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Vol. 2, Issue 3
November 22, 1999
From the Mouth of Madness:

That darn Playstation 2

by Jason "loonyboi" Bergman

Welcome back to another fun-filled week of loonygames. This week is actually one day shorter due to Thanksgiving, but don't worry, we'll still give you four days of kick ass content that you won't find anywhere else. Yeehaw! Because we update at Midnight, we'll actually have content on Thanksgiving Day, just not on Friday the 26th. So enjoy your holiday, and be sure to check back all week for some great new stuff.

But enough about the site...I need to 'rant a little. Probably the most significant thing to happen during our little (cough) hiatus, was Sony's official unveiling of their Playstation 2. If you missed all the fanfare (how could you?) here's a rundown on the new system: it's called, as was expected, the Playstation 2. It plays DVD movies, is backwards compatible with the original Playstation (including the controllers), it has no modem out of the box, but it features a PCMCIA expansion slot, along with two USB ports. Also announced were a bunch of launch titles, including Gran Turismo 2000 (Sony), Tekken Tag Tournament (Namco), and Street Fighter EX3 (Capcom). The system is expected to sell for around $300 or so when it's released in the US at the end of next year.

And there you have the dirt on the system.

Sadly, as excited as I am about the hardware, I was very disappointed with the launch lineup. Sony is going to launch the new system, with, as far as I can tell, no "killer app" as it were. The Dreamcast had several that contributed to its phenomenal launch: Sonic Adventure (for the kids), House of the Dead 2 (for us zombie fans), Soul Calibur (for pretty much everyone), Ready 2 Rumble and NFL 2K (for sports fans). The Nintendo 64 had Mario 64...the Playstation 1 had, well, nothing. Which, of course, is why I didn't buy a PSX until a good year and a half after its release.

But now, there's even less reason to buy the new system. It's backwards compatible, which means if you own a PSX and don't care for the new games, you'll probably hold off. Unless of course, you want it for a DVD player, in which case you'll buy it. The system is expensive, no doubt about it. If the system does get released at $300, it may sell phenomenally just because it's a relatively inexpensive DVD player (and Sony's marketing machine, of course). I'll buy it, since I'm an obsessive console collector, but I need games, people!

The most promising Playstation 2 games won't make the Japanese launch, no question...but I'm holding out for the US one. Oddworld's Munch's Oddysee has serious potential, and assuming it makes the US launch will be one of the first games I purchase - and even if it doesn't make launch, it will likely be first game to genuinely get me excited. Maybe it's just me, but I can't help but yawn at the current lineup of titles.

Let's look at what we've got: Gran Turismo 2000. This is the game everyone's screaming about, and frankly...I just don't care. Sure, it's pretty, heck, it may be the best looking game I've ever seen. But who cares? Under the hood, it's identical to Gran Turismo 2 for the Playstation 1. And I don't plan on buying that, either. What else do we have? There's Tekken Tag Tournament, a game that I don't care for, but again, is very pretty. And of course, Street Fighter EX3, the latest attempt by Capcom to make the transition to 3D, which if it's anything like its predecessors will be full of sloppy gameplay.


Let's not forget the slew of really pretty dancing and musical titles that are lined up for the system. Ladies and gentlemen, the most powerful gaming machine on the planet is being used to power...Drum Mania. Woo hoo! You laugh, but I'm not kidding. A number of Playstation 2 titles are the kind of quirky Japanese games that sell like hot-cakes over there, but likely won't make it to America. An example: Popolocrois, one of those incredibly odd "girlfriend simulators" that keep coming out in Japan (you may recall that another game of this type accompanied the N64's Japanese launch).

Even Square's The Bouncer, which has a lot of people talking, bores the heck out of me. It's going to be at least a year before we get our first Final Fantasy title on the system, and boy, until then, I just can't help but think the system's going to be barren.

Where's Resident Evil? Wipeout? Heck, there hasn't even been a Crash Bandicoot title announced for the system yet. Which is very surprising, considering that Crash is the closest thing to a genuine Playstation mascot (unless you count Lara Croft, of course) and one of the first PSX 2 technology demos featured an uber-high resolution Crash. Supposedly Naughty Dog, the developers of the first batch of Crash games has decided to move onto other projects and characters, but there are more games coming...when, is of course the question.

What the Playstation 2 announcement felt like to me was Sony jumping the gun on their own product launch. These games could not have been in development for more than a year, and the end result is that the first run of games are going to be identical to PSX 1 titles, only with more polygons. Since it's going to take that much more time and money to make a good PS2 game, we could be looking at a really long time before the decent games start to arrive. They'll most certainly arrive, no question about that, but it's going to just plain suck waiting for them.

But of course, this doesn't really surprise me. Sony has gotten really, really cocky lately. And admittedly, this is for good reason, but that doesn't necessarily always mean the best thing for us hardcore gamers. The executives at Sony know that if they release the system with not a single game available, it will sell very, very well based entirely on the brand name. But, they also know that they've got some very stiff competition on the way from Nintendo, and Sega's very successful US launch with their Dreamcast. So what do they do? Rather than release another game system, they're going to release a new entertainment appliance.

Sounds like a stupid buzzword, doesn't it? Well, get used to it. Because that's precisely what the Playstation 2 is. If you've read any interviews with the Sony bigwigs, they almost never mention that the Playstation 2 is supposed to be a game console, because it's not in their eyes. It's the hub of everything in your living room.

Think about it: the PSX 2 is a cheap DVD player. Give them credit for that. It will soon have the ability to play movies downloaded via cable modems (this is planned for 2001, but they made this announcement alongside the console itself). It's Internet-ready (with an additional PCMCIA card). Thanks to that FireWire port, you can connect your video camera to the system (lord only knows for what purpose, but they keep talking about it, so there is definitely something planned). Oh, and it plays games, too.

Sony is going to try and sell the system to people who want a DVD player and want to surf the web - not just gamers. Gamers will love it because it's freaky-powerful, and eventually great games are coming. But until they do, you'll be looking at one heck of an entertainment appliance that plays some decent, if not great, games, and your entire DVD movie library. Woo-hoo.

- Jason "loonyboi" Bergman is hungry. Could somebody grab him a sandwich?


 

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