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

Turbografx-16 Reviews L-M

Last Alert
Grade: D+
Publisher: NEC (1990)
Posted: 2014/12/4

screenshotLast Alert is a one-man-army shooter similar to Rambo (Sega Master System, 1986) and Ikari Warriors (NES, 1986). This game seems awfully bland for a CD title. The cut-scenes feature embarrassing voice acting and preposterous storytelling frequently interrupted by disc access delays. Apparently an evil organization is attempting to rule the world by orchestrating random acts of chaos. According to the top FBI agent (who has the voice of a 15-year-old) only one man can stop them: Guy Kazama! I guess our special forces with their years of intense military training are free to sit this one out.

The first stage is thoroughly unimpressive as you forge through a side-scrolling canyon. Enemies fire bullets that travel the exact same speed that you walk. You can fire three shots at a time but it's hard to hit the diagonals. Your bullets have unlimited range but the lack of a strafe control is glaring. I have no idea why enemies hide behind barrels because you can shoot right through those things. I love how every enemy you shoot performs a little pirouette before slumping over in his own blood. The collision detection is loose but it works to your advantage.

What makes Last Alert remotely interesting are the special weapons you pick up. The side-cannons really ratchet up your firepower and the heat-seeking missiles are gangbusters. Some weapons you'd expect to kick ass however are surprisingly weak. Grenades only affect a tiny area and the flamethrower is so ineffective you'll want to ditch it immediately. Each stage ends with the obligatory boss like a tank or strongman. The boss voices are so bad I swear they hired Bert and Ernie to perform them. There's something endearing about Last Alert's lousy production values, but I don't think anyone will mistake this for a good game. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 52,450
1 player 

Legend of Hero Tonma
Grade: C-
Publisher: Irem (1993)
Posted: 2004/4/20

screenshotSo who was the marketing wizard who came up with the dumb name for this one? Legend of Hero Tonma offers some fast-paced, side-scrolling action that combines rapid-fire shooting with Mario-style jumping. As you explore ruins, forests, and caves, regenerating monsters badger you constantly as you shoot and jump frantically.

The graphics sparkle, and the renaissance-style background music complements the visuals quite nicely. There's mad potential here, but Tonma has issues too serious to ignore. First off, the main character looks like a little kid in a Superman outfit - not cool at all. Next, the controls let me down more than a few times.

Finally, the bosses are entirely too hard to defeat. You have to hit them dozens of times, and it takes forever to bring one down. Adding insult to injury, dying at the hands of a boss takes you all the way back to the middle of the stage! C'mon! There are a generous number of power-ups, but not enough to overcome the high difficulty and frustrating gameplay. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

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Our high score: 17800
1 player 

Legendary Axe
Grade: A-
Publisher: NEC (1989)
Posted: 2021/6/2

screenshotIf you're looking for some old-school hack-n-slash action, reach for Legendary Axe. This game has it all: beautiful graphics, variety, great music, and pinpoint control. You are a red-headed caveman (in the game I mean) armed with an axe that I'd describe as... well, let's just say better-than-average. The lush jungle scenery of the opening stage looks great, and even underground areas are nicely detailed with rocks jutting from granular walls. Mountain backdrops convey a sense of grandeur and torch-lit catacombs add an air of mystery.

Legendary Axe is constantly throwing new jumping challenges at you. The longer you hold in the jump button the higher you go, so just tap it to hop between narrow ledges. There are a few vine-swinging sections that reminded me of Jungle Hunt (Atari 2600, 1983). There's a never-ending assortment of creatures to hack up including giant spiders, goblins, and rolley-polley lizards. The unusual boss selection includes a pair of grizzly bears and a set of rolling boulders.

Collecting icons pumps up your attributes but has little effect on the actual gameplay. There are no special weapons or anything like that. You have a lengthy lifebar but it's of little consequence if a bird or insect knocks your raggety ass into the abyss. The music is consistently good, especially that spooky, resonating tune that plays during the cave level. Legendary Axe is a methodical adventure demanding quick reflexes but a soft touch. If this isn't a Turbografx-16 classic, I don't know what is. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 21,050
1 player 

Legendary Axe II
Grade: A-
Publisher: NEC (1990)
Posted: 2021/6/2

screenshotThis inspired sequel reprises the side-scrolling mayhem of the original, but ups the ante with much tighter controls and more frenetic action. Legendary Axe II kicks off with a dramatic intro sequence that sets the scene nicely. Your warrior is more refined this time around, decked out in a pair of Speedos and wielding a legendary...sword? Wait what?

As you venture through temples, caverns, and crypts, there are constant surprises like skeletal arms breaking through the walls. The action is frantic as you slash at demons while hopping between collapsing ledges. Two things make the hack-and-slash action exceptionally fun. For one thing, you can attack as fast as you can tap that button, so don't hesitate to go buck-wild. Next, you can damage/kill foes by landing on them! It's usually the other way around. I like this better.

You get to use a variety of weapons over the course of your adventure including a kick-ass sickle-and-chain. You can toss bombs using the run button, but they are so ineffective I usually forget I even have them. You'll need to battle buzzing beetles, giant skeleton warriors, and blue-haired wildmen with claws. Slice those green zombies in half and they keep coming! There are giant twitching flies that will make your skin crawl. Be sure to avoid the gray slime which will hold you in place as you struggle to escape. Bizarre bosses include an innocent little girl that levitates, divides, and transforms into monsters. But my favorite is the little hunchback weilding a huge ball-and-chain.

Some of the vertical stages in Legendary Axe II are a bit repetitive, and one slip might cause you to lose a lot of progress. That said, this is still one heck of a game. Its edgy soundtrack has a true sense of urgency, with some of the best bass I've heard on the system. The controls are outstanding and the challenge never lets up. You never know what the next level has in store but you'll try with all your might to find out. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 220,200
1 player 

Lords of Thunder (CD)
Grade: A
Publisher: Hudson Soft (1993)
Posted: 2006/6/1

screenshotThis sophisticated shooter is amazing in so many ways. Like Thunder Force 3 (Genesis, 1991), you can select the order in which you play eight distinct stages. Next, you choose from one of four sets of "armor", each providing different weapon combinations. Finally, before each stage you can purchase items from a store, including extra life, power-ups, bombs, and even continues. The shooting action is seriously intense. Despite a remarkable number of objects moving on the screen at any given time (including huge transport ships), there's no slowdown to contend with.

Unlike Gate of Thunder, you control a mech robot instead of a ship, so when you touch down on a planet surface, you'll run along it instead of blowing up. One button is used to engage rapid-fire, and the other deploys devastating "bombs", which often assume the form of summoned magical creatures. When in close proximity to an enemy, you'll automatically deal a powerful blow with your sword. Destroyed enemies produce gems that boost your vitality and provide currency for use at the shop. Gathering up gems is fun, but you'll often place yourself in peril trying to collect these rewards.

The stages contain all the obligatory locations (ice planet, volcanic planet, water planet, etc), but the backgrounds are gorgeous, with shifting environments that keep you on your toes. Your enemies are quite memorable as well, including foot soldiers that arrive in Viking ships or on massive flying turtles. Unlike other shooters where you blast the same things over and over, Lords of Thunder is constantly tossing new adversaries your way.

The difficulty is severe, and only by using continues and stocking up on items was I able to make much progress. If there's one aspect I dislike about the game, it has to be the grinding guitar soundtrack. Imagine one long, headache-inducing guitar solo and you'll understand why I was tempted to turn down the volume. Other than that, Lords of Thunder is a superb game that will challenge even the most skilled gamers. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 108000
1 player 

Magical Chase (Japan)
Grade: C-
Publisher: Palsoft (1991)
Posted: 2010/9/23

screenshotAs with many rare shooters, this whimsical side-scroller seems to have attained cult status over the years. In Magical Chase you are a flying witch blasting through hordes of nonsensical foes in fantasy worlds. You'll encounter flying clocks, rubber duckies, teddy bears, unicorn bunnies, and all sorts of goofy animal hybrids who are hard (if not impossible) to describe. I can't vouch for the mental state of the programmers, but they definitely need professional help.

Two star-shaped companions augment your firepower and double as shields. The action is pretty intense and most defeated foes drop gems you can snatch up. These are cashed in for weapons and health at a floating store run by a jack-o-lantern dude. Despite heavy use of pastel colors, the stages themselves are bland at best and repetitive at worst. Typical locations include castles, forests, and airships - not very imaginative. The game reminds me a lot of Fantasy Zone (Sega Master System, 1986). So is Magical Chase worth breaking your piggy bank for? Not by a long shot!

Most foes can absorb an inordinate number of hits, making your weapons feel extremely ineffective. Many defeated enemies don't explode or disappear, but instead float harmlessly off the screen. It's especially unsatisfying when a boss denies you the satisfaction of watching him explode! The control scheme is counter-intuitive and the game is boss-heavy.

Don't get me wrong - Magical Chase has a peculiar sort of charm, and shooter fans will be glad to have this oddball in their collection. Gamers on a budget however will be happy to know they can safely bypass this run-of-the-mill shooter. Note: This Japanese PC Engine game was played on an American Turbo Duo using a hardware converter device. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended variation: bumpy
Our high score: 146,460
1 player 

Military Madness
Grade: A-
Publisher: NEC (1990)
Posted: 2013/5/12

screenshotFor a game released in 1990, Military Madness is pretty amazing. Its hexagonal maps and statistical displays may scare some gamers off, but this is one of the more accessible turn-based war games I've played. I didn't even need to read the manual before playing. Each stage places two armies on a map, with the goal being to wipe each other out. The map features roads and geographic formations that really do affect the strategy.

During each turn you methodically move and attack with each unit. In the early stages your units are limited to tanks and infantry, but the game gradually introduces powerful new units like aircraft and self-propelled artillery. Once transports and factories are introduced, a wide range of possibilities opens up. Most of the game is played on the overhead map, but during attacks you're treated to a separate screen showing the exchange of fire. These screens also display percentages indicating exactly how geographic formations and other factors (like flanking) are affecting the outcome. The short animated attacks sequences are satisfying and fun to watch. If you think Military Madness sounds like Advance Wars (GBA, 2001), you are correct. The fact that this came out ten years prior makes it all the more impressive.

The well-designed user interface makes it easy to execute orders, and a helpful in-game guide provides extensive details about each unit. The action moves along at a brisk pace and the computer never takes long to make a decision. The sound effects are distinctive and the spirited music is exceptional. At the end of each level you're presented with a graphical display showing the flow of the battle. You can compete against the CPU or a friend, but the password system is confusing. When the only two-player option is "two player continue", confusion is bound to ensue. Still, once you fully immerse yourself into Military Madness, you'll see the genius of it. © Copyright 2013 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Monster Lair (CD)
Grade: A-
Publisher: Hudson Soft (1989)
Posted: 2016/9/16

screenshotIt wasn't the Halloween game I was expecting but Monster Lair turned out to be far better than I imagined. Its title screen calls to mind Sonic the Hedgehog (Genesis, 1991) with its sparkling blue waters and lush green islands. You control a chubby little hero resembling the dude from Adventure Island (NES, 1987). The bright arcade graphics and crisp controls are appealing. As the screen continuously scrolls left you leap between floating platforms while unleashing considerable firepower.

You'll face a hodgepodge of cuddly critters including fluttering pelicans, giant snakes, blue monkeys, and squid leaping out of water. Weapon icons appear early and often but even your default pea-shooter is effective. Weapons include cannonballs, whirling blades, and giant bullets that explode on impact. I personally prefer the "screw" with its penetrating power and the bubble shot with its wide coverage. Your weapon power is somehow tied into your life bar but I'm not sure how that works.

Each platform section is followed by a brief flying sequence culminating with an easy boss encounter. I love the flow of this game. It's great fun to snatch up all the bonus fruit and watch bonus points appear all over the place. The audio delivers some truly outstanding music that reeks of 90's gaming. After using three continues you rank in with your best score. As if that's not enough, the game even supports two-player co-op. Easy, breezy, and fun, Monster Lair is a little slice of classic gaming heaven. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 138,700
1 or 2 players 

Moto Roader
Grade: F
Publisher: NEC (1989)
Posted: 2018/8/17

screenshotMoto Roader's intro gets you totally stoked as you watch five cars cruising along a highway at night with a sparkling city skyline in the distance. Too bad the game is nothing like that. Start a new race and you're prompted to enter a name. Why? Because up to five players can race at a time! Oh yeah! Games like this are what the Turbo Tap was made for! After selecting from a half-dozen circuits you get a quick course preview as a drone (!) flies around the track. You're then dumped to a "parts screen" which lets you upgrade your tires, body, brakes, handling, and engine. The engine is all that matters; I've never hit the brakes once!

The action is presented via an overhead view with cars that move so slowly it feels like you're racing lawnmowers for Pete's sake! Worse yet, the cars tend to overlap each other like they're ghosts or something. Being in the lead puts you about an inch away from the edge of the screen, making it hard to react to turns and gaping holes (which apparently lead to the Earth's core). There's a glaring lack of scenery and the 90-degree turns are annoying. When one car pulls ahead, those that fall off the screen are immediately transported back - in bubbles - and placed directly behind the leader! I kid you not!

With five players it looks downright comical as cars continuously "bubble up" into second place. Thank goodness cars are eventually disqualified, thinning out the herd a bit. Would you believe the controls suck too? Moto Roader employs the "push where you want to go" system which no respectable racer would employ. Oh sure there's a left/right turn option, but you'll have to empty your wallet on this "special part" to get it. This game is an absolute travesty! If Moto Roader isn't the worst racing game I've played, it's certainly the most disappointing. © Copyright 2018 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 5 players 

Mr. Heli (Japan)
Grade: D
Publisher: Irem (1989)
Posted: 2016/11/25

screenshotMr. Heli is a rapid-fire shooter in the whimsical arcade style of Ordyne (NEC, 1989). You control a chubby orange helicopter. Stages scroll in all directions as you venture through volcanic caves, dungeons, and clock towers. You'll shoot down flying tanks, knights, and robots all rendered in a cute style.

The controls are suspect. One button fires continuously forward yet its range is severely limited. The second button fires missiles upwards, and this can be upgraded to homing missiles (yes please!). When you land, these missiles become bombs that explode below you after a second or two delay. By destroying blocks you reveal crystals that can be used to purchase upgrades.

The stage designs leave much to be desired. Especially in advanced levels there are a lot of narrow passages that make it hard to avoid projectiles. The size of your helicopter proves to be a liability, especially against huge bosses that crush you into corners. The quirky title screen tune is cringeworthy and the music during the game isn't much better. Mr. Heli's colorful graphics might look good, but the more you play the less appealing it becomes. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 69,760
1 player 

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Screen shots courtesy of Video Game Museum, Racket Boy, Moby Games, The PC Engine Software Bible, Retro Gamer Randomness