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Games are rated relative to other games for the same system.

Super Nintendo Reviews Sa-Sm

Scooby Doo Mystery
Grade: B+
Publisher: Acclaim (1995)
Posted: 1999/10/13

screenshotI'm really amazed by how well Scooby Doo Mystery turned out! Not only does it look and sound just like the TV show, it even plays like the TV show! You control Scooby and Shaggy who move together as a team while gathering clues, encountering monsters, and making sandwiches. As you explore a pirate ship, carnival, or mansion (depending on the mystery), you'll often run into your friends Velma, Daphne, and Fred. Thelma explains the clues you find, Daffney supplies you with scooby snacks, and Fred offers hints on what to do next.

The stories are actually quite linear, with new areas that open up gradually. Most of the puzzles are pretty easy. You'll have your share of exciting run-ins with monsters, and also engage in entertaining mini-games. The graphics are cartoon quality, with excellent music lifted straight from the TV show. Not only are the controls responsive, but the interface for interacting with characters is also well designed.

I have a few minor complaints. First, touching certain objects like rats will drain your life, but since Scooby and Shaggy don't react at all, you don't even realize you're losing health. Next, at the beginning of the second mystery I became very stuck, and that was no fun at all!

Finally, since the mysteries always play the same, I suspect the game's replay value is pretty modest. At least a password feature is included so you don't have to replay old mysteries. All in all, Scooby Doo Mystery is a quality title that does a fine job of weaving a story into an entertaining game. And I probably would have given this an "A" if it wasn't for you snooping kids!! © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 2830
1 player 

Secret of Mana
Grade: B+

screenshotMy earliest recollection of this game came was from a 1993 two-page magazine ad. Since then Secret of Mana has become quite famous. Its graphics are rendered in bright, crayon-like colors that put me in the mind of spring. The gameplay is more Zelda-esque than I was expecting as you hack away at animals in a forest and visit quaint villages to stock up on items and save your progress.

The user interface employs an ingenious circular-menu system that lets you quickly peruse items, weapons, and spells. Considering how often you need to access your inventory, being able to press Y instead of start/select is a real thumb saver. Your party consists of three characters: a boy (warrior), a girl (princess), and some kind of elf (magic). There are no default names; you need to make up your own. What is the point?

You only control one character at a time but can configure the others to be more or less aggressive. It's not immediately obvious who you're controlling at a given time, but if you look close you'll see a tiny "1" next to your active character's face on the bottom. That seems odd until you realize up to three people can play at once. The two other characters usually follow closely, but on occasion it does feel like herding cats (or herding ghosts, if they're dead).

The fighting system is innovative. You can attack freely but you'll inflict far more damage if you wait for your attack meter to charge. You'll battle goblins, chess pieces, mind-altering owls, scorpions, and ducks wearing army helmets. I often found myself taking advantage of the fact that they tend to get caught up on the edge of the scenery. Defeated foes often drop treasure chests but many are rigged with boobie traps, which is bogus.

Secret of Mana's difficulty is uneven. It begins very hard, necessitating a mini walk-through in the instruction booklet. An encounter with a pair of werewolves really epitomized my frustrations. You tend to get sucked into them when hit, subjecting yourself to subsequent attacks. And they can heal themselves not once but several times over! There's a tiger boss that will knock you unconscious without even touching you.

Things get good once you obtain magical abilities. Your options really open up as you learn to juggle multiple spells for strategic advantage. There's no in-game map for the first half of the story, but once you acquire the services of a white dragon you can fly freely around an entire world via slick mode 7 graphics.

Secret of Mana's soundtrack is superb for the most part, although one particular tune (Dwarf Village) had me reaching for the mute. The difficulty ramps back up towards the end, subjecting your characters to one-hit deaths. Still, I fell under the charm of Secret of Mana. I obsessed over this game for two months and now I'm curious about the new reissued versions. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 3 players 

Shaq Fu
Grade: F
Publisher: Electronic Arts (1994)
Posted: 1999/11/21

screenshotApparently Shaquille O'Neal has an interest in the martial arts that he wants to inflict upon the rest of the world! Too bad for us! This shallow one-on-one fighter lets you play as Shaq himself performing Kung Fu against exotic warriors and occult creatures. At best, Shaq Fu comes off as a third-rate Street Fighter clone.

Its design is typical, but the characters are surprisingly small and not very well balanced. Thanks to a lack of moves and lousy controls, each bout degenerates into a button mash-a-thon. The special moves seem very similar to Street Fighter 2 (*cough*rip-off*cough*), and the bouts tend to run for far too long.

Besides challenging a friend, you can also indulge in a story mode which is basically a string of CPU battles intertwined with some laughable cut scenes. I tend to enjoy fighting games, but Shaq Fu clanks off the rim like one of Shaq's foul shots. © Copyright 1999 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Grade: B+

screenshotThis simple-yet-fun swashbuckling adventure puts you in the role of a clean-cut pirate out to destroy an ugly bastard named Skuljagger. I love the tropical scenery. The first stage offers a scenic view of distant green islands in a shimmering blue sea. It's quite a sight. Even the warehouse stage looks inviting thanks to the vine-covered ruins visible through the windows.

The gameplay is predictable as you leap between ledges, collect floating gems, and slay guards with your sword (after ducking under their shots, of course). You'll fight a lot of bad-ass buccaneers including those swinging skulls at the end of chains. There are only two or three types of enemies per stage, but the fact that they don't regenerate makes it fun to explore alternate routes and search for hidden areas.

Your sword has excellent reach but flying enemies like giant red wasps swoop in from awkward angles, making the jump-slash attack your best friend. Whimsical fruit power-ups include cherry balloons, orange grenades, and grapes that turn you into a big purple bouncy ball. Sometimes you seem expected to perform "leaps of faith" but you can usually spot the very edge of the next platform if you look close enough. Spicing things up are the occasional opportunities to man cannons to sink ships in the distance. Despite a number of indicators along the top of the screen I could never figure out what my health status was.

The excellent soundtrack is more contemporary than you'd expect, and I love the organ music that plays when you die. An 80-page manual (!) includes an extensive, colorfully-illustrated background story. They don't make them like this anymore. Skuljagger may be a conventional platformer at best but its that back-to-basics style which makes it so appealing. I never get tired of playing this. © Copyright 2020 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 48635
Save mechanism: Password
1 player 

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Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum, Console Classix, Moby Games, Games Database, YouTube