Magazine #3 3/98
A few days ago I had the opportunity to attend an unofficial demonstration of the new SEGA Dreamcast console at Microsoft in Redmond. Here are a few thoughts and comments on what will be the ultimate gaming platform for the next year.
Ken (a fellow Microsoft employee) had bought his Dreamcast console while being over in Japan on a business trip. At release day he and a buddy lined up at an electronics store hours before the opening and waited and waited and waited. Some reporters came by and wanted to interview them - only to find out that the first guys in line didn't speak any Japanese :) Finally the store opened and Ken bought his console (unfortunately limit was 1 per person), brought it over to the States and here we are.
Ken hooked the thing up to a high-definition big screen monitor, a setup that is very unforgiving and will reveal all the little flaws in a displayed graphic. This monitor is capable of resolutions of up to 1280 by 1024 and is about 30 - 32 inches big. I'm not going to bore you with the technical specs of the console, the VMS and the controller - that stuff is all over the Web. Instead I want to share my subjective impressions...
The first thing I noticed is how small this console is. No excess plastic or styling ornamentation just a sleek minimalistic CD-based design. Everything looked very clean and simple and it felt pretty heavy. The controllers felt comfortable although I didn't really play with them, the VMS is a lot smaller than expected and the screen has a 'better than your typical Tamagotchi' -resolution. Even the VMS's joypad feels pretty good, considering its size (about as big as a dime) that's amazing.
So Ken turned the thing on and the Dreamcast logo bounced onto the screen - with absolutely no pixelation and very, very smooth anti-aliasing! Superb!!! All the menus are very well designed and the graphics are crisp and beautiful. Pretty impressive so far.
I got to see the following games: Godzilla Generations, Pen Pen Triicelon, Tetris 4D and Sonic Adventure.
Let me say it right away: this game sucks! The graphics are excellent and the sound is pretty good too but gameplay is virtually non existent. The whole thing looks like somebody wrote a graphic demo and turned it into a game... sort of. Imagine 'Crush, Crumble and Chomp' (way back when from Epyx) or 'Rampage' (from Activision) with state-of-the-art graphics but the gameplay still sucks. With Rampage there was at least teamplay but Godzilla doesn't have that. The monster itself is really well rendered, with bump-mapped skin (or so it looks) and the buildings crumble in wonderful explosions but overall pretty disappointing.
Pen Pen Triicelon
Next was Pen Pen, a 'cute' racing game. Cute meaning bubblegum colors and cutie characters :) The graphics are amazing! Once you select your character from a group of perfectly rendered penguins (or 'monsters' or whatever you'd call them) you can pick your different tracks (from a group of four). Did I say that the graphics are mind-boggling? The is 100% arcade-machine quality! The amount of detail, the number of polygons (and sometimes they are hard to detect at all since everything is so smooth and perfect), the colors - everything is on a whole new level. The superior hardware of the Dreamcast really shows off :) The game itself looks like fun, I'm not into cutie games but overall very impressive.
Ah well, it was unavoidable, right? It's Tetris, what else can I say? Well, the graphics are pretty good (they looked good on my 8Bit C-64, I mean it's all little blocks...) and the sounds is OK but it's still only Tetris :) On the other hand up to four players can play in competition at the same time (see that screenshot below) so if you're a hardcore Tetris fan this game may be the greatest thing since sliced bread.
The screenshots are from GameSpot courtesy and © of Softbank's Dreamcast Magazine.
Saving the best for last, Sonic Adventure is *the* ultimate game for the Dreamcast! The graphics are of state of the art arcade-level quality, everything is smooth and crisp and the game is very fast. Totally amazing! Gameplay looks really good and there is even a room where you can grab a dinosaur(???) egg, carry it into a hatchery and then download the beast into your VMS (Tamagotchi style). The levels are beautifully designed and rendered, the textures are of very high resolution (see screenshots below!) and the game never slows down - even when running at full speed. Some of the scenes are just unbelievable, for example Sonic is running over a wooden pier walkway and an Orcas whale is coming in from behind, crushing the pier and wood is flying everywhere. This is the stuff that you previously only saw as full motion video and now it's rendered live! Sonic Adventure is really showing off the Dreamcast's superior design and if it is an indication of the quality games to come then I can only say: 'Move over Playstation and N64!'. Man, I'm still drooling... :)
Make sure you head over to Gamespot to see a lot more Dreamcast stuff - thanks!
Bits 'n Pieces
This issue of CyberRoach Magazine also marks the reworking of the CyberRoach Magazine home page. It's currently still located at Xoom but hopefully I'll get more server space pretty soon. Xoom is great (unlike Geocities with their annoying popups) but 11 Megs of disk space just doesn't cut it anymore :)
A great new game to try is Microsoft Combat Flight Simulator. If you are into WW-II fighter games and like realism, great gameplay and top-of-the-line graphics then this game is for you. Just make sure your PC is fast enough to handle it. By the way a colleague of mine and I provided the voices of the German pilots - with really bad and fake accents but it sounds pretty cool :)
CyberRoach Magazine #4 (due out in February of 1999) will contain one or more interviews with programmers of classic Atari 2600 games. I'm really looking forward for some great inside stories and information.
Pictures and texts © 1998 by CyberRoach Publishing except where indicated otherwise: two screenshots are © Gamespot, the Dreamcast logo is of course © SEGA. No content may be duplicated without the written consent of the author!