Santa's Christmas List 2000

Posted in by on Dec 26th, 2000 12:00 PM

by Ken Gagne

As Santa filled his sleigh this year, he checked his list. Which video game companies were on his lists this Christmas? He moved his finger down the list, seeing who'd been naughty and who'd been nice…

Nice

Naughty

  • Sony, for releasing a game system that combines video games with DVD capability.
  • Nintendo, for creating a next-generation game system, the GameCube, which is developer-friendly.
  • Sega, for getting SegaNet up and running with Quake III, NFL2K1, and NBA2K1.
  • Konami, for all the games shown at Konami Gamers Day, especially Metal Gear Solid 2 and Silent Hill 2.
  • Capcom, not only for porting their Resident Evil and Dino Crisis games to the Sega Dreamcast, but pricing them affordably, too.
  • Enix, for reestablishing themselves in North America, and releasing Game Boy versions of Dragon Warrior, one of the best role-playing game series in video game history.
  • Rare, for great Nintendo 64 games such as Perfect Dark and Banjo-Tooie; who says the N64 is dead?
  • Square, for releasing so many RPG's this year, even if some of their sequels weren't as great as the originals.
  • Working Designs, for shipping Lunar 2 in time for Christmas.
  • Peter Moore, COO of Sega, for defending the video game industry after the FTC reported that violent video games are intentionally marketed to children.
  • Sony, for rushing the PS2 to market, making it difficult for developers to create games, releasing no "killer apps" in time for Christmas, and failing to ship as many hardware units as they promised. (how many lumps of coal IS that?)
  • Everyone on eBay who sold PlayStation 2's for more than $500.
  • Saddam Hussein, for taking 4,000 PlayStation 2's off American shelves and shipping them to Iraq.
  • Microsoft, for Xbox.  From the people who brought us Windows? God save us all.
  • Paramount, Eidos, and Angelina Jolie, for the tragedy that is about to beTomb Raider: The Movie.
  • Square, for releasing handheld versions of the classic Final Fantasy games — for WonderSwan, not Game Boy.
  • LucasArts, for releasing the Nintendo 64 Indiana Jones and the Infernal Machine as a Blockbuster rental exclusive.
  • Express.com, for shutting down the GameFan website and print magazine.
  • Quebec, for forcing video game companies to release game manuals in French.
  • Everyone who didn't buy Sega's A+ quality software, from Samba de Amigo to Shenmue; Sega reported hundreds of millions of dollars in losses this year.  Sega got over their mistakes with the 32X and Saturn, why can't you?

 


This article is copyright (c) 2000, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 26-Dec-00

Holiday 2000 Software Gift Guide

Posted in by on Dec 4th, 2000 12:00 PM

by Ken Gagne

If your child wants for G.I. Joe or Barbie for Christmas, you better ask what system that's for. 

With the recent release of the PlayStation 2, video games are on everyone's mind. Hundreds of software titles have been released for all systems this year, with a deluge of sequels and multiplayer games. 

The following greatest hits will be sure to please any gamers who finds them under their Christmas tree. 

Nintendo's Pokemon has endured several years on the market, and is still a popular title among kids and adults. Short for "Pocket Monster," Pokemon challenges players to capture many varieties of wild creatures. Captured Pokemon can evolve into higher forms, or bred with other Pokemon to create entirely new species. 

Pokemon Silver & Gold are two games for the Game Boy Color. Each game has a unique set of Pokemon to collect; only by connecting two Game Boys and trading between the different versions can all the Pokemon be collected. 

If you prefer your virtual pets a bit more on the real side, consider Sega's Seaman, for the Dreamcast. A fish with a human face, Seaman lets its caretaker know in no unclear terms how good a job she's doing. Thanks to the included microphone peripheral, players can converse with their Seaman, who talks back. Seaman understands an impressive range of words, and is extremely inquisitive (some might say prying) about his owner. Due to the sometimes adult conversations, Seaman may not be suitable for young children. 

Seaman is one of many offbeat games the Sega Dreamcast offers. Though more traditional fare is available, nobody makes classics like Nintendo does. The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask, for Nintendo 64, is one such title. 

Majora's Mask is the latest in a best-selling series that originated 13 years ago. In this latest Zelda game, gamers become the young hero Link, who has 72 hours to stop the moon from crashing into the world. Those three days repeat in Groundhog Day fashion until Link has accomplished all the tasks set before him. Link must traverse fields, swamps, and mountains to enter sacred temples and revive the guardians who have the power to save the land in this 3D, over-the-shoulder adventure game. 

If Zelda sounds appealing, but your audience is more mature, consider Resident Evil: Code Veronica, a Sega Dreamcast game from Capcom. Resident Evil defined the survival horror genre, setting players against zombies, mutants, and other unspeakable horrors. Code Veronica sends Claire Redfield to Europe to determine the whereabouts of her brother Chris, who was lost in the war against the amoral biotech corporation, Umbrella. The first Resident Evil on the Sega Dreamcast, this title offers lifelike graphics and gameplay. 

Another popular series makes its return in Final Fantasy IX, a Squaresoft game for the Sony PlayStation. Final Fantasy is the quintessential role-playing game series. RPGs feature story-driven gameplay, menu-driven combat, character building, and long hours. In FFIX, which is more lighthearted than its predecessors, the thief Zidane and his willing captive, Princess Garnet, set out to discover who is manipulating the peaceful land of Alexandria into preparing for war. Beautiful music and full-motion videos pull players into this four-disc epic quest. 

Maybe zombies and dragons are too fantastical for gifts. Many games have the same fun factor in a real world setting. The PlayStation game Syphon Filter 2, from 989 Studios, sends Gabriel Logan and Lian Xing to find a cure for the bio-engineered Syphon Filter virus. The realistic gameplay (big guns, head shots, etc.) gives this game a rating for Mature audiences only. 

As good as Syphon Filter 2 is, no spy game can hold a candle to Perfect Dark, Nintendo's first-person perspective shooter for the Nintendo 64. An unofficial sequel to the popular James Bond shooting game Goldeneye, Perfect Dark stars Joanna Dark, who uncovers a dangerous alien conspiracy. Each mission has a set of goals; players will need to master many weapons and accessories to get past the enemies that keep Joanna from her tasks. 

Four-player competitive and cooperative modes can be engaged, with enemy robots, or "simulants," added into the mix. Rules such as Capture the Flag, Hacker Central, and Free For All ensure almost endless replay value. 

If the gamer close to your heart enjoys games of a competitive nature, but Perfect Dark sounds a bit too fatal, these two sports games for the Sega Dreamcast might fit the bill. NFL 2K1 features four-player games and Internet play, using the Dreamcast's built-in modem. The included 50 free hours of Sega.net, an Internet service provider, opens a world of opponents. 

Virtua Tennis is a simpler game, but no less addictive. Up to four players can compete in singles or doubles. Or, solo players can enter a world tour, with computer opponents and teammates and many unique mini-games that test different tennis skills, earning money to purchase new courts, players, and uniforms. 

If mini-games are your thing, then Mario Party 2 for Nintendo 64 is nothing but. This board game, suitable for all ages, brings Nintendo icons Mario, Luigi, and others together to win coins and gain stars. Victory is earned in contests that try players' agility, timing, and luck. 

Another Nintendo game that all ages can enjoy is Banjo-Tooie, the sequel to Banjo-Kazooie. Banjo the bear and Kazooie, the bird who lives in his backpack, are out to stop the wicked witch Gruntilda from sucking all life from the world. Players can search eight worlds, from factories to amusement parks, for musical notes, jiggy birds, and other items. The range of moves gamers must learn is paralleled only by how much fun they'll have with this wry pair of heroes. 

Speaking of wry, few games exhibit the sense of humor Spider-Man does. The comic book wall crawler leaps into one of the finest superhero video games ever that pits him against the Lizard, Doctor Octopus, Venom, and a host of other nemeses. The game perfectly captures the feel of the comic book, from the web-slinging action to Peter Parker's witty retorts. A "kid mode" simplifies the controls so anyone can play. Published by Activision, this game is available for Nintendo 64 and PlayStation. 

The games listed so far have been for the Sega Dreamcast, Sony PlayStation, and Nintendo 64. Recently, a new system arrived on the scene: the PlayStation 2. 

The PS2, which plays PlayStation games, PlayStation 2 games, and DVD movies, is a rare find this holiday season. If you're one of the lucky few who will be putting or getting one under the Christmas tree, you'll want some games to go with it. 

Two games from Namco are sure to please. Ridge Racer V is a racing game that can be enjoyed by veterans and newcomers alike, while Tekken Tag Tournament is a fighter with much depth and many hidden secrets. 

SSX, from Electronic Arts, is a snowboarding game that demonstrates the graphical power of Sony's new machine. 

Whether you're shopping for a kid or an adult with a Nintendo or Sony who likes fantasy or reality, the Christmas 2000 season offers a wide selection of games for all systems and tastes, with the above games being some of the best. 


This article is copyright (c) 2000, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 04-Dec-00

Holiday 2000 Hardware Gift Guide

Posted in by on Nov 6th, 2000 12:00 PM

Ken Gagne

Mario, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Crash Bandicoot. The names of these video games may be familiar, but they won't be found together on one system. 

Nintendo, Sega, and Sony are all vying to place their products under Christmas trees this holiday season. Each one offers unique hardware and software features that makes for a difficult buying decision. Holiday shoppers would do well to choose the console that suits both a gamer's tastes and the buyer's budget. 

Several factors should be considered when making a purchasing decision. Some systems have more games available, but they may not appeal to all types or ages of gamers. The number of players a system can support is important if the gamer enjoys playing with others. Additional features, such as Internet connectivity or DVD movie playback, can add value to the package, in both enjoyment and price. 

Some systems are more powerful than others, but it's not an abstract concept of polygon-pushing power that sells systems. Beyond the initial investment, it's what games you put into it that count. A strong combination of capable hardware and diverse, entertaining software is what makes gamers happiest. 

The power of a video game console is rated in bits. The more bits a system has, the more data it can compute. This translates into better graphics and sound, and bigger and more complex games. 

The Nintendo Game Boy, the core of which is more than a decade old, is only 8-bit. The Sony PlayStation is 32-bit, and the Nintendo 64 is, naturally, 64-bit. The Sega Dreamcast is a 128-bit video game system, as is the hottest console on today's market, the Sony PlayStation 2. 

The PS2 offers a range of capabilities, but is a scarce item this holiday season. Released in October with a retail price of $299, the PS2 can play new PS2 games, thousands of original PlayStation games, and DVD movies. All this capability rolled into a single box is very convenient. 

Finding a PS2 is not so easy. Sony's initial shipment was only 500,000 units, which hardly fulfilled the massive quantities of preorders most stores had by then. Many video game retail outlets aren't guaranteeing PS2's to walk-in customers until March 2001. The average price of a PS2 on eBay, an online auction house, is $1,000. 

However, most stores are well-stocked of other systems, including the Sega Dreamcast. The Dreamcast rings in at $149, which includes a built-in modem. By connecting Sega's system to the Internet, gamers can surf the web, send email, and play games online. The current library of games that support online play is small, but is rapidly growing. With online games like NFL2K1 and Quake III Arena, and offline titles such as Sonic the Hedgehog and Soul Calibur, there are plenty of great games to choose from. 

The Dreamcast also has a penchant for offbeat games. Players can raise Seaman, a virtual pet they talk with using a microphone. Drive around town delivering passengers to their destinations in Crazy Taxi. Or grab a pair of maracas and dance up a storm in Samba de Amigo. 

Compared with the Sony PlayStation 2, the Sega Dreamcast has the advantage of maturity. The Dreamcast has used its year on the market to come down in price, build an online network, and establish a library of 200 games. By this time next year, the Sony PlayStation 2 will likely have enjoyed similar growths. This season, for less than the same price as a PS2, a Christmas shopper can purchase a different game system and DVD player separately. 

The PS2 and Dreamcast are part of what is considered the current generation of 128-bit systems. Previous systems are still available, and offer an excellent range of software for a lower price. New games will become infrequent as these older systems are phased out in favor of the next generation of systems. 

The original Sony PlayStation, nicknamed the PSX, is affordably priced at $99. Its games run the gamut of genres. Dozens of sports titles, including hockey, soccer, football, and basketball, are released almost annually from EA Sports and Sony's 989 Studios. Final Fantasy, one of the finest role-playing games ever, and Resident Evil, which defined the survival horror genre, are some of best-known PSX games. Many of these games are rated for teenage or mature audiences. 

The Nintendo 64 also costs $99. Nintendo's trademark characters, such as Mario, Zelda, and Pokemon, can be found exclusively on the N64. Many of Nintendo's games are aimed at younger audiences and are non-violent, though most appeal to all ages. Plus, while PSX games are stored on CDs, which are easily scratched, Nintendo games are durable cartridges. For this reason, a N64 game can cost $10-$20 more than a similar CD game. 

The N64 also has the built-in capability for four-player games, including the fighting game Super Smash Brothers, board game Mario Party 2, or shooters like Perfect Dark and Goldeneye 007. Games such as these have made the N64 the ultimate party machine. 

Nintendo's Game Boy Color also has a wide range of games, but since the system is old, none of the games are very sophisticated. Multiplayer games are rare, and require each player to have a Game Boy and a copy of the game. 

But when that game is Pokemon, it's hard to find someone who doesn't have it. Nintendo's phenomenon has spanned television shows, movies, card games, and multiple video games, most of them on Game Boy. The game encourages players to "link up" and share monsters they've caught, trained, and bred. 

The Sega Dreamcast and Nintendo 64, with their four controller ports, turn spectators into players. The Sony PlayStation offers something for every taste, while the more powerful PlayStation 2 is aimed at gamers and movie fans alike — if you can find one. The Game Boy Color has tons of popular games, despite their age, and is practically the only handheld system on the market. 

The hardcore gamer's solution is simply to own all the systems. Everyone else should consider their gaming needs, and purchase a system that offers the most and best-suited hardware and software for their dollar. 


This article is copyright (c) 2000, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Sentinel & Enterprise, 06-Nov-00