GtMR Editorial: Wii U was Dreamcast 2?

Going a fair bit off the beaten path for this one, as I recognize that I’ve abandoned the usual GtMR format (in the middle of dissecting an issue of Diehard GameFan months ago, at that). But this is perhaps the most topical rumor I’ve covered yet: Nintendo are reportedly ceasing production of their Wii U consoles, according to Eurogamer. And considering the machine has been on the market for just under 4 years, this seems rather a drastic move by Nintendo, what with their previous generations often having overlapping support for the generation before it. The Nintendo Switch might be the first time Nintendo have flat-out dropped the previous machine before the first one has even been properly showcased to the public…something that, yes, Sega did (at least in the United States) before their Dreamcast had been revealed, if I remember correctly.

But let’s be honest with ourselves. Is there really that big of a parallel between the Wii U and Sega’s hardware swan-song? Even an imaginary one? I would like to entertain this thought for a while.

The Dreamcast’s biggest difficulties on the market are certainly shared by Nintendo’s Wii U. The hardware, while undoubtedly a step up from the original Wii, most definitely pales beneath the might of the next generation machines that spawned only a year later. While Sega’s hardware strategy was to be “the first” of its generation (as ever with Sega’s hardware divisions – the Genesis/Mega Drive was arguably the first “true” 16-bit home console, and their arcade hardware designs often beat other designs to the punch, most notably in their collaboration with a company that primarily designed military flight simulators), Nintendo’s hardware strategy was not to be the first of anything – the Wii U represented them “finally” entering the generation of High Definition TV sets, online social media, and the console as a living room super-center. But it was, in reality, not that much more or less powerful than the XBOX 360 and PlayStation 3, the machines whose combined might so soundly trounced the Wii in the field of top-budget gaming in the previous generation. To have waited so long – an entire six years – to finally reach that milestone, Nintendo wound up too late to the game, with nearly all of their third-party support having jumped ship, whether to the other consoles, to the PC market, or out of the industry altogether (THQ, for example).

Third-party support is another parallel. It’s certainly true that a person who buys a Nintendo console is buying it to play Nintendo games, but Nintendo’s major successes in the distant past were almost more from their third-party support than anything else (though, in retrospect, they didn’t necessarily earn that support, given the struggles between them and Tengen through the late 1980s). Third-parties were dwindling throughout the GameCube’s tenure, and the original Wii’s library is only as massive as it is because it was a cheap platform on which to develop whatever budget games could be churned out (certainly accounting for the existence of titles like Imagine Party Babiez). The Wii U didn’t even get the budget market interested; the biggest third-party successes for the system were the likes of Lego City UndercoverSonic Boom, and Zombi U – and of those, the latter is no longer a Wii U exclusive, and the less said about Boom, the better. Even early on in the Wii U’s life, third-party titles tended to be enhanced editions of last-generation’s latecomers, the likes of Darksiders 2Batman: Arkham Origins, and Assassin’s Creed 3…which have been argued to be better on the XBOX 360 and PlayStation 3 on which they originated, with the Wii U-specific additions not being worthwhile enough to justify a second purchase. Sega’s situation was quite similar back in 1999; early non-Sega titles for the Dreamcast primarily included higher-resolution versions of games that were popular on the original PlayStation and Nintendo 64 (“highlighted” by rather lackluster ports of Gauntlet LegendsWWF Attitude, and Vigilante 8: 2nd Offense), and hasty PC conversions powered by the system’s stripped-down Windows CE (the likes of Starlancer, KISS: Psycho Circus and Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six not being enticing enough to capture the console audiences seeking fast action).

But even despite the problems sustained by Sega in that era, people still look back fondly on the Sega-developed exclusives, especially titles like Crazy Taxi and Skies of Arcadia. Does the Wii U library hold up to that? Well, one would imagine that Super Mario 3D WorldBayonetta 2, and Xenoblade Chronicles X should hold the “killer exclusive” crown…and yet, in my own personal opinion, they don’t carry the weight of the entire console. Hell, maybe the Dreamcast’s exclusives didn’t carry it, either, and that’s why Sega bowed out of the hardware business in 2001. Nintendo, however, despite a disappointing generation (albeit one with solid titles like Hyrule Warriors), are not leaving hardware behind. Despite the forthcoming Nintendo Switch not being backward-compatible (though, my intuition suggests there is room for an eShop-focused solution?), maybe the Switch’s unique hybrid approach is what they need to keep themselves afloat and truly capture the generation in a unique way, the same way the original Wii did.

Then again, the generation is still relatively young. Anything could happen.

Advertisements

Diehard Gamefan, Vol.3, Issue 1 – Nov.1994 (Part One)

Well, more than a week after promising I’d bring the site back, I’m finally bringing the site back. This time, I’m focusing on a different set of rumors from a different magazine entirely: Diehard Gamefan. Somewhat oddly, I’m not able to find a shelf date for these magazines, only volume/issue numbers, but I can only assume this issue comes from late 1994. This issue is from November of 1994; thanks to BigBangBlitz for pointing that out.2016-06-15 11_55_54-Diehard Gamefan - Vol 3 - Issue 1.cbr - SumatraPDFLet’s get this started then, shall we?

It’s Mortal Kombat 3 time! First of all, rumor has it that the storyline has BARAKA winning the MK2 tournament. Apparently, only Jax, Liu Kang and Kitana will return, joined by Kano, Sonya and several new characters. Also, many of the new characters will be bestial, like Reptile and Baraka. As for home versions, yes, it’ll appear on PlayStation first but Acclaim will be bringing MK3 to the 16-Bit systems. The SNES version will clock in at between at over 32 Megs and the Genesis version will most likely be 40 Meg. Both will be available in September ’95, along with a 32X cart and CD version.

Don’t expect an Ultra 64 version of MK3 until at least Summer ’96. Last but certainly not least in MK news, is the rumor that MK3 will be the final game in the Mortal Kombat series, and that Williams’ next game will be an Ultra 64 3-D fighter set to release in March of ’96, it’s supposed to be the most violent game ever made.

Mortal Kombat has long been a pretty strong source of rumors (at least one of which I covered in the The 3600-Word Mega Shock). Usually it’s stuff like “Kano Transformations” or the ultra-secret debug menus in the arcade games, though; these feel a little more grounded. But addressing these points in order:

  • Most sources I can find say that Liu Kang is considered to have won the Outworld tournament in Mortal Kombat II, not Baraka.
  • Jax, Liu Kang, Kano, and Sonya did return for MK3, as well as Sub-Zero, Kung Lao, Shang Tsung, and Smoke (hidden behind a cheat code). Kitana did not, and neither did Scorpion (an absence that the fans very much felt until Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3).
  • I suppose by “bestial” the writer is probably referring to Sheeva and Motaro, the latter of which is not playable except via cheat codes in the 16-bit versions. I don’t feel like the likes of Nightwolf, Cyrax, Sektor, and Stryker really count….unless you count the Animality finishers.
  • According to MobyGames’ release info page, the PlayStation version was indeed the first port to be released in July of 1995, with the SNES port noted to have been released several months later in early October (not September), and the Genesis version followed by only a few days, going by SegaRetro’s information. SegaRetro does not give any indication that there was a 32X version in development, nor was there a Sega CD port, let alone a version for Sega Saturn…at least, not until Ultimate.
  • There never was a Nintendo 64 version of MK3…though Mortal Kombat Trilogy arguably counts, being a further updated revision of Ultimate. Trilogy didn’t launch for Nintendo 64 until November of 1996 – partially owing to the fact that the console wasn’t out until September of that year!
  • As for that last bit about MK3 being the “last game in the series”? Uh…nope. Mortal Kombat 4 launched only a couple years after 3, and the other 3D fighter mentioned here was most likely War Gods, often considered by fans to be the result of early experiments with the MK formula.

NINTENDO – First up is the Virtual Boy! The 32-Bit system which debuted at the Nintendo Shoshinkai on November 15th will be available in Japan in April, and will retail for 19,800 Yen… about $199. Three titles will be available at launch: Mario VB, Telero Boxing and Pinball. Games will cost 5,000 to 7,000 yen ($49.99-$69.99) and approximately two to three new titles will come out each month. Nintendo plans to sell about 3,000,000 units and 14,000,000 cartridges in the first year of the system’s release.

Knowing what we know about how well the Virtual Boy performed in 1996 (that is to say, it didn’t), it’s easy to say that Nintendo were being way too ambitious with these numbers. But considering that Nintendo’s previous console launch, the Super Famicom, had sold out its initial shipment of 300,000 units only a few hours after launch in Japan, Nintendo probably sincerely believed that their radical new concept in video gaming would not have a difficult time selling ten times that in an entire year. This estimate would later be revised down to 1.5 million Virtual Boys and only 2.5 million games, according to 1995 issues of the New York Times and Wall Street Journal, and the launch price in the US was trimmed down slightly to $179, by way of some cost-cutting measures. Ultimately, though, only 350,000 Virtual Boys were sold by the end of 1995, only managing to increase this number to 770,000 before being discontinued.

And while there was a Virtual Boy Mario Land game in development, this was ultimately canceled; Mario Clash and Virtual Boy Wario Land ultimately did get released, and are cult classics in their own right, but have been largely unacknowledged due to the Virtual Boy’s lackluster market performance, and Nintendo’s unwillingness to re-release either of them on a new platform like the 3DS.

Spinning Up the Mill, Again

altbeast-altered20beast20set208208751203170078_sep242016_12_02
“Rise from your grave!”

Since the end of March, the Rumor Mill has been untouched. College classes – the last ones I need to graduate – have been my priority more than writing, and if I might be honest, the last gigantic article I wrote seriously burned me out. But with another course term ended, and more free time available to me, it’s time to bring GtMR back to its former glory. Such as it was. But before we get into dissecting magazine articles again, I’d like to bring up a few things that were mentioned in the comments on previous articles (which, I’m sorry that took so long to get back to!).

Continue reading “Spinning Up the Mill, Again”

EGM, June 1996 – The 3600-Word Mega Shock!

header

Well, let’s try something a little bigger, huh? I’m going to cover all of June 1996’s Electronic Gaming Monthly Gaming Gossip column, which is an entire page full of stuff to sift through.

Continue reading “EGM, June 1996 – The 3600-Word Mega Shock!”

EGM, July 1999 – Capcom on PS2, MGS on Dreamcast?

Alright, enough with the quick takes, let’s start this week with another full page.

july1999

THE RUMOR – Capcom is already working on PlayStation 2 titles.

THE TRUTH – Despite recent indications the Japanese giant is somewhat disillusioned with working with Sony, the Q’s spies have reason to believe that at least one PS2 product is already on the drawing board at Capcom. Breath of Fire 4 (working title) could well be with us by the summer of 2000. The Q Network will keep its ear to the ground for future developments.

Disillusioned? It’s hard to imagine why; Capcom’s properties were still selling like hotcakes through 1999, and even if their arcade ports had to be trimmed down a bit to account for the PlayStation’s memory limits, they often included neat extras like Street Fighter Alpha 3‘s World Tour mode, and the “Super Story” mode in the forthcoming JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure. Add to that the continually high-selling Resident Evil franchise, of which the third game was due to launch just before Christmas…no, I honestly don’t see disillusionment here. Not even review scores appear to have been suffering by 1999, with the Street Fighter Alpha 3 port receiving pretty solid 9.0 scores across the board from EGM‘s editors in a previous issue.

But Capcom’s PlayStation 2 post-launch output is certainly a strange selection. While of course Capcom would dabble in the other new systems (the Dreamcast, the Game Boy Color and eventually Advance), their PS2 output began with a “safe bet” port of Arika’s Street Fighter EX3, followed by cult favorite Onimusha: Warlords at the start of 2001, ultimately culminating in the release of Devil May Cry by the end of that year, a game that most of us are not likely to forget anytime soon. Ultimately, though, Capcom were not especially focused on the PlayStation 2; outside of some ports from other platforms (especially arcade titles like Resident Evil Survivor 2: Code: Veronica and Capcom VS SNK 2) and the odd original title every year or so, Capcom’s focus instead went to the yet-to-be-announced Nintendo GameCube, then still referred to under its code name, Dolphin. Capcom’s publishing duties were a little more productive in Japan, as they were responsible for the publishing and localization of many Western titles, including (strangely enough) Grand Theft Auto III.

Breath of Fire IV, strangely enough, was not one of those games. Despite Quartermann’s apparent guess at it launching for PS2 in summer of 2000, it wound up releasing for the original PlayStation instead; April of 2000 in Japan, and early December of that year in the US, where it had to compete with the likes of Vagrant Story and Final Fantasy IX. The PlayStation 2 didn’t get a Breath of Fire game of its own until 2003’s Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter.

THE RUMOR – The sequel to Metal Gear Solid will be a Dreamcast game.

THE TRUTH – This isn’t strictly true. Konami has claimed that sequels for all its “high-profile franchises” are currently under development, but many of these are on either three- or five-year cycles. Metal Gear creator Hideo Kojima has already indicated that he is working on a sequel starring Solid Snake, but has only revealed that it is for a “next-generation” console.

The Dreamcast? At that point it sounded pretty likely; the system had yet to launch in the States, after all, and who knew at that point what the third-party support would be like? Konami had already pledged to offer their support to the Dreamcast, with titles such as AirForce Delta and Dance Dance Revolution 2nd Mix reaching Sega’s machine during its illustrious two-year life span. But as history has shown us, Konami’s other major franchises – not the least of which was Metal Gear Solid – didn’t ultimately wind up on the Dreamcast…not officially, anyway.

Elsewhere in this magazine is a short blurb talking about a legal battle between Sony and a small company called bleem!, over a commercial emulator program that enabled players to run PlayStation games on platforms that were not the PlayStation. bleem! was initially a PC product, but after the company defeated Sony in court, they eventually began producing game-specific boot discs for the Sega Dreamcast. Only three such discs wound up making it to shelves, however, as the court fees wound up hurting the bleem! team to the point where they couldn’t earn them back from product sales, and were forced to close down…resulting in an indirect victory by Sony. Among the three games officially supported by bleem!cast, though, was Metal Gear Solid.

THE RUMOR – Nintendo has another color handheld system in the development, set for release next year.

THE TRUTH – Very little is known about this, but the Q’s spies have unearthed some juicy tidbits from Japan that seem to indicate a major new project from Nintendo. Completely separate from Project Dolphin (previously referred to as Nintendo 2000) the new project is allegedly a color handheld 32-Bit system that is not connected with Game Boy at all. It’s inevitable that Nintendo will have to leave the Game Boy behind at some point (the technology is 10 years old) and handheld gaming is a very, very large part of Nintendo’s business. There’ll be a lot of news about this in coming months, so keep checking with us.

And what could this be, besides the Game Boy Advance? No, Nintendo’s little handheld hadn’t quite “grown up,” but we did ultimately get the GBA in mid-2001, and it most certainly was powered by a 32-bit processor (though, rather a lot like the Nintendo 64, it lacked a dedicated sound processor – again with those cost-cutting measures, Nintendo). The Advance didn’t really leave behind the Game Boy hardware, either, as a huge selling point was its continued compatibility with Game Boy and Game Boy Color games.

What’s most interesting about this rumor, though, is that magazines like Electronic Gaming Monthly and Game Informer technically knew about the project since three years before. Allow me to quote Wikipedia really quick:

In 1996, magazines including Electronic Gaming Monthly,[9]issues 53 and 54 of Total![citation needed] and the July 1996 issue of Game Informer[citation needed] featured reports of a new Game Boy, codenamed Project Atlantis. Although the expected release date of “early 1997” would make that machine seem to be the Game Boy Color, it was described as having a 32-bit RISC processor, a 3-by-2-inch color LCD screen, and a link port[9]—a description that more closely matches the Game Boy Advance.

The citation leads to the June 1996 issue of EGM, where indeed, this rumor was printed:

projectatlantis

The long-rumored color GameBoy, code-named Project Atlantis, is nearing completion. Reportedly, the machine will feature a 2″ x 3″ screen and boast an amazing 30 hours of battery life. I’ll believe that one when I see it…

It could be argued that this is referring to the Game Boy Color, but other magazines of the same era also refer to there being a 32-bit processor – it could be that both the Game Boy Color and the Game Boy Advance were in development at the same time, with the Color being the quicker, easy-money project to fill time while the Advance team were still doing their R&D. (Oh, and about that sentence fragment at the end of that screenshot: I’ll be covering the June 1996 issue in full soon.)

Nintendo didn’t wind up abandoning the Game Boy moniker until 2004’s Nintendo DS, and even then, the machine still contained some GBA hardware for purposes of backward compatibility…something that even today’s 3DS systems still retain, because some DS games access the GBA hardware.

But let’s go back to 1999 again, because all this timeline-jumping is giving me whiplash.

THE RUMOR – Metroid 64 from Nintendo? Metroid 64 from Rare?

THE TRUTH – Nope. Apparently not. Despite continued harassment of Nintendo representatives by the gaming press for the past couple of years, Nintendo still insists that Samus will not make it to the N64. There were some wacky rumors going around that Rare was just kidding us all with Jet Force Gemini–and that it was really Metroid in disguise, set to be revealed later this year–but this was in fact, bullshit. Ho hum.

Even Quartermann knows crap when he sees it, apparently. Nope, we never did get a real Nintendo 64 Metroid, but that didn’t mean Samus never made an appearance on the platform…after all, we did eventually get Super Smash Bros., which contained Samus in her first 3D incarnation. Jet Force Gemini, on the other hand, might have come off as a Metroid-like game to some, and certainly did wind up being a cult favorite among the N64 faithful when it eventually launched in late 1999.

Perhaps amusing in retrospect, though, is that Q wasn’t too far off when he spoke of Rare handling a Metroid title. While nobody at Rare ultimately worked on a Metroid game, it was only two years later that Nintendo would reveal a partnership with Texas-based Retro Studios, comprised of a few key figures from Iguana Entertainment (then Acclaim Studios Austin, the developers of the Turok games)…and that partnership would eventually culminate in Metroid Prime, at first a highly controversial concept (Metroid as an FPS? Golly-gee!) that ultimately wound up being one of the most popular GameCube games ever. Nintendo really knew how to pick ’em.

THE RUMOR – Namco is ditching System 12 as an arcade standard before the firm switches to something PS2 based.

THE TRUTH – It would appear Namco’s new arcade board will be loosely based on PS2 hardware, but this won’t be something as similar to the home unit as say, Naomi is to Dreamcast. Sony still has no interest in supporting arcade standards itself–but seems happy to allow long-term partner Namco to do what it can with the Emotion Engine if it’s prepared to cough up the cash.

It’s time to hotlink System16.com again: Namco’s System 12 was an arcade board that essentially ran on a PlayStation without a CD-ROM drive. Unlike other boards like Capcom’s CP System II, the System 12 boards were customized for each game, and did not have swappable cartridges. Among the games that ran on the System 12 were classics like Point Blank 2Soul CaliburTekken Tag Tournament, and uh…Aerosmith: Quest For Fame, among many others.

But this new hardware? Namco weren’t exactly sticking hard and fast to the System 12 in the meantime, as quite a number of their arcade titles needed a bit more oomph than the 12 was able to provide. Titles like Time Crisis 2 ran on the stronger (but more expensive) System 23 and Super System 23 boards, which ran the blistering 166 MHz, 64-bit R4650 CPU (roughly 4 times the power of the PlayStation’s R3000A). But this hardware didn’t have anything to do with the PlayStation 2. That would come later…just about a year later.

In 2001, Namco debuted System 246, a PlayStation 2-based architecture that ran titles like Vampire NightWangan Midnight, and Eighting’s latest Bloody Roar title. The hardware also gave us Soul Calibur 2Ridge Racer V Arcade Battle, and quite a handful of strange arcade-exclusives that never left Japan. And it looked incredible the whole way. (Except for Capcom Fighting Jam. But we don’t speak of that one…much.)

Namco were almost the only company doing anything with the PS2 in arcades, though. Beyond a handful of revisions of the 246 (including the 256 and Super 256, which were mainly used for Taiko no Tatsujin sequels, Tekken 5, and Time Crisis 4), the only other company that had PS2-based boards was Konami, whose output was – similar to Namco’s – mainly music games, sports games, and…the inscrutable Dog Station, followed by a number of networkable “satellite terminal” games like R.P.M. Red. To my knowledge, few if any of these ever left arcades, let alone Japan. But that’s probably okay. Konami and Namco did more than their share of awesome stuff that went straight to the consoles, after all, and the age of the arcade was very much beginning to fade in the West by then.

Quick Take: I Dream of Zip Disks?

I realized, about an hour past my usual publish time, that I didn’t have an article queued up for Friday. Well, time to go hit the books, I figured, and picked the most recent issue I had of Electronic Gaming Monthly, from July of 1999. Unfortunately, I seem to have picked the most depressing magazine possible, as this magazine is overflowing with coverage and discussion on a certain tragedy that had occurred shortly before press time. I’m not here to talk about that, though; I’m far from the sort of person you’d want leading a discussion on that sort of thing anyway, and there are better places on the Internet for that than my tiny little blog. But let’s move on.

dreamcast-zipdrive

Iomega Zips Up Dreamcast

Console game systems are built around the principal (sic) that you don’t need a hard drive or additional hardware to store large amounts of data. For the most part, today’s game machines are plug n’ play. It’s going to remain that way, but Iomega recently announced plans to introduce a Dreamcast version of its popular Zip 100MB drive. Users would be able to download files from the Internet and save them on disk for later use, download game patches, new statistics for sports games, new levels and characters, and a whole multitude of other uses in addition to being able to store save games.

The new Dreamcast Zip drive is part of Iomega’s Beyond PC initiative, entering into the consumer-level marketplace. “Iomega is changing the home game system market with this new device,” Mike Lynch, director of the initiative said. “The broad familiarity of Zip drives with consumers, and our large installed base make Zip drives the perfect removable solution for beyond-PC products, such as Sega’s Dreamcast game console.”

It is currently unknown which games will support the new device.

Iomega were in an interesting place in early 1999. Since the launch of the Zip drive in 1995, they had attained a strong brand awareness and were being used in office environments for ultra-fast file transfers and backups. At 100 MB per disk, and read/write times that put even the best CD burners – and even some home LAN connections – to shame, the Zip had even reached the point where their drives were being installed on factory-fresh Power Mac G3 computers since the beginning of 1999. However, Iomega were also very protective of their branding, having just settled a patent infringement case with French electronics company Nomai the previous year, and around the same time, it came to light that Zip disks were susceptible to hardware failure (known as the “click of death”) that could render a disk unusable.

Still, this didn’t stop Iomega from being interested in joining forces with the console game market. The biggest complaint anybody ever had about the 32-bit generation, especially for the PlayStation and Nintendo 64, was that many games were essentially unplayable without buying expensive memory cards, costing at least $15 for a cheap third-party card, but $25 or possibly more if you wanted a card that wasn’t going to accidentally corrupt your Final Fantasy VII saves. And heavens help you if you played a lot of RPGs and needed more than the meager amount of flash memory they had to offer. I knew a guy that owned at least ten Sony memory cards. I, myself, owned a third-party card for Nintendo 64 that offered four times the save space, with the limitation that one needed to change between four different “pages” of data.

All of these problems were things Iomega sought to remedy with their “Beyond PC” initiative. The resulting Dreamcast Zip Drive never progressed past prototype stages, but resembles the Famicom Disk System in placement and form factor, and would have plugged into the Dreamcast’s modem slot (with the modem itself socketing into the extra slot on the Zip drive).

dczipdrive

Reasons abound for why this product was canceled. Perhaps it was too expensive; their April 1999 press release does not offer a price, but Sega Retro claims it would have cost $199 USD, or the same price as the console itself. Another possible factor is Iomega’s sudden downturn in market share; while Zip drives in 1995 were hugely successful with enterprises and office environments, they were not exactly a household name at that point, and by 1999, CD-R drives were becoming not only more common, but much more affordable. And when comparing a 100 MB reusable disk to a 650 MB burn-it-and-forget-it CD, most consumers believed the CD was the better deal. Iomega’s prospects of using the Zip drive as an ultra-capacity storage media for consoles would ultimately not be realized, and just two years later, Microsoft’s XBOX would render the whole idea moot by including an 8 GB hard drive in every machine. That’s something that is now very much taken for granted in the consoles of today (“What do you mean my Wii U only has 8 GB of internal memory?”).

Iomega themselves stuck around until 2013, but their market had very much changed, from rewritable disks to multimedia devices like portable video players, network-attached storage servers, memory card readers, and external hard drives, until the Lenovo Group acquired them and renamed their division to LenovoEMC Limited. They never made another attempt to enter the video gaming market.

3DO Magazine (UK), Winter 1994 – On DOOM

3do-1

(Psst – don’t tell anybody, but this gigantic magazine cover is here as filler.)

I didn’t really have a huge article lined up for today, because I had a slight change of heart as to whether I really wanted to continue doing these articles. But what I did have was a relatively large collection of random magazines, and I wanted to do something other than call Quartermann rude names this time around. Upon reading through a few of these, I found basically nothing more than the usual late-1990s hyperbole and excitement for games that wound up not being very good. I figured these articles wouldn’t be very interesting if I didn’t offer more context than “Oh, this guy’s excited for Virtuoso, bet he felt stupid, didn’t he?”

But moving on. I have here an issue from Winter of 1994 of 3DO Magazine, an unofficial publication dedicated to that multimedia giant that everybody in the last few Rumor Mill articles has been unusually excited about. Strangely, though, this magazine has an oddly pessimistic tone in a few places; sure, the 3DO hadn’t had most of its major exclusives released yet (Crystal Dynamics was only just starting to release their first wave past the admittedly dreadful Crash and Burn), but at least one page in the magazine talks about how many customers were lining up to return their ill-fated 400-pound purchase. The system was at that strange threshold where the initial buzz of launch had since worn off, but Stockholm syndrome hadn’t yet set in. But most importantly, they hadn’t yet experienced Doom.

3do-2.jpg

California-based Art Data Interactive have stunned the 3DO community by grabbing probably the most lucrative licenses of them all. Early next year ADI will be releasing conversions of both Doom and Doom II: Hell On Earth, iD Software’s enormously successful 3D shoot-’em-ups.

ADI have already been given iD’s original source code and are hard at work converting it to 3DO. While company president Randy Scott was insistent the gameplay would be identical: “there’s no way we would touch that, it’s just go out and shoot everything!”, the game’s presentation will be massively upgraded. 24bit Cinepak film sequences will provide in-game links, while actual game graphics are being entirely overhauled. Rather than using 8bit colour bitmaps, ADI will be using hi-res, full colour sprites. The audio is also likely to be totally redone, and there’s even plans for new monsters, weapons and levels.

Where to even begin? Doom is extraordinarily well known already, and it was certainly already a household name by the time this issue went to press. But Mr. Scott was pretty seriously overselling the product, as “we of the future” already know. But perhaps the best person to refute the wild claims is a person who actually worked on it, Rebecca “Burger” Heineman, current CEO of Seattle video game company Olde Sküül. Early this March, Rebecca gave an interview to Don’t Die, “an interview series about surviving videogames,” where she spoke in great detail about just how wrong Randy Scott was. You can read that interview in full, of course, as it’s actually extremely interesting, but they cover a lot of different topics, so I’m going to quote relevant sections as needed.

Heineman does speak at length about the circumstances behind her being appointed to the project at Art Data:

I was already known to 3DO, so they contact me. 3DO said, “Hey, we’ve got this project. Doom. We really want this game out by Christmas. Is there any way you can go ahead and do it because you know id?” I said, “Sure. Put me in touch with Art Data.”

[…]

Then what Art Data told me was the game was 90 percent complete. All I needed to do was finish up some bugs and get the game ready for shipping and get it out in about a month or two. And for me it’s like, “Oh yeah. I’ve been doing projects where I just fix bugs and get games out the door. Nothing new to me.” So I say, “Sure.”

[…]

Well, then, I had a friend of mine who was working at Art Data come and privately take me aside and say, “Uh, we don’t have anything. The developer that was working on it? They only got to it, like, the code to compile and nothing — everything Randy was saying was lies.”

I’m like, “Oh.”

So all the stuff Randy Scott said, above, to all the big magazines and press groups, was more or less just him not having any idea how things worked.

As soon as he signed the contract — the ink wasn’t even dry yet. And he went onto a press tour telling everybody he has the rights to Doom, Art Data Interactive is gonna kick ass, they’re gonna have new levels, new weapons, and everything.

He even had a friend of his draw mock-up weapons. Just draw them on Photoshop and so forth and give him these screenshots. And he was saying, “These is actual game screenshots.”

As Heineman puts it, what wound up being made instead was a straight port from the Atari Jaguar version, barely optimized, in just under 10 weeks of development, all the while fending off excuses and demands from the boss, to get the game to a “shippable” state by Christmas.

One thing Heineman doesn’t talk about, though (since she was understandably not involved with it), is Randy Scott’s claims that the 3DO port would feature full-motion video between levels. The final game features not even a single trace of this, but fellows at Doomworld keep finding scraps of what was purported to have been shown at trade shows at the time, like this:

RH0hq

Doomworld founder Linguica also quotes a Usenet post from the era in this forum thread where the FMV discovery was made:

Then again, if 3DO Doom at all resembles the FMV I saw for it at the Art Data Booth, jag fans have >nothing< to worry about, it will suck, and it will suck royally… Maybe they’ll go the route of Crystal Dynamics and add hecklers to their own FMV…

Imagine FMV with the acting quality of _Baywatch_ and the special FX of _Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea_. Yes, it was that bad, and no Pamela Anderson to distract you from its failings, just a wimpy Darrien Lambert look and feelalike as “Our Hero”…

In addition, Linguica also posted this screenshot of a Twitter exchange involving Heineman:

83sd7bm

All you really need to know past this point about the ill-fated 3DO port of Doom is that what wound up being shipped, a year later than most other ports had already come out and sold like hotcakes, was a product that ran only about a third of the speed and arguably looked and controlled worse than any other version of Doom on the market – including the largely-lambasted Sega 32X and Super Nintendo versions. But at least the remixed soundtrack wasn’t too bad.

Really, though, what else would you expect from the company that also gave us the 3DO version of Rise of the Robots – a game that 3DO Magazine rated 4 stars out of 5 for reasons unknown, despite Samurai Shodown and Super Street Fighter II X coming around the same time?

Electronic Gaming Monthly, Oct 1993 (Part Three)

oct1993-0005

Word from the road was that Nintendo’s train trip was a power fest of gaming eds that lost their bunks along the way to L.A. Whose idea was that anyway?…

That might not be entirely the case, but since Q is being a bit vague here, this might take some explanation.

In 1993, Nintendo sponsored a cross-country train ride that lasted three days. It was called the Zelda Whistle Stop Tour, and those who were chosen to ride the train had three days to complete The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening; this was meant to promote not only the new Zelda game, but also the Game Boy’s superior battery life. While most internet references to the Whistle Stop Tour just copy-paste the Wikipedia article on it, some digging eventually revealed an archived Chicago Tribune article from that year that arguably comes off a bit disparaging at times, but is probably the only solid account of what really happened on that train ride.

But let’s hold off on the Quartermann critique for a second, because through reading said Chicago Tribune article, I caught a couple of paragraphs worth digging into.

– Nintendo also recently announced the Gateway System, an interactive multimedia system for travelers. The system will be installed in airplanes, cruise ships and hotel rooms and will let users play Super NES video games, watch movies, play CDs and make phone calls. One Northwest Airlines jetliner already has the system, and installation is scheduled for 20 more planes by the end of the year.

Not a rumor, really, but here’s one for the Strange But True file! I find that gaming history tends to forget about “emplaced gaming” systems (a term I’ve just made up). A lot of companies had a lot of different systems in place, from Sega’s Mega Jet to Nintendo’s own FAMICOMBOX. Somewhat different from arcade machines, these devices tended to be installed in – as the above quote says – airplanes, cruise ships, and hotel rooms (some are even still in place today, if Game Center CX‘s Famicom Box segments are any indication), occasionally available to use for free, but sometimes requiring a token payment or an extra charge to one’s room bill. The Nintendo Gateway System was another such system, offering 60 minutes of play time for only $5.95. There’s a lot more about it to read at SNES Central.

– Nintendo also unveiled plans for a new 3-D multimedia system to make its debut at Christmas 1995. That gives competitor 3-DO (whose system is due this fall) a two-year jump on the company. Thus, Nintendo is taking a big gamble, especially when you consider the problems it has had overcoming Sega’s early lead in the 16-bit market.

Heh, sounds like EGM wasn’t the only publication that was skeptical about the Nintendo 64! Of course, we probably know by now how well the 3DO ultimately wound up doing…

Eh, enough of that, though. Next Q rumor!

Look for a new video game developer, Buzzcut Software, to get into the game with a number of high profile licenses from the movie and comics industries…

Who the hell were Buzzcut Software? Not even the Internet knows; even the most exhaustively-detailed websites I can think of have no record of this company at all. A quick Google search for the name reveals only an archived 4chan thread where this exact rumor was transcribed with no further comment. All I can figure is that they had to quietly disappear when their high-profile licenses proved too difficult to work with.

This does remind me of another, similar company from recent years, by the name of BRASH Entertainment. They formed with a similar purpose, to create games based on prolific licenses. They ultimately released all of six games (and two of those were Space Chimps) between 2007 and 2008 before disappearing into the aether.

Look for Virgin to capture the rights to the upcoming sci-fi flick, Demolition Man, due out October 8. The game won’t hit for some time, but the movie, which Q-Mann previewed recently, looks like a complete trip…

Virgin were pretty productive with the rights to Demolition Man, and while neither movie nor games earned any major awards, the 3DO game is notable for being one of a few FMV tie-ins to Hollywood films to actually sport new footage with original actors and props from its respective movie. There were also versions for the Genesis, SNES, and Sega CD, all published by Virgin Interactive, but again, nothing that would have won any awards.

Atari is said to have scored a retailing hit with rumors surrounding the capture of shelf space at Toys ‘R Us! If it turns out to be true, it represents one of the best steps forward for the upcoming Jaguar hardware…

Ah, the Jaguar, the machine everybody hoped would be the return of the classic American console juggernaut. Atari sure did market their “triumphal return” as hard as they could, but when your exclusives range from a new Bubsy game to Trevor McFur, I’m not sure if there would ever be an alternate universe where Atari actually won that battle. Not to mention their ill-advised “Do the Math!” advertising campaign, which claimed the Jaguar to be 64-bit (which, while it handled some 64-bit operations, was actually powered by a pair of custom 32-bit CPUs…and apparently 32 plus 32 equals 64 bits?…I’m not an electronics engineer, but that sounds off, somehow), and the fact that the Jaguar ultimately didn’t look that much better than the SNES and Genesis that it competed with. I guess it had really good ports of Wolfenstein 3D and Pinball Fantasies, though.

Say it ain’t so! Uncle Al has bailed from Sega for the richer pastures of MTV-Land! Actually, he’s heading up Viacom’s new gaming division after that company gobbled up ICOM Simulations…

Apparently Defunct Games had the same thought I did (in several ways beating me to this very concept!), by asking “Who the hell is Uncle Al?” The most they were able to dig up was a rumor from a 1991 issue of EGM talking about a Sega CD game called “Uncle Al’s Bigtop Fun” which I’m unable to find any trace of elsewhere on the internet. Even frisking MobyGames’ “all game by Viacom New Media” page revealed no games from the era with anybody named Al on staff. I did find that they were responsible for publishing ICOM Simulations’ Windows 3.1 remakes of Shadowgate and Deja Vu, as well as a compilation of their Sherlock Holmes games, so at least that part was educational…but seriously, who the hell is Uncle Al?

Electronic Gaming Monthly, Oct 1993 (Part Two)

oct1993-0004

Part Two covering Part Two?! Who’d have thought?

More problems in Sega Land: Part Two – The Q-Mann has uncovered a legal loophole that many independent Genesis cart publishers are utilizing to get around the approval process — and to get their games onto store shelves without the fascist ratings emblazoned on the box! Accolade, EA, and other licensees are also circumventing Sega’s approval process! Yes, that is sweat you see rolling down the Sega white shirts’ brow…

Wow, yikes! Is this what we thought about video game ratings before the Senate hearings? Of course, Mortal Kombat was already out by now (see the previous post for a rumor directly relating to that), so everybody in 1993 had already seen Sega’s voluntary Videogame Ratings Council badges (the ones that tended to say “GA”, “MA-13”, and “MA-17” in Kombat‘s case). But to call them “fascist”? Yeesh, Quartermann, what were you thinking? At least nowadays we have the ESRB and its ultra-clear descriptors, meaning that (almost) nothing gets outright rejected from being sold…that said, other nations have also tried to follow the ESRB’s suit, with some tending to miss the point; Australia still has games occasionally be refused classification due to extreme violence or sexual content, and Germany still has its “index” for games that are deemed harmful to minors.

But no, that’s not what I was supposed to look for. In an incident that is oddly parallel to Nintendo of America v. Tengen, Sega and Accolade entered into legal battle over the manufacture of unlicensed game cartridges that bypassed the Genesis’ TradeMark Security System. The reason why this is such a sore spot for console makers is exactly what I talked about in my critique about the Nintendo 64’s price point: console makers sell the console at a loss, to make the money back on game sales. Well, if the console maker doesn’t have any involvement in the creation of the games, they don’t get anything from game sales, which means they’re out money. What’s interesting, though, is that the lawsuit between Sega and Accolade had been going on since late 1991 (source), and had only been apparently resolved two years later – after which Sega does not seem to have continued to enforce their injunction, as Electronic Arts, Codemasters, and Absolute Entertainment (correction: Absolute didn’t make their own cartridges, just wrote their own TMSS handlers, according to commenter Lance Boyle) all appear to have manufactured Genesis cartridges that bypass or otherwise skip portions of the TMSS protection.

Ken Lobb, the wizard of game design who managed to steer Namco toward some of their best titles is on his way to Nintendo to head up project development for the big ‘N! Way to go big K., save me a coffee in Seattle…

Ken Lobb is certainly a name with a storied history! While gamers of my generation probably know him best as the namesake of Goldeneye‘s “Klobb” sub-machine gun, his actual work dates back to 1989/early 1990, as a project manager at Taxan USA Corp. We might not have even known about those credits if it weren’t for the fact that he embedded secret messages in a few titles that he worked on; as ReyVGM points out in a post at FamicomWorld, Ken hid secret messages and more-difficult “second quests” in Burai FighterLow G Man, GI Joe, and Kick Master, all encouraging the player to play even harder. His Wikipedia rap sheet shows that his time at Namco was just as fruitful, with him getting special thanks on titles such as Splatterhouse 2 and 3, before he wound up at Rareware to work on the Killer Instinct games (including the 2013 XBOX One reboot!), and of course, Goldeneye, where his legacy as history’s least-favorite video game firearm continues to live on.

Back to Super Street Fighter 2 for a quick second. The Q-Mann has just learned that a development team has been put on, yep, you called it, the Super NES edition of the follow-up of the year…

Capcom’s own internal development team would manage to push the SNES port of Super Street Fighter II by 1994.

The bow tie boy gets the can from TH*Q! Howard Phillips, fresh from TH*Q and LucasArts and Nintendo (where he was the ultimate vid geek), has joined the Absolute team. No, he’s not slamming back the booze, he’s at Absolute Entertainment making new tank simulators or plane simulators or whatever it is they do there…

Howard Phillips – probably best known as being the headliner of Nintendo Power‘s famous “Howard and Nester” comics – certainly did jump companies a lot. I’m unable to find any proof as to whether he was fired from THQ or left of his own volition, but Absolute Entertainment – a company whose name was chosen specifically so it’d appear before Activision’s in the directory – was probably a less than stellar job compared to Nintendo, considering very few of their games had an especially high reception in the 1990s. The simulators Q mentions are most likely to be Garry Kitchen’s Super Battletank: War in the Gulf and Turn and Burn: The F-14 Dogfight Simulator, a series of SNES/Genesis war-sim games that happen to be the only Absolute games I can find that have even vaguely-positive reviews to them. Their respective sequels, Super Battletank 2 and Turn and Burn: No-Fly Zone, would both hit in 1994, alongside a handful of badly-received licensed titles like Home Improvement, the awful SNES adaptation of the Laserdisc game Space Ace, and yet another game adaptation of Jeopardy!.

While we’re on the subject, could it be that things have soured between TH*Q and Malibu Graphics, the powerhouse behind this summer’s blockbuster line of “Ultraverse” comics?…

I’m not really very knowledgeable on comics, especially not early-1990s stuff like the Malibu Ultraverse stuff, which I didn’t even know existed until I looked it up on Wikipedia just now. (Yes, I probably lean too much on Wikipedia on this…) I was able to find out that Malibu at some point formed their own interactive entertainment division, Malibu Interactive, who decidedly had nothing to do with THQ, and their final release was only ever available as a compilation disc for Sega CD: Ultraverse Prime, formerly an SNES project that wound up being canceled in that form and eventually bundled on the same CD as Psygnosis’ Microcosm. Beyond that, I don’t feel I know nearly enough to be considered an authority on the subject. (I just happen to be alright at internet searches, or something.)

[edit] Commenter Lance Boyle pointed me in another direction by pointing out that Q might possibly have been talking about not Malibu Graphics, but Malibu Games, a subsidiary of THQ from 1993 to 1995. Yet if Time Trax is any indication, this might not be too far removed from Malibu Interactive mentioned above. Yet things are only getting more confusing as I continue my research…

The Q-Mann hears that the hottest new video game company on the upscale scene is definitely Crystal Dynamics. They’ve stolen away a top movie boss, put together a high-priced team of producers, and pointed their big guns almost exclusively at Trip Hawkins’ 3DO system. The result? Crystal Dynamics is the darling software pumper of Wall Street…

I can’t find enough information to talk about the Wall Street remark, but the rest is true: Crystal Dynamics were the first fully-licensed exclusive developer on the 3DO platform. I’m also unable to figure out which “top movie boss” came to work for them (edit: his name is Strauss Zelnick, who is nowadays part of Take Two, and there’s even a New York Times article about his departure from Twentieth Century Fox), but their initial output on the 3DO did include a handful of games with full-motion video prominently featured, including Off-World Interceptor, which had acting that was so awful that they gave it their own Mystery Science Theater 3000 treatment in-house. Crystal Dynamics would eventually create the GEX series of gecko-oriented movie-spoof platform games (not to toot my own horn, but you can read all about those at Hardcore Gaming 101), and nowadays they are a subsidiary of Square Enix USA, where they are wholly responsible for the Tomb Raider series, having taken over for CORE Design.

Contrary to what the Brits have to say, Sega’s upcoming Saturn system WILL be downwardly compatible with the Genesis and clock in at around 400 bucks and feature some cool enhancements ranging from on-screen color calibration to a “code card,” which will be used as part of Sega’s expanding plans to conquer cable TV…

And we were doing so well.

400 bucks wasn’t too far-fetched for such a new (arguably rushed) console; the closest figure I can find is a scan of Electronics Boutique’s 1995 Christmas catalogue that lists the Saturn at $349.99. Keep in mind, too, that unlike the Nintendo 64, the Saturn actually had a custom sound chip in it, along with two main CPUs. Sega were not screwing around with this thing. And while it did feature on-screen color calibration, it most certainly did not play Genesis games, despite what that cartridge slot might indicate. No, that was pretty much only for memory cartridges, such as extra RAM (useful for those Capcom and SNK fighting games) or save-game space (because Shining Force III would demand nothing less). And those plans to conquer cable TV, well, those weren’t for the Saturn; Q probably had his rumors mixed at this point, as that’s probably what ultimately came to be known as the Sega Channel, the game world’s latest attempt at a digital distribution service. (“It wasn’t the first?” you might ask. You might want to go read up on The Incredible History of Downloadable Console Games, as it’s really quite fascinating.)

With another paragraph down, next Monday’s article might be a short one! Or it might not be. We’ll have to see, won’t we?

Electronic Gaming Monthly, Oct 1993 (Part One)

So it turns out that Quartermann had a lot more print space in earlier issues than in later ones, so I’m going to have to return to the “older” format of only a paragraph or two per article. So much for a new format! But I’m still going to try to keep to M/W/F updates…

On Monday, we looked at Ed Semrad’s front-page editorial. Today we’re going to start covering the actual rumors.

oct1993-0002

Or…what I assume would be actual rumors. Ahem.

Here we are Quarter-Maniacs, the walls have been broken and the tinted windows smashed! Super Street Fighter 2 is unleashed, with new moves, refined graphics, and four new characters taking the fight to a quartet of new locations around the world! Check out a complete review elsewhere in the mag and rest assured, the Q-Mann put this monster through its paces to give it a big thumb’s up! Sure, the game doesn’t change a whole lot from the original sequel, but the combo of changes and new sights make this a worthy follow-up and a tasty precursor to the real Street Fighter 3 that someone close to the Q says is closer than you think…

Of course, this was before the games industry learned the true nature of Capcom’s incremental upgrade tactics. Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers was only the second major update to the SF2 saga, after 1992’s Champion Edition, which sped the game up and tightened some of the moves up a bit, in addition to (if I remember correctly) enabling characters to fight themselves. Super, on the other hand, was a much more significant upgrade. In addition to the four characters, new stages, and new moves, this update represented Capcom’s own upgrade to the CP System II hardware, a brand new 2D arcade board that enabled them to push more, larger sprites at once, more color depth, and now standardized the QSound audio hardware that had previously only been available to specific titles like Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, in addition to retaining the easy cartridge-swapping that made arcade operators like the original CP System boards so much. You can read quite a lot about the hardware over at System16.

Of course, Super Street Fighter II was by no means the end of the SF2 saga. Capcom heard the pleas of the fans to reinstate Champion Edition‘s faster game speed, as well as adding yet more moves and some playable bosses, with Super Street Figher II Turbo, which debuted the (now genre-staple) Super gauge. And even that’s not where it ended: Hyper Street Fighter II: The Anniversary Edition, released in 2004, allowed players to select any version of a character, enabling them to sacrifice the Super gauge for, say, the more powerful Dragon Punch of the classic-era.

When it came time for Capcom to finally announce the true sequel to Street Fighter II, it came not as the expected number three, but in the form of Street Fighter Alpha: Warriors’ Dreams, which would carry on SSF2T’s gameplay with some more advanced features, as well as bringing in new-old characters from Final Fight and the original Street Fighter. The Alpha series would keep going with further incremental upgrades, with a short break for Arika’s spin-off Street Fighter EX, until it finally came time – in 1997, four years after this magazine – to reveal the true Street Fighter III: New Generation, which brought back almost none of the familiar characters except for Ryu and Ken. Fans worried that SF3 was too different from 2, and Capcom ultimately relented and brought back Chun-Li and Akuma. Only over time has the SF3 series been vindicated, with its final revision, Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike, continuing to be popular among the fighting game community, and having been recently reissued as a downloadable game via PlayStation Network and XBOX Live Arcade.

oct1993-0003

…Meanwhile, for all you hardware heads, the Q was front and center in the big J when Nintendo unveiled plans to launch their big league bats against the impending 3DO mega-machine. Teaming with Silicon Graphics sure sounds nice, but will we actually see the machine in ’95 like the Prez sez? Or should we wait until the CD-ROM hits the street? HA!…

I’ve already gone over this particular bit by way of Ed Semrad’s editorial, but the short answer is no, the Nintendo 64 in fact wouldn’t launch until 1996.

What’s that I hear? Yeah, sure, we’ve all taken out Reptile in Mortal Kombat, but did the Q-Mann’s collection of gaming gladiators tear open another hidden character? Ermac is a definite, but did I see someone else lurking in Sonya’s uniform…?

In the original Mortal Kombat, “Ermac” was not even supposed to be a character. Rumors began circulating when a character selection glitch would accidentally color one of the game’s famous ninjas in the wrong colored tunic for a tiny fraction of a second, as well as from persistent players that found their way into the arcade operator’s menu to find a bookkeeping entry labeled “ERMACS,” right beneath “Reptile Battles.” This provoked a landslide of fan theories, fakes, and all kinds of outright lies. “Ermac” wouldn’t become an official Mortal Kombat character until much later, with the red-clad ninja finally making his debut in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3.

Sonya Blade, on the other hand, had no extra secret characters hidden within. It’s possible that Q could either be making this up, or else rather vaguely referring to the persistent (and very false) rumor of there being a “nudality” that would cause her to appear naked. (“Nudalities” would never appear in Mortal Kombat, but the canceled Tattoo Assassins by Data East would claim to be the only game to ever include them.)

Problems from Sega Land: Chapter One – Looks like Sega and EA could find themselves locked in another battle with neither side able to come to terms with a four-player adapter that everyone can enjoy. Instead of working it out, however, the two sides are hammering out, you guessed it Q-Friends, two distinctly different versions of the same thing. Wait, it gets much better! Both multi-taps will be incompatible with each other, leaving fans of the Arts’ sports titles requiring a different plug than the Sega lineup and Tengen’s Gauntlet 4…

4-way adapters and multi-taps were always a bit of a headache through the 16-bit era. But it gets much worse than Q describes, as by 1996, there were now three multi-tap standards for the Genesis. According to Sega Retro, Sega’s Team Player would wind up having a revised model with an “EXTRA” switch that would cause it to behave like Electronic Arts’ competing 4 Way Play adapter. Sega Retro also claims that the 4 Way Play would have a similar revision to enable it to work on non-EA 4-player games, but it does not specify how. Of course, where allegiances are concerned, there’s always the “Take a Third Option” path; Codemasters did exactly that by releasing their own line of cartridges called J-Cart (primarily in Europe, with only Pete Sampras Tennis receiving a US release in this form) which had two extra controller ports right on the cartridge.

Look for Virgin’s Spot to dig into more colorful antics next year with a loaded-out sequel now in development for both the Super NES and Genesis…

With Cool Spot having released six months earlier to mostly positive reviews (rightfully so, it’s a pretty solid platformer despite getting pretty merciless later on), Virgin showed that “advergames” didn’t necessarily have to be bad. The sequel, Spot Goes to Hollywood, wound up releasing for Sega Genesis and Saturn in 1995, but not Super NES; Sega Retro claims that there was a 32X version in development that was canceled, and a prototype of the canceled SNES version actually surfaced about this time in 2015, though it has not been dumped, presumably by the unnamed collector’s wishes.

Another game destined to be seen again is Sunsoft’s Taz title! This game has become an underground sensation, but the follow-up will have a slightly different style and tone to the play…

At first I assumed he was referring to the Sega Genesis Taz-Mania game, before I remembered that was Sega’s own product. Sunsoft’s game was released for SNES in 1992, and they didn’t put out another one until the identically-named Game Boy version that released in 1994. Having played neither one, I am unqualified to speak further.

Other news from the Sunsoft are another Super-man game from the “Death of Superman” story line and a line of carts using the Justice League characters…

After 1992’s Genesis Superman game, Sunsoft queued up two more Superman titles, both developed by Blizzard Entertainment (who at that point had just changed their name from Silicon & Synapse). The first, The Death and Return of Superman, launched for Genesis and SNES in 1994, and covered the aftermath of the “Death of Superman” comic storyline from 1992, where Superman and Doomsday killed each other (they got better, apparently). Death and Return was a mostly-passable beat-em-up game (I accidentally typo’d this as “beat-me-up” which seems an apt description for the game’s difficulty), but it was Blizzard’s second game for Sunsoft, Justice League Task Force, that would really seal the fate of any future DC Comics games on consoles for a while…if I may quote the Wikipedia article:

Justice League Task Force received mostly negative reviews. The four reviewers of Electronic Gaming Monthly scored the Genesis version a 5.875 out of 10, criticizing the choppy animation, limited number of moves, and most especially the poor controls, which they said made executing special moves “too much work to be any fun.”[2]GamePro gave negative reviews to both the Genesis and SNES versions, similarly citing poor controls, unimpressive special moves, and sprites which look good in still frame but ugly in animation.[3]

This being a game whose entire marketing campaign seemed more interested in telling potential buyers that you could make Superman fight Superman!, I can’t imagine how things could have turned out any better. Though I suppose time has been kind to the concept, as WB Games and Netherrealm Studios’ Injustice: Gods Among Us soundly defeated Justice League Task Force and the later Mortal Kombat VS DC Universe for being the only actually good fighting game to feature characters from the DC Comics universe. And yes, you can make Superman fight Superman, and this is completely justified in the in-game story mode.

Anyway. Still have half the page to go, so check back Friday to learn more about yet more cartridge manufacturing loopholes, what we really thought about video game ratings in 1993, where Howard Phillips went, and how Crystal Dynamics got their start.