Where I Read – Electronic Gaming Monthly #55
So, the EGM recaps roll on, with another 2 issue gap, taking us from #53 to #55, for July of 1994. Our cover game for this issue is NBA Jam, Midway’s next big gaming franchise (though one that doesn’t last as long as the Mortal Kombat franchise. Anyway, this issue is considerably shorter than #53, running in at 231 pages – which is still a lot, but nowhere near 400 pages.
Insert Coin – Editorial: Much as Tipper Gore’s complaints about violent and sexual content in music lead senate hearings in the 70s and 80s, we now have our first set of Senate Hearings about violent and sexual content in video games. This will not be the last – we get another set of hearings after Columbine, and a third set of hearings after Hot Coffee. That’s correct – Video Games got more Senate hearings (that could have lead to federal laws censoring them) than Comic Books and Music combined, though they need 3 more series of hearings, though they need one more set of hearings to beat the movie industry. So, it’s time for Publisher Steve Harris (go Steve) to weigh on this whole mess. I agree with Steve Harris’ sentiments completely – and they’ve been expressed and re-stated by many game journalists since then, from EGM to GameSpot to GamePolitics. I’m going to put up a scan of Steve’s editorial and I encourage you to read it. I haven’t gotten to 1994 in GamePro yet, so I don’t know if GamePro takes a side on this or if Nintendo Power takes a side on this – I doubt it, as Howard Lincoln was doing his damnedest to force a victory in the Console War by kicking Sega under the bus. Specifically, he was claiming that all the violent content that people were objecting to was on the competition’s systems, notably Sega’s, whereas since Nintendo was already censoring the games that came out in the US for their systems, they basically were also already complying with the panel’s requests.
I wish I had the time and resources to give these hearings all the time that they merit, to research the history of these hearings, and maybe even put a book togeather on the topic – because there’s enough material there, and because it’s a story that has shaped the evolution of the video game industry. If Nintendo had won, it’s quite possible that the video games would have run into the same problems that the comic book industry had run into after the hearings over “Seduction of the Innocent” by Dr. Fredrick Wertham. Console video games would have been stuck in a kiddy, campy mode for the rest of the 90s, and would probably still be stuck there, though it might start to take it’s first steps towards having mature games now. We probably would have never seen Silent Hill, or Metal Gear Solid, or the Resident Evil games. Guilty Gear might have still come out, but not the Persona games or any of the Shin Megami Tensei spin-offs, and Nintendo would have reigned supreme, and might even have re-gained the de facto monopoly it held during the late 80s.
Letters: Our letter of the month has to do with the differences between the Japanese versions of systems and the US versions of system. They don’t go too much into answering the questions (which makes sense, because they’ve been asked often in the past), but we do get one new tidbit – the 3D0 is already in it’s death throes, even after only having been out for a few months, which is rather disappointing. We also get letters about the differences between the pre-release versions of game and the final release versions (like the pre-release build of the RPG Paladin’s Quest not having an option to save your game, while the release version having the save game option in it). We also get a letter from a Japanese reader with a few questions – like why Mortal Kombat isn’t getting a home release in Japan, why the US is getting Ranma 1/2 games but not Dragonball Z games, etc.
Review Crew: Our crew is still Ed Semrad, Danyon Carpenter, Al Manuel, and Sushi-X.
- NBA Jam (Acclaim, SNES): Acclaim’s arcade-style basketball game is out. Everybody gives the game 9s, finding the game has excellent gameplay, and particularly shines with 4-player multi-player. Having played the game myself, this is probably the killer-app for the multi-tap. Overall: 36/40 and it recieves the Editor’s Choice Platinum Award.
- Bugs Bunny’s Rabbit Rampage (Sunsoft, SNES): Comedy action-platformer which adapts specific Bugs Bunny cartoons, rather than doing a new story with the Warner Bros’ characters. Al gives the game a 5 due to taking some cheap hits, and finding some of Bugs attacks useless (he specifically mentions the high kick). Danyon and Sushi give the game 7s, finding the same gameplay problems that Al had, but they consider the graphics and levels of the game very reminicant of the cartoons. Ed gives the game the an 8, also finding the game play frustrating until you get the hang of it. As much as I thought Ed tends to lean on the high side in his reviews (though not always), Al appears to be leaning towards the low side. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing – being critical is an important part of being a critic, but it is possible to be over-harsh. Overall: 27/40.
- Joe & Mac II (Data East, SNES): Another caveman platformer. I’m sorry, but caveman platformers don’t particularly appeal to me. The game gets 8s from Sushi, Al & Danyon, who like the improved animations, the improved graphics, and the semi-role-playing elements. Ed gives the game a 9, for similar reasons, though he also mentioned how much he liked the music. Overall: 33/40 and it recieves the Editor’s Choice Gold Award.
- Wolfenstein 3-D (Imagineer, SNES): The first big name First Person Shooter (but not the actual FPS – Corporation got that one) is coming to home consoles – except the Nazis aren’t Nazis (and they changed Hitler to a generic guy), there aren’t any dogs, and the blood is gone. The general consensus is that it’s a good port, and they like it, even though it’s missing everything that made it special, aside from maybe the first person action. Though Al finds the first persion gameplay suffers a bit on the SNES controller, and gives it a 6, while Ed and Sushi give the game 7s, and Danyon gave it an 8, finding the changes not a big deal. I, on the other hand, find removing all the Nazis (though not necessarily the blood), including Mecha-Hitler is is a big deal. It’s like taking the Nazis out of Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones & The Last Crusade, and I’d reccomend skipping over this if you find it at Goodwill, Value Village (or a similar store) or at a garage sale. There are much better ports on Xbox Live Arcade and Playstation Network. Overall: 28/40.
- Jim Power (Electro Brain, SNES): The game is a shooter-platformer ala Contra, which is apparently going for a 3d effect of some sort using a combinaton of 3D glasses and parallax scrolling. The game gets 5s from Al & Sushi, as the psudo-3D effect basically gives them eye-strain, and there are boatloads of cheap hits. Ed and Danyon give the game 7s, finding the parallax scrolling (which is used for the psudo 3D effect – consisting of 3 moving layers – the character layer, and 2 background layers, and one stationary layer at the far background) a nuisance, and disliking the one-hit kills. Overall: 24/40.
- Castlevania: Bloodlines (Konami, Genesis): Finally the Genesis gets their share of the Castlevania action, with two different characters to choose from (which is less than in Castlevania III, but still isn’t bad. Danyon, Al, and Sushi giave the game 8s, considering it on par with the best of the Castlevania games, plus the blood that was excised taken out of the Japanese versions of the games for the US release has been restored. Yay! Ed gives the game a 9, saying that while the game is detached from the Castlevania theme (?), and the bosses laughable (?), he still loves the game. I wonder what Ed thinks of the later Castlevania games from Symphony of the Night on? Overall: 33/40, and it recieves the Editor’s Choice Award Gold.
- Dashin Desparados (Data East, Genesis): This is a similtanious western shooter/platformer race game thing. The game gets 6s from Al and Sushi, who can’t quite get their fingers on what the game is about, but they enjoy it anyway. Ed and Danyon give the game 7s, with the game being enjoyable with 2 players, but otherwise he can’t see going back to play the game again. Overall: 26/40.
- Jammin (Virgin, Genesis): One-on-One basketball game with digitized characters. Sushi & Al give the game 5s, finding the graphics and sound poor and the controls horrible. Ed and Danyon give the game 6s, with similar complaints, although they don’t find the gameplay as bad. Overall: 21/40.
- Ground Zero: Texas (Sega, Sega CD): Mad Dog McCree-style shooter. Danyon and Al give the game 7s and Ed & Sushi give the game 8s, finding the story and gameplay good, though the acting is corney. Overall: 30/40.
- Night Trap (Virgin, 3DO): The not-so-good interactive movie video game that lead to the series of congressional hearings is coming to the Genesis. The game gets 7s from Danyon, Al, and Sushi, who find this style of game (this game in particular) is getting old, though they liked this one anyway. Ed gives the game an 8, enjoying it but finding it boring after continual play. Overall: 29/40.
- D-Generation (Amiga CD, Mindscape): Well, the Amiga CD is actually getting a game, one with a semi-cyberpunk theme. Ed, Al, and Sushi give the game 7s, finding the controls awkward but otherwise finding the gameplay and look enjoyable. Danyon gives the game an 8 for basically the same reasons. Overall: 29/40.
- Cybermorph (Atari, Jaguar): Semi-3d shooter (like Starfox). The game gets a 4 from Al, who finds the AI voice annoying, the controllable difficult, and the music notable (in a bad way) for it’s absense and the graphics mediochre. Danyon and Sushi give the game 5s, liking the game’s graphics (or at least finding them tolerable in Sushi’s case), but otherwise they have the same complaints that Al had. Ed thought the concept was decent, and that more could come out of this in the future, but this game doesn’t have the potential to pull this off. Overall: 20/40.
- Terraforming (TTI, Duo): Shump, and (judging by the scores) not a good one. The game gets 4s across the board, finding the game dull, boring, and generic – missing the interesting special weapons of, say, Lords of Thunder and Gates of Thunder. Overall: 16/40.
- Cliffhanger (Sony Imagesoft, NES): It’s a licenced game based on the Stallone movie. It also has one thing in common with the last game – it’s crap! The game gets 3s across the board, being bad in every possible respect. Overall: 12/40.
- Kirby’s Pinball Land (Nintendo, Game Boy): Nintendo has found a character they own that they can cash in on the pinball craze with. The game gets 7s from Danyon, Al, and Sushi who consider it a good overall pinball game, aside from the blurring problem that Game Boy generally has problems with. Ed gives the game an 8 for pretty much the same thing, though Ed makes note of the ability to recover just about all your lost balls at least once. Overall: 29/40.
- NBA Jam (Arena, Game Gear): Al and Sushi give the game 6s, finding it a decent port, though it’s hurt by the removal of some of the jams, and the commentary. Danyon gives the game a 7 and Ed gives it an 7, saying they enjoys playing the game, but Danyon considers the sound in the game to be painful, and Ed often has problem losing track of the ball when someone isn’t carrying it. Overall: 27/40.
Gaming Gossip: Quartmann steps up to the bat again, and since the last time he came up to bat with us, the game industry has found itself testfying before the Senate. Let’s see if this effects his rumors?
- Rumor has it that Capcom, Namco, Konami will have launch titles for the Playstation, including a version of Street Fighter II at launch. Well, Konami and Namco have games at launch (Ridge Racer from Namco and Konami putting out Twinbee game, and Capcom does have a Street Fighter game… but it’s Street Fighter: The Movie – though Street Fighter Alpha comes out for the PS1 in December of 1995, which, considering the PS1 came out in December of 1994, does not in the least make it a launch title. However, two-out-of-three ain’t bad, so Hit!.
- Nintendo has begun working on Super Mario 5, which will be a pack in for the “Project Reality” console (aka The N64). Miss! The N64 did not have a pack-in game. However, it Super Mario 64 was a launch title for the system.
- The 3DO is dying. Execs and stockholders are panicing at the low sales, and all is doom and gloom. Well… the system doesn’t officially die until 1996 – though whether it’s just treading water or whether it’s on life support is debatable at this point, as the system’s big games haven’t come out yet, and the system itself hasn’t been out for very long by the time this issue came out. I’m going to call the rumors of it’s impending demise a Miss!, though I’m not doubting the wringing of hands by 3DO’s board of directors. I just don’t think they’re eying the windows or cursing their ground floor office yet.
- Howard Lincoln is trying very hard to throw Nintendo’s competition under the bus to save himself before Congress. Hit! Surprisingly, Lincoln manages to survive trying to screw over his entire industry and failing and kept his job at Nintendo until 1999 until he retired and took a spot in charge of the Mariners.
Batting Average: .500, being 2/4. Fear not Q-mann, I’ve seen worse.
Press Start: An all-in-one Genesis Sega-CD combo unit is coming out, and it’s tiny. JVC is bringing out the WonderMega to the US… without the S-Video connector, and the Sega Channel is now available through you’re cable companies. We also get previews of arcade sticks from MS Systems and MAS systems for the SNES, Genesis, and the Neo-Geo. Why does the Neo-Geo need an arcade stick? It comes with a fucking arcade stick – two of them! Unless you broke you existing arcade stick, or you need two more, you’re set!
Arcade Action: The arcade titles of note getting previews are Art of Fighting 2 & Raiden II.
International Outlook: The titles from Japan that I’m considering are worth mentioning starts off with Bare Knuckle 3 aka Streets of Rage 3, Final Fantasy VI, Fatal Fury 2 for the Game Boy, Sailor Moon R for the SNES (which is basically a brawler), V Gundam which is a mecha brawler based on the postively grim series (Tomino was still in his “kill-em-all” phase when this came out. The Turbo Duo is getting Ys IV: Dawn of Ys and a Urusei Yatsura visual novel. Bandai has SD Gundam GX a Super-Deformed all-series Gundam game, and GameArts has Lunar II: Eternal Blue, which has yet to get a release outside of a bad remake by Ubisoft for the GBA. We also get an in-depth preview of Dracula X, which didn’t get a release in the US until Dracula X Chronicles for the PSP came out a year or so ago (and I strongly reccomend picking up). We then get the cheat column, which I’m skipping and moving on to the next column.
Next Wave: Of the upcoming titles getting with a confirmed US release that I found interesting, we have, first off, Super Turrican II (which reminds me that I need to play the Turrican games). Next up is Voyeur, a game with content sufficiently risque, that the game has parental lockouts built into it. Why is it that Night Trap, which is tame by comparison, gets the congressional hearings, but this game (which, most likely is tamer than a Skinamax softcore flick) gets overlooked? Anyway, Takara is porting SNK’s Fatal Fury II to the SNES. Kemco has the mecha action game G2 for the SNES, which I’d never heard of before but looks interesting.
Special Feature Preview – Sonic The Hedgehog 3: Sonic 3 is coming out and we get some screen shots, as well as our first look at one of the series new characters, Knuckles the Echidna. We also get a look at Sonic’s 3 new shields (fire, lightning, and water). We also get pictures of some of the new stages, such as the Angel Island Zone, the Hydro City zone, the Marble Garden zone (which is similar to the second zone from Sonic 1 but without the water), the Carnival Night zone, the Ice Cap Zone (which is, I think, Sonic’s first ice level), and the Launch Base level, the final level of the game.
Special Feature Preview – Interplay’s Upcoming Titles: First game we’re getting a preview of is Night Mare a sort of fantasy version of Out Of This World. They also have a brief preview of Interplay’s Lord of the Rings game, which I tried to play and I got hopelessly lost in. We also get some of the stages of Clay Fighter II.
Special Feature Preview – Phillips CD-I: Phillips has put out a laserdisk/game system hybrid (making themselves the first to do so before the Playstation 2 came out and combined a DVD player and a home console). We get some images of the films coming out for Laserdisk, some of which I have on Blu-Ray (specifically Star Trek VI & The Hunt For Red October). The games we get include Space Ace, Mad Dog McCree (as is every other CD or Laserdisk system), Casear’s World of Boxing, and the semi-action game Kether (they don’t go into too much detail on how the game is played. There’s also Zelda’s Adventure, one of the Philips Zelda games, which Nintendo should have never permitted to have been made.
Special Feature Preview – Enix’s Upcoming Titles: First up is a preview of Enix’s new RPG Brain Lord, a sort of spinoff of the Zelda action-RPGs, in that you can’t level up your character through XP (though you can level up the sprites who assist him), but you can buy better weapons and armor (so you can still grind for those). They also have a King Arthur licenced game, apparently based on the cartoon show.
Special Feature Preview – Trimark Games’ Upcoming Titles: Trimark Pictures is now out of business now, but around this time they had a video game line. We get brief previews of their games Moto X, and Warlock, based on the movie of the same name.
In-Depth Game Coverage: We start things off with the SNES, and our cover story on NBA Jam for the SNES, which has the lineups for all the teams (including Clyde “The Glide” Drexler & Terry Porter with the Portland Trail Blazers). Next up is The Peace Keepers from Jaleco, in the Rival Turf series, which apparently has some problems with getting some really cheap hits – but that happens all the time with this type of game, unfortunately. Extreme Games (a ’90s publisher name if I ever heard one), has Choplifter 3, and we see all the possible weapons, and some notes on the first couple levels. Next is the fantasy RPG Spellcraft, which has you playing a wizard which must combine the Greek elements to create your spells to beat various bosses. Apparently the sound gets pretty repetitve, and the character designs aren’t very good. We continue to X-Calibur 2097 an futuristic hack & slash game which has some good control and animation, but it’s got Ninja Gaiden style knockback after a hit (which can lead to instagibs).
Rocko’s Modern Life is getting a comedy platformer, with some rather tough controls. We have more pictures of Joe & Mac II, and we get some coverage of NHL Stanley Cup from Nintendo, which uses Mode 7 graphics for the actual playing of the game, which looks like it can get a little awkward to get used to (and that is one of the problems they had with the game), and it bears mentioning that no modern hockey games use the camera angle that this game uses for standard gameplay. Electro Brain has a downhill skiing game in Winter Challenge.
Continuing to the Sega Genesis, we now get coverage of the Genesis version of NBA Jam. The Genesis is also getting Skitch, an in-line skating trick racing game, featuring hanging on to the rear-bumpers of cars to pick up speed (which I do not reccomend under any circumstances). The Genesis is getting another Turrican game in Mega Turrican, which we see some of the cutscenes from the game, as well as some notes with the first couple levels in the game. We have more images of Jim Powers, and some coverage of Pro Moves Soccer from ASCII, which has some problems (apparently), with characters being too small, and the commentary being too repeative. Speaking of repetitive, that’s one of the main complaints leveled against the next game, Wiz & Liz, a comedy fantasy platformer. We have more images of Jammin.
On the Sega CD, we’ve got a FMV shooter version of Jurassic Park, and I can’t tell what the “active” objects are and what the “inactive” objects are – this could be an exercise in pixel bitching. There’s also Chuck Rock II: Son of Chuck, which also (as, unfortunately, platformers are wont to deliver to you), hands out possibly a few too many cheap hits – though there’s really no such thing as a good cheap hit. Virgin has a Dune licenced adventure game/rpg (which I haven’t heard much about), and Psygnosis has a Space Harrier-style shooter titled Microcosm, which basically crosses Space Harrier with Innerspace, and has some problems with a bland color palatte.
On the 3DO, we’ve got Night Trap, which doesn’t have any of the rape scenes that Congress was talking about, or any of the women on meathooks that congress was talking about. It also doesn’t have any reason to play through the game again once you’d beaten it. We also have coverage of D/Generation for the the Amiga CD (which doesn’t last very long after this), Cybermorph for the Jaguar, Terraforming for the Duo. For the NES we have a preview of Alfred Chicken, a mascot platformer with a moderate-to-light challenge. Kirby’s Pinball Land gets some screen shots, as does NBA Jam for the Game Gear. We also have a look at Robocop vs. Terminator for the Game Gear – one of the Dark Horse licenced crossover books which didn’t get a boatload of movies adapted from it – which, considering the later installments of the Robocop series (and Terminator series) is probably for the best. The Lynx has Malibu Bikini Beach Volleyball and Lemmings.
Lifestyles: We have coverage of the Beavis & Butthead book – which I’ll be passing on because I knew enough people in middle school who were exactly like Beavis & Butthead and who were more annoying, that I’d rather not go out of my way to raise my blood pressure in that fashion. If I did want to spike my blood pressure, I’d watch streaming video of Bill O’Reilly and Glenn Beck. Yes. I went there. In comics, Jim Lee is starting the Wildstorm Comics, which will publish under Image Comics (though the article calls it an “imprint” – it’s a seperate company, just like Top Cow will be later), and will eventually get bought out by DC, which is why Gen13 gets to take part in The Search For Ray Palmer. Also, alas, the Alien vs. Predator movie got delayed, and will remain in development hell, until a later installment comes out and practically kills the franchise.