by Ken Gagne

When the Interactive Digital Software Association invited all the various video game companies to join in a new Electronic Entertainment Expo in 1995, they had no idea that it would be so wildly successful. From May 16th to May 18th this year in the Los Angeles Convention Center, over 500 companies demonstrated more than 1700 new products to the trade only in 445,000 square feet of exhibition space. Guest stars included Alex Trebek, Al Gore, Hank Aaron, and Spiderman. The highlights, of course, were the emerging games and console systems that parents will find themselves putting under the Christmas tree in 1996. 

Perhaps the most notable of all present companies was Nintendo. The launch of their new Nintendo 64 system is only a few months away, and playable demos of several new games were available. The analog controller will take some getting used to, but the new sensitivity will be appreciated for its fine touch. Super Mario 64 throws our heroic plumber into a new 3D world where anything is possible. Pilotwings 64 had innumerable varieties of stages, including jetpack, helicopter, and human cannonball. Wave Race is reminiscent of F-Zero with jet-skis. Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire is similar to other games such as Doom and Dark Forces. Killer Instinct has characters from both the original and sequel coin-ops. Mortal Kombat 64 has all the characters, moves, stages, and combos from William's three arcade fighters. Cruisin' USA is based on the arcade game. Goldeneye 007 is a Doom-like game based on James Bond. The Nintendo 64 will be available in the USA on September 30th with one controller for $250, with more controllers in varied colors at $30 each, memory cartridges at $10, and games $50-$80. Games not seen but available by the end of 1996 include Body Harvest, TetrisPhear, Buggie Boogie, Ken Griffey Jr., Blast Corps, and Super Mario Kart R. Next year will bring us Kirby's Air Ride, Star Fox 64, Mission Impossible, Doom, Robotech, and Wayne Gretzky Hockey, among others. Before 1997, three million N64 cartridges and a million consoles will be shipped. 

On the portable side, Nintendo introduced the Pocket Game Boy, a handheld only 35% smaller than the original. It sells for $60 and has much a much improved contrast and resolution in its LCD screen. New games include Kirby's Block Ball, a sort of double Arkanoid; Donkey Kong Land 2; and Tetris Attack. 

The Virtual Boy's price has dropped to $100, with games around $30-$40. August releases are Dragon Hopper and Bound High. 

The most popular Nintendo system, the SNES, continues with a strong showing of titles. A playable Donkey Kong Land 3: Dixie's Double Trouble was at E3, and will be available on November 18th. Super Mario RPG was released on May 13th. A sequel to their prior baseball title, Ken Griffey Jr.'s Winning Run launches on June 10th. A mixed bag of games will be dubbed Kirby Super Star on September 3rd, the same release date as Tetris Attack. 

Marvel Super Heroes: War of the Gems for SNES from Capcom is a two-dimensional side-scroller unrelated to the coin-op fighter of the same name. Capcom will also be simultaneously releasing several titles for both the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation: Street Fighter Alpha 2, the awesome coin-op sequel; Fox Hunt, a spy game with over three hours of full motion video; Major Damage, a shooter with some interesting three-dimensional aspects; Buster Bros. Collection, three arcade classics on one disc; Marvel Super Heroes, based on the arcade game of comic book fighters; and Werewolf: The Apocalypse, based on the Storyteller RPG series. Also look for Star Gladiators on the PlayStation, a translation of Capcom's first 3D arcade fighter. 

Acclaim will also be releasing several titles for both of the 32-bit systems. NBA Jam Extreme continues the arcade slam-dunking smash hit with 170 NBA super-stars and 50 secret players. Space Jam is based on the upcoming 1996 movie starring Michael Jordan and Bugs Bunny. The official NFL license graces NFL Quarterback Club '97, as does all the realism you can ask for in a pigskin game. WWF In Your House and WWF: The Arcade Game will give players a choice of how to feel the pain of true superstar wrestling. Iron & Blood is a unique fighter game in that it is based on the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing gameworld of Ravenloft. Vampires, werewolves, executioners, and dwarves round off its oddball lineup. The phenomenal RPG card game, Magic: The Gathering, will also become a CD game. Batman Forever is based on the arcade beat-em-up and utilizes 100% CGI graphics! Dragonheart, and The Crow: City of Angels are both movie-based games that call for fighting prowess to master dozens of moves. Bust-A-Move 2 will have players puzzling late into the night as they match colored balls to clear the screen in all-new levels. 

Williams announced several sequels and ports of their own for the Sony PlayStation. Mortal Kombat Trilogy is the same as Mortal Kombat 64 for the N64. Final Doom may not be, but it will promise a new challenge to those who have been addicted to the number one computer shooter. NHL Open Ice allows four simultaneous players and all 26 NHL teams. Ports from arcade games include Area 51, the thrilling sci-fi gun shooter; NBA Hangtime, a four-player basketball game; and War Gods, the first digitized 3D fighter; Robotron X, a revival of a classic arcade game from the early 1980's; and a CD compilation of five other games, including Joust and Defender. 

Konami, one of the first video game companies, continues to be one of the strongest with a powerful lineup on both the Saturn and the PlayStation. Project Overkill is a dark, dynamic adventure of 3D action in the hardboiled future. Contra: Legacy of War is a continuation of the most popular shooting series ever; this time, some 3D levels require 3D glasses! Crypt Killer brings the B-movie monster shooter from the arcade to home. Lethal Enforcers I & II will join on one CD to ensure all the fact-paced shooting action from the arcade gunslinger. A sequel to their sleeper hit, Snatcher, will finally be translated to the Saturn as Policenauts, a role-playing game suited for the forward-thinking mind. On the PlayStation, look for the RPG Suikoden, which offers several varieties of graphics and battle modes. Just in time for the Summer Olympics is International Track and Field, allowing four home athletes to participate in a dozen events. 

From Namco for the PlayStation, look for Tekken 2, one of the deepest 3D fighters to ever come home from the arcade; Soul Edge, a superbly texture-mapped 3D polygon fighter coin-op translation; and Ridge Racer Revolution, a new racing sequel which uses analog controllers and has a dozen cars and six-plus tracks. 

On the Sony Computer Entertainment front, the new price of the PlayStation system is $200. Their third, and hopefully permanent, mascot will be launched with the title Crash Bandicoot, a wombat in a game that needs some speed before release. Sony will publish Tobal, a Virtua Fighter-type game from Square, makers of the Final Fantasy RPG series. Unlike other 3D fighters, this one allows you to freely walk back and forth into and out of the screen. The first RPGs for the PSX will be Arc the Lad and Beyond the Beyond, both of which are shaping up nicely. 2 Xtreme is a two-player combat racing game on skates, bikes, and snowboards. Jet Moto will incorporate real-life physics into jet-bike racing. Bogey: Dead 6 is a twelve-mission flight sim with 360 degree motion. One of Sony's original characters, Robbit, is back in Jumping Flash! 2. A unique first-person perspective will have players hopping the world to save the Muu's. Another returning title is Twisted Metal 2, in which players will roam the cities at will to nab the villains. Few baseball titles have all the options, players, and real-life stadiums that MLB Pennant Race does. This fourth title in Sony's sports lineup is sure to be another grand slam. Joining it will be NBA Shoot Out, which includes the ratings and statistics of over 300 NBA players; and NCAA Football Gamebreaker, featuring all 110 Division I-A teams and all ten conferences. 

As a knee-jerk reaction to Sony's announcement, Sega has also dropped the price of their Saturn system to $200 — exactly half the price of the system when it was launched a year ago. The NetLink system was finally seen, which hooks up the Saturn to the Internet for only an additional $200. At a $400 price, this makes the Saturn a competitive choice to the overly-expensive home PCs that are the current selection. Sonic Blast for the Genesis and Game Gear has an overhead view, controlling the hedgehog from which is a pain rather than a pleasure. Virtua Fighter Animation is a 2D fighter for Genesis and Game Gear starring the original VF cast. Virtua Fighter Kids for Saturn uses the standard 3D game engine, but all the characters are replaced with adorable child versions of themselves. The list of arcade games coming to Saturn includes winners such as Virtua Cop 2, Fighting Vipers, Manx TT, and — amazingly enough — Virtua Fighter 3! Sonic Blast finally brings the hedgehog to 32-bit. It may not surpass the upcoming Nights in acclaim, though. Nights is a beautiful, rendered game in a 3D world that has players flying, swimming, and climbing precisely with the new Saturn analog controller. 

The E3 show this year was so big, this article cannot hope to cover everything. Next year's will be even that much larger, so much that Los Angeles cannot hold it all! In Atlanta, Georgia, June 19th-21st, prepare to be gobsmacked again.

This article is copyright (c) 1996, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Gamebits, 15-May-96