Where I Read – Electronic Gaming Monthly #83
So, when I was recapping the last issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly, I didn’t cover the issue’s editorial. That’s because it didn’t have one that I could find. However, we’re now on issue #83 for June of 1996 and we have an editorial column this issue. First, I do need to mention that this issue’s cover features Sonic The Hedgehog and the new wave of 3D platforming games. Anyway, the editorial column for this issue, unfortunately, steps into the territory of describing the stuff that’s in the table of contents, which is a little disappointing considering that EGM has had some of the best editorials in the history of video game magazines. Also, while I’m not a typography geek, I really don’t like the typeface they use to for the table of contents. If someone knows the name of that type face it would be nice to know so I don’t use it in the future.
Sega has unveiled the Saturn 2.0 – which can best be described as a slightly cheaper version of the Saturn. We get some discussion of the changes for the system, both from the innards (including a smaller physical motherboard, and moves the I/O board onto the motherboard instead of having it on a separate board like the original, replacing some metal parts with plastic parts), as well as making the unit physically smaller. However, they dumped the CD-ROM access LED, which is in my opinion a bad move, the access LED is helpful for telling when your system locked up because of a buggy game. Also, the system is going for $199. This is opposed to the N64 which is going for $250. Let’s make this clear: the Sega Saturn, which we know through 20/20 hindsight failed, is running for less than the N64 and has a bigger software library. This says rather impressive things about the loyalty of Nintendo’s fan base. We also get a comparison of the US and Japanese Sega Saturn Controllers. In short, the Japanese Saturn controller kicks the US controller’s butt. We even have reviews – which (by the way) is the first time Dan “Shoe” Hsu gets his name on an article in EGM. By means of explanation, at this point in EGM’s history, articles didn’t have bylines, so there’s no way to tell who wrote what, outside of the Review Crew segment and stuff like this.
Nintendo’s also working on a 32-bit color portable code-named “Project Atlantis”, a project which (according to an article by Jeremy Parish for 1up’s Retronauts blog) laid the groundwork for the later Game Boy Advance. Also, the Saturn port of King of Fighters ’94 is set to use both the system’s CD-ROM drive and a cartridge for optimal performance… which is also why the Saturn didn’t do as well as the N64 or the PlayStation – the PlayStation had enough memory built in that it didn’t need a cartridge slot, and the N64 had minimal loading times for all it’s fighting games.
As before the crew is Andrew Baran, Mark Lefebvre, Mike Desmond and The Man, The Myth, The Legend, Sushi X.
- Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 (Midway, Saturn): The agreement is that it’s a good port of the arcade version but with the same problem that all the other ports of the game have – loading times–especially when it comes to Shang Tsung’s transformation ability. Andrew and Sushi give the game 9s, Mike gives the game a 8.5, and Mark gives it an 8. Overall: 34.5/40 and it receives the Editor’s Choice Gold Award and Game Of The Month.
- X-Perts (Sega of America, Genesis): It’s a side-scrolling action game, and a bland one. By bland I mean in the sense that I suspect the Developer said “Oh Jesus God we haven’t finished the Saturn engine, churn out another Genesis game to buy us time while we try to finish this, and to save money use an existing IP.” My basis on this is the fact that the game is set in the Eternal Champions universe, a universe which barely merited one sequel in the same genre but is now getting a spin-off in a separate genre with a character who I can’t be arsed to remember the name of. However, that’s just the whipped “cream” and cherry on top of the fecal matter sundae. The fact that the animations are terrible, the enemies are generic (as are the missions) makes a game that is undoubtedly mediocre. Andrew and Mike give the game 5.5s, Sushi gives it a 5, and Mark gives it a 4.5 Overall: 20.5/40.
- Williams Arcade Classics (Williams, PlayStation): Our second series of retro arcade classics. Everything old is new again. Being that the first release of MAME came out in 1997, the year after we got the Namco and Williams arcade collections, I kind of wonder if these collections lead to the start of the retro revival that brought us MAME, and maybe some other emulation programs. Unfortunately, due to the de-facto illegality of emulation software, I doubt that we’ll get the episode of Retronauts on emulation that would get us the proof on this. Andrew and Sushi give the game 8.5s, Mike gives it a 7, and Mark gives it a 7.5. Overall: 31.5/40.
- Battle Arena Toshinden 2 (Playmates, PlayStation): Ah, the days when Playmates wasn’t just an action-figure manufacturer, it was a video game publisher as well. Anyway, the Toshinden games strike a balance between the flashy over-the-top Street Fighter style action, and the more grounded and semi-realistic Virtua Fighter and Tekken games. Mark, Mike and Sushi give the game 8s, while Andrew gives it an 8.5. Overall: 32.5/40 and it receives the Editor’s Choice Gold Award.
- PO’d (Accolade, PlayStation): This is a first person shooter that’s been heavily advertised in EGM for the past few issues, but I’ve been ignoring it because it sounds terrible. Well, it’s just average. Part of this is because, well, they call this a Doom Clone instead of just a FPS, and to be honest, I think I’ve finally figured out what makes a FPS a Doom Clone and when it’s just a FPS. It’s the story. In a Doom clone there story is, essentially, “There are monsters, kill them and get to the exit.” Nothing more. However, when the FPS genre starts maturing, we start getting story to string the missions togeather, with games like Star Wars: Dark Forces. However, from a story standpoint, this is no Dark Forces. That said, Mike liked it and gave it a 7. Andrew gives it a 6.5, Mark gives it a 5, and Sushi gives it a 6. Overall: 24.5/40.
- Blazing Dragons (Crystal Dynamics, PlayStation): A fantasy point & click adventure game. Andrew isn’t normally a fan of this genre, because of all the other games in this genre require “pixel bitching” as a way to solve puzzles, as well as the kind of obscure “logic” that’s required to solve some puzzles. He had fun with this game though, and the rest of the Crew thought it was one of the best P&C Adventure Games on the PlayStation. Andrew gives it a 7.5, Mark & Mike give it 8s, and Sushi gives it a 8.5. Overall: 32/40 and it receives an Editor’s Choice Gold Award.
- Guardian Heroes (Sega of America, Saturn): This may be the side-scrolling beat-em-up’s last hurrah. It has multiple paths you can take, multiple characters you can play as, flashy magic effects and the ability to juggle enemies. It even has a system that lets you level up. Is it any surprise that it was developed by Treasure? The biggest complaints are that that some levels seem short, and that the versus mode can be unbalanced, depending on which character you’re fighting as. Andrew & Sushi give it 8.5s, Mark gives it a 7.5 and Mike give it an 8. Overall: 32.5/40 and it receives an Editor’s Choice Gold Award.
- Congo (Sega of America, Saturn): This is probably one of the worst titles for the Saturn. It’s a licenced game based on the film, the environments seem to blur together, you die easily, and the frame-rate is low. The only favorable reviews from the Crew (by which I mean with scores that broke 6) fall back on the “If you liked the movie…” schtick, which I’ve already mentioned is bad writing. Andrew and Sushi give it 6s, Mark gives it a 4, and Mike gives it a 4.5. Overall: 20.5/40
- Toshinden Remix (Sega of America, Saturn): This is a port of Battle Arena Toshinden I. Andrew thinks it’s an excellent port, but he’s the only one. The voices were re-dubbed for the worse, the controls were redone for the worse, and everything else in the game was left unchanged – which adds up to a worse game. Andrew gives it a 7.5, Mark gives it a 3.5, Mike gives it a 4.5, and Sushi gives it a 5.5. Overall: 21/40.
- Art of Fighting 3 (SNK, Neo-Geo): So, the main complaint with this particular installment in this series is that the animations are a little choppy, and that the desperation moves are over powered. What are the desperation moves you say? I’m glad you asked. It’s a really powerful move that you can pull off when you’re at 25% health, which can knock down your opponent’s health by 50%, and is unblockable. They think it’s unbalanced. I think it’s the grand equalizer, because while you can’t block it, depending on the move and animation you may be able to avoid it. When you hit a point where you’re able to use a desperation move in a game like this, it’s either going to end the game because both players are even in terms of skill, or it will even up the health bars because the winning player is curb-stomping the other. Mind you, if the winner is then reduced to 25%, then the other scenario comes in, but we’ll leave that aside. Ultimately though, the Crew isn’t impressed. Andrew gives the game a 5.5, Mark & Sushi give the game 5s, and Mike gives it a 4.5. Overall: 20/40.
- Baku Baku Animal (Sega of America, Game Gear): This is basically a block matching except instead of blocks they’re fruit. However, it got good reviews. Andrew and Mark give it 7s, Mike gives it a 7.5, and Sushi gives it an 8. Overall: 29.5/40.
Another issue, another bunch of gaming gossip. The N64DD has now gotten it’s official name. Acclaim has dumped their 16-bit cartridge business, and ate $50 million over this. That is not small potatoes. EA is also still supporting the SNES and Genesis with versions of Madden. Also, the next Mortal Kombat game (MK4 for you playing the home game) isn’t going to use digitized actors. Crystal Dynamix got the rights to make a couple Marvel Comics games. We also get a big two-page ad for Nuke.com, which is rather impressive except that I forgot that we’re right in the middle of the .com bubble.
We get a look at our upcoming major 3D action games, starting off with a preview of Super Mario 64. There’s also a look at Crash Bandicoot, the first 3D platformer for the PlayStation from Naughty Dog, who has left platformers behind in favor of work on the (in my opinion) far superior Uncharted series. Meanwhile Accolade is working on Bubsy 3D. Crystal Dynamics also has Pandemonium. Sega’s also got NiGHTs into Dreams and Sonic 3D (which later becomes the not-very-good Sonic 3D Blast).
There’s also a look at the titles on display at ECTS, or the European Computer Trade Show. There is one notable title that goes get mentioned here, but if you blink you miss it – a title called Grand Theft Auto, with no developer or publisher listed. The Japanese PlayStation lineup has a few more notable titles to it, including from Capcom Resident Evil II, Mega Man X3 and Marvel Super Heroes. There’s also a 3D Ranma 1/2 game set to come out for the PlayStation, but I don’t believe it gets a US port.
We also get a 2-page ad for the Saturn which is, to my knowledge, their first attempt to overtly use sex to sell a console system instead of using gross out humor or regular innuendo.
Things are not quite dead on the 16-bit front. The SNES is getting a sequel to Lufia, subtitled “Rise of the Sinestrals” (as this is actually, secretly, a prequel to the first game). We also get more information on The X-Perts, including a valuable piece of information about the game that didn’t make it into the review–you can’t really pause the game. You can go to a sub-screen, but the action continues in real-time. There is an option to “Suspend Mission” but you’re limited in the number of times you can do it. It’s a gutsy game design decision, but I can’t totally agree with it. There’s also a look at the Saturn port of Primal Rage. The PlayStation is getting the fantasy brawler Skeleton Warriors which is no relation to the animated series. JVC has a flight-sim fighting game in Mission: Deadly Skies. By “flight-sim fighting game” I mean a combat flight-sim which consists of 1-on-1 aerial dogfights with each fighter having a life-bar. There’s also a preview of Tekken 2 and notes on it’s newly included practice mode (apparently a first for fighting games).
Konami has Project Overkill, an isometric action game. One of the features doesn’t look that good in my opinion though–your health bar carries over between levels and doesn’t re-fill. Additionally, once your four lives have expired you have to start the game over from the beginning. There’s also plans for a Aeon Flux game, Marvel Super Heroes and Breath of Fire III from Capcom. The Game Boy is getting a port of Worms. Not unsurprisingly, Myst is getting ported to the PlayStation (it’s getting about as heavily ported as 7th Guest was.) Oh, and Duke Nukem 3D is getting a port as well. You know, I never played Duke Nukem 3D past the first level before. Id’s fantasy action game Hexen is getting ported as well. Star Control is getting a PlayStation and Saturn port as well. We also get a brief bit of coverage of a planned game based on White Wolf’s Werewolf: The Apocalypse. However, the only old World of Darkness games that get video game adaptations (that actually get published) are Vampire & Werewolf. There’s also coverage of a PlayStation Contra game and VectorMan 2.
We also get some screens shots and descriptions of PilotWings 64, Rebel Assault 2, the Console version of Dark Forces, a home port of Virtual On for the Saturn, though I can’t imagine how well it would work on a system with no analog sticks. We also get our first screen shot of Grand Theft Auto which represents the game a little bit, considering that it shows that the game’s got a 3D camera angle. It actually reminded me a bit of Grand Theft Auto 3 actually. The PlayStation and Saturn are also getting ports of the Light Gun game Area 51. There’s also a look at Street Fighter Alpha 2.
First up is a letter advising people not to get rid of their older systems for the latest and greatest games – something that the growing retro gaming movement (as of 1996 and 1997) would take in mind – and those gamers who didn’t have their systems any longer would take up emulation software. We also have a letter bemoaning the lack of reviews of 16-bit games – well, considering the slowing release of 16-bit games. There’s also a complaint about all these games with those damn cutesy characters aimed at those damn kids who won’t get offa mah lawn! I think that’s a first. The editor’s justly rip the writer a new one. I’ll just post the page so you can read the response for yourself. We also get a letter full of snark at 3DO about their failing console.