News, rumors and other information (originally posted 4/20/96)
Regional Blockbuster Stores Discontinue Virtual Boy
Blockbuster, the national video rental chain, has recently decided to discontinue support for Nintendo's Virtual Boy system in many regions across the country. Sources at Blockbuster indicated that the decision was made because of consistantly poor rentals of the console and its software. Me must note that the final decision on closing out the systems has apparently been left up to the regional managers, so in some areas where rentals have actually done well, the machines will stay rentable. How this will effect general consumer opinion on the already struggling system remains to be seen. On a positive note however, Blockbuster stores that are discontinuing their Virtual Boys are selling off their inventory, with the consoles being sold from as low as $29(US) a piece, and the software going for anywhere from $9(US)-$19(US) depending on the store.
More News On Square's 3-D Fighter
(*)More information has come in on Square's recently announced 3-D fighting game Tobal. The game will is planned to ship in July for Japan with a approximate price of $58(US). As mentioned before, character design will be handled by the cartoonist Akira Toriyama (best know for his series, Dragon Ball). Additionally, the game development staff for this game is an all-star cast consisting of: Seiich Ishii (past work:Virtua Fighter, Tekken 1, and Tekken 2), Hitoshi Matsuda (TEKKEN 1 and 2), Shin Kimura (Virtua Fighter 1 and 2), Tomohiro Ishii (Virtua Fighter 1 and 2), Toru Ikebuchi (Virtua Fighter 1 and 2), Takeshi Suzuki (Virtua Fighter 1 and 2), Masahiro Onoguchi (Tekken 1), and Taketoshi Nishimori (Soul Edge). This group of programmers is currently being called "The Dream Factory" in Japan, and this project is a very hot topic as you can imagine.
Update On Capcom U.S. Releases
Following the recent announcement in Japan of planned releases for the remainder of 1996, we now have information as to what will is schedualed for the U.S. market. At this point gamers can expect to see at the least Dark Stalkers for PlayStation available in June, Mega Man 8 and Mega Man X4 for PlayStation and Saturn this Fall, and Marvel Super Heroes before Christmas. As for plans regarding Cyber Bots, sources at Capcom indicated that they don't expect to see the game available in the U.S. due to a lower than expected popularity in the arcades. As for other Japanese announced games, there are currently no announced U.S. release plans, although we expect to here something mid-May.
Playmates Interactive Announces 1996 Lineup
Playmates has announced their planned software releases for the remainder of this year. Schedualed for console release in May is the U.S. conversion of Battle Arena Toshinden 2 for the PlayStation, Earthworm Jim 2 for the Saturn, Skeleton Warriors for both PlayStation and Saturn. In the PC area, Playmates will be releasing in May a PC conversion of the first Battle Arena Toshinden, a compilation CD of Earthworm Jim 1 and 2 entitled The Whole Can o' Worms, a new strategy game called Into the Void and then in September, a first-person shooter named The Mortificator. Also announced for cross platform launch under Windows95, Saturn and PlayStation were two games: the first title is a 3-D, first-person action/adventure game named Powerslave for release in September; the second title is a 3-D motocross racing game named Virtual Supercross. Look for more news on these games in our E3 report.
Exclusive Agreements in Japan
(*)First, Namco has recently acquired the rights to develop a game related to the "FIM World Motorcycle Championship". Namco currently plans to develop this game for the arcade, PC, and console platforms. Further details are unavailable at this time, but we expect more news on this at E3. In other news, Spectrum Holobyte has signed a three year agreement with one of Japan's largest game software distributors (Mitsui Bussan), to distibute their software in Japan. The first three games to be made available under this arrangement will be Civilization, Top Gun, and Magic: The Gathering for Windows in July.
* * * (originally posted 04/13/96)
3DO Goes Low Key For E3
In a surprise move, 3DO has indicated that they will not present a full booth at this years E3 show. Internal sources noted that 3DO will still be present, but will only hold private meetings off the floor with press, distributors, and the like by invite only. The reason for this? We were told that due to the current status of hardware and software in 3DO's development cycle, management felt it would not be cost effective to present a full booth as they have at previous trade shows. Instead they will redirect the funds towards R&D (a good booth doesn't come cheap!), holding off on a large flashy booth showing until E3 in 1997.
A Gallon Of Milk And A N64
(*)The well known convenience store chain Lawsons has announced that they will now carry Nintendo's N64 system and software in their Japanese stores. This will mark the first time that consumers will be able to purchase video game related materials (aside from magazines) in a convenience store. Lawsons will begin accepting pre-orders on systems and software from April 21st until June 9th, requiring a 10% deposit made toward the (approximately 25,000 yen) purchase at time of pre-order. Software available at launch currently consists of Super Mario 64, Pilot Wings 64, and Habu's Japanese Chess (each priced at around 9,800 yen). Customers will receive their consoles on June 23rd (the official launch date).
Good News And Bad News
The bad news?: (for PlayStation gamers) Namco recently announced the delay of nearly all of their North American software releases until this Winter (1996) at the earliest. Confirmed titles to be delayed are Volume 1, of the Arcade Classics compilation CD, and Soul Edge which are now planned for a Christmas '96 release. Namco did not indicate a reason for the delay on these titles at this time. The good news?: (for Saturn gamers) Sega's Panzer Dragoon II (Zwei) has been pushed forward and should be shipping to stores in about two weeks.
Wrap Up On Ken Griffey Jr.'s Winning Run
Nintendo's new title Ken Griffey Jr's Winning Run is nearing release (June 3rd). Notable to this title is the fact that it will be the first Super Nintendo sports video game to utilize Advanced Computer Modeling (ACM) graphics technology. Weighing in at a hefty 32-megabits, this game will support both one- and two-players. Designed under close participation with Ken Griffey Jr., Winning Run will have a number of features which are designed to help bring the player more into the game. Some of these features include the ability for players to sacrifice flies, make hit-and-run grounders, or pull the ball down the line. Winning Run will also feature a controllable "moving camera" which the field player can use to make smooth baseline sweeps when checking player positions; as well as numerous secret codes to access hidden teams and more. Characters in the game were motion captured and rendered using Alias/Wavefront's PowerAnimator.
* * * (originally posted 04/11/96)
E3 On The Horizon
E3 is fast approaching (May 16-18), and it's already looking to be a hot show. Nintendo will officially unveil the Nintendo 64 to the U.S. market at this show, and rumors stand that we may even see Virtua Fighter 3 coin-ops running on the Sega's Model 3 hardware. Also on the hardware front, we expect to see something on the PlayStation 4 (a PS with x4 spin CD-ROM), and more. When it comes to software, everyone will be pulling out the big guns, with some notable games to watch for being Spectrum HoloByte's sequal X-COM: Apocalypse for PC-CDROM and Psynosis' unveiling of several sequals to current PlayStation hits such as WipeOut 2! You can bet this will be the event of the year so keep your eyes to Game Zero for full coverage.
Square Enters the 3-D Fighting Arena
(*)Square of Japan recently announced plans for their first 3-D fighting game. Slated to be released this Summer for the Sony PlayStation, the title (currently named Trooper), will have character designs by Akira Toriyama of Dragon Ball fame. While Trooper will be a significant change of pace for Square (a recognized leader in the area of RPG gaming), they have indicated that this game will be the first of many non-RPG titles to be released in the future.
Studio 3DO Steps-Up to Tee-Off
On April 9th, 1996, the 3DO Company signed a worldwide exclusive agreement with reigning "British Open" championJohn Daly to make interactive golf titles for multiple game platforms, including the PC. John Daly is best know for his ability to hit a ball farther than any other golfer in the history of the sport, winning both "The PGA Championship" and "The British Open". Studio 3DO hopes to bring Daly to life in their game through the use of detailed video-capture of Daly's game playing combined with high quality graphic output. Additionally, gamers can expect a new swing interface, as well as other new control features. Players will also be able to play as Daly or against him in their game. Unfortunately no release date has been indicated at this time.
Planned Article Dropped
For those of you who were waiting on a Street Fighter Alpha "Head-to-Head" article, the piece has been dropped. After extensive play on both versions, it was felt that there were not enough real differences in the game to justify a full article on it. But, for the record, everyone on staff who played the game felt that the Saturn version was better -- strictly on playability -- when using a stock controller.
* * * (originally posted 04/06/96)
Capcom Announces New Releases
(*)At the end of March, Capcom of Japan announced their 1996 release line-up for the remainder of the year. As you know, Capcom often releases their games in both the U.S. and Japan, anymore at the same time, making it likely that U.S. gamers will see these games eventually. The first title mentioned is a follow-up to their already hit Sony PlatStation game Resident Evil, currently entiteled Resident Evil 2. Also announced for the PlayStation was Star Gladiator (an original 3-D game by Capcom). Unique to the Sega Saturn will be a new robot fighting game reportedly named Cyber Bots (previously referenced by translation error as Syber Botz). Both Saturn and PlayStation will be receiving MegaMan X4, and Marvel Super Heroes. There was also the announcement that Street Fighter Alpha 2 will be ported to the home market. As for the arcades, Capcom indicated plans for Street Fighter 3, unfortunately no street date or cast of characters was available to us at the time of this posting.
Sony Develops PC Based Operating System
Sony Corp. is planning to challenge big guns IBM and Microsoft in the home PC market, by developing their own operating system that will target home based multi-media and video gaming. Instead of going head-to-head with market leader Microsoft, Sony plans to make an operating system that is not office centered, but rather audio/video centered. This new O/S is apparently based on their "Apertos" O/S which Sony has been developing over the past few years. Sony wishes to get this product to market as soon as possible and an official announcement regarding a formal launch date will come from Sony later this year. This news comes on the heals of Sony's recent announcement that they will be working with Intel to release their own line of personal computers. Early models will use the existing Microsoft operating system, but later models will have built in special audio/video features and will utilize Sony's new O/S. This line of PC compatables is already in the works and should be in stores in the next few months.
Autodesk Makes Game Development Inexpensive
Autodesk, recognized through out the graphics/video industry for their 3DStudio software, plans to revolutionize the 3-D gaming industry now with their newly released 3DStudio Max. 3DStudio Max offers for the first time, workstation quality graphics on inexpensive PC based systems. Built in effects include the ability to produce: volumetric atmospheres, real-time rendering, advanced animation, and the software runs under Microsoft's 32-bit Windows NT operating system. The significance of this announcement is that up until now, PC based game developers have been restrained by the high cost of buying a Silicon Graphics workstation or other like platform. With 3DStudio Max, developers are now free to develop inexpensively on any current PC which is also capable of running the NT O/S.
* * * (originally posted 04/04/96)
Sega's "Sonic" Team Goes Saturn
(*)On March 29th, Sega Enterprises of Japan announced a new action game called "Nights into Dreams" for release on the Sega Saturn platform. This new title is being developed by the same team which produced the original Sonic The Hedgehog game for Sega's Genesis platform. Slated for a Summer 96' release in Japan, this title will also come packed with an analog control pad which should allow for very delicate movements within the game's environments. We'll bring you more news on this title as available.
XBAND Hits Brazil
Catapult Entertainment has recently finalized an agreement with high technology product marketer, Tec Toy, to launch XBAND for the Sega Mega Drive into the Barzilian marketplace. Tec Toy, who maintains a strong retail distribution network in the country, is noted to hold about 75% of the Brazil video game market. Catapult hopes that this will lead to a strong product launch of their XBAND service for the area. Additionally, Tec Toy also offers a Mega Drive cartridge (introduced last year) which allows console owners the ability to bank from home or access the Internet for e-mail, home-shopping and more. Tec Toy will make use of this infrastructure to expedite their planned summer role out of the XBAND service, giving customers access to XBAND account billing and more through the additional cartridge.
The Vampire Diaries
Her Interactive (a division of American Laser Games, Inc.) announced their second title for release in October of this year. The game The Vampire Diaries is a mystery adventure CD-ROM based on the best-selling series of romantic thriller novels for young adults. The game will be a 3-D graphic adventure in which players assume the role of heroine Elena, a teenage girl whose quest is to defeat the evil force preying on her town -- even as she falls in love with a vampire. While the primary target audience for this title will be teenage females, Her Interactive believes this game will have appeal to other groups as well. This title is slated for release under Windows 95, taking full advantage of Microsoft's new game development environment.
* * * (originally posted 04/01/96)
Saturn Price Drops for North America
Effective today, Sega of America and Sega of Canada have dropped the prices on their Sega Saturn consoles. New retail pricing in the U.S. is $249(US) for the Saturn core system, and $299(US) for the Saturn with Virtua Fighter packed-in. In Canada, the cost for the Saturn core system was cut $90(CAN) to a new price of $339(CAN).
Sony Signs with Universal Interactive
Sony Computer Entertainment of America (SCEA) and Universal Interactive Studios Inc. signed an agreement last week to produce the game Crash Bandicoot for the PlayStation. Marked as an official "second generation" release for the PlayStation by Bernard Stolar, SCEA vice president of business development, this action/platform title is being created for release later this year. Sandy Climan, executive vice president of MCA Inc., said: "UIS has assembled an outstanding group of interactive software experts including Vice President of Technology and Crash Bandicoot Executive Producer Mark Cerny and Producer David Stiller. "This alliance with SCEA validates our approach to software development, which emphasizes gameplay while also taking advantage of the traditional skills, such as storytelling and character development, associated with Hollywood."
(compiled by R.I.P.. *Japanese news coverage has been contributed in part or whole by "Game Japan" Magazine)