In the end, the graphics and sound may be lacking, but Smackdown! shows up where it counts the most, in the amount of features and the rock-solid gameplay. It's not without a bit of irony that at a time when wrestling game developers are trying to complicate a player's actions in a misguided attempt to create some sort of wrestling simulation, Smackdown! manages to do just that with a far simpler style.
For the most part, Chi nailed the same points I wanted to focus on. However, we differed on a few aspects of what makes Tokyo Xtreme Racer good or bad. We certainly agreed on how good a job Genki did modeling the cars in the game. Right from the start, the detail and graphical effects used really caught our eye and indeed are a sign of what awaits users down the road (no pun intended).
So in Smackdown!, the ability to grow my character and further adjust his arsenal of moves with choices that only become available after I've reached certain levels of ability really caught my attention—hook, line and sinker. I simply couldn't stop playing there after, and Smackdown! became just plain smack for me.
Tokyo Xtreme Racer is all about modern day drag racing through what appears to be a realistic 3D recreation of Tokyos highway. Players start the game off by purchasing a car and then freely cruising about the highway.
Sadly, what was so brilliantly executed on the Game Boy, was not as impressively treated here in the Nintendo 64 creation, Pokémon Stadium. Rather than trying to recreate that childhood past-time in another shape or form appropriate for the now-fledgling Nintendo 64 system, Stadium is nothing more then a companion piece for Pokémon trainers who already own the Game Boy version.
As I said before Stadium is not the finest example of a stand-alone game, but in all fairness, it was never to meant to be. It was to be used with Nintendo's very innovative Transfer Pak, and when linked with a Pokémon game, it offered new options and modes that enhanced the original games experience. With the exception of a true Pokémon sequel, I doubt fans really could ask for more.
The thing most noteworthy to me about Soul Fighter is that it serves as a reminder of how far the industry has gone. Years ago, no one would have cared if a game was released without a two-player mode because that was the norm then. But nowadays, if an action game doesn't have a two-player mode, a red flag goes up and the game will be judged harshly.
The current state of the industry still has game developers and publishers more concerned with testing gamers reflexes with action-oriented fare than they are with offering more cerebral experiences. Games like Final Fantasy VII helped change some of those perceptions by bringing the console RPG into the mainstream. Unfortunately, I cant say the same about Vandal Hearts II doing the same for more strategy-oriented games.
The lack of a 2-player mode in Soul Fighter didn't annoy me as much as it did Dale. I was actually looking forward to playing an old-school, side-scrolling fighting game since there hasn't really been a good one since Super Double Dragon on the SNES.
Vandal Hearts II is slapped with a mature rating and its not hard to see why after being exposed to a few minutes of the story. Vandal Hearts II's tale is focused on the lives of a group of characters and deals with all the harsh realities of war. All the commonly associated war horrors, in the form of executions, torture, rape, and pillaging, is all openly conveyed (though not vividly depicted) throughout the games story sequences (that take place in-between battles).