Where I Read – Electronic Gaming Monthly #57
Once again the EGM Recaps are going forward once more. The issue we’re covering today is issue #57, for April of 1994. Our cover story is (*ugh*), Beavis and Butthead. I grew up when that show was on the air, and I never found it funny. Anyway, it’s getting video games based on it, and if the history of comedy TV show to video game adaptations is any sign of the future, this is going to suck too. Anyway, this issue’s kind of long, at 212 pages, so we might as well get this over with.
Editorial: The price point of the N64 (still known as Project Reality) has been announced, and it’s going to cost $240. This leads to Ed’s editorial about how, basically, video game systems are expensive toys, and at this point in it’s history, I wouldn’t dispute that. I’d say the point where video game systems started to jump the gap from a “toy” to as much of a part of your home theater system as your stereo was, possibly, with the PS2, and it’s ability to play DVDs. Considering at the time the DVD format was pretty new, this helped get a lot of DVD players in people’s homes, in the same sort of way the PS3 helped get people Blu-Ray players.
Letters: First up is a complaint about the cost of games. Because of the new chips in, for example, the SNES’s Super FX carts, those carts tend to run in the $100+ range, which even now is considered to be a steep price to pay, unless you’re getting the kind of extras that you’d get in the Collector’s Edition of Batman: Arkham Asylum (steel baterang and all). Ultimately, the cost is due to the chips in the carts that allow for the enhanced graphical capabilities. Sega’s trying to avoid this with their 32X unit, but ultimatly it hastens the doom of the Genesis, by splitting the install base. As far as home consoles go, basically the release of the Playstation and other later disk systems, kind of puts an end to these sort of price spikes. On the one hand, while you can’t add new chips to CD-ROMs allowing for mid-lifespan graphical upgrades for your system, like the SNES did, the cost of manufacturing CD-ROM (and later, DVD-ROM) games will either, at worst stay the same, or at best will go down as a media format catches on and the cost of the actual media itself becomes less expensive. Thus, in the later portions of a console’s life, new games can cost a little less than they were when they were new. Now, does this mean that end of lifespan titles will look identical to launch titles? No. There will be graphical improvements, but they’ll be software related. Engine related, coming about as developers get more accustomed to the system. Just look at the graphics in Prince of Persia: Sands of Time for the PS2 (a mid-to-late release title) and for Gungrave (a launch title) – they’re radically different, with Gungrave having horrific pop-up issues.
Anyway, moving on to the other letters (wow, I spent a whole paragraph discussing one letter), the 3DO is getting a price drop, Mortal Kombat is getting a soundtrack CD, and that little jack on the bottom of your Justifier is for connecting a second gun for when you play Lethal Enforcers two-player. We also get a letter complaining about developers who are porting their games for other systems not adding features. Bwhuh? Entitled much. No, seriously – when a developer is porting a game for another system, ultimately, they’re stuck with some of the tools that the console manufacturer left them with. I’ll explain with my limited knowledge of programming (though it is there).
There are 2 levels you can, basically code for, the assembler level, and the operating system level. Technically, there’s a 3rd level, the “virtual machine” level, which is platform independant, but that’s not applicable for this discussion. Oh, and by the way, I’m basically making up some terms to make this discussion more accessible for those who aren’t familiar with computer science. If you refer to these as “levels” to someone who knows what he’s talking about in computer science, you just might get a funny look. Anyway, no matter what level you’re working on, when you’re moving from one platform to another, say, from two different chipsets (Apple’s old Motorola chipset to the IBM Compatible x86 chipset) or operating systems (Windows to Linux), you’re going to need to do some work to port the project over. Now, depending on the platform, sometimes the port is easier than others, like if you’re porting a project in C++ from Linux to MacOS. If you’ve got a C++ Compiler and all the appropriate packages and modules, you’re basically set to translate your program the OS can have it talking to the system’s hardware. You’ll still need to optimize it and do bug testing to make sure anything obnoxious hasn’t come up in the port, but otherwise that’s not a problem. Now, from the OS based console standpoint, if one console is harder to write for than another (like Sony’s consoles), there may be a little more work involved, but the general principal is the same. I’m heavily over-simplying this, but the point still stands. You don’t need to re-write your entire engine from scratch when you’re going from the PS3 to the X-Box 360, though you’ll need to make some modifications and re-compile it using the compiler that was provided for you by Sony when you got the Dev Kit.
However, there’s also the assembler level of programming. Basically, this is the level you’re working on when you’re working with a system that doesn’t have an operating system, like we’re used to. Instead, the system uses what’s called the BIOS, or Basic Input/Output System to make sure the system powers up everything properly and gets itself ready for a program, which, in this case, would be a game. So, how do you know if your console has an OS? Power it up without a disk in it. If you get something like the X-Box 360 Dashboard, or the PS3 Cross media bar, or even the game save management screens for the PS2, X-Box, or PS1, then you’ve got an OS. Basically, every disk based console from the PS1 on has an OS. It’s in firmware (unless the system has an hard drive) but it’s there. So, if the system doesn’t have an OS, you have to write more or less, directly for the processor. Often, this means you’ll have to write your own compiler to translate the game code you wrote into assembler language that the processor will understand, program the audio software to that the music will speak to the sound chip in the way it will understand, and so on. Now, again, if the manufacturer is nice, they’ll give you/loan you a compiler, but you still have a lot more work on your end to get everything translated over. Consequently, it’s more difficult to, say, add a feature in the process of porting the game over from one system to another. Again, there’s more to it ahan this, but I’ve spent more on this letter than in the first letter of the issue, so I’m going to move on. If you want to know more, I’d reccomend picking up some books on computer science and programming from your local bookstore, and maybe taking some computer science classes at a local community college.
Anyway, we get questions about some upcoming wrestling games, particularly FCI’s upcoming WCW game, which uses a similar camera perspective to Fire Pro Wrestling (instead of the WWF Royal Rumble/Saturday Night Slam Masters perspective).
Review Crew: About time. I think I’ve spent 2 pages on the letters column, which is more than I’ve spent on any previous letters column in this magazine. Anyway, as last week we were was filling a hole in the archive, a quick reminder on the review crew – EIC Ed Semrad, Senior Editor Danyon Carpenter, Editor Al Manual, and Mysterious Ninja Editor Of Mystery Sushi-X.
- Tempest 2000 (Atari, Jaguar): I think this is our first review for the Jaguar. This is basically an up-rezed version of Tempest with better graphics. However, Tempest is a good game, as Ed attests by giving it an 10. Danyon gives it a 9 as well, as he misses the “roller controller” that the Tempest arcade machines had. This is otherwise known as a “paddle” controller, and was knob you twisted to control the character on screen. It was called a paddle controller because it was first used for Pong, for controlling (wait for it) the location of your paddle. Sushi gave it an 8, also faulting the lack of a paddle controller. Al gives it an 7, as he liks the game, but he has a problem with some of the camera perspectives making control difficult. Overall: 34/40.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation (Spectrum Holobyte, SNES): Adventure Simulation game with the Enterprise-D crew (not an action game). Ed gives it a 9, finding it an excellent adaptation of Star Trek to home consoles. Sushi thinks it’s great for trekkers, with detailed missions and great sound and graphics, and gives it an 8. Danyon thinks the general gameplay is okay, but doesn’t like the away team portion of the game and gives it a 7. Al gives it a 6, as he found the away team missions slow and the controls slower. Overall: 30/40.
- King of Dragons (Capcom, SNES): Fantasy beat-em-up. Ed and Sushi give the game 8s, drawing some favorable comparisons with Dungeons & Dragons, with Sushi also applauding the multiplayer (though he’s disappointed by the lack of multi-tap support). Danyon and Al give it 7s, with Danyon finding it a cool game, but one that can get repetative easily, and is a little easy, while Al’s main complaint is the lack of multi-tap support. Overall: 30/40.
- Sub-Terrania (Sega, Genesis): Yeah, there are only 2 SNES games this month – but we’re getting into the summer of ’94, and with it the summer slump. This is a shooter that requires the player to compensate for gravity’s effects. Danyon gives it an 8, finding the gravity aspects of the game being annoying at first until he got used to it, but he otherwise likes the weapons, graphics, and sound, and he found the game sufficiently challenging. Al and Sushi give the game 7s both liking it, and not finding anything necessarily wrong with it, though Sushi thinks some people will have problems with the game’s deliberate pace. Ed gives it an 6, not finding anything wrong with it, but he mentions the difficulty a lot, so I’m going to suspect that is the primary factor on his score. Overall: 28/40.
- Pebble Beach Golf Links (Sega, Genesis): Golf game. For the record, I reserve the right to dope slap anyone who complains about golf games “why can’t you go outside and play golf?” It’s not just the golf mechanics, it’s also the golf course as well, and it’s considerably less expensive for me to buy a copy of Tiger Woods (or another golf game), than it is to pack up my clubs and book a flight to Los Angeles just to play 18 holes. Anyway, Ed and Danyon give the game 7s, with Ed finding the AI a little too good, while Danyon finds it a little too in-depth (which is reasonable – most players have difficulties deliberatly getting the ball to hook, instead of accidentially hooking it). Al and Sushi, however, don’t like golf, and their dislike of the real-world game colors they’re scores, with Al giving it a 6, and Sushi giving it a 5. Overall: 25/40.
- Dracula Unleashed (Sega, Sega CD): A video mystery adventure game with a Dracula theme. Ed and Danyon give the game 8s, with both men liking the story, music, and direction, though they disagree on the acting – Danyon thinks it’s okay, while Ed thinks it’s atrocious. Sushi thinks it’s probably the best FMV game so far and gives it a 7, for the suspensful video and audio, and he mentions that it actually scared him – which is impressive, as I’ve never been scared by a vampire movie (though I haven’t seen 60 Days of Night yet). Al, though, had some problems seeing characters through the grainy video, and gives the game a 6. Overall: 29/40.
- Art of Fighting 2 (SNK, Neo-Geo): The sequel to Neo-Geo’s first direct fighting game response to Street Fighter 2. Ed, Danyon, and Sushi give the game 8s, finding the control and graphics much improved over the first game in the series, though Ed and Sushi both have complaints about cheap AI. Al gives the game a 6, finding the cheap AI more of a problem. Overall: 30/40.
- Total Eclipse (Crystal Dynamics, 3DO): This is a behind the back shooter ala Starfox. Ed and Al give the game 7s, due to some problems with collsion detection (particularly with walls), and the controls being loose, though they like the graphics and sound. Danyon and Sushi give the game 6s, They had the same problems with controls and collision detection, though Danyon didn’t like the music as much. Overall: 26/40.
- Space Ace (Phillips, CD-I): Dragon’s Lair… IN SPACE! Ed gives the game a 9, saying he liked the original game in the arcades, but he found the ending to be more than a bit short. Danyon gives it an 8, finding the video quality to be very good, though he found that there wasn’t much replay value – once you’ve got the timing down, that’s it. Al and Sushi give the game 7s, having the same problems with replayability, though they both consider it an arcade perfect port. Overall: 31/40.
- Super Air Zonk (TTI, Duo): Action shump featuring Future Bonk. Danyon gives it a 6, liking the music and the comedy, but otherwise finding it a fairly generic shump. Al and Sushi give the game 5s, finding the gameplay generic, though the music was good, with Ed having the same complaint, giving the system a 4. Overall: 20/40.
- Scratch Golf (Vik Tokai, Game Gear): Ed gives the game an 8, finding it a fun golf game, though he finds the ball hard to hit (which I’d consider to be a significant problem, but that’s just me). Everyone else gives it 7s, even those who don’t like golf, like Al and Sushi. Overall: 29/40.
- Wario Land (Nintendo, Game Boy): 7s across the board, due to the available options to explore in the levels, and the general length of the game, plus graphics and sound even Sushi-X likes. Overall: 28/40.
- Super Off-Road (Telegames, Lynx): This one doesn’t do so well. Ed, Danyon, and Sushi give the game 4s, and Al gives it a 3 all for the same reasons, bad control, and worse graphics. Overall: 15/40.
Gaming Gossip: Alright, Quartermann’s got more gossip for us, so let’s see how good it tastes.
- The 3DO is going to get a significant markdown for it’s Japanese launch. I can’t find anything to confirm this, so I’m goign to give Q-Mann the benefit of the doubt and give it a Hit!
- Sonic 3 in Japan will get extra content that the US version didn’t get. Miss! The extra content he’s referring to is the Sonic & Knuckles content, which was originally meant to be actually on the cartridge, but was dropped for time reasons, and was included in the later add-on module.
- We won’t actually be getting Gouken/Sheng Long in Super Street Fighter II Turbo, but Goukui (aka Akuma), will be a hidden character. Hit!
So, how did Q-Mann do? That’s a 2/3, which isn’t bad at all.
Press Start: Well, we have more information on the Project Reality (N64). It’s going to be a cartridge system, though there will be an expansion bay on the bottom for a CD-ROM system (though, again, they scrap the concept of an CD-ROM attachment in favor of the N64DD which we never get in the US anyway). The reason? They don’t want to be limited to FMV games. Bwuh? That’s like saying, “I don’t want to shoot movies on digital cameras because that means I can only use CGI effects”. The Digital part has nothing to do with the types of effects you can use. Similarly, the medium (CD-ROM games) doesn’t limit the type of games you can make – in terms of meaning that you can only make FMV games. Phillips is putting out a virtual reality headset for the CD-I to support stereoscopic gaming. It’s 2009 now and the concept still hasn’t caught on.
They also have some information on the Saturn’s specs – it will have 2 32-bit Hitachi SH7604 processors (with a clock speed of 28.7 Mhz, so it’s still not even close to a lot of modern computers, and uses Synchronous DRAM, which basically means that it’s got DRAM (which doesn’t hold it’s charge when it loses a current, and only needs one transistor and capacitor per bit). There’s not much more that’s special other than that, since modern memory chips are technically DRAM. If I knew the type of RAM, I’d be able to tell you more (SIMM, DIMM, etc.) As it is, just about all RAM is DRAM, so aside from the synchronicity (cue The Police) part, it sounds like Marketing talking out their ass. Though, apparently it will run 4.5 MB of Ram – which is not enough to run Ubuntu. We also get a short preview of the Sega Channel. We also have a preview of the Mega Jet, which is basically a hand-held version of the Genesis that doesn’t have a screen, so you have to plug it in to a TV and a power outlet.
Arcade Action: We have a preview of Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo, which, in addition to introducing Goukui, and a few other new moves, also introduces the Super Meter. We’re also now at v3.1 of Mortal Kombat 2 in arcades. We’ve got a new character, Noob Saibot (Boon and Tobias spelled backwards), new fatalties, and Baraka’s stage has a pit finisher as well. Capcom also has a few new brawlers, an Alien Vs. Predator licenced one, and a Dungeons & Dragons licenced brawler. Now we have Capcom’s marketing guy talking out his ass too, saying that the Dungeons and Dragons game was the “first authorized role-playing video game ever.” If he was referring to a D&D Brawler, I’d cut him some slack, but he’s not. Thus, I’d just like to say that FCI, SSI, and Westwood would like to talk to them over this. Konami’s also got a sequel to Lethal Enforcers coming out in Lethal Enforcers II: Gunfighters, which, as the title suggests, is set in the old west.
International Outlook: Sonic’s getting a cart racing game on the Game Gear in Sonic Drift. Now we can reasonably say that the brand is getting wattered down now. Streets of Rage 3 (aka Bare Knuckle 3 is coming out as well). Jaleco has Pro Wrestling Revolution, which does cut-scenes for each move on a slice of the screen, while the standard animations take place in the lower half of the screen. That sounds… disorienting. Cutaways to the big moves like what’s done with the Smackdown games is one thing, but this is kind of different. Treaure’s got a new platformer in Dynamite Heady, which is pretty interesting, though I could never quite get the hang of the game. Data East has Fighter’s History, the fighting game that, in the arcade version, got them sued by Capcom (due to the similarities to Street Fighter 2), but they ultimately triumphed, opening the way to the many similar fighting games to follow (including the Art of Fighting series).
Sega has a home port of Outrun, titled Outrunners, though I suspect they’ll drop the “-ners” for the US release. The 3DO is getting an Ultraman fighting game (titled Ultraman Powered, plus a few shooters. Also, Human has put out Super Fire Pro Wrestling 3: Easy Type and Final Bout. Easy Type has everything unlocked but doesn’t have a CAW mode, while Final Bout has a CAW mode but you have to unlock wrestlers, and it’s generally more difficult. It’s also Suda51’s first game with Human Entertainment. Suda would later make Super Fire Pro Wrestling Special which infamously ends with your character killing himself after being spurned by the fictitious sister of real life pro wrestler Akira Maeda. We also have an in-depth preview of Dragon Ball Z Super Butoden 2.
Next Wave: Yeah, I skipped the cheats. No worries, again, Game FAQs is for that. Capcom has the King Arthur themed fighting game Knights of the Round. Natsume is also working on porting Pocky & Rocky 2 as well. Virgin is putting out a direct sequel to Out Of This World titled Heart of the Alien, which they’re releasing on the Sega CD. Naughty Dog has a fighting game in Way of the Warrior – I think this is their first apperance in gaming history. Activision has Battletech, which actually looks more like the Mechwarrior series. EA is also putting out Theme Park.
Viacom Games Feature Preview: We get preview coverage of the Rocko’s Modern Life game and the Beavis & Butthead games. We also get a preview of Bubsy 2, and a Speed Racer action platformer/racing game.
Baseball Games Feature Preview: Next up is coverage of various upcoming baseball games. We get screen shots of World Series Baseball from Sega, MLBPA Baseball from EA, and Super Bases Loaded II from Jaleco. Accolade has also has ported Hardball III for the SNES (for the record, the last game in the series was Hardball V in 1996. Accolade themselves have been bought out by Atari, and since 2K has gotten the exclusive 3rd party console development rights (meaning that only Microsoft, Sony, and Take 2 can develop baseball games – with Microsoft and Take 2 developing for their own systems), that means that Atari can’t do anything with the Hardball name until Take 2’s exclusive contract expires. That is unless Atari takes the Total Extreme Wrestling route, and puts out a very customizable baseball game with almost every aspect of the game being editable – and with the ability to create and trade roster files. Under those circumstances, Atari could revive the Hardball name without a MLBPA licence, and the fans could easily do the work themselves. You’d have to do it on PCs though. It wouldn’t work as well on consoles. Speaking of Sony, Sony Imagesoft has ESPN Baseball Tonight, which would change into their MLB The Show series. Oh, and as a brief reminder – if it’s by Sega Sports, it becomes 2K games later. Tengen also has RBI Baseball ’94, the last game of the series.
Jaguar CD Preview: Speaking of Atari, we have a preview of the upcoming Jaguar CD unit. I haven’t actually seen any of the CD games for this system before, so I’m interested in seeing what they look like. Apparently, the Jaguar CD units had a high failure rate, which prevented the AVGN from playing any of them for the Atari Jaguar episodes. Of note is Kasumi Ninja from Rebellion.
SNES Coverage: First up is the puzzle-adventure game Equinox, a sequel to Solstice. The game has some collision detectio problems with some of the hazards at this point in the build. There’s also the ninja themed brawler The Ninja Warriors. We also get additional screen shots of brawler King of Dragons (see the Review Crew). We have coverage of the new Jetsons game, The Jetsons: Invasion of the Planet Pirates, a platformer featuring George Jetson, which… looks like a re-skinned version of another platformer. We also get coverage of Saturday Night Slam Masters, which I’ve never played before. Lethal Enforcers is coming out for the SNES now. Koei has put out the Revolutionary War strategy game Liberty or Death. The concept is different while continuing with Koei’s strategy game theme (which has, unfortunately, stopped), though the graphics are pretty 8-bit. Also, Mega Man Soccer has also come out for the SNES, and they like it thus far.
Genesis & CD Coverage: We have Time Trax, based on the TV series starring Dale Midkiff. Apparently the game has no continues, which I consider a strike against it – unless it has a password option in later builds. We also get some more screen shots of Sub-Terannia. US Gold also is working on an Incredible Hulk game, but aside from screen shots, there isn’t enough progress on the system yet to make it reasonable to pass judgement on it with feedback. Accolade also has Barkley: Shut Up and Jam, which apparently isn’t very customizable (you can’t change the time for each round, to be precise). EA has PGA European Tour, which doesn’t change the gameplay much aside from the new course selection. Sega Sports has NBA ACtion ’94. Apparently the game rotates the camera depending on the team with posession. There’s the platformer Marko’s Magic Soccer, which has an interesting theme. We also have a new version of Columns, in Columns III which adds a few new gem types. The Sega CD is getting the adventure game Mansion of Hidden Souls.
Neo-Geo Coverage: We get more screen shots of Art of Fighting 2, including a nearly complete roster of the game, though we don’t have the identities of the bosses.
3DO Coverage: We have the strategy game The Horde, and the slapsticky game show Twisted, and a port of Wing Commander with better graphics and a new title – Super Wing Commander, which looks good though it can have load times in awkward places.
Jaguar Coverage: We have more pictures of Tempest 2000, including information on the new game types.
CD-I Coverage: We get some screen shots of the bad Zelda knockoff Zelda’s Adventure, and the adventure game The 7th Guest.
Duo Coverage: We have more screen shots of Super Air Zonk, including some of Zonk’s alternate forms, like Gamera Zonk (as in the flying turtle), and Yamato Zonk (where Zonk sort of transforms in to the Space Battleship Yamato).
Game Boy Coverage: We have more screen shots of Wario Land.
Game Gear Coverage: We get a look at GP Rider, a motorcycle racing game. They do have some problems with turns coming with insufficent notice to prepare. We also get screen shots of Captain America and the Avengers.
Lifestyles: We get a profile (albeit a brief one) of KY Enterprises, which makes sip-and-puff controllers for disabled gamers. We also have our next series of Star Wars Novels, moving from the excellent trilogy by Timothy Zahn to Kevin J. Anderson’s not-quite-as-good series. On the minus side, in 1994 comics lost a titan – or rather a New God: Jack Kirby died of a heart attack on Feburary 6th of that year. I’ve enjoyed everything Kirby drew that I’ve read. In particular, he’s probably the best comic artists for Cosmic books (like Fantasic Four, like New Gods, like Green Lantern) until Dave Gibbons. On TV we’re getting a Robocop TV series and a The Phantom animated series set in the future (2040 to be precise). Oh, and we’re getting the first The Tick animated series.
This wraps up this issue of EGM. Tommorrow we continue through Nintendo Power’s history.