Video games

Next Gen #12: December 1995

At long last, I’ve gotten caught up with NextGen magazine, at this month we are at in Nintendo Power.

The cover this issue is all about the decision over what 32-bit console to get, done as a ’90s pop art reinterpretation of ’50s pop art. This is, frankly, the best cover we’ve had thus far.

Interview: The interview this issue is with Chris Crawford. Crawford has been in the game industry since the ’80s, and had a particularly… abrasive column in CGW even back in the day. In short, like Harlan Ellison, Crawford is a born curmudgeon. Apparently he’s been pretty abrasive in his professional life as well, having basically moved into semi-retirement because game development takes larger teams than he can diplomatically work with long enough to actually complete a game (as opposed to the ’80s, when you had development teams of 1).

The interview basically makes it clear that Crawford’s sense of what a “good game” is somewhat stuck in time. He says Doom was revolutionary but he thinks that Id can’t do it again (spoiler – we have a preview for Quake this issue), and that the thing driving women way from games is spacial reasoning, and not toxic masculinity and misogyny in marketing and corporate culture. This all isn’t helped by Crawford’s whole thing in CGW back in the day being strategy games of the particularly obtuse variety that was a little more common at the time.

Chris Crawford Column: We follow up with a reprint of a column of Chris Crawford’s from a magazine, titled “The Way Games Ought To Be” – so no humility here. That said, the article is not without merit – the article is focused on issues related to online multi-player, and these are all, generally, issues that developers have to consider when making online multiplayer modes – it’s just that Crawford is asking these questions in public at a time where online multiplayer for games is trying to find a much more firm footing outside of Telnet servers and PLATO. We’re talking stuff like “What happens when people disconnect?” and “What do you do with douchebags?” and “What group size is ideal?”

That said, the article runs into problems with imagining online multiplayer games as being some sort of evolution of the graphics light-text input heavy games of the microcomputer era. It’s like if every online game had the complexity of a Paradox Grand Strategy Game and was played like a MUSH. And, well, that’s not how things turned out at all.

He’s not anticipating multiplayer games being like this.

News: The Jamma trade show happened. I’d make a quip here about remembering when trade shows were relevant, but this is 2020 – so the more appropriate response is to look back nostalgically to the times when being in a room with a whole slew of people didn’t enstill a sense of dread.

Anyway, the big showcases at the show were Time Crisis from Namco and Virtual On from Sega.

The Ultra 64 has been renamed the Nintendo 64, at least in Japan. Shadows of the Empire is also planned for the US launch – however, we don’t have a look at the controller yet (you’ll have to wait until the next episode of Nintendo Power Retrospectives for that).

Joyriding: The focus this time is Sierra On-Line’s online gaming network, ImagiNation Network, which AT&T has bought into.

Arcadia: Not much this time – we have a lot of stuff that has been covered in earlier columns.

Which System is Best: We have our cover story – and bearing in mind that not all of the consoles are out, and that some of the longer lasting consoles are still on their launch-lineups, we have Next Gen’s thought on what ones are worth picking up.

NextGen sets PlayStation as the one to beat this generation – and does so rightly. They had a strong start and launch lineup, and picking optical media was a wide decision. The Saturn has had a sluggish start, further hindered by poor hardware design decisions.

The PC CD-Rom is getting performance boosts from Intel’s new Pentium architecture, and though NextGen doesn’t know it yet, it’s going to get another boost from Microsoft’s DirectX platform.

NeoGeo CD has some very solid arcade ports, but is still a pretty niche, 2D only platform – and NextGen hates 2D.

NextGen thinks that if the M2 can come out, 3DO could possibly become a contender.

And then there’s the Jaguar, Virtual Boy, 32X, and CD-I. I’ll let this Achewood image speak for me.

Alphas (Previews): Sierra has an adventure game called Cry.sys, which never came out. Namco has the start of another long running franchise with Soul Edge. PC is getting the CD-Rom enhanced port of X-Com. On SNES, there’s Super Mario RPG which we’ll talk about briefly in Nintendo Power Retrospectives this month. The Saturn has the RPG Dark Savior.

And then there’s Quake, with our first stills in this magazine of the game, which is going to add a whole new mechanical layer to the first person shooter – 3D environments with mouselook.

Finals (Reviews): NextGen isn’t too happy with the port of MK3 on the PS1, while being impressed with DefCon 5 and NBA Jam TE. The Saturn has SimCity 2000, but with no mouse support – which is a problem, as it doesn’t have the rigidly defined blocks that the original SimCity had, making it awkward to control.

The 3DO has one of the platform’s best titles with Bladeforce (in NextGen’s view, anyway), along with the original release of D (which I’d actually consider one of the platform’s best titles – RIP Kenji Eno).

There are some games with some choice FMV this issue.

On PC, we have Dungeon Master II and Ascendancy. However, bigger than those is Sierra Online’s blockbuster adventure game Phantasmagoria, and the strategy double-whammy of Command & Conquer and Heroes of Might & Magic.

The Genesis has Earthworm Jim II and Light Crusader, and in arcades we have the additional fighting games of Fighting Vipers and Capcom’s Marvel Superheroes – all of which are reviewed strongly.

Letters: Since our last issue, DieHard GameFan’s racist gaffe happened – probably part of the reason why Dave Halverson is so aggressive at keeping scans of his defunct magazine off of the internet, and there’s a letter about that. NextGen’s own editorial staff refrains from throwing shade at their competitor – but honestly some shade needs to be thrown.

If you enjoyed this blog post and would like to help to support the site, please consider backing my Patreon. Patreon backers get to access my reviews and Let’s Plays up to a week in advance.

If you want to support the site, but can’t afford to pledge monthly, please consider tossing a few bucks into my Ko-Fi instead.