by Ken Gagne

After few extra miles and a car accident, Will White, Excalibur, Joe Talladira, T.J. Falls, and I arrived at the Los Angeles Theatre, site of the Nintendo press conference this day before the opening of E3'99. The old-style Nintendo logo stared down at us from the display screen as we found our seats in the large, ornate arena, shortly before Peter Main took the stage. As usual, he opened with various statistics and projections, such as the expectation of the video gaming industry surpassing $7 billion in 1999. Howard Lincoln then made the game presentation.

After a brief interview with young Anakin Skywalker actor, Jake Lloyd, STAR WARS EPISODE I RACER was demoed. Utilizing the Expansion Pak, the game races through a variety of terrain at high-speed, giving players the opportunity to explore worlds and characters not seen or highlighted in the movie. Episode 1 Racer comes out next Monday, the 17th, two days before the movie's opening, with a $10 million launch budget. A special N64 package will retail for $149.95 and include the system, one controller, and the Racer. Lloyd will be available at Nintendo's booth for a half-hour tomorrow to challenge attendees to a race.

"Adventure… Action… Worlds… and worlds… and more worlds. More enemies… More cooperation… more chaos… and even more worlds." It's JET FORCE GEMINI, the 3D platform action/adventure title from Rare. Due August 30th with a $5 million launch budget, this game includes cooperative play for two players, and competitive for 2-4 players.

PERFECT DARK, the sequel to Goldeneye 007, does not incorporate the James Bond setting or characters. Named for the heroine, Joanna Dark, the game follows her efforts to infiltrate Dynacorp, who is performing dark operations on alien visitors. The graphics are intended to be twice as good as 007 (with help from the Expansion Pak), and with enemies 200 times smarter than the original. The game was not shown at the press conference, but will be playable on the show floor starting tomorrow, and will launch this December.

We finally got our first look at DONKEY KONG 64. After seeing this, I wondered: who needs Banjo-Tooie? Featuring old pals Donkey and Diddy, at least two more primates will be playable characters. The 3D platformer has lizards, bananas, and mine cart rides — all the highlights of the original Donkey Kong Country titles, brought to a 3D world.

The Game Boy is what's kept Nintendo alive, by some speculation, and it received its own screen time at the conference. Super Mario Bros. Deluxe ships next week, followed by Ken Griffey Jr.'s Slugfest, Smurf's Nightmare, and a Mickey Mouse game. Pokemon Pinball will be available June 28th, and Pokemon Yellow on September 6th. Pokemon, which is in its 40th month in Japan and 8th in America, will finally make its way to the N64 this summer with Pokemon Snap on July 26th, and in October, Pokemon Stadium. Pictures taken in Pokemon Snap is saved to the cartridge, which may be brought to one of 4500 participating Blockbuster Videos to have the pictures printed as stickers. A full-length feature movie will be out in time for the 1999 holiday season.

Nintendo 64 and Game Boy covered, little was left to be said by Nintendo – or so we thought. To our astonishment, the historically-secretive company raised the curtain "a little bit" on their next system, codename: Dolphin. The announcement that Dolphin will *not* use a cartridge ROM medium was met with much cheering and applause from the audience. The graphics chip will be provided by Palo Alto-based ArtX, the president of which was behind the N64 graphics chip. Great, but the surprise announcements were still to come: Nintendo's Dolphin will be created with the help of Masushita (known domestically as Panasonic) and — get this – IBM. IBM's Burlington, Vermont factory will be producing the 400 MHz "Gecko" CPU using copper chip technology on 0.18-micron chips (that's 1/500th the width of a human hair, folks). As a reminder, IBM and their "pervasive computing" were behind the Deep Blue chess computer. Masushita will be providing Nintendo with the hardware for their new medium: DVD. The technology developed between the three companies will appear first in a dedicated game console, and later in Panasonic DVD players. It was unclear if Dolphin will play DVD movies, or DVD players will play DVD portions of Dolphin games, or what… but some interesting possibilities will exist. Despite repeated questions from the press, no other hardware specs were announced, nor will they be for awhile.

I'm on my way out the door to attend the Sega press conference where the Dreamcast will be previewed. Let's hope an included modem will be announced for the DC package. More later.

This article is copyright (c) 1999, 2007 by Ken Gagne. All rights reserved. Not to be distributed without permission.

Original publication: Video Gaming Central (CompuServe), 12-May-99