Saturn Reviews C

Chase HQ Plus SCI (Japan)
Grade: B+
Publisher: Taito (1996)
Reviewed: 2014/12/28

screenshotThe Saturn had its share of impressive arcade translations and this is one of them. Chase HQ is an old-fashioned racer with scaling sprites and enticing backdrops that never get any closer. You play the role of an undercover cop speeding down highways in diverse locations with variable weather conditions. The colorful skylines look gorgeous, but some of the roadside scenery could use a little work. Why are there buildings hanging off of that bridge? Why is that road lined with boulders? And why am I forced to ride through muddy bogs, popping off little green bushes as I go?

Your goal is to catch up to the highlighted bad guy and ram him until his car breaks down. On your way to his location you can pump up your score by passing consecutive cars (which inexplicably explode on contact). Weaving through traffic is a lot of fun but staying on the road requires going easy on the accelerator. It's really easy to slide off the road, and that can be frustrating. As you might expect from a coin-op port you don't get much time to complete your mission, but the five continues extend the game to a reasonable length.

Chase HQ is worth the price of admission, but the disc effectively doubles your pleasure by including a second game called SCI. It's basically Chase HQ II, and it adds the ability to shoot a gun from your car. Being able to damage bad guys from a distance is great, but having to press X in addition to the accelerate, brake, and shift buttons can tie your fingers in knots. Both games have unintentionally funny moments, like hearing the elated voice of your cop over the radio ("yahoooo!") or noticing spelling mistakes like the "Criminals hear" arrow. And watching cops rough up the bad guys after each chase is all part of the fun. If you're looking for some arcade-style racing action, Chase HQ plus SCI delivers quite a one-two punch. Note: A Gameshark or Action Replay device is required to play imports on North American consoles. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 1,302,550/2,416,750
1 player 

Christmas Nights Into Dreams
Grade: NA
Publisher: Sega (1996)
Reviewed: 2007/4/19
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotIntended as a promotional disk for Nights Into Dreams (Sega 1996), this highly sought-after novelty CD is fascinating to play, especially during the holidays. Not only does it feature a playable demo of the game's first stage (and boss), but the visuals change based on the time of the year as determined via the system's calendar! Once December arrives, the lush green landscapes transform into a festive Christmas motif. It's hard to resist the holiday spirit with all of the blinking lights, trees, candles, wreaths, ornaments, and elves. Lively renditions of Joy to the World and Jingle Bells play in the background, and there's even a clock on the title screen that counts down to the big day. Upon completing the two stages, you win "presents" in the form of karaoke songs, concept art, and even extra game modes. Christmas Nights Into Dreams must have been very special back in 1996, and it's still a treat today. Reeking of Christmas through and through, this is a terrific addition to any Saturn collection. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
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1 player 

Clockwork Knight
Grade: C+
Publisher: Sega (1995)
Reviewed: 2011/12/18
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotClockwork Knight is not a bad platform game, but as a launch title I can see how this might fail to inspire confidence in a new system. It begins with a jazzy Babes-in-Toyland musical number. Apparently Sega was trying to tap into that coveted 50-70 year old demographic. If you're a fan of Bette Midler or Nathan Lane I'm sure you'll be tickled pink.

The game itself is a 2D side-scroller embellished with modest 3D effects. You play a lanky toy soldier with a big mustache, long nose, and rosy cheeks. He's not particularly endearing and somewhat ugly. The relatively short stages take place in several rooms of a typical house including kid's rooms stocked with toys. You'll encounter clowns, robots, toy helicopters, and a lot of weird objects I really couldn't make heads or tails out of.

You'll jump between Lego platforms, knock over books to form bridges, and ride toy trains. You can attack foes with a key and toss items like footballs. Some of the bosses are creepy (like that freaky blue baby doll), but the Transformers robot that turns into a jet is pretty neat.

As a launch title Clockwork Knight may have been ill-advised from a marketing point of view, but the game itself isn't half bad. The graphics aren't spectacular but there's some clever use of 3D and each stage has secret areas that add to the challenge. A roulette bonus round lets you bet coins you collect, but it's a losing proposition. Clockwork Knight is a little hokey, but 2D platformers generally age better than their 3D counterparts, and this one plays very well. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 144,800
1 player 

Clockwork Knight 2
Grade: C
Publisher: Sega (1996)
Reviewed: 2011/12/18
Rating: Kids to Adults


screenshotThe first Clockwork Knight wasn't exactly a run-away hit but apparently it sold well enough to merit a sequel. Clockwork Knight 2 looks and plays just like the original but offers a new set of stages. Once again they take place in the rooms of a typical house, including a kid's play room, a study, and a bathroom. Playing the role of a little toy soldier you'll attack toys with a key, leap between platforms, and hit switches to open new areas.

Some stages use cannons to propel our hero between multiple planes, not unlike Donkey Kong Country. In one of the more exciting stages you ride a horse-carriage over elevated tracks, bumping off other toys in your path. It's great fun and boasts the game's best graphics and animation. Also notable is the bathroom stage with water that rises and falls as you hop between rubber duckies. Clockwork Knight 2 might have been a strong title if not for the frustration factor.

The game has a lot of deadly drop-offs, and some of the boss battles are ridiculously hard. The one where you face the paper animals is next to impossible, no matter how many lives you have in reserve. The game has a happy-go-lucky soundtrack not unlike Super Mario Bros., and the song that plays over the title screen ("Well well... let me tell you what it's like...") is terrific. Clockwork Knight 2 has its moments, but it will probably only be of interest to those who enjoyed the original. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 116,040
1 player 

Corpse Killer: Graveyard Edition
Grade: D+
Publisher: Digital Pictures (1994)
Reviewed: 2013/3/14
Rating: Mature (realistic violence, blood and gore)

screenshotThis FMV (full-motion video) title is available on many platforms but I actually prefer this Saturn edition. Corpse Killer tries hard to be an interactive B-grade horror flick. You play the role of a soldier out to rescue three comrades held captive on a zombie-infested island. Veteran actor Vincent Schiavelli gives a terrific tongue-in-cheek performance as the mad scientist responsible for it all. The other actors include a helpful Rastafarian named Winston and an unintentionally hilarious blonde reporter named Julie.

I was anxious to use my Saturn Stunner with this game - one of the most accurate light guns around. Imagine my dismay when I discovered this game offers no light gun support! Maybe Digital Pictures got so many complaints about the poor gun control in previous versions that they decided to ditch it altogether. Oh well, the game is still playable with a normal controller - and probably more accurate. The six buttons come in handy because you can fire different weapons without having to toggle between them.

Corpse Killer boasts a generous amount of blood splattering as you spray bullets at zombies that float through the air. This "Graveyard Edition" contains some additional footage including a scene where Winston is attacked by zombies rising from graves. The cut-scenes are entertaining to watch at first, but you'll soon fall into the habit of hitting the right trigger to skip them. Corpse Killer is set in some great locations including a graveyard, fort, and beach, but the video quality is surprisingly mediocre.

The video consumes the entire screen but the graininess and pixelation are extremely pronounced. Incoming projectiles like knives and grenades tend to blend in with the scenery. Still, I like how you can shoot special icons to replenish your health. The poorly written instruction booklet omits some critical information, like how aborting a mission gives you the opportunity to save your progress and access a mission select screen. It's hard to recommend Corpse Killer with a straight face, but FMV fans will find it amusing enough. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 1,143,768
1 player 

Cotton 2: Magical Night Dreams (Japan)
Grade: C
Publisher: Success (1997)
Reviewed: 2017/6/24

screenshotCotton may be a celebrated shooting series in Japan but Cotton 2 didn't win me over. I can't fault the graphics. Each level is a lush, layered fantasy world, and the stage featuring stone ruins against a sky of swirling storm clouds looks amazing. Playing the role of a whimsical witch on a broom you'll fire magic at leaping wolves, fairies, insects, and spinning dragons. Expect a few bizarre adversaries like a floating deer skull surrounded by mice in Santa Claus outfits. Don't try to make sense of this game.

Defeated enemies drop colorful crystals you can collect. In addition to shooting you can grab and throw objects for big points. I like how taking a hit reduces your power level instead of killing you outright. A colossal Bigfoot creature serves as the first boss, and I love his epic collapse when he's defeated. Cotton 2 sounds like a winner, so what's the problem? Well, your main weapon requires you to tap the button incessantly, so I hope you have a controller with a turbo setting. Throwing objects is key to scoring big, but it's awkward to both shoot and grab stuff at the same time. I found myself forgetting to shoot in favor of tossing everything I could get my hands on.

Oversized sprites and narrow passages force you into tight spots, so you can imagine what the two-player simultaneous mode is like. I was really disappointed with the lack of a Halloween theme. There are hints of it here and there, like a pumpkin-headed creep, but in general this game lacks atmosphere. The music is nothing special and the sound effects are abrasive. Cotton 2 gets credit for eye candy but I found its gameplay more chaotic than fun. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 281100
1 or 2 players 

Courier Crisis
Grade: D
Publisher: GT Interactive (1997)
Reviewed: 2015/7/11
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotThis has to be one of the most obnoxious games I've ever played! Courier Crisis puts you in the role of a bicycle delivery boy speeding through bustling city streets delivering items around town. The game seems to bend over backwards to be unlikeable. The polygon graphics are downright ugly, with blotchy, pixelated building facades. I like how stages take place in different sections of town including Chinatown, a business district, and "skid row". The waterfront area would probably be more interesting if it actually had some water.

An arrow at the top of the screen directs you to your next stop but the street layouts make no sense. There are lots of dead ends and no map to refer to. Your biker gets stuck on every trash can and rabid dogs chase you all over town. The sharp turn button is useful but the narrow streets are cluttered and congested with slow-moving trucks. Thank goodness you can plow through pedestrians on the sidewalk! The "stunt" aspect of the game is a bust. You need to collect an icon just to perform a stunt, and who has time to goof off with the clock ticking down?

The voices are supremely annoying, the worst offender being your unfunny boss who admonishes you after each level. Likewise the abrasive punk music has the same "in your face" vibe. The levels are mercifully short, and it feels like there's more loading than playing. Ironically this game was the precursor to Crazy Taxi (Dreamcast, 1999), a game that's universally loved. Courier Crisis has a serious attitude problem, but it paved the way for bigger and better things. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 5395
1 player 

Crime Wave
Grade: C+
Publisher: Eidos (1996)
Reviewed: 2006/9/29
Rating: Kids to Adults (animated violence)

screenshotThis poorly-named title caught me off-guard. Despite its law enforcement connotations, Crime Wave is really a Twisted Metal-style car combat game. Given an isometric view of a city, your goal is to locate, chase, and destroy one "target" vehicle after the next. It's actually a lot of fun. The cars resemble toys and the detailed scenery is fun to explore. A red arrow on the edge of the screen indicates your next target, but navigating the traffic-filled streets is not easy.

You can only see a small section of town at a time, and the overhead map isn't very useful. Once your opponent is in sight, your car can unleash some serious firepower via the trigger buttons. Your opponents are also armed but not very aggressive. Cars begin to smoke as they take damage, and finishing them off results in a satisfying explosion. Crime Wave has a nice arcade sensibility to it, and the music really kicks ass.

Unfortunately, the Saturn hardware seems to really struggle with the game. The framerate stutters pretty badly in the single-player mode, and it's practically unbearable in the two-player split screen mode. Had the camera been pulled out slightly and the frame-rate smoothed-out, this game would have been awesome. As it is, Crime Wave is flawed but still entertaining in its own unique way. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 400
1 or 2 players 

Criticom
Grade: F
Publisher: Vic Tokai (1995)
Reviewed: 2004/3/31
Rating: Teen


screenshotOn paper, Criticom probably looked promising, but this 3D fighter turned out to be a major flop. Set in deep space, the background story involves a relic that has drawn several mysterious life forms together to engage in hand-to-hand combat. The dramatic cut scenes and eerie music convey a bleak, desolate world.

The interesting assortment of characters includes space pirates, killer robots, and aliens that wouldn't look out of place in the Star Wars cantina. I especially like the creepy demonic woman and her supernatural body movements. The fighter images on the character selection screen are quite intimidating, but once a match begins, you're stuck with stiff, blocky character models.

Unresponsive controls and choppy animation make it hard to tell what's going on, and sometimes your fighter even ends up facing the wrong direction! There's no blocking, but you do have an evasive roll maneuver. Certain characters seem to have the unfair ability to grab and throw at will. The battle platforms are elevated, so it's possible to fall off the edges. Most of the backgrounds are uninspired, barren planet surfaces. When all is said and done, Criticom's lackluster gameplay doesn't live up to its compelling theme. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Crypt Killer
Grade: C-
Publisher: Konami (1997)
Reviewed: 2010/6/15
Rating: Teen (animated violence, blood and gore)

screenshotThis shallow light gun escapade lets you blast oncoming skeletons, zombies, and mummies in temples, caves, and swamps. I enjoyed Crypt Killer on my Playstation despite its less-than-optimal controls, and I hoped the Saturn version might address that shortcoming. Guess what? I was right! The targeting in this version is very good and you don't even need to adjust the brightness of your TV or calibrate the gun.

What I did not anticipate however is the degraded graphic quality. The Playstation version was never much to look at in the first place, and this Saturn version seems to run at half the resolution! Yikes! The trees in the forest stage look absolutely horrendous with their blocky trunks and chunky leaves. When a skeleton pops up close to the camera, the excessive pixelation reaches Atari 2600 proportions.

I'll be the first to tell you that graphics aren't everything, but they are something, and Crypt Killer is hard on the eyes. The gameplay is still moderately enjoyable, especially if you want to give your brain a rest. You can sit back and fire away as you're automatically guided through mummy-infested ruins, caves haunted by pirates, and canals well-stocked with green lizard men. Crypt Killer is fun but repetitive. In the winding staircase scene, you continuously shoot at the same place as mummies pour out from the edge of the screen.

The difficulty is reasonable until you reach a boss. Assuming the forms of mythical creatures like a six-headed hydra, these things can take a lot of punishment. Crypt Killer won't win any awards, but its simple arcade charm makes it worthy of a quick romp. The Playstation version lacks good controls and the Saturn lacks decent graphics, so light gun fans will have to pick their poison. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

Recommended variation: continues
Our high score: 400,000
1 or 2 players 

Cyber Speedway
Grade: D-
Publisher: Sega (1995)
Reviewed: 2006/3/14
Rating: Kids to Adults


screenshotIt's easy to see why Cyber Speedway never made a name for itself. Compared to Wipeout (Playstation, 1995), this futuristic racer looks pretty hokey. Despite the smooth, shiny vehicles depicted on the box cover, you actually control some very ugly, boxy-looking hovercrafts. Twelve tracks are spread across six planets, including all of the obligatory climates: glacial, volcanic, tropical, desert, etc.

The courses aren't particularly pleasing to the eye due to considerable pixelation, unsightly seams, and rampant pop-up. At least the tracks are wide enough, and each planet offers its own distinct color scheme and terrain. The planet Evoflammas boasts deep lava trenches, Terra has tracks that dip into the water, and Vastitas features giant flying red centipedes.

The controls are responsive enough, but I could never quite comprehend the needlessly complicated boost controls. You can fire weapons at opponents, but they're so weak that it's not even worth the trouble. Even direct hits do little more than briefly slow down your target. Another issue is the easy difficulty level, which allowed me to breeze through the game without breaking a sweat.

Cyber Speedway's soundtrack consists of a bunch of acoustic guitar numbers, and while there's nothing wrong with them, they seem awfully inappropriate for a futuristic racer. The game's "story mode" attempts to add depth, but it just forces you to sit through a bunch of still graphics and endless dialogue. Cyber Speedway may not be the worst racing game for the Saturn, but it's close. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


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Screen shots courtesy of Moby Games, Shinforce, Games Database, Video Game Museum, GameSpot, Rotten Tomatoes, Racket Boy, GameFAQs.com, Old Games News, Hardcore Gaming 101, IGN.com