Xbox Reviews C

Capcom Classics Collection Vol. 1
Grade: A-
Publisher: Capcom (2005)
Reviewed: 2010/8/9
Rating: Teen

screenshotThis is one of the finest classic game collections you'll ever find, packing 22 arcade titles of considerable quality. I already owned the PS2 version, but this 480p edition works better on my plasma TV. These games have held up extremely well over time, and even in high definition the artistry of their 2D graphics really comes across.

There's a nice cross-section of styles too. 1942, 1943, and 1943 Kai are solid vertical shooters where you pilot WWII-era bombers over hostile waters. Bionic Commando is a challenging platform shooter where you traverse ledges via an extensible arm. Commando and Mercs are excellent Rambo-style top-down shooters.

Three versions of Street Fighter 2 are included: the original, Championship Edition, and Hyper Fighting. Other old favorites include Ghosts and Goblins, Ghouls and Ghosts, and even Super Ghouls and Ghosts (SNES version). Forgotten Worlds is a spectacular side-scrolling shooter set in a post-apocalyptic world, and it's cool how you can rotate your character to fire at any angle. I think my favorite game on this disk would have to be Final Fight, which is considerably better than the SNES version. This compilation does contain a few clunkers (Vulgas and Exed Exes come to mind), but overall it's a terrific value.

The bulk of the titles have a two-player option, and a surprising number are cooperative. Each game is configurable, but only to a limited extent. High scores are saved and there's a rapid-fire option, but there's no "easy" difficulty and you can't adjust the continues (which are unlimited). Even so, Capcom Classics Volume 1 is required playing for classic gamers, especially if you own an arcade stick for your Xbox. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 3 players 

Capcom Classics Collection Vol. 2
Grade: A
Publisher: Capcom (2005)
Reviewed: 2010/8/9
Rating: Teen

screenshotThis collection of old arcade titles is both fun to play and fascinating from a historical perspective. Capcom Classics Collection 2 delivers a generous portion of side-scrolling brawlers, and fortunately I'm into that kind of thing.

Captain Commando adds a futuristic spin to the Final Fight formula, and up to four players can join the fray. King of Dragon is a superb D&D action-adventure where you battle mythical creatures on medieval countrysides, and Knights of the Round offers similar button-mashing fun. Magic Sword limits the action to a single plane, resulting in a faster, more frantic style of play.

Strider is a classic hack-n-slash romp set in Russia, starring a character that can climb walls and hang from any ledge. In Black Tiger you're a barbarian slashing through caves while contending with cheap traps and awkward jump controls. Tiger Road is set in feudal China but its gameplay is pretty rough. Mega Twins is a cute platformer, and Avengers is a vertically scrolling fighter with an awkward overhead view.

For shooter fans, 1941 Counter Attack and Varth both deliver potent vertical-scrolling action with rich graphics and substantial firepower. Last Duel is a futuristic shooter where you glide over a track lined with cannons and other hazards. Side Arms and Eco Fighter offer side-scrolling shooting, with Eco adopting a socially conscious theme. Street Fighter fans will be intrigued to find the original Street Fighter along with Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo.

Three Wonders offers three whimsical games in one (platform, shooter, puzzle), and they are all surprisingly good! Block Block is a moderately enjoyable take on the Breakout formula, and Quiz and Dragons effectively combines elements of D&D with Trivial Pursuit. Speed Rumbler lets you freely drive a car around town and shoot other cars via an overhead view.

Each title is fully customizable, and you can even turn off the continues! High scores are automatically saved and there are even some nice bonus features. Offering a metric ton of gaming on a single disk, Capcom Classic Vol. 2 is hard to resist. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Capcom Vs. SNK 2 EO
Grade: B-
Publisher: Capcom (2002)
Reviewed: 2014/6/8
Rating: Teen (suggestive themes, violence)

screenshotI love 2D Capcom fighters but have mixed feelings toward this one. Capcom Vs. SNK 2 EO is an awkward marriage of 2D sprites and 3D polygons. It's also an example of how bloated franchises become after several iterations. EO's spectacular intro sequence and slick, tiled menu screens will draw in gamers like a moth to a flame.

Besides the standard 3-on-3 battle, a "ratio system" lets you give one fighter the edge. It's one of many truly unnecessary features shoehorned into the game. The default control scheme is called "EO-ism", and it simplifies the control scheme down to a single button. Again, nobody asked for this! There are six "groove" systems to select from, which vary the super moves, custom combos, and defensive techniques in subtle ways. Even fans of the genre will admit this is overkill.

The 44-character roster (!) is packed with familiar faces from King of Fighters and Street Fighter, along with a few outliers like Morrigan of Darkstalkers (Playstation, 1997) fame. The graphic style in the actual game is off-putting. The juxtaposition of the smooth polygon backgrounds and rough pixelated characters is jarring. It looks like they belong in different games. The stages are surprisingly ugly and uninteresting, but a few do stand out. The London street corner looks inviting, and it's fun to watch trucks fly off sand dunes in Nairobi. In the glacier stage a massive cruise ship approaches and deploys a bridge so tourists can cross onto the ice.

So, is the game fun? Well, yeah, actually it is! I enjoyed playing as the big wrestler Raiden with his bull-rush attack and nasty green breath. It's easy to pull off special moves and the length of the matches is just right. The point system is confusing but it's satisfying to rank in with a high score. The announcer is super annoying with his lame attempts to sound hip ("Keep rockin', baby!"). There are some terrific dance grooves in this game, but I'm not sure they're all that appropriate. It's a flawed experience overall, yet Capcom Vs. SNK 2 EO manages to be a good time in spite of itself. © Copyright 2014 The Video Game Critic.

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1 or 2 players 

Carve
Grade: C-
Publisher: GS Software (2003)
Reviewed: 2008/7/16
Rating: Everyone

screenshotAs a jet ski racing fan, I'm surprised Carve never crossed my radar until I spotted it in an FYE bargain bin. Sadly, the game reeks of mediocrity. The scenery is attractive but lacks the "wow" factor of games like Hydro Thunder. Locations include city canals, shipwrecks, icy waters, and best of all - tropical resorts. The "lost jungle" is incredibly lame, but the moon-lit night tracks are quite appealing.

Carve also features impressive weather effects including raindrops that form little circles on the undulating waves. You view your jet skier from behind, which would be ideal if not for the constant beading of water on the camera lens (from spraying water). I'm sure some programmer was really proud of that effect, but it makes it hard to see! Another eyesore are the oversized "targeting icons" on each buoy which indicate if you need to pass on the right or left. Yes, they keep you headed in the right direction, but man, those big ugly things really clutter up the screen!

Carve also suffers from an overemphasis on tricks. Does every game need to be like Tony Hawk? There are more than a dozen tricks ranging from barrel rolls to handstands to submarines. Doing tricks results in speed bursts, but screwing one up can ruin your entire run! Worse yet, sometimes a speed burst will send you plowing directly into a wall! I'd prefer to avoid the tricks altogether, but you're forced to master them if you hope to win the advanced tournaments and unlock everything.

A two-player split-screen mode is available, but it just magnifies these issues. The alternative soundtrack is fair, except for one tune that sounds like it's whispering "you're stupid" over and over again. Not exactly the confidence booster I was looking for! Carve isn't a bad game but let's face it - there's far better jet-ski action to be had. © Copyright 2008 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 2 players 

Castlevania: Curse of Darkness
Grade: D+
Publisher: Konami (2006)
Reviewed: 2007/1/17
Rating: Mature (blood and violence)

screenshotIt's like beating a dead horse to say Castlevania has never been very good in 3D. Still, Konami keeps plugging away, hoping one day they'll make a 3D version that comes close to capturing the magic of the popular 2D titles. With Curse of Darkness, you have to wonder how hard they're trying. Darkness basically mimics the lackluster gameplay of Castlevania Lament of Innocence (Playstation 2, 2003), but incorporates more "stuff".

The melodramatic, overwrought introduction reveals that upon his death three years before, Dracula unleashed a terrible curse upon the land. You just can't win with this guy! I wasn't too impressed by the androgynous characters and embarrassing prose sprinkled with pretentious words like "thence". The game takes itself far too seriously, with verbose, drawn-out cut-scenes that bored me to tears. The equally uninspired gameplay consists of running down long halls while hacking at monsters that materialize out of thin air.

The hallways and rooms tend to be wide-open, probably in an effort to ease camera issues. The camera control could be better, but it's about average for this type of game. Harder to justify is how you can't see very far into the distance - it's like every hallway is shrouded in fog! The gothic scenery is elegant enough, but each section of the castle has a bunch of rooms that look exactly the same, making it easy to get disoriented. Gaudy arrows attempt to keep you moving in the right direction, but their 3D, rotating appearance makes them tough to discern at certain angles. You almost wish they had just labeled the doors "in" and "out".

Minions you'll encounter are standard Castlevania fare, including werewolves, skeletons, ghosts, cyclops, and mermen. They look good, but I hate how they spawn arbitrarily, and then respawn when you return to old areas. The controls are crisp and responsive, allowing you to strike down multiple enemies with ease. One notable new feature is your "fairy" sidekick who "evolves" throughout the game.

Castlevania's lush orchestrated musical score is well done, but even that gets old after a while. Curse of Darkness is a step up from Lament, but it's still generic and uninspired. The Castlevania formula just doesn't "work" well in 3D. If you're looking for some real occult fun, try the Devil May Cry series instead. © Copyright 2007 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Cel Damage
Grade: C-
Publisher: Electronic Arts (2001)
Reviewed: 2001/12/6
Rating: Teen (Comic michief, violence)


screenshotThis vehicle combat game uses the trendy new "cell shaded" polygon graphics, which look like 3D versions of those old Warner Bros cartoons. I have to be honest: the animation is truly amazing to behold. It's a nice change of pace for those who cut their teeth on Twisted Metal. The music and sound effects are also interesting.

It's hard for me to determine why this game doesn't work as well as it should. I think the bottom line is that it's just too chaotic. Despite the excellent framerate and zany animations, it's really hard to tell what the heck's going on in the heat of battle. The battlefield can get pretty muddled, especially in the split screen mode. There are no damage meters - one solid hit blows you up. As a result, you are constantly being destroyed, often before you can even get your bearings.

Short-range weapons like the axe, hammer, buzz saw, baseball bat, chainsaw, and boxing gloves are great fun, but long-range weapons are a drag. Cheap hits from mortars and crossbows come from out of nowhere. And with vehicles whizzing all over the place, it's really impossible to aim from any kind of distance. Just head towards a group of vehicles and start firing away.

Cel Damage is hard, but I was able to unlock a lot of goodies when playing the four-player split screen mode. Although the game looks better in the single-player mode, it plays better on the split screen. Go figure! I do like the "smack" point system, which earns you points based on how much damage you do. Cel Damage is not a great game, but it shows some potential. © Copyright 2001 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

Circus Maximus
Grade: B+
Publisher: Encore (2001)
Reviewed: 2002/3/13
Rating: Teen


screenshotA CHARIOT RACING game for the Xbox? That's right, but what's even more surprising is just how GOOD this thing is. Circus Maximus is a brilliantly executed racing/combat game with innovative controls, and high-quality production values. The object is not only to race other chariot teams, but to beat them down as well.

Each chariot contains two warriors: a driver upfront and a weapon-wielding combatant in the back. An ingenious control scheme gives you complete control of your vehicle while unleashing deadly attacks against your foes. There are a lot of buttons involved, but the controls are fairly intuitive. For example, the triggers pull the reins, and pulling on both slows you down.

Although each warrior has four vicious attacks, there's really not much blood. Fighting is fun, but running other chariots over cliffs or into walls is just as satisfying. The nasty spills look fantastic! Another interesting feature is the fact that your chariot can tip over when riding around tight corners or over rough terrain. You sometimes need to lean your warrior to one side in order to maintain balance. The races seem to be kept artificially close, but this helps maintain the level of excitement.

The tracks range from beautiful medieval countrysides to Roman Coliseums, complete with shortcuts, power-ups, and hidden areas. Locations like Greece, Rome, Britain, and Cyprus provide ancient landscapes full of statues, temples, and castles. While the scenery is somewhat lacking in detail, it is never boring. The audio is incredible, with amazing voice samples, subtle natural sounds, and dramatic music that always kicks in at the right time. The sound effects of the horses and wooden wheels really got my attention.

The single-player mode lets you earn "dineri" currency by competing in a series of races. The more you earn, the more characters and tracks you open. I especially like how you can watch your dineri rack up as you compete. The four-player mode is especially fun because one player can drive while the other battles it out. Too bad there are no computer opponents in the split-screen mode. Circus Maximus is a triumph of originality, stunning visuals, and fun arcade gameplay. © Copyright 2002 The Video Game Critic.

1 to 4 players 

Crash Bandicoot Wrath of Cortex
Grade: C+
Publisher: Universal (2002)
Reviewed: 2003/4/26
Rating: Everyone (mild violence)


screenshotGiven a slick Xbox makeover, Wrath of Cortex is definitely a step up from the PS2 original. The graphics have been totally redone and look significantly more polished and slightly more detailed than the PS2 version. You'll even notice some fuzzy fur on Crash during close shots. Best of all, the horrendous loading times are gone - the Xbox only needs a few seconds to load each stage.

The gameplay however has remained unchanged, which means you'll still need to deal with lousy jumping controls and unforgiving collision detection. It's especially bad when you're trying to jump on a slow-moving animal (which you could have just as easily run around) but find yourself continually getting turned into a ghost. And the jump and spin gameplay is really starting to get stale. Fortunately there are some outstanding driving/flying stages that come to the rescue and provide some much needed variety.

The best of these special stages has Crash in a ball (a la Super Monkey Ball) rolling down ramps and through bamboo gutters. This wild ride is nearly worth the price of admission, and the mine cart stage is also very exciting. Too bad the regular stages are so lackluster, or this could have been the definitive Bandicoot game. © Copyright 2003 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Crash Nitro Kart
Grade: D+
Publisher: Universal (2003)
Reviewed: 2004/3/21
Rating: Everyone


screenshotNitro retains the same basic gameplay as its popular predecessor Crash Team Racing (CTR) on the Playstation, but what happened to all the fun?! Like the last Crash offering, Wrath of Cortex, new developers have managed to capture the look of the original game but failed to replicate the exciting, addictive action. The graphics look nice, but the new "features" stink, and the racing is incomprehensibly slow and laborious. There are really no innovations over the original CTR, and some of the tracks look almost exactly the same!

The first few courses take their cue from the inviting jungle environments of the classic Crash Games, but some of the later tracks go off the deep end and will have you wondering which way is up. The control scheme is somewhat awkward, using the X button to accelerate and the O button to use items. The problem is, you never want to let off the accelerator. You need all the speed you can get, because the karts move incredibly SLOW. My thumb was aching from mashing the acceleration button, trying to achieve some degree of velocity. Even with the generous number of speed boosts, there's no sensation of speed, and in some areas you feel like you're crawling along. There are some new "moves", but none that enhance the lackluster gameplay.

One new (and unwanted) feature lets you gain power boosts by timing your power slides just right. Nitro also integrates a new "team" aspect, although there's really no cooperation between characters. Instead, the racers are separated into "good" and "bad" guys, and when your team meter is full, racers on "your side" get unlimited items for a few seconds. That's not as great as it sounds because most items are lame mine-type weapons that you just lay behind you. There's only one missile weapon, which is pretty ineffective, and the shields do little more than inhibit your view!

Another problem is the "portal" areas used to choose your next race in the single-player mode. These areas are large and confusing, and it's a serious pain to locate the next unlocked course. And don't forget to save regularly, because Nitro does NOT save automatically. Worse yet, your progress and the "unlockables" are saved separately. I was thinking Nitro might be a worthy challenger to Mario Kart Double Dash, but it's not even in the same league. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

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1 to 4 players 

Crazy Taxi 3: High Roller
Grade: C+
Publisher: Sega (2002)
Reviewed: 2010/8/9
Rating: Teen

screenshotCrazy Taxi was a flagship franchise for the Dreamcast, but this third edition landed on the Xbox with a thud. Looking like a hasty port, Crazy Taxi 3 will disappoint longtime fans. The disk contains a new Las Vegas course in addition to the San Francisco and New York locations from the first two games. It's not a bad value if you're new to the series.

You play the role of a wacky cabbie shuttling passengers through bustling city streets. Driving like a madman is fun, especially when there are hidden shortcuts, strategically placed ramps, and outdoor cafes to plow through. Crazy Taxi is known for its pick-up-and-play arcade style, but it loses a bit of its mojo on the Xbox. The visuals don't look as sharp or vibrant, and scenery like the San Francisco harbor looks less detailed. The new Vegas track is pretty lame with its generic layout and sparse crowds. The desert campground area is just plain boring.

The frame-rate is surprisingly erratic and the load times are excessive. An increased difficulty means it's much harder to deliver groups of passengers on time. The Elvis-inspired soundtrack is mediocre, and the music volume is so loud you can't even hear what your passengers are raving about. After bowing out of the hardware business in 2001 Sega seemed to go into an unproductive malaise, resulting in titles like this. Instead of marking the rebirth of the series, Crazy Taxi 3 was the swan song. © Copyright 2010 The Video Game Critic.

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1 player 

Crimson Skies
Grade: A
Publisher: Microsoft (2003)
Reviewed: 2004/1/28
Rating: Teen (Suggestive themes, Violence)

screenshotMicrosoft has come through with another high-quality title with gorgeous visuals, easy controls, and an arcade sensibility. Taking place in a retro-futuristic world where blimps and planes rule, Crimson Skies is basically a series of dogfights loosely held together by a storyline. You view the action from just behind your plane, and unlike most flying games, the controls are wonderfully easy to grasp.

You'll collect new planes as you progress, and they are all innovatively designed and outfitted with unique weapons. In addition to flying planes, you'll also have many opportunities to man mounted cannons. This is an absolute blast! The cannons have a remarkable zoom function, and in a nice bit of realism, you'll need to "lead your shots" to hit long-range targets.

The attractive graphics feature beautiful scenery, gigantic blimps, and satisfying explosions. The rippling water effects look magnificent, and the skies are swept with beautiful color. Thunderstorms make nice backdrops in some stages, and watching those huge blimps crash and burn is quite a sight. In order to maximize the fun, a lot of realism was sacrificed in Crimson Skies. You only take minimal damage from bumping into things, and your plane still handles quite well even when badly damaged. Landing is usually a challenge in games like this, but here it's almost automatic - you just approach a landing strip and press X.

Your enemies are always easy to see thanks to some red brackets, and shooting them down never gets old. When you die, the game picks up right near where you left off. Crimson Skies is easy to play and loaded with personality and subtle humor. Even the graphic quality of the computer-generated scenes is amazing, particularly the facial expressions. There's even a kick-ass split-screen multiplayer mode thrown in for good measure. There's not much bad you can say about Crimson Skies, and it's madly addictive to boot. I don't think I will ever stop playing this game. © Copyright 2004 The Video Game Critic.

1 or 4 players 


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Screen shots courtesy of IGN.com, Gaming Age Online, GameSpot, Xbox Addict, Playstation.com, Moby Games