Super Nintendo Reviews E-F

ESPN National Hockey Night
Grade: D
Publisher: Sony (1994)
Reviewed: 2017/3/12

screenshotWhen it comes to hockey, EA's NHL series reigns supreme on the SNES. If you're looking for a little variety however ESPN Hockey Tonight might be worth a shot. If nothing else, it boasts crisp graphics and excellent audio. I love seeing that ESPN logo and hearing the classic musical theme. A digitized Bill Clement anchors the sports desk but has remarkably little to say! Like the Genesis and Sega CD games you can toggle between a vertical or sideways view.

On the SNES the vertical configuration employs scaling to give you a better view up the ice. It's visually pleasing but your lateral vision remains very limited, making it hard to pass. I also noticed the animation becomes really choppy whenever the puck changes possession. The sideways view offers a vantage point similar to Blades of Steel (NES, 1988), but it's not that great either. I didn't feel like I could aim my shots in this view.

One universal problem with NHL Hockey Night is extremely wide turn radiuses. While trying to deck an opponent you end up skating in circles around him! It's maddening when the puck is sitting in the middle of the ice and you can't touch it! The body check control is assigned to the same button as shoot, which can cause you to accidentally fling the puck the length of the floor!

On a positive note, NHL Tonight lets you lay into unsuspecting opponents after the buzzer, and that's always fun. The audio is arguably the highlight of the game, with lively organ music which gets you into the spirit. I also get a kick out of that angry digitized referee who gets all up in your face ("FACE OFF!!"). The battery backup feature is nice but where the heck is the instant replay? National Hockey Night ranks high in presentation but the actual hockey could use some work. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Earth Defense Force
Grade: C-
Publisher: Jaleco (1991)
Reviewed: 2006/10/26

screenshotThis might have been a perfectly good side-scrolling shooter, but Earth Defense Force (EDF) is marred by unbalanced gameplay. It's the shame the developers didn't take a little time to tweak the weapons and difficulty. You begin EDF by selecting from one of eight weapons, and I personally recommend the guided missiles. Since many enemies approach from behind, weapons that only fire forward are pretty worthless.

The game's forgettable stages include a cloudy blue sky, an underground river, and an ugly city skyline. There's plenty of parallax scrolling, but the scenery lacks detail and generally looks like garbage. You'll face a wide array of flying mechanical beasts, but most require an inordinate number of hits to destroy. The first stage is nearly insurmountable, especially since you only have a single ship to work with. Yes, you have a shield, but there's no audible cue when you take a hit! In the unlikely event that you survive the first stage with powers-ups intact, you'll likely cruise through the rest of the game.

Yes, I'm afraid EDF is one of those "all or nothing" games where you'll suck for ten games, and then get lucky and plow through the entire thing. Slowdown is a factor, but it can be a blessing in disguise, making projectiles much easier to dodge. Despite its old-school flavor, EDF's soundtrack is poor, and sometimes cuts out for no discernable reason. Earth Defense Force might keep shooter fans occupied for a little while, but much of that time will be spent contemplating how much better this should have been. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 875800
1 player 

Earthworm Jim
Grade: C-
Publisher: Playmates (1994)
Reviewed: 2017/2/3

screenshotIn 1994 Earthworm Jim was the perfect antidote to all the cute, cuddly platform heroes proliferating across the 16-bit landscape. Starring a crass worm in a spacesuit, the game is offbeat and comical. Its irreverent tone is set in stage one when you actually launch a cow through the air! Surreal alien landscapes are rendered with an artistic flair and the animation is quite good.

Jim can leap, grab ledges, climb chains, and ride on pulleys. Not bad for a worm! He's armed with a rapid-fire gun and can also "whip" his head. The visuals are sharp and the jaunty music is just plain fun. Earthworm Jim has style to burn but its gameplay might leave you with a case of heartburn. Jim is subjected to brutal dog attacks and other hazards that appear with little warning. Those pesky blackbirds should not require three shots to kill. The levels wind all over the place and it's not always obvious where you need to go.

The controls are a little clumsy. You'll try to jump but use your propeller head instead. You'll automatically grab a ledge when you're trying to drop down. Your laser gun is constantly petering out. Deadly objects like fish bowls and anvils rain down from above and the collision detection doesn't do you any favors. Thank goodness for that handy "stage skip" code! It helped me get through the game but also exposed the repetitive stages.

The wormhole race is interesting the first time, but after every level? I couldn't figure out that bungee jump stage to save my life, much less complete three rounds of it. Still, the game has its moments like the underwater tubes where you unleash a giant hamster to clear out enemies. That happy-go-lucky skipping puppy in the "For Pete's Sake" stage is bound to put a smile on your face. Earthworm Jim is big on charm and personality and for some that might just be enough. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Earthworm Jim 2
Grade: C+
Publisher: Playmates (1995)
Reviewed: 2017/2/3

screenshotThe first Earthworm Jim was a quirky platformer with plenty of visual pizzazz. This sequel retains the zaniness of the original with less of the frustration. The controls are a definite improvement. Excellent firepower lets you reduce hovering aliens into splashes of green goo. Reminiscent of the cow-launching action of the first game, you sometimes need to haul pigs across the landscape and use them in strategic ways.

Instead of a propeller head Jim now sports a snot parachute and can also snot-swing across slime-covered ceilings. The animations are superb and when standing still Jim looks like he has to go to the bathroom really bad. The music has more of an acerbic edge than the first game and I like it a lot. One unnecessary new addition is Jim's nerdy voice ("way cool!"). Stage one is terrific but stage two really got on my nerves. Entitled "Lorenzen's Soil", it requires you to endlessly tunnel your way through an underground maze with a special gun. The digging effect is technically impressive but it soon becomes super tedious. Adding insult to injury, the stage is timed!

Once that ordeal is over the game really opens up to a wide variety of diverse stages. In one you guide a blind cave salamander through a lower intestine. A hilarious carnival level lets Jim float around with an helium-inflated head. There's even a Zaxxon-style shooter that would be a lot more fun if you weren't required to push a big bomb around. One of the more conventional stages consists of mounds of paperwork and "Level Ate" is composed of processed meat byproducts. After each stage a digitized cow utters "well done!"

Bonus levels involve bouncing puppies on a large marshmallow, and while ingeniously designed these stages really overstay their welcome. I appreciate the much-needed password feature, and the easy difficulty level let me get through a good chunk of the game on my own. But the best aspect of Earthworm Jim 2 is its uniquely surreal atmosphere. Creativity doesn't always equate to fun, but this is far more memorable than most cookie-cutter platformers out there. © Copyright 2017 The Video Game Critic.

Save mechanism: password
1 player 

F-Zero
Grade: D
Publisher: Nintendo (1991)
Reviewed: 2009/5/29

screenshotA lot of readers requested I re-review this futuristic racer, claiming it to be an SNES classic. After replaying the game, doing some soul searching, and carefully reassessing the situation, I feel compelled to respond, "What is wrong with you people?!" As an early title in the SNES lifecycle, F-Zero demonstrates the system's exalted "mode 7" technology (later used by Super Mario Kart). This hardware-driven visual effect makes objects appear to move over a bit-mapped surface - like a car driving over a road.

But while the illusion of movement is smooth, the surface is noticeably flat and quite pixelated. To compensate, Nintendo made the tracks look as flashy as possible, but they tend to look gaudy. F-Zero is a single-player racer (sorry, no split-screen) with floating, pod-shaped vehicles. The objective is to obtain a number one ranking in a series of circuits of increasing difficulty. The track edges are lined with yellow circles that zap your energy. In the road there are helpful speed boosts and jumps, but also hazards like red mines.

I really don't care for racing games with 90 and 180-degree turns, and F-Zero has a lot of them. The idea of branching paths seems cool - until you find yourself heading in the wrong direction! The game requires some time investment to get a feel for the controls and memorize the tracks. Once you do, it's possible to get into a Zen-like trance as you cut corners, weave through zigzag sections, and turbo-boost through straightaways. Each race is five laps long, which is two laps too much.

There are a lot of CPU-controlled racers, and slowpokes you lap present serious hazards, thanks to F-Zero's "pinball physics". Especially after a speed boost, any bump will have you bouncing off the walls, zapping your energy and turning you in the wrong direction. It stinks, man. The soundtrack includes a few adrenaline-pumping 16-bit tunes, but most sound like lame Casio keyboard ditties. I know many gamers have fond memories of F-Zero, but this oldie is looking less like a gem and more like a relic. © Copyright 2009 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 15000
Save mechanism: Battery
1 player 

Fatal Fury
Grade: F
Publisher: Takara (1992)
Reviewed: 2020/5/4

screenshotThe original Fatal Fury (Neo Geo, 1991) was a beautiful one-on-one fighter with large characters and ample eye candy. I figured this SNES version would be watered down, but I wasn't expecting such an unmitigated disaster. After choosing from one of three playable characters the word "WAITING!" appears on a black screen for several seconds. This is ridiculous for a cartridge - or any media for that matter.

The stages retain much of the detail of the original, but come across as flat and bland. I did notice a Golden Gate bridge scene that looks new. The scenery slightly changes between rounds, usually with regard to weather or time of day. Fatal Fury doesn't look bad but it plays like garbage. The fighters are small and poorly animated. The controls feel unresponsive and the collection detection is off. The physics is a joke; it feels as though my computer opponent is telepathically jerking me around. Adding insult to injury the CPU tends to dish out cheap, rapid-fire attacks that would be impossible for a human.

There's no inter-dimensional gameplay in this version, which is probably for the best. This game is buggy too! The muffled sound effects are often out-of-sync, understating the impact of each hit. Your score doesn't reset so don't be surprised to begin a new game only to look up and see 52,000 points. No wonder Street Fighter II (Capcom, 1992) ruled the SNES if this was what it was up against. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Fatal Fury 2
Grade: C+
Publisher: Takara (1994)
Reviewed: 2020/5/4

screenshotThe first Fatal Fury for the SNES was an atrocity. Not only did it fail to capture the spirit of the classic Neo Geo fighter, it was practically unplayable. With Fatal Fury 2 things have improved considerably. It's like night and day really. You now have eight characters to select from, from karate master Jubei Yamada to sexy Mai Shiranui to the hulking Big Bear.

Many stages take place on moving platforms like a train or gondola. I really don't like the restaurant stage because it looks like the city in the background is on fire. Fatal Fury 2's gameplay is pretty solid. The controls feel tight and you can pull off special moves with no problem. The fighters periodically switch between the foreground and background. That can be confusing but it differentiates Fatal Fury from so many other "me too" fighters.

One thing I truly despise are those big blinking circles between each fighter. Are they supposed to be shadows? They are so distracting! The sound effects seem very distant as well. Still, Fatal Fury 2 is faithful enough to the original and you could argue it controls better. But with so many other fighters landing on the SNES, a second-hand port like this one gets lost in the noise. . © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Fighting Baseball (Japan)
Grade: D+
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1994)
Reviewed: 2020/6/27

screenshotboxFighting Baseball might be considered a generic version of SportsTalk Baseball (Genesis, 1992) or Ken Griffey Major League Baseball (SNES, 1994). There's actually no fighting in this game, and believe me I tried! I find it interesting how a Japanese baseball title includes American teams as well as Japanese. Lacking an MLB license however you're stuck with city names and ugly, randomly-colored uniforms.

I would have never even heard of Fighting Baseball if not for a popular internet meme poking fun of its fictional player names. You can tell the Japanese developers were trying so hard to create American-sounding names. You get rosters loaded with guys like Dave Cozlov, Mike Johnton, Stan Nurphy, Andrey Vurr, Chris Whitmey, and Jonasan Fidd. That's only a small sample; every team is a treasure trove. Fighting Baseball is mediocre but I like its fast-paced, arcade vibe. It took me all of ten seconds to figure out the controls. When pitching you have full control of the ball on its way to the plate, but making contact with the ball is tough. Maybe because my opponent is throwing 113 MPH fastballs?

After hitting the ball the camera remains low as acres of green grass scroll by. It's especially disorienting because there's no full diamond; only dirt patches around each base. You can use your radar track fly balls, but fielders will gravitate to them on their own, extending their arms to indicate "I got it". When you get a runner on he'll go contact so you'll need to babysit him. The overall presentation is pretty bland, with sporadic cheesy scoreboard animations. Fighting Baseball has novelty value to spare but not a whole lot more. NOTE: I reviewed this on my Retron 5 console which can play Japanese SNES games. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Final Fight
Grade: C+
Publisher: Capcom (1991)
Reviewed: 2004/2/24


screenshotFinal Fight is an enjoyable side-scrolling brawler along the lines of Streets of Rage (Genesis, 1991) only with much larger characters. The two playable characters include the hulking, muscular Haggar and the leaner, more agile Cody. I prefer Haggar because he can finish off enemies much faster. But despite its two playable characters and "buddy" storyline, Final Fight is inexplicably one-player only!

Final Fight's thugs are decked out in tacky, brightly colored outfits, and you can often see them loitering in the background before deciding to enter the fray. One of the more memorable bad guys is an "Andre the Giant" look-alike named "Andore" (to avoid legal issues no doubt). You tend to face the same set of characters over and over, but a new one is introduced every so often.

The action is somewhat repetitive but par for the course as these games go. Combinations of the jump and punch buttons provide all of your moves, and pressing both initiates a special attack. Final Fight is definitely on the easy side, thanks to dumb enemies who line up so you can clock several at a time. Abundant and effective weapons like knives, pipes, and samurai swords also makes your quest easier.

The city street and subway scenery is colorfully detailed, and there are even a few bonus stages that let you smash up cars (a la Street Fighter II). The audio is lacking, with muffled sound effects and generic music, but otherwise this is a very respectable fighter. Final Fight didn't turn out to be as "final" as its title would suggest, as two sequels followed. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Final Fight 2
Grade: D+
Publisher: Capcom (1993)
Reviewed: 2004/2/24

screenshotYou would expect Final Fight 2 to be an improvement over the original, but it's actually less fun. There are three characters to choose from, including Haggar (from the last game), Carlos (replacing Cody), and a shapely blonde named Maki. New features include a much-needed two-player mode, an option menu, and Haggar's new suplex move.

Otherwise it's the same side-scrolling action you've seen before, with most of the thugs shamelessly recycled from the last game. They aren't any smarter this time around, although they do perform cheap "chest butt" running attacks. Never in my life have I seen such a boring, uninspired collection of stages. Each takes place in a different area of the world, so you'd expect them to see some exotic scenery, right? But no, you find yourself in an airport in Hong Kong, a construction site in France, a sewer in Germany, and a train depot in England! Ugh!

And then there's the difficulty level, which is absolutely pathetic. The first Final Fight was easy enough, but this one is a complete cakewalk, constantly awarding you with new lives and piling on six continues! Far too easy and repetitive, you'll probably switch off Final Fight 2 long before you've exhausted your lives. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Final Fight 3
Grade: D-
Publisher: Capcom (1994)
Reviewed: 2005/6/1

screenshotIt would be hard to imagine a more derivative side-scrolling beat-em-up than Final Fight 3. I still can't get over how spectacularly lame this game is. It borrows so many elements from the Streets of Rage series that it's almost criminal. Four playable characters include veterans Haggar and Guy, along with the electricity-wielding Dean and a lesbian named Lucia (armed with Chun Li's lightning kick).

The fighters are huge, well-defined, and equipped with a fair number of moves, but the good news ends there. Final Fight 3 suffers from the worst case of chronic slow-down I've ever experienced in a video game. In the two-player mode, the animation routinely slows to a crawl! It's absolutely appalling! The "Skull Cross gang" characters are completely recycled from previous Final Fight games (including Andore and his ultra-cheap "chest" attack). It's bad enough to beat up the same five guys over and over in one game - but after three games it's just agonizing.

But Final Fight 3's worst crime may be the stage locations it shamelessly copies from Streets of Rage. There's the bridge, dock, cargo hold of a ship, and - you guessed it - the obligatory moving elevator. The single stage that's even remotely interesting is the colorful Chinatown, but that's very brief.

You'll want to adjust the difficulty to "hard", because at "normal" you can cruise through this game without even breaking a sweat! The shoddy audio features muffled sound effects, and the electronic soundtrack is mostly forgettable, although it does have its moments. A total rehash, Final Fight 3 continued the series on its downward spiral. © Copyright 2005 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 player 

Firepower 2000
Grade: B+
Publisher: Sunsoft (1992)
Reviewed: 2002/3/2

screenshotThis overlooked vertical shooter lets you play as a tank or helicopter, or team up with a friend to unleash some major destruction! First impressions are important, and Firepower 2000 does not disappoint with a nice intro featuring some outstanding thumping music! Quality audio and crisp, vibrant graphics makes it clear that this is not a Genesis shooter. And Firepower 2000 plays as good as it looks. Each vehicle has its own abilities and advantages. The tank can shoot in all directions, but the helicopter is more mobile and not affected by surface terrain. The shoulder buttons toggle your weapons, each of which has three levels of power. The explosions are quite satisfying. Firepower 2000 is a blast, especially with two players. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.
Our high score: SJ 120070
1 or 2 players 

Frogger
Grade: C-
Publisher: Hasbro (1998)
Reviewed: 2019/10/2
Rating: Everyone

screenshotThe Genesis version of Frogger (Genesis, 1998) mirrored the arcade game, nicely conveying the whimsical charm of the 1982 hit. This SNES version however is a totally different animal. The first thing I noticed was a complete lack of music, which is kind of a big deal! Happy-go-lucky harmonized tunes were a trademark of Frogger and a major part of its appeal. With no music and sparse sound, the tone of the game feels almost somber!

The graphics have been given an overhaul with mixed results. The convertible cars, trucks, and school buses on the road look shiny and detailed. Moss-covered logs float in the sparkling water, and the lady frog has a big red bow in her hair. The frog you control however is a bit indistinct, and when he lands in one of the coves on the riverbank he turns into a green checkmark. The audio is basically limited to the boing of your jumps and crocodile "growls" that sound a lot like my stomach at lunchtime.

Despite its flaws the controls feel very tight and the challenge is high. Even on the opening screen turtles will submerge at a moment's notice, so you need to stay alert. And when you're facing a caravan of construction equipment moving down the highway, it's hard to find daylight. I didn't know what to make of this "reimagined" Frogger, but I imagine some gamers might appreciate its unique look and feel. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 15370
1 or 2 players 

Full Throttle: All-American Racing
Grade: F
Publisher: Cybersoft (1994)
Reviewed: 2013/9/12

screenshotFor some reason I've always held out hope for a decent 16-bit jet-ski title. Maybe it has something to do with my love for the Wave Race series? I was pretty psyched up to discover that Full Throttle: All-American Racing offers both jet-ski action and motorcycle racing. It should be twice the fun, right? You select characters with tough-sounding names like Eagle, Steel, Hammer, and the Hugh Jackman look-alike "Crush".

Full Throttle is played via split-screen (for two players) and uses "mode seven" effects convey movement over a flat surface. The motorcycle racing doesn't seem so bad at first. There's not much scenery on the side of the road but the tunnels and distant skylines are impressive enough. Since the Key West course runs over bridges, it has water on both sides of the road. Unfortunately, you can ride right over that blue part and you won't even sink! This lack of attention to detail is really indicative of the general lack of quality.

Full Throttle's racing feels extremely artificial, with the competitors evenly spaced out. When you approach one he tends to linger by your side and harass you. Kicking him would be a good idea if the collision detection weren't so awful. Despite being spread across the United States, the courses don't offer much variety. The track that runs from San Francisco to Washington state shows the Golden Gate Bridge in the background the entire time!

The jetski stages are even worse than motorcycles. There's no sense of speed so it feels like you're just slogging through marshlands. You can collect power-ups, but they are so ineffective you can't even tell when a turbo kicks in. The music is pretty good, but there's only one song! True to its name, Full Throttle feels like a game that was developed as fast as possible with no regard for quality control. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 


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