good first impression due to some of the worst FMV ever produced. Some Sega CD titles attempt to hide the system's meager color palette by limiting the video to a small window, or presenting it in black and white. Here the movie footage is presented full-screen with an alarming amount of pixelation and unsightly artifacts. It's hard to watch and even the audio is rough.
The game itself looks pretty amazing as John Harker (played by Keanu Reeves) trudges through the wilderness, graveyards, and castle chambers. Shadowy textures, spine-tingling sounds, and an ominous musical score convey an eerie, ominous atmosphere.
Apparently schooled in the martial arts, Harker unleashes his kung-fu fury upon... bats, rats, and spiders? You'd expect to deal with small pests like that in the early stages, but they never really let up! They would be easy to dispatch if they didn't tend to converge from all directions. Once one gets a hold of you they all tend to latch on, chipping away at your precious life bar. Your high kick is your best option, even if it looks like you're trying out for the Rocketts.
The monsters you encounter are pretty strange. Who is this tall dude who keeps clunking me over the head with a chalice? Stop that!! Then there are vomiting zombies that are easy to dispatch but tough to get within kicking distance. And what's the deal with defeating ethereal spirits with karate kicks? In doesn't make sense, especially when accompanied by that ker-pow sound.
Bram Stoker's Dracula feels cobbled together, with frequent audio/visual glitches. That said, I'm willing to cut this game a little slack because it's a legitimate CD title. It's fun to make steady progress and certain stages even branch at points. Though clearly flawed, Dracula is still a showcase title for the Sega CD. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.
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.
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 sidestep. 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-equipped 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.
Screen shots courtesy of Shinforce
Sega CD Universe