Where I Read – Electronic Gaming Monthly #98
We continue on with Electronic Gaming Monthly #98 for September of 1997. No, I still don’t have issue number #100 – I wish I did. Our cover story for this issue is Tomb Raider 2, and they’re playing up the game’s sex appeal pretty heavily. Right inside the cover we have a gorgeous two-page spread advertisement for Final Fantasy VII, of the big cutscene with Sephiroth removing the Jenova statue. While the graphics haven’t aged incredibly well, I still think it looks nice. It’s also one of the few two-page advertisements to heavily and prominently feature an actual screen-shot at that large of a scale.
Our editorial column this issue relates to the fairly heavy coverage that EGM has had of the Tomb Raider games. People are writing to complain because they think they’re, well, under-sexed. However, what Editorial Director Joe Funk brings up is that Lara Croft is one of the first really major video game franchise to feature a female protagonist. Yes, there was Final Fantasy VI – but to be frank that was more of an ensemble piece. I also wouldn’t consider the Valis series for this either, as it’s not a major franchise – as much as I wish it was.
EGM has put out their report card for the Nintendo 64, and they’re not too impressed. Their main places where they’re falling down is third party support (due to the cost of manufacturing N64 cartridges). There are also some complaints about Nintendo’s media relations, due to a lack of transparency that borders on complete opacity. Both Nintendo and Sony are working on force feedback support, with Nintendo planning on an add-on pack for their controller, and Sony just working on a new controller. However, they’re both running into patent problems with some former Atari employees who apparently patented such technology in 1991.
Meanwhile, Sega is working hard on the Dreamcast, which is currently code-named Black Belt. A third party is also working on an add-on pack for the N64 that incorporates an LCD screen, with the idea being that if you’re playing a sports game, you could select your plays without opponents knowing what play you were picking.
Nintendo didn’t show the N64DD at E3. No surprise there. Reportedly, Sega had the Dural/Black Belt/Dreamcast at E3, but did not intend to show it unless another major competitor was showing something major at the show. That kind of makes sense. You don’t want to reduce consumer and retailer confidence in the Saturn if you don’t have to (since said confidence is now in the septic tank), and currently nobody has anything quite ready to show yet. Additionally, the competition doesn’t know what your next big thing is, they can’t respond to it.
Speaking of which, Sony is rumored to be showing off the PlayStation 2 at Tokyo Game Show. Except it’s not the PlayStation 2 that we know of. It’s actually an upgrade for the existing PlayStation. The real PlayStation 2 is known as the “PlayStation 64”. Confused yet? Good.
We get a first peek at Rare’s new 3D platforming games, Banjo-Kazooie and Conker’s Quest. The first eventually is released. The second is not and instead we get Conker’s Bad Fur Day. Interplay is working on the sequel to Rock & Roll Racing, titled Red Asphalt and slated for release on the PlayStation. Speaking of racing games, Sega’s working on the semi-cart racing game Sonic R for the Saturn. As a considerably bigger deal, Konami is showing off Metal Gear Solid, and Midway has the arcade version of Mortal Kombat 4.
Namco’s working on the 2-1/2d platformer Klonoa. By the way, this issue of EGM has the first time to my knowledge where a game played in a two-dimensional fashion with three-dimensional environments to provide depth of field has been referred to as two-and-a-half-dimensional (or 2-1/2D or 2.5D). They’re also working on the first game in the Point Blank series of light-gun games. SECA is also working on the English language release of PaRappa The Rapper, which is shockingly not on PlayStation Network yet. If anyone from Sony is reading this, that needs to be rectified. Speaking of games on PlayStation Network, Final Fantasy Tactics is in the midst of translation and localization. THQ is also still working on the Ghost in the Shell game.
The Crew is still Shawn, Dan “Shoe” Hsu, Crispin and Sushi.
- Warcraft II (Electronic Arts, Saturn): Yes, Blizzard wrote and created Warcraft II, but EA published the port. Shoe was a big fan of the PC version of the game, and he’s got his problems with the Console port. For the first part, the graphics are a step down (the game doesn’t support SVGA), and second the controls aren’t very good. However, this version does have the core game and the Beyond the Dark Portal expansion. Additionally you can set buildings to auto-upgrade or auto-produce troops, plus you can select more than 9 units at a time. However, you can’t hot-key, the AI isn’t great, and there’s no multi-player in any form. Still, what they get is still good enough for Shoe to give it an 8.5. The rest of the Crew also gives the game 8.5s. Overall: 34/40, plus it receives the Editor’s Choice Silver Award and is Game of the Month.
- Tetrisphere (Nintendo, N64): Basically, it’s Tetris, but on a sphere. The problem is that with the camera angle (looking down at the surface) setting up combos and all the other stuff you do when you’re playing Tetris doesn’t work very well, because the Camera angle actually provides you less information. Nonetheless, Dan had enough fun with this to give it a 7. Everyone else is considerably more impressed with this, with Shawn & Crispin giving 8.5s and Sushi giving a 9. Overall: 33/40 and it receives the Editor’s Choice Silver Award.
- Sky Target (Sega, Saturn): This is a sort of After Burner style jet-fighter-rail-shooter. Sushi isn’t impressed with this game at all, finding it monotonous and boring, and gives it a 4. Dan also gives a 4, adding that the game can’t even get by on looks. Crispin finds the game somewhat generic, except for the bosses and gives the game a 5. Shawn finds the game kind of fun, and that some creativity went into it and gives it a 6. Overall: 19/40.
- Albert Odyssey (Working Designs, Saturn): This is a sprite-based RPG, without a lot of fancy 3D graphics, and the crew is fine with that. The game is generally rock solid, though they do have complaints with the game having too much combat, though the combat isn’t too difficult. Crispin, Dan and Sushi give the game 8s, while Shawn gives the game a 9. Overall: 33/40 and it receives the Editor’s Choice Silver Award.
- Clock Tower (ASCII, PlayStation): This is a sort of survival horror game, but with mixed with a slasher movie. Sushi finds the game incredibly easy to beat and gives the game a 6. The rest of the crew enjoyed the game a bit more, and thinks that it does a really good job at building tension, with Shawn giving it an 8.5, and Dan & Crispin giving the game 8s. Overall: 30.5/40.
- Disney’s Hercules (Virgin, PlayStation): Licensed game based on the movie. Be warned that the game has spoilers, if you really care about that sort of thing (and to be honest, do you really care about spoilers for most Disney movies). Anyway, while they found some of the levels to be pretty difficult with some cheap hits slipping through and the controls are kind of mediocre. However, they still liked the game, with Shawn giving it a 7.5, Dan giving it an 8, Crispin an 8.5, and Sushi a 9. Overall: 33/40 and it receives an Editor’s Choice Silver Award.
- Darklight Conflict (Electronic Arts, PlayStation): It’s a mix between Wing Commander and an on-rails turret shooter. While Shawn thinks they pull off the game pretty well, giving it a 7.5. Everyone else finds that the ease of difficulty negatively effects the game experience, with Crispin giving it a 6 and and Dan & Sushi giving it 5.5s. Overall: 24.5/40.
- Ogre Battle (Atlus, PlayStation): Port of the SNES game for the PlayStation. Crispin isn’t too impressed and gives the game a 6.5. Sushi was a bit more pleasantly surprised with the quality of the port and gives it a 7.5, and Dan and Shawn give it 8s, with the two being incredibly impressed by the game’s depth. Oh, and by the way, I’d consider this our first big slip that the person behind Sushi-X has changed over time. Overall: 30/40.
- Felony 11-79 (ASCII, PlayStation): Vehicular race combat game. It also only has 3 tracks. The Crew enjoys the game, but they the problem with enjoying a game that’s too short is you end up getting disappointed. Shawn gives it a 7, Dan and Crispin give it 6.5s, and Sushi gives it a 6. Overall: 26/40.
- Syndicate Wars (Electronic Arts, PlayStation): Up to this point this is the last game in the Syndicate series. It’s also an RTS, and it also hasn’t been adapted well. Crispin gives it a 6.5, Shawn gives it a 5, Dan gives it a 4.5, and Sushi gives it a 5.5. Overall: 21/40.
Another year another E3. The worst in show for this year is Virgin’s fighting game “Slaughter & Mutilation” which I don’t think sees the light of day. Working Designs announced that they were no longer exclusive for Sega, which means they jump ship to Sony. The Expo also had Tekken 3 and Street Fighter III tournaments. We also have interviews with Shigeru Miyamoto & Howard Lincoln. Shigeru discusses game design, and Lincoln discusses Nintendo’s upcoming plans. I’d prefer the master of the Bow Tie himself, Howard Phillips. There are also interviews with Ken Kutaragi (discussing RPGs) and Bernie Stolar (discussing Sega’s future plans).
Tomb Raider 2 Feature
The article discusses, briefly, the game’s plot, as well as some of the game design changes, including fighting more human enemies. The game engine also now allows for dynamic lighting, which leads to the inclusion of flares in the game. We also get an interview with Andrew Thompson at Core Design about the design process of the game.
We have our first look at Goldeneye 007 for the N64. There’s also a peek at the arcadey flight sim Aero Fighters Assault. Sega’s working on the fighting game Last Bronx (which also features in-game ads). The Saturn is getting a new Bomberman game with 10-player multi-player. We also get more info on Final Fantasy VII. There’s also a peek at Crash Bandicoot II. As an advertising aside, apparently Sears offered an exclusive Final Fantasy VII T-Shirt. It’s not particularly fancy, but it might be worth some money now. We get more information on the (ugh) Dragon Ball GT game. Tecmo has the falling gems-style puzzle game Tecmo Stackers. Psygnosis has the sci-fi combat flight sim G Police.
We get a question about whether we’ll see a PlayStation version of Lunar. Yes, yes we will. Apparently also issue #96 had multiple covers – one for Fighting Force, one for Gex 2, one for Apocalypse. All of them probably didn’t deserve to get covers. There are also some letters bemoaning the lack of quality in Street Fighter III. Wait until the Double Impact and Third Strike versions come out – they’re much improved. The Letter of the Month for this issue is a response to a letter from #96… which I haven’t read yet, so I can’t really judge the argument in the letter. Maybe after the hole that #96 is occupied is filled in my archive, I’ll be able to judge this letter’s argument a little better.
There’s also a question about whether games have actually gotten more fun or not. Frankly, I’d say that they haven’t become more fun – they’re still at the same level of “fun” but for different reasons. Game design has certainly improved though. We also get several letters complaining about them printing the address for the Nude Raider page. The response from the editorial staff is, essentially, 1) It’s just pixels, and 2) they didn’t display any of the site’s content, nor did they explicitly condone the site. If you chose to visit it, it’s your own decision – the site was listed because it was notable.