The latest videogames
Like most forms of entertainment, video games require a willing suspension of disbelief and a firm sense of place — whether that place is a mythical kingdom, a distant planet, or Depression-era New York. As these three titles show, creating a coherent, engaging world is no less difficult for video-game programmers than it is for authors or movie directors.
Wanderers from the Ys (For Super Nintendo Entretainment System)
Ys (that’s pronounced ”ease,” not ”wise”) is one of those classic role-playing games adults can have a hard time getting used to: the kind where you’re hailed as a savior by beleaguered townspeople, given a sword and various magical powers, and charged with restoring peace to the land of Fill-in-the-Blank, at which point you venture forth bravely and get slaughtered by the first insignificant bug that happens to cross your path. Once you learn how to fight back, though, Ys is an interesting enough adventure, until it becomes somewhat tedious: Since you have to follow a prearranged story line, there’s little room for surprise or experimentation, and after a while the battles (even against more evolved creatures than bugs) start to seem awfully repetitive. C+
Metroid II: Return of the Samus (Nintendo Game Boy)
Like another brilliant sequel, Aliens-which widened and deepened the terror of the original movie by setting the unholy creatures loose on an entire colony-Metroid II improves upon the first Metroid by enlarging the terrain (a battery backup allows you to save your progress along the way) and giving its eponymous monsters the ability to mutate, complicating your hero’s search-and-destroy mission. With its endlessly descending caverns and steep cliffs, its mazelike buildings and bizarre alien artifacts, Metroid II gives you the feeling of being trapped in someone else’s nightmare — a quality shared by the best science fiction, be it in the form of books, movies, or video games. A+
El Viento (For Sega Genesis)
In 1928 New York City, mobster Vincente DeMarco and his underworld cronies draw up blueprints for the Empire State Building, which they plan to use as a shrine to the evil wind god Hastur. The only person who can stop them is Annet, a 17-year-old Peruvian girl with a punk hairdo and superhero powers. If El Viento’s jump- and-shoot game play were half as inventive as its made-in-Japan plot, it might be worth 70 bucks. As it is, though, only the game’s amusing historical anachronisms — like denim-clad blond bikers wielding scimitars — save it from rating as a total failure. D-