Neo Geo Reviews W-Z

Windjammers (CD)
Grade: A
Publisher: Data East (1994)
Reviewed: 2007/9/5

screenshotEvery once in a while an oddball title will come out of left field and turn out to be a total blast. I picked up this Japanese CD for about 15 bucks (new), but it's probably the most intense head-to-head Neo Geo game I've ever played. Otherwise known as "Flying Power Disc", Windjammers is so simple and easy to play that you could almost consider it a glorified version of Pong.

One competitor guards a goal on each side of the screen as players toss a Frisbee back and forth. Catching and returning the disc in one quick motion adds velocity, and executing Street Fighter-style "sweeps" causes the disc to curve. There are even a few "special moves", including some that set the disc on fire.

Windjammer's graphics are perfectly fine, but since the action is viewed from overhead, there's not much to see. Still, I love the court located on a bright beach, which gives the game a certain summer vibe. The other courts are more high-tech, including some with obstacles in the center that redirect the disc unpredictably. Windjammer's gameplay is fast and furious, with short but sweet 90-second matches.

The electronic soundtrack has an old-school flair, and I also like the clanking sound effects of the disc bouncing off the metallic boundaries. As icing on the cake, a nifty bonus stage lets you control a dog chasing a Frisbee on a beach, jumping over sun-bathing babes in the process. My friends immediately took to Windjammers, unanimously proclaiming it to be an "A" title. My buddy Steve even called it "sponge-worthy", which is quite the accolade. Windjammers has remained under the radar for a long time, but I think it's about time for a coming-out party. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 49302
1 or 2 players 

World Heroes
Grade: C
Publisher: Alpha Denshi (1992)
Reviewed: 2015/4/4

screenshotThis game's intro features some unidentified man saying "You came at the right time. Use the time machine to go all over the world. Where the strong people are. I pray for a healthy battle." What the heck is a healthy battle? World Heroes is one of several quality 2D fighting series to grace the Neo Geo. Its innovative controls utilize only three buttons: punch, kick, and throw. Tapping a button initiates a quick hit and holding it down unleashes a stronger attack.

The two main characters, Hanzo and Fuuma, are remarkably similar to Ken and Ryu of Street Fighter II (SNES, 1992). When Hanzo throws a projectile it sounds like he's yelling "I screwed up!" Other fighters include clones of Bruce Lee (Dragon), Joan of Arc (Janne), and Genghis Khan (J. Carn). Brocken is a dead ringer for M. Bison (also from Street Fighter II) although his limb-stretching moves are more similar to Dhalsim. Rasputin is a magician whose hands and feet become huge when he attacks. Muscle Power (yeah, that's his actual name) is a Hulk Hogan look alike who excels at throw moves.

The matches are a little slow and it's not unusual for the clock to run out. Still, I enjoy the deliberate pace of the game. The big, colorful fighters are nicely animated although the blinking circles beneath them do not resemble shadows. The collision detection isn't perfect and occasionally way off. The attractive stages include a bell tower (with scampering rats), a caged city rooftop, and Mount Fuji complete with sparring monkeys! A bonus stage lets you pulverize a large boulder until it resembles a statue of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In addition to the normal mode there's a death match that incorporates unwelcome hazards like electric beams and spikes. Occasionally the game will tell you you're about to engage in a "hair-splitting battle". That doesn't sound very dangerous to me. Unintentional humor notwithstanding, World Heroes is a heck of a good time. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 394,300
1 or 2 players 

World Heroes 2
Grade: B-
Publisher: ADK (1993)
Reviewed: 2015/4/4

screenshotThe first World Heroes was a likeable but somewhat sluggish one-on-one fighter. This worthy sequel picks up the pace and adds six new fighters to the mix, bringing the total to 14. These new additions represent some of the more memorable and fanciful characters of the series.

There's a huge football player named J. Max who bulrushes opponents and throws ghostly footballs. Mudman is a masked medicine man whose wacky antics might not be considered politically correct in this day and age. Captain Kidd is a traditional pirate, Erick is a burly Viking, and Shura is a Thai kick-boxer. Ryoko, a Japanese Judo expert, is only the second female in the series.

Interesting new stages include a treasure-filled cave with a skeleton cheering from on top of a pile of coins. I love how his head rolls off his body after the match. The city street stage looks amazing with its neon lights and looming skyscrapers in the distance. Other stages of note include a majestic Asian temple, a tiki village, and a Japanese courtyard with the cherry blossoms. The controls presented on the "how to play" screen are not totally correct. The A and B buttons are still punch and kick, but C is now used for taunt. The throws are more or less automatic.

One interesting new element is your ability to deflect projectiles back toward your opponent. The action is quicker than the first game and the matches are shorter. There are some character balance issues though. With smaller fighters like Ryoko it's hard to get even close to Erick with that big axe of his. World Heroes 2 feels rough around the edges but its new characters and fantastic backdrops really beef up the entertainment value. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 571,900
1 or 2 players 

World Heroes 2 Jet
Grade: B
Publisher: ADK (1994)
Reviewed: 2015/4/5

screenshotI'm not sure what "Jet" signifies (another word for turbo?) but this game adds more razzle-dazzle to the already-impressive World Heroes 2. Two new fighters have joined the ranks. Jack is a lanky dude from London who looks like a hybrid of Jack the Ripper and Freddy Krueger. I like the fog in his rooftop stage, but the scenery could be more detailed. Ryofu is a Chinese warrior wielding a long bladed weapon. His stage is set on a boat viewed from bow to stern.

The two-player mode now gives you the strategic option of adjusting your character's attack, defense, and speed capabilities. New moves include a tricky "fake feint" which fools your opponent into thinking you're in a dizzy, vulnerable state. That's pretty cool! For the solo player there's a brand new tournament mode. This begins with a lot of pomp and circumstance as the camera pans over from the flashy outdoor arena to a nearby skyscraper, zooming in to reveal your fighter posing on a balcony!

The tournament is divided into five days, each comprising three single-round fights. The tournament stages are different from the normal game, featuring throngs of spectators in various locations. Winning two of the three fights lets you advance to the next day. At the end of each day you're presented with a match breakdown that includes the "deciding move" for each fight. Apparently my most effective move is the "killer crotch kick".

Less impressive is the new scoring system which results in numbers like 117.60. What the heck does that mean? Jet also includes training mode, but nothing with a conventional scoring system. When it comes to pure head-to-head fighting action this game is top shelf. My friends regard World Heroes Jet as the pinnacle of the series, and they may be right. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 117.60
1 or 2 players 

World Heroes Perfect (CD)
Grade: F

screenshotThis prompted my friend Brent to inquire "Have you ever considered doing a list of games with the most arrogant sounding names?" World Heroes Perfect is the fourth and final installment of the exotic one-on-one fighting series. It's super rare in cartridge format, so instead of taking out a second mortgage I opted to review the economical CD version. Some Neo Geo games play fine off a CD, but not fighting games. Whenever you select a different character you initiate a whole new load process.

I played Perfect with some friends as the last leg of a World Heroes marathon, and it was almost unbearable. If games with long load times are considered "beer friendly", this one might just turn me into an alcoholic. You spend more time watching that little dog jump up and down on the load screen than playing the actual game. And when you finally play disappointment quickly sets in.

In two-player mode the winner must continue to use the same character, and you always seem stuck on the same stage. The stages are poorly designed and some are downright annoying. The volcano stage looks like something on the Genesis, and the dinosaur stage is so cheesy I was expecting Barney to show up. The control scheme now uses all four buttons (two punch and two kick) which makes a lot of sense. There's also a new "hero" meter that adds some depth. The old scoring system has returned, probably because nobody could figure out the one in World Heroes Jet.

The characters have been rebalanced to favor the smaller quicker characters. This wasn't a bad idea but I think they went overboard. The action is so fast that smaller characters can jump around like fleas as the large characters struggle just to react. When J. Max is defeated it sounds like he's yelling "Sheeeeet!" World Heroes Perfect is a flawed game. Perhaps my expectations were too high, but the term "Perfect" tends to do that. I found this game far more palatable on World Heroes Anthology (PS2, 2008). © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 2,311,501
1 or 2 players 

Zed Blade
Grade: C-
Publisher: NMK (1994)
Reviewed: 2018/1/2

screenshotZed Blade is one of those pick-up-and-play side-scrolling shooters that let you unleash rapid-fire shots at large, colorful sprites. Your ship is armed with multiple weapons including a forward shot, backward shot, missiles, and bombs. Crisp explosions punctuate the action and power-ups are ubiquitous. The soundtrack is a chaotic jumble of samples and beats, but it does have a vague "Get Ready For This" vibe.

You'll select between three pilots and various weapon loadouts. It's not hard to stave off the waves of jets, tanks, and mechs. They tend to materialize out of gray squares - an unique effect that's not particularly impressive. Upon snagging a power-up or two you'll be shooting projectiles in all directions with no slowdown in sight. Unleashing a bomb conjures a wall of destruction that marches across the screen.

Your ship is a huge target but the slow-moving orange projectiles are pretty easy to avoid. When you reach the end of each stage the message appears "Warning - a major enemy is approaching" (hint: it's a boss). Even colossal robot joggers have little chance against your firepower.

Zed Blade is accessible enough but its stages are its achilles heel. They are boring at best and annoying at worst. The opening stage offers a forgettable repetitive landscape, the second is set on a gray moon, and the third is a space stage with annoying "cosmic slime" enemies. The slime is about as hard to get rid of as phlegm in the back of your throat. Zed Blade's arcade appeal is ultimately undone by its lazy, unimaginative stage designs. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 306320
1 or 2 players 


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