We have another gap in the EGM archives, which takes us forward almost a year, to issue #107 for June of 1998. Our cover story for this issue is Turok 2, and this issue also gives us some very nice cover art, in my opinion. Our editorial column for this issue is from John Davidson, who is now EIC for GamePro, which he has significantly re-formed. The editorial column is, as columns often are, about the shape of things to come. The Game Boy Color has been announced, and Sony has introduced some new technology to allow developers to push the PlayStation hardware even further then they had previously.
So in the several issue gap lay 1997’s April issue, and it’s April Fool’s Day joke, which was one of the most legendary jokes in EGM since the Sheng Long cheat – the All Bonds cheat. For those who are unfamiliar, the cheat was a fake cheat that let you, unlocked a series of skins for Goldeneye 007 for every single prior official James Bond – Connery, Lazenby, Moore, and Dalton. This issue has a series of responses to the “cheat” both positive and negative.
This is also the era of the Milk Mustache ad, and this issue has one featuring Sarah Michelle Gellar from the hot new series “Buffy: The Vampire Slayer”. Let it not be said that the milk council can’t recognize when a new series is going somewhere. Now, if only we got a milk mustache ad with some of the ECW guys during the original run of ECW.
Also in the gap was Ed Semrad’s departure from EGM, and we have some letters from readers wishing him a fond farewell.
Tokyo Game Show has come and gone, recently enough that they’re printing news from it. The first being that Sega is phasing out the Saturn in favor of their upcoming “Katana” console (which later is released as the Dreamcast). They’re releasing the last titles that were in the queue for the system (including Magic Knight Rayearth from Working Designs – which was hyped as a launch title, by the way), and then they’re done.
In other news, Acclaim picked up the South Park license and would go on to put out a string of incredibly crappy games using the license. Sega’s donated a Virtua Fighter cabinet to the Smithsonian. We also get an article about the upcoming Game Boy Color. Quartermann’s column has also been shrunk down and included into the news section, so I’ll address his rumors here as well.
According to Q-Mann, we’re going to get a new Ridge Racer game in December 1997. Well, we do get a Ridge Racer game, titled Rage Racer in May of 1997. I’m not sure where he gets the “December is Traditional Release time for Ridge Racer” though. R-Types, R-Type Delta, and Thunder Force V are set to get US releases – which is true (and the first two on that list are available on PSN).
We have our (as in the people reading my recaps) first look at NFL Blitz for the Nintendo 64 – Midway’s arcade-style football game. We also get a look at Mortal Kombat 4. It’s not a final build of the game (as shown by footage with Scorpion fighting Goro, but Goro’s life bar reading “Cage”). EA’s also working on a N64 version of Madden 99. Psygnosis is working on a Formula 1 racing game titled World Grand Prix. The game right away is pretty notable because it has an actual cockpit view, as opposed to a “camera strapped to the front bumper view” like most other racing games. You can even see your driver’s hands. Ocean is working on a stealth spaced spy game with the licence of the first Mission: Impossible movie. Acclaim and Taito are also working togeather to port Bust a Move to the N64 – I could see that game working well with the N64’s stick controlling the angle of the bubbles.
On the PlayStation we have a look at Metal Gear Solid, which has significantly more impact on popularizing the stealth action game than Mission Impossible did. However, it’s nice to see that Ocean’s attempt did attempt to try something new by including stealth. Psygnosis is also working on another combat space sim in Colony Wars: Vengence. Capcom has the super deformed fighting game Pocket Fighter, which I’ve played and IMHO it’s pretty fun, though you’ll probably never play it at the tournament level. Capcom also has the semi-3D fighting game Rival Schools, which uses polygonal graphics that hasn’t aged well. Frankly, I wouldn’t mind seeing a current-gen version of Rival Schools using the Street Fighter IV engine. There’s also a look at the PlayStation version of Madden 99 and the THQ’s port of the JRPG Granstream Saga. Acclaim is also putting out WWF Warzone, which is all well and good, except that Acclaim’s wrestling games used arcade fighting game controls, which means it takes, say, a QCF plus grapple to do a suplex.
Command and Conquer: Red Alert is getting ported to the SNES. Hasbro Interactive is porting their PC version of Risk to the PlayStation, which actually should be alright – the PC version wasn’t very button intensive. There’s also looks at two of Square’s upcoming games – Bushido Blade II and Brave Fencer Musashi.
On the Saturn, among the last games for that system are Burning Rangers, a game where you play fire-fighters in power armor that uses the Nights Into Dreams Engine. At the arcade, Sega is putting out Sega Rally 2.
We get our look at Turok 2 – Seeds of Evil. The engine has been improved from the last game, so the draw distances are further, and the textures and particle effects are better. Turok also has a female supporting cast member, and showing how much games have progressed since this issue of EGM came out, the game’s designers are particularly proud of the character’s ass. I’m not talking about a donkey either. Seriously.
We have now, finally, addressed one of my complaints about the Review Crew in prior issues – we now have a rotating roster, so people who cannot stand certain genres don’t have to review them, and thus in turn we get a legitimately useful review. Our Crew is Crispin Boyer, John Davidson, Dan “Shoe” Hsu, John Ricciardi (working on localizing US games for the Japanese market), Kraig Kujawa (currently Director of Design at Capcom USA), Kelly Rickards (who I can’t find anything about), Shawn Smith, and Sushi-X. John Ricciardi will be listed as “John R”, and John Davidson as “John D”, because that’s how EGM does it.
- 1080 Snowboarding (Nintendo, N64): Shawn, The Johns, and Dan are on this one. The crew loves the graphics, but they all think the game needs more – except for Shawn, who thinks it’s fine as is, and gives it a 9.5, and John D, who says the game has an excellent total package and gives it an 8.5. John R is disappointed with the limited track selection and gives it an 8. Dan gives it a 7.5, wishing there was more multi-player, especially 4-player multi-player. Overall: 33.5/40 and it receives the Editor’s Choice Silver Award.
- World Cup 98 (EA, N64): The Johns, Dan, and Kraig are on this one. John D gives this an 8, saying that the game’s gotten a much deserved re-working from the prior game in the series, particularly with the slide tackles. Additionally the game includes a new historical game mode, complete with black & white filters over the screen. However, John D isn’t too impressed with the passing system in this version of the game. Dan is considerably less impressed with the changes, giving the game a 7, due to the insignificant (in his book) changes, adding that if you own FIFA Road to the World Cup 98 you should subtract 7 from his score, which is rather impressive to say. John R and Craig also agree that if you don’t have Road to the World Cup 98 you should get this, but otherwise don’t bother – they both give it 8s.
- AGH: Atari Collection 2 (Digital Eclipse, PlayStation): This is one of the arcade collections that made Digital Eclipse famous. Dan, Crispin, Kraig, and Kelly are on this one. Dan found the collection incredibly fun and it provoked a bunch of nostalgia, though he suspects us young folks wouldn’t appreciate the game the same way, and he gives the game a 7. Crispin and Craig are disappointed with the controls – in the sense that they can’t replicate the arcade controls for games like Millipede, Marble Madness, and Crystal Castles as they use a trackball, and Paperboy used, essentially, bicycle handlebars, so they give it 6.5s. Kelly’s a little more forgiving and they give the game a 7.5. Overall: 27.5/40.
- Blasto (Sony, PlayStation): This is a behind-the back shooter/platformer with a cartoon look. Shawn, John D, Dan & Kelly are on this one. Shawn is not impressed with this game, particularly due to the game’s sloppy control and limiting the player to one save slot per memory card, and he gives the game a 5. The rest of the crew is more forgiving, with Dan & Kelly giving 6.5s – both of them aren’t pleased with the camera (and how it effects judging jumps), and Kelly feels that the main character moves to slow as well. John doesn’t find the jumping to be as much of a problem, and he loves the AI, giving the game a 7.5. Overall: 25.5/40.
- Breath of Fire III (Capcom, PlayStation): Crispin, John R, Kraig & Shawn are on this one. Crispin isn’t impressed by the game’s ending though he likes the game’s story, finding it gripping, but not epic like Final Fantasy VII and Wild Arms, though he does like the sheer amount of stuff to do in the game (not including grinding), giving it a 8.5. Kraig also gives it an 8.5, finding it long and satisfying, but not mind blowing. Shawn liked the game’s mix of 3D & sprites, along with the game’s story and gives it an 8. John gives it a 7.5, calling the story not as good as FFVII, but better than Wild Arms, though he doesn’t like the boss AI for some of the bosses, and the writing could do with some polish, though he liked the battle system. Overall: 32.5/40.
- Deathtrap Dungeon (Eidos, PlayStation): This game has been heavily advertised in EGM for over a year, and now it’s come out, and it’s crap. Kraig, John D, Kelly, and Sushi are on this review. Kelly found struggling with the game’s camera to be a chore, considering it enough of a problem it give it a 6.5. John liked the camera even less than Kelly did, giving the game a 5. Sushi takes things even further, pointing out the choppy animations, poor textures, and bad enemy design, giving the game a 4.5. Kraig adds in to everyone else’s complaints that the game has poor level design, poor controls, poor combat, no animations at all for some character actions, bad character design for the heroes as well, and gives the game a 3.5. Overall: 19.5/40.
- Einhander (Square, PlayStation): This is Square’s semi-polygonal shump. Kraig, John R, Crispin, and Dan are on this one, and they all agree that it is one of the best shumps for the PlayStation. Kraig and Crispin gave the game 9.5s, and John & Dan give the game 9s. Overall: 37/40 and it receives the Editor’s Choice Gold Award.
- Hot Shots Golf (Camelot, PlayStation): Craig, Crispin, Shawn & Sushi are on this one. This is a more arcade-style Golf game. Everyone just likes it and doesn’t really have anything bad to say about it. Shawn gives it a 7.5, and everyone else gives it 8.5s. Overall: 33/40.
- MLB 99 (Sony, PlayStation): John R, Kraig, Shawn & Sushi are on this one. Aside with some complaints over the batting they liked the game. Shawn & Sushi give the game 7.5s, John & Kraig give the game 8s. Overall: 31/40.
- Pitfall 3D (Activision, PlayStation): Kelly, John D, Kraig and Crispin are on this one. Kelly likes this one, giving it a 7, with his sole complaint being that Pitfall Harry’s commentary can get annoying. Crispin and Kraig give the game 4s, because of bad camera angles, bad level design, and bad control. John Davidson has the same complaints and then some, ripping the game a new one, and calling Activision out for crucifying a video game icon like Pitfall, and he gives the game a 2. Overall: 17/40.
- Powerboat Racing (Promethian Design, PlayStation): The Johns, Kelly and Sushi are on this one. Kelly find the courses narrow and confusing, and the gameplay generally boring, giving the game 4.5. John R and Sushi give the game 4s, because of pop-up problems, terrible control, and bad control. John Davidson gives out his second 2 of the issue, finding the game utterly unplayable. Overall: 14.5/40.
- Rascal (Traveler’s Tales, PlayStation): Dan, The Johns and Shawn are on this one. Shawn & Dan give this platformer 4s, saying that the game has great graphics but terrible gameplay and a worse camera. The Johns agree, with D & R giving the game a 3.5 and a 3 respectively. Overall: 14.5/40.
- San Francisco Rush (Climax, PlayStation): Kelly, John R, Kraig and Crispin are on this review. Kelly gives the game a 5, finding some problems with pop-up and with failure actually being advantageous at times. The rest of the Crew doesn’t take to it as well, giving it 4s (though a few of the members of the crew are pleasantly surprised, though considering that they gave it 4s, that isn’t saying much). Overall: 17/40.
- Tekken 3 (Namco, PlayStation): Crispin, the Johns and Sushi are on this review. In short, they love the game. Sushi gives the game for 9, as he’s more of a 2D guy than a 3D guy. Everyone else gives it 10s. Overall: 39/40 and it receives the Editor’s Choice Gold Award.
- Theme Hospital (Bullfrog, PlayStation): This is sort of the Tycoon games, but with a hospital. John D, Dan, Crispin, and John are on this one. Crispin & Shawn give it 6.5s, finding it okay, and John & Shoe give it 6s, as they enjoy the construction part but not the administration part. Overall: 25/40.
- Warhammer: Dark Omen (EA, PlayStation): John D, Dan, Kraig and Sushi are on this strategy game. John D comments that the game’s control isn’t precise enough to pull off the strategies you need to do to succeed and he gives it a 6. Kraig gives it a 5.5, as he finds the game boring as it proceeds. Sushi gives it a 5 for the same reason. Dan gives it a 4.5, saying he lost interest in the game as soon as he started the game. Overall: 21/40.
- House of the Dead (Sega, Saturn): We’re coming up on the last wave of Saturn titles. Kelly, Dan, John D and Crispin are on this one. John and Dan give the game 7s – Dan feels that the graphics are a step down from Virtua Cop, but he likes the multiple paths the game lets you take, and John likes the additional gameplay modes. Kelly finds it fun because it’s always fun to kill zombies, and gives it a 6.5. Crispin is not impressed with the visuals at all, and gives the game a 5. Overall: 25.5/40.
- Panzer Dragoon Saga (Sega, Saturn): This is the last Panzer Dragoon game until Panzer Dragoon Orta for the Xbox. Dan, Kraig, John R and Crispin are on this one. They agree that this is one of the best games for the Saturn. Dan, Kraig and John give it 9.5s, and Crispin gives it a 10. Overall: 38.5/40 and it receives the Editor’s Choice Gold Award.
- Bomberman GB (Hudson, Game Boy): John R, Shawn, Dan and Crispin are on this review. While Shawn is disappointed by the size of the arenas, he finds it to be a solid Bomberman game and gives it an 8.5. Dan generally agrees with Shawn and gives it a 7.5. Crispin finds the AI to be a little too easy and gives it a 7. John gives it a 6.5, finding battle mode impractical and considering and commenting that the power-ups are just re-hashes of stuff from prior games in the series. Overall: 29.5/40.
- Legends of the River King (Pack-In-Soft, Game Boy): Think of this like Harvest Moon but with fishing instead of farming. Crispin, Shawn, Sushi and Kraig are the crew on this one. Crispin, Shawn and Sushi give the game 4s, and Kraig gives it a 2 for the same reason – the RPG plot comes up to the player’s ankles, and the fishing is boring as hell. Overall: 14/40.
- Mystical Ninja (Konami, Game Boy): This is a new Legend of the Mystical Ninja game, but with more of a Legend of Zelda camera angle. The Johns, Crispin, and Shawn are reviewing this one. John Davidson and Crispin give it 3.5s, finding the game incredibly monotonous. John R and Shawn agree, adding that the control is bad, and the difficulty curve is high, giving it 3s. Overall: 13/40.
We wrap up this issue with “The Final Word”. That’s right, we’ve got two commentary columns per issue now. This issue’s column is from John Ricciardi, who talks about the games he played as a kid before getting to his point – Nintendo has been making some bad business decisions. They’ve stuck with cartridges when every one else left them behind. Further, they’ve toned down the difficulty for some of their major games, such as the recent Yoshi’s Story game for the N64. Riccardi’s argument is, essentially, that Super Mario Bros, Super Mario World, Zelda and Metroid were games worked for people at multiple difficulty levels. You didn’t necessarily need a lot of hand eye coordination to beat those games, just time, patience, and thought. Riccardi’s complaint is that Nintendo is dumbing down it’s games. The arguments that John puts forward here will ultimately lead to the modern argument that Nintendo no longer understands the hardcore gamer, and no longer is trying to appeal to our market.