Cal Ripken Jr. Baseball
Publisher: Mindscape (1992)
The SNES edition of Cal Ripken Jr. Baseball is certainly a step up from the mediocre Genesis version in terms of graphics and sound, but it's still pretty bland. In terms of baseball games, it doesn't get much more generic than this! Lacking a major league license, the teams, players, and three stadiums are completely fictional. The single exception of course is Cal Ripken himself, who appears in the game with a .348 batting average and 51 homeruns to his credit - the best year he never
had! Don't get me wrong - I'm from Baltimore and I love Cal, but let's get real! The simple pitcher/batter screen is easy to control, with handy windows showing runners on base. In the field, the players tend to be sluggish but have cannons for arms. The outfields are expansive, resulting in an inordinate number of extra base hits. Cal Ripken Baseball's graphics aren't very detailed, but the players look sharp. Perhaps in an attempt to reproduce the grass-cutting patterns you see at many ballparks, the fields sport fat green stripes on the grass that look really, really bad. The control is much better than the Genesis version, except for the diving, which is terribly clumsy. The baseball has a tiny shadow that makes fly balls difficult to track down. In terms of audio, this is a pretty quiet game. Low-key background music plays throughout the contest, and an enthusiastic umpire calls strikes and outs. Cal Ripken Baseball's best feature is the "zoom window" which displays full screen close-ups of exciting plays. These are cool but brief, so don't blink or you may miss them! All in all, this is a respectable baseball game for the SNES, but there's no way it can compete with the faster and more polished Ken Griffey Baseball. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
California Games II
Publisher: DTMC (1992)
The original California Games was fairly popular but how many people knew about this sequel? I sure didn't. The title screen doesn't bode well with those faceless freaks lounging on the beach listening to horrible looping music. California Games II offers five events: hang gliding, jet surfing, snowboarding, bodyboarding, and skateboarding. As usual, the developers made these events needlessly complicated. In hang gliding it's hard enough to stay aloft (thanks to abysmal controls) but you're also
expected to drop water balloons on buoys and feed fish to dolphins! Do all hang gliders take off with a bucket of fish? Jet surfing (aka jet skiing) is a real atocity. Instead of carving waves you're navigating a flat maze projected on the surface of the water. While it employs the mode 7 effects like F-Zero
(Nintendo, 1991), the mere concept of a water maze is idiotic. I thought there were dead ends
but it turns out they are flat ramps!
Did I mention you're supposed to pick up garbage
floating in the water?! Snowboarding is even more bizarre, inexplicably limited to the far right edge
of the screen. As you careen down nearly-vertical slopes all you do is hit a button to jump over hazards. The next event is something called bodyboarding. I didn't know anything about bodyboarding before, and I still
don't! I couldn't even figure it out, disappearing over the top of every wave. Skateboarding is another clunker. You travel down an endless half-pipe, periodically riding through round "aqueducts". During each event some bratty kid appears on the top right shouting stuff like "Yes way!", "Bogus!", and "Dweeb!"
The best thing about California Games II is that it presents the games rapid-fire, so before you can realize how much one sucks
you're quickly whisked off to the next one. © Copyright 2015 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: easy
Our high score: BSC 88300
1 to 4 players
Castlevania Dracula X
Publisher: Konami (1995)
Rating: Kids to Adults
The original Castlevania Dracula X, released for the PC Engine (playable on the Turbo Duo), was an epic platformer boasting dramatic cut-scenes, exciting stages, and an operatic musical score. Imagine the dismay of those who originally bought this game when they realized this version was an entirely different game!
Compared to the PC-Engine, this is a very run-of-the-mill Castlevania romp at best
. The opening stage features burning ruins with nifty fire effects, but the water-color look clashes with the other stages. Later you'll forge through elegant ballrooms, clock towers, mines, and moonlit crypts. You'll crack your whip at the levitating medusa heads, axe-throwing knights, floating eyeballs, and fire-breathing dragon statues. For some reason dog skeletons look a lot
creepier than people skeletons. The jumping controls try to incorporate momentum, but it doesn't feel intuitive. I hate how you fall back when taking a hit - even from behind- which frequently sends you plunging to your doom! Some checkpoints are poorly placed. Stage two begins with a harrowing bridge section with leaping lizard men that disrupt your jumps between collapsing columns. When I died at the hands of the giant bat boss, wouldn't you know that I had to restart that whole damn bridge sequence? Dracula X exhibits noticeable slow-down and some of the music sounds a little cheesy. The sound effects are very crisp, and it's satisfying to hear the crumbling of bones when you slay a skeleton. The password is nine symbols, which is not exactly easy to write down. Fortunately the kid who originally owned my instruction manual took the time to jot down a few! Dracula X for SNES is mediocre by Castlevania standards, and if you've ever tried the Turbo Duo version you'll understand why controversy has always swirled around this one. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 13800
Chester Cheetah: Too Cool to Fool
Publisher: Kaneko (1992)
Never get your hopes up for product-placement games. That's the first rule
in reviewing video games. Not really. Chester Cheetah (mascot for the Cheetos brand) is a sunglass-wearing, ultra-hip cat attempting to locate five missing motorcycle pieces in a zoo. The title screen shows a reclined Chester who snaps his fingers when you select an option. The fact that the snap doesn't make a sound is indicative of the game's lack of quality assurance. The opening stage is pretty ho-hum as you walk through a park while pouncing on turtles, bugs, and jumping fish. Unfortunately it's hard to tell who's hurting who
- a problem I eventually chalked up to some really bad
collision detection. Get used to it! The first boss seemed insurmountable until I realized I could just let him walk right by me! Too Cool to Fool tends to have you respawn in the same place you died, which is a really, really
bad idea! One power-up is a guitar that lets you jam in place while creatures walk into you and die. Why are they walking into you? Why is the music fatal? These questions have baffled scientists for years. A tennis shoe power-up lets you run and take long leaps, but let's face it - this really should have been a standard ability. The sunglasses let you locate hidden items, but using them dims the entire screen. Not only does this look
bad, it makes no sense either considering Chester is always
wearing sunglasses. You'll collect a lot of "paw" icons including big ones that give you health and small ones that can earn you an extra life. The game does have a few things going for it including fluorescent graphics that really pop off the screen. The madcap musical score is well done, and the low difficulty compensates for the awkward controls. My wife was headed to the store while I was reviewing this, and wouldn't you know, I asked her to pick up a bag of Cheetos. As mediocre as it may be, this game clearly served its purpose. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 3,140
Publisher: Electrobrain (1993)
The name "Choplifter" resonates with a lot of old school gamers. In the original game 8-bit classic you flew a helicopter over enemy lines to perform surgical strikes and rescue hostages, and Choplifter 3 remains true to that formula. After lifting off from your base, you fly across a side-scrolling jungle landscape while avoiding fire from cannons, tanks, and enemy soldiers. Every now and then you'll land to pick up friendly gray soldiers, and sometimes you must blow up enemy encampments to release captives. You adjust the orientation of your helicopter with the shoulder buttons, and it's easy to strafe the ground with your gunfire. The colorful background graphics are a real treat, depicting a lush tropical jungle and scenic mountains. Choplifter 3 succeeds in the graphics department but falters badly in terms of gameplay. The first few stages are too easy and time-consuming, and it doesn't help that you get five
lives from the start. Be sure to have at least an hour free before you sit down to play this. At first it's tempting to clear out every enemy troop you encounter, but they regenerate so don't even bother. The fact that you cannot shoot your own soldiers might seem like a good thing, but it actually waters down the difficulty and eliminates the satisfaction of performing a "surgical" extraction. Choplifter 3 also suffers from a terrible case of boss-itis
. Every few waves you're forced to deal with an oversized tank or cannon that takes an eternity
to destroy! Adding insult to injury, the game exhibits some horrendous slow-down during these sequences. By the time your last helicopter goes down in flames, your desire to play this game will have gone up in smoke. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Square (1995)
Submitted by RPG correspondent Jonathan Hawk
Whenever I have conversations about RPGs, it never fails that someone will mention, "You know what was a great game? Chrono Trigger." Many fans of the genre even consider it to be the best RPG of all time! The story revolves around Crono, a swordsman (circa 1000 AD) with wild red hair and a diverse set of friends. Together they embark on an exciting quest through time. Crono's ultimate goal is to prevent the end of the world in the year 1999 at the hands of an evil, magical entity named Lavos. Throughout your quest, choices you make in the past affect the future. As a result, the game has an astounding 13 possible endings! Chrono Trigger is a classic 2D, turn-based RPG. The sprites and backgrounds are clean and bright, as if lifted from a cell-shaded animation. The musical score is catchy and effectively conveys mood. Chrono Trigger's gameplay is fantastic. You can have three characters in your party at any given time, and Akira Toriyama (character designer for Dragonball and Dragon Warrior) lends his pen to create a truly memorable cast. As your party runs down a hallway and encounters a monster, the battle menus scroll in and the fight takes place on the same screen. Armed to the teeth, your characters have two types of special moves: magic spells, and "tech" attacks. It's innovative how tech attacks can be combined, so up to three characters can contribute to one massive monster hurting! I haven't seen this done in any RPG since. The story is a work of art, and obviously a lot of thought went into the various subplots and determining how events affect each outcome. Throw in some fun mini-games, a bunch of enjoyable side quests, and some pop culture references, and you have one of the most enjoyable RPGs ever made. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Interplay (1993)
Yuck! It's hard to believe my friends and I actually liked
this game at one time. An opportunistic release, Clayfighter came out when one-on-one fighters were at their height, resulting in a short-lived burst of popularity. What was innovative about the game is how it incorporates pseudo-3D "clay-mation" characters never before seen in a video game. The result is a bizarre fighter that's short on gameplay but long on novelty. I will give Clayfighter credit for being imaginative. The well-rendered but unlikeable clay characters include an Elvis impersonator, a scarecrow, a blob, a fat opera woman, and an evil snowman. These are not exactly your usual suspects when it comes to fighting games. They perform some humorous animations and sound bites, including Elvis saying "thank you very much" after winning a bout. When executing their bizarre attacks the fighters will sometimes transform into oversized weapons like hammers and buzz saws. While amusing at first, you can expect a lot of cheap hits and minimal technique. Although the characters are nicely rendered, they lack smooth animation, making it hard to tell what's going on in the heat of battle. You can adjust the game speed, difficulty, and controller configurations. Clayfighter is amusing for the short term, but in the long term it's more irritating than anything else. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: None
1 or 2 players
Clayfighter Tournament Edition
Publisher: Interplay (1994)
This is one of the more blatant examples of a company trying to cash in twice
on the same freakin' game
! Besides a new intro and some minor tweaks in the gameplay, this is exactly the same as the first Clayfighter game! There aren't even any new characters! Pass! © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Sony (1993)
Cliffhanger is based on the "white-knuckle action movie" starring Sylvester Stallone. You play a mountain climber named Gabe out to save your friends from the clutches of the evil Qualen (John Lithgow). As you forge your way through side-scrolling stages you'll battle henchmen in snowy mountain environments. There are really only a handful of thugs, but they come in an array of colors. The kicking and punching action is intense, and proper technique is required to properly dispose of gangs of converging thugs. You can block their attacks, but where is the throw move? It would have been nice to send these goons plunging to an icy death. Enemies blink and disappear when defeated, but sometimes they blink and then get back up
in clear violation of video game ordinance. I hate it when they continue fighting with only a tiny sliver
of life remaining. Die already!!
In addition to beating the living crap out of everybody Gabe must overcome perilous platform challenges. You'll jump between narrow ledges with gunmen situated on them. You'll hop across floating logs that only surface briefly. You'll scale the side of a mountain as riflemen shoot at you from point-blank range. But the toughest part of the game by far
is the ridiculous run-from-the-avalanche stage. It wouldn't be so bad if Gabe didn't trip over every little twig. You'll need to memorize the stage to get through, and it'll cost you many lives in the process. There are continues available, but they take you way
back to the beginning of the stage. Cliffhanger makes up for its by-the-numbers gameplay with its attractive snowy mountain scenery. The icy cliffs, snow-encrusted trees, and mountain backdrops look bright and inviting. This version looks sharper than the Genesis edition but plays slower. That's fine, because the slower pace actually helps you navigate some of the more hazardous areas. Maybe it's the nostalgia, but I find myself enjoying this game more and more each year. If nothing else, it's enjoyable to play on a snowy day. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.
Recommended variation: 7 lives
Our high score: EV 373,000
Save mechanism: None
Publisher: Acclaim (1996)
Make no mistake - College Slam is nothing more than a blatant attempt by Acclaim to milk its aging NBA Jam franchise for all it's worth. Simply replacing the NBA players with college players sounds pretty easy (and lame), but Acclaim couldn't even get that
right! Players are identified by number, but Acclaim didn't bother making them look or play as they do in real life! Don't be surprised if your favorite player is inexplicably wearing goggles or isn't the correct skin color! My friend Eric is a die-hard college basketball fan, and he was totally disgusted with College Slam. In the one-player mode, you can't even select your opponent
- the computer chooses it randomly! The crowd is a bit more defined and there are some cheerleaders on the sideline, but the gameplay is still a poor man's NBA Jam. There's really no good reason to purchase this pathetic rehash. Note: At Best Buy, this game initially came with a free "so-bad-it's-funny" video called "Slams, Rams, and Jams" featuring a few minutes of old grainy footage of unremarkable plays. As low quality as it was, it actually had more entertainment value than this game. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: American Technos (1992)
It's a little sloppy, but if you enjoy side-scrolling beat-em-ups Combatribes serves its purpose (but please don't ask me what that purpose might be). Its surreal introduction prominently features the World Trade Center towers, and the background story centers about a mysterious organization called "Ground Zero". Strange coincidence, huh? The music that plays during the intro is totally bad-ass. Combatribes gives you three muscle-bound brutes to select from, ranging in height from 6'9" to 7'1"! Why is the black guy wearing lip stick?
The opening stage takes place in Times Square, and the layers of neon-lit buildings look great. The characters are oddly designed with huge upper bodies and short legs. After dispatching a few waves of henchmen you encounter a very cheap boss. Bosses usually possess some kind of weapon or a physics-defying attack, so when they unleash their fury it's best to just stay out of their way. Stage two pits you against freaky "demon clowns" on Coney Island, and another stage puts you in a dance club against roller-derby chicks. The controls are pretty basic (two buttons) but your ability to attack guys lying on the ground spices up the action. The ability to swing one around by his legs (to clear out surrounding thugs) is the most effective move by far. You can also bash their heads into the ground, which is both theraputic and enjoyable. The frame-rate and collision detection are pretty loose, but the game is still fun with one or two players. There's no score, but completing the game is challenging enough to keep you coming back. The passwords issued between stages are will not
let you continue the game - they only unlock new characters in the worthless "versus" mode. Combatribes won't win any awards but it's worth playing if you're in the mood for some shallow fun. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Publisher: Data East (1992)
I decided to pick up Congo's Caper after reading about it in an old EGM magazine, thinking it would make for some easy-going summertime fun. What I discovered was a very shameless and poorly-designed Bonk knock-off. Apparently Congo is a monkey who gets magically transformed into a cave-boy, or maybe it's the other way around. Anyway the first stage features bright but sparse tropical scenery and some pleasant steel drum music (always a crowd pleaser). The jumping controls are responsive enough, but I couldn't perform the head-dive mentioned in the manual. You can swing a club to knock out pterodactyls and cave men, but since there's no accompanying sound effect it feels very unsatisfying. The stages are cookie-cutter to-the-max with their obligatory palm trees, spiked pits, and floating platforms. There's not much to see and collecting those ubiquitous yellow gems isn't very rewarding. The stages are generally poorly designed, and some are absolutely atrocious!
There are too many floating platforms, and sometimes you have no frame of reference, making it appear as if you're standing still when you're really moving. Certain areas feature stacked platforms that you tend to bang your head on. Congo can swing between branches, but this leads to blind falls and cheap deaths. Were the designers trying
to piss me off? If so, they did a great
job! Power-ups are awarded via a mini slot machine. Bonk fans will notice so many ripped off elements that their eyes
will be rolling like a slot machine. Would you believe that Congo even works his way through the inside of a T-Rex's body!? Oh no he didn't!
The only thing I like about this game is how the monkey shakes his booty when you set down the controller. It's hardly a ringing endorsement when the highlight of a game is a monkey's ass. Congo's Caper has become lost in obscurity in past years, and frankly I'm doing a huge disservice by bringing it back to people's attention. My bad! © Copyright 2011 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 8000
1 or 2 players
Contra III The Alien Wars
Publisher: Konami (1992)
Okay, who's looking for non-stop, rapid-fire action? How about huge hulking bosses and ridiculous explosions? Can I interest you in snazzy 3D effects and general mass destruction? Well in that case it sounds like you're in the mood for Contra III: The Alien Wars. As one of the better shoot-em-ups for the SNES, this game has it all! One or two players can blast their way through six harrowing missions to save the planet from invading aliens. Besides firing at everything that moves, you'll leap over fireballs, hang from rails, and perform death-defying somersaults. You're also equipped with a few smart bombs, and can even commandeer tanks and plow right through those alien bastards. Although mainly a side scroller, two missions offer an overhead view, providing a nice change of pace. The bosses look absolutely disgusting. Contra's controls take a bit of getting used to at first, especially when it comes to dropping to the ground. The game offers a few continues, but no passwords, so your journey is going to be a long one. But at least with Alien Wars, you know it's worth the effort. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 134654
Save mechanism: None
1 or 2 players
Publisher: Virgin (1993)
This interactive soft drink commercial was pure summer fun on the Genesis, so you might be wondering how this SNES edition turned out. Well, at first glance it looks just as good, if not better. The intro features the 7-Up bottle riding a wave. The bright beach stage offers a few new sights (like a walkman in the sand) and animations (Spot performs cartwheels as he tumbles). Crab claws stick out of the holes in the sand. The balloons are different colors and semi-transparent. There are even some modest lighting effects in the attic stage. Not all the graphical changes are for the better however. A metal panel spans the top with your vital indicators, but it looks ugly. The graphics look slightly washed-out and the reggae music doesn't sound as clear (which is surprising considering the SNES audio superiority). The gameplay is fun but not quite
as satisfying as the Genesis. The controls aren't as crisp and Spot does not automatically latch onto ropes in stage two (the dock stage). Enemies tend to regenerate, which is a bummer when you die and need to replay a section. That said, Cool Spot on the SNES still has the same happy-go-lucky spirit and fun-in-the-sun gameplay. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: 73,550
Publisher: Konami (1993)
I wasn't very impressed with Cybernator back in 1993 when my buddy Steve brought this game over to my house. I did however appreciate the tremendous amount of destruction you could unleash. You control an oversized "mech" robot with its jet propulsion and loads of firepower. Each stage provides plenty of enemy robots and armaments for you to blast before facing some big mechanical boss. There are multiple weapons, power-ups, and everything else that you would expect in a shooter like this. Unfortunately, the storyline sometimes gets in the way by forcing you to scroll through endless text (Do you mind? I'm trying to blow stuff up here!). Although the screen tends to get overcrowded with large objects, the graphics are high quality and the explosions look exceptional. The controls are fair (every button is used), but navigating around enclosed areas can be awkward. The high energy music is a big plus. In retrospect, Cybernator is much better than I ever gave it credit for. I guess I owe Steve an apology. © Copyright 2000 The Video Game Critic.
Save mechanism: Password