Nintendo's super furry animals

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The Independent Online

Pokémon Stadium

N64 *** The game Pokemaniacs have been saving up for has finally arrived. And I feel sorry for parents, as they're going to find it difficult to tear their kids - be they grown up or trading cards in the playground - away from this stadium.

The premise of the game is that the Pokémon, which were little more than two dimensional sepia blobs in in the original Gameboy title, now feature in glorious 3D Technicolor, battling in their very own pokémon stadium.

Although the game is impressive looking - the graphics are of typical Nintendo quality - it has little to offer the gameplayer yet to be introduced to the joys of Pokémon. For the uninitiated, there is a section where you can escape the battling and instead play a selection of lunatic mini-games with up to four players.

Although it doesn't have the adventure feel to it which was very much part of the attraction of the Gameboy version and although it is unlikely to draw in those strangers to the charms of Pokémon, I've no doubt it will provide the Pokémon fan - and there are millions of 'em - with hours of distraction.

(Nintendo, £49.99)


Dragon Warrior Monsters

Gameboy **** Successfully jumping on the Pokémon bandwagon is this cheeky little number which follows closely in Pokémon's little footsteps. You are Terry and your sister has been captured by evil monster Warabo. You must venture into his monster-packed realm to rescue her - to do this, you must become the most powerful Monster Master in the kingdom. There is a clearly defined structure with various realms to explore, challenges and rewards.

To complete your task you have to find and train monsters - sounds familiar - but a couple of key differences do make this its own game. In a slightly sinister genetic manipulation twist, you can actually get monsters of different sex together to create a monster-baby which combines the best features of both parents.

This means that you're unlikely to experience all possible permutations of monster (over 46,000 combinations, apparently). Also, as you travel through your realm, terrain is randomised so you will never find something in the same place twice. Provided this is your type of game, this should make for almost infinite replay potential.

(Eidos, £24.99)


Soul Reaver: Legacy of Kain

Dreamcast **** My heart sank when I started this up: yet another monster-filled post-Apocalypse piece of repetitive junk with a James Earl Jones voice-over.

But I couldn't have been more wrong. Yes, you're an angel of death who can jump between worlds who has to slay baddies and consume their souls in order to survive - but the stunning graphics and smooth gameplay combined with some impressive set-pieces put this one on a par with Tomb Raider at its scariest best.

You will come across some fiendish baddies as you travel through these gothic worlds, which entails a good deal of hand-to-hand combat and killing. The killing in particular requires something of a grizzly imagination - you can impale a vampire on a stake, sizzle it in the sunlight or dissolve it in water: the choice is yours.

Soul Reaver combines some complicated puzzle-solving and exploration with some nifty fighting and a compelling - if typically ridiculous - story. From its fabulous graphics to its effortless playability, it is difficult to find a flaw.

(Eidos, £39.99)


Resident Evil II

Dreamcast *** Another Resident Evil lands on the shelf. This time for the Dreamcast. It's tempting to wonder why this special version of Resident Evil 2 has been released just before the release of the next in the sequence of zombie shoot-em-ups: Resident Evil: Code Veronica.

Is this a case of producing the game the way it was originally intended without the technical restrictions of a less powerful console, an attempt to cash in on the extremely popular series, or just a philanthropic gesture for Dreamcast owners who have yet to play it?

For whatever reasons it has been published, if you own Resident Evil 2 on a different console it's fairly pointless to buy it again.

Precious little of the original has been changed: you're still a cop trying to escape from a zombie-infested town by solving puzzles, exploring, and attempting to shoot dead the undead.

Gruesome sound effects, death sequences and eerie shock tactics, however, do serve to make Resident Evil 2 another atmospheric jaunt.

So if you've never seen it, it is well worth a look.

(Virgin Interactive, £39.99)