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The plodding pace made me impatient at first, but I soon got caught up in the creepy atmosphere. D is effectively frightening and has some genuinely intense moments. Chilling sound effects and ominous music are used effectively, and the first person graphics, although somewhat grainy, are good enough to immerse you in this dark world. Movement is smooth but also very SLOW - slow enough to make retracing your steps feel tedious. Fortunately the puzzles tend to be straight forward, so you won't get stuck in any room for too long.
Your character automatically moves toward vital objects, and there are no red herrings to be found. Unfortunately, by the time you get to disk 2, the slow movement and endless puzzles start to get tiresome. The replay value is gravely wounded by the fact that you can never skip the cinematics, which are often lengthy and annoying. But overall D is a spooky and worthwhile trip, at least the first time through. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Simple controls employ one button for rapid-fire and another to detonate "black hole bombs" that suck all enemies into a vortex (sweet). Unlike modern shooters, even when there's a lot of action on the screen the game never feels overwhelming. Your firepower is potent but enemies can sustain multiple hits and certain bosses take forever to dispatch. The explosions in this game are tremendous both on a visual and sonic level. I love the relaxing music in the opening stage, which blends soft vocals into a mesmerizing beat.
Gaiden's gameplay is pretty straightforward, but it does incorporate one feature I've never seen before. Certain fish have a round orb embedded in their head. If you can dislodge and grab the orb, that fish will fight for you by your side! The first few times this happened I had no idea what the [expletive] was going on! Also cool is how you can select from branching stages ("Now rushing into zone B"), but truth be told they tend to reuse a lot of elements from earlier zones. Two people can play at the same time, which is always a welcome feature. Darius Gaiden is a fine shooter and a terrific excuse to dig that dusty joystick out of the closet. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.
The nightmares are rendered in gory detail via some rather unsettling cut-scenes. In one, his head is split open by aliens and a substance is injected into his brain! Mike scales nicely as moves around his house and over to a nearby town and graveyard. I find it amusing how Mike is always speaking out loud when no one's around, stating the obvious like "this road seems strangely empty, and… unoccupied." Be sure to have Mike shower and take his medicine each morning, or else he'll complain non-stop about his splitting headaches ("My head feels like it's about to explode!")
You make Mike walk by clicking an arrow, and you can toggle the cursor into a question mark (to investigate) or hand (to search). Moving it to the top of the screen displays your inventory, along with a floppy disk "save" icon. For the benefit of non-Japanese gamers, the buttons down the left side of the save screen are load, save, return to game, and exit. Sorry, I can't help you with the various text clues conveyed via books, notes, and newspaper clippings. You'll figure it out - especially if you have an FAQ on hand (wink wink).
The best part of Dark Seed is its brooding storyline, which conveys a tale of an alternate dimension clearly inspired by the movie Aliens. The atmosphere becomes pretty intense thanks to the nicely-illustrated scenery, digitized sounds, and surreal organ music. Sadly, some pretty big design flaws rain on the parade.
Many critical objects, like a hair pin or glass shard are really hard to see. You sometimes need to examine an object multiple times to expose a critical clue. There are actions you need to take early in the game (like hide items) which make no sense (until later). Even when using a walk-through, Dark Seed is difficult to finish, so I can only recommend it to determined gamers with a lot of patience. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.
Weaving through traffic is fun, so why am I not moving up the ranks? Are you telling me I've already lapped these guys? No, something's not quite right here. Equally suspicious is how CPU cars erratically dart between lanes. Your steering is not particularly responsive, and the brake sends you into tail slides you'll rarely recover from. I picked up Sega's official driving wheel to use with this game, and while it didn't improve my score, it did make the experience slightly more realistic.
Your car actually models damage which affects its performance - a pretty advanced feature for the time. Pit stops are available, but unless you're undertaking the 80-lap endurance mode (and you won't), they are useless. Daytona USA is not much to look at. The pop-up/draw-in effect is so severe that you can't see things in the distance - things like the road for example! It's especially bad when you drive over a bridge and watch it being constructed before your very eyes. It leaves you with the impression that either the Saturn can't process 3D graphics very well or this game was rushed for launch.
There's plenty of interesting sights including a Space Shuttle on a launch pad, but most of it doesn't appear until you're halfway past it. The cloud "reflections" whizzing over your back window look fake, and they keep moving even when your car is at rest. If you pay close attention you'll notice subtle details in the scenery like flying birds and galloping horses, but why does that statue have "Jeffrey" engraved on it? There's a lot of weirdness in this game, like how "GOAL!" is displayed as you cross the finish line. What is this, soccer?
The option menu even has a setting for "enemy level". Since when did these cars become my enemies?! But the most bizarre aspect of Daytona USA by far has to be the music, which sounds like a Japanese lounge single belting out cheesy-Latin pop tunes with incomprehensible lyrics. These songs are so unintentionally funny you can't help but ask yourself, "What was Sega thinking?!" The song "Sky High" is the most hilarious of the bunch, and to this day I can sometimes be heard singing "I'm gonna fly-y-y sky high!" in the shower. Oddly enough, it's the quirks and flaws of the game that give Daytona USA an endearing charm. On a technical level it may be a mess, but it has a "so bad it's good" quality that keeps me coming back. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
The two new tracks are especially good. One is a highway that runs alongside an amusement park with a working roller coaster. Yes, I actually pulled over and onto the shoulder to watch that thing go around. The other new track takes you through a desert with running trains and hot air balloons. Daytona's arcade mode provides a formidable challenge, as it's really hard to reach the next checkpoint without the timer running out.
The steering is more responsive than the first game, but the braking controls are still a mystery. It seems like banging into walls and barriers is the way to go. Like the first game, using a pit stop is the worst mistake you can make, and it will pretty much guarantee your defeat. The new split-screen mode is a welcome feature, but the pop-up is pretty dreadful. I find it hilarious how the trailing player gets "LOSER" plastered across his screen - how humiliating is that?
I like the music in this game, despite the fact that the opening tune sounds like a parody of every hair band of the 80's. Some songs from the first game have been brought back minus the vocals of that Japanese lounge singer. I never thought I'd say this, but I really miss that guy. Daytona Championship Edition isn't as memorable as the first game, but it's a far more competent arcade racer. This is probably what the original Daytona should have been. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
The contests are fun but uneven in terms of difficulty. The shot-put requires only a single, well-timed button press, but the pole vaulting is so complicated I couldn't figure it out. The controls in the javelin event are erratic, causing you to become "stuck" in mid-throw. The character models look awful, with angular bodies that do absolutely no justice to the curves of the female athletes. The guys appear to be wearing thongs, and that's never a pretty sight. The stadiums aren't much to look at, but the soaring skyscrapers and desert mesas looming in the background look great.
Although Sega Sport's slogan in 1995 was "We Sweat the Details", you'd never know from all the rough edges, including laughable text ("Let's Go Next Game!") and irritating audio glitches (especially during the 1500 meter dash). I do like how it automatically saves world records and high scores though, and it's pretty easy to get "on the board". Despite its faults, Decathlete is still amusing to play against a friend. Sega would release a much improved sequel for the Dreamcast called Virtua Athlete. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.
The graphical style is anime to-the-max, with melodramatic cut-scenes and vibrant stages alive with activity. This is one of the prettiest shooters I've seen, but it can be hard to discern targets from other animated objects. Shooting clouds release falling bells, and shooting these bells changes their colors while pushing them up the screen. Grabbing the bells gives you power-ups and bonus points, but they're such a pain in the ass! You're always inadvertently shooting them when you want to snatch them up! Bombing enemies on the ground reveals fruit you can collect, giving the game an old-school charm.
The two-button controls are simple (shoot and bomb) although sometimes the bomb button doesn't seem to work for some reason. Slowdown does rear its ugly head at times, even in the single-player mode. Twinbee's audio features a wonderfully catchy theme song that I would almost certainly sing along to if I knew Japanese. The level of challenge is relatively low, which is good since I can't read the instruction manual. I do appreciate how the message "Thank you for playing this game" appears at the end. How thoughtful! Twinbee is lightweight, quirky, and mildly annoying, but it's so damn cheerful that it's almost impossible to dislike. © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Die Hard Arcade places you into a series of confined areas to battle groups of bad guys, usually two or three at a time. The pacing is brisk. You're constantly being whisked off to a new location, at the cost of frequent load screens. The characters are angular but the smooth animation and bright arcade graphics make the game visually appealing. There are some cool digitized skylines.
The basic controls are punch, kick, and jump. While the graphics are 3D the fighting action is 2D, making it easy to "line up" with an enemy. There are dozens of fighting moves. You can tackle a guy and pummel him on the ground. You can smack a hooker around with a mop. You can use a lighter and spray can to create a makeshift flamethrower. Don't be fooled by the lady begging for mercy, because she's just setting you up for a cheap shot.
Shooting is fun but it's hard to get space so you just end up shooting people point blank in the face. I find it amazing how you can shoot a guy with a rocket launcher and he'll get back up. I love how McClain throws the pistol when he runs out of ammo.
Between stages are "quick time" events that prompt you to execute a well-timed punch or kick while on the run. Was it really necessary for me to sucker punch that dude walking down the hall? I think he was just an intern. And jumping-kicking that lady stepping off the subway train seemed a tad excessive.
The options menu allows you to turn off the "movie scenes" which is advisable because they double the number of load screens. They are just cheesy cut scenes - nothing to do with the film. Don't turn on "violence" either as the chunky blood looks pathetic.
A bonus game called Deep Scan is included on the main menu. This slow, 1979 mine-dropping arcade title seems out of place until you realize you can use it to earn credits for Die Hard. That's good because you won't make it too far with the default four credits. I needed 19 to beat the game.
Once you've seen the end, Die Hard Arcade has minimal replay value. It tells your time and number of continues used but there's no score or unlockables. The game is undeniably fun but the pleasure is fleeting at best. © Copyright 2022 The Video Game Critic.
The destruction quotient is astounding, and destroyed objects leave gold stars in their wake - which I happen to find irresistible! Your ship wields a beam of destruction that cleanly wipes away waves of tanks, aircraft, and cannons. You'll soar over rocky gorges and high-tech landscapes, but there's not a whole lot to see. Like its predecessor, the well-designed controls are comfortable and leave some room for strategy. You get plenty of bombs, so don't hesitate to use them as a defensive measure.
Enemies tend to bombard you with waves of missiles, but if you hang back, you can usually find a seam to slip through. The forgiving collision detection helps too. The action is nicely paced, but the visuals are a little rough. The screen is vertically cropped, although your bomb supply fills some of that black space. The scenery tends to be bland and indistinct, and the explosions are very pixelated.
The voice samples are clear enough, and are provided by a female speaking English. You have the option to play alongside a friend, but with firepower this overwhelming, the two-player mode is unmanageable. Dodonpachi doesn't seem fair, but it's not the player who's overmatched - it's your enemies! Once you build up to maximum firepower, your fury practically consumes the entire display, making it impossible for most of your foes to even enter the screen! And is it really any fun when you're just mindlessly annihilating everything in sight while collecting stars that fall into your lap? Well yeah, it is. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
You enemies generally consist of jets, boats, and helicopters of all shapes and sizes. Bosses are huge mechanical beasts with multiple armaments that can be destroyed one by one. Donpachi's explosions are exceptional. In addition to the typical "clouds of fire", some bosses feature flames that shoot out from their sides. Your firepower is devastating, but you'll want to crank up the difficulty (to normal at the very least) if you want a legitimate challenge. In the easier difficulties, power-ups are far too abundant and the "MP" icon (maximum power) is just plain cheap.
Holding the A button unleashes a steady, concentrated beam, but your ship moves slowly. The C button sprays missiles, but your ship is more agile. It's a neat trade-off that provides a layer of strategy. You also have a load of bombs which come in handy for neutralizing a barrage of incoming missiles. Larger enemies expel projectiles by the dozens, but the missiles are well defined and tend to move slowly. Donpachi suffers from some slow-down (especially with two players), but if anything, you'll welcome it!
One thing I found very interesting is how despite being a Japanese import, the voice synthesis is entirely in English! "Enemy port dead ahead. Fire at will kid!" The quality of the voice samples is pretty awful though. Accompanied by unpleasant static, they sound like something you'd hear in a Genesis game. In addition to the arcade mode (with unlimited continues), there's a nice "score attack mode" that lets you play individual stages for high score. Donpachi is one of those rare shooters that strikes a fine balance between reason and chaos, and I like that. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Once you begin, your guide in the basement (Corey Haim) asks you to investigate a disturbance. You switch between cameras to isolate bad actors and use inordinately complicated controls to subdue them. You'll need to hit a button three times simply to arm a trap, springing it with a well-timed fourth tap. Let too many crooks get away and an annoyed Corey Haim will pull the plug on your game. Compared to the awkward and unsightly Sega CD version, this Double Switch is a pleasure to play.
The six buttons map perfectly to arm/disarm three traps in each room. The interface is elegantly designed so the video consumes the entire screen, with the controls and indicators overlaid along the edge. You'll enjoy some fine tongue-in-cheek acting performances and witness a few surprise plot twists. Still, I wish the video quality was a little clearer. Thomas Dolby provides a fine musical score but some of the sound effects can be grating.
Sega once again dropped the ball with super-lame cover art showing Corey peering through a small keyhole. Double Switch is not for the weak of heart, requiring a serious time investment just to figure out what's going on. Progress comes slowly but the game does record high scores at least. If you enjoyed Night Trap you'll no doubt find this to be a worthwhile piece of 90's memorabilia. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.
The well-rendered scenery includes a mysterious forest, a rocky mountainside, a well-fortified castle, and a courtyard filled with impaled bodies. There's no shortage of gore as most enemies burst into fountains of blood when defeated. As the title implies, you'll face several dragons on your quest. Defeating a dragon earns you its respect, allowing you to summon it when you need a hand. Calling on a dragon (using the L button) initiates an impressive sequence where it flies in from the distance and proceeds to incinerate all enemies on the screen. Some stages let you "ride" dragons from a first-person perspective, but these FMV (full motion video) sequences feature minimal control and are mainly just eye candy.
Dragon Heart's stages are relatively short and you can purchase supplies between them. Unfortunately, the difficulty level is far beyond what most gamers are willing to tolerate. Each enemy requires an inordinate number of hits to defeat, and your "endurance meter" drains with each swing of your sword. Trust me, nothing ruins a game like an endurance meter. To retain your stamina, you must play extremely conservatively, slashing only occasionally and blocking constantly. As an unfortunate side effect, the battles tend to go on forever and are often reduced to both warriors hunched down, slashing at each other's ankles. It's unintentionally comical.
When you die, you're forced to exit to the main menu and reload, which is aggravating. After failing to make substantial progress the old-fashioned way, I resorted to my Gameshark cheat cartridge, which I used to equip my character with maximum armor and sword strength. This allowed me to play the game more like a traditional hack-and-slash, and it was far more fun, and allowed me to reach stages I would have never seen otherwise. Dragon Heart really does have a lot to offer, but most gamers will never know. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
It's important to note that these games will not play on an American Saturn console without a special device. A Saturn Game Shark is all that's required to play Tower of Doom, but the second game requires a 4MB memory extension, which I found in the Action Replay 4M Plus cartridge. Is D&D Collection worth the investment? It's hard to say.
Tower of Doom's sprite graphics are stunning, with huge monsters pulled straight from the D&D Monster Manual, including kobolds, troglodytes, ghouls, scorpions, ogres, and hell hounds. And just wait until you see that huge dragon! You can be a fighter, cleric, elf, or dwarf, and each has his/her own unique style of play. Lavishly illustrated scenery ranges from forests to caves to ghost ships. Best of all, the stages branch, providing more replay value than your typical side-scroller. An elegant orchestrated soundtrack complements the fine visuals.
The action itself is basically hack-n-slash, but depending on your character class you may also have projectile attacks or spells. Responsive controls let you defend, jump, slide, crouch, and dash. The battles are fine, but the animation is somewhat rough, and it can be hard to tell what's going on at times. It's fun to encounter new monsters, but when they start making return appearances later in the game, the action starts to wear a little thin. I enjoyed some of the fine graphical details, like how arrows break in half when they are blocked, or how a troll will dance around if you set it on fire.
Tower of Doom's sequel, Shadow Over Mystara, further develops the same basic formula with extra characters (including a magic user and thief), a streamlined magic selection system, additional moves, and the ability to change characters when you continue. While most critics consider Mystaria to be much better, I found it to be somewhat boss-heavy. Some of the creatures have outrageous life bars and take forever to defeat.
There's quite a bit of Japanese dialogue in these games, so much that it inspired me to want to learn Japanese. Both games also feature an excessive number of load screens, and the unlimited continues remove most of the drama and suspense. D&D Collection is one of those odd games where its sum is less than its parts. I'm happy to have it in my game library, but to be honest it's not as fun to play as it looks. Still, if you're into 2D medieval combat games like Golden Axe (Genesis), you'll appreciate D&D Collection for what it is. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
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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, Alvanista.com