Sega CD Reviews B

Batman Returns
Grade: A-

screenshotIf you're a fan of the Batman Returns film this Sega CD game is quite spectacular. It's two games in one, combining the rock-solid platforming action of Batman Returns (Genesis, 1992) with some amazing new driving stages. Cinematic cut-scenes employ a lot of slick rotation and scaling for dramatic effect. The intro is remarkably dark, depicting a beauty queen plunging off a building to her death as Batman circles from above. You can play the driving and platform stages separately, but you'll want both for the full experience.

The game opens with six (six!) driving stages. Viewing the action from behind your Batmobile, the road smoothly undulates as enemy vehicles scale in from the distance. The gothic, industrial scenery is terrific, offering a "winter wonderland" vibe ideal for a snowy night. Despite the awkward controls it's fun to fire hockey pucks and guided missiles at motorcycles, cars, and trucks. The destruction is satisfying to behold, with motorcycles going up in flames before exploding.

That firetruck boss however is way over the top. Lighting it up with missiles isn't enough - you have to knock clowns off of its ladders while avoiding its massive flamethrower. In my experience you'll want to ram the ladders before falling back to avoid the flames. As if these stages weren't hard enough, they are also timed, so even when I do survive there's usually only a few seconds to spare.

The platforming portions of the game look and play identical to the Genesis, except the audio has been completely redone. The sound effects are noticeably cleaner and the surreal background music is arguably better. The question is, why didn't they use the award-winning score from the actual film? Isn't that what movie licenses are for?

It's fun to grapple between building ledges while pummeling the [expletive] out of those pesky clowns. It may not be the smoothest or sharpest platformer, but the action is varied and the gritty graphics add to the dark atmosphere. Batman Returns packs a lot of replay value into an epic adventure no other system can claim. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 64,100
1 player 

Battle Frenzy
Grade: D
Publisher: Older Games (2003)
Reviewed: 2004/5/9

screenshotFirst developed in 1994, Battle Frenzy went unreleased until Older Games recently picked up the rights. It's an interesting title, but to fully appreciate it you have to understand its historical context. The breakthrough PC hit Doom spawned all sorts of first-person shooters in the early 1990's. The Sega Genesis wasn't capable of a decent first-person shooter, but the Sega CD had the potential thanks to its built-in rotation and scaling capabilities.

Battle Frenzy exposes the limitations of the Sega CD system, but it's still a remarkable game. The object is to destroy all the reactors in a space ship infested with aliens and robots. Scattered throughout its rooms are keys, weapons, mines, and exploding barrels. You'll encounter intimidating alien robots that look like a cross between terminators and demons from hell. I love how they growl as you approach, and they also disintegrate nicely when you pump lead into them. The levels are completely flat and relatively short, and an on-screen auto-map makes it easy to determine your position (impressive).

The primary faults with Battle Frenzy are its abysmal frame-rate and touchy controls, which actually go hand-in-hand. There's no strafing (ugh!), and it's far too easy to get caught up on corners while navigating narrow corridors. Aiming is problematic, but fortunately your weapons are so powerful that simply spraying usually does the job. The control issue is magnified however when you blow up the reactor at the end of each stage, because then you must race back to the starting point before a countdown expires. For reasons beyond my comprehension, control becomes nearly unmanageable at this point - and just when you need it most! Other issues include the presence of annoying mines and the fact that doors don't look much different than walls.

On the bright side, there's a two-player split-screen mode that's surprisingly good! Although it's labeled "Versus" on the menu, it's more cooperative since you can't shoot your partner. I was pleasantly surprised to see the split-screen mode run faster than the normal one, making it an exception to the rule. Another positive aspect is the music, which effectively alternates between high-energy techno and dark, menacing tones. Sega CD fans and classic game collectors will probably find Battle Frenzy to be an interesting relic, but I doubt casual gamers will appreciate it. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Bill Walsh College Football
Grade: B-
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1993)
Reviewed: 2001/8/22

screenshotThis college pigskin contest is identical to the Genesis version, but there are a few extra bells and whistles. The biggest improvement has got to be the enhanced crowd noise. It sounds incredibly lifelike, especially compared to the vomit-inducing noise heard on the Genesis version. The music is also drastically improved. According to the box, this CD contains "enhanced graphics throughout", but you'd have to be pretty observant to notice. Another bonus feature is a series of Bill Walsh video clips, in which he describes just about every aspect of the college game, but only die-hards will be able to sit through these. One disappointment is that despite the higher capacity of a CD, there are still only 48 teams available. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.
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1 to 4 players 

Blackhole Assault
Grade: F
Publisher: Bignet (1992)
Reviewed: 2003/4/13


screenshotOne of the first games available for the Sega CD, Blackhole Assault generated little fanfare - and for good reason. Its title sounds like a bad adult film, and its gameplay is about as trashy. A background story is conveyed through choppy animated cutscenes that aren't any better than what you've seen on the Genesis, only longer. The overdramatic introduction features a pissed-off captain with bright red skin. Why is his skin that color? Is sunburn a common problem in 2160?

After the lengthy build-up, you finally get to see what this game is really all about: Robot fighting! That's right, Blackhole Assault is nothing more than a one-on-one fighter with the most boring cast of characters EVER! There are eight generic machines in all, and thanks to the Sega CD's limited color palette, most are either green or purple! It's actually hard to tell them apart during battle. The box claims "High-intensity, photo-realistic CD graphics" but I couldn't disagree more.

Many of the dull backgrounds feature nothing more than barren planet surfaces! And the gameplay is dreadful. The moves are just standard kick/punch/crouch combinations and the controls are NOT what I would call responsive. I can usually find at least one redeeming quality in any game, but I can't think of ANY reason to ever pull Blackhole Assault off the shelf. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Bouncers
Grade: F
Publisher: Sega (1994)
Reviewed: 2004/5/9


screenshotThis unusual title gives new meaning to the mantra "be the ball". Bouncers is played by two basketball-shaped characters with eyes, feet and hands. There's not much to this game, and I'm really not sure how it qualified as a CD title. Each contest is played on a court one screen in size, with a net on each side and colorful scenery in the background.

Scoring is not as easy as you might expect. You can jump, but only about halfway up to the basket. In order to get sufficient air, you'll need to vault yourself off of the other player. It's harder than it sounds because the other ball is constantly moving, trying to do the same thing to you. It's a novel concept, but it doesn't work very well at all.

Awkward, unresponsive controls don't help matters. Heck, most of the time you end up inadvertently knocking the other ball into the hoop. It's a shame the controls suck, because Bouncer's graphics are nice and the music isn't bad either.

There are a few power-ups, but for every one that helps you, there's another that gives you lead feet. There are several zany locales to choose from, including a jungle, a haunted house, stormy ruins, and an underwater shipwreck. I was hoping Bouncers could deliver on its bizarre premise, but it's practically unplayable. . © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Bram Stoker's Dracula
Grade: C
Publisher: Sony (1993)
Reviewed: 2014/11/4

screenshotIf you own a Sega CD you really owe it to yourself to track down a copy of Bram Stoker's Dracula. Instead of a glorified version of the Genesis game, this actually does a good job of showing off the CD technology. The stages feature three dimensional scenery that actually rotates as you walk through it. It's the most amazing effect I've seen on the system, elevating an otherwise mediocre title to noteworthy status.

The game conveys a serious atmosphere, and the spine-tingling sounds and orchestrated soundtrack make the action feel epic in scale. It's a shame the gameplay is so disappointing. Playing as a digitized Jonathan Harker (Keanu Reeves) you creep through forests, graveyards, and castles while unleashing your martial arts fury on bats, squirrels, and spiders. These creatures wouldn't be a problem if they didn't converge from all directions (gah!). And who are these guys who keep clunking me over the head with a chalice?

The jumping controls are lacking, and I have no idea how to get past those bear traps without sustaining damage. Eventually you encounter vomiting zombies and winged demons, but they look cartoonish next to the digitized sceney. The control scheme is confusing and there's some lag to your punches and kicks. When you're trying to fight a monster while getting pelted by tiny creatures, it feels overwhelming. And it's just plain dumb when you "punch" ethereal ghosts and it makes a ker-pow sound.

In one stage you walk through a library with books flying all over the place, and since you can't run, it's a nightmare. Fortunately you get five lives along with three continues. Sandwiching the stages are full-screen cut-scenes from the film, but they look horribly grainy, have no dialogue, and cannot be skipped. That said, the game is challenging and worth pulling out around Halloween. Despites its flaws I still consider Bram Stoker's Dracula a showcase title for the Sega CD. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 10,770
1 player 

Bug Blasters
Grade: D-
Publisher: Good Deal Games (2001)
Reviewed: 2002/10/23

screenshotYou know, even if the game isn't very good, it's always a thrill to play a new game for a classic system. Formerly a shelved 1994 Sony project, Bug Blasters is no prize, but you have to appreciate Good Deal Games for at least allowing this one to see the light of day. As the story begins, LA has been overrun by giant bugs, and a band of Ghostbusters-wannabes called the Exterminators are out to save the city. Not only do these guys look and act like the Ghostbusters, but even their theme song sounds the same! You have to wonder if Sony held back on this for fear of copyright infringement.

The acting is as bad as you would expect, and the dialogue can be hard to stomach at times. But Bug Blasters does have a few things going for it. The video is grainy but full screen (!), and there is virtually no load time. Bug Blasters uses the same type of "aim and shoot" gameplay as Tomcat Alley, but with less success. There are often dozens of bugs flying around the screen, but the collision detection is weak and shooting one requires as much luck as skill. I did notice that you can tap the shoot button quickly to increase your chances of a hit. Also like Tomcat Alley, it's the pyrotechnics that really steal the show. After shooting each bug, you get to see a nice clip of the thing blowing up.

Secondary weapons like flares and grenades are available, but you probably won't need them. The gameplay is pretty simplistic, although at times you'll want to be careful not to shoot another member of your team. One thing that really bothered me was that no matter how many bugs you kill, the number of insects flying around the screen is always the same. At least there are some large "claymation" bosses to add some variety. Bug Blasters is not a great game, but collectors should certainly take notice. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Burning Fists
Grade: C-
Publisher: Good Deal Games (2006)
Reviewed: 2006/7/24

screenshotI've become quite the skeptic when it comes to old, previously unreleased games being resuscitated years later. My first question usually is, "what's wrong with it?" If you're looking for a top-of-the-line fighter like Street Fighter 2 or Mortal Kombat, Burning Fists is probably not for you. However, if you're a 2D fighter nut who with an appreciation for the old school, this may be worth checking out. Burning Fists is anything but original. Except for a few novel attacks (like elbow drops and rolling kicks), it simply recycles ideas from other, better 2D fighters.

It plays fairly well however, and at the very least offers an exceptional soundtrack and a few interesting stages. Most of the fighters are blatant Street Fighter rip-offs, with look-alikes for Ryu, Chun-Li, Guile, Balrog, and Blanka. Blanka's clone not only hails from South America, but even has the same green skin (c'mon now!). The single original character is an armored warrior from Kenya who loves to shake his long wiggly stick. The eight stage backdrops are a mixed bag, but Chile is undeniably beautiful with its looming pyramids and purple sunset. The Daytona USA stage looks dull, but the sound of race cars whizzing by is pretty amazing.

Burning Fist's graphics are about on par with Eternal Champions, and a notch or two below Street Fighter 2. The animation is smooth enough, but a lot of the moves look "unnatural" at best. The collision detection is erratic at times, and the vocal effects are redundant. You can't adjust the best-out-of-five match configuration, and the CPU opponent isn't very sharp. The highlight of the game is its killer soundtrack. All of the songs are well produced, and a few are simply outstanding.

I also need to mention a few technical landmines you'll want to sidestep. Do not press the Start button during a fight, or you may find yourself trapped in the pause mode from hell. In addition, the game froze when I tried to play it on my 32X-equipped front-loading Sega CD system. Despite its uneven quality however, I still enjoyed Burning Fists. It's easy to play, and takes you back to a time when 2D fighters were king. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 


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Screen shots courtesy of Shinforce, Sega CD Universe, Moby Games