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GAMER'S CORNER

Dazzling Digitals on a 16-Bit Machine

Donkey Kong Country 3 and other titles show the old workhorse still has some life.

March 06, 1997|AARON CURTISS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Despite what video game pundits--including me--tell you, it's a little too early to toll the bell for 16-bit machines. True, the old digital workhorses are ailing, losing ground to their beefier 32- and 64-bit cousins.

But they are hardly going gently into that good night. With titles as slick as Donkey Kong Country 3, Virtua Fighter 2 and Vectorman 2, it seems 16-bit video game makers have decided it is truly better to burn out than to fade away.

Nintendo's latest resurrection of the Donkey Kong series is the best yet, starring Dixie Kong with a new baby buddy named Dinky Kong. Although Dinky seems kind of dopey, I'm sure he appeals to the kids whose tastes lean toward Muppet Babies and Animaniacs.

As a game, though, DKC 3: Dixie Kong's Double Trouble for Super Nintendo is as good as it gets on 16-bit rigs. It's even better than most of the stuff popping up on 32-bit machines. The folks at Rare outdid themselves on the graphics, which are the best on any 16-bit game. Period.

Play is pretty routine jump and bounce stuff, but a few new twists give DKC 3 just enough punch to keep players on their toes. For instance, some doors require tugging on a rope to open, giving players a limited amount of time to dash through.

As with the first two installments, DKC 3 is the sort of game that no serious library of cartridges should be without.

Likewise, Vectorman 2 for Sega Genesis is the kind of seminal work that defines an era. Play starts in a swamp crawling with nasties and just keeps getting better. As before, our hero utters the sort of victorious witticisms that keep players giggling even as they're getting whipped by giant mutant ticks.

Essentially a side-scroller like the original, Vectorman 2 delivers new levels of beauty and play. The environments look as if they've been swiped from an animator's easel, and enemies move with a ferocity that is downright unreal.

For Genesis owners, Vectorman 2 is the kind of side-scroller one saves for posterity.

Although not quite as poetic, Virtua Fighter 2 delivers a good time on Genesis. It's missing two characters and all the sweeping camera action of the 32-bit original, but the port of this classic nonetheless leaves most other 16-bit fighters bloody on the mat.

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