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volume 1, issue 38

Today in loonygames:

New!! The Archives have been cleaned up, fead links fixed, and printable versions restored! Also, don't miss the new comments on the front page!

Livin' With The Sims: theAntiELVIS explores the wild and wacky world that is Will Wright's The Sims, asking the inevitable quesiton, "is The Sims the first step toward a virtual life where everyone is Swedish?"

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Pad Happy:
The Consoles Strike Back

By Nick Ferguson


Aaah, Project Dolphin. Rumors were circulating the week before E3 that certain companies were already underway developing games for Nintendo’s N64 follow-up, and it seems likely that these were true – Rare’s Mickey Mouse license provides the first confirmed title for the machine. Nintendo surprised everyone at their conference last week by announcing Project Dolphin would launch near-simultaneously worldwide (hmmm, where have we heard that before?) in the closing stages of 2000 – just in time for the Western release of PlayStation 2. Recent reports would suggest that Nintendo’s hardware may not be finalised (disputing rumors that the Dolphin hardware was being shown under wraps at the show) – it seems that IBM have not even completed their design of the CPU just yet! So why the announcement? Whether Nintendo felt pressure to finally respond to the threat posed by PlayStation 2 or really are on a fast-track approach to launch this thing remains to be seen. Claims that Dolphin will match – and perhaps even exceed – PlayStation 2 performance are encouraging, as is the decision to rely on pirate-resistant DVD as the storage media. But at this early stage speculation about Project Dolphin is just that – speculation.

What sure as hell wasn’t speculation was the intriguing array of features available for the best N64 games at the show. The news that the 4MB expansion pack would come bundled with Donkey Kong 64 was excellent (although what if you already have it?), as was the feature in Perfect Dark that enables Game Boy Camera owners to map their face onto multi-player characters (via an N64 – GB connection pack). Perfect Dark will also support the expansion pack, and it seems likely the Jet Force Gemini will, too. The inclusion of co-op modes and/or extensive multi-player options on many N64 games were also most promising. All very exciting, but the abundance of peripherals required will make gaming an expensive prospect for N64 owners this Christmas. Still, not as bad as Dreamcast in Japan where – worryingly true to its Windows CE roots – owners of the current model are being promised an "upgrade" to their existing machine should an improved version be launched with a DVD drive, more RAM and a more efficient CPU. Oh my God, is this what Sega think the future of console gaming is all about? Upgrades? How about not making your older hardware redundant, guys? The most interesting prospect of the Dolphin announcement (to me) is the possible compatibility between Nintendo’s spiffy new hardware and the oft-rumored 32-bit handheld, Project Atlantis. Hmmm, "Dolphin"? "Atlantis"? Sure sounds fishy to me! OK, apologies for the bad joke - and yes, I know dolphins aren’t fish. Just lie back and imagine the possibilities (you’re going to have to because I’m too lazy to think of any)…

I suppose I really should mention the most popular console on the planet – the Game Boy. Game Boy Color games are beginning to flood in – Resident Evil GB was on show (complete with 3D sections!) and it looks like Color-only is increasingly the way to go. Hell, the technology may be getting on a bit, but there’s no substitute for a Game Boy when you’re far from your console / PC / civilization. If you haven’t got one, buy one. As for NUON, what can I say? I know one person who was blown away by Tempest 3000, but he works for VM Labs so take that as you will. I’m curious to see what NUON’s non-polygon-obsessed hardware looks like in action, but it increasingly seems that I probably never will. VM Labs’ recent announcement that they aren’t targeting the ‘traditional gamer’ could be read as a sign of brave innovation in business strategy and marketing, but it sounds like an admission of failure to me. I mean, I bet this isn’t what they had in mind for themselves two years ago…

So, what would my take-home message be? I think this E3 gave us the first glimpse of the impending death of the original PlayStation (and, to a much lesser extent, the N64). Although the games will get better and better, we’re definitely past the giddy heights of Sony’s market dominance – for now. Sega have their one and only chance to regain anything like their old market share later this year, and they proved that although they’re not out of it yet, they face an uphill struggle. Nintendo showcased some of the most impressive N64 games yet, titles which could well go down in history as some of the finest to grace the machine; I’ll be surprised if there’s anything quite so impressive on N64 – from anyone other than Rare or Nintendo, anyway - at next year’s E3. Hopefully, I’ll be there to find out.

I’d like to thank the Imagine Games Network for excellent E3 updates throughout the weekend, and special mention to the guys at Nintendojo for some excellent coverage. Thanks also to everyone who mailed me their thoughts on the event.

- Nick Ferguson is a regular loonygames correspondant (i.e. hates exams, loves pizza)

Credits: Pad Happy logo illustrated and is © 1999 Dan Zalkus. Pad Happy is © 1999 Nick Ferguson. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is strictly prohibited, so don't try it, or you'll get some real force feedback.