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Neo Geo Reviews N-O

NAM 1975
Grade: A-
Publisher: SNK (1990)
Posted: 2002/9/6

screenshotThis early Neo Geo title delivers some serious two player shooting satisfaction. You view the action from behind your soldier, blasting enemy troops, tanks, helicopters, boats, and anything else that comes into view. You can even level entire buildings and topple huge bosses.

The A button is used to fire your machine gun, B throws grenades, and C is used to run sideways. Running is not only useful for evading incoming fire, but also to grab power ups that rain down around you. A variety of backdrops and enemies keep the action fresh, and there's even an occasional hostage to save. NAM offers a limited number of continues, so you won't finish it in one sitting.

If I have one complaint, it's that the action tends to get very difficult very fast. The graphics aren't the best you'll see on the Neo Geo, but the tremendous destruction is quite satisfying. A memory card can be used to save your place. Fun to play and fairly inexpensive, NAM 1975 is highly recommended. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 70400
1 or 2 players 

Neo Bomberman
Grade: C
Publisher: Hudson Soft (1997)
Posted: 2020/5/27

screenshotSuper Bomberman (SNES, 1992) was the ultimate party game of its time. When I was still living at home my friends would frequently converge there for some raucous four-player mayhem. So how would the franchise translate to the Neo Geo, a system with only two controller ports and no adapter? Not well, so Neo Bomberman took a different tact.

You're still running around a maze dropping bombs, but now there are multiple CPU-controlled, non-player characters meandering around. These include walking mushrooms, balloon-headed guys, and gingerbread men. They aren't too aggressive but they are fatal to touch. Your goal is to clear them all out and head for the exit. If a second player is present you play for score.

The graphics are festive, with gumball machines lining the maze and teddy bears decorating the edges. It's kind of fun but the isometric view makes things look a little busy. Having so many characters running around is confusing, especially since some require multiple blasts to kill.

The game does have a few surprises up its sleeve, like a blue plane power-up that lets you fly above the fray. In general however the game comes off a little flat. Bomberman never was a great single-player title, and Neo Bomberman further hammers home that point. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Neo DriftOut (CD)
Grade: B-
Publisher: Visco (1996)
Posted: 2012/11/15

screenshotIt's best known for shooters and fighting games, but the Neo Geo also offers a sweet trio of overhead racers. Just as Overtop (1996) improved on Thrash Rally (1991), Neo DriftOut sets the bar even higher. Or so it would seem! The game is played over six tracks that include a scenic European raceway, a dusty African course, and a track completely encrusted with snow and ice. The roads twist and turn every which way, but the controls are up to the task.

It's amazing how well these cars handle with a digital joystick. Power-slides feel second nature, and an auto-straighten feature prevents you from having to make slight adjustments on straight-aways. Once you get a feel for it, you'll be playing the game like a violin. Hazards like barrels and puddles just slow you down slightly, but hit a boulder and you may end up facing the wrong direction (gah!). There are no laps; you just race to the finish line. Prompts on the screen indicate upcoming turns and also clue you in on alternate routes. There are other cars but you're really just racing against the clock. Hit a car from behind and it's quickly pushed out of your way.

DriftOut's graphics make fine use of scaling to zoom in on straight-aways and zoom out for wide turns. The tight camera reveals a highly detailed car, but it prevents you from viewing the scenery. In fact, you probably won't notice any scenery during the course of a race. Reach the finish before time expires and you advance to the next track. If you don't make it, the game still lets you finish out your run.

A jazzy musical score plays throughout, but that commentator is a real drama queen. You'll bump against another car and he'll exclaim, "OH MY GOD!!" There are unlimited continues and your combined times make up your score. One area where Neo DriftOut is sorely lacking is the replay department. Once I finally beat the final Great Britain track (after about a dozen tries), I felt like I had seen all the game had to offer. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: Normal
Our high score: 7'49"08
1 player 

Neo Turf Masters
Grade: C
Publisher: Nazca (1996)
Posted: 2015/5/19

screenshotIt's a big step up from Top Players Golf (Neo Geo, 1990), but I still think Neo Turf Masters should have been a lot better. The players look lifelike and tee off with digitized motion. The courses are bright and arcade-like, with well-defined fairways and nicely contoured greens. Occasionally you're treated to a gorgeous view like a waterfall backdrop.

The game is fast moving. Just about everything you need to know is presented on the shot screen, yet it doesn't look cluttered. A small map on the right side lets you line up your shot without having to deal with separate map screens. The problem is, that thick line showing your current aim tends to obscure trees and small sand traps. That's kind of a big deal because the trees are like walls in this game. Once I even hit the shadow of a tree.

There are two swing meters you hit in succession; one for power and one for accuracy. When in the rough, your accuracy sweet spot is so tiny, it's possible to flat-out miss your shot. Most of the time the ball comes off at a low trajectory and you don't get much roll. Fortunately you can apply dramatic hooks and slices to navigate around trees and sand traps.

Close-up animations punctuate interesting shots like bounces off trees or skips across the water. Jazzy music plays in the background, and it has an effervescent, feel-good quality reminiscent of Sonic Adventure (Dreamcast, 1999). A cute Japanese woman chimes in with comments like "player one starts to strike back" and "it's on the gween!"

The course designs could be better. They tend to be very narrow so even respectable shots can be ruled out-of-bounds. And how in the world can an area between the fairway and green be considered out-of-bounds?! You're forced to play very defensively, laying up whenever possible. I enjoyed the bright graphics and fast gameplay of Neo Turf Masters, but its unforgiving nature may convince you to settle for 9 holes. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Nightmare in the Dark (MVS)
Grade: A-

screenshotMy friends and I play Nightmare in the Dark without fail every October, and I'm telling you this game has aged like wine! Nightmare in the Dark is a co-op platformer with an irresistible Halloween theme. There's nothing quite like it in terms of style. Its core gameplay however does have a lot in common with Snow Brothers (NES, 1991).

Each player controls a cloaked crypt keeper holding a little lantern. Each macabre stage features a unique platform configuration crawling with zombies, skeletons, hunchbacks, and ghosts. The monsters are animated in a whimsical manner, with skeletons that fall on their face after stumbling off a platform.

Nightmare in the Dark's colorful backdrops depict shadowy graveyard scenes, and they add a lot of ambiance. A catchy musical score further adds to the fun. Once these tunes get into your head, you'll be bopping right along. I used to think the music was too upbeat, but it's too good to dislike, and it does possess a slight macabre undercurrent.

Tapping the fire button lets you rapidly chuck flames at approaching creatures, setting them ablaze and stopping them in their tracks. Eventually they will become engulfed in a ball of fire, but in the meantime other creatures tend to close in on you, adding excitement and suspense. Once ignited, you can carry the fireball and set it into motion, causing it to quickly carom around the screen, taking out all creatures in its path! It's very satisfying, especially as you gather up gems and potions that appear in their wake.

Bosses include a Frankenstein monster, a huge skull carriage, and a pair of gargoyles. These cannot be defeated directly, but instead by tossing their burning minions at them! It's easy to run out of real estate against these behemoths, but keep in mind that when you fall off the screen on the bottom, you fall back in on top! Once defeated, you'll frantically try to collect the treasures that pour forth, as they only remain on the screen for a few seconds.

Slow-down does creep in when things get hectic in the two-player co-op mode. It can be pretty pronounced at times but the action remains smooth so at least you won't lose sight of what's going on. Nightmare in the Dark is a fantastic one-of-a-kind gem. For the life of me I can't figure out why it never got a sequel. © Copyright 2023 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: CJS 615,700
1 or 2 players 

Ninja Combat
Grade: F
Publisher: Alpha (1990)
Posted: 2003/6/17

screenshotMany years ago, before they had bad voice acting in video games, there was equally poor text dialogue. Check out this riveting exchange between the two heroes of Ninja Combat: "That's the Ninja Tower isn't it?" "It's like a fortress isn't it?" "It looks more like a small hut to me!" "Let's go Joe!" "I'm ready pal!" If you think that was bad, wait until you play the game. This side-scrolling fighter tries to be a glorified Double Dragon, but it's just awful.

The characters are large but cartoonish-looking and the backgrounds are woefully uninteresting. And why in the world are these ninjas wearing such loud, colorful clothes? They look idiotic! The default attack is throwing stars, but there are plenty of weapons lying around like nun-chucks, maces, and axes. Too bad they always get knocked out of your hand before you get a chance to use them! Fortunately there are also magic and running attacks at your disposal.

Your foes are an odd mix of ninja warriors, cheerleader girls, and mini-werewolves (now available in bite size!). With so many thugs coming out of the woodwork, it's hard to tell what the heck's going on! You'll take more cheap hits than you can see coming, and although some of the bosses look really cool, they require an inordinate number of hits to destroy (a thousand I think). You can choose a new fighter before each stage, and when you defeat certain foes, they are added to your list of playable characters. While it's nice to have more characters, it's frustrating that these new fighters can't pick up and use weapons (for no reason I can surmise).

Another thing I don't appreciate is having to face the same bosses over and over, three or four times. Enough already! The quality of the sound effects in Ninja Combat is also terrible, with muffled grunts and girls who scream "Help! Help!" nonstop. As aggravating as the one player mode is, the two-player mode is even more chaotic and senseless. Oh, and I'm not a big fan of unlimited continues - I think they pretty much suck. And Ninja Combat is one game where you'll be SORRY to have more continues! © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Ninja Commando (CD)
Grade: B-
Publisher: ADK (1992)
Posted: 2006/8/30

screenshotSometimes you need more than a garden-variety ninja. Sometimes you need a ninja specially trained as a commando who can also fire magic missiles from his hands. Ninja Commando attempts to fill that void. Actually, this plays more like a vertical shooter than your typical soldier-on-the-rampage game.

As you journey through wilderness areas and well-fortified palaces, you'll unleash a torrent of missiles and lay waste to enemy soldiers and monsters foolish enough to stand in your way. With firepower this intense, the two-player simultaneous mode is almost ridiculous. Still, those who enjoy non-stop shooting and massive explosions will be enthralled.

In addition to tapping the fire button like a madman, you can hit a somersault button to elude danger. A third button unleashes "ninja magic", inflicting heavy damage to everything on the screen. The bosses are mammoth, and I especially love the giant caveman who actually hurls his own henchmen at you! The death sequences are pretty lame however, as the bosses turn to static before fire engulfs the entire screen (huh?).

In general the graphics are colorful and fun, with time-traveling stages that run the gamut from ancient Japan (samurai!) to prehistoric times (dinosaurs!) to ancient Egypt (mummies!). Hilarious cut-scenes depict an evil villain who bears a startling resemblance to Jon Voight. You'll also be treated to incomprehensible prose like, "You have defended the history from enemy" and "I have a feeling like something is going to happen."

The weak audio tends to use the same "bleah!" sound effect for each slayed foe, and the musical score is equally forgettable. Unlimited continues are available, but if you want a real challenge, you should play on "easy" and forgo the continues. Ninja Commando has a certain disposable quality about it, but once you start blasting away, it can be mesmerizing. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 26850
1 or 2 players 

Overtop (MVS)
Grade: B+
Publisher: ADK (1996)
Posted: 2012/6/22

screenshotI enjoy overhead racing games, and Overtop may be the king of them. Games with tilted perspectives are nothing new, but few have the camera pulled in this close. The cars and scenery are so rich with detail, they look almost digitized. Overtop makes Thrash Rally (Neo Geo, 1991) look like 16-bit material. Instead of offering a series of tracks, there's one long course that winds through villages, deserts, snowy ridges, resorts, and ends in a city park.

I like this format. There tend to be a lot of straightaways which lend themselves to high speeds and power slides. You can select between several vehicles, and that red Ferrari looks pretty sweet until you realize how much of the track is off-road. The controls are responsive and it's easy to stay on the road. Pressing the brake lets you turn on a dime, and it never takes long to get back up to speed. You leave the starting line with three other vehicles, but your real opponent is the clock.

The diverse scenery looks great - what you can see of it. Since the camera is pulled in tight you only get a modest sense of your surroundings. Destructible items on the side of the track include pylons, hay bales, and exploding barrels. After each track segment you reach a checkpoint and additional time is added ("Let's Go Next Stage!").

The track layout is always the same, but you'll stumble upon shortcuts and alternate routes. It's even possible to drive off a pier and putt-putt through the water, although not recommended. Your goal is to complete the track in the shortest time, but simply reaching the end before time expires is nearly impossible in normal mode. Overtop doesn't break new ground but it does elevate overhead racing to a new level with its tight controls and sweet eye candy. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: Easy
Our high score: 4:30:34
1 player 

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Screen shots courtesy of NeoGeo.com, Moby Games