This brightly colored box put Nintendo in direct competition with other turn of the century consoles by Sony and Microsoft.


If you didn't get the opportunity to plunk dozens of shiny gold tokens into a Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat machine at your local Malibu Grand Prix (if you had a Malibu Grand Prix) and you couldn't, or can't, get a grasp of the exceedingly complex, complicated world of charge moves, quarter rolls, half circle rolls, 360 (sometimes called full circle) rolls, Super Combos, Hyper Combos, Fatalities, Stage Fatalities, Babalities, and Friendships, you may as well consider yourself fucked. You're an outsider to that world, like a Catholic to the Masons, or Moses Fleetwood Walker to the Brotherhood of Professional Baseball Players (read Clever Baseballist: the Life and Times of John Montgomery Ward by Bryan Di Salvatore), and you'll always be an outsider. You may be treated well by the "true" fans- hell, even respected for what talent you possess- but you'll always be outside of that realm... a realm whose members chuckle every time you pick Dan Hibiki to battle against Ryo Sakazaki, but never tell you WHY they chuckle. Alas...

This is a weird little game that's either one of two things: (a) Capcom's attempt to turn a profit or (b) something less sinister, Capcom's attempt to open the "old boy's club" that is the 2-D fighting genre to the less patient or astute gamer (like myself), who have migrated to the friendlier "dial-a-combo" world of 3-D for our fighting game fix.

The idea of EO's (Easy Operation in Japan, Extreme Offense in the US) simple gameplay will make the most hardened blond ponytailed Gamestop employee who impersonates Professor Frink while pummeling a ne'er do well with Akuma cringe: EVERY special move, Super Hyper Mega Combo or otherwise, is tied to the Gamecube's little yellow C-Stick. For instance, with Ryu (or Dan or Ryo or Ken or Akuma) you push the stick forward to do a Haduken, up for a Shoryuken, and back to do a hurricane kick. For arial moves you simply jump then point the stick in whatever direction the move requires. Since the C-Stick is analog, exerting specific amounts of pressure on the stick will determine whether it was a light, medium, or heavy attack.

Now before anyone who knows how to double quarter roll blindfolded starts bitching, EO is still a fairly challenging game. Simply being able to move the C-Stick around to launch a flurry of attacks won't mean you can pummel that oh-so-not-AI Capcom AI. In fact it seems the computer KNOWS that it's dealing with a guy who really doesn't know how to do Kim Kaphwan's spinning bicycle split kick (or whatever...) and will promptly counter, and in many ways abuse, the whole new play mechanic as well. So the twelve year old kids still out of the loop reading this review shouldn't wet their chops just yet...

All 44 some-odd characters are available, and the color edit mode, arcade mode, and VS. mode are all the same with Groove edit mode being the lone unlockable feature. Survival and VS. mode, along with the Groove Edit mode (for those who can understand it), provide the game its potential longevity. That and the game's near GOBS and GOBS of recognizable characters, six different grooves, and three fighting styles (an improved version of the first game's ratio system, three on three, and single match) make it the best fighting game on Gamecube by default.

As an out of the loop non-sprite pugilist I had a lot of fun with Capcom vs. SNK EO... mostly because it let me appreciate a Capcom fighter on more than just an artistic level. As for tried and true fans, they may just want to avoid this version altogether: the standard gameplay is here but it's mapped as pressure sensitive buttons on an controller that's atrocious for fighting games. They'll want to stick with the import DC or PS2 version. That said, EO is nice little time waster and a fine game for those who don't know what the hell an air cancel is... but who did one just now.

Nintendo, Namco

Let me first start out by saying that I have NEVER had any desire to make a fool out of myself by playing any of the Dance Dance Revolution games. I always thought rhythm games were a bad idea, and they can be truly polarizing. NEVER has anyone described DDR as "OK, good, or not bad". They either love it with a passion or hate it immensely (those in the latter category, like myself, detest the very premise so people like us would never play that game in the first place). I saw Donkey Konga on G4 when it was a Japan-only title, and thinking that it was one of the lamest ideas I'd ever seen for a game. No way would something like that come out in America, right? And if it DID, there's no way I'd play something like that.

Then I heard positive things about it from some of my classic gaming friends. Then I saw the commercial. Then I read some positive reviews. I was fiending to get a new game last weekend, and I saw Donkey Konga for the Gamecube at the store. After much debate, I caved in to my curiousity and further tightened my plastic handcuffs (commonly referred to by many as "credit cards") to get it. I knew I would love it or loathe it. And guess what? I am absolutely in love with this game and this is undoubtedly the most fun I've had with a game this year.

A dual bongo drum controller comes packaged with the disc. Two conjoined barrel-like drums are plugged into the GC's control port. A wide variety of hit or miss songs, 33 in total, are included, and you must use your hands to pound the drums and clap to onscreen cues while each song is played. Three skill levels are present, giving the player the opportunity to earn coins to purchase drum sets, mini games, and to earn the right to play songs on the hardest level.

From the moment I started playing this game, I didn't want to stop. I'm sure there is something out there that is comparable, but I have never played a game like this before. So simple yet so challenging and perhaps the most unique game I've ever played, Donkey Konga is a must-have GameCube title, right up there with Mario Sunshine, Zelda Wind Waker and Metroid Prime.

The negatives? I don't care for the mini games and the extra drum sets offer little to enhance gameplay (EXCEPT for the Big Band set, which makes the one swing jazz tune sound much, much better). It's too bad I don't have a group of gaming friends with their own sets of Konga drums so we could play together. It seems like an incredibly fun party game, but being the loner that I am, I'll probably never know.  One other weakness is that the songs are not by the original artists. They are all very good covers, but still this should be noted.

So, yes. I am giving a rhythm game a nine on a scale of one to ten... it's the most pleasant surprise of the year. I still can't wait for GTA: San Andreas and Halo 2, but this one will tide me over until then. I'm almost embarrassed to admit I love this game so much.

Tony Bueno is a pseudonym, by the way...

Atari, Treasure

Sometimes the most diplomatic way to settle an argument is to flip a coin and leave it up to chance.  No matter what comes up, you can be sure that there will be a clear winner... and a loser.  You can always count on a clear outcome from a coin.  Its answer to every problem is in black and white, never shades of grey.

Inspired by this fact of life, Treasure created Ikaruga.  At first, this sequel to the fantastic Radiant Silvergun appears to be just like any other vertically scrolling shooter.  However, Ikaruga has one key difference which transforms it into an entirely new experience.  Like a coin, your ship can flip over, switching its protective barrier from light to dark and back again.  This gives you two advantages over the swarms of black and white enemies crowding the screen... switching to their color will protect you against their bullets, and switching back makes them more vulnerable to your own fire.

To survive in Ikaruga, you must constantly adapt to hostile conditions, frequently switching colors to defend yourself against a constant rain of bullets and strike back against well armed bosses.  If that's not enough of a challenge for you (and it almost certainly will be), you can aim for a higher score by firing at enemies in sequence... hitting three black or white ships in a row will earn you a combo bonus which increases with every trio of like-colored enemies destroyed.

Ikaruga is a very demanding game... perhaps a little too demanding for its own good.  It lacks the flexibility of Radiant Silvergun, which allowed you to experiment with weapons and explore your surroundings.  If you expect to excel at Ikaruga, you'll have to develop sharp reflexes and absolute precision... and memorizing the location of the enemies in each stage certainly couldn't hurt.  The best players will appreciate the chance to push their considerable skills to the limit, but the rest of us may not enjoy the challenge quite as much.

Ikaruga's graphics are solid, but not outstanding... especially not on the advanced GameCube hardware but not even by the Dreamcast's more humble standards.  Perhaps it's because the game was designed by a skeleton crew at Treasure, or perhaps the backgrounds are drawn in subdued sepia tones to make the black and white objects stand out.  Whatever's the case, the game's visuals don't make the strong impression that its predecessor had on the Saturn.  On the other hand, the soundtrack is nearly as majestic as the amazing music in Radiant Silvergun.  It manages to be powerful without demanding your attention the way the screaming heavy metal in Dodonpachi did.

If you're a fan of Treasure's past work or just need an exceptionally difficult shooter to keep your video game playing skills finely tuned, Ikaruga is a smart purchase.  My advice to everyone else?  Flip a coin. 

Crave, Realtime Associates
Classic Game Collection

Intellivision Lives! must have been one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time.  "Hey, everyone else is making classic game collections... why not us, too?  Heck, we own the rights to the Intellivision game system and its library... we're practically sitting on a goldmine!"  Unfortunately, Realtime Associates (aka The Blue Sky Rangers, alias InTV Corporation...) never stopped to consider the obstacles they'd face when bringing the Intellivision back to life on the latest generation of consoles.

The first of these is hardware limitations.  Now, you'd think that a system as powerful as the GameCube would have no trouble handling games originally created for a twenty five year old console like the Intellivision.  For the most part, it doesn't... the emulation is nearly flawless, with perfect sound reproduction and only slightly blurred graphics.  However, it's the control that drains most of the fun out of this collection.  Like most consoles of the time, the Intellivision had a complicated controller, designed to compensate for the system's limited memory.  This allowed players to select options quickly without a complex interface eating up the Intellivision's precious resources.

That worked well enough back in 1981, but in these days of more streamlined and intuitive controllers, there's just not enough buttons to go around to handle the amount of input possible on a numeric keypad.  Realtime stretched the GameCube controller as far as they could by assigning commonly used functions to the face buttons and using shift keys to access the rest, but in many games, this isn't enough.  Overlays are provided for more complex titles like B-17 Bomber, but they fill up a quarter of the screen, and you lose control of your character while you're keying in commands.  It'll make you wish that the manufacturers had packed in a replica of the Intellivision controller, because playing these titles without one is like trying to play one of today's games with one hand tied behind your back.  It's possible, perhaps, but not very enjoyable.

The second stumbling block to this game's success is the limited budget used to create this collection.  Intellivision Lives! closely mimics the design of the exceptional Activision Anthology, setting the mood with a nostalgic environment and giving players incentives to unlock new content by beating high scores.  While the setting, a neon-colored pizzaria, is every bit as good as the humbly decorated bedroom in Activision Anthology, the bonus features don't quite measure up.  Only a small handful of the available games have unlockable goodies, and the selection of music is a lot less exciting.  Instead of a diverse selection of the eighties' greatest hits, you get an Annie Lennox knock-off lamenting the loss of her favorite game system (sweet dreams AREN'T made of this), a surf remix of the Thin Ice theme song by litigious music composer George Sanger, and a sex scene acted out by characters from the Intellivision's voice enhanced games.  I only wish I were making that last one up.

Granted, this is all just window dressing.  However, when you peer inside that window, you're going to notice a whole lot that's missing.  Since the Realtime Associates crew was working on a tight budget, they couldn't afford the rights to all the licensed games on the system.  Now this wouldn't be a problem if they were all movie-based blunders by Acclaim, but the sad truth is that arcade translations and film adaptations were among the best titles on the Intellivision.  Burgertime's Peter Pepper was practically the system's mascot back in the early 80's, but because Data East went belly up shortly before the game was released, neither Burgertime nor its sequel Diner are open for business on this disc.  Try as you might, you won't find Konami's Loco-Motion, or Activision's Dreadnaught Factor, or Capcom's Commando (oddly present on Activision Anthology) either.  Finally, Tron: Deadly Discs, truly the gem of any Intellivision collection, was taken out of the mix as well.  While I understand the rationale behind this, its absence nevertheless leaves this collection with a great big hole in the center.

Realtime could have bandaged this gaping wound by including some of the games they've designed since the release of the Intellivision.  Curse, a side-scrolling shooter InTV had originally planned to release for the Sega Genesis, and Normy's Beach Babe-o-rama, based on the life of Blue Sky Rangers president Keith Robinson, would have been adequate substitutes for the games listed above.  Sadly, they're not here either, leaving you with a lot of forgettable software, and making you exceedingly glad that you didn't pay much for it.

Intellivision Lives! has one last shortcoming, reflected in the title.  It's an Intellivision collection, and to be perfectly blunt the system just hasn't held up as well as its rivals from the early 1980's.  Activision's 2600 games still hold some artistic merit thanks to their carefully layered background colors and bright, cartoony characters, but Intellivision games lack that appeal due to the system's limitations.  The resolution is painfully low, the colors don't blend well, and the fluid animation of the running man only serves to slow the games to a crawl.  On top of that, the action never feels very smooth.  There's a lack of precision in the control that makes ships streak past their intended destinations and humans take unexpected and often lethal detours through mazes.

If you still have fond memories of the Intellivision, or just want to alleviate some of the guilt brought on by playing its games on your computer, you'll want to pick up this collection.  Intellivision Lives! doesn't compare to classic compilations by larger software manufacturers like Activision or Midway, but its astonishingly low price tag guarantees that you won't leave the store with buyer's remorse.


Once upon a time, a young hero battled the wicked Ganon and his minions to save a beautiful princess, and the entire world.  Years of peace and prosperity followed Ganon's defeat, but this great age would not last forever.  Eventually, Ganon returned... but the hero did not.

That'd be a pretty lousy way to end a video game, but it's only the beginning for The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker.  Wind Waker takes place a century after the events in The Ocarina of Time, with the world ravaged by a resurrected Ganon.  What little life remains is stranded on tiny islands scattered across a vast ocean.  On one of these islands, a family dresses their eldest child in green to honor the memory of the lost hero. 

Nobody realizes that the boy, Link, will carry on the legacy of the man who first defeated Ganon.  Nor do they understand why their daughter was kidnapped by an enormous bird.  All they know is that someone must save Aryll, and since he's already dressed for the occasion, Link volunteers to rescue his sister from her mysterious captor.

Wind Waker shares a lot in common with the previous Zelda games on the Nintendo 64, from the extremely accomodating 3D gameplay to a versatile musical instrument which helps Link solve the game's many puzzles.  This time, our pointy-eared hero is given a conductor's baton, granting him control of the wind.  Sure, this may not sound as exciting as a flute that acts as a gateway to the past and future.  Nevertheless, with all the sailing you'll be doing to reach new destinations, you'll be very grateful that you have it along for the ride.

More than anything else, the emphasis on sea travel is Wind Waker's defining characteristic.  You'll spend as much time skimming across the ocean as you will wandering through grassy fields and exploring dungeons.  Furthermore, weapons and items that serve a specific purpose on land may be useful to you in an entirely different way while you're sailing the seven seas.  A grappling hook conveniently doubles as a fishing hook for reeling in sunken treasure, and the bombs you used to clear away boulders can also be used as powerful ammunition for your ship's cannon.

Players who'd rather keep their feet firmly planted on dry land may not appreciate the long trips from one island to the next, but Nintendo made enough concessions to keep them from getting seasick too quickly.  Link can use the Wind Waker to create powerful cyclones that carry him to preset locations on the world map, and diversions ranging from gigantic sea monsters to barrel-jumping contests (funny, I never noticed Donkey Kong anywhere...) ensure that the game never regresses into so much nautical nonsense.

The sea travel is Wind Waker's most significant departure from the rest of the Zelda series, but it is by no means its most controversial.  That honor would have to go to the game's graphics.  "Cartoony" doesn't go far enough to describe them... they've got a simple but colorful look that will remind you of popular cartoons like The Powerpuff Girls and The Fairly Oddparents.  It may take time to get used to Link as a big-headed dwarf with stubby legs and enormous almond-shaped eyes, but you'll grow to love the little guy after watching him in action.  Most polygonal characters look like stiffly animated zombies or dead-eyed manniquins, but not Link... he carefully watches enemies as he circles around them, and reacts with wide-eyed wonder when examining the glowing contents of a treasure chest.  The monsters in the game look great, too... they're wonderfully animated, and many are adorned with swirling, pointed patterns that bring to mind tribal tattoos and ancient Aztec carvings.

The graphics are most definitely NOT a liability for Wind Waker.  What does hurt the game are the overwhelming number of fetch quests you'll have to complete.  Rather than putting the shattered remains of the Triforce in the dungeons where they belong, the designers scattered them throughout the ocean, and force you to collect a series of maps in order to locate them.  If that weren't enough, the maps are useless before they're translated, and you'll have to sail to an island in the middle of nowhere and pay the man who lives there a fortune in Rupees before you can pinpoint the location of the Triforce pieces.  This brings up a complaint I have about most adventure games... why are the non-player characters always so selfish and uncooperative?  I'm trying to save the world from certain destruction, jerks... you think maybe you could stop thinking of ways to fill your pockets just long enough to help me save your own ass?

Deep breaths there, Jess... ah, that's better.  Aside from the design issues that makes the game much longer (and more boring) than it needed to be, Wind Waker is one of the best titles in the Legend of Zelda series.  It's got a gentle charm that you just don't see in video games anymore, along with puzzles so brilliantly designed and thoroughly satisfying that you'll spend every waking hour and sleepless night setting sail for new adventures.


Like a guy cutting his eye, an elaborate bank heist with melting clocks and severed backsides with people crawling out of it, and Jean Reno movies, Rayman 3 is French. BEYOND French. Surrender to you three times before you put it in your system French. The latest entry into Ubi Soft's venerable limbless platform franchise continues the series' competency and utter pandering to its true audience: the hardcore platform fan. Arbitrary power-ups, contrived jump puzzles, linear level structure, and endless McGuffin collecting makes Rayman 3 a joy for the fan of the genre and the genre alone.

Rayman 3's plot is almost completely confusing at times, and when does start to make sense it does its damndest to try to go back to being confusing. Rayman's cohort Globox swallows a Hoodlum, a small black furry bug thing, who demands that Globox (voiced by John Leguizamo...) release him.  Unfortunately, for some reason he can't. The hoodlum demands plum juice or he'll rip apart Globox's insides, so Rayman proceeds to find plum juice while trying to save his friend. Then something happens about halfway through, and you fight the Hoodlum. Or something.

Really, Rayman 3 is more about gameplay and that's where it, for the most part, shines. The exploration and free-form feel of other recent platformers like Sly Cooper and Ratchet and Clank are forsaken for more traditional gameplay. Levels are highly structured and laid out, at times, in a quasi- 2.5D fashion while timed power-ups are meticulously placed and force use, creating a hairy, sometimes frantic, pace that demands much from the reflexes. Level layouts are challenging but never too mind-bending:  The lack of a time limit, power-ups that last just long enough to be used effectively, and a liberal sprinkling of life up knick knacks help keep Rayman 3 from a becoming a controller busting experience for novices.

Where the game fails, however, is where most games in the genre do: in gimmicky sub-levels and bosses, particularly at the end of the game. A snowboarding level, various rounds involving a shrunken Rayman chasing his other boot in a bumper-car style battle, and Rez-like "transition" levels that have Rayman doing rail transfers, all prove more irritating than fun, but thankfully, Rayman 3 never relies too much on them. They're more dispersed throughout then concentrated at any point in the game.

For a major title released across all three platforms, Rayman 3 really shines in the graphics and sound departments. Stunningly surreal (but not too distracting) environments sport a very French otherworldly feel: American developers attempting to add "hip and edgy" crooked doors, mad German professors, musket toting and vaguely mysterious ne'er do well cowboys, and shiny glittering things should be taking notes from Ubi Soft's art staff. The game features some great music (particularly on the Gamecube, where it's most impressive on the usually limiting mini disc format) all credited to Euro-techno group Groove Armada. Voice work is competant (if bizarre) and offered in five different languages (English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish). I'm not sure what language John Leguizamo is speaking...

Rayman 3 comes recommended to the hardcore platform fan: it's a nice blend of 3-D and traditional 2-D platforming, and while the mini-games and other deviations from the standard gameplay are kind of annoying, they're not nearly as jarring in other platformers (specifically Traveler's Tales' Haven: Call of the King). However, it's not recommended to non-fans, casual fans, or people who hate the genre. It's entirely geared toward the lot that enjoy double jumping, hopping on foes, and recognizing boss patterns.


Leon Kennedy thought the nightmare of Raccoon City was over when the scheming Umbrella Corporation, creator of the most terrifying disease in human history, was driven out of business by the United States government.  However, while on a mission to rescue the president's daughter, he discovers that the worst is yet to come...

Things might not be looking up for poor Leon, but for fans of the Resident Evil series, they've never been better.  Even those who never appreciated Capcom's survival horror games will be astonished by how much has been changed- and improved- in this one.

Even the zombies aren't really zombies anymore... this time, you'll deal with faster, smarter enemies hiding a horrible secret.  Are they devoted religious fanatics, blindly following the twisted orders of their mysterious robe-clad leader?  Have they all been driven insane by years of isolation in a remote village, detached from the rest of the world?  Or are they possessed by a far more terrible influence?

You'll need to stay alive long enough to find out, and the inhabitants of the unnamed European town you're visiting won't make that easy.  You'll be lucky to escape the clutches of just one of them, but like any good hunters, the villagers rarely work alone.  They prefer to attack en masse, stalking you with pitchforks and dynamite and chainsaws and anything else that looks like it will kill you.  There's nowhere to run, because wherever you hide, they will find you... and you don't want to know what they'll do next.

All you can do is fight back.  Thanks to a completely redesigned (and frankly, long overdue) control scheme, you can.  While the gameplay still feels slow in comparison to many of today's action titles, the control is vastly improved over previous Resident Evil games.  It's more natural and less rigid... when you push left or right on the controller, Leon moves in those directions, rather than turning in place.  Reversing direction is still a bit tricky, but you'll be thankful that you can back up without turning your back on the crowds of marauding townsfolk.

There's also a new perspective that bridges the gap between a first-person and third-person viewpoint.  The camera is set two steps behind Leon, giving the player both enhanced peripheral vision and greatly improved accuracy while aiming.  This accuracy serves an important purpose... now, you can line up shots from great distances and target specific areas on your foes.  Fire into a neo-zombie's face and their head snaps back from the impact of the bullet as they stumble backward, shrieking in pain.  Reactions like these make the game feel more alive, even if your targets, well, aren't.

The fantastic graphics add even more life to the experience.  The cut scenes which advance the plot are especially gorgeous... the lips, eyes, and mouth of each character move in perfect harmony as they speak.  When the leader of the village gloats about his sinister plans, a chill will run up and down your spine as his lips curl into a devilish grin.  You can see the hatred in the eyes of his manservant when the towering beast picks you up by the throat and crushes your windpipe with his massive hands.  These facial expressions both convey and evoke the kind of powerful emotions you rarely experience in a video game.

The visuals while you're actually playing the game aren't quite as amazing, but they're still wonderfully expressive.  If the screaming, bloodthirsty villagers don't make you feel unwelcome, the village itself almost certainly will.  The blood-stained beds, the ramshackle buildings, and the dead brown grass poking out of the parched earth make it clear that this will never be a vacation hot spot.  Once you peer inside a rusty barrel and find a vile stew of stagnant water and wriggling maggots, even you'll start to wish you'd booked a trip to Tahiti instead.  Hey, it's not like she's the president's ONLY daughter, right?

It's tough to find much to complain about in Resident Evil 4... Capcom's addressed nearly every shortcoming in the previous games.  The voice over acting is actually pretty solid this time, and the dialogue is more entertaining as well, even slipping in sly references to other creepy horror games like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night ("Hee hee hee... thank you!") and House of the Dead 2 ("Don't come!").  Ammunition is in much greater supply, and new weapons are easily obtained from a one-man army (surplus store) who shows up at the best possible times.  Capcom has even taken the pain out of saving, with plenty of save spots and absolutely no penalty for using them.

Resident Evil 4's only major fault is that its difficulty level is wildly uneven.  The high concentration of neo-zombies in some areas will leave you feeling helpless... while their complete absence in others will just leave you twiddling your thumbs.  Moreover, some locations let you camp in a safe spot and lure the enemies to their deaths, picking off each poor sap within firing distance as the villagers wait in line for a chance to strangle you.  Once you've blown away the long parade of targets, there's no challenge left until you've entered the next location.  There are just enough enemies to go around in Resident Evil 4... it's a shame that Capcom didn't distribute them more evenly.

So there's a little room for improvement here, but not much.  Resident Evil 4 offers all the tension and heart-stopping fright of the first games, without all the annoyances.  It'll convince players who've always hated the series to happily give it a second chance... and make Resident Evil fans wonder why they've been putting up with the game's flaws for almost nine years.
Mastiff, Taito

In the early 1990's, Taito faced the challenge of updating its long-running Space Invaders series for a new generation of gamers.  The company had released titles like Space Invaders '91 and Majestic Twelve, which brought sophisticated gameplay elements like bosses and power-ups to the world of Space Invaders, and further enhanced the experience with outstanding audiovisuals.  Although neither of these games caught the attention of players the way that Capcom's hugely successful Street Fighter II had, they nevertheless served the intended purpose of evolving the Space Invaders series, once again making it a relevant and valuable property.

A decade later, Taito once again tailored Space Invaders to fit the demands of a rapidly evolving industry.  Space Raiders is the company's attempt to introduce the series to a younger, more demanding audience... an audience that grew up with more cinematic games like Resident Evil and Tomb Raider.  Space Raiders follows in the footsteps of these influential releases with a movie-quality soundtrack, more realistic polygonal characters, and cut scenes which seperate each level from the next.  However, the difference between Space Raiders and its 16-bit counterparts from the 1990's is that its new features do absolutely nothing to improve Space Invaders as a game.

Come to think of it, Space Raiders isn't all that appealing as a movie, either.  Although the introductory sequence (featuring a horde of alien monsters scurrying through the city streets, crushing everything in their path and impaling humans with their sharpened legs) is pretty exciting, the cut scenes between levels will just leave you groaning in disbelief rather than screaming in fear.  If the stale voice acting doesn't leave you rolling your eyes, the unremarkable dialogue and absolutely idiotic plot twists almost certainly will.  Near the end of the game, the heroes hijack an F-16 fighter and take it straight to the invaders' mothership for the final conflict.  Never mind that the jet is in perfect condition when they find it despite the alien attack that left the rest of the planet in ruins.  Never mind that this random assortment of survivors (including a police officer, a news camera operator, and a street punk) shouldn't have the slightest clue how to pilot an advanced military aircraft.  Never mind that they dock with the mothership to fight the creatures inside it, rather than unleashing a dozen missiles on the flying saucer to ensure its complete destruction.  I won't even mention Space Raiders' stunning(ly stupid) climax or its infuriating ending, although when you see them, you'll cut the writers of Independence Day a little more slack for letting Jeff Goldblum use a Macintosh to hack an alien computer network.

The storyline could be easily ignored if the meat of the game were satisfying.  Sadly, it's less akin to meat than the rubbery gristle you'd accidentally bite into before throwing it to your dog... and not even your favorite one.  Space Raiders is a stripped down shooter, offering few improvements over the original Space Invaders and lacking any redeeming values when compared to triumphs of the genre like Radiant Silvergun or Dodonpachi.  Like in the original, you travel along the bottom of the screen, picking off invaders as they steadily close in on you.  However, unlike Space Invaders, whose massive armies of soldiers left you feeling helpless and overwhelmed, there's little challenge or urgency to be found in Space Raiders.  Not only are the aliens in limited supply and in poorly organized formations, but the game hands you so many advantages that it's practically impossible to lose against them.  Did you just die?  Aww... have a continue!  In fact, have them all!  Too many enemies on the screen?  Here, throw this grenade at them... they'll all die in a spectacular explosion!  If even THAT'S not enough, use this overpowered laser beam to melt them into puddles of disgusting goo!  You can even use this against the bosses if you want... hey, we won't stop you!

Space Raiders won't impress you much with its graphics or sound, either.  The bass-heavy explosions are laid on a little too thick... instead of adding impact to the deaths of especially powerful enemies, they shake your windows, walls, and doors every time you blink.  The cinematic soundtrack supplied by the legendary musicians at Zuntata is better, but not by much.  If you've ever watched a big-budget movie, you've heard it all before.  Speaking of things in Space Raiders that are suspiciously familiar, the artwork shamelessly copies the dark, dreary atmosphere in Capcom's Resident Evil games, with shambling zombies, grimey city streets, and heroes who somehow manage to stay picture perfect throughout the onscreen chaos.  The unpolished graphics, with their noticable polygonal edges and blurry textures, would have been acceptable in the days of Code: Veronica, but after the release of the visually astounding Resident Evil 4, Space Raiders is left looking like a second-rate clone of a game with infinitely more depth and inspiration.

Unlike the Space Invaders sequels of the past, Space Raiders doesn't succeed as a next-generation gaming experience or as a worthy successor to the arcade classic.  Not to fear, though... you can always squeeze every last drop of power out of your GameCube with Resident Evil 4, then satisfy those xenocidal cravings with the upcoming Space Invaders collection on the PSP.  Heck, even Space Invaders on the Game Boy Advance will do the job in a pinch.  Whatever you do, don't let the space in your GameCube collection be invaded by Space Raiders!

Activision, Luxoflux, Exakt

When reviewers talk about this game, the first thing that comes out of their mouths is "Grand Theft Auto clone".  Yeah, just like that!  See what I mean?   However, I don't think the comparisons are fair, or even accurate.  The truth is that the two games couldn't be more different.  In Grand Theft Auto, you play a sleazy thug who runs over random citizens with the car he just stole from a little old lady, while gunning down Mafia-assigned targets.  However, in True Crime, you play a cocky cop who... uh... runs over random citizens with the car he just "commandeered" from a little old lady, while gunning down targets assigned by the police department.  So, uh, there.

All right, all right... I'll admit the two games have more than a few similarities.  However, since the comparisons to Grand Theft Auto have been done to death, I'm going to take this review in an entirely different direction... back to the past! 

Nearly fifteen years ago, Konami released a game for an earlier Nintendo system which, like True Crime, featured racing, shooting, and fighting, all in one package.  The Adventures of Bayou Billy was ambitious, but it just wasn't much fun to play due to the poor integration of the three different styles of gameplay.  The driving would come to a screeching halt to make way for the fist fights, and the brawls would end just as abruptly when it was time to draw your weapons and pick off enemies in the streets of New Orleans.

Luckily, True Crime takes a different approach.  Instead of pasting together three mediocre games, the designers took the shooting, fighting, and driving and blended them together, making each style of gameplay dependant on the others.  When a crime breaks out, you'll need to jump in your car, race to the scene before any cops or hostages are killed, then exit the vehicle and take on the suspect with your martial arts skills or, when things get serious, your pair of guns.

True Crime has one other advantage over The Adventures of Bayou Billy... better design.  While none of the games in Bayou Billy had much substance or variety, True Crime keeps you hooked with open-ended gameplay and a surprising level of complexity.  Targeting specific areas of your opponent (whether it be their legs or the wheels on their getaway car) results in easier arrests, and the fighting is more strategic and rewarding than in a certain Rockstar series.  If all this still isn't enough to keep you happy, a quick stop at a nearby training facility is all it takes to learn new abilities and further broaden your horizons.

Heck, the game is even fun to watch, thanks to a great storyline.  True Crime is inspired by the campy cop films we all remember from the 80's and 90's, but it's so over the top that it could nearly pass for a parody.  You'll need no introductions to characters like the Big Black Police Chief™ and the Stuck-Up Female Partner™'ve met them all before.  You're going to love getting acquainted with Nick Kang, though... this offspring of a surly cop and his mysterious Chinese lover is armed with a wit as quick and deadly as his fists.  You'll bust a gut laughing when he chases after a perp, shouting "Run, Forrest, Run!", or when he optimistically refers to the handcuffs he's putting on a suspect as "restraining jewelry".

Could True Crime get any better?  Well, yes, actually it could.  The three way gameplay proves to be a little too complex for its own good... pressing certain buttons activates different modes (shooting, walking, and fighting), and it can be hard to break Nick out of them when necessary.  For example, firing your gun in the air could convince a suspect to give up right away... but they may also make a break for it, forcing you to run after them while still stuck in shooting mode (and remember, blowing away unarmed foes is a big no-no, even if Nick Kang is just one gun conversation away from being the 21st century's answer to Sledge Hammer).  Speaking of shooting, you can also slow down time to target a foe's "neutralizing points", but these areas are so difficult to pinpoint even with the gameplay at a crawl that it's usually not worth the trouble.

Also, can I complain about the cameo appearance by Snoop Doggy Dogg?  Well, I will anyway.  I'm getting sick of seeing this living stereotype everywhere, and I sure as hell don't want him in any video games.  He may have won an award for it, but the option to play as the Shizz-head is hardly what I'd call a bonus.

Even with its complicated control and idiotic guest stars, True Crime offers a lot of bang, punch, and burned rubber for the buck.  I wouldn't go so far as to call it a Grand Theft Auto killer, but True Crime's successful merger of three different game genres is more than enough to finally bring Bayou Billy to justice.


tech specs


Gekko PowerPC






discs, max 1.5GB


16-bit ADPCM


162MHz Flipper


720x480 (480p)






20 mill/second

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