Saturn Reviews G

Galactic Attack
Grade: C+
Publisher: Acclaim (1995)
Reviewed: 2005/7/31
Rating: Kids to Adults (animated violence)


screenshotIt's no classic, but if you're into 2D shooting, this low-profile title can be a lot of fun. In many ways, Galactic Attack's visuals and gameplay are so conventional that you'll feel as if you've played it before. Ported directly from the arcade, the screen is narrow with black bars on each side. With stages set in deep space and over the various planet surfaces, you take aim at the usual space ships, jets, robots, cannons, and tanks. You'll also strafe large battleships, wearing them down until they explode.

One distinctive feature about Galactic Attack is the large size of your enemies. Even the smaller ships are positively huge and take up more real estate than I would prefer. Your rapid-fire guns are effective, but "lock-on" missiles play a more crucial role. As enemies scale in from the background, you can move your cursor over several targets and then unleash a torrent of missiles to take them all out. It feels like Panzer Dragoon (Saturn 1995), and the explosions are satisfying. My question is, what happens when an enemy leaves the screen before my locked-on missile can strike it? Does it escape or is it destroyed off screen?

Galactic Attack's graphics are about average, although the pixilation can be excessive at times. The scenery is uninteresting for the most part, although I did like the floating islands with the lakes. Galactic Attack's audio is positively weak, with forgettable electronic music and muffled voice samples I could not understand.

But my primary beef is how your ship tends to get lost under the status indicators on the bottom of the screen. There's an option to turn this information off, but that also removes your score and ship information from the top of the screen. Hey, I need that stuff! Oh well, it has issues but Galactic Attack is still decent if you're up for some intense shooting action. The challenge is there, and it offers limited continues as well as a two-player simultaneous mode. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Galaxy Fight
Grade: C
Publisher: Sunsoft (1994)
Reviewed: 2004/4/30
Rating: Teen (13+)


screenshotThis one-on-one 2D fighter is not particularly bad in any way, but it doesn't have much to offer either. Each character originates from a different planet, and some of these fighters look awfully cheesy. You get a Flash Gordon-like "space adventurer", a huge green cat/reptile alien, a streetwise black guy, a ninja, a robot, and a girl with big ears and bigger breasts (bouncing no less). The character selection screen looks pathetic, especially with those horribly pixelated planets in the background.

The fights themselves are not too shabby, and good technique certainly plays a role in your success. The camera zooms in and out as needed, but the fighters tend to be small. Only three buttons are used (not counting the worthless "taunt" button), but some of the move combinations are quite complex. Fortunately, a useful "command mode" is included which allows you to map sophisticated controller movements to single buttons. Call it cheating if you want, but it lets you witness some killer attacks and makes the game a heck of a lot easier. The backgrounds are science fiction-inspired planets, but nothing particularly memorable.

Ironically, the most interesting stage is the "downtown" area, which could easily fit into any fighting game. Galaxy Fight does excel in terms of audio. The voice samples are clear, and the crisp sound effects definitely caught my attention. The robot sounds particularly impressive as he clanks around and employs various mechanical contraptions. The music is unusually good and occasionally outstanding. Galaxy Fight doesn't make a great first impression, but if you stick with it, you may find it to be worth your while. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Galaxy Force II (Japan)
Grade: B-
Publisher: Sega (1998)
Reviewed: 2014/12/28

screenshotThe Saturn can handle arcade titles with scaling sprites like a boss, and Galaxy Force II is proof. In this third-person shooter you deploy heat-seeking missiles while navigating harrowing planetary environments and well-fortified tunnels. I wasn't thrilled with the Genesis version of the game but this arcade-perfect edition won me over.

The graphics are extremely sharp and the scaling is fluid. Your rapid-fire cannon is practically useless but the swarms of missiles you unleash are absolutely devastating. It feels so good to lock onto six targets and knock them all out with one press of a button. The explosions look great, and the sound of chain-reactions is especially satisfying. In addition to formations of ships you'll blast space freighters, flaming lava monsters, and hopping spider creatures. Enemy ships sometimes approach from the rear, so be sure to get out of their way.

The first of the six selectable (!) stages takes place in space, but the others are set on diverse planetary environments (fire, water, desert, etc). The tunnel sections are far more impressive than the Genesis game because you gradually approach them from a distance. The only thing I don't get about this game is how the energy works. The game abruptly ends when it's depleted, but it's not clear how it's replenished.

Even so, it's great to finally enjoy Galaxy Force 2 the way it was meant to be played. It's a shame this release was limited to Japan, especially considering the text (and voices!) are in English. I especially like the music with its appealing jazzy quality. Suffice to say, if you liked any other versions of Galaxy Force you will absolutely flip over this one. 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: 557,680
1 player 

Game Tengoku: The Game Paradise (Japan)
Grade: B
Publisher: Jaleco (1997)
Reviewed: 2018/12/2

screenshotFinally - a game that lives up to its name! If you enjoy Japanese imports don't let Game Tengoku: The Game Paradise pass you by. This wacky, over-the-top vertical shooter never really had a chance in the states due to our "western sensibilities". It feels like a parody of every shooter dating all the way back to Space Invaders (Atari 2600, 1980). You can control a traditional ship like a plane or mech, or opt to be a farting pig or flying girl! You're equipped with two satellite cannons and a supply of bombs.

The opening stage takes place over a sea of arcade cabinets. I could make out Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat, along with a few Jaleco titles. Stage two pits you against the cute, furry contents of claw machines. Some of the backgrounds have an amazing photo-realistic appearance. Stage three really turns up the heat as you battle traditional spacecraft that bum-rush your ship when they aren't pelting you with waves of projectiles. At this point I was forced to use my bombs strictly as defensive measures. Later levels feel like homages to the classics, letting you blast through race cars, pixelated alien armadas, and even the rainbow wall from Breakout (Atari 2600, 7800).

The Game Paradise is fun but wildly uneven. Enemies can converge on you in a hurry, and even materialize on top of you. The two-player mode is just insane. Icons shaped like little satellite dishes offer multiplying bonuses, and sometimes you can inflate your score by plowing through a whole glut of them. Endless continues allow you to enjoy the copious eye candy, but it keeps the tension low. The audio didn't make much of an impression, save for the gleeful (and super loud) voices of Japanese girls. Irrististibly silly and addictive to boot, The Game Paradise is the place to be for classic game lovers. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 895,070
1 or 2 players 

Ghen War
Grade: C+
Publisher: Sega (1995)
Reviewed: 2002/3/26
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotIn 1995, this first-person shooter was probably very impressive. Ghen War puts you in control of a well-armed mech robot, walking around different planets and blasting all kinds of huge mechanical beasts. Some of the enemies resemble Predator, but most look like giant insects. When destroyed, they explode into huge chunks of burning metal, which just looks cool as hell.

The frame rate is nice, but wandering around the huge 3D environments gets old after a while, especially after you've cleared out the creatures and are trying to figure out what to do next. I got impatient with Ghen War, but one thing I will give it credit for is its outstanding audio. The background noises are chilling and effective. Each enemy has its own distinct sound effect that will strike fear into your heart.

Between stages, Ghen War has some high-quality cut-scenes that are a combination of live acting and CGI. They're not bad, but don't add anything to the gameplay. That black guy looks just like Samuel Jackson! One final note: Who were the marketing geniuses that gave this game such a stupid name? And what in the heck is the cover supposed to have on it? © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Golden Axe The Duel
Grade: C-
Publisher: Sega (1996)
Reviewed: 2004/4/30
Rating: Teen (animated violence)

screenshotWhy, Sega, why? Why did you take your popular, side-scrolling series and reduce it to a mediocre one-on-one fighter? As if there weren't enough Street Fighter clones already in 1996! The Golden Axe series never even had any interesting characters to begin with, making Sega's decision even more incomprehensible. Golden Axe the Duel isn't terrible, but it doesn't distinguish itself in any way.

The cast of characters are inspired by the original Genesis games, including an axe-wielding dwarf, a spell-casting mage, a knife-tossing elf, a fat guy with a ball and chain, a Blanka look-alike, a girl wearing animal skin, and of course the obligatory hot babe. Like Street Fighter 2, there are three punch buttons and three kicks. The animation is fair, but the fights lack flow and feel stiff and mechanical. The camera scales in and out (a la Samurai Shodown) but is never really a factor.

The mage can transform you into a frog, but this frog can still kick some ass! Little elves run across the screen periodically, dropping potions when you strike them. When you gather enough potions, you can "power-up" for a short period of time. The Duel's backgrounds reflect the medieval flavor of the series, but they look grainy and boring. The best aspects of this game are the sound effects and splattering blood. Otherwise it is completely forgettable. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Grid Runner
Grade: C
Publisher: Virgin (1996)
Reviewed: 2001/4/24
Rating: Kids to Adults


screenshotIn Grid Runner, you've been captured in deep space and forced to compete in one-on-one competitions against various alien opponents. It's a silly premise but Grid Runner is not half bad. The surprisingly non-violent gameplay is best described as a hybrid of "tag" and "capture the flag". You must collect flags on a maze of suspended walkways, but you can only pick them up when you're not "it".

Only a section of the maze is visible at a time, and an arrow indicates the direction of your adversary. Grid Runner seems pretty lame at first, but as you progress through the levels, the tension mounts. It's actually quite a rush to grab that last flag with a giant crab-man hot on your tail. Special moves allow you to bridge gaps, cast spells, and fire shots to slow down your opponent.

The characters are pixelated, but the backgrounds look good, especially the snowy ice stage. Your 15 opponents are quite imaginative, ranging from a lizard man, to a Minotaur, to a crab monster, and each has a fitting home world. Grid Runner has a reasonable learning curve and provides a nice save feature. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Guardian Heroes
Grade: D
Publisher: Sega (1996)
Reviewed: 2009/5/15
Rating: Teen (animated violence)

screenshotWhen Saturn fans laud their system (or defend it, as is often the case), Guardian Heroes is sometimes mentioned as one of the system's hidden gems. It's a pretty rare title, but if you haven't been able to track down a copy, don't lose any sleep over it. The game offers a few original concepts but none of them work very well. The game begins with a lengthy anime intro, and I have to admit it got me pretty psyched up!

In the first scene, three warriors have discovered an mystical sword in a hidden room. There's a lot of text to wade through, giving the game an RPG vibe. Once the action kicks in, you're fighting guards in the middle of a medieval town. You view the battle from a side angle, and the shoulder buttons allow your character to move between several "planes". The scaling is smooth enough, but since foes come in a variety of sizes, it can be hard to determine who you're "lined up" with.

Worse yet, there are often so many combatants that the screen gets cluttered. Your warrior and his allies typically face groups of six enemies at a time. With a multi-tap, up to six players can join the fray, but I suspect the clutter and slow-down would be unbearable. The moves include a defensive pose, jump, normal attack, and power attack. You can also give "orders" to an undead "golden warrior" who does your bidding. When you tell him to "go berzerk", it's like detonating a smart bomb!

The graphics in Guardian Heroes are very good, with "painted" backgrounds that depict townships, graveyards, and castle interiors in exquisite detail. The characters are rendered in an anime style which slightly clashes with the backgrounds. Characters become pixelated when on the "close" plane, and grainy when on the "far" plane. In addition to armored guards and skeletons, you'll also face oversized robots that unleash powerful laser beams. That's weird. Branching paths add to the game's replayability, and your progress is saved automatically.

I've heard Guardian Heroes compared to Streets of Rage, but it's nowhere near as fun or playable. I was totally baffled by the story and dialogue, and found the audio to be somewhat irritating and sometimes inappropriate. When I'm fighting skeletons in a graveyard, why am I listening to a jazzy number with a saxophone? Is this the apocalypse or happy hour?

The voice samples are repetitive as heck, and it sounds like one character is yelling "bee-yatch!" whenever he performs a power attack. I like how the instructions make frequent references to "see page xx", but someone forgot to fill in the page numbers - whoops! Guardian Heroes is definitely a Saturn original, but it's hardly worth breaking your piggy bank for. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 6 players 

Gunbird (Japan)
Grade: B
Publisher: Atlus (1995)
Reviewed: 2009/11/20

screenshotThis is one 2D blast-a-thon that doesn't take itself too seriously, and that's refreshing. Easier than most vertical shooters, Gunbird will appeal to both casual and hardcore types. There's a set of wacky anime characters to choose from including a cute witch on a broom, a dude in a jetpack, and an old geezer in a pedal-powered helicopter.

The lushly illustrated stages include a runaway train, a red mining area, a castle, and a village with little people milling around below. The starting stage is determined by the character you select, and this boosts the game's replay value. You can pound the fire button to shoot rapidly, but I'd recommend activating a turbo switch if you have one on your controller. Enemies unleash waves of projectiles, but they tend to be large and slow, allowing you to safely weave around instead of wasting your bombs. It's less overwhelming and more enjoyable that most Saturn shooters.

Brief cut-scenes convey a storyline with a villain who resembles a busty version of Cruella De Vil (from 101 Dalmations). The audio has a lot of repetitive voice samples that might get on your nerves after a while. High scores and initials are saved automatically. Gunbird didn't show me anything I hadn't seen before, but its friendly visuals and accessible gameplay make it a good addition to any shooter collection. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 


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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