NextGen #14: February 1996

We’re slowly catching up with Nintendo Power (helped by the fact that Next Month’s episode of Nintendo Power Retrospectives is going to be a Also-Ran Episode).

NextGen #14: February 1996

Our cover is the N64, which is still on the way, and is still technically called the Ultra 64

Industry Interview: Tying in to the cover story, we have an interview with George Zachary of Silicon Graphics about the hardware that powers the Nintendo 64. Zachary talks about how their partnership with Nintendo came to pass, and about how the hardware is, in their view, superior at rendering 3D environments. What it doesn’t mention is it’s less useful at 2D sprites, which is where the N64 is actually going to get into some problems related to the Saturn and N64.

News: Well, the lingering question on everyone’s minds is – will the N64 get delayed again?

Elsewhere in the industry, the 3DO has had a price drop to $199, and the Pippin has a planned Japanese launch, while Sony is prototyping some sort of VR headset.

On the software side of things, Sierra On-Line has bought SubLogic and Papyrus Design group, who make flight sims and racing sims, respectively.

Joyriding: We have a discussion of then-recent research on what games appeal to women. According to the article, women are more interested in narrative-focused games as opposed to multiplayer-focused games based around direct conflict between players. I’m not sure if this is due to a perpetuation of gender roles through advertising directing those audiences in those directions (i.e. games based around direct confrontation between players being more directly advertised to men with masculine coded language and imagery), or the works themselves perpetuating attitudes that would lean one way or another (female characters depicted in a very sexualized way). This is grounds for further research!

Space World: At the Space World expo in Japan, people have finally been able to get hands-on with the N64. There are interviews with Genyo Takeda on the controller design, along with full hardware specs. We also have an interview with Howard Lincoln about the launch plan. There’s some blurbs from developers, who are concerned about the amount of storage on N64 carts, compared to CD-ROMs for the PS1 and Saturn.

The article wraps with an interview with Shigeru Miyamoto about Mario 64, and potential new F-Zero and Legend of Zelda games. This is followed up by previews of each of the games shown – including an untitled Legend of Zelda game, along with Mario 64, Kirby Bowl 64, Pilotwings, Shadows of the Empire, Mario Kart R, Wave Race, Body Harvest, Star Fox 64, and Goldeneye 64.

Console Advertising: We have an article on the console advertisements for the PS1 and Saturn (they’re not advertising for the N64 yet). It’s divided by discussions from ad execs explaining their ad philosophy, divided by the print and television approaches from each company.

Sony’s TV ads are meant to play as guerilla television – something underground and subversive that you can only get glimpses of, though brief flashes and coded messages, to imply that “they” don’t want you know the proof (i.e. “You Are Not E”).

Their print ads, on the other hand, focus on putting gameplay stills at the forefront, which will ultimately lay the groundwork for Square’s ad campaign for Final Fantasy VII to build off of.

Sega, on the other hand, builds off of more of a narrative with their TV ads, leaning into the intensity of 32-bit polygonal gaming.

In print, Sega leans into their arcade titles, while going back to their old standby of celebrity endorsements.

Previews (Alphas): We’re starting with a game from pre-Tomb Raider Core Design, titled Shellshock, where you’re driving around a tank in a post-apocalyptic future. We also get a look at Theme Hospital from Bullfrog, along with their sequel to Syndicate with Syndicate Wars.

On the Neo-Geo CD, they have a Samurai Spirits/Shodown RPG. To wrap up the preview coverage, we get a look at Secret of Mana 2 (which doesn’t get an official US release until 2020), and of Street Fighter Alpha.

Reviews (Finals): NG pans Irem’s submarine shooter for the PS1 – In the Hunt. On the other hand, they’re quite fond of Toukan Retsuden, a wrestling game for the PS1 developed by Yukes, and who NG suggests who could make a good WWF game – well, they’re not wrong (until they are wrong, but that’s WWE’s fault). They also liked the PlayStation port of X-Com, though they recommend using the PlayStation mouse, as the interface was not adapted for a controller.

On the Saturn, Sega Rally Championship and Virtua Fighter 2 are out, and NG loves them. Actually, all the reviewed Saturn titles this issue tend to be first party titles and are all generally favorably revieweed.

With the , the 3DO is trying to drag itself along with Battlesport (tank soccer), and ports of Bust-a-Move and PGA tour. The Jaguar has Battlemorph CD and that’s pretty much it.

However, the PC has got some big guns (literally and metaphorically) this issue, with Hexen on the first person shooter front, and the Beavis and Butthead Adventure Game on the high-profile licensed title front, both of which are liked by NG.

And as far as the rest of the platforms go, the SNES has Yoshi’s Island, and if you were thinking about writing off the arcades, there’s little title called Soul Edge walks onto the stage of history.

Letters: We get some missed reactions to Chris Crawford’s interview a few issues ago.

Chris Crawford Column: Speak of the devil. We have more Crawford complaining about Video Games aspiring to be Hollywood, in this case because of… an awards show where the attendees wear tuxedos.

Honestly, look, the Academy Awards started in the first place because of an effort by Hollywood to legitimize the film industry in the face of mounting pressure by legislators who wanted to heavily crack down on film entirely, leading to the voluntary self-regulation of the Hayes Code, and later the MPAA Ratings system, in place of government regulation which could have wiped out the art form. The ultimate intent of the Academy Awards was to present works that the industry could point to as a of the medium’s artistic merit.

The video game industry had already faced a test just like that as of this issue, and would face again several years later in the wake of the Columbine shooting, and then the Hot Coffee scandal after that. This is, honestly, exactly the time to start up awards like this, because by having a selection of award winners gives you ammunition to throw against those who argue that your medium has no merit.

It’s the reason Anime fandom has pushed for similar awards for works of anime and manga – due to the disregard and contempt (remember Tale of Princess Kaguya being dismissed “Damn Chinese Cartoons” by an Academy Awards voter) those outside fandom has had towards the medium. Having a selection of award winners gives you a body of work to present to people to say, “This medium for entertainment, storytelling, and artistic expression has merit and should be taken seriously.”

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