Where I Read – Electronic Gaming Monthly #110
Before going further ahead in my EGM Recaps, I’m going to fill another gap in my archive – the gap for issue #110 for September of 1998. Our cover story for this issue is Metal Gear Solid for the PlayStation. The cover art isn’t too bad in my opinion.
The editorial column for this issue is by John Davidson, and addresses the semi-maturing of games, in terms of the sexuality of characters, though not necessarily the maturity of the stories or the character designs. Well, there are some ways to go until we reach some of the more mature stories we have now, in terms of Mass Effect and Dragon Age (particularly their treatment of GLBT characters), but the game industry has to get the Moral Majority to a point that you can show two men kissing in Dragon Age without having congressional hearings.
Our letters column (no, I’m not giving them a separate header), includes empathy for having to to go through all the letters from readers who try to be witty. We also have a question about what happened to Kelly Rickards (he left for personal life reasons). There’s also a call for Sega to put a lot of thought into how they design and promote the Dreamcast and the software they put out for it, so they don’t run into the problems the Sega Genesis (and CD and 32X) and the Saturn ran into. There are also complaints about the use of “Mario 64 clone” to describe 3D platformers. We also get a letter about GamePro’s advance review of Banjo-Kazooie, which EGM’s staff explains, adding that GamePro wasn’t reviewing a finished version of the game. There’s also a letter complaining about glitches in Acclaim’s All Star Baseball, which weren’t mentioned in the review. The staff passes these on to Acclaim. Supposedly the bugs were related to 3rd party memory cards and peripherals.
In the wake of the Jonesboro, AR, and Springfield, OR school shootings, Florida is the first state to seek anti-video game violence legislation. At this time, the name of Jack Thompson is not mentioned, though you can bet he’s behind it. However, Doug Lowenstein of the IDSA is mentioned, as part of the opposition to this. We also have the first rumors of and upcoming Tomb Raider movie. There also are plans in the works for a House of the Dead film, with Jesse Dylan (son of Bob Dylan) slated to direct (though, as we all know, he’s later replaced by Uwe Boll). However, this version of the script does have the rave that becomes the driving plot point of Boll’s film.
I’m sticking with titles which are of interest to me here, rather than just all titles in general.
We’ve got a look at Wipeout 64, which has a rather nice looking draw distance, though they’re also working on the draw speed. The game plays so fast that the player can get ahead of the track. There’s also some notes on Madden 99 for the N64. Infogrames has their new racing game GT64, which has improved physics from their prior racing game Multi-Racing Championship. We’re also getting a Bomberman themed platformer in Bomberman Hero. Also of note from Nintendo is the F1 racing game F1 World Grand Prix.
On the PlayStation we have the survival horror RPG Parasite Eve, which is adapted from a Japanese horror novel, and also introduces the battle system that’s used later in Square’s Vagrant Story. It’d be nice if they’d included it in Crisis Core as well, but that’s just me. There’s also some coverage on Colony Wars: Vengence. We have another nice looking ad for Parasite Eve, by the way (Square tends to have excellent ads).
The PlayStation also has the action game Wild9 (which we’ve already read a review of). 989 Studios is working on NFL GameDay ’99. There’s also a look at Duke Nukem: A Time To Kill and we learn the game takes a cheap shot at Tomb Raider by having Duke quip that Lara’s outfit is skanky. Really? Of all the game’s to take that shot at Lara, it’s a Duke Nukem game? Pot, meet kettle.
There’s also a look at Heart of Darkness, from the creators of the Flashback & Out of this World games. We get a peek at Thrill Kill, which is all most of us will get, since the game is never officially released (though prototype code has slipped out).
On the Saturn, there’s a look at that system’s version of Symphony of the Night, subtitled Nocturne in the Moonlight.
We have a feature article about Metal Gear Solid, including some notes about the stealth gameplay mechanics, and about the game’s screenplay and dialog (and I will admit that the dialog is pretty good, though it gets kind of silly at points). We also get some bios of the game’s characters, though the game lays the false hope that Big Boss will be an active character in the game, instead of a McGuffin. The article is incredibly in-depth and, were I a younger man and eagerly awaiting the game’s release, I’d eat this up – as while it doesn’t go in depth on the plot, it does go in-depth on some of the early cutscenes. They make it as far as the first appearance of Psycho Mantis, but they don’t get to see how Psycho Mantis reads the saves on the player’s memory card.
We also have an interesting article on women in the video games industry. We get discussion of the glass ceiling, and also some discussion from women about their philosophy of game design. For example, Sherry McKenna of Oddworld Inhabitants is anti-animal testing and is pro-environment, and also feels that communication is important to social progression. That leads to some pretty notable effects on the gameplay of the Oddworld games that feature Abe – the importance of communicating with the fellow Mudokans to solving puzzles, the industrial motif of the enemy controlled areas, and the premise of the game’s plot. As far as bringing women to the industry, the problem is kind of twofold – if women don’t like to play video games, they won’t want to make games. Guys who try to make games deliberately to appeal to women don’t necessarily work well, though there are exceptions. By the way, the article is written by Lauren Fielder of GameSpot TV, which makes me wonder if there was a companion video piece. Anyway, Lauren, whose real name is Lauren Gonzalez, which is also the name she writes under, has gone into literary work now, instead of tech writing, which I hope she does well at, as if she writes nonfiction and fiction as well as she wrote this article, I can see great things in her future.
There’s also an article about all the tricks you can pull with the Game Boy Camera.
For this issue, on the crew is Crispin Boyer, John Davison, Dean Hager, Dan “Shoe” Hsu, Kraig Kujawa, John Ricciardi, Shawn Smith, and Sushi-X.
- Bamjo-Kazooie (N64, Nintendo): Everyone likes the game, though there are a few complaints about sound effects, camera control, or the fact that you lose all your items if you die. Shawn, Crispin, and Dan give this platformer 9.5s, and John Davison gives the game a 9. Overall: 37.5/40 and it receives an Editor’s Choice Gold Award and Game of the Month.
- Flying Dragon (N64, Natsume): Fighting game. The game tries to do everything, but from everyone’s reviews, it fails at all of them. In particular, the game’s controls, graphics, and sound are terrible. Dean gives it a 4, John Davison gives it a 3.5, and Crispin and Sushi give it 3s. Overall: 13.5/40.
- Iggy’s Wreckin’ Balls (N64, Acclaim): I have no idea what kind of game this is – whether it’s Marble Madness style racing game or what? Well, nonetheless, Dan, Kraig and Crispin think its fun, though they note that it requires some rote memorization, with Dan giving it a 7.5, and Kraig and Crispin giving it 7s. However, John Ricciardi really doesn’t like it, finding the sound annoying, the game-play not captivating, and just not having fun playing the game, and he gives it a 5.5. Overall: 27/40.
- IS Soccer ’98 (N64, Konami): This is Konami’s soccer series that eventually becomes the Pro Evolution Soccer/Winning Eleven series. The Crew (of John Davison, Ricciardi, Kraig and Dean) are generally impressed with the game, though Dean encountered some slowdown in 4 player. Davison and Kraig give it 9.5s, Ricciardi gives it a 9, and Dean gives it a 8.5. Overall: 36.5/40 and it receives the Editor’s Choice Gold Award.
- Virtual Chess 64 (N64, Titus): The consensus is that this is a decent chess game with insanely corny animations. This kind of makes me wonder why nobody’s written a PSN version of Chessmaster and I don’t mean a port of an older version of Chessmater, or a version for the PSP. I mean a version to be played over PlayStation Network. For that matter, does 360 have a chess game? The main thing affecting people’s scores appears to be the implementation of 3D, and the corny animations during captures. Dan gives it a 7, Crispin gives a 6.5, Shawn gives a 6 and Kraig gives a 5.5. Overall: 24.5/40.
- WWF Warzone (N64, Acclaim): The crew is more or less impressed with the game, and generally enjoyed it. However, what really blows their minds is the Create-a-Wrestler mode. Shawn has some problems with the games’ controls though, particularly the responsiveness to the C buttons. Shawn gives the game a 7.5, John R. and Dean give the game 8s, and Dan gives it a 8.5. Overall: 32/40 and it receives the Editor’s Choice Silver Award.
- C: The Contra Adventure (PlayStation, Konami): Konami tries to make a 32-bit Contra game with 3D, and fails, complete with repetitive levels and terrible explosions. Shawn gives it a 4.5, Crispin and Kraig give the game 3.5s, and John Davison gives the game a 2. Overall: 13.5/40.
- Command & Conquer: Red Alert – Retaliation (PlayStation, Westwood): This has the first Red Alert game and it’s expansion. It also has controls that are nowhere as good as mouse & keyboard. Nonetheless, the game gets good reviews for its implementation. John Davison gives the game an 8.5, while Kraig, Dan and Crispin give the game 8s. Overall: 32.5/40.
- Crime Killer (PlayStation, Interplay): This is an offensive driving game that is (pardon the pun) offensively bad. It’s so hard that John Davison ended up throwing his controller on the ground a few times, and everyone else had similar problems. Dean and Kraig give the game 5s, John gives it a 4.5, and Crispin gives it a 4. Overall: 18.5/40.
- IS Soccer Pro ’98 (PlayStation, Konami): The crew feels this game isn’t quite as good as the N64 version of the game, though the crew still likes it a lot. The main complaint is the AI’s too easy to score on. John Davison gives the game a 9, Dean and Kraig give the game 8s, and John Ricciardi gives the game a 7.5. Overall: 32.5/40 and receives the Editor’s Choice Silver Award.
- Kartia (PlayStation, Atlus): The game is lauded by the crew of being a solid tactical RPG with great character designs (by Yoshitaka Amano), despite some linear game-play and a lack of real distinction between the characters. The description reminds me a bit about what I’ve heard about Eternal Poison. Anyway, Dan and Crispin give the game 8.5s, and Shawn and Sushi give the game 8s, for essentially the same reasons. Overall: 33/40 and receives the Editor’s Choice Silver Award.
- MLBPA Bottom of the 9th ’99 (PlayStation, Konami): That is the longest title for a baseball game I’ve seen in my life. The crew is a little split on the importance of having the team and stadium licenses or not. While the team has licenses for the players, it doesn’t have the team and stadium licenses. John Ricciardi thinks the team licenses are important, and gives the game a 6. Kraig, Dean, and Shawn think the game holds up without those licenses, and give it a 7, 7.5, and an 8 respectively. Overall: 28/5/40.
- NCAA Football ’99 (PlayStation, EA): Since the last installment of the series, EA has given their NCAA games their own dev team, and according to the Review Crew, the results are palpable with this game – nothing bad is said about it (save a comment from Dan about some sluggish graphics) and to the contrary, the graphics, AI and controls are improved after the last installment in the franchise. John Ricciardi and Kraig give the game 9s, Dean gives the game an 8.5 and Shoe gives it an 8. Overall: 34.5/40 and it receives the Editor’s Choice Silver Award.
- Pocket Fighter (PlayStation, Capcom): This is their super-deformed comedic fighting game. The consensus is that the gameplay isn’t too deep in this game, though the degree that this is a problem varies depending on the person. Sushi and Dan give the game 7s, John Ricciardi gives it a 7.5 and John Davison gives the game an 8. Overall: 29.5/40.
- Turbo Prop Racing (PlayStation, SCE): Boat racing game – you don’t see a lot of these anymore. I wonder why. Dean considers the water effects to be not quite as good as the effects in Wave Race 64, plus some of the courses were a little narrow, and he gives the game a 6.5. Crispin had some serious problems with the game’s control, particularly with the controls sending the boat in the wrong direction, and he gives it a 5. Shawn and John Davison give the game 4.5s for similar reasons. Overall: 20.5/40
- WarGames: Defcon 1 (PlayStation, MGM Interactive): This is a sort of Return Fire style game, but with the license of the WarGames movie, which makes no sense to me. There are some complaints about the game being a dumbed down strategy game, and the missions being repetitive, but there is still some fun to be had in the game. Shawn, Dan and John Davison give the game 7s, and Kraig gives it a 7.5. Overall: 28.5/40.
- WWF Warzone (PlayStation, Acclaim): Basically, the views on this game are the same as the views on the N64 version of the game. John R and Shawn give the game 7.5s, Dean gives it an 8, and Dan gives it an 8.5. Overall: 31.5/40.
- Shining Force III (Saturn, Sega): This is the first part of a 3-part trilogy to conclude the core Shining Force series – though we only get the first installment in the US. The crew loves the game, though they hope in vain that Sega will bring the last two installments out in the US. John R, Crispin and Sushi give the game 9s, while Shawn gives it an 8.5. Overall: 35.5/40 and it receives the Editor’s Choice Silver Award.
The Final Word for this issue comes from Kraig Kujawa, and the topic has to do with controller designs. Nowadays, with the exception of the Wii, controller layouts are almost literally created equal. The main difference between the PS3 controller and the 360 controller, in terms of layout, is stick placement. However, prior to this most controllers varied between systems. The Genesis had 3 face buttons plus a Select and Start Button. When they switched to a 6-button version, rather than having shoulder buttons, like the SNES, they had the buttons in a row, like an arcade layout. This worked well for fighting games, but not well for, say, shuffling between menus like in a RPG, or for using them to bank around corners like in Wipeout, or for shifting gears like in a racing game. These are examples I came up with, not them. They’re bringing this up because the Dreamcast controller has 2 buttons less than the Saturn and PlayStation controllers, and they’re concerned about how this will effect gameplay for other systems.