Turbografx-16 Reviews U-Z

Valis (CD)
Grade: B-
Publisher: Telenet (1992)
Reviewed: 2019/2/28

screenshotValis: The Legend of the Fantasm Soldier is actually a CD remake of the 1986 original, which would explain the excellent graphics and 1992 release date. At its core this is still a straight-forward side-scroller pitting a schoolgirl with magical powers against legions of mythical creatures. The CD format allows for extended cut-scenes, orchestrated music, and melodramatic dialog. You don't need to understand Japanese to be entertained by the breathless voice acting.

The stages are nicely detailed. The game opens in front of a school before heading through a city and descending into the subway. Along the way you'll battle worms, insect men, flying plants, and rotating face blocks. There are some very well-designed creatures, my favorite being the skeleton pirates that shatter when struck down. Enemies occasionally fall from above, which is bogus. When you die, the fluid animation of your Yuko collapsing to the ground is terrific.

The gameplay is fairly vanilla but you can experiment with various weapons to spice things up. Floating icons can imbue you with excellent firepower, but don't accidentally grab a weaker weapon! Weapons are identified by letters, and I came to associate B (double shot) with "bad". Even worse is "A" which lets you unload slow, bouncy green slime balls. The jumping controls tend to be erratic, especially during boss encounters.

Stages aren't particularly long but it's still painful to be sent back to the start after dying at the hands of a boss. Your score is only visible when you pause, along with the high score. I enjoyed the Japanese manual with its colorful illustrations and glossy screenshots. Overall I'd rate this Valis remake as very good, combining the raw gameplay of an early platformer with the sophisticated charm of a CD title. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 62,400
1 player 

Valis II (CD)
Grade: C+
Publisher: LaserSoft (1990)
Reviewed: 2019/2/28


screenshotIf you feel the urge to get back-to-basics Valis II will not disappoint. It delivers platform-slashing fun in a world of endless mythological creatures. Our heroine Yuko begins as a Japanese schoolgirl running through city streets while hurling knives at samurai warriors and slinky weasels. The difficulty is low and the scenery sparse as you venture through subways, caves, and colorful sky kingdoms.

The projectile-based combat is moderately fun, but while moving forward you're a little too close to the edge of the screen, making it hard to react in time. You'll find yourself taking a stop-and-go approach, which is kind of annoying. Yuko squeals like a puppy when hit, but not to worry because she has a huge life bar. I find it strange how the life bar of the next boss remains permanently displayed below yours.

Weapon upgrades appear early and often, and you'll soon find yourself nearly invincible, firing deadly waves of energy while being protected by rotating orbs. You don't even lose your weapon when you die. Valis II is so easy I worried I might beat it on my first try! You get tons of extra lives and there's even a save function. The challenge finally kicks in during stage four, where you battle floating brains and dudes dashing around on fire.

I have to admit there are some very cool-looking creatures like slithering snake-men. The CD-quality music is fair but the cutscenes fall flat with long, awkward silences between lines of dialog. Scary demonic bosses sound more like college professors and the dialog is dreadful. But don't attempt to skip the dialog - I did and accidentally reset the entire game. Valis II probably didn't need a CD, but it does deliver old-school fun with a low frustration factor. © Copyright 2019 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 248,000
1 player 

Valis III (CD)
Grade: D
Publisher: Telenet (1991)
Reviewed: 2006/4/27

screenshotIt's amazing how a game can be terrific on one system and lousy on another. The Genesis version of Valis III was an enthralling combination of swordplay and platform jumping, but on the Turbografx it's just exasperating. The game kicks off with an overwrought introduction conveyed with colorful (but mostly static) images and plenty of voice dialogue. You'd think the narrator would possess a deep voice to lend weight to the epic storyline, but instead you get some squeaky-voiced geek. The cut scenes are lengthy (probably to justify the CD format), and they periodically require a few seconds to load. Unless you're really into anime, you'll just want to hit the Run button and get on with it.

Valis 3's gameplay is pretty standard. By switching control between various female characters, you slash your way through scenic lands filled with mythological creatures. The graphics are sharper than the Genesis version, but not as attractive. The city lights in particular look like crap. The pace of the game is faster, but the controls are far less forgiving. Whenever an enemy strikes you, you automatically roll back, often off the edge of a cliff! In the poorly designed second stage, I couldn't determine how to leap between a series of well-spaced ledges.

After a bit of research, I discovered you actually have to slide between the ledges! Yes, slide across a chasm in mid-air. Idiotic stuff like that makes me want to slap an F on the game and be done with it. Valis 3 is also plagued by cheap and mandatory hits, making the game far more difficult than it should be. The soundtrack is of high quality, but the voice acting is vomit-inducing. Check out this dramatic exchange. Boss: "My intro was a bit flashy, but do you like it?" Yuko: "Why do you do something like that?" Boss: "Hey, ask your sword, Yuko." This game is a mess. If you have a choice, stick with the Genesis version. © Copyright 2006 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Valis IV (Japan)
Grade: B-
Publisher: Telenet (1991)
Reviewed: 2014/12/4

screenshotI've played my share of Valis games and they consistently provide solid, old-school platforming fun with attractive heroines. This PC Engine title has a lengthy intro with some boring Japanese guy who just won't shut up. Valis IV lets you toggle between a pair of attractive ladies with the push of a button. One wears a blue dress, slashing with a sword and sliding through narrow passages. The other is dressed in yellow, hurling a boomerang-style weapon and performing double-jumps.

The stage designs are simple yet clean and attractive. You'll walk through temple ruins under a red sunset, float on platforms over rushing water, and cross perilous bridges. Enemies include flying crabs, floating phantoms, some green guy with a mace, and fire-breathing dragon statues. I like how you can slash repeatedly, but you can only aim sideways so it's hard to deal with enemies approaching from overhead.

If you press up while attacking you'll unleash your magic which envelops the screen. The controls are crisp but the double jump is tricky. You need to initiate the second jump right away; if you hesitate it will not register. Before jumping onto a platform near the edge of the screen you'll want to pause a moment to make sure it's not being patrolled by a monster. Some platforms are hard to reach but I noticed you can jump a little higher if you do so while running.

Later stages introduce additional playable characters like a tall knight who hurls ghostly wolf heads. Enemies exhibit predictable behavior, but I hate those big white swirls that follow you around like heat-seeking missiles. Valis IV has no score but several continues are available. The orchestrated soundtrack is CD quality and has an appealing old school vibe. The game isn't spectacular but it might remind you how much fun an old-school side-scroller can be. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Victory Run
Grade: C
Publisher: NEC (1989)
Reviewed: 2002/2/16


screenshotThis racing game challenges you to complete an eight-mile course within a set period of time. The track segments include everything from a French countryside to the Sahara desert, and the graphics are impressively smooth. There's nothing on the side of the road, but the distant scenery and the colorful skylines look great. As day turns to night, the lights go on in the buildings - a nice touch.

The smooth scaling of oncoming cars and the rolling hills reminded me of Road Rash on the Genesis, but why are all of the vehicles so huge? My car looks like a toy compared to these other cars! Heck, even the motorcycles tower over me. And what's up with all the garbage trucks?

Victory Run's gameplay just didn't do it for me. Driving down the road dodging cars gets old after a while. Between track segments you can upgrade your tires, gears, engine, suspension, and brakes, but I could never tell which ones I needed. Even worse, you can damage your engine by running it too high! That goes against my natural instinct to go fast, and it really hurts this game's overall score. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

1 player 

Vigilante
Grade: C
Publisher: Irem (1989)
Reviewed: 2003/3/11

screenshotHere's a side-scrolling brawler with terrific graphics but just so-so gameplay. The fighters are large and well-defined, and your character resembles Jackie Chan. The gameplay is completely 2D, so you can only move from side to side. The storyline definitely caught my attention: "The skinheads have taken Madonna hostage!" - I kid you not. The girl does have blond hair but is dressed far too modest to be mistaken for the real Madonna.

Through five action-packed stages, your kung-fu hero faces the same thugs over and over until you reach the end-of-level boss. The moves are limited to the standard punch, kick, jump, and crouch, but occasionally you'll come across a pair of devastating nun-chucks which kick the action into high gear. If you want to be really cheap, use the turbo with these things for some rapid-fire attacks. It's especially effective against bosses, who normally take forever to kill.

The graphics in Vigilante are better than average, and the New York skyline looks fantastic. In terms of sound, the music isn't bad, and there's a satisfying "thud" whenever you whack somebody. Vigilante is fun while it lasts, but it's definitely a shallow experience. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 7950
1 player 

World Class Baseball
Grade: D
Publisher: NEC (1989)
Reviewed: 2021/5/11

screenshotJust because a game is called World Class Baseball doesn't mean it's World Class. In my experience the more pretentious the name, the worse the game. Ever played Great Baseball (Sega Master System, 1987)? World Class features fictional teams with goofy names like the apples, togas, and fries. That does not inspire confidence.

The graphics don't look bad and I like the game's festive vibe. The brisk pacing is matched by upbeat music that plays throughout the contest. The pitcher/batter screen is nicely animated. The batter doesn't just slide around the batter's box; he shuffles his feet when you move him. Likewise the pitcher windup is fluid and the catcher will reach for wide pitches.

Once the ball is put into play the game goes into an overhead mode a la Reggie Jackson Baseball (Sega Master System, 1988). It's kind of underwhelming for a 16-bit machine. Fly balls scale out to immense proportions, often obscuring the fielder you're trying to catch the ball with! Even so, I like the suspense of home runs and it's wild to watch a ball curl around the foul pole.

The main problem with World Class Baseball is the hitting - or lack thereof. The pitches come in fast and can change direction in flight. You're forced to commit your swing early, so whether the ball will be hitable or not turns into one big guessing game. When playing against another human you'll strike out at least every other time up.

Playing the computer is a different story. The CPU tends to throw balls over the plate and when batting he'll never go after a wide pitch. As a result a lot more balls are put into play. Unfortunately few of these make it past the pitcher's mound! What's the deal with all these weak dribblers and pop-ups? I was rooting for World Class Baseball, but I'm afraid this game lacks the talent to reach the postseason. © Copyright 2021 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

World Court Tennis
Grade: B+
Publisher: NEC (1991)
Reviewed: 2016/6/5

screenshotWhen the cover of a game sports a photo of a tennis player, you don't expect to see chubby little anime players when you turn it on. They look like kids running around in diapers for Pete's sake! In terms of gameplay however there's something pure and organic about World Court Tennis. The controls feel super responsive and clear audio effects provide positive reinforcement. The animation is fluid and the ball bounces are true. It's nice how players angle their rackets and even dive. There's an element of chance as balls sometimes bounce off the net or drift out of bounds.

During serves, one button is an aggressive serve and the other is a safe serve. Likewise during volleys one button is a normal return and the other is a lob. Your player stops in his tracks when you execute your swing, so proper positioning is critical. It takes a while to get a feel for the game but it plays great. After each point the camera pans up to the crowd, and I think I spotted Colonel Sanders in the first row.

World Court Tennis supports the multitap (for doubles action) but it's the RPG mode that steals the show. You did not misread that last sentence! It sounds like an awful idea but it's awesome! The totally believable premise has you trying to restore peace in a kingdom taken over by an evil tennis king. As you roam the wilderness you are confronted by preppy-looking people who challenge you to tennis matches. You use your winnings to upgrade your equipment. It's fun and addictive. World Court Tennis is no doubt one of the silliest tennis games you'll ever play but it's also one of the most fun. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

World Sports Competition
Grade: D
Publisher: Hudson Soft (1993)
Reviewed: 2016/6/5

screenshotWorld Sports Competition supports up to five competitors via turbotap, so I had some friends over to try it out on my deck one pleasant summer evening. I assumed this was a "can't miss" game but it turned out to be a minor disaster. Each player can configure his athlete "type" but there's only white guy (with blonde hair, of course) and could his pink jumpsuit be any tighter? The 18 events (!) cover track and field, swimming, rowing, and shooting.

Unfortunately learning how to play each one requires reading the manual's tiny font. Not only do these instructions fail to provide adequate descriptions of the controls, they refer to some events by the wrong name! Did the author even play this game? The competition is divided into three-event "days", each concluding with a lady at a sports news announcing "It's dog-eat-dog at the Hudson Stadium Championships!"

The trap shooting, archery, and rapid-fire pistol (is that even a thing?) events are probably the best of the bunch. The track and field events are a somewhat exhausting combination of button mashing and timing. But man, Hudson Soft really beat the swimming contests into the [expletive] ground! There are no less than five of these boring events. I can't tell one from the next, and they take forever.

But the worst flaw would have to be the outrageous difficulty. You practically have to set a world record just to qualify! Hell, in the long jump you pretty much have to clear the [expletive] sandbox! Adding insult to injury, failure in any event means you'll have to start the entire day over! Was Hudson Soft too cheap to hire one lousy play-tester?! The qualifying score is flashed briefly before each event; is it asking too much to keep that thing on the screen?

After finding themselves stuck in track-and-field limbo, my friends resorted to two people sharing one same controller - one to run and the other to time the jump. Next time we'll stick to the training mode, which at least returns you to the event selection screen. World Sports Championship is a botched olympic title that feels like it was rushed out the door in world record time. © Copyright 2016 The Video Game Critic.

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Recommended variation: long jump
Our high score: SDZ 8m04
1 to 5 players 

Yo Bro
Grade: F
Publisher: NEC (1991)
Reviewed: 2012/11/1

screenshotI was hoping this would be a racially insensitive title I could tear apart, but sadly it's just an innocuous skateboarding game. Yo Bro lets you control a skateboarding bear who rolls around town while saving humans and defeating monsters with his slingshot. When you ride over people big point values appear, calling to mind Robotron. Unfortunately the shooting aspect is very unlike Robotron. Basically it sucks.

First off, it's really hard to navigate the streets on your skateboard. Lining up for a shot is difficult enough, but your momentum usually sends you drifting right into your target! That's a serious problem when enemies like man-eating plants require about 15 shots to kill! Be sure to enable the rapid-fire setting on your controller.

Advanced stages pit you against bee swarms, dinosaurs, and aliens, but the action always feels the same. The maze-like town is boring and the non-stop Beach Boys music will have you lunging for the mute button. Yo Bro drags on and on, so by the time you're prompted to "continue?" the decision is a no-brainer. © Copyright 2012 The Video Game Critic.

Our high score: 51,600
1 or 2 players 


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