Neo Geo Reviews T-V

Thrash Rally
Grade: B
Publisher: Alpha Denshi (1991)
Posted: 2012/6/22

screenshotIt may not look spectacular, but Thrash Rally offers a nice change of pace from the one-on-one fighters that dominate the system. At its core, this is a simple overhead racer in the spirit of Auto Racing (Intellivision, 1980). The screen scrolls every which way as you adjust your direction to keep your car on the road. The cars are tiny, and the low-resolution visuals look like something from the Genesis. In addition to a selection of cars, you can drive a motorcycle, dune buggy, or a truck.

The courses wind both on and off-road, and they tend to be ideal in length (read: short). You'll cruise through a number of scenic locations including Italy, Finland, and Kenya. It's fun to peel through shallow streams and jump over sand dunes. The screen zooms out a bit when you "catch air", giving the game a slight Bump N Jump (1982) flavor. You'll be tempted to slow down and gawk at the colorful scenery, but there's no time for that. There are plenty of cars on the road, but the weird collision detection will have you running over more cars than you bump into. This glitch inadvertently makes the game more fun because it's easier to maintain your momentum.

The controls take a while to get used to, and even on straightaways you'll find yourself making constant slight adjustments. Thrash Rally includes two modes: World Rally and Paris Dakar Rally. I became obsessed with the Dakar Rally which is one long track that's tough to finish before the timer expires. When I finally made it, there was exactly zero seconds remaining! Thrash Rally may not be a showcase title for the Neo Geo, but it's certainly no slouch in the fun department. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 50
1 player 

Top Hunter (CD)
Grade: C
Publisher: SNK (1994)
Posted: 2004/11/13

screenshotI was hoping for a poor-man's Metal Slug, but Top Hunter is a different type of game. This whimsical side-scroller emphasizes hand-to-hand combat and features gorgeous arcade graphics. Your main attacks are punches and throws, but occasionally you'll find weapons and even commandeer robots. Grabbing and throwing bad guys might sound like fun, but once you use a gun in this game, you realize Top Hunter would have been much more fun as a straight shooter.

The screen has a foreground and background layer, and the C button lets you jump between them. The interactive scenery is rich with detail, but it can be hard to tell if an object is in the foreground or background. You and a friend can join forces to kick butt side by side, but as you might guess, the two-player action only adds to the confusion. The three lengthy stages are set in forest, fire, and ice environments. Each stage has a few lever mechanisms that activate traps or expose new areas.

The best aspect of Top Hunter is its graphics. Despite the cartoonish look of the characters, some of the huge monstrosities you encounter are truly astonishing in both size and detail (the giant snow monster in the ice stage comes to mind). Top Hunter has unlimited continues, but they can totally ruin the challenge and fun factor. If you have the discipline to limit your continues (or not use them), Top Hunter can be a good time. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Top Players Golf
Grade: F
Publisher: SNK (1990)
Posted: 2015/5/19

screenshotTop Players would be a respectable golf game on most platforms, but on the Neo Geo this is just not cutting it. You can tell this was an early title from the opening cut-scene with its low-resolution scenery and cartoonish golfers. Two fictional courses are available, each with an imaginative set of holes that allow for multiple approaches. Too bad you never get a decent view!

The user interface is a nightmare. Selecting the "course" button lets you toggle between several views of the course, one more unhelpful than the next. The one-press swing meter doesn't really make much sense with the fade and draw areas near the top of the meter. You won't know the distance to the pin unless you ask your "caddy" who looks more like a bubbly 12-year-old girl. When consulted, she exclaims "Take my advice - if you dare! Or make your own choice! It's up to you!!" *Cringe*.

When you hit the ball it looks as big as a softball flying through the air. Sometimes it only travels half the distance for no apparent reason. The graphics are cheesy and the water looks heinous. The best aspect of the game is its relaxing piano music, which sounds like something out of a Peanuts cartoon. Top Players Golf is playable once you get a feel for it, but you tend to expect more from a Neo Geo sports game. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Treasure of the Caribbean (CD)
Grade: B-
Publisher: NCI-Le Cortext (2011)
Posted: 2015/7/29

screenshotThis late-release Neo Geo CD title is a hidden gem. I've played my share of puzzle games and thought I'd seen every variation imaginable. I was wrong. Treasure of the Caribbean has an intriguing twist along with an appealing swashbuckling theme. You select from a group of vaguely pirate-like characters, each equipped with a unique power-up. Two players (or one with CPU) play simultaneously, stacking pairs of oddly-shaped objects. What the hell are those things anyway?

The columns are staggered a bit so you can't get clean rows across. That turns out to be a good thing, as it makes it much easier to get four continuous objects of the same color to explode. You can even create a group of objects that snake through the entire wall. Chain reactions send "ghosts" over to your opponent, causing gravestones to fall and muck up his business in a big way.

Sometimes you'll have a massive number of these gravestones dropped on your side, but don't fret. Treasures of the Caribbean is actually more fun when your back is against the wall. And don't forget to use your one-time special attack, which lets you turn the tables in a hurry.

The controls are terrific but it's kind of cheap how you can rotate a piece in place indefinitely. What's to keep you from doing that for the entire game? The music is a mixed bag. For every song with a swashbuckling vibe, there's one that sounds more like a nursery rhyme. The pirate theme could have been better utilized, but Treasure of the Caribbean is still more enjoyable than I expected. If you own a Neo Geo CD, this is a worthy addition to the collection. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 31,903
1 or 2 players 

Grade: B
Publisher: Sammy (1992)
Posted: 2010/11/27

screenshotThe Neo Geo is not technically capable of rendering real 3D graphics, but you'd be hard-pressed to tell when you witness Viewpoint's amazing textured visuals. As you fly a ship diagonally up a canal, cannons rise up from the ground, metallic creatures emerge from the sides, and floor tiles "flip" to create a dynamic obstacle course. I was pretty blown away by Viewpoint - until I remembered that its spiritual predecessor, Zaxxon, was released ten years prior!

One fundamental difference is that you don't need to worry about adjusting your altitude in Viewpoint because your ship always floats just over the surface. Each canal features a dazzling array of robotic creatures including slinkies, land fish, spinning turtles, laser-shooting flowers, and giant crabs. The animation is smooth, and while slowdown does creep in occasionally, it's hardly a detriment.

You can tap a button to fire rapidly, or hold it in to unleash a charged shot. Side-cannons triple your firepower and pressing B unleashes one of several special weapons. In this case, these weapons really are special. The best is the "wall of flames" which marches up the screen and consumes everything in its path. It's probably the most effective and satisfying weapon I've ever used! The swarming homing missiles are also a visual treat.

Some stages have interactive elements such as levers you need to shoot to open gates. Hazards can rise up from out of the ground and strike you from beneath, and they can seem pretty cheap if you aren't expecting them. In some sections medium-sized characters will linger around for too long, sometimes impervious to attack.

Losing a ship sometimes means you'll need to repeat a long, tedious stretch, and that really sucks. This is a very difficult game, so there's no shame in playing the easy mode. The soundtrack is an eclectic mix of beats with a few hip-hop samples tossed in. Viewpoint is a real Neo Geo standard that helped define the system, so it's a fine addition to the collection if you can afford it. And despite its age, it's still more imaginative and visually appealing than most modern shooters. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 67240
1 or 2 players 

Voltage Fighter Gowcaizer (CD)
Grade: D
Publisher: Technos (1995)
Posted: 2004/1/31

screenshotThis bizarre one-on-one fighter would be commendable on most systems, but for a system like the Neo Geo stocked with so many great fighters, this is just plain mediocre. The characters are completely over-the-top, bringing to mind the shape-shifting freaks of Darkstalkers. There's a guy with bat wings, a four-armed robot, a magician, a Captain America look-alike, and two scantily clad, long-legged females. The boss is a man and woman fused together to form one awesome warrior.

Gowcaizer appears to use the same engine as Art of Fighting, with huge characters and a camera that zooms in and out. The controls are more like Fatal Fury, with two punch and two kick buttons. All the characters have crazy special attacks, many of which defy proper description. While some of these are somewhat amusing, they tend to make the fights overly chaotic and loaded with cheap hits. Shaia, for example, can sit back and continuously pound you from a distance with her remote ball. After winning a match, you can acquire one of your opponent's special moves which is displayed on the screen.

The spectacular backgrounds are probably the highlight of the game, with marvelous unconventional scenery like a burning city, the interior of a church, and a concert stage. Although Gowcaizer's gameplay doesn't stand out, its music certainly does. That's because it features real Japanese singing, and while it seems funny at first, eventually the horrible noise becomes unbearable. Voltage Fighter Gowcaizer isn't particularly fun to play, but it certainly is bizarre. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

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