Saturn Reviews M

Madden NFL 97
Grade: A-
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1996)
Reviewed: 2008/10/22
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotSome may dismiss the 2D Madden games of old, but Madden 97 proves they can be every bit as fun - if not more so! I reviewed this with my friend Eric who owned this game "back in the day", and we were both shocked at how well it's held up. Madden 97 opens with a grainy but interesting CGI intro with several shots of New Orleans, and that classic NFL theme music really gets you pumped up.

Each game is introduced by James Brown at an anchor desk, who passes control to John Madden and Pat Summerall who provide additional commentary. That's right - Madden was actually involved in his games at one time! Why Madden and Pat are previewing the game in a silent, empty stadium I have no idea. On the field, the digitized sprites look great, despite the fact that every player is #88.

The animation is less than stellar, but the controls are crisp and the action moves along at a brisk pace. You can quickly call plays and players line up immediately, so there's never a lull. The six-button Saturn controller gives you a lot of receiver options, and runningbacks bounce off would-be tacklers with stiff-arms, speed bursts, and spin moves. It's hard to kick the ball for distance, but the kicking controls are the best ever devised.

The instant replay system is also very user friendly - when was the last time you could say that? Madden 97's one glaring weakness is its tackling. Often a bump is all that's needed to take down a runner. But it's the game's distinctive quirks that give it its charm. The sporadic audio commentary features Madden's disembodied voice punctuating big hits with phrases like "doink!", "where'd that truck come from?", and "that one knocked the snot right out of the locker!" (huh?) When a play is over, you can still dive at your opponent, and it's quite habit-forming!

Unlike modern games, the crowd is fairly quiet, at least until the "D-Fense" chant kicks in. Most stadiums look generic, but the bright orange trees outside of Memorial Stadium in Baltimore look gorgeous. Madden 97 was largely overlooked in its day because flashier 3D games were stealing the spotlight, but it's one of the best sprite-based football games. If you're weary of the modern, cookie-cutter Maddens, revisit this classic and have fun again. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 8 players 

Madden NFL 98
Grade: C-
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1997)
Reviewed: 2008/10/22
Rating: Kids to Adults


screenshotIncredibly, Madden 98 represents a gigantic step down from Madden 97. The game is noticeably worse in every way: graphics, gameplay, and even sound! Live video of Madden and Pat Summerall provide pre-game commentary, but "black outs" that occur during this sequence look unintentionally hilarious. When the screen comes back, you almost expect Pat to have a black eye!

On the field, the players look different than last year. While the box describes them as "light-sourced super-sprites", these guys look terribly chunky, although they do have the correct numbers on their jerseys at least. The gameplay seems just like Madden 97 at first, until you realize you can't complete a [expletive] pass! The offense in this game is hurting! EA couldn't resist tinkering with last year's flawless kicking controls, so now the meter moves entirely too fast.

Play-by-play is provided primarily by a subdued Pat Summerall, with Madden only chiming in on rare occasions ("I didn't know a brick wall could run that fast!"). The sound effects are putrid, with repetitive crowd noise that actually made me nauseous. For some reason the default quarter length is now ten minutes, which is far too long. While Madden 98 certainly represents a big step back, it does incorporate a few nifty new features.

You actually see penalty flags lying on the field, and referees actually bring out the chains to measure first downs. Why in the heck can't they do that in modern football games?! After a spectacular play, an automatic replay is shown, although the distant camera angle actually makes it harder to tell what happened! Be careful about diving at your opponent after a play, or you may draw an unsportsman-like conduct penalty! There's a few interesting wrinkles, but when you consider how good Madden 97 was, this is a monumental letdown. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 8 players 

Magic Carpet
Grade: B
Publisher: Bullfrog (1996)
Reviewed: 2004/2/3
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotMagic Carpet is a one-of-a-kind game that's remarkably deep. It begins with an electrifying FMV intro, and once the action begins, it gradually sucks you into its magical world. It's mainly a first-person shooter where you play a wizard flying freely over mountainous islands while destroying monsters and collecting "manna" produced upon their demise. But there's a lot more to Magic Carpet than meets the eye.

You can't pick up the manna directly, so you need to construct palaces that dispatch balloons that float around collecting your manna. Don't worry, it only requires a simple spell to build a palace. Meanwhile, other wizards on flying carpets can be seen fighting monsters and competing for manna, and you'll need to defeat them in order to complete the stage. It's possible to upgrade your palaces and deploy more balloons, but monsters can try to attack your strongholds and tear them down. This is not your typical Saturn game, but it's well worth investing the time in learning how to play. Unfortunately, the manual really stinks so you'll need to figure out most of the details on your own.

The mountainous 3D landscapes are somewhat pixelated and foggy, but the frame rate is very smooth. There are scattered townships with people milling around, and rocks and palms trees fill in the undeveloped areas. I especially like the shadowing, and how manna gentle rolls down sloped surfaces. The extensive list of monsters includes giant caterpillars, bees, crabs, genies, dragons, krakens, trolls, griffins, apes, and armies of skeletons!

In the early going you'll use fireballs to kill your enemies (strafe and fire), but later stages let you unleash lightning, earthquakes, and even volcanoes. The game's one downfall may be its control. It's easy to move in a certain direction, but adjusting your altitude is confusing. Fortunately you can't crash. Hitting both shoulder buttons causes an overhead map to appear, but it's too easy to bring it up by accident since individually these buttons are used to strafe.

Magic Carpet's audio is outstanding. Not only is the musical score extremely ominous and well orchestrated, but the sound effects are brilliant. You can hear nuances like water lapping against the shore, trees crackling with fire, and townspeople talking amongst themselves. Frightening roars can be heard in the distance when a large monster is approaching.

Magic Carpet starts out a bit slow, but each level introduces more monsters and spells, and the action eventually gets very intense. There are 70 stages in all, which is absolutely insane considering how time consuming each one is. Magic Carpet doesn't fit neatly into a category, but that's a major reason why it's so great. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Manx TT Super Bike
Grade: B-
Publisher: Sega (1997)
Reviewed: 2007/5/1
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotThis high quality motorcycle racer is what Hang On GP should have been. Manx TT Super Bike features realistic-looking racers, gorgeous winding courses, and very good analog controls. Dust off your Saturn "3D" controllers, because Manx puts them to good use. That analog pad makes all the difference when it comes to making minor adjustments around turns. Better yet, you can use the triggers for acceleration and brake!

Only two tracks are available (not including the "mirrored reverse" versions), but they look very nice. One provides a scenic coastal route, and the other winds through a wooded mountainside and township. Manx TT's frame-rate is smooth, providing a convincing sensation of speed. There's some minor draw-in, but the twisting, rolling courses tend to hide it very well. The controls are good, but even with the analog controls it's hard not to avoid over-steering around long curves.

A slew of playing modes are available, including arcade, challenge, time trial, and even a two-player split screen mode. The challenge mode will keep the solo player busy, but it's really too challenging for my taste. When you're in third place and still run out of time, clearly the difficulty is too steep. A skill select option would have been nice. The game automatically saves your best times in each mode. One of the more comical aspects of Manx is the voice announcer. Manx TT Super Bike arrived on the scene as the Saturn was fading, so it didn't get much attention, but if you enjoy racing action this is a quality title. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Marvel Super Heroes
Grade: A
Publisher: Capcom (1997)
Reviewed: 2000/7/22
Rating: Teen (13+)

screenshotOutstanding! Wow - this 2D fighter really blew me away! The characters are HUGE and smoothly animated with awesome, over-the-top attacks. The lineup includes Spider-Man, Shuma-Gorath, Captain America, Blackheart, Iron Man, Juggernaut, Magneto, Psylocke, Wolverine, and the Incredible Hulk. I love some of the wisecracks made after each victory ("You're gonna be a great sidekick someday!"). All the standard punch/kick moves apply, plus there are a few special attacks for each character. The backgrounds are gorgeous, and sometimes the screen will scroll up really, really far. Options allow you to adjust the difficulty mode and turbo speeds. The only thing that bothers me is the prospect of having Spider-Man fight Captain America - I can only pray that this unfortunate situation never occurs in real life. All in all, Marvel Super Heroes is my favorite fighting game for the Saturn. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
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1 or 2 players 

Mass Destruction
Grade: A
Publisher: NMS Software (1997)
Reviewed: 2005/1/11
Rating: Teen

screenshotFinally, a game that lives up to its name! Mass Destruction is a fast-action, rapid-fire shooter with the most awesome explosions I've ever seen in a Saturn game (possibly any game). You control a tank from a high, third-person point of view, embarking on missions somewhat reminiscent of those in Desert Strike (Genesis, 1992). But in contrast to Desert Strike which required you to proceed cautiously and ration ammo, Mass Destruction lets you give in to that primal desire to obliterate everything in your path.

And you can too, because your firepower is phenomenal. Besides your standard machine guns and explosive shells, you'll acquire mortars, guided missiles, mines, and a devastating flamethrower! Shooting a structure a few times will usually disable it, but you also have the option of leveling the thing, which often reveals power-ups. Your tank zips around quickly, and rough terrain doesn't slow it down much at all (just stay out of the deep water). Although the stages are quite expansive, you can speed from one end of the map to the other in mere seconds.

The shoulder buttons aim the turret, allowing you to "run and gun" like a wild man. You'll face resistance from tanks that explode into fireballs and infantry soldiers that scream realistically as you run them down. In terms of replay value, there are three different tanks to choose from, and each stage includes several optional secondary objectives. Mass Destruction's graphics are good, except for those cone-shaped trees, which are truly hurting. But it's the silky smooth animation with no slowdown that gives the game its arcade flavor.

The awesome soundtrack varies from dramatic action music to techno, and the controls are extremely responsive. I searched high and low for flaws in this game, but there really aren't any. I suppose some might find the action repetitive, but I couldn't get enough of the insane devastation. This is a game for those who prefer to shoot now and ask questions later. Good times! © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Maximum Force
Grade: B-
Publisher: Midway (1998)
Reviewed: 2017/8/24
Rating: Mature 17+ (animated blood, animated violence)

screenshotFollowing in the footsteps of Area 51 (Midway, 1995) Maximum Force is a full-motion video (FMV) light gun shooter. Its three missions (barge, bank, jungle) mix computer-generated environments with live-action enemies to good effect. The fact that the pre-rendered scenery suffers from pixelation actually has the effect of making them look more realistic. Maximum Force is simple shooting fun with a few hotties thrown in and that doesn't hurt.

Enemies tend to be hard-ass bald dudes but there are a surprising number of female "terrorists" as well. The actors seem to be having a great time hamming it up. Shot enemies are reduced to a splash of blood which looks pretty dumb. Much of the environment is destructible, including barrels, crates, windows, and missiles. The action moves at a brisk pace, whisking you from a barge to an underwater lab to a beach. Innocent civilians pop up when you least expect, including a few scantily-clad babes.

The Saturn light gun is accurate but it can be hard to reach the edge of the screen. The unforgiving collision detection often works to your favor, like when some innocent chump pokes his head out and you send a shot whizzing by his ear. Although the game is on rails you can initiate bonus stages by hitting the right combination of targets. The two-player action is okay, but all the screen flashing can be epilepsy-inducing.

I like Maximum Force but it isn't quite up to the standard set by Area 51. You can shoot more stuff but the graphics were cleaner in Area 51 and it was more fun to shoot shrieking aliens. Still, If you're looking for some straight-up light gun fare, Maximum Force serves its purpose. Note: Saturn light guns only operation on old-fashioned CRT-style TVs. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 90,200
1 or 2 players 

Metal Black (Japan)
Grade: C
Publisher: Ving (1996)
Reviewed: 2012/1/25

screenshotIf you think Metal Black looks like a 16-bit shooter, that's probably because it's a port of a 1991 Taito arcade game. The intro text scrolls by so rapidly that you can barely keep up with its grammatical errors. "It was believed they came flying from the sky area of Nemesis." "They had a special ability of combined with the Earth's civilization." "The Earth's government made a compromise called peace." "The Earth died, and it was about to enter upon silence times." You can't make stuff like this up!

Metal Black's side-scrolling action features simple controls, rapid-fire shooting, and layered backgrounds. I recommend using a joystick with a turbo option if you have one. As you fly through post-apocalyptic ruins, caverns, and deep space, you'll wipe out waves of jets, aliens, frogs, and giant insects.

The wave entitled "Cry for the Moon" culminates with a giant alien boss springing forth from center of the moon. Colorful molecules float around the screen and snatching these up charges your weapons. The molecules are too plentiful however, and it gets tiresome to collect them after a while. Also annoying is how many objects sneak up on you from behind, especially considering there's no back-shot weapon.

The graphics are uneven. The opening desert stage appears nearly digitized, while others (like the cave) look like something lifted from a Genesis game. Bonus waves let you launch guided missiles from a first-person point of view, but the "gee-whiz" factor is offset by confusing camera angles. I really like the two-player co-op because you work together to defeat the aliens, yet still compete for score. Metal Black isn't spectacular by any means, but it's still enjoyable if you're not expecting too much. Note: The arcade version is available on Taito Legends 2 (Playstation 2, 2006). © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: CJS 117,820
1 or 2 players 

Minnesota Fats: Pool Legend
Grade: C
Publisher: Data East (1995)
Reviewed: 2018/6/17
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotAs a longtime fan of Side Pocket (Genesis, 1992) I felt right at home with Minnesota Fats Pool Legend. The game serves up the same swanky, smoky lounge bar atmosphere, but the graphics are so sharp you can see the wear on the pool table felt. It's still a little hard to tell the solids from stripes however. The gameplay feels unchanged, and I'm kind of bummed out they couldn't enhance the physics for the Saturn.

While the balls roll smoothly it's still hard to get the exact angle you want for your shot. It is easy to make the cue ball jump, and dramatic scaling effects are used to convey the illusion of the ball popping into the air. Unlike the Genesis game you can challenge a variety of CPU players. I was a little concerned when I saw "thinking..." displayed during my opponent's turn, but it never takes more than a second or two for them to calculate the shot.

What makes the game novel is its story mode with cinematic cut-scenes starring "the Fat Man" himself. The video quality and music are both on par with a circa 1979 adult film, but the acting is far worse. Maybe that's why there are so many hookers? During the actual games you're forced to listen to hokey lounge music or annoying country twang. Why isn't the music selectable? I mean, the main menu has a jukebox for Pete's sake. The Trick mode has returned from the Genesis game, serving as a fun side diversion. Minnesota Fats Pool Legend is a lazy effort but those priceless full-motion video clips somehow make it all worthwhile. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Mr. Bones
Grade: A-
Publisher: Sega (1996)
Reviewed: 2000/10/3
Rating: Kids to Adults

screenshotMr. Bones is a collection of high quality mini-games sandwiched between some extremely impressive full motion video (FMV) clips. You control a skeleton named Mr. Bones who was formerly a blues musician. He is pursued by an army of skeletons under the spell of an evil wizard. The video clips that convey the storyline are the most impressive I've seen on the Saturn, seamlessly combining live actors and computer animation.

I'm pretty jaded when it comes to FMV, but these clips held my attention. The levels themselves range from typical side scrolling mayhem to some of the most original concepts I've ever seen in a video game. Some of the more unique stages include playing a guitar (cool!), playing drums, telling jokes (seriously), gliding through a huge cathedral, fighting a skeletal T-Rex, and saving a village of little people from spiders (their high-pitched screams are hilarious). In most stages, hits will cause you to actually "lose" bones, forcing you to crawl around with no legs, or hop on your spine!

Although no single level here could stand on its own, it's evident that a tremendous amount of thought and effort was put into each one. The graphics are sensational, and the sound effects and music are equally impressive. If Mr. Bones has a fault, it's the difficulty level. Just making it through the first level is entirely too hard. Also, the jumping control could be more responsive at times. But overall, Mr. Bones is an amazing piece of work. © Copyright 2000 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