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Games are rated relative to other games for the same system.

Nintendo 64 Reviews J-L

Jet Force Gemini
Grade: D+
Publisher: Rareware (1999)
Posted: 2020/3/11

screenshotThis third-person shooter comes fairly cheap so I was surprised to see the Rareware logo - a publisher known for innovation and quality. In Jet Force Gemini you play a soldier fending off an army of marauding ant creatures. The characters are rendered in a cute anime style so it's disturbing when a furry creature gets blown to bloody chunks during the opening cutscene. Guiding you through each mission is Yoda's cousin, his advice generating page after page of boring text.

Gemini's stages are small and cookie-cutter, and the fact that you're collecting gems and cuddly animals feels contrived. There are platforms to jump on and blocks to take cover behind. The scenery has an unsightly blurry appearance, making it hard to locate enemies. The shooting action is compelling enough. Using the Z trigger to fire feels perfectly natural, and holding it in unleashes rapid-fire shots. A handy auto-aim lets you splatter enemies at ground level with ease, leaving their lifeless (sometimes headless) bodies still twitching.

Things get tricky however when you're being attacked by snipers on high or flying drones. Holding in the right trigger brings up a crosshair but aiming with the touchy analog stick is tricky. The game employs a reverse Y-axis control scheme that I really didn't like at all. Gemini attempts to compensate with a lock-on mechanism but you're a sitting duck while trying to target foes. I really wish my health was displayed on the screen at all times because I never know when I'm about to die.

The pause screen offers an elaborate menu that's a real pain to navigate. You can save your progress at any time but you'll still need to restart at the beginning of each level. That plus limited continues makes it hard to make progress. The game contains a coop mode but you'll first need to rescue a character to unlock it. Jet Force Gemini has flashes of fun but I feel like Rareware made this one a lot more complicated than it needed to be. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: battery
1 or 2 players 

Ken Griffey Jr.'s Slugfest
Grade: B+
Publisher: Nintendo (1999)
Posted: 2006/5/25

screenshotWhile its basic gameplay is almost identical to its predecessor (Major League Baseball Featuring Ken Griffey Jr.), Slugfest provides a serious upgrade in one key area - the graphics. The first thing I noticed was the game's slick new menu system loaded with a lot of new options. On the field the graphical improvement is amazing. Not only are the players much higher in resolution, but they also appear more "shadowy", adding subtle realism.

Apparently the crowd had to be sacrificed to facilitate the visual upgrade, because they now look like blurry wallpaper. But while the player models are better defined, their bodies still sport the same odd, top-heavy proportions. Slugfest's audio features a two-man commentator team, but while they sound professional enough, they sometimes go several minutes without saying anything at all. The best new feature is the "classic" mode, which does away with the tedious cursors in favor of simple, old-fashioned controls. It works wonderfully, and it's refreshing to just push the "swing" button instead of having to guess a pitch location each time.

While Slugfest's developers were busy adding new features, I really wish they had included an instant replay system. After all, it's the 90's for Pete's sake!! While far from perfect, if I could only have one Nintendo 64 baseball game, Slugfest would probably be my choice. It has the slick graphics, simple controls, and non-stop action I look for in a baseball game. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Killer Instinct Gold
Grade: C
Publisher: Nintendo (1996)
Posted: 2003/11/5
Rating: Teen (animated blood and violence)

screenshotThe first Killer Instinct was a good-looking, combo-happy 2D fighter for the Super Nintendo. This slightly updated version features better graphics but questionable gameplay. There are still ten fighters, but three have been replaced. The fire guy and the raptor have been yanked in favor of a barbarian and two generic females. I suppose they needed more women fighters, considering the original game only had one. Old favorites that remain include Jago the ninja, Sabretooth the werewolf, Spinal the skeleton, and Fulgore the cybernetic soldier.

In terms of gameplay, learning the ins and outs of Killer Instinct Gold should qualify for college credit. The manual covers basic techniques, advanced, and master "fighting theory", which explain openers, auto-doubles, end finishers, throw reversals, combo breakers, linkers, juggles, pop-ups, top attacks, counters, pressure-breakers, ultra-breakers, and shadow combos, just to name a few! This has got to be the most gratuitously complex fighter ever made. No, you don't need to understand all of these things to play, but if you don't, matches tend to degenerate into button-mashing marathons.

I found Killer Instinct Gold less enjoyable than its SNES cousin, and more prone to cheap attacks and sore wrists. Graphically, the characters look astonishing, and a few of the 3D backgrounds (like the castle) are somewhat interesting. The edgy dance music is good, but it's hard to hear over the loud sound effects. There aren't many good fighting games on the N64, and even fewer 2D fighters. Killer Instinct Gold serves its purpose, but didn't really advance the franchise too much. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Knife Edge: Nose Gunner
Grade: D
Publisher: Kotobuki System Co. (1998)
Posted: 2016/8/15
Rating: Everyone

screenshotKnife Edge is a bland first-person space shooter that lets you take aim at targets while being automatically whisked through dingy caverns. Moving the crosshair with the analog stick feels awkward at first but I got the hang of it. The trigger engages rapid-fire, the A button activates lock-on weapons, and B unleashes bombs. It's possible to "dodge" slightly left or right via the yellow C buttons.

At first Knife Edge seems moderately enjoyable as you careen through canyons at breakneck speeds while blasting flying ships and ground cannons. I like how holding the trigger fires non-stop. The explosions are crisp and satisfying. I have to smile when I see a poorly-worded message like "You have score 10000 point!!"

Knife Edge sounds like a good old-fashioned shooter but it's got serious issues. For one thing the stages are just plain ugly. Occasionally you'll fly over a desert or dark city, but most of the time you're just racing through featureless caves.

The graphics are so dark and muddy! There's no sense of geography so you won't even notice the branching paths through each stage. Even if you did you'd still be stuck with the same prolonged boss encounters. It's not hard to locate boss weak spots because they blink red when fired upon. The controls to switch special weapons (right trigger and B) are terribly awkward, and I could do without the frequent "commander updates".

Knife Edge supports up to four players at once but that's a dull and monotonous experience. You'll constantly lose track of your crosshair and you can't tell who shot what. The game is best played solo for high score. The problem is, after playing Knife Edge once you probably won't want to play it again. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 476,900
1 to 4 players 

Knockout Kings 2000
Grade: C-
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1999)
Posted: 2001/12/15

screenshotKnockout Kings attempts to be a realistic boxing simulation, for better or worse. It's nice to have real boxers and realistic moves, but most matches tend to be long and laborious. The impressive lineup of fighters includes Mohammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Lennox Lewis, and Evander Holyfield. The animation is smooth and lifelike, and a fine looking polygon woman in a swimsuit introduces each round.

Knockout Kings impressed me at first, but then the bell rang and the fighters walked through each other, that kind of took the wind out of my sails. As fights progress, the boxers get cut and bruised, and even wobble when weakened enough. Even so, they never really look tired, and tend to push each other away instead of "locking up" as they usually do in real life. The controls are a bit sluggish, especially when trying to block. The fighters look ridiculous when sitting in their corners because there's no one else there! Where's their entourage??

The announcers sound terrific before the fight, but there's zero commentary during the actual fight, and that really stinks. Once the bout is over you can view replays of the best punches and knockdowns, which I really enjoyed. Some of the judges' decisions may leave you scratching your head, like the time I knocked down Larry Holmes but lost the bout just because he landed more punches! I hate it when that happens. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, The
Grade: B+
Publisher: Nintendo (1998)
Posted: 2004/2/18

screenshotThis ambitious action/RPG title had a lot to live up to. Not only does it follow one of the greatest adventures of all time (Legend of Zelda Link to the Past, SNES, 1992), but Ocarina was the first to transition Zelda into the world of 3D. All things considered, this is a technically-impressive, well-crafted adventure. There are plenty of throwbacks to past games that will appeal to fans, but there are also some surprising innovations.

For one thing, jumping is now automatic - you just run off the end of a platform and Link jumps. Another interesting new feature is the "Z-targeting" system which automatically aims at your enemies when you hold the trigger. Features like these ease the transition to 3D, but a negative side effect is the awkward camera angles. In order to locate creeping enemies or hidden switches, you'll be wrestling with the camera quite a bit. The controls are far more complicated than past Zelda games, but Nintendo made an obvious effort to make them as intuitive as possible.

Ocarina of TIme's vast world is beautiful and is huge in scope - so big that a horse is provided to expedite your journey between dungeons. Like Link to the Past, the dungeons tend to be multi-layered, so you sometimes find yourself looking down at places you've already visited. There's a lot of interaction with townsfolk, and you can also play mini-games. Zelda fans will find themselves right at home with the familiar music and sound effects lifted directly from previous games.

Ocarina of Time does have its share of annoyances, like enemies that self-destruct after being killed, incessant beeping when your health is low, time-of-day related puzzles, and substantial backtracking. I didn't find it as fun or addicting as Link to the Past, but Legend of Zelda Ocarina of Time is highly regarded by most, and certainly a landmark title for the N64. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, Lemon64.com, Moby Games, YouTube, Games Database, Classic-Games.net