Where I Read – Electronic Gaming Monthly #90
So, this week we have another gap in my EGM archive, carrying us from #84 last week all the way to issue #90, for January of 1997. Our cover story for this issue is the upcoming home console release of Mechwarrior 2. We also get an ad for the home console release of Tekken 2 for the Playstation. Our editorial column for this issue is from Joe Funk, about the Battle of Hoth level in Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire for the N64. I cannot argue with that. I can try, but there wouldn’t be any point.
Sony has given gamers their first look at the PlayStation Dual-Shock controller, their response to the single-analog stick on the Nintendo 64 controller. Frankly, I liked the design of the Dual Shock over the design for the N64 controller. However, I feel that the stick positioning on the later Xbox controller was superior, with the Xbox 360 being on top of the game in terms of controller design. That said, I have not had an opportunity to use the Wii yet, so I can’t compare the Wiimote and Nunchuck with the Xbox 360 controller at this time. Sony’s also putting out a new design for the PlayStation that uses the unified proprietary graphics connector that Sony has continued to use to this day.
Additionally, the M2 system that 3DO had designed and sold to Matsushita is doing poorly. Several major developers and publishers (including Take 2 Interactive and Interplay) have canceled their games for the system and moved them to other hardware (including the N64). The console war is beginning to narrow down to 3 major systems. Apparently the N64 accounted for 51% of all hardware sales after the system’s launch. InterAct has a 3rd party arcade stick for the N64.
Williams has become Midway Home Entertainment, and they are working on ports of Quake for the N64 and the PlayStation. Midway’s also apparently working on a 3D version of Joust (which never hits stores). San Francisco Rush is also getting ported to the N64. DVDs are slowly getting more buzz behind them. Sega’s even started marketing Virtua Fighter 3 to arcade owners using DVDs. Also, Zelda 64, Mario Kart 64, Star Fox 64, Yoshi’s Island 64, and F-Zero 64 have been delayed.
BMG Interactive is working on a 3rd person platformer, where you control an arachnid, that is appropriately titled Spider. We also get some coverage of the PlayStation port of Command & Conquer. The preview coverage definitely ends up over-stating things. In particular, it says that the PlayStation version of Command & Conquer is superior to the PC version, which is something which modern video game journalists agree is not the case. We also get a peek at OddWorld: Abe’s Oddyssey, which the magazine mis-titles as Oddworld Inhabitants (which is the name of the developer). The PlayStation is also possibly getting the bloody, gory racing game Carmageddon. We also get a first look at Ubisoft’s platformer Hed. As this is a working title, I did some checking to see what it turned into, but unfortunately I can’t find anything about it. If you have any information about what the game became (if it wasn’t canceled) please let me know.
Anyway, we get a look at the first Dynasty Warriors game, which is completely different from the Dynasty Warriors series as we know it, because it’s a fighting game. No button-mashing through hordes of nameless enemies. Just one-on-one combat. There’s also a preview of WCW vs. The World, probably one of the first wrestling games to take the button+direction take for control, which would be later taken by most of the WWF games (particularly those made by Yukes).
The Crew this issue is still Shawn Smith, Dan “Shoe” Hsu, Crispin Boyer, and Sushi X
- Dragon Force (Working Designs, Saturn): This is a real-time strategy RPG with a kind of Nobunaga’s Ambition-esque epic scope. Shawn and Shoe give the game 9.5s, with Shoe mentioning that were it not for some interface problems, the game would have gotten a perfect 10. Crispin gives the game a 9, and Sushi gives it an 8 (as he didn’t enjoy the administrative sections of the game). Overall: The game gets 36/40, receives the Editor’s Choice Gold Award and Game Of The Month.
- Sonic 3D Blast (Sega, Saturn): This, is in my opinion, where the Sonic franchise really started dramatically going downhill. The scores kind of reflect this. Shoe gives it a 7.5, saying it’s a good port of the Genesis game, but not enough to make it worth re-buying, and even if you hadn’t played it before, it still has some noticible control problems if you’re using the D-Pad. Crispin gives it a 7, also saying it’s not as good as the 2d Sonic games, though it’s better than most isometric games. Shawn and Sushi give it 6s, basically saying (with a few variations) that while it’s a decent game, it’s not a good Sonic game. Overall: 26.5/40.
- Bug Too! (Sega, Saturn): A mascot platformer that’s a sequel to the prior Bug game. It’s also done in a 2.5D perspective (though not as well executed as modern 2.5D games). Shawn thinks it’s just an average side-scroller with a 2.5D coat of paint on top (though they call it pseudo-3D) and gives it a 6.5. Shoe gives it an 8.5, considering the game a solid, underrated game. Crispin gives the game a 7.5, finding it a charming side-scroller, and Sushi give the game a 7 for similar reasons. Overall: 29.5/40.
- Virtual On (Sega, Saturn): The twin-stick arcade mecha fighting game gets a home release on a system with no sticks on the standard controller, one if you buy a special controller. Shawn & Shoe give the game 8s, with Shoe complaining that the homing attacks take the challenge out of the game, and the game is unbalanced, but Shawn didn’t observe those problems. Crispin gives the game a 9. However, Sushi blows the curve by giving the game a 6.5 because the game’s too simple. Guuh. This is the reason fighting games get a reputation for being too complicated, the less complicated but fun fighting games get lower reviews for being less complicated. Overall: 31.5/40.
- Toshinden Ura (Sega, Saturn): We have another port of Toshinden, and one that doesn’t turn out well. The graphics are blocky, and the movement animations are slow. Because of this, Shawn gives it a 4.5, Shoe and Sushi give the game 5s, and Crispin gives it a 4. Overall: 18.5/40.
- Virtua Cop 2 (Sega, Saturn): I played the arcade version of this at one of Ground Kontrol‘s Free Play Fridays. Shawn, Crispin & Sushi give the game 8s, finding it a good light gun game with limited replay value, at least if you’re playing by yourself. Dan gives it an 8.5 for a similar reason. Overall: 32.5/40 and it receives the Editor’s Choice Silver Award.
- Batman Forever (Acclaim, Saturn): Basically, this is a licensed side-scrolling fighting game based on the movie. Like most licensed games, this one doesn’t turn out well. Specifically, the complaints are the game is an easy button-mash fest. Shawn gives the game a 5, Dan gives it a 6.5, and Crispin gives it a 4.5, and Sushi gives it a 3. Overall: 19/40.
- The Adventures of Lomax (Psygnosis, PlayStation): This is another side-scrolling platformer. Shawn & Crispin give the game 7.5s, finding it a solid game, event though it doesn’t have a save option, instead using a password to continue. Shoe gives it an 8 for a similar reason. Sushi gives it a 7, commenting that one attack is basically the only attack you need to win the game (not that it’s a real negative, with Super Mario Brothers you can get through the game by just using the jump attack). Overall: 30/40.
- Robotron X (Williams, PlayStation): This is a isometric remake of Robotron, the original twin-stick shooter, which is a bit of a problem because the Dual Shock isn’t out yet. Shawn, Dan and Crispin give the game 6.5s, with Shawn finding the game over-complicated, Dan finding the graphics choppy. Sushi gives the game a 5.5, saying that it’s more worth it to get the Williams Classics Collection, which contains the original Robotron game. Overall: 25/40.
- Suikoden (Konami, PlayStation): Konami’s first big RPG and, for that matter, the first really big RPG for the PlayStation aside from Wild Arms. Shawn and Sushi give the game 8.5s, as it’s a massive, engaging RPG with some great strategy elements, but not enough puzzle solving for Sushi’s taste, and you can’t run. Shoe and Crispin give the game 9s. Overall: 35/40 and it receives the Editor’s Choice Silver Award.
- Tunnel B1 (Acclaim, PlayStation): Action game where you’re controlling a hovercraft. Shawn and Dan give the game 8.5s, applauding the game’s lighting effects, and action animations. Crispin & Sushi give the game 7s, though they don’t like the game’s low-to-the-ground camera angle. Overall: 31/40.
- King’s Field 2 (ASCII, PlayStation): First-Person RPG. Shawn & Sushi give the game 6.5s, since at this point the gameplay style is novel, but the graphics are generally pretty poor. Dan and Crispin give the game 7.5s, finding it a unique RPG, though they don’t like the game’s slow pace. Overall: 28/40.
- Project X2 (Acclaim, PlayStation): Shump. Shawn and Dan consider it an uninspired shump, but still somewhat enjoyable and give it 5.5s. Crispin and Sushi give it 6s for similar reasons. Overall: 23/40.
- Tempest X (Interplay, PlayStation): It’s Tempest. Shawn’s the only one who really liked it, and he gives it a 7. Everyone else finds that Tempest isn’t as fun in a non-arcade form, and they only differ in terms of their scores – Dan gives it a 4, Crispin gives it a 6, and Sushi gives it a 5. Overall: 22/40.
- Tobal No. 1 (Sony, PlayStation): This is Squaresoft’s first major fighting game, and is bundled with a demo for Final Fantasy VII. Shawn, Dan and Crispin give the game 8.5s. They like the game’s animations and attention to detail, though it doesn’t compare to Tekken 2 in their eyes. Sushi gives the game an 8, finding the control clunky, particularly with the block controls. Overall: 33.5/40 and it receives the Editor’s Choice Silver Award.
- Twisted Metal 2 (Sony, PlayStation): The iconic car combat game gets a second installment. Shawn and Sushi give the game 8s, with Shawn applauding the game’s slightly more involved story (as for starters, the game has it’s proper ending cutscenes. Dan and Crispin give the game 8.5s for similar reasons. All four would like improved graphics for the third game in the series. Overall: 33/40 and it receives the Editor’s Choice Silver Award.
- Dragonheart (Acclaim, PlayStation): Licensed action game based on the movie. Like the movie, it’s not very good. Shawn & Dan give the game 4.5s, saying that the game looks unfinished, like they were working to make stellar graphics and environments, and then stopped when the movie didn’t do well (a lesson which I presume that Starbreeze Studios kept to heart – even though Chronicles of Riddick did poorly, they continued to work hard to make the game look and play incredibly well), and by stopped, I mean “they didn’t finish working on the controls. Dan and Crispin also agree that the game looks good but plays terribly – Dan gives it a 4, Crispin gives it a 5. Overall: 18/40.
- Samurai Shodown 4 (Crystal Dynamics, Neo-Geo): That publisher can’t be right. My research said that it was published by SNK (being that it is an SNK series). I’m going to assume it’s an error on their part. Anyway, the game gets solid 8s across the board – finding it one of the best weapon-based fighters on the Neo Geo system. Overall: 32/40 and it recieves the Editor’s Choice Silver Award.
- Street Fighter Alpha 2 (Nintendo, SNES): Now this one isn’t a misprint, Capcom had to turn to Nintendo to port Alpha 2 to the SNES. However, Nintendo wasn’t able to cut it, with the final product having choppy animation and tinny sound. Shawn gives it a 4.5, Dan gives it a 4, Crispin gives it a 6, and Sushi gives it a 6.5. Overall: 21/40.
- Maui Mallard (Nintendo, SNES): Okay, you know all the Disney licensed games which, while good, turned characters like Mickey Mouse into absolute badasses. This game does that for, of all characters, Donald Duck. It turns him into a martial arts master. That said, they think it’s executed well, with Shawn, Dan, and Sushi giving the game 8s, and Crispin gives it an 8.5s, with the main complaints being some cheap jumps. Overall: 32.5/40 and it receives the Editor’s Choice Silver Award.
We’re starting off with the feature article on Mechwarrior 2. We get profiles of most of the mechs you can pilot in the game. We also get an article on upcoming PlayStation titles, including Ranma 1/2 Battle Renaissance, the only 3D Ranma 1/2 game (which doesn’t get a US release, unfortunately). We also see Toshinden 3, Castlevania: Dracula X2 (which is released as Symphony of the Night). Namco is putting out Time Crisis, Ace Combat 2, and another Namco Museum game. There’s also the weapon-based fighter Soul Blade, which later leads into the Soul Calibur series. At the Shoshinkai conference, Nintendo showed off some of their upcoming titles, including Starfox 64, Goldeneye 007, and the upcoming rumble pack. We also get a look at Mario Kart 64.
Also, a few weeks ago, Seth asked me to post an ad for an issue of Chips & Bits. We happen to have one this issue, so I’m going to post that ad here. Let it not be said that I don’t listen to my readers.
Anyway, we also get a single screenshot of Mother 3 for the N64, as well as a mention of Super Robot Taisen game for the N64.
Since the retro gaming revival has begun, we get our first article on the topic. This article focuses on compilation games, both ones released in the US and ones that weren’t. Most of this is pretty out of date though, as many of these games have been collected in more recent compilations.
Moving on, we get a preview of Shiny Entertainment’s action game MDK. There are also comparisons between the PlayStation and N64 versions of Mortal Kombat Trilogy. and the Crew picks the version they like more (with the PlayStation version winning 3 to 1.
As before, I’m covering games that aren’t already getting reviewed. Sega has the action RPG Dark Savior coming up. There’s also a look at the side-scrolling action game SCUD: The Disposible Assassin. There’s also the isometric platformer Cool Spot: Spot Goes to Hollywood. Koei’s also branching into real-time strategy with the post-apocalyptic airship strategy game Heir of Zendor. The PlayStation is getting the action game Psychic Force, which looks like it uses its anime style well. SSI has the strategy game Warhammer: Shadow of the Horned Rat. We also get a look at the upcoming RPGs Persona from Atlus, and Final Fantasy VII from Square. There’s also notes on the new Diskworld game, which once again features Rincewind. SSI’s Allied General is getting a port to the PlayStation. Since the game’s a turn based strategy game, instead of a real-time strategy game, it might work out well. THQ has the mixed martial arts game K-1 Kickboxing.
We get a very interesting letter from an independent game retailer in Canada complaining about how Nintendo handled the N64 launch. In short, independent stores like his were not only shorted stock, but they also received their systems late. On the other hand, big-box retailers retailers like Toys ‘R Us not only got all their orders, but they got their orders on time. This put them at a major competitive disadvantage. Sony, on the other hand, didn’t dick them over. This leads to the implied threat that if Nintendo keeps this up, they’d stop stocking Nintendo systems entirely. While, frankly, I doubt that this threat would have as much weight as he’d like, all things considered, dumping Nintendo in favor of Sony couldn’t be considered backing the wrong horse. We also get a letter that speaks to my heart over the Console PC Holy Wars, a letter that asks “Can’t we all just get along”. That’s a sentiment that I agree with, as opposed to magazines like PC Gamer which, rather than simply ignoring the Holy Wars, have sought to perpetuate the Holy Wars… which is also why I don’t read PC Gamer anymore, nor do I listen to their podcasts.
Anyway, we that leads to your standard “OMG UR BIASSED” letter, which gets a bigger response than it really deserves (which contains your usual statements of principles, that sort of thing). While it’s nice to grand-stand and state the journalistic principles, I’ve always felt that you get a better impact when you do that after, say, Capcom blacklists you for not gratifying them over the repeated Street Fighter II re-hashes, as opposed to some whiny fanboy. Anyway, we get a letter from Singapore defending game piracy. We get another letter from someone telling the EGM to get a life and stop writing a magazine about video games (really?). We also get a letter about what to do for issue #100, and another letter about whether video games have brand recognition (indeed they did then, and do now. Heck, that’s the root of the current mess between the former heads of Infinity Ward and the heads of Activision).