Neo Geo Reviews P-R

Power Spikes II (CD)
Grade: F
Publisher: Video System (1994)
Reviewed: 2005/7/14

screenshotWow, I never imagined a Neo Geo game could be as monumentally bad as this is! Power Spikes II is practically an insult to this system. If this is the sequel, the first Power Spikes must have been an absolute abomination! The main problem here is that the game is played completely on a 2D plane - that's no way to play volleyball.

You control one of five small players on your side of the net. Actually, it's difficult to determine how many players there are, since they all look identical and tend to bunch up in front of the net. The gameplay is atrocious, with volleys that always seem to fall into the same predictable pattern.

An arrow indicates where the ball will land, so you simply position your player on the arrow. Timing the spikes is easy, since the ball and players tend to move in slow motion. The effectiveness of your spike depends largely on the random occurrence that your opponent is knocked down by the force of your hit.

Upon scoring a point, players on the scoring team gallivant around like a bunch of idiots. Power Spikes II allows you to choose between men's teams, women's teams, and the obligatory (for the Neo Geo) high-tech "robot" teams. The crowds in the background look nice, but serve no purpose besides filling the screen. Lacking even the most basic playability, this is easily one of the worst Neo Geo titles ever conceived. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Prehistoric Isle 2 (MVS)
Grade: A
Publisher: Yumekobo (1999)
Reviewed: 2011/6/10

screenshotWhile perusing a list of Neo Geo games on a web site "Prehistoric Isle 2" caught my eye. A quick search led me to some footage of this game which absolutely blew me away. It's a rapid-fire shooter that pits helicopters against dinosaurs - a match made in heaven! With giant, angry reptiles on the rampage in urban and tropical locations, it's just like Jurassic Park - only without the bratty kids.

I became intent on acquiring this game but discovered it was only available as an MVS cartridge (for Neo Geo arcade machines). After a little digging I discovered that a MVS-to-AES converter was available. It was pricey but it opened up a whole new realm of Neo Geo MVS games for me to collect and review. Eventually I landed my own copy of Prehistoric Isle 2, and the gameplay did not disappoint.

The game's opening stage is set in a city at night, and some of the scenery looks nearly photo-realistic. The rotating point-of-view effects produce a harrowing perspective far beyond what I thought the system was capable of.

The rapid-fire shooting action is intense and the crumbling scenery makes for a wild ride. You often have the opportunity to pick up waving human survivors, and this adds some humor and creates a nice risk-versus-reward dynamic. The later stages aren't as spectacular as the city, but the ruins, forests, and volcanoes are still easy on the eyes. I should also mention that this game is very educational. Did you know that dinosaurs could fire missiles?

When defeated they tend to explode into fireballs! I love science. I'm really glad I didn't live in prehistoric times because dinosaurs made a lot of loud screeching noises which would have irritated me to no end. Prehistoric Isle 2 has flown low on the radar over the years, but with its fast action and amazing eye candy, it's probably my favorite Neo Geo shooter. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended variation: Normal
Our high score: 2,087,500
1 or 2 players 

Pulstar (CD)
Grade: A-
Publisher: Aicom (1995)
Reviewed: 2004/4/11

screenshotThis awesome shooter is one of those "holy grail" titles that'll cost you an arm and a leg just to get it on CD. But it may be worth the investment, because Pulstar is possibly the Neo Geo's most challenging and graphically impressive shooter. Its fascinating stages take you through mechanical space stations, slimy underworlds, and fiery planet surfaces, and each is meticulously detailed.

The quality of the explosions is incredible - far beyond anything I've seen in other Neo Geo shooters. Some of the monsters that crawl across the screen are nearly photo-realistic, and the bosses are a joy to behold. The first boss is a slimy little octopus-like creature that surrounds itself with metal debris, and then morphs the whole thing into a giant killer machine - wow.

Besides its top-notch visuals, Pulstar's other claim to fame is its difficulty. The word "insurmountable" comes to mind. The Video Game Critic doesn't usually like his games this hard, but at least you can choose to start on any of the first four stages. There are unlimited continues, and you don't have to restart a stage from the very beginning when you continue, thank goodness.

The control scheme is unique. Simply tapping the fire button is not enough to kill most enemies, but you can hold it to "charge" you shots. A second option is to tap the fire button super-fast, which increases the range and intensity of your shots. Although this can be hard on your wrist, certain power-ups seem to make this easier.

Pulstar's audio is noteworthy. The music has a soothing, new age sound that's a nice break from the standard fare, and the crystal clear sound effects really grabbed my attention. Each stage is introduced with a full motion video (FMV) clip, but these 3D-rendered cutscenes are hardly impressive by today's standards and definitely not worth the load time, so turn them off using the options menu. The option menu also lets you select from one of eight skill levels. Despite its difficult nature, Pulstar is an awesome shooter. Its graphics and sound really elevate the Neo Geo to the next level. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 64130
1 or 2 players (alternating) 

Puzzled
Grade: B
Publisher: SNK (1990)
Reviewed: 2011/6/10

screenshotIn 1990 Tetris fever swept the globe and every system worth its salt had to have the obligatory "falling blocks" game. SNK's Puzzled (Joy Joy Kid in Japan) adds a clever twist to the standard Tetris formula. The goal of each stage is to free a balloon trapped under layers of blocks, and each stage offers a new and progressively harder board configuration. I wasn't prepared for how insanely fun this game turned out to be.

The visuals are modest by Neo Geo standards, but its addictive gameplay is unrelenting. I love how two people can play independently on both sides of the screen. The first time I tried this my friend Steve and I played it for hours on end. We would have probably played through the night if we didn't have to do that crazy thing called "work" (so annoying). The pacing is fast but I like how you get an extra second once a piece lands to finagle it into position.

Steve made a case for an A grade, but that was the beer talking. Puzzled's difficulty doesn't ramp as gradually as it should, and that pyramid stage is an absolute killer! The audio doesn't help matters with its looping circus music and annoying voice samples ("hurry up!"). Even so, once you become ensnared in Puzzled's deceptively simple gameplay, there is simply no escape. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: SLN 17,300
1 or 2 players 

Rally Chase (CD) (Japan)
Grade: B-
Publisher: Alpha Denshi (1991)
Reviewed: 2012/6/22

screenshotThis is the Japanese edition of Thrash Rally; they are the same game. This overhead racer features unspectacular graphics but addictive gameplay. This CD edition requires a lengthy initial load, but after that the game plays just like the cartridge with no interruptions in the action. I couldn't discern any differences at all between the two, so if you don't want to shell out the dough for the cartridge, this is a cost-effective alternative. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
1 player 

Real Bout 2: The Newcomers
Grade: B
Publisher: SNK (1998)
Reviewed: 2020/5/1


screenshotBelieve it or not, the full title of this game is "Real Bout 2: The Newcomers: Real Bout Fatal Fury 2". It was the seventh and final game of the Fatal Fury line. No, not because SNK ran out of ideas; they ran out of subtitles. Okay, they ran out of ideas too. Real Bout 2 strikes me as a last gasp, with SNK trying to jam as many fighters as they could into one last entry.

There are 22 in all including a third female character! Xiangfei is a super-fast Asian chick and she's fun to play because as you're tapping buttons she's somersaulting all over the place like a whirling dervish. The second new face is an MMA fighter named Rick who unleashes devastating flurries of punches. Otherwise it's hard to really spot the differences between this and the last game.

After reviewing seven Fatal Fury games in a row I'm starting to see Terry Bogard's trucker hat in my dreams. That's normal, right? The stages are pretty much the same, as is the frantic gameplay and tight controls. I'm sure they tuned the characters a bit. As usual, I prefer the urban stages like Chinatown, which offer a more gritty, street fighter vibe. Overall Real Bout 2: The Newcomers is an excellent fighter but it's clear the series was running on fumes. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 264,900
1 or 2 players 

Real Bout: Fatal Fury
Grade: A
Publisher: SNK (1995)
Reviewed: 2020/5/1


screenshotAfter the first four editions of Fatal Fury the series would live on under the Real Bout moniker. And I have to tell you, this game is no joke. The action is super intense with 16 characters that feel like a "greatest hits" compilation. My favorite is Billy Kane because his staff has such excellent range. The gameplay has been ratcheted up with a super move meter and two-layer health meters. Once you deplete the first one a second red one appears. This stretches out the matches but also allows for dramatic comebacks.

The dodge feature has long been a hallmark of Fatal Fury, but in Real Bout it's been honed to perfection, allowing the player to seamlessly weave sidesteps into their moves. The fighting action feels twice as fast with a wider variety of moves and wilder matches. There's plenty of humor too, like when Hon Fu goes crazy with his nunchucks and accidently nails himself in the groin. Each stage pits you against three consecutive fighters with scenery changing appearance between matches. This means you see fewer stages but there's a better sense of progression.

The first stage takes place on a pier with people partying at bars in the background, and it's among the best the series has to offer. Other locations include a subway, an atrium, and a crowd under a bridge. The far left and right edge of each stage is breakable, so it's possible to knock your opponent off a pier or into subway tracks, earning you a quick victory. With interactive stages and more intense action, Real Bout is among the best fighters I've played. Don't call it a comeback! © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 356,600
1 or 2 players 

Real Bout: Fatal Fury Special
Grade: B
Publisher: SNK (1996)
Reviewed: 2020/5/1

screenshotI love Neo Geo fighters but damn, SNK's naming system sure is messed up! Not to be confused with Fatal Fury Special (SNK, 1993), Real Bout: Fatal Fury Special is actually the sixth edition in the series. The character graphics have been retouched with noticeably richer colors. Offering torrid pacing and excellent controls, Special feels like a turbo-charged version of Real Bout. Not only are there crazy new attacks but you can execute them in a rapidfire manner.

You get 19 fighters, all reprised from previous Fatal Fury games. Laurence Blood, a bullfighter who appeared early in the series, is playable for the first time. Rotund Chen is a whirling dervish, bouncing around all over the place, and Mai Shiranui is rocking a thong. Unlike the first Real Bout you only face one fighter per stage. This gives you more scenery but some of the stages look pretty sparse.

Scenes like the beach, jungle, and scenic garden are easy on the eyes but lack the subtle details you've come to expect from Fatal Fury. One exception is the bustling Tokyo street which begins with the camera panning down from an airplane in the sky. Now that is awesome.

I did notice one glitch with this game which may be related to my setup. When the fighters move to the background they appear strangely pixelated. This ugly blemish mars an otherwise spectacular fighter, as Real Bout: Fatal Fury Special delivers big time. Note: My setup includes a modified Neo Geo, an MVS converter, and a RetroTink2X converter to the HDTV. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 186,100
1 or 2 players 

Riding Hero
Grade: D
Publisher: SNK (1990)
Reviewed: 2002/9/6


screenshotRiding Hero is an unspectacular motorcycle racer in the tradition of Pole Position. The distant backgrounds are somewhat attractive, but there's little scenery on the sides of the road. Other vehicles look large and detailed, but it's ridiculously difficult to navigate around cars and trucks! The sound effects are muffled, and the music is generic, but the controls aren't bad. Three buttons are used to accelerate, brake, and turbo.

The key to winning Riding Hero is just staying on the road, but that's easier said than done. It's easy to slide off the side of the road, so don't be afraid to lean on the brake. Oddly, using turbo seems to improve your traction! Unfortunately, the other riders like to bump you off the road, and it's especially frustrating when they bump you from behind since you can't see them coming! The World Grand Prix mode is mildly addicting, and lets you advance from one track to the next, saving between races.

A separate story mode allows you to move around a town, talk to people, and earn money in races, but it didn't exactly win me over. All you do is choose an adversary and bet on each race you enter, and the text is an unintentional comedy of awkward wording and grammatical errors. The third mode is the "multi-play" mode that allows two players to compete head to head, and Riding Hero comes with the necessary link wire. It's mildly amusing, but Riding Hero is not one of the better Neo Geo titles. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Robo Army
Grade: B+
Publisher: SNK (1991)
Reviewed: 2006/8/30

screenshotIt doesn't get much love from most critics, but this side-scrolling brawler is pretty sweet if you ask me. Robo Army's familiar premise pits one or two heroes against rampaging robots in a post-apocalyptic world. Like Streets of Rage, you punch, jump, kick, and unleash special attacks. It's quite satisfying as the robots explode and debris flies all over the place. Heck, you can even pick up entire vehicles and toss them around like beach balls.

It's mindless fun, and sometimes that's the best kind. Robotic limbs can be used as clubs, and I love how certain robots will keep on walking around after losing their torsos. Certain power-ups transform you into a small armored car that lets you mow down everything in sight. The characters are about as huge as they could possibly be for a game like this, and impressive scaling is used to render incoming vehicles and transforming bosses.

The bosses assume some interesting forms, like a giant yapping robotic dog constructed entirely from smashed cars. Robo Army's post-apocalyptic urban scenery isn't anything you haven't seen before, but its attention to detail is commendable. The clanking metal sound effects are terrific, and the synthesized music isn't bad either. As one of the more affordable titles for the Neo Geo, Robo Army should satisfy your appetite for destruction. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 14700
1 or 2 players 


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