by Ken Gagne

We all arrived in Atlanta yesterday, and after meeting up with some friends, we headed to the Georgia World Congress center, six strong: Ken Gagne, Kathy Tom, Joe Talladira, Arc Nova, Excalibur, and William White. (non-staff members with whom we would later join included Anthony Parisi, John Ricciardi, and Lee Rogers)

The first main event was the Nintendo Press Conference at 1:30 pm. After opening statements, and a few statistics and projections, Howard Lincoln and Peter Main stepped aside to allow Ken Lobb and Shigeru Miyamoto to preview some of the items we would be seeing at the show, starting tomorrow.

PERFECT DARK is the sequel to Goldeneye 007, although it does not incorporate the James Bond setting or characters. The heroine is Joanna Dark — a surprise, as Nintendo is not known for female protagonists. The graphics are intended to be twice as good as 007, and with enemies 200 times smarter than the original. This title will be released next year.

Little was revealed about F-ZERO X. It can support up to 30 cars on-screen simultaneously at a per-second frame rate of 60. August 31st is its release date.

A three- to five-minute collage of videos of ZELDA: THE OCARINA OF TIME was introduced by Mr. Miyamoto, who will be the first inductee into the Academy of Interactive Arts and Science this week. This was the most I had ever seen of this game in action, and I was impressed. There was no background music, though this is a limitation of the demo, not the game.  A foe similar to a dark knight appeared on horseback with a face like something out of Vandal Hearts — a mask of his true appearance. Zelda, a 256-megabit cartridge, will appear on American shelves on 23-Nov-98 (Thanksgiving weekend) at a MSRP of $59.95. Its release will be announced by a massive marketing scheme, designed to promote what Mr. Lincoln calls "the biggest game release in history." With the aide of cinematic advertising in movie theaters (to take advantage of Zelda's cinematic graphics and other qualities), major tie-ins, and presales, Lincoln is expecting 2 million units to be sold before the end of the year.

Other N64 titles which were briefly shown in a slide show were STAR WARS: ROGUE SQUADRON, MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE, MARIO RPG, QUEST 64, TUROK 2, BODY HARVEST, SAN FRANCISCO RUSH 2, BODY HARVEST, WIPEOUT 64, and EARTHBOUND. (Star Wars & M:I were playable at the show the next day, as was Turok 2 behind closed doors.

The secondary focus of the press con was on the various incarnations and peripherals of the Game Boy. The Game Boy Color will be released on 23-Nov-98 with a palette of 56 colors with six Nintendo-published titles at launch. B&W ("classic") Game Boy games will be playable on the Game Boy Color, and vice versa (though obviously Color games will appear in B&W on the classic Game Boy). The system will retail for $79.95.

POKEMON and POKEMON PIKACHU will also be making American appearances on the B&W Game Boy system. This game, baring a resemblance to Tamagotchi, has a goal of obtaining and training 150 different monsters. They cannot all be had without trading among other players and linking with other Game Boy titles — creating a focus on cooperation, not battle. Starting 05-Sep-98, the cartoon will air five days a week, and we have been assured they will not create seizures in its new American audience. The game will launch 29-Sep-98, followed in Europe the next year. Pokemon Pikachu, the keychain toy more akin to the well-known Tamagotchis, were launched 30 days ago in Japan and have sold 2.5 million units, with another 700,000 units on the way. An early November launch is expected in the USA and Canada.

A short Q&A session followed, though not much information was revealed.  Regarding the 64DD, or DD64, expansion unit for the N64, it may be released in Japan in 1998, though definitely not in America. Not until "killer apps" like Mario and Tetris have been developed will such a release seem feasible. On other systems, no classics other than F-Zero and Zelda are getting an update this year, so don't look for Kid Icarus, Punch-Out, or Metroid. (this question was posed by our own Excalibur)

I'm on my way out the door to attend the Sega press conference where the Dreamcast will be previewed, and we'll learn if it will be available during the actual show.

This article is copyright (c) 1998, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Video Gaming Central (CompuServe), 25-May-98