Neo Geo Reviews L-M

Last Resort
Grade: B
Publisher: SNK (1992)
Reviewed: 2004/2/21

screenshotWith Last Resort, we're approaching the upper reaches of the Neo Geo shooter food chain. It's one of the better-rated shooters for the system, and certainly one of the more difficult. In fact, the stream of expletives that flew out of my mouth as I continuously died at the hands of this game was obscene.

The box cover states, "Earth is under attack. You're the Last Resort". You know, that isn't exactly the vote of confidence you look for before embarking on a mission to save the world. It sounds like they asked everyone else before finally settling on my sorry ass.

Last Resort is one of the best looking side-scrolling shooters you'll ever see. The first stage features a gorgeous city skyline effectively rendered in vibrant red hues, and the second stage features torrential rain and a partially submerged city. Enemies are mainly metallic ships, and their pilots actually eject as their ships explode. This visual effect seems quite amazing at first, but is overused during the course of the game. Objects in this game tend to be quite large, and you'll often find yourself running short on screen real estate.

Last Resort's gameplay is intense and relentless. Your ship is equipped with a round pod that functions as both a shield and extra gun (much like R-Type). You can "charge up" this unit to inflict major damage, which is critical to your survival after the first stage. One aspect of the game I dislike is how enemies can materialize around you suddenly.

The high-energy, adrenaline-pumping music is absolutely first-rate. This is a quality shooter, but its difficulty will make you grateful for the unlimited continues. It's much easier with two players, although slowdown is an issue and it can be hard to tell what's going on amidst all the mayhem. If you're looking to buy a copy of Last Resort, I'd recommend the CD version over the far more expensive cartridge. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 50000
1 or 2 players 

League Bowling
Grade: B+
Publisher: SNK (1991)
Reviewed: 2007/4/11

screenshotLeague Bowling combines simple controls, brisk pacing, and sparkling graphics to produce an irresistibly fun ten-pin experience. Up to four players can compete in a game, and even more impressive is how a well-executed split screen lets two players bowl simultaneously! I've never seen that before in a bowling game, but it's a terrific idea. The bowlers are spiky-haired punks, and it's a shame you can't be the top-heavy blonde who appears in the cut scenes.

League Bowling's controls are as simple as they need to be - no more. Once you position your bowler, you use a "control meter" to apply spin, followed by a power meter. Excellent scaling effects show the ball approaching the pins, and the physics of the pins bouncing around is convincing enough. The collision detection seems slightly off however, as the edge of the ball will sometimes clearly pass through a pin. Goofy animations accentuate particularly good or bad rolls, showing your bowler falling off a building or being run over by a truck.

In addition to the normal bowling, two other modes include Strike 90 (bigger points for marks) and Flash (random points for marks). Personally, I don't really see what these extra modes have to offer. Also included is a "link" function that lets you chain two Neo Geos together (via a port in the cartridge) for some four player simultaneous action. I can't imagine many gamers being able to take advantage of that, but it would be pretty cool. All in all, League Bowling is just plain fun, and may well be the best bowling game of all time. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: flash
Our high score: SDZ 1035
1 to 4 players 

Legend of Success Joe, The
Grade: F
Publisher: SNK (1991)
Reviewed: 2020/5/27


screenshotThis early Neo Geo game is so poor it's hard to believe it was an official SNK release. The premise is that you're some up-and-coming boxer participating in street fights between bouts in the ring. It's like Double Dragon (NES, 1988) meets Evander Holyfield's Real Deal Boxing (Genesis, 1992), offering the worst of both.

The characters are undeniably huge and in 1991 that might have been enough to sell a game like this. Joe is a tall, lanky dork. He can move freely while throwing a variety of punches, but the control scheme insists on shoehorning about a dozen moves into two buttons. Why not get the other two buttons involved? Outside the ring he'll scrap with a lot of mafia types in suits. After putting them down he's approached by an elderly man with a walker for comic relief. Punch that guy too? Don't think I didn't try!

In the boxing ring both fighters have three-tier health bars, and that makes sense considering three knockouts wins a bout. The boxing however is ridiculous. Joe has no reach at all, and when you try to move in close you get knocked on your ass! It looks like both boxers are fighting with alligator arms! And when do you land a punch, it's usually because your opponent walked into it. Knock a guy out and he'll flip into the air like a flapjack. Legend of Success Joe may be the system's worst title. Play it once and you'll never need to play it again. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 40500
1 player 

Magician Lord
Grade: B+
Publisher: Alpha (1990)
Reviewed: 2002/10/16

screenshotWhile it may play like a standard Shinobi-like side-scroller, Magician Lord far exceeds anything you'll find on the Genesis or SNES. You play the role of a projectile-shooting Magician in a big pointy hat, but you can transform into other characters as well. By combining element power-ups (earth, water, air) you can become a fire breathing "dragon warrior", a samurai, or four other mystical beings. This power-up system provides some much-needed variety to an otherwise typical platform game.

Magician Lord only uses two buttons (attack and jump) which makes it very accessible and easy to play. The action involves navigating platforms in castles, caves, and forests while shooting creatures and avoiding traps. Some levels even offer multiple pathways. The characters are large, and while the game's animation has been criticized in other reviews, I didn't think it was so bad. The scenery is varied and painstakingly detailed.

I had a great time playing Magician Lord, even though I was killed more times than Jason in a Friday the 13th movie. Two things make this game hard. First there are those annoying flying things that always appear when you're stuck on a ladder (you can't attack while on a ladder). Second, the bosses are crazy tough. The first one alone took me about ten tries to defeat! Fortunately you can save your spot to a memory card. But overall I do like Magician Lord - it has a certain old-school sensibility about it. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 11620
1 player 

Metal Slug (MVS)
Grade: A
Publisher: Nazca Corp (1994)
Reviewed: 2015/7/29

screenshotThe Metal Slug franchise was the flagship of the Neo Geo console. The series consistently delivered side-scrolling shooting mayhem with gigantic sprites, gratuitous destruction, and an outrageous sense of humor. After six iterations on the Neo Geo the series migrated to other systems in the form of Metal Slug X (Playstation, 2001) and compilations like Metal Slug Anthology (Wii, 2006). Frankly the first Metal Slug was the best of all.

The AES version costs a fortune but the MVS cartridge is affordable enough. The game plays like a Rambo parody as your one-man-army plows through the jungle mowing down soldiers, blowing up helicopters, and bringing wooden forts crashing down. The enemy reactions and shrieking sound effects are hilarious. The rapid-fire shooting is ideal for the Neo Geo controller with its big tappable buttons.

The oversized sprites, detailed scenery, and massive carnage is a feast for the eyes. At one point you'll witness a screen-sized building collapse. Wow. And just when you think things couldn't get any more chaotic, you hop into your Metal Slug tank and unleash a whole new level of whup-ass. Granted, slow-down does occur and at times it can be onerous. Still, I love the subtle details like reflections in puddles and visible breath in the cold winter stages.

The heroic soundtrack really pumps your adrenaline and reaches operatic proportions during boss encounters. The number of continues is set at three which turns out to be an ideal number. A classic shooter in every sense of the word, Metal Slug may be the definitive title for the Neo Geo system. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 237000
1 or 2 players 

Metal Slug 2 (CD)
Grade: A-
Publisher: SNK (1998)
Reviewed: 2006/8/30

screenshotRegarded as the franchise that put Neo Geo on the map, Metal Slug is king when it comes to gratuitous 2D side-scrolling shooting action. Unfortunately, Metal Slug cartridges typically fetch hundreds of dollars on Ebay, so most gamers will have to settle for this CD version (which doesn't come cheap either). Assuming the role of a Rambo-like cartoon character, you blast your way through hordes of soldiers and mechanical beasts while forging through war-torn streets, bustling Arabian markets, and mummy-infested tombs.

With the exception of your default peashooter, weapons like shotguns and missile launchers are absolutely devastating. The action is relentless, the carnage is incredible, and an off-beat sense of humor pervades the whole affair. Should you catch a whiff of "mummy breath", you transform into a gun-toting mummy yourself. Consume too many food items and your solider becomes a slow, obese slob.

Metal Slug 2 bears more than a passing resemblance to Metal Slug X (Playstation, 2001), and I'm a bit irked at how soldiers splatter white "blood" when shot (at least in this American version). The censorship seems all the more absurd when you consider all of the flying body parts. Metal Slug 2's eye candy is substantial, but it does tax processors at times, resulting in occasional slowdown. Load times also disrupt the action periodically, although they're not especially long. Humorous voices effects and a dramatic musical score accentuate the outstanding audio.

Metal Slug 2 offers five continues which I found to be reasonable for the default skill level. You'd expect the two-player simultaneous mode to be even more fun, but it's really not due to the aforementioned slowdown and general on-screen confusion. The cartridge is not worth breaking your piggy bank for, but if you can obtain the CD for a reasonable price, Metal Slug 2's brand of nonstop mayhem will definitely not let you down. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 478554
1 or 2 players 

Mutation Nation
Grade: C-
Publisher: SNK (1992)
Reviewed: 2004/4/11

screenshotHere's another second-rate, side-scrolling beat-em-up along the same lines as Burning Fight. For some reason SNK could never seem to get these types of games quite right. They inexplicably went out of their way to keep the action overly simple, limiting the controls to two buttons. As a result, the gameplay feels repetitive and lacks technique.

One button is used to punch and the other to jump. You can press both to jump-kick, and hold A for a charge attack. There are no holds, throws, weapons, or interactive scenery, and that's a shame. You spend most of the game just tapping the punch button. Mutation Nation is set in a city of the future crawling with mutated beasts.

The designers got pretty creative with some of these creatures, including squid-heads, plant people, horned dogs, and thugs that sprout bat heads. The four-armed woman reminded me of the Mortal Kombat character Sheeva. Stage locations include city streets, a museum, a seaport, moving flatbed trucks, and even a dance club. The multi-layered backgrounds are nicely drawn and interesting to look at.

The game supports two-player simultaneous action, and you can't harm each other, which is always preferable. Player two is a black guy with a flattop and stripes on the side of his head - quite fashionable for 1992. Three continues are provided.

It doesn't appear that SNK put a lot of effort into Mutation Nation. For example, when you walk up to a door at the end of a stage, it shatters without even being touched. Mutation Nation is not a terrible game, but it's awfully shallow and very forgettable. Even my wife, a huge Streets of Rage fan, thought this was awfully primitive. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 101600
1 or 2 players 


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