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

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: D

screenshotIt's not easy being a fighting game on the Neo Geo. The bar has been set so ridiculously high that even spectacular brawlers come across as ho-hum. Ninja Combat is a side-scrolling beat-em-up with two-player co-op. Like Double Dragon (NES, 1988), the main characters are twin brothers. Other characters become playable as you progress, and you can switch fighters between stages.

The graphics aren't bad but the characters look a tad cartoony. The stages are unremarkable. The first time I played it never occurred to me that the opening stage was an amusement park! I guess I should have been tipped off by the innocent schmuck I beat up as he got off the rollercoaster. Poor bastard. There is one stage that I found quite scenic which is the bridge with the bright city skyline and deep blue harbor.

The brothers can pick up weapons like clubs and nunchucks, but frankly you're better off sticking with your throwing stars. Sometimes you accidentally pick up a short-range weapon like an ax and can't get rid of the damn thing! You also have limited special attacks that do stuff like unleash a flaming dragon.

You'll battle ninjas, werewolves, and chicks that pretend to be helpless before kicking your ass. I like the yellow iron ball dude who continues to attack after losing both of his arms. He's like the black knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail! "It's just a flesh wound!"

Of the new fighters you collect, the hulking Gembu is most effective. There's one stage with enemies lined up precariously on a narrow platform, and it only takes one of his ground pounds to knock them all off. Don't make the mistake of picking the chick though, because she's terrible. These new characters have their own magical attacks, but can't pick up weapons for some reason.

As an early Neo Geo title there are few options. Few as in none. You can't even adjust the difficulty. By using the unlimited continues Sudz and I plowed through the whole game in under 45 minutes. That final boss consumes pretty much the entire screen. He has regenerating arms and can absorb about a thousand hits.

There are a few eye-catching scaling sequences, like a big brute stopping a subway car with his bare hands. Ninja Combat is not terrible but it is repetitive with cheap hits and collision detection issues. But it's okay... I guess. Let me just state for the record "I do not regret playing this." © Copyright 2024 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 2736
1 or 2 players 

Ninja Commando
Grade: B

boss When Chris asked me about "going commando" I was visibly relieved to learn he just wanted to play Ninja Commando. This two-player co-op shooter is a feast for the eyes. With all the flipping ninjas, geisha girls, massive sumos, collapsing walls, and flying projectiles, Ninja Commando makes the Super Bowl half-time show look like a third-grade violin recital!

You select from three characters: Ryu, Rayar (a chick), and Joe Tiger (gotta love that traditional American name). Tapping A lets you throw a steady stream of flames, arrows, or throwing stars. You can only shoot forward, but that's fine because they cover such a wide area it feels like you're playing with a damn cheat code!

Traveling through time you'll forge through places like feudal Japan, ancient Egypt, and a prehistoric era with cavemen riding Triceratops (that happened). Don't skip the typo-ridden dialog, which contains gems like "Go investigate and ruin his plan light now!" The main villain and criminal mastermind turns out to be - you guessed it - Jon Voight! He's ten feet tall and looks really dapper in that brown suit.

The violence is off the charts. You can pretty much blow up anything, including fences, trucks, flags, trees, and even large boulders. As you mow down enemies by the dozen they all go "bleah!", as if they're vomiting. When surrounded, throw down a bomb. You get quite a few.

Ninja Commando is one of those games that's best played solo. The amount of activity on the screen with two players is mind numbing, as it feels like you're just going through the motions with overwhelming firepower. With one player you can properly relish the destruction.

Ninja Commando is short but sweet. It's quite forgiving in terms of collision detection, and each of your three lives has its own life bar. I just wish there was a turbo option, because when it comes to button-pounding mayhem, this one goes to eleven. © Copyright 2024 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 145,250
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