system Index D
Darius Plus (Japan)
Grade: D
Publisher: NEC (1990)
Reviewed: 2017/3/8

screenshotI've long been a vocal advocate of undersea destruction, but Darius Plus comes across as super lame. This subaquatic side-scrolling shooter features nondescript enemies appearing over and over in the same tired formations. The first stage is downright monotonous and it takes forever to reach the fish-shaped boss. Your ship can unleash missiles and bombs non-stop, so why not just crank up the turbo and hold down both buttons?

Enemy ships try to ram you before turning tail and exiting stage right like a bunch of wusses. Keep an eye out for more colorful enemies that carry an orb which can augment your firepower or shield. The stages tend to be generic caves with cannons mounted on the floors and ceilings. Be cautious of those red twirly-bird things - their deadly explosions tend to linger. Also, the tanks that unleash heat-seeking missiles can catch you off-guard.

Upon losing a ship you return in the customary invincible (blinking) state, yet you can't collect orbs while blinking. That flat-out sucks! The audio is poor thanks to muffled sounds, uninspired music, and irritating whistles. Unlike other Darius titles you can't select the order of the stages. I don't know what the Plus is supposed to signify, but I do know you can do a heck of a lot better on the Turbografx. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 1,240,800
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Darius Twin (Super Nintendo)
Firepower 2000 (Super Nintendo)
Darius Gaiden (Saturn)
Grind Stormer (Genesis)
Terra Attack (Colecovision)

Darkwing Duck
Grade: F
Publisher: Disney (1992)
Reviewed: 2015/2/22

screenshotThe Turbografx library doesn't have many licensed titles. Most of its characters are of the home-grown variety like Bonk or Keith Courage. So when you see a character that looks like Daffy Duck in a Turbografx game it kind of draws your attention. Darkwing Duck is a highly sought-after title, but you should think twice before breaking your piggy bank. The title screen is intriguing enough, with the hero decked out in a trench cost as catchy music plays in a minor key. Start a new game and you're presented with a picture of villains sitting around a table. Guiding a magnifying glass over the character's faces serves as a stage select feature. So far so good, right?

One stage takes place on a San Francisco street with skateboarders jumping ramps. Another is set on rooftops with electrified fixtures. The third takes place in generic caverns. If only any of these were actually worth playing. The gameplay is painfully lackluster as you duck under flying objects, pounce on enemies, and time your leaps between floating platforms. The uninspired stage designs are populated with cheap, one-hit deaths and fatal drop-offs. You're armed with a pop-gun that's completely worthless!

The controls feel terribly mushy, causing Darkwing to hesitate at times when precision is required. The collision detection is atrocious. Touching an icon with your hands isn't good enough. No, your entire body needs to pass over it! Even the graphics and animation are substandard. Darkwing Duck is the sort of game you want to like, but the more you play, the more you realize the game simply blows enormous chunks. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: easy
Our high score: 87000
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Keith Courage in Alpha Zones (Turbografx-16)
Super Pitfall (NES)
Mouse Quest (Atari XEGS)
Deadly Duck (Atari 2600)
Aladdin (Game Gear)

Davis Cup Tennis
Grade: D
Publisher: NEC (1991)
Reviewed: 2016/6/5

screenshotAs much as I enjoy the whimsical antics of World Court Tennis (NEC, 1989) there are times when I want to sit down to a serious game of tennis. To that end Davis Cup Tennis features realistic players from various countries competing on grass, clay, and hard courts. The presentation is superb with all sorts of options and modes. The players look sharp but those tight shorts look ridiculous. Before each match the athletes stand at attention as their national anthem is played, and thank goodness you can skip that.

In contrast to World Court's simple controls, the swing mechanics in Davis Cup are wildly counter-intuitive. It took me a while just to figure out how to hit the freakin' ball! Apparently you press and release the button before the ball arrives. It doesn't make much sense but you get used to it. Still, I could never hit the ball at a sharp angle, making it hard to get it past my opponent. Sometimes a long volley will seemingly end in an arbitrary manner as the ball passes through a player's racket.

The low viewing angle is also problematic. You always play on a split screen (even against the CPU) and it's hard to judge the ball, especially when playing close to the net. Davis Cup does feature clear voices including a judge who calls the ball out and a pretentious announcer who states the score after each point. Players will sometimes even grunt while swinging! A ball boy runs out to retrieve balls hit into the net. I love the realistic elements of Davis Cup. It's a shame its gameplay takes a backseat to all the pomp and circumstance. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

If you like this game, try: Mario Tennis (Virtual Boy)
Hot Shots Tennis (Playstation 2)
Wimbledon Championship Tennis (Genesis)
Tennis (Intellivision)
Championship Tennis (Intellivision)

Dead Moon
Grade: B+
Publisher: Natsume (1991)
Reviewed: 2004/4/21

screenshotThis side-scrolling shooter may not boast flashy graphics or elaborate sound effects, but in terms of gameplay it does just about everything right. Dead Moon has some excellent features that I wish more shooters would adopt. Colored pods allow you to obtain four types of cool weapons, and each can be powered-up to four levels. You can switch weapons by touching a pod of another color, but only by touching a pod of the same color will you increase your firepower. As a result, you won't want to just grab everything that comes along.

Another cool feature is the fact that when your ship takes a hit, your firepower decreases by one level, and only at its weakest level are you vulnerable to death. You can also acquire homing weapons (love 'em!) and shields. The stages are uneven in terms of visual quality. The multi-layered, picturesque city in the first stage looks terrific, but the subsequent moon and cave stages are far less interesting.

Enemies tend to take the form of simple shapes, but a few of the bosses, like the skeletal bird with the beating heart, are quite interesting. The uptempo music is okay but not exceptional. Dead Moon won't blow you away, but repeated plays reveal a well-constructed shooter that most shooter fans will really appreciate. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: JDH 594,200
1 player 

If you like this game, try: R-Type (Turbografx-16)
Override (Japan) (Turbografx-16)
Killer Satellites (Atari 2600)
Space Invaders (Atari 5200)
Andro Dunos (Neo Geo)

new Deep Blue
Grade: D-
Publisher: NEC (1989)
Reviewed: 2021/5/11


screenshotI was dying to use my favorite line "You're my boy, Blue!" but I'm just not feeling it. Deep Blue is such a shallow undersea shooter. The irony is not lost! You simply hold in a button to blast away at endless waves of fish until you die. There are no bombs, charge weapons, or anything else that could be mistaken for interesting. The coral reef backgrounds are monochromatic and bland.

Your ship is very slow and large, which is not an ideal combination. Your health is indicated by the color of your ship's "eye", which I guess is somewhat original. The first few waves of fish are large and easy to shoot, but then these little earwig-looking things move in and bring the fun to a grinding halt. They tend to congregate around your ship, nibbling away at your health.

Another miserable sequence occurs when a school of giant squid move diagonally up the screen, as they are impossible to avoid. Sure your ship can withstand about 20 hits, but after taking one hit you become discombobulated, making you susceptible to follow-on hits. After a while you find yourself just trying to avoid confrontation - never a good sign for a shooter.

There seem to be two classes of weapons. The rapid-fire shots feel more satisfying but they are weak. I noticed my score tends to be a lot higher when I used the slow, penetrating lasers. On rare occasions you'll snag a speed icon, only to lose it a few seconds later when you take your next hit. My friend joked this game doesn't have power-ups; only power-downs!

Deep Blue's repetitive enemies make the game feel as if it's on replay. Just when you think you've completed an area you're subjected to the same set of enemies again. The game doesn't actually end until you see the word "Fin" to the sound of a funeral dirge. Cute. I've played "Scene A" of Deep Blue countless times and I'm starting to wonder if there is in fact a scene B! Hey - just because a game is bad doesn't mean I can't become obsessed with it. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 21,230
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Nova Blast (Colecovision)
Star Ship (Atari 2600)
Marine Fishing (Dreamcast)
Alien Gate (Philips CD-i)
Invaders From Hyperspace (Odyssey 2)

Devil's Crush
Grade: A-
Publisher: NEC (1990)
Reviewed: 2014/8/21

screenshotDevil's Crush is an edgy pinball title with a gothic theme. The table boasts many interesting targets including knights, wizards, and fire-breathing dragons. This game appeared on the Genesis as Dragon's Fury (Genesis, 1992), but I would argue this version is slightly more playable. Vital statistics like your score and bonus multiplier are displayed along the top (instead of the side), making more efficient use of screen real estate.

The wider table makes it easier to appreciate the detail of the mysterious creatures and medieval contraptions. The table is stacked with three basic sections, and unlike the Genesis game, it's easy to ascend to higher areas. I love how the woman's face in the center of the table gradually transforms into a dragon as you hit it. Creepy! A skull with a pulsating brain mocks you, and crumbling structures release scores of spiders.

Bonus mini-tables let you face off against hydras and wizards. The artwork in the bonus stages isn't as eye-popping as the Genesis, but you could argue these stages play better. The exotic musical score adds hints of danger and suspense. Devil's Crush may just be the most addictive game I've played on my Turbografx. I could play this one for hours on end. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 13,786,700
Save mechanism: Password
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Dragon's Fury (Genesis)
Ruiner Pinball (Jaguar)
Pinball Jam (Lynx)
Galactic Pinball (Virtual Boy)
Dragon's Revenge (Genesis)

Double Dungeons
Grade: D
Publisher: NEC (1990)
Reviewed: 2006/4/25

screenshotI gave Double Dungeons a fair shot, but was left with the impression that the entire game was built around a single visual effect. As you move through an endless maze of hallways, the illusion of movement is nicely conveyed through fluid scaling and rotation techniques. Combined with the game's responsive controls, navigating passageways can be done quickly and easily. The problem is, all of these hallways look exactly the same! You'd think the programmers could have at least changed the color scheme between levels!

Confusing matters further is the complete lack of a map! Since there are no landmarks and monsters constantly regenerate, you'll find yourself moving in circles. Creatures are rendered in colorful detail, but only as static images. A bit of animation would have been nice. You can upgrade your weapons and armor at shops, and you'll find items along the way including keys, magic rods, and healing potions. The battles are remarkably shallow, requiring you to press a button continuously as the "action" is described by sparse text. You always have the option to flee or use a special item, but in general there's little strategy.

And don't get me started about the confusing password system! At any time you can press the Run button to display a lengthy password, but after completing a stage, I found myself inexplicably back at the main title screen, leaving me both alarmed and bewildered. On the bright side, Double Dungeons is the only RPG of its kind to allow two players to explore simultaneously, and the game also boasts a rousing musical score that plays throughout. It's not a total loss, but Double Dungeon's monotonous gameplay didn't hold my interest for very long. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

If you like this game, try: Advanced Dungeons and Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin (Intellivision)
Venture II The Abysmal Abyss (Atari 2600)
Escape From The Mindmaster (Atari 2600)
Tunnel Runner (Atari 2600)
Venture (Intellivision)

Download (Japan)
Grade: A
Publisher: NEC (1990)
Reviewed: 2016/3/27

screenshotThere's so much to love about Download, beginning with its name. NEC had no idea what kind of confusion this seemingly innocuous title would cause in the future! The intro features a glimmering city skyline so inviting I wanted to climb into my TV! A camera zooms into a particular area of town to introduce our hero, sitting on a couch. Pound for pound Download is one of the best side-scrollers I've ever played. You can adjust your weapon configuration beforehand, but I recommend sticking with the default "beam valcan" (not a typo) and "chaser" sub-weapon. The beam has terrific screen coverage and the chaser conveniently cleans up the scraps.

The background graphics feature city landscapes that look sharp yet never impinge upon the action. Catchy electronic beats provide a steady rhythm to help you get into a zone. Unlike modern shooters, Download manages to maintain difficulty without descending into chaos. Your main weapon is unlimited but you may be tempted to conserve your sub-weapon. Don't bother, because staying alive is your top priority. Floating icons change form every few seconds, allowing you to strategically augment your weapon, sub-weapon, or shields. Taking hits drains your weapons and shields, which is a fair system.

The first boss seems really tough until you realize you can just fire down its throat to destroy it. Stage two changes things up as you navigate narrow passages lined with cute robots. Level three gets a little metaphysical as you blast dominoes that explode into vinyl records. I particularly enjoyed level four which is set at sea and with storm clouds looming in the sky.

The stages aren't particularly long and bosses are reasonable. When you perish, a "mission incomplete" screen shows our hero reciting poorly-translated English dialog like "S--t is not this a good beginning!" and "I can not f--k up for this" Needless to say, these one-liners are worth their weight in gold. Unlimited continues are available in addition to a password feature. Quirky, challenging, and fun, Download is one shooter that had me grinning from ear to ear. Note: This game will not run natively on a non-Japanese system. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 118,100
1 player 

If you like this game, try: 1943 (NES)
Override (Japan) (Turbografx-16)
Rhythm Heaven Fever (Wii)
Zero Wing (Europe) (Genesis)
Suicide Mission (Atari 2600)

Download 2 (Japan) (CD)
Grade: B-
Publisher: NEC (1991)
Reviewed: 2016/5/5

screenshotThe original Download set the bar pretty high and this sequel struggled to meet expectations. The switch to a CD format didn't help. The load process is time-consuming and the cinematic introduction contains too much dialogue. In one cutscene our hero is shown sitting naked on the edge of his bed! Once the game finally gets started it looks like the first Download, only the lower part of the screen is obstructed by some sort of guard rail. WTF?

The background depicts a half-buried city under a gorgeous red sunset. In a nifty piece of foreshadowing, the first boss can be seen creeping across the background. The guitar-driven soundtrack is good, reminding me a lot of Sonic Adventure (Dreamcast, 1999). The rapid-fire shooting action picks up where the first game left off, but this time the second button toggles between weapons.

I like this scheme because the weapons are fun to experiment with. In addition to your standard wide shot and penetrating lasers, you have a very short-range electric bolt that fries anything directly in front of you. The fourth weapon is slow-moving orbs that serve as homing missiles. Once you max out the orbs you can overcome nearly any adversary.

The difficulty is higher than the first game but it helps that you get five lives and occasional shield power-ups. The first boss is spider-like and the second looks like a freaky monkey robot. The game begins to lose momentum in stage three however, which simply throws geometric shapes at you. The fourth stage is also lame as you have to avoid blocks sliding all over the screen. Download 2 gets off to a pretty good start but can't sustain the fun like the original game could. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 19,820
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Sonic Adventure DX Director's Cut (GameCube)
Sonic Advance 3 (Game Boy Advance)
Download (Japan) (Turbografx-16)
King of Fighters 94 (CD) (Neo Geo)
Guitar Hero Encore: Rocks The 80s (Playstation 2)

Dragon Spirit
Grade: C
Publisher: NEC (1989)
Reviewed: 2007/5/16

screenshotWhat's disappointing about Dragon Spirit is how utterly ordinary it is. As a vertical shooter that lets you control a fireball-spewing dragon, I was hoping for a cool medieval theme, but instead the game is so generic I might as well be controlling a jet plane. Even the music lacks any distinctive qualities. The stages call to mind a "lost world" of sorts, with duckbill dinosaurs in the water and pterodactyls in the sky. You get all the obligatory environmental conditions including water, volcanoes, desert, jungle, caves, and ice.

The graphics lack detail, with static scenery and creatures that look like shapeless blobs. There are a lot of annoyances including water-tornados that act like heat-seeking missiles, and active volcanoes that create a minefield of eruptions. The gameplay is decent, with power-ups that not only increase your strength, but even add extra heads to your dragon, to double and even triple your firepower. A two-headed dragon is understandable, but a three-headed dragon?! That's crazy! And why do all the creatures explode when they get shot?

Be sure to engage your turbo switches for this game - they make a big difference. For those of you who enjoyed Dragon Spirit on the Namco Museum Volume 5 (Playstation, 1997), this Turbografx edition is actually better because it consumes the whole screen instead of a narrow strip. There are no passwords or continues. For a generic shooter, Dragon Spirit is serviceable, but its lack of imagination makes it feel like a missed opportunity. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 62290
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Dragon Spirit: The New Legend (NES)
Namco Museum Volume 5 (Playstation)
Namco Museum 50th Anniversary (Playstation 2)
Namco Museum 64 (Nintendo 64)
Twin Eagle (NES)

Dragon's Curse
Grade: A
Publisher: Hudson Soft (1990)
Reviewed: 2018/6/12

screenshotDragon's Curse doesn't come cheap but I definitely don't regret tracking down a copy. This is actually an enhanced version of Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap (Sega Master System, 1989). While the gameplay is essentially the same, this Turbografx-16 version offers sharper graphics, better music, and a super-convenient file save (in addition to a password). I guess the biggest improvement is easy access to your item screen via the run button. On the Sega Master System you have to press the pause button located on the console itself! I noticed certain monsters sport new color schemes, and the facial expressions they make when you strike them look hilarious.

Dragon's Curse is a whimsical platformer with RPG elements, kind of like a cross between Adventure Island (NES, 1987) and Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (NES, 1989). Collecting gold coins dropped by enemies lets you purchase armor, shields, and swords. The fact that merchants won't sell you items until your charisma is high is frustrating at first, but makes sense in the long run. The maze of doors connecting the various areas (coast, desert, forest) seem confusing to navigate, but there's no shortage of fun things to do.

Colorful enemies including cyclops, genies, mummies, skeletons, and scarecrow heads. I really hate those fire-dropping storm clouds that relentlessly follow you around. Throughout the course of the game you'll transform into a lizard-man (breathes fire), mouse-man (climbs), piranha-man (swims), hawk-man (flies), among others. I like how the final gauntlet tests you meddle through all of the various forms. An engrossing mix of arcade and RPG-lite gameplay, Dragon's Curse is one of the few games I found myself playing compulsively from beginning to end. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: password, file save
1 player 

If you like this game, try: Wonder Boy III: The Dragon's Trap (Sega Master System)
Wonder Boy in Monster Land (Sega Master System)
Wonder Boy: The Dragon's Trap (Playstation 4)
Dragonstomper (Atari 2600)
Mouse Trap (Colecovision)

Dungeon Master: Theron's Quest (CD)
Grade: C-
Publisher: Victor Entertainment (1993)
Reviewed: 2020/1/10

screenshotIf you were a D&D fan back in the day a game like Dungeon Master was a dream come true. Instead of convening all the neighborhood nerds in your basement you could let this computer program run the show, embarking on a solo adventure at any time! The animated intro to Theron's Quest boasts CD-quality music and narration, but the cutscenes are limited to a small window. Before I could begin the game prompted me to make room in my "file cabinet". It was referring to my Turbo Duo memory and I had to clear a lot of files.

The Dungeon Master series was revolutionary for its time. To begin you assemble a four-character party. Instead of navigating an overhead maze you're presented with a first-person view of your surroundings. It's like you're in the game! The visuals are sharp and richly-detailed. The perfectly-square dungeon passages look fake but at least it's easy to spot items and not-so-hidden levers.

Originally designed to be played on a computer via a mouse, the interface feels less than intuitive. The system for picking up items and shuffling your inventory is reasonable, but it took me a while to figure out how to simply navigate the hallways. I was expecting the side arrows to turn, but they side-step. Turning is done via the bent arrows, which makes sense I guess.

Combat is exciting because it occurs in real time. It's fun to watch skeletons reduced to ashes by your sword blows or magic lightning. The traps and door mechanisms seem pretty straightforward at first, but when you encounter timed challenges the clunky interface becomes a liability.

The audio is erratic. Sometimes you'll hear booming music, sometimes dripping water, and often nothing at all. Certain areas make it really easy to get lost, teleporting you in circles. I anxiously searched for some kind of save option, only to discover you can only save after completing an entire dungeon! What is the point? Dungeon Master: Theron's Quest is a rich dungeon crawler but it asks a lot of the player, so sit back and get comfortable. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

If you like this game, try: Dungeon (Atari 2600)
Advanced Dungeons and Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin (Intellivision)
Sword of Fargoal (Commodore 64)
Flashback (Sega CD)
Gateway to Apshai (Colecovision)


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