Publisher: Enix (1991)
I was expecting the typical side-scrolling swordplay from Actraiser, but I got more - a lot more.
Actraiser complements the solid platform action with a heavy dose of Sim City-style strategy. The two parts of the game couldn't be more different, yet are nicely intertwined and engrossing to play. You assume the role of a small cherub aiding the people of six lands to rid themselves of monsters and develop their cities. You view their world from an overhead perspective, using menu icons to communicate with the people. The interface takes a while to get comfortable with, but it's worth the effort. To help cultivate the land, you perform "miracles" in the form of rain, lightning, and earthquakes. It's not always clear what spells are effective where, so you'll need to experiment. Watching the cities flourish is satisfying, but shooting the flying demons which terrorize each city (and constantly respawn) can be seriously repetitive. The key is to "seal off" their lairs as soon as possible. As their society develops, the people present offerings that serve as power-ups. Occasionally you become a fierce warrior embarking on impressive side-scrolling levels. It's the standard hack-n-slash formula, but the richness of the scenery and imaginative creature designs puts this a cut above the rest. Some of the mythology-inspired monsters include minotaurs, centaurs, walking trees, and flying demons. As an indication of the quality, I found the desert level to be very similar to the Tatooine stage in Super Star Wars
(SNES, 1992). Actraiser's difficulty is very fair, and you can save your progress via battery back-up at any time. There's an elegant classical musical score reminiscent of Zelda that plays throughout the game. Actraiser is one of those rare titles that skillfully intermingles two styles of play into one superb package. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Battery
Publisher: Enix (1993)
Unlike the first Actraiser which had Sim-City elements, this sequel is pure hack-n-slash action all the way through. Oh sure, there's an overhead map with plenty of text to page through, but it's just a glorified stage select. Navigating the map is confusing until you realize that the small stone circles are where the stages are accessed. Like its predecessor, Actraiser 2 boasts outstanding graphics and a sweeping orchestrated musical score. I can't emphasize enough the level of detail in these graphics, as each stage looks like a work of art. Locations include a jungle, a graveyard full of bones, waterfalls, and a torch-lit dungeon. You control a winged warrior fighting against a myriad of creatures. Some of these creatures are huge, and each has its own unique characteristics. The sword controls are excellent, allowing you to swing in any direction. The flying controls on the other hand, are terrible
. A clumsy control scheme lets you to dive, float, or glide sideways. It's hard to grasp and the game gives you no room for error. In fact it's often impossible to clear a gap without incurring some degree of damage. Worse yet, gliding sideways causes you to stumble forward
upon landing! I might have cut the controls a little slack if the stages weren't so freakin' hard!
I must have played that jungle stage (with the poisonous river) 25 times and never beat it. Enemies can absorb several hits and trying to perch on narrow ledges is an exercise in frustration. In many cases, there's no indication you're taking damage. The first boss stage appears to have bushy grass on each side of the screen, and only after many deaths did I realize those were green thorns!
Even when using the Game Genie this game kicked my ass! It's as though the developer set out to create the most difficult side-scroller in history - and succeeded!
Actraiser 2 is one of a kind. I can't quite recall playing a game that looked so good but played so bad. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Addams Family Values
Publisher: Ocean (1994)
Addams Family Values isn't anything to write home about, but at least it makes an effort to capture the spirit of the film, which is more than I can say for the first game. Playing as Uncle Fester, you explore forests, gardens, swamps, and dungeons on your quest to find Baby Pubert. You begin in a misty graveyard, and the enticing gothic visuals convey a nice Halloween vibe. The production values are terrific; even the menu screens sport eye-catching details and animations. The impressive audio delivers a brooding musical score and jarring sound effects. After cranking up my stereo, the sound of crashing thunder made me jump out of my chair!
Family Values is an overhead adventure in the spirit of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past
(SNES, 1992). As you move between contiguous screens you'll collect items and enter perilous underground dungeons loaded with traps, puzzles, and prowling creatures. Other characters from the films wander the stages to offer clues, and their dialogue nicely conveys the demented humor of the film. Fester's default weapon is lightning that shoots from his fingers, which is narrow but effective. The problem is, it loses range as you take damage, making it progressively harder (and increasingly frustrating) to defend yourself. Enemies include skeletons, trolls, and ravenous plants, but mostly irritating small creatures like floating eyeballs and hopping mushrooms. Since you can't aim with precision, these pesky creatures are annoyingly hard to hit, and Fester is a huge target for them. The overhead view is slightly tilted, so stone pillars and trees tend to obstruct your vision. It's not uncommon to incur damage from spikes or enemies totally hidden from sight! The puzzles don't make a lot of sense, so pressing a button might open a gate in another area. The graveyard is well designed, but the swamp is just a boring maze of bogs. After using one of your unlimited continues, you're tossed back in the fray with a single ounce
of life! That's frustrating - especially when you subsequently keel over after being touched by a moving bush (yes - a freakin' bush
). There's a password feature, but you'll need to make a lot of progress to be issued one. I wanted to like Addams Family Values with its macabre atmosphere and Zelda-style gameplay, but I found it to be more aggravating than enjoyable. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Password
Addams Family, The
Publisher: Ocean (1992)
This SNES edition of Addams Family feels like a second-rate Super Mario knockoff with Gomez substituted for Mario. You'll hop on moving platforms, pounce on enemies, hit switches, and avoid constant hazards. The cartoonish graphics are clean but minimal, and if not for the huge character portraits lining the walls you might forget you were even playing
an Addams Family game! The selectable stages are a series of rooms including a conservatory, kitchen, and trap-laden "game room." Would you believe they even managed to incorporate an obligatory ice stage?
Your adversaries are a weird hodgepodge of random creatures. The ghosts, bats, spiders, mummies, and skulls makes sense, but why are there jack-rabbits
hopping all over the place? Are those Jawas
in the graveyard? Did I just see a bird from Joust??
This game suffers from an identity crisis! Its gameplay mirrors Super Mario to an alarming degree. Power-ups let you fire bouncing balls or hover in the air. Others provide sparkly invincibility. The spiked balls on chains and oversized cannons look as if they were imported directly from Bowser's castle. The collision detection is forgiving, but sometimes it's hard to tell if you're dealing damage or taking it. You get plenty of lives but minimal health, so expect a lot of one-hit deaths. I do like the audio, especially the reverberation effects in the caves. Failing to capture the spirit of the movie, Addams Family feels like a shallow platformer with a movie license slapped on top. If you want something fun and inventive, stick with the Turbo Duo version. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 13,630
Adventures of Batman and Robin, The
Publisher: Konami (1994)
It's no wonder this rare cartridge is so highly sought after; it looks like a work of art rendered from the cels of the Batman and Robin animated series. The graphics are not as detailed as those in Batman Returns
(SNES, 1992) but their simple elegance is appealing. The first stage takes place on a dark street with art-deco buildings in the foreground and a towering skyline looming in the distance against a deep red sky. The characters are nicely animated and the sound effects are crisp. When you disarm a foe with a Batarang and beat him senseless, it feels great! The lavish musical score is basically the same one used in Batman Returns. The opening stage concludes with an moonlit amusement park encounter with the Joker, taking you on a vertigo-inducing roller coaster ride. Although a platformer at heart, each stage plays differently and offers a new villain like Catwoman, Two-face, Scarecrow, and the Riddler. Fans of the animated series will love cinematic touches like seeing Catwoman somersaulting between rooftops in the distance before you actually encounter her. The gameplay however is less enticing. Objectives are frequently confusing and on-screen prompts (like "hit") only add to the confusion. In the rollercoaster stage you need to deflect the Joker's bombs by punching them
. How was I supposed to know that?
You can toggle between items but locating the right one for each situation is largely a matter of trial-and-error. The overhead driving stage is aggravating because it's timed and it's so each to get hopelessly stuck on a curb! The password option is useful but did the password need to be a grid of shapes? The continue function always returns you to the very beginning of the stage, so what's the point? And despite what the title would imply, this is a one-player game, with Robin only making token appearances. Adventures of Batman and Robin may be a showcase title but I wished it played as well as it looks. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 43,100
Save mechanism: password
Publisher: Capcom (1993)
Aladdin was a showcase title for the Genesis, but this SNES edition is even more
impressive - at least in the audio/video department. The characters are rich with detail, the layered stages are gorgeous, and the lush orchestrated music fills the room when you pipe it through a stereo. Following the storyline of the film, Aladdin's adventures take him through a market place, a desert, the Cave of Wonders, a pyramid, and Jafar's Palace for the big show-down. The genie bonus levels are particularly imaginative and colorful. One thing about this SNES version is that the gameplay is more strategic and deliberate than the Genesis game. Aladdin's primary move is a vault used to subdue enemies in addition to reaching high places. You can toss apples to daze enemies, but it's disappointing that you can't wield a sword. I mean, c'mon now, a little violence
never hurt anybody. The platform jumping is solid and I like how you perform nifty stunts to escape harm's way. If you barely miss a ledge, Aladdin will grab it and pull himself up. There were a bunch of times when I was sure I was dead but something saved me at the last moment. The animation isn't as fluid as the Genesis game, but there are still some awesome set pieces. The magic carpet ride over waves of lava is harrowing, and the final boss encounter where Jafar transforms into a huge cobra is astonishing. There's no score but a password feature is included. That will help you complete the game but there's little incentive to play through again. I prefer the Genesis game for the replay factor, but fans of the film will still want this beauty in their collection. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Acclaim (1993)
I appreciate its sharp graphics and harrowing sound effects, but Alien 3's gameplay just didn't do it for me. Playing the role of a bald-headed Ripley, you are fully strapped with a pulse rifle, flamethrower, and grenade launcher. Each stage consists of a series of missions you can play in any order. Typically you must rescue prisoners, repair pipes, or destroy alien eggs. You'll explore large rooms of platforms connected by tunnels, and missions often require a lot of tedious backtracking. You actually need to consult a map to scout out the location of your next mission, which seems like a lot of unnecessary work if you ask me. Alien 3's graphics are dark and realistic. Ripley is fluidly animated, but the aliens can be difficult to discern. A superb audio track boasts creepy music and digitized sound effects. Much like the film, Alien 3 fails to build any suspense, partially because the aliens attack early and often. The controls are lousy. I like how you can shoot while hanging from a ceiling or ladder, but most areas are inundated with small creatures, requiring you to constantly squat and shoot low. Getting into that squat position is harder than it should be, as each hit knocks you back upright. Consequentially, those little face grabbers will torment you to no end. Other issues include really bad collision detection. Sometimes you'll miss an alien egg at point-blank range, yet somehow shoot the egg behind
it. Technical glitches and tedious missions really drag down this otherwise good-looking title. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Alien Vs. Predator
Publisher: Activision (1993)
When you have two super-powerful life forms in the universe, it's only a matter of time before they battle for supremacy. This game allows you to play out this surprisingly common male fantasy. I was stoked to see the game is a side-scrolling brawler like Streets of Rage
(Genesis, 1991). Instead of fighting thugs on city streets you are a lone Predator disposing of Aliens on an intergalactic outpost. Alien Vs. Predator takes some liberties with the aliens, depicting them in a wide variety of sizes and colors. The sprites are huge
, which helps me forgive the fact that this is one-player only. For the first few minutes the game seems almost too good to be true. In addition to standard attacks (punch combos, jump-kick, slide) there are plenty of weapons like spears, wrist blades, and cloaks of invisibility. I love how the spears pass through several aliens at once. Your most useful attack is your laser, which you can charge to varying degrees. It's so effective it's almost criminal. If you can keep your distance from a group of enemies (or a boss), you can just repeatedly unleash laser blasts until they croak (literally - they make that noise!
). Alien Vs. Predator would be great if not for some fundamental flaws. It's possible to throw aliens, but not into other aliens, which pretty much defeats the purpose. Invisible walls prevent you from tossing enemies off cliffs. It looks absolutely ridiculous to defeat enemies by sliding back and forth on a narrow icy ledge. I absolutely hate
the fact that you can't pick up anything if you're already holding a weapon! If you have spears and find some meat you desperately need for health, you need to chuck those things as fast as you can. The scenery is not scary and kind of "blah". Indoor areas tend to have a drab industrial look and outdoor locations are surprisingly pixelated. The synthesized electronic music is very good but the ice cliff level makes an annoying clicking sound. Despite its flaws I enjoyed playing for score, especially since the high score is always displayed at the top. Alien Vs. Predator isn't a bad game, but there's no excuse for these quality control issues. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 122,700
Publisher: Nintendo (1997)
Arkanoid is Breakout for the 90's! It features classic "balls to the wall" action with just about every variation you've ever imagined. Each level has a different brick layout, and certain bricks have special properties, including some that dispense power-ups. These power-ups might change the size of your paddle, provide a temporary forcefield (to help keep the ball in play), or let you shoot the bricks directly with missiles! UFOs buzz around the screen and add even more unpredictability. A two-player simultaneous option is also included. With all these bells and whistles, you might expect this to be the best breakout game ever. Well, not quite. While many of the levels are well-designed, others are pretty dull. Yes there are tons of power-ups, but many are just distracting, and their ubiquitous nature make this game far less challenging than it should be. The digital joypad doesn't give you the best control, but the SNES mouse is also supported. Arkanoid is a decent effort, but it's not as madly addictive as I expected. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Konami (1992)
This vertical shooter was universally acclaimed upon its release, and it's still just as fun to play today. In fact, Axelay may be the definitive shooter for the SNES. Its five lengthy stages alternate between vertical shooting and side-scrolling action, and most are set over planet surfaces although a few take place in deep space. Axelay's high-resolution graphics are stunning, with so many types of enemies that you rarely see the same one twice. Several weapons are available at any given time, and each is uniquely suited for a particular situation. The centerpiece of this game however is its bosses, which are huge and imposing. The first boss is a gigantic spider, and the second boss is one of the coolest I've ever witnessed, making one heck of an entrance. Axelay is a must-have for any serious SNES collector. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 60410
Publisher: Acclaim (1995)
Rating: Kids To Adults
This game was ripped to shreds
by critics in 1995. It may just be the most infamous
SNES game of all time. From the outset, Batman Forever shows potential. An impressive intro shows the shadows of Batman and Robin running toward the screen, much like the ending sequence of the Batman and Robin movie. The menu screens are framed with molded rubber, and each stage is preceded by a cool rotating grid of city streets. The opening stage (the asylum) incorporates a beautiful shot of the Gotham skyline at night, complete with shimmering water below. I even like the menacing soundtrack. Batman Forever's characters are large and digitized, but that hurts the two-player mode, since you're constantly getting in your partner's way. Fighting fans will immediately realize that Acclaim recycled their Mortal Kombat engine for this game. The basic moves are the same, including the uppercut, leg sweep, roundhouse kick, and rapid-fire punching. The fighting action seems reasonable at first, but you'll soon get tired of dispatching of the same clones over and over again. These guys can absorb a lot
of damage! It's tough to be sandwiched between two villains, but a nice backhand punch or leg kick can keep them at bay. The stop-motion animation isn't bad, but Acclaim clearly did not
use the actors from the movie. Robin has a sizeable gut, and Batman has a sack of potatoes
in his pants! But the game's problems run far deep than that. The glossy, full-color manual never bothers to explain how to climb up and drop down through holes in the floor. As a result, it took me two FAQ pages
to figure out how to get past the first
stage! The game expects you to climb onto unseen ledges and drop down into areas not visible to the eye. Batman Forever makes a mockery of common sense. Why would destroying a safe cause a door to open on the lower level? There are times when you'll find yourself walking (and fighting) on thin air!
The darker levels feature nice gothic scenery, but brighter levels (like the circus) look cheesy. Another annoying thing is having to wait for the game to load as you stare at "HOLD ON". This only lasts a few seconds, but this is a cartridge
for Pete's sake! From top to bottom, Batman Forever is a complete mess. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Konami (1992)
If you thought Batman Returns was good on the Genesis, you'll be blown away by this remarkable SNES game. With a completely different look and feel, this plays more like Streets of Rage or Final Fight. In contrast to the dark, grainy graphics of the Genesis version, the visuals here look bright and crisp. Batman Returns more or less follows the film's storyline, with the Catwoman and Penguin serving as the main villains. The fluidly-animated characters are absolutely huge
, and the fighting action is top-notch. Not only can you execute the obligatory punches, jump-kicks, and throws, but you can actually fling
enemies into the background scenery! I can't put into words how satisfying it is to toss a thug through a department store window! You'll need to beat down belligerent clowns of all sizes, including fire-blowers, sword-swallowers, jugglers, and skull-headed motorcyclists - to name a few. Should you find yourself between two enemies, you can grab them both and bash their heads together! Superb sound effects accompany the action, so when you slam one evil clown into another, it makes an audible "thud". Your Batarangs and spear gun provide you with projectile attacks, and you also have a supply of "test tubes" that function as smart bombs, obliterating all visible enemies on the screen. Although the Batmobile driving stage isn't as flashy as the Sega CD version, it's still a nice bonus. The snow-covered Christmas scenery is a joy to behold, and some stages feature nifty lighting effects - very impressive for a 1992 game! The dramatic musical score is also outstanding and apparently lifted directly from the film. Is there anything wrong with Batman Returns? Well, Batman looks like he let himself go a bit and picked up about 50 pounds. Also, some gamers may regard the non-stop fighting as repetitive, but in my opinion that comes with the territory. This may be the best Batman game of all time, thanks to its winning combination of tight controls and gorgeous 2D graphics. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: EV 54000
Battletoads in Battlemaniacs
Publisher: Tradewest (1993)
Undeniably good-looking, Battletoads in Battlemaniacs features crisp, colorful graphics and absolutely huge
characters. This side-scrolling brawler pits one or two toad warriors against a bizarre assortment of enemies including pigs, wasps, snakes, rats and skeletons. Some of the animals are dressed in funny little outfits, and I love how the skeleton heads bounce in place when you punch them. The bosses can be towering in height, and the "dark queen" is a real eyeful (if you know what I mean, wink wink, nudge nudge). Sadly, good graphics do not necessarily make a good game. The main problem with this Battlemaniacs is its long, repetitive levels. There are five unimaginative stages, starting with an underground cave with pools of lava, followed by a floating disk that descends further into the earth. Hey, I think I've played this game before! You'll face the same enemies over and over, and they require an excessive number of hits to defeat. Worst of all, when you die you have to restart the whole level, which can be excruciating. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Tradewest (1993)
This is an early game by Rare, the company who later produced quality Nintendo 64 titles like Donkey Kong 64 and Perfect Dark. At first glance, Battletoads/Double Dragon seems like another run-of-the-mill side-scroller, with only a few attack options and endless enemy clones. After all, only two buttons on the controller are used. But it didn't take me long to discover loads of fighting techniques that aren't obvious from the start. For example, in the first stage you fight on the surface of a moving spacecraft, and it's possible to hang off the side of the craft as well as knock off hanging enemies. In the second stage you can climb on ladders and wire mesh, and in the third stage you swing from ropes. There's even a speeder-bike level where you kick enemies off of their bikes while trying to avoid obstacles. Each stage feels fully interactive and full of surprises, preventing the action from feeling monotonous. Some of the attack animations are absolutely outrageous. When fighting the blonde women thugs, the toads will grab them by the hair and start kicking them in the butt! Hilarious! As the title indicates, you can select between three Battletoads or the two Double Dragon characters, and the two-player action is definitely where it's at! The graphics are outstanding, and the music is enough to get your adrenaline pumping. For side-scrolling beat-em-up fans, Battletoads/Double Dragon definitely proves to be a winning combination. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: JDH 329050
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Activision (1993)
The first thing that caught my attention about Biometal was its music
. The title screen plays "Get Ready For This" by 2 Unlimited
, which was a popular dance hit in the clubs of the early to mid 90s. While it's a pretty good rendition, the bouncy, high-energy tune seems oddly out of place in a "serious" game like this. Biometal is an unspectacular 2D shooter where you battle legions of huge metallic flying monsters. You're equipped with a gun and missiles, both of which can be upgraded. Personally I prefer the vulcan/homing missile combination. Biometal certainly is challenging, with enemies that appear in hordes and spray missiles all over the screen. You'll die early and often until you learn to harness the power of your "GAM" weapon, which effectively decreases from difficulty from "insane" to just plain "hard as all hell". The "GAM" looks like a bunch of blue spheres circling your ship, and when it's activated, it destroys anything it touches. You can expand its radius or even "throw" it at an enemy, inflicting serious damage. The problem is, once your GAM energy runs out you're toast, so be sure to shut it off whenever you get a breather to let it recharge. Biometal's graphics did not impress me, but at least there's no noticeable slowdown. Your metallic foes all tend to look the same (including the bosses), and the backgrounds are equally boring. The first stage just features a few layers of storm clouds, and it's just plain ugly. Still, the high challenge of Biometal kept me playing for quite a while, so it's hard to complain too much. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 72200
Publisher: Atlus (1992)
Like many classic gamers, I cherish 2D shooters and the twitch gameplay and satisfying destruction they provide. Blazeon is an early SNES shooter with an exceptional soundtrack and exceptionally boring
gameplay! This shooter needs some caffeine!
Its plodding, side-scrolling stages take you through the obligatory space stations and caverns crawling with biological experiments gone wrong. There are a lot of generic pods and cannons, and certain enemies flicker in an annoying manner. Occasionally you'll encounter oversized humanoid robots which make things a bit more interesting. By deploying a special canister, you can freeze these guys and then touch them to assume their form - and firepower! The increase in shooting power is welcome, but you become a huge target for incoming missiles. I appreciate the fact that there's a rapid-fire button, but its constant choo-chooing gets on my nerves. But what ultimately brings down the game is its leisurely pace. The screen scrolls incredibly slowly, and there are extended lulls as you wait for something
- to appear on the screen. But Blazeon does have one thing going for it, and that's its eclectic musical score. The first stage features one of those upbeat electronic tunes you'd expect in a shooter, but the second stage is more downbeat and sounds like 80's synth pop. The music in the third stage is a rock track with an otherworldly undercurrent that's pretty amazing. It figures - the one time
I could use a "sound test" menu option, there is none! If only Blazeon's gameplay was as captivating as its soundtrack. This game sounds like Pink Floyd but plays like Michael Bolton. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 102000
Bram Stoker's Dracula
Publisher: Sony (1993)
Bram Stoker's Dracula
(Genesis, 1993) was a serviceable platformer but this SNES edition is an utter abomination
. I refuse to believe someone actually play-tested this steaming pile of donkey excrement. Unlike the Genesis version, you begin with a dagger instead of a sword, and it has a range of about a half inch. Stuck in a wooden lodge with rampaging wolves and spear-toting lesbians, you'll suffer plenty of damage before you'll even locate
the sword. It doesn't help that every creature takes at least three hits to kill. The stunning visuals of the movie have been replaced by lackluster stages rendered in muted brown tones. As you forge through cottages, forests, and castles you'll come across foes never seen in the movie like giant spiders and skeletons. For some reason every enemy explodes when you kill it - including a swarm of flies!
That's just stupid. The number of cheap hits is outrageous. For the life of me, I cannot figure out how to deal with those spear traps. On the Genesis I could sprint through them and sacrifice some life, but in this game you suffer too much damage and instantly die. Other cheap hazards include boulders and giant spiders that fall directly on your head without warning. This game is so sloppy I actually encountered a knife-wielding thug on a bridge who was facing the wrong direction
, stabbing away at thin air. Outside of Dracula and his maidens, the bosses are random and generic. The soundtrack reminds me of that old song "Take My Breath Away" (by Berlin) but the audio is marred by constant random grunting sounds. Who in the [expletive] is making those noises?! At least the Genesis version of Bram Stoker's Dracula was playable; this doesn't even feel like a finished product. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 10,417
Publisher: Jaleco (1993)
As a rabid fan of Streets of Rage
(Genesis, 1991) and Final Fight
(SNES, 1991), I actively seek out similar side-scrolling fighters. Brawl Brothers offers five cool characters to kick ass with, including a ninja, a chick, and an M. Bison look-a-like. You get more moves than your garden-variety fighter, including counters, sliding attacks, and the ability to hit a baddie while he's down. You begin by beating up thugs in the city streets. The buildings have detailed facades, and cars can be seen parked down the side streets with a looming skyline in the distance. This scene quickly gives way to a bridge with a nice view of the bay. While fighting goons on the bridge you're attacked by an impressively large helicopter, and you'll need to jump to stay out of its line of fire. The bridge eventually collapses and you find yourself at the entrance of a sewer. This is when Brawl Brothers takes a turn for the worst. The sewer is an elaborate maze and unless you know exactly
which doorways to enter, you can be trapped in there for all of eternity. When it comes to bad ideas in video games, this would have to rank near the top. If and when you escape, you'll find yourself in a jungle stage littered with land mines. Ugh! There are weapons to pick up like bats or pipes, but you swing them at an inexplicably high angle that makes it hard to actually hit
anything. Eating a wedge of cheese you find lying on the ground will replenish your life. (Side note: This happened to me once in real life. Years ago my wife and I were walking down the street in Ocean City MD and she discovered a cold, vacuum-sealed wedge of cheese on the sidewalk. Against my objections, she insisted the cheese was perfectly good and kept it! Apparently she used the thing in a recipe sometime later. In light of my experience, I have to give Brawl Brothers extra credit for realism.
) A nice options screen lets you customize many aspects of the game, including the ability to hit your partner in two-player mode. Brawl Brothers would have made a very good Final Fight clone, but whenever the designers tried to get creative they just shot themselves in the foot. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 55
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Capcom (1994)
Submitted by RPG correspondent Jonathan Hawk
This was Capcom's initial foray into the RPG genre. While I am glad it wasn't their last, Breath of Fire (BoF) amounts to a ho-hum execution of a pretty good idea. The generic plot has an army of "big badness" storming up trouble around the world. You play as Ryu, a strapping young lad from a race of dragon people. Your sister has been abducted, so you're off to fulfill your destiny and defeat the dark forces of the world. Per RPG rules, Ryu picks up some allies along the way, each of who posses different powers. It's important to note that all of the characters in the Breath of Fire universe are human-like animals. For instance, there's a girl with bird wings, a fish person, an ox person, etc. Each character has a unique feature that they can use when they're leading the party, and you can switch between your eight party members at will. Breath of Fire's graphics and audio were seemingly okay for the time, but the "fight song" during combat gets very repetitive. Speaking of which, the combat system features a 3/4 view from behind, and attacks are embellished with very simple animations. Encounters are both random but frequent, almost to the point of leaving one fight to get into another. Unfortunately, the script/dialog is so simple that it can be easy to miss (or forget) your next mission! The tasks in BoF tend to be closely intertwined, so to get one item, you need to do 'X', and to do that, you need to do 'Y', etc. To power up Ryu to a reasonable level, you need to find several pieces of equipment by fishing for them with a certain fishing pole that is easily missed. On his journey Ryu will enter "Dragon Temples" where he learns how to transform himself into different kinds of dragons. Another cool feature is how the thief can "fuse" with two other characters, combining their HP and attack power. You can save your game by speaking to Dragon Statues located in towns you visit, but the dungeon crawls between them are often far too long. Did I mention this game has NO WORLD MAP? That's right, you have to figure out where you are based on your surroundings. This makes it really easy to get lost over the massive ocean once you learn how to fly. All in all, Breath of Fire is a nice try, but Capcom could do better. Towards the end, I even found myself asking, "Am I almost done yet?" < © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Capcom (1995)
Submitted by RPG correspondent Jonathan Hawk
Okay, Capcom, fair play. This second entry in the Breath of Fire series is moderately enjoyable. BoF II established two staples of the series: there will always be a Dragon-guy named Ryu, and there will always be a bird-winged girl named Nina. This sequel delivers improved graphic quality, better music, and a great deal more story than the first game. Best of all, Capcom finally came to their senses and incorporated a much-needed world map! The action begins with your friend Bow being framed for a crime he didn't commit, prompting you to set out to clear his name along with a few allies. As the story develops you uncover eerie events and monsters disguised as people in an intricate plot of conspiracy and supernatural activity. A particularly interesting aspect of the game is your ability to "fuse" your characters with one or more "Shamen" (girls with elemental powers), altering their appearance and combat abilities in the process. The combat has been upgraded in the form of a standard, side-based view, and the attack animations are much better. The number of encounters is about the same, but this time you have an indicator on your menu to tell you the level of monsters in the area. Ryu is easy to power-up, and fishing for his equipment is optional this time. Bleu (a character from the first game) is available for your party, but only as a secret character. You can save your progress at Dragon Statues or churches, and churches also offer helpful hints in case you forgot what you should be doing. Like the first game, party order still matters, so the character in the front can always do something special. To change the members of your party however, you have to go back to your base of operations. Speaking of which, you can build and populate your own town in this game, and later turn it into a "mobile home" of sorts (hence the pun "TownShip"). Fans of the first game will notice plenty of in-jokes. In the end, Breath of Fire II is a pretty enjoyable story and entertaining game. Capcom must have taken their criticism to heart, because they churned out a much better game this time around. < © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Brett Hull Hockey 95
Publisher: Accolade (1995)
If you can overlook its muddy, pixelated graphics, Brett Hull delivers a reasonably good hockey experience - especially if you play against a friend. When beginning a new game you'll hear "Good evening and welcome to Brett Hull Hockey. I'm Al Michaels." It sounds like he's about to launch into a pre-game analysis, but he just leaves you hanging. The action is viewed from a surprisingly low angle at one end of the rink. As the puck moves up and down the rink, the system's built-in scaling is put to good use, giving you a nice, wide angle of the action. Unfortunately, it's really hard to make out the goal at the far end, especially with players bunched up in front of it. The pixelated players look indistinct and their uniform colors are bland. The passing controls are good, and I discovered I could maintain possession of the puck and pass it around with relative ease. Scoring requires a lot of luck, and the choppy animation makes it hard to follow the puck around the goal. Sometimes you'll need to use the instant replay just to see how the puck got into the net! Brett Hull Hockey can't match the sharp visuals and slick animation of NHL 95 (Electronic Arts), but it does deliver more exciting moments than your average hockey title. More often than not, shots deflect off the goalie or pull him way out of position, providing some golden second-chance opportunities. Players on both teams are sent scrambling when they see that open net! The game has its share of jarring body checks, and it's satisfying to lay an opponent out on the ice. Al Michael's play-by-play sounds unintentionally comical, because he only refers to players by their number. "Takes a hit from 60. Passes to 2. Stolen by 47. Over to 10..." The crowd noise is spirited, adding life to the arena. Between periods porno music kicks in as you view a pixelated mug shot of Brett Hull strung out on Quaaludes. Brett Hull Hockey 95 never had much of a chance against EA's NHL juggernaut, but if you give it a shot, you might just like it. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Brunswick World Tournament Champions
Publisher: THQ (1997)
There aren't many bowling games for the SNES, so it's kind of hard to judge this one. Brunswick World Tournament has options out the ying-yang to configure a bowler, tournament, or league. There's even background information about the professional bowlers you can challenge. But that all amounts to window dressing without solid gameplay, and Brunswick didn't exactly set my world on fire. The bland setup screen lets you view the action from up high and behind your bowler, offering a fair view of the lane. From here you can adjust your position and aim the ball. Once set, you hit a button to engage the power and spin meters. At this point everything goes to hell. The animation of the ball rolling down the lane is absolutely appalling, moving in a herky-jerky manner as if it had a schizophrenic mind of its own. The close-up screen showing the ball hitting the pins incorporates realistic physics, but the pins tend to have a flat, cardboard look to them. You can see your bowler's reaction to his roll, but there's little fanfare. Bruswick World Tournament really didn't do much for me, but if you're desperate for a bowling game, this may suffice. Then again, maybe not. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Bugs Bunny Rabbit Rampage
Publisher: Sunsoft (1994)
The old Bugs Bunny cartoons of the 1950's are timeless, yet Rabbit Rampage turns those classic adventures into nightmares. At a glance this game would appear to have all the essential ingredients. The scenery looks gorgeous, especially the snow-covered slopes of the opening stage. The characters are large and razor sharp. I recognized a few obscure characters from the old cartoons, like the giant lumbering outlaw, the bird-like aliens of Mars, the witch on the broom, and that loveable dancing frog. The comical animations are extremely elaborate. When a cowboy takes a hit his pants fall down and his face turns red. The music is lifted from the classic shorts and there's even a crystal clear "what's up doc?" digitized voice. The stages resurrect classic scenes like the bull and matador, the story of the three pigs, and Hansel and Gretel. With so much potential, it breaks my heart how poorly this game plays. It's as if the designers doubled down
on every annoying thing you've ever dealt with in a platformer. Your weapons are pathetic. You'll toss pies at hound dogs and politically-incorrect Indians, but the pies travel about an inch and you need to land three or four just to have an effect. Most "weapons" are indirect in nature, like a dynamite stick or exploding bone. Your adversaries on the other hand are armed with heat-seeking bullets and arrows that track you all over the screen! Every level is crawling with respawning enemies and the collision detection works against you. The controls are so needlessly complex you'll need to consult the manual just to figure out how to fall down a hole
. The repetitive stage layouts make no sense and blind leaps of faith are the norm. Boss encounters recall memorable scenes (remember Yosemite Sam and the black dragon?) but they drag on like a never-ending hell. Rabbit Rampage is visually enticing but rest assured playing it is a thoroughly miserable experience. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.
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