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Neo Geo Reviews B

Baseball Stars Professional
Grade: B-
Publisher: SNK (1990)
Posted: 2002/9/6

screenshotThis is the baseball game I've always wanted - no complicated controls, gratuitous set-up screens, or lulls in the action. Combining nice 2D graphics with simple, fast gameplay, Baseball Stars Professional is pure arcade fun. There are only two stadiums, and the teams are fictional, but the gameplay is right on target.

The graphics are fairly minimal for a Neo Geo game, but the animation is smooth and the controls are responsive. Shortstops leap over sliding runners and outfielders crash into the fences. The "not-so-well-translated-from-Japanese" commentary is often unintentionally hilarious. For example, when you smack a homerun, the announcer exclaims "It's outta here! Hooomer outta here! And the crowd goes crazy. And how he loves to egg that crowd on. And proud he should be - he hit that ball a country mile! He just loves to hit homeruns in this ballpark." Strange nuances like that just make me love this game even more, but Baseball Stars does have its flaws.

Since the screen scrolls quickly when the ball is hit, it's often hard to position your fielders in time to handle grounders or fly balls. There are a far too many home runs and pop-ups to the infield, and the managers look like escaped convicts. Besides changing pitchers and pinch-hitting, there are really no options to speak of. You're also stuck with the Japanese "10-run domination" rule. Baseball Stars Professional is admittedly shallow, but for those of us tired of slow, realistic baseball games, this is just what the doctor ordered. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Baseball Stars Professional 2
Grade: A-
Publisher: SNK (1992)
Posted: 2002/9/6

screenshotI loved the first Baseball Stars Professional, and BSP2 really ups the ante. It's very similar to the first game, but the graphics have been given a major overhaul. In fact, the visuals are so flashy that sometimes I think they might have gone a bit overboard. The game bombards your senses by flashing so many windows and graphics that you can never digest it all.

The main screen features animated close-ups of both the pitcher and batter, and while these look terrific, the same faces repeat with annoying frequency. There are numerous cool graphical details like batters that break their bats, submariner pitchers, and rolling balls that kick up dust. After a home run, the entire team (including the mascot) greets the player at home plate. There are a substantial number of cut scenes and close-ups, especially during diving catches and close plays, which add drama and excitement. Unfortunately, the umpires tend to make bad calls, often contradicting what you see on the field.

The gameplay itself really hasn't changed much. It's easier to position your fielders laterally, but harder to tell how far the ball was hit. New "power-up" options add a bit more strategy, allowing you to increase your batter's strength a limited number of times per game. The single player tournament mode lets you save your place between innings, which is a welcome feature. I enjoy Baseball Stars Professional 2 immensely. It's probably the most spectacular baseball game I've ever played. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

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hard to judge fielders 1 or 2 players 

Blazing Star (MVS)
Grade: A
Publisher: Yumekobo (1998)
Posted: 2011/4/30

screenshotThe Neo Geo has always been known for its excellent shooters, and Blazing Star is a prime example why. This horizontal shooter pushes the limits of 2D technology with its huge scaling sprites and non-stop destruction. Its illustrated backdrops feature sprawling space stations, magnificent waterfalls, and even some vertigo-inducing 3D effects. The objects on the screen tend to be very large, yet you rarely feel crowded.

At its core, Blazing Star is really a simple shooter. Tapping the fire button unleashes a steady stream of missiles. Enemies tend to scale in from the background and their satisfying explosions release all sorts of bonus icons. Holding in the fire button lets you perform a charged shot, which is especially effective on the bosses. Blazing Star's futuristic techno music is rich, and so is the poorly translated text ("Get it more!"). Stages are ideal in length and the difficulty ramps nicely.

If the game has a fault, I'd say it's a little boss heavy. Once you think you've finally destroyed the massive mechanical beast, it just transforms into a new shape. These bosses unleash overlapping waves of projectiles, so thank goodness the collision detection is forgiving. You'll also be thankful for the unlimited continues. Blazing Star will bombard your senses and test your skills, leaving your hands trembling. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: SLN 349,810
1 or 2 players 

Blue's Journey
Grade: D
Publisher: Alpha (1990)
Posted: 2005/4/7

screenshotFor a Neo Geo title, Blue's Journey is decidedly weak. It tries to be a Mario Bros. clone, but it's not even in the same ballpark thanks to its confusing gameplay and counter-intuitive controls. As a small elf-like creature in a side-scrolling, pastel world, you must fend off cartoon monsters while leaping between platforms.

Armed with a huge green leaf, you can "smack down" birds, lizards, Vikings, and potato-looking thingamajigs. These stunned creatures can then be picked up and hurled at other adversaries. In addition, it's possible to jump on creatures and "spin" them off the screen. None of it makes much sense, and I found myself hopelessly confused. Enemies close in from all sides, and rock-dropping birds only add to the aggravation.

Blue's single innovation involves pressing the C button, which allows you to shrink down into a tiny version of your character. But besides allowing you to reach certain items (tucked away in logs for example), I really couldn't find a practical use for this. Blue's Journey does feature branching paths, and you can purchase items with "flowers" you collect. As the instructions elegantly state, "The flower is your money. Hung onto it."

Sadly, bad English is the most entertaining aspect of Blue's Journey. I love a good platform game, but this one feels awkward, and I couldn't get a feel for it. The graphics are colorful and the music is bouncy, but neither are particularly appealing. A two-player simultaneous mode is available, but that's just twice as mediocre. Suffice to say, this journey is not one I will be embarking on very often. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Burning Fight
Grade: B
Publisher: SNK (1991)
Posted: 2015/5/19

screenshotOver the years I've developed an appreciation for Burning Fight. The game has huge sprites, eye candy galore, and features you won't find in other side-scrolling brawlers. The character selection could be more diverse. There's an Asian dude named Ryu and two slow blonde-haired fighters named Duke and Billy. The animation is stiff and Duke struts around like he has a pole up his butt.

The stages are the highlight of the game, beginning with an opening street stage with bright arcades and shops. Destroying soda machines and food stands reveal corn dogs which make you healthy and strong, just like in real life. You can beat up trash cans to reveal priceless jewelry. But the best part is how you can enter certain stores, trashing the interiors for points and health! You can even destroy a fax machine, and who hasn't ever wanted to do that?

The second stage takes place in a sparkling shopping mall with a boss who looks like Hulk Hogan. Subsequent stages feature more predictable locations like a subway, port, and construction site. The only thing missing is the obligatory sewer. The fighting action is by-the-numbers but still a lot of fun.

There's a nice selection of goons ranging chain-wielding thugs to dynamite tossers to overweight rednecks. Your attacks (punch, jump, kick) are effective, and hitting all three buttons unleashes your special. There are plenty of weapons including poles, knives, bottles, and best of all - guns! There's nothing better than shooting a gangster with his own gun.

Burning Fight has its share of quirks. You can toss thugs, but only about two inches. In one part of the game some homeless guy comes around and starts rubbing up on you. What's that all about? Some of the dialogue is weird, like the boss who asks "will you burn with me?" The game is great with two players, but take care not to harm your partner. Burning Fight is a lot better than I first gave it credit for. If you enjoy Streets of Rage or Final Fight, this is quite a treat. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 41,200
1 or 2 players 

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Screen shots courtesy of NeoGeo.com