Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3
Publisher: Williams (1995)
Rating: Mature (animated violence, animated blood)
When I play an older fighter like Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 (UMK3), it takes me back to a simpler time when characters only had a handful of moves. There's something to be said for that! Mortal Kombat 3 was considered a disappointment in its day, but there's still plenty to like about this Ultimate edition. Its 2D graphics look extremely sharp, and the controls are perfectly responsive. If you own a Saturn joystick, this game will make good use of it.
UMK3 contains most of your favorite characters (including Scorpion), but that unmasked version of Sub-Zero was always a real turn-off. The two robots (Cyrax and Sector) splash black oil instead of blood, and some non-human characters (like Sheeva) spurt green blood. Before each contest a cool match-up screen is displayed, but it's almost immediately replaced by a boring "Now Loading" screen. What's up with that?
Most of the stages are holdovers from MK3, including the subway and "Temple of Zuul" city skyline. It's not uncommon to punch your opponent through the ceiling and continue fighting on the level above. The water stage which looked so fake on the SNES looks a heck of a lot better here. Ultimate's new stages include a sand dune location and a hellish "columns of bones" area.
The gameplay has been tweaked slightly, mostly to balance out the characters. I noticed that blocks are less effective and air-juggles are fairly common. Fatalities are accompanied by a stuttering load sequence that's unsightly and really tends to ruin the moment. New multiplayer modes include an eight-player single-elimination tournament. Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 isn't spectacular on the Saturn, but it's still one heck of a fighting game. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Gremlin (1996)
Rating: Kids to Adults
Gremlin succeeded where Sega and Electronic Arts failed, and managed to program a good golf game for the Saturn. VR Golf is less impressive looking than other Saturn golf games, but the playability is far and away the best. The courses are made up of polygons which look rougher than the static, pre-rendered screens of other golf games. However, you get the advantage of a moving camera angle that provides an excellent view of your shot.
You have complete camera control not only during your shots, but during replays as well. The easy-to-use controls allow you to draw and fade at will. Perhaps the best part of this game is that except between holes, load time is practically non-existent, allowing for games to move at a brisk pace.
The audio is outstanding. In addition to the natural-sounding background noise, three announcers intelligently (and often humorously) provide play-by-play and commentary. The English guy is particularly funny. Be sure to set the commentary option to "mixed" for maximum enjoyment.
VR Golf is good, but not perfect. The graphics and animation are rougher than the Playstation version of this game. The fictional golfers look downright blocky, and the two courses are fictional and not too exciting. Finally, putting is far too easy. But despite these flaws, this is one more entertaining golf titles I've played. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Gremlin Interactive (1996)
Rating: Kids to Adults
It's hard to dislike a soccer game that kicks off with that catchy "Rock and Rock Part 2" theme song. But where's the "VR"? Actually, nobody really knew what "virtual reality" was in the mid-90's, but industry "experts" were 100% sure it was "the next big thing". Little did they know that ten years later we'd all be buying repackaged Atari 2600's instead! Anyway, VR Soccer's first-generation polygon graphics might make you cringe at first glance, but its gameplay is surprisingly fluid and generally fun.
The control scheme is simple enough and the contests are of ideal length (read: short). The packaging makes a big deal out of the "3-D Virtual FieldVision" feature, which apparently refers to the fact that the camera tends to be in constant motion all over the field. Depending on the situation it will zoom in close, swing around, or pull back for a wide shot. Most of the time it provides a good viewing angle, and after a while you won't even notice it. This problem is, the camera positioning also affects the controls! If you're lining up for a shot and the camera suddenly swings around, you need to readjust your aim in a hurry. As a result, novice players will often find themselves passing and shooting the ball out of bounds.
Unlike modern soccer titles, the "shoot" button doesn't automatically aim towards the goal, so it's hard to aim with precision. The goals are awfully small but manned by lazy-assed goalies that allow soft shots to float right over their heads. VR Soccer's play-by-play is professional but subdued. A rich option menu provides so many choices that it's almost ridiculous. When sports games become old, their whiz-bang features tend to fall to the side, and all that remains is their gameplay. Fortunately for VR Soccer, that's good enough. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1995)
This is a very basic, easy-to-play light gun game that's very entertaining, and the Sega Stunner gun is one of the most accurate guns around. Two people can play at once, which always increases the fun factor. Scenery includes the standard action movie staples: a warehouse, construction site, syndicate headquarters, etc. That's all fine, but you really can't damage too much of the scenery, except for a few windows here and there. There are no special weapons like grenades, but you can power-up your gun. Besides the bosses, you shoot the same bad guys over and over, and apparently they all shop for clothes at the same store. Enemies react differently depending on where they are shot, and I love it when they fall from high places. On the downside, the fact that there are only three stages diminishes the replayability of this game. Still, Virtual Cop is great fun while it lasts. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: MF 211600
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Sega (1996)
What an incredible game Virtua Cop 2 is! This excellent sequel is one of the best light-gun games ever made. The graphics are slightly improved from the first game, with a much better variety of enemies. You can now shoot and damage much of the scenery, including exploding barrels. But by far the most impressive aspect of this game is the driving sequences. You really do feel like you're having a shootout during a car chase! The framerate is so fast and smooth that you might actually get motion sickness watching this game. Virtua Cop 2 is also more challenging than the first, with more hostages that get in the way. The game is longer, and the interesting scenery includes a department store, an ocean liner, and a subway. You can even choose your path at certain times, increasing the replayability. Saturn fans should not miss this game. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Virtua Fighter 2
Publisher: Sega (1995)
Rating: Teen (13+)
Setting the standard for Saturn fighters, Virtua Fighter 2 delivers fluid fighting action that demands good technique. The character models have been enhanced dramatically since the first Virtua Fighter, as evidenced by the introduction, where each fighter transforms from their old look into the new. Virtua Fighter's graphics are good but not great, and pale in comparison to the flashy visuals of Tekken or Battle Arena Toshinden (Playstation). From the bearded old Shun, to the ninja Kage, to the Ryu look-alike Akira, these fighters look fairly realistic (no space aliens or monsters here).
The graphics are clean and the animation is smooth, but the action is definitely on the slow side. The jumps are "floaty", as if the fights were taking place on the moon. Three buttons are used to block, punch, and kick. The manual lists a slew of moves for each character, but many are "leap" attacks requiring you to be a certain distance from your opponent. Virtua Fighter 2's measured style of play tends to make the matches more strategically oriented and less prone to button mashing. I also like how well executed attacks can take huge chunks out of the life meter. The background scenery features attractive but unspectacular ancient temples, and the voices are mostly Japanese, which is for the better.
Adding replay value are extra modes like a "team battle" mode, a "ranking" mode that rates your performance, and an "expert" mode that supposedly records your techniques from previous fights and devises an appropriate strategy to counter them. I gave this expert mode a try, and sure enough, my opponent consistently blocked all of my favorite moves. It wasn't particularly fun, but it did force me to try some new tricks. Virtua Fighter 2 is a quality game, and it's evident that Sega was trying very hard to compete with the Playstation. The game's visuals might not blow you away, but the gameplay just might win you over. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Virtua Fighter Kids
Publisher: Sega (1996)
Rating: Teen (13+) Animated violence.
Have you ever noticed how so many games have that obligatory, secret "big head" mode? I think it started with NBA Jam, and I for one have never quite understood its appeal. So as you can imagine, I was pretty disgusted at Sega for releasing Virtua Fighter Kids in 1996. I mean c'mon - this gimmick is hardly
worth making a whole new game
out of! At the time, the Saturn was getting its ass kicked thoroughly by Sony's Playstation, which boasted a slew of superior 3D fighters (Tekken, Battle Arena Toshinden). Inexplicably, Sega's response was this silly, scaled-down version of their flagship fighter, Virtua Fighter.
But if you can look past the ridiculous graphics (not easy to do), the gameplay is not half bad. It's comparable to Virtua Fighter 2, except many of the moves are harder to make out because those big noggins always seem to get in the way. The fighters and backgrounds are simplistic, but the colorful graphics have a crisp, clean look.
New features include a "combo workshop", which lets you configure complicated attacks that can be initiated with a single button press (didn't this used to be called cheating?). There's also a "kids mode", which lets you trigger complex special moves simply by mashing buttons - entertaining for young players I suppose. Inexplicably, Virtua Fighter Kids was smacked with a "Teen" rating (13+), which seems remarkably ironic. Of course, if Sega had really their priorities straight, this silly game would have never seen the light of day in the first place. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sega (1995)
Rating: Kids to Adults
Virtua Racing was the first racer to effectively use 3D polygon graphics, allowing you to view the action from different angles on the fly. This Saturn version is probably the best home version you can get, but let's face it, it's pretty unspectacular for a Saturn title. I mean, when this was released there were already perfectly good versions for the 32X and Genesis, and next-generation, texture-mapped racers like Ridge Racer and Daytona USA were already becoming commonplace. Virtua Racing sports triangle trees and buildings that look like boxes. And the photorealistic backdrops make the chunky polygons in the foreground look even worse! Despite the variety of tracks, cars, and options, this game looks old. The sound effects and music are adequate but sparse. Fortunately, gameplay reigns supreme, and Virtua Racing was always a good time. The simple controls and high difficulty should divert your attention from the primitive graphics, at least for a while anyway.. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Virtual Open Tennis
Publisher: Acclaim (1995)
Rating: Kids to Adults
While not in the same league as Virtua Tennis (Dreamcast), Acclaim's Virtual Open is certainly respectable. You select from ten fictional players, each with their own unique attributes. The court is viewed vertically, providing a good view for the player on the nearside, but a lousy view for the poor chump on the far end. The players look slightly pixelated but are nicely animated. If you want to see something hilarious, try walking side to side before serving the ball - these guys look like they're walking with their shoes tied together!
Control is fair, but could be more responsive. The players tend to move erratically, especially when you use the turbo button. They automatically dive for tough shots, and occasionally make some spectacular plays. The big yellow ball is easy to follow, and a red mark appears where it lands, making it easy to determine if a shot was in or out. Virtual Open's fun factor is only about average, and there are too many pauses in the action. For some reason, you have to page through the game and set scores before EVERY serve. And by all means, be sure to turn those instant replays off, or they will drive you absolutely crazy!
The tennis courts aren't very interesting, with the exception of the looming Earth on the horizon. Huh? Are we playing on the moon?? The game's musical soundtrack includes some ear-splitting rock but also some relaxing jazz tunes. Virtual Open Tennis has great multiplayer support. You and a friend can team up in a doubles game versus the computer, and you can hook up a multi-tap for some four-player fun. Virtual Open Tennis is not a standout title, but it gets the job done. © 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