Publisher: Capcom (1991)
U.N. Squadron is a terrific, old-fashioned, side-scrolling shooter that also taps into the system's slick graphic capabilities. You are the pilot of a jet fighter blasting waves of helicopters, tanks, planes, and ships. The objects on the screen are sizeable, and I love how enemy planes rotate into formation. You're equipped with rapid-fire cannons and a limited supply of devastating bombs. The first stage features desert bas with scenery that looks practically photo-realistic. U.N. Squadron's exciting brand of nonstop shooting and bombing brought back fond memories of Scramble, an arcade favorite of mine from the early 80's. Naturally, each stage ends with an obligatory "boss", but these are not terribly hard to defeat. Upon completing the first stage, you can select from a number of subsequent missions. The wide range of scenic backdrops include open seas, jungle forests, rocky gorges, and in the clouds of an intense thunderstorm. Granted, the water stages look somewhat cheesy. Certain stages require you to make several "passes" at a strategic target (like a massive battleship), which I found to be a very cool concept. Your firepower and weapon options increase with each new life, as well as each "continue". With its awesome firepower and frantic gameplay, I could play U.N. Squadron all day. Only a few notable flaws knock it down a notch. Much of the music has an inappropriate "happy go lucky" quality more suitable for a cute platform game. Also, the game suffers from terrible
slowdown when things get hectic. Nonetheless, I still found U.N. Squadron to be instantly fun and satisfying. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3
Publisher: Williams (1996)
Rating: Mature (blood and gore)
This Ultimate edition restored Scorpion to the cast of fighters and addressed several subtle gameplay issues with Mortal Kombat 3. Otherwise the changes seem superficial at best. There are 23 playable characters, but the roster is heavily watered down with color-palette swaps. There are no less than six
Scorpion clones: Scorpion, Sub-Zero, Reptile, Rain, Ermac, and Noob Saibot. Few gamers will cry over Sheeva's absence, but where the hell is Rayden?? The graphics are exactly like MK3, and except for a few new backgrounds, most gamers would be hard-pressed to tell the difference. As the final Mortal Kombat released for the 16-bit systems, Ultimate MK3 plays well enough, but feels less like a legitimate sequel and more like an apology for the previous game. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Bandai (1991)
I happen to be a long-time fan of Ultraman, but this is a bad game of colossal proportions. As a child, I was fascinated by the poor-dubbed Japanese television show featuring men in rubber monster outfits (who knew?) wrestling around miniature cities. This video game adaptation not only fails to capture the grand scale of those battles, but it makes them seem incredibly boring
. Ultraman is barely playable
, and its only entertainment value comes from mocking its deficiencies. Now I admit that some of the monsters in the old show looked pretty silly, but a few in this game look as if they were borrowed from Sesame Street
. I'm pretty sure I defeated a Snuffleupagus in one stage! The slow, one-on-one battles lack strategy as the stiff combatants struggle to execute basic kicks and punches. You have a "special move" (usually a projectile attack) powered by a special meter that charges over time. Once you deplete your opponent's energy, the word "FINISH" appears on the screen, providing false hope that the end of the match is at hand. But your foe can only
be defeated by performing a special attack at full power
. This usually means backing off while waiting for your meter to charge, and in the meantime, your opponent can still
execute attacks and even regain his health! Take it from me - there's nothing more humiliating than being defeated by a monster with no life
. This idiotic design ruins what could have been a perfectly... um... aw hell - it would have been awful anyway! There's no
two-player mode (!), and the elusive option screen is accessed by holding down select while pressing start (real intuitive huh?). You have to wonder about the state of mind of the guy who authorized this game to be shipped. At the very least, Bandai could have incorporated the kick-ass theme song from the television show, but just like the fun, it's nowhere to be found. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
Unholy Night: The Darkness Hunter
Publisher: Foxbat (2017)
When I spotted a brand new
SNES fighter on Amazon I was powerless to resist. Billed as "an original 1-on-1 fighting game from the creators of past masterpieces", Unholy Night has a light-versus-dark theme in the tradition of Darkstalkers
(PS1, 1996). There are three "hunter" characters and three "darkness" fighters. I'm sorry to say the graphics are suspect. The fighters are small, the action slow, and the animation choppy at times. For a 2017 title I was expecting more. I do like the semi-digitized look of the stages, even if they do look a bit washed out and lacking in detail. The opening stage features a rooftop with gargoyles overlooking an amazing city skyline. The fighting action won't blow you away but it's not terrible. The controls are easy enough to grasp for Street Fighter fans, and the "synchro gauge" adds some depth. The story mode spits out rapid-fire dialog that's not even displayed long enough to read. What I did manage to catch didn't make much sense. "I have fooled you? Your power is shortage" I can't tell if this was the worst translation job ever or the developers were just goofing around. The fighting system isn't particularly sophisticated but I noticed certain characters have weaknesses. For example, I was able to defeat the werewolf with a series of projectile attacks. The music is simple but has a nice early-90's vibe to it. Still, for a game 25 years in the making Unholy Night has a lot of rough edges. There are no options, no victory animations, and survival mode is far too easy. The game does get extra points however for its glossy packaging, colorful instruction manual, and distinctive black cartridge. Failing to deliver as a cutting-edge fighter, I suspect Unholy Night will appeal more to collectors than critics. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: survival
Our high score: 165700
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Nintendo (1993)
This is an attractive but average-playing casino game with two modes: adventure and multi-player. The adventure mode takes you and four fictional friends (who all look as if they've had extensive plastic surgery) on a trip to Las Vegas. Vegas Stakes tries to be realistic, but It feels pretty silly to sit through the "car trip" and then check into the hotel. From your hotel room, you have to call one of your friends to have them meet you at the casino! The casino itself offers slots, craps, poker, blackjack, and roulette. The graphics are crisp and clean, and the games are easy to play. Unfortunately, you are constantly being interrupted by annoying people trying to sell you stuff, pick your pocket, beg for money. One guy even asks you to take him to the emergency room! Sometimes you can make money from these people, but it's still annoying. The games themselves play well, but there are annoying pauses, and you can't quit a game in progress (even after you folded in a game of poker). The only games I really enjoyed were the card games. Chance games like roulette and slots are really boring with no real money on the line. The multiplayer mode only lets you select from four games: slots, blackjack, roulette, and craps. The game also lets you move to different casinos, altering the background graphics and music. A battery backup saves your place. Vegas Stakes tries to take gambling to the next level, with mixed results. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Argonaut Software (1994)
For those of you who slept through Astronomy class, a "vortex" is a celestial body of such high mass and density that its gravitational pull will literally suck the fun out of any game named after it. This cartridge has all the ingredients of a decent game, but they never come together quite right. Vortex's 3D graphics and explosions are comparable to Star Fox (they employ the same graphics chip), and the techno soundtrack is pretty bumpin' as well. While a basic 3D shooter at heart, you ship has the ability to "morph" between a jet, tank, walker, and protective shell. This provides a lot of potential strategy as you size up each stage and boss. Too bad this promising concept is wasted due to poor design. A good video game should "hook" the player from the start, and gradually draw him in with a reasonably ramping difficulty. The Star Fox developers knew this, but the Vortex developers apparently did not. The controls are daunting, with over 20 button combinations that will flummox casual gamers right off the bat. Then you have a bunch of time-consuming "training stages", which I found to be a serious turn-off. The first "real" stage is awfully boring, set in deep space with nothing but a fence (huh?). Worst yet, the first boss is nearly insurmountable, bringing any novice player to his knees. With shoddy design like this, Vortex never really had a chance. I'm sure there are a few dedicated players who will stick with Vortex long enough to see what it has to offer, but most will find themselves shouting "next!" after just a few minutes. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 85200
Publisher: THQ (1993)
Despite what other critics say, Wayne's World will go down as one of the greatest movie-related video games of all time. NOT!
This piece of crap is barely playable
; it's a complete
waste of a movie license. The ordeal begins with a semi-animated episode of the Wayne's World public-access television program. Most of the dialogue is conveyed through word "bubbles", and the few actual voice clips sound as if they were recorded at the bottom of a well. "Dream sequences" are used to segue into the stages of the game. Instead of using locations from the movie, the five stages are weird, surreal worlds that I hate
with a passion. There's a record store with attacking musical instruments, a donut shop where you fight food-shaped monstrosities, and some kind of drug-induced suburbia with houses floating in the sky. None of these are interesting or funny, and their overall designs are painfully monotonous. Assuming the role of Wayne, you shoot at monsters with a guitar and perform tedious jumps between platforms. The controls are anything but exact, and perpetual cheap hits force you to fire non-stop. Wayne's digitalized face looks impressive, but you'll tire of his one liners in a hurry. The few lame references to the film include a "No Stairway to Heaven" sign in the music store, but in general the game does a miserable job of capturing the spirit of the movie. Even the music is weak, mainly consisting of generic guitar noise looped over and over. To say Wayne's World is "not worthy" is an understatement. If I have to play it again, I may spew. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Namco (1995)
I recall this one-on-one fighting game getting a lot more advance press than it deserved. With preview screen shots depicting blood and decapitation, parents were anticipating this to be the next Mortal Kombat, but it never happened. The characters in Weaponlord are barbarians that slug it out with weapons. The scenery has a surreal medieval appearance - sort of a cross between Mortal Kombat and Primal Rage. The characters look great standing still, but in action they can be hard to make out. Hits are accompanied by a splatter of blood, and blocking results in a satisfying clank sound. Weaponlord's gameplay is pretty mediocre, and all the moves are weapon based: thrust, slash, and strike. To be honest, there's not much difference between them. There are some special moves and throws, but the throws do minimal damage, and the action is slow compared to fighters like Street Fighter 2 Turbo. Some might appreciate the slowness since it fosters a more deliberate, calculated approach as opposed to button mashing. You can decapitate a defeated opponent, but the lousy animation makes it hard to see what's going on. As far as fighters go, Weaponlord is unusual but not exceptional. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Natsume (1994)
This awesome shooter takes place in the Wild West with cowboys, saloons, horses, trains, and... robots?
Yeah, nothing spices up history like mechanical behemoths, and they make great bosses too!
Wild Guns boasts arcade-style graphics, rapid-fire shooting, and satisfying explosions. You select between two characters, cowboy Clint or sexy saloon girl Annie. You move your character side-to-side across the bottom of the screen, blasting everything in sight. By aiming a circular cursor and holding down Y you unleash an unending stream of bullets, and the game doesn't require you to be particularly precise. Outlaws, cannons, and robots return fire with slow-moving projectiles, but these can be avoided by rolling or jumping sideways. Your default weapon is pretty effective, but you'll often obtain cool power-ups like a shotgun. Smart bombs that blow up everything on the screen are also available. The game begins on a dusty main street with cowboys emerging from windows and covered wagons. Next the action moves into a saloon where bartenders toss dynamite while outlaws take cover behind tables. Finally you find yourself on a rooftop facing off against a mammoth robotic boss. And that's just the first stage! Survive that and you can select from four stages to play next, including a gold mine, ammunition depot, canyon, and armored train. Two players can go at it at once, but that can be choatic. I love the detail in the scenery and humorous animations. It's no wonder this rare game is so highly sought after. Wild Guns is straight-up, arcade-style shooting fun. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 110,330
1 or 2 players
Winter Extreme Skiing and Snowboarding
Publisher: Electrobrain (1993)
When I noticed Winter Extreme was "endorsed by Val d'Isere", I made a connection between this and Val d'Isere Skiing and Snowboarding
(Jaguar, 1994). Both clearly run off the same engine and have the same menu structure. Unfortunately this SNES version is slower, less smooth, and far less pleasing to the eye. The default "free ride" option is a pretty cool idea. You're presented with a map of the side of a sprawling mountain with all sorts of branching trails and lifts connecting them. Starting from the left side you complete checkpoints to unlock new trails across the mountain face. It's quite a challenge and I seem to get a little further each time I play. If only your progress was saved like the Jaguar version. Competition modes let you race for best time in downhill, slalom, and giant slalom events. I'm glad these events only run a minute or less, because they are repetitive as hell. Winter Extreme is kind of a one-trick pony. The undulating hills look great at first, but the scenery along the trail is sparse, lined with pixeled pine trees and rocks. Those rocks look like giant skulls
, which is great if you've ever wanted to know what it's like to ski through the Temple of Doom
. The controls are unorthodox. Your skier turns partly on his own, so most of the time you only need to make small corrections to prevent yourself from drifting off course. On occasion however you will encounter a series of whiplash-inducing rapid-fire turns. Your visibility is very severely limited, so instead of anticipating turns you try to react to them. The goofy electronic soundtrack is so bad my friend Scott described it as "barf-inducing". The two-player mode does not support split-screen, but there is an ad for Butterfinger. I wouldn't call Winter Extreme Skiing and Snowboarding a total loss, but it's close. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Find Winter Extreme Skiing and Snowboarding on eBay
Recommended variation: giant slalom
Our high score: SDZ 1:05.63
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Activision (1994)
What the [expletive] is "X-Kaliber 2097"? I assumed it was some obscure film or perhaps a short-lived TV series. In fact it's a video game franchise known as Sword Maniac in Japan. Why didn't they just use that
title? The opening stage gets the game off to a promising start by incorporating a gorgeous New York skyline at night. Not only do the lighted skyscrapers look fantastic but their reflections can be seen in the shimmering water below. Later stages offer similar views, and they are the visual highlight of the game. Otherwise the graphics kind of suck
, and I hate those black outlines around the characters. Your dude "Slash" reminds me of Strider
(Genesis, 1991) as he methodically flips between platforms. His sword has excellent range and there are special moves like a lunge and "flaming arc". You face a lot of slow, bulky, armored soldiers who approach one at a time. I noticed they drop gigantic assault rifles when shot, yet you can't pick them up. Health packs look a heck of a lot like cans of Coca Cola. If that's supposed to be subliminal advertising... well... it's working.
I am so thirsty right now! Certain areas are guarded by mounted guns, but your block move can absorb their bullets. As with so many games, you need to beware of dripping green goo. What the [expletive] is
that stuff anyway? I thought X-Kaliber was halfway decent until I met that first boss. "Tattoo" takes forever to defeat because all you can do is chip away at his life bar. But it's the second stage where the game falls flat on its face. As you walk down a trashed city street you're accosted by thugs on motorcycles. The collision detection is non-existent as you slash away at bikes riding all over you. X-Kaliber 2097 shows some promise, but ultimately degenerates in a marginal, by-the-numbers slash-a-thon. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 1880
X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse
Publisher: Capcom (1994)
Mutant Apocalypse is an impressive side-scrolling platformer. Embarking on individual missions, you control five X-Men including Wolverine, Cyclops, Psylocke, Gambit, and Beast. Your ultimate goal is to free mutants from an island where they are being held by the evil Mighty Apocalypse. Despite using only two buttons, the game offers about seven or eight attacks for each hero. The stages exhibit great variety and showcase the X-Men's individual talents. For example, Wolverine can climb walls and Beast can walk on ceilings. The characters are huge, backgrounds are interesting, and the huge bosses are exciting. Even the sky high difficulty won't prevent you from coming back for more superhero action. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Asmik (1992)
I'm always up for a good robot shooter, especially when it has a cool futuristic name like Xardion
. The unskippable intro lasts about a minute but seems much longer. The text is actually fun to read because it's a bunch of run-on sentences that make no sense. Xardion's graphics are sharp but the action is slow and halting. The controls felt stiff as you slowly ascend platforms and shoot enemies in the ankles. Your firepower feels weak as you fire tiny exclamation points at lizard warriors and flying jellyfish. Thunderous sound effects are used to convey mass, but you'd expect to hear that when you land
, not jump
. But just when I was able to write off Xardion as a complete dud, I stumbled upon the status screen. Here you can toggle between three unique cyborg forms: your default robot, a dragon-like warrior, and a spinning wolf. Each has its own health meter and abilities, so it's like having two extra lives! An innovative level-up system lets you upgrade by defeating foes, but some grinding is required. The status screen also lets you equip special weapons like missiles and bombs - with some difficulty. The first boss is a giant one-eyed praying-mantis insect and it took forever to kill that thing. Still, I enjoy the strategy involved with juggling characters to conquer each stage. The second stage is set on a semi-submerged planet, and the third takes place on an ice planet with a jungle beneath its surface. Trying to hop between tree branches with these stiff-assed robots is a pain in the ass. The game has a battery-backed autosave feature I was not expecting. Xardion isn't bad, but you need to be patient and embrace the strategic elements of the game. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.
Yoshi's Island: Super Mario World 2
Publisher: Nintendo (1995)
I was expecting more of the same ol' Super Mario action from this one, but Yoshi's Island feels very unique. Apparently gamers really
enjoyed riding on Yoshi's back in the previous Super Mario game, because that's all you do in this one! This time however Yoshi carries a baby in search of its twin. The first thing you'll notice about Yoshi's Island is its innovative graphic style. The simple clean lines and solid colors of the first Super Mario World give way to visuals that appear to have been rendered with crayons and magic markers! It looks strange at first, but it ultimately gives the game its distinctive personality. Many enemies resemble kids in Halloween masks, although you'll also encounter the familiar Super Mario mainstays. Yoshi's Island introduces some cool new moves, including the ability to "manufacture" and throw eggs at targets, and stomp the ground to break through weak areas. Special power-ups give Yoshi the ability to morph into a vehicle
including a helicopter, train, tank, or sub. Yoshi's Island has a huge number of levels, not to mention bonus challenges and mini-games. Up to three people can save progress to one cartridge. I was apprehensive about Yoshi's Island at first, but it won me over in a big way. It may look like a kiddie game, but there's no age limit to fun. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Find Yoshi's Island Super Mario World 2 on eBay
Save mechanism: Battery
Publisher: Nintendo (1993)
This light-gun shooter gave Nintendo an opportunity to incorporate their loveable characters into a Super Scope title. The game is a lot of fun... for the first five minutes or so! You actually assume the role of Mario who is riding
Yoshi. Since it's a first-person shooter, you're looking at the back of Yoshi's head the whole time. Together you're out to retrieve twelve gems which will somehow save a kingdom (just go with it). Mode 7 effects facilitate smooth movement along a flat, pixelated path. There's little scenery but colors and textures convey environments like deserts, meadows, and even underwater. Yoshi moves automatically as enemies scale in from the front and sides, including usual suspects like koopas, turtles, squid, and moles. Yoshi's Safari makes good use of the turbo setting on the gun. In fact, I can't imagine playing this game without it! You hold in the fire button to unleash a steady stream of shots, effectively wiping the screen clear of enemies. Eventually your meter runs down and you'll need to recharge, but that only takes a second or two. The shooting is accurate, but every now and then you're prompted to jump over a gap to break up the monotony. There are a lot of bosses, most of which change into a different form after taking substantial damage. The difficulty is ultra-low, so you can breeze through the whole game in less than an hour and a half. By then you'll be glad to get that huge, God-forsaken hunk of plastic off your shoulder. The game's ending has got to be one of the lamest ever as the king thanks you about a dozen times for saving his world. He then lets you in on a secret: by holding L, R, X, Y, and start on the title screen, you can play an entirely new quest! The thing is, Yoshi's Safari is such an ordeal you won't be tempted to play it a second time. Note: The Super Scope only operates on old-style TVs. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Zombies Ate My Neighbors
Publisher: Konami (1993)
As a longtime fan of this monster mish-mash, I'm happy to report that the game has aged beautifully
. If a single title illustrates the graphic and audio superiority of the SNES over the Genesis, it's Zombies Ate My Neighbors. The Genesis version tries hard, but it can't match the razor-sharp visuals and audio range of the SNES. Zombies is a lighthearted shooter that effectively spoofs every classic horror flick you can think of - with style and good humor. Playing the role of a boy or girl, you attempt to rescue innocent people from rampaging monsters in a series of whimsical scenarios. There are more than 50 overhead stages including a suburban neighborhood terrorized by zombies, a pyramid full of mummies, a school invaded by aliens, and a shopping mall infested with demonic dolls. The creatures are rendered with a wacky flair and the lush scenery is fun to explore. Your default weapon is a water pistol, and there are plenty more unconventional weapons like exploding six-packs, pop sickles, fire extinguishers, and even a weed-wacker
. Certain weapons are pitifully weak, but at least you can cycle between them. A handy radar overlay indicates when a hapless victim is in the vicinity, and also tells you how many are remaining. Two players can cooperate, but sharing the screen is problematic so it's best to let one player lead the way. The rollicking musical score sets the mood perfectly, alternating in tone between ominous and playful. I would absolutely love to own the soundtrack to this game! An easy-to-write-down password is provided every few stages, and there's also a high score screen. When your game ends purple goo drips down the screen, and it would obviously be red blood if not for Nintendo's overbearing anti-violence policy (RIP). Zombies Ate My Neighbors is a brilliant arcade romp that's practically mandatory for October gaming. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 67120
Save mechanism: Password
1 or 2 players
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