E3 2000 Wrap-Up
A look at Sega's showing at E3 - By BenT and Fragmaster
AeroWings 2: Air Strike
The sequel to the original AeroWings, it appears there's much more to do this time around. Still, as you can see, it doesn't push the limits of the Dreamcast in any way.
Tokyo Xtreme Racer 2
The sequel to the Dreamcast's sleeper racing hit is just around the corner. Tokyo Xtreme 2 takes everything from the first games and kicks it up a few notches. The graphics are the first noticable improvement -- they're among the best on the Dreamcast. The sensation of speed is great. Cars sport shiny environment-mapped reflections, and move around the course at a smooth 60 fps. And speaking of the track, there's over 100 miles of authentic Tokyo highways to race on -- wow. But what's the point of all this driving mayhem? The goal of the game is to become "Emperor of the Streets", and this status can only be attained by soundly thrashing any and all of the game's 100+ opponents and teams. Needless to say, that'll keep you busy for a while. About the only negative thing I have to say about TXR2 is that the trackside detail could be better... but hey, in the game it's always night, so you're not going to be able to see much anyway. Tokyo Xtreme Racer 2 will be speeding our way in Q4.
Draconus: Cult of the Wyrm
This one has been in the news a lot in the past, and I must say I'm a bit disappointed with what I saw at E3. Picking up the controls, it was extremely easy to get into. I was instantly reminded of a rather mediocre PC game, Die By the Sword. Appropriate, since Draconus is by the exact same development team (Treyarch). The game retains a lot of the feel of DBtS, which can be a good or bad thing, depending on how you feel about that title. In combat the influence is especially noticable -- the sword swinging animations have an odd look and feel to them, really rather stiff. It was hard to connect with enemies at times, and the shield blocking was equally suspect. (This may just have been from a lack of experience on my part, though.) Control was alright; in addition to jumping and strafing, the character could quickly roll to the sides to avoid damage. The worst part of the game was probably the indoor environments, which lacked any sense of style or architecture. There was one very cool bridge outside a fortress, but for the most part the environments and textures were lacking. Framerate was decent, but could definitely improve further. The final game will give you the choice of two characters, male and female, but it's unknown whether or not this will affect gameplay. Draconus: Cult of the Wyrm should be ready for a June release.
Magforce Racing is another entry in the futuristic racing genre. Unfortunately, at this point it comes nowhere close to touching the reigning king, the WipeOut series. The tracks I played were unremarkable and generic, and the racing action wasn't much better. The controls were passable, but there was little sense of speed. Certain areas of the track contained green sparkles, and running through these would increase the top speed. Yellow patches did the opposite, slowing me down. Finally, running into polygonal cube thingies unleashed special weapons, but the word "special" is used loosely. They were uniformly unspectacular, and did nothing of note to harm the fellow I was racing against (split screen). Overall, Crave has its work cut out for them if they expect to differentiate Magforce Racing from the pile of WipeOut-wannabes that have accumulated over the years.
Sno-Cross Championship Racing
To put it simply, this game looks excellent. The overall look is authentic and the controls feel excellent, making the end result one great-feeling ride over extremely slippery slopes. There are some flaws though, chiefly in the graphical arena. There didn't seem to be much in the way of background scenery around the course, and the snow kicked up by your snowmobile was comprised of cheap-looking sprites. The worst part was the framerate, which seemed stuck in the mid-20's. Still, the rest of the package was solid enough to compensate for the jerkiness, and if Crave can fix the framerate they'll have one of the best snowmobile games yet. True, it is one of the only snowmobile games, but trust me when I say that Sno-Cross is looking good. Sno-Cross Championship Racing is set to make a Q3 release.
The game that's making waves on the PC is headed to a Dreamcast near you in the 4th quarter of 2000. So, everyone thinks the PC game rocked -- even the typically merciless GameSpy reviewers. Can the Dreamcast version compare? Quite possibly. The game is surprisingly far along, and we were able to pilot a basic fighter through space. Most features of the PC version were intact, or promised for the final: all the sound effects, 12 fighters, 20+ weapons and more than 80 different spacecraft. Even better, Crave claims the game will have online Coop or Deathmatch for up to 8 players, which would rock. (No word on PC/DC interoperability, though.) Just about the only major problem so far is the framerate, which stutters like a Howard Stern sidekick. It wasn't too bad, though, and that leaves Starlancer as one of the most promising PC-to-DC ports we saw.
Super Magnetic Neo
Ah, platformers. Along with shooters, this is surely my favorite genre. In fact, Super Magnetic Neo was one of the games I most looked forward to sampling at E3, and I was not disappointed. You play the character mentioned in the title, and the gimmick here is that he has a huge magnet on his head. Control is excellent, and pressing different buttons sends out quick blasts of different polarities, those being red and blue. Say you find a red platform -- using the blue blast sends Neo onto the platform head-first, since opposites attract. On the other hand, use the red technique and you'll be catapulted to the sky before you can say "Sambo de Amigo". It's quite a simple yet innovative system, and you can rest assured that Neo's designers are going to exploit it to the max in their quest to make your life miserable. Yeah, this game is hard, but that's a good thing. The graphics are excellent, with a constant 60 fps and a very cartoonish look. The character design is great too -- the enemy gang you must face, comprised entirely of babies, is a riot. In all, I'm very much looking forward to playing more of Super Magnetic Neo. Thankfully, it's just around the corner -- Neo is a Q3 release. Rock!
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater
Crave has snagged the eagerly anticipated port of the Playstation megahit, and the Dreamcast version is coming along adequetely. My largest problem with the game is that the graphics don't seem to take full advantage of the Dreamcast's power. The framerate is nowhere near 60 fps, and the textures lack the detail that we know the DC is capable of. The gameplay seems completely intact, of course, and that's what really matters. So, while the visuals may be slightly disappointing for Tony Hawk vets, the stuff that made this game legendary is still present on the DC. Coolbeans.
Ultimate Fighting Championship
Ok, I admit it. I was expecting this game to suck. I'm not one for wrestling, and Ultimate Fighting is only one step removed from said "sport" in my Japan-centric mind. But it turns out my bias was really unwarranted -- UFC is shaping up to be quite an interesting title. The game is a one on one fighter, but as you might expect, there aren't any fancy fireballs or dragon punches to be seen. Instead, the emphasis is on true-to-life martial arts action -- you can leave the super combos and alpha counters at the door. Further, the level of graphical detail is quite impressive, as each character is apparently made of a whopping 5000+ polygons. Animation is pretty smooth, if a little robotic. Hopefully this will be addressed, as it'll go a long way towards making the game's 22 fighters look more realistic. Ultimate Fighting Championship is set to appear in Q3. Oh, and one last thing. UFC was running side by side with the PSX version, and the PSX game looked terrible... we're talking 10 fps here, folks. Yeesh, why bother?
Next: Eidos, Electro Source, and Fox Interactive