Nintendo 64 Reviews U-Z

Waialae Country Club
Grade: C-
Publisher: T&E Soft (1998)
Posted: 2015/7/4
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThis golf game features a single Hawaiian course but it's a good one. Waialae (pronounced "why lie") has palm trees, scenic mountains, ocean views, and even a few high rise buildings. Fly-by previews introduce each hole but there's no audio commentary - only text. Most holes allow several approaches, and hole 13 has three separate fairways!

At first it appears you're limited to a set of fictional golfers, but you can overwrite one of them to register yourself. The players are represented by digitized images who execute fluid swings. If only the ball movement looked as good. You can't make out your tiny ball traveling through the air, but you can see that ugly blue "tail" trailing it.

The big round swing meter is a schizophrenic thing. Sometimes it moves fast and sometimes it crawls. You'd expect the slow movement to be desirable for accuracy, but it's annoying having to wait. The narrow "sweet spot" is hard to nail, and the worse you do, the smaller it becomes! I do like how when you "duff" the ball it just goes a short distance instead of veering way out of bounds. What makes the course tough are the hurricane-force winds which really tend to knock down your shot. Putting is tricky too. It's hard to judge the green (they always look flat) and when the ball approaches the cup "moon gravity" suddenly kicks in.

The sunny, tropical scenery is pleasant enough, but severe pixelation tends to undermine its natural beauty. In terms of audio, I hate that audible chime that plays whenever you hit the button. The two-man commentary team are masters of the obvious. The play-by-play guy sounds like he's reading to second-graders ("Uhhh ohhh. It hit a tree!"), and the color guy is worthless ("Good putting"). The game auto-saves your progress and statistics, which is pretty sweet. The best aspect of the game is the pacing; there's little down time and you can play 18 holes in about a half hour. Waialae Country Club isn't bad but it's below average as golf games go. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

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Save mechanism: battery
1 to 4 players 

War Gods
Grade: F
Publisher: Midway (1996)
Posted: 2010/6/6
Rating: Mature 17+ (animated violence, animated blood and gore)

screenshotIn 1996 Nintendo 64 owners were starving for a good 3D fighter, and War Gods generated plenty of buzz and anticipation. The idea of mythical gods battling to the death sounds exciting, but in fact it's really, really boring. War Gods tries to bring the brutality and mystique of Mortal Kombat to the realm of 3D, but fails miserably.

The characters are part of the problem. Kabuki Jo is supposed to be a medieval samurai, but he looks more like a clown with that red bushy hair. Cy-5 is a blatant Terminator knock-off, and Maximus is a gladiator with a mask over his face but no armor on his body. Pagan is a female fighter whose sole purpose seems to be to strut around in a thong and high heels. Tak is a stone warrior who looks more like a Marvel Comics reject. The only two characters remotely interesting are the dog-headed Anubis of Egypt and Voodoo the skinny witchdoctor.

The character models are detailed enough but the backgrounds are sparse and boring. Like watching two immortals engaged in an endless struggle, playing War Gods feels like a pointless exercise. Each battle takes place within a circle, yet it's impossible to be knocked out of it, even as you are being pounded on the edge. The awkward control scheme employs a separate "3D" button to provide limited freedom of movement. It's a bad idea, evident by the fact that no fighter since has tried to incorporate it.

Cheap attacks are the order of the day, coupled with "hold spells" that render the victim helpless as they get the living [expletive] kicked out of them. Characters fight hand-to-hand, but frequently pull weapons out of thin air to perform special attacks. Since they're freakin' gods, I'll give them a pass on that one. The damage dealt tends to be minimal, extending matches to agonizing lengths.

When Tak impales an opponent with a spike and throws him across the room, you'd expect that to do substantial damage, right? But no - it only takes about an eighth off his life bar. Not a problem, as I discovered that by running and mashing A, I could perform this impale attack over and over again on my helpless foe. I nearly finished the game using that technique, but had to shut the damned thing off out of sheer boredom. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Wave Race 64
Grade: A-
Publisher: Nintendo (1996)
Posted: 2007/6/12
Rating: Everyone

screenshotWith its simple gameplay, beautiful scenery, and superb water effects, Wave Race 64 is one of the most appealing titles available for the Nintendo 64. Its eight distinctive courses include a sunny beach, a serene lake, and an industrial port. There's even a "sunset" course where you race on an ocean of orange Kool-Aid! The choppiness of the water varies between courses, and hitting a large wave at the right angle can send you high in the air. Pretty sweet.

Wave Race's foamy water and splashing sound effects are so realistic that you can almost smell the salty water of the beach and the raw sewage of the port. The controls are absolutely terrific, and I'm glad because serious skill is required to weave in and out of the colored buoys (miss too many and you're disqualified). It's possible to perform tricks, but they seem a bit pointless really. The one-player championship mode is addictive as hell, and the two-player split screen is also very nice.

The main problem with Wave Race 64 is its annoying announcer, who never has anything interesting to say, and will not shut up. Get used to hearing him shout the same words over and over: "Good!! Nice!! O-kay!! Okay!! Maximum Power!! Okay!!" Despite having a full options menu, there's no way to shut up that frickin' idiot. Despite this unfortunate audio flaw, Wave Race is a fantastic water racer and a must-have for all serious Nintendo 64 fans. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Wayne Gretzky's 3D Hockey
Grade: D
Publisher: Midway (1996)
Posted: 2011/3/20

screenshotI know polygon graphics were a novelty in 1996, but it's still a stretch to characterize this title as "3D". I've seen Wayne Gretzky's Hockey compared to NBA Jam, but NFL Blitz would be a better comparison, since both were published by Midway and employ the same commentator. I thrive on arcade-style sports games, but this one is badly flawed.

For starters, my buddy Steve and I were frustrated as hell by our inability to set up a game so we could both play on the same team. Who designed this menu interface?! Forced to go head-to-head, it was immediately apparent that the default "sideline" camera angle wasn't going to cut it. It's a terrible vantage point, especially when the puck is on the far side of the rink. Fortunately other camera options are available including an NHL 94-style overhead angle.

Great - now if only the camera could keep up with the puck we could have some fun! This game may be too fast for its own good. The puck zips from one end of the rink to the other, and in a split-second you can steal the puck, pass it to a teammate and deflect it into the goal! Oh yeah - I meant to do that! The control scheme is a mess. The lower C button is used for turbo but the Z trigger would have made a lot more sense. You need to press awkward button combinations to execute power shots and one-timers. When a CPU-controlled teammate gains possession of the puck, you need to press the right shoulder button to take control of him.

The graphics are best described as gaudy. The screen is cluttered with unnecessary colored icons and the puck has an obnoxious flashing indicator over it. Still, it's not a total loss. The contests are short, high-scoring affairs, and the outcome is always in doubt. Scoring a hat trick turns the net into a raging inferno! You're prompted for your initials before each contest, and these are used to record statistical information (saved to memory card). It's not a terrible game, but with a name like Wayne Gretzky you expect a lot more. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

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Save mechanism: Controller pack
1 to 4 players 

Wayne Gretzky's 3D Hockey 98
Grade: B-
Publisher: Midway (1997)
Posted: 2011/3/20

screenshotThe first Wayne Gretzky hockey had a fast arcade style but its design flaws drove me nuts. This 98 edition patches things up but doesn't go far enough. Unlike the first game, my friend Steve and I could actually configure a game so we could be on the same team. Hurrah. The graphics are nearly identical to the first game, but there are a few tweaks that improve the overall experience.

First, the overhead view is noticeably higher and offers a much better view of the action. The control scheme still sucks, but at least now you always control the player with the puck. It seems harder to score, and I can say that because I didn't find myself scoring by accident nearly as often! I pride myself as an expert at one-timer plays, and I could pull them off pretty effectively here. The passing is so crisp and accurate that you can practically toy with the goalie, passing the puck from side to side in front of the net.

The sound effects are clean and distinctive, but that announcer doesn't have anything interesting to say. Wayne Gretzky Hockey 98 is not one of my personal favorites, but I can't complain about its short-and-sweet contests. I wish the series would have continued on after this, because it seemed to be heading in the right direction. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

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Save mechanism: Controller pack
1 to 4 players 

Wipeout 64
Grade: B-
Publisher: Midway (1998)
Posted: 2001/4/1

screenshotThis isn't your father's Wipeout. No, this futuristic racer has evolved quite a bit over its many Playstation incarnations, and this N64 version seems to have finally got the formula right. Despite a few limitations, this is probably my favorite Wipeout game. Why? Two things: Awesome control and silky smooth graphics.

The N64 controller was tailor-made for this game, with an analog stick that provides just the right sensitivity. The tracks are wide enough, and scraping against the sides will throw sparks but won't slow you down too much. The weapons are pretty much a "best of" from previous Wipeouts, including the awesome "Quake Disrupter", which sends a huge ripple down the track in front of you. The frame rate is smooth even in the four-player split screen mode.

Careening down twisting slopes almost out of control can be pretty exhilarating, but there is a cost. Yes, the background graphics exhibit that much-dreaded "pop-up" problem in the one-player mode. In the four player split-screen games, there aren't any background graphics at all! It's just a track, and while that doesn't really affect the gameplay, it looks kind of lame.

Other problems include track sections that are too dark and an overly-difficult single player mode. Some players may also frown on the paltry number of tracks (six) and vehicle styles (four). Fortunately the trademark techno music has been retained and contributes greatly to the ultramodern feel of the game. Despite its flaws, Wipeout 64 offers engaging, high-tech racing fun. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: Controller Pack
1 to 4 players 

Xena Warrior Princess
Grade: D
Publisher: Titus (1999)
Posted: 2001/12/15

screenshotI'm no Xena fan, but this was only $5 at Target, so I decided to give it a try. I was hoping Xena Warrior Princess would be an action adventure, but alas, it's just a 3D fighter featuring characters from the television series. The graphics and sound aren't bad though. The fighters have digitized faces and the medieval background graphics are very cool. In addition, the well-orchestrated music gives the game an epic flair. It's a shame the gameplay is so stale and hackneyed. You simply jump, kick, and punch, while trying to squeeze in the occasional special move. Xena also features a four-player simultaneous battle, but it's little more than a button mash-a-thon. In this case, I think I got what I paid for. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
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1 to 4 players 

Yoshi's Story
Grade: B+
Publisher: Nintendo (1998)
Posted: 2005/1/22
Rating: Everyone

screenshotSo I turn on Yoshi's Story for the first time and I'm greeted with this sissy, high-pitched "yo-ha-ho-ha-hooo" music and I'm thinking "What the [expletive] is this?" Like Mario, I always thought Yoshi appealed to all age groups, but the excessively cute soundtrack and infantile "story" make it evident that this was aimed at the younger crowd.

The story revolves around the Yoshis' (yes, multiple ones) quest for the "Super Happy Tree". I think that speaks for itself. But once you skip through the corny text and turn down the volume a bit, you're in for a real treat. It's not often that you get to play a quality 2D game on the Nintendo 64, and this is far prettier than any 3D game you'll see on the system.

Much like Yoshi's Island (SNES), this game is striking in appearance, with artistic textures that appear to be constructed from papier-mâché, knitted cloth, clay, or carved wood. The gameplay adheres to the standard Mario World formula, but introduces an addicting treasure-hunting aspect with branching paths and stages that cleverly loop around on themselves. The goal of each stage is to collect 30 pieces of fruit, which are easily snagged with Yoshi's long, agile tongue.

For a kid's game, Yoshi's Story's control scheme is rather sophisticated. Yoshi can jump, ground-pound, swallow, swim and hurl eggs by aiming a cursor. My favorite move is the "flutter jump", which is basically a double jump with more personality (Yoshi puts plenty of "umph" into it!). It's easy to slide off ledges, but the flutter jump usually gives you a chance to recover. The non-linear stages are artistic but not particularly imaginative, taking you through a forest, cave, jungle, ocean, and clock tower. Some stages are more maze-like than I would prefer. Certain areas allow you to "zoom in" to get a closer look at suspicious places.

The pace of the game is slow and deliberate but still enjoyable and satisfying. I love how you have a pool of different colored Yoshis to "use up" during your quest. Yoshi's Story wasn't appreciated by the critics when first released, largely because it can be completed in one sitting. But that's offset by the fact that you can choose multiple paths through the game, and there are numerous secrets you'll miss if you just whiz through it.

In addition, the game records high scores for each stage so you can always try to beat your best. It might resemble a kiddie game, but Yoshi's Story offers ample challenge for the adult gamer. Personally, I had a ball playing this. Hell, by the end I was even humming that little song! That's just between you and me, by the way. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

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Screen shots courtesy of,, Moby Games, YouTube, Games Database, YouTube