Alright, enough with the quick takes, let’s start this week with another full page.
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,issues 53 and 54 of Total! and the July 1996 issue of Game Informer 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—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:
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 2, Soul Calibur, Tekken 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 Night, Wangan Midnight, and Eighting’s latest Bloody Roar title. The hardware also gave us Soul Calibur 2, Ridge 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.