CES Report - My Nintendo Experiences

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Mike Lambert

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Jan 12, 1995, 1:38:00 AM1/12/95
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Hiya. I just got back from CES, and wanted to share what I saw.
This post contains Nintendo information (other systems are located in
the atari, sega, 3do, and misc newsgroups as appropriate).

To let you know where I'm coming from, I do own a SNES, and have
for over a year. I also own a Genesis and a 3DO. My philosophy towards
video games is that I don't care what system it's on so long as it's a
good game. I'm no company's advocate.

Everything from here on out is my opinion. Opinions were gathered from
watching, playing, and listening to other players and designers.
I had a very limited amount of time at CES, so on average I had only
a few moments with many of the games. This is so you take everything
with some reservation -- there's no way to measure depth of play
or lots of neato features. I think that many of my first impressions
are valid, but there are bound to be games that I mis-judge since I
didn't have lots of time to spend on any one.

Phew! Done with the quid pro quos. Let's have at it, shall we?
Most impressive stuff first, but there's no strict order.


STARFOX 2

My favorite in the Nintendo area, Starfox 2 looks to be everything the
original was, with a whole lot more. And less, in a manner of speaking.
Less restrictions. You can now fly anywhere you want, and the missions
do not follow a scriped path anymore. That alone is worth the price
of admission.

You can transform your ship into a walker, and (I believe) leave in
the middle of missions to go to another planet -- I saw one person
do this and I don't think it was scripted. What a refreshing
update!

The Starfox 2 machines were *always* occupied. In fact, it seemed that
no one wanted to leave. This one looks like a winner.


KIRBY'S AVALANCHE

I didn't play this one, but I watched it. KA is Nintendo of America's
version of Puyo Puyo, the smash puzzle game in Japan. Unlike the
original Japanese version, Nintendo changed all the characters to
Kirby-themed ones for maximum marketability. This seems a little
less lame than the face-lift that Sega imposed on their version, but
not by much.

Fortunately, the great gameplay isn't influenced at all by the character
portraits. This is a fun game, and it's *awesome* with a friend.
If you don't already have it, get it.


KIRBY'S GOLF

This was described as taking the physics of a golf game and putting them
into the Kirby universe. Kirby's been a busy guy in the past six months!
This is the ultimate in non-threatening video games, and lots of people
wanted to give it a try. In fact, the Kirby machines were far more
popular than the FX Fighter machines.

I didn't give this a try since golf really isn't my thing, but it was
bright and clear, and had good graphics. If you like minature golf,
this one might be worth checking out. It won't appeal to blood and
gore fans, but it will probably appeal to most everyone else.


VIRTUAL BOY

Let me state now that I like Virtual Boy. I think it's a neat little
portable, and I enjoyed playing with it. However, it's *not* virtual
reality, not at all.

If I had to describe VB, I'd say you take a Gameboy, color it red, and
attach the Sega Master System 3D glasses and a SNES pad and there you
go. The quality of the system is better than this description implies,
but I feel this describes the contents better than "virtual" anything.

The 3D images are nice, sharp, and plentiful. I had no problem resolving
the images, nor felt any eyestrain or discomfort. I found the
red coloring a bit sharper and brighter than the Gameboy, and I wasn't
turned off by having just red.

There were two games on display -- Space Pinball, and a first-person
rock'em-sock'em type game. I got to play the pinball one, and it was
very nice. The pinball physics was a little off, but it was a fun game
and the 3D effects made some great eye candy. I had a real sense of
depth and 3D images. There were a good selection of tables, although
some were much better than others.

My biggest beef is Nintendo trying to pass this off to the public
as virtual reality. It's not. If this is virtual reality, so is the
8-bit SMS and *that* was in color. As a minimum, I think VR necessitates
head-tracking, something the VB wasn't designed to do.

The VB itself is also underpowered for real VR environments. It plays
a good game of 3D pinball, but the one demo which showed a spaceship
traveling through a 3D environment looked pretty bad. Imagine the
old Atari vector Star Wars with 1/3 as many lines and lots of flashing
and jagged lines everywhere. Yuck.

Personally, I don't see this going over too well. $200, with $50-$60
for games is too much for this technology. It's nice, but that's too
steep for my wallet. I wouldn't mind having one, but not at that price.


ULTRA 64

The only signs of the U64 in the convention was a demo tape by SGI
concerning their development tools kit for the U64. There were some
graphic demonstrations, but none of them were actually produced by
a U64. Nintendo and SGI were very careful to verbally dance around
the fact that they didn't have a real demo, actually running off of
a U64 or prototype hardware.

The demos are outstanding. In fact, they're so outstanding that it's
just too hard to swallow yet. Not until I see it, without a VCR
or a SGI connected to the display. Nintendo's demo is very slick,
and it looks light-years beyond the currently available systems.
If they pull it off, it will be a spectacle. I'm definately rooting
for them, but don't take it personally if I find it just a little hard
believe just yet.

Why? The demos were just perfect. In one, they showed a town landscape
with a bird's eye view. In the first half of the demo, they described
how current consoles have a pop-in problem -- with complex scenery,
the machines can't draw everything in the scene from all distances,
so when the camera comes close enough, the details "pop" into view.
Then, they showed the scene over again, telling us what the U64
would look like. Here, there was no pop-in effects at all as the
landscape scrolled smoothly by and everything scaled into view flawlessly.

The next demo concerned anti-aliasing. They showed a town with a fence
around it, and as the camera closed in on the town, brought attention
to how the fence seemed to shimmer and the rooftops on the buildings
had jaggies all over the place. Now the demo started over, telling
how the U64 anti-aliases which removes the problems in the previous
scene. It looked perfect -- the fence was crystal clear, and the
rooftops were pixel perfect. Actually, that's a lie. I couldn't
distinguish any pixels anywhere.

The level of perfection they promise bothers me. I find it hard to
believe that Nintendo and SGI will deliver something so far ahead of
their competitors. I'd love to see it, mind you, but it just seems
too good to be true.

To put this into perspective, the demos I saw are essentially promising
that the U64 will deliver graphics and performance that is an order
above Sega's *arcade* Daytona machine. Daytona has the pop-in problem,
and it's graphics weren't as detailed as the ones on the U64 tape.
So is the U64 going to deliver better-than-Daytona quality for
$250-$300? You can bet that if they do, I'll be first in line at
the cash register. I'm not going to start holding my breath *now*, though.

As for delivery time, a SGI rep on the tape stated that they are on
schedule, and they're just where they want to be with regards to
production. Take that how you will.


UNIRACERS

Nintendo was pushing this title. I won't spend much time on it, since
it's out, but to be honest, I don't see the appeal. Maybe if I sat
down and tinkered with it for a few hours, but it didn't impress me
at CES.


SUNSOFT

As I mentioned in my misc posting, Sunsoft had quite a few platform
games for Genesis and SNES, all based on licensed characters and
all less than inspiring. Thankfully, the SNES didn't have an overdose
of platformers like the rest of the show did. Still, I was struck
by the utterly repetitive nature of this exhibit. They have games
for the SNES, but I wouldn't want them :)

FX FIGHTER

In one sense, the designers should be commended for attempting the
impossible: VF on the SNES. The final product, though, is kind of
ugly. It looks flat, color-impaired, and grainy.

At this point, only two of the characters were done, and a GTE rep told
me it was 40% complete. However, I get the feeling that much of the
remaining 60% is adding the remaining characters. The game could really
use a graphical boost, but I don't think it's going to get it.

I'm really bad at VF type games, so I can't really comment on gameplay.
I couldn't seem to get that many moves out of the fighters, and there
wasn't a summary of the controls anywhere in sight. People seemed to
ignore this one, as I had no problem finding an open SNES in both the
GTE and Nintendo setups.

The game is a nice attempt, and it may play very well, but it's hard
to get excited over it. VF isn't exactly the world's most popular
fighting game to begin with, and I wonder how a version which is a
lot less in the graphically impressive department is going to do.

(Of course, it didn't help that DGHF brought a Sony Playstation and
demoed Toshinden, which has to be seen to be believed. It makes
Saturn VF look pale in comparison, so just imagine what it makes
FXF look like. Sony blew it big by not showing off the Playstation
at this CES, where they would have commanded a lot of attention by
default. Their loss is everyone else's gain, though :)


JUSTICE LEAGUE

This one didn't impress me too much, especially next to the Sega version
(now how often do you hear *that* ?) Genesis JL had large, brightly
colored characters that looked true to their origins. SNES JL had much
smaller characters, and while they were drawn with many more colors,
they didn't look right. Objectively, the coloring was beautiful, but
it just doesn't fit the genre. Also, this game looked a lot darker
(not in tone, but in coloring).

I didn't play it for any extended period of time. Controls were different
than the Sega version, as far as I could tell. If the fighting engine
is like the Genesis version, watch out. The Genesis game, while
impressive-looking, is waaaaay too easy. I completed the whole game
without losing a match. First try. Not good.


There were lots of other software titles, but not much stood out.
Titus was showing Ardy Lightfoot, which was a 3/4 perspective game
like Equinox of Landstalker which looked fun, but I couldn't get to
play it because this guy was there forever. I'd give this a look.
I saw Vortex, which looked somewhat impressive, but not overly so.
I'd trade for this one, but wouldn't go out and buy it tomorrow.
Konami had a sequel (I think) to Cybernator, but it didn't look
all that different, and felt like it was shaded in red tones --
maybe their designers have spent too much time playtesting Virtual
Boy :)

Konami and Capcom had really lackluster displays, with nothing of any
real excitement. Same with Squaresoft, where I didn't see anything new.
Same with most of the SNES booths -- they had stuff, but none of it
especially attention-grabbing or attractive.

A special award to Nintendo for *not* having a Doom clone. This seemed
to be the only platform in existence without a pointless and boring
retread of Doom. Nintendo-only fans may not be happy about this, but
it was so refreshing not to see one! :)

After last year's bombshell of DKC, it seems like Nintendo took some
time to relax. Nintendo's offerings were good, just not revolutionary
or exceptionally exciting. The no-show of the U64 was just another
component of the whole lack of energy. Nintendo is offering some good
solid titles (Starfox 2, Kirby's Avalanche) that will be top-notch
additions to anyone's game library. But there was nothing that made
me stand up and take notice. Oh well.

Hope you enjoyed this report. I have made other reports to the atari,
3do, sega, and misc newsgroups. If you can't find them and want to
read them, I can mail them to ya, but please look first!

(((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((()))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))
Michael Lambert -- mi...@bend.ucsd.edu
Pacific Communications Sciences Inc. / UCSD Linguistics Department
San Diego CA
(((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((((()))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))))

nathan_cochrane

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Jan 12, 1995, 8:15:24 PM1/12/95
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> mi...@bend.ucsd.edu (Mike Lambert) writes:
> ULTRA 64

> The next demo concerned anti-aliasing. They showed a town with a fence
> around it, and as the camera closed in on the town, brought attention
> to how the fence seemed to shimmer and the rooftops on the buildings
> had jaggies all over the place. Now the demo started over, telling
> how the U64 anti-aliases which removes the problems in the previous
> scene. It looked perfect -- the fence was crystal clear, and the
> rooftops were pixel perfect. Actually, that's a lie. I couldn't
> distinguish any pixels anywhere.

>>>>


Hmmm, this sounds disturbingly familiar. SGI showed us an almost identical-
sounding demo tape at the 'From Toys to Terraflops' seminar last month, but
there was no mention of it being related in any way to the U64 project.

Did this demo tape show you travelling along a road into the town? Or a
close up of an exotic looking tree out the front of a picket-fenced home?

I wonder if SGI/Nintendo are trying to pull a swifty here, by using existing
SGI technology and demos and trying to pass them off as if they were
specifically U64 prototype development efforts?

As for the likelihood of the U64 becoming reality (pardon the pun), many
may be interested to know that much of this is speculation by the
developers themselves who possess an almost evangelical belief in a
notion which I believe they refer to as 'Boyle's Law'. This states that
every 18 months the power of machines' doubles, while its price halves
or something to this effect. It is this principle that SGI is using as
a benchmark in their Interactive TV trials in Orlando, and it may well
be this principle that is at play here as well.

The curious thing is that for all intents and purposes the set-top boxes
that SGI are promoting as the next Pay-TV revolution, sound from what little
is known or surmised, as U64 technology (basically the MIPS 4200 chipset).
SGI are saying that these $US250 set-top devices won't be available until
middle to end of 1996-7, yet the U64 is supposed to be out this year and
we have seen squat. No demos, no box mock-ups, no development tools, not
even a designer who is willing to go official with anything. If ever there
was an expensive piece of mental candy then the whole U64 thing would have
to be it. Anyone remember the Nintendo CD??

Make of this what you will.

As for all the people who are crowing about how great the games for the
Project Reality/U64 are going to be based on the arcade games, I wouldn't
get too excited. Cruis'n USA was definitely mediocre, and while Primal
Rage is a kick-ass beater, according to the development crew at Williams,
the technology that will be inherent in the U64 is somewhat different to
that in the coin-ops themselves. Basically the technology that is in the
coin-ops is _not_ what you will have inside your U64 wonda-box. This is
one of the few official statements to come from any of the developers
working with the U64.

Those interested in an interview that was done with the Cruis'n USA
developers and the U64 can check out URL:

http://www.iinet.com.au/~nathan/cruisn.html
----------------------------------------------------------------------------
Nathan Cochrane | "He that roars for liberty,
Communications Journalist | Faster binds a tyrant's power;
nat...@iinet.com.au | And the tyrant's cruel glee
http://www.iinet.com.au/~nathan/ | Forces on the freer hour." -Tennyson
<<==- You're entitled to your opinion, and I am entitled to the facts! -==>>
<<==- My opinions are my own, no-one else would have them. -==>>
----------------------------------------------------------------------------


Richard C. Lowman

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Jan 13, 1995, 7:58:18 AM1/13/95
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On 12 Jan 1995, Mike Lambert wrote:

> Hiya. I just got back from CES.... That makes two of us.... (I think!)

> STARFOX 2
>
> My favorite in the Nintendo area, Starfox 2 looks to be everything the
> original was, with a whole lot more. And less, in a manner of speaking.
> Less restrictions. You can now fly anywhere you want, and the missions
> do not follow a scriped path anymore. That alone is worth the price
> of admission.
>
> You can transform your ship into a walker, and (I believe) leave in
> the middle of missions to go to another planet -- I saw one person
> do this and I don't think it was scripted. What a refreshing
> update!
>
> The Starfox 2 machines were *always* occupied. In fact, it seemed that
> no one wanted to leave. This one looks like a winner.
>

....And how! First off, your right. you Can leave in the middle of the
mission, either to return to the battle map, and blast some of the bad
guys away from you home planet, or if your wingman/leader calls you up to
tell you that things are getting bad back home.... I for one liked the
way that the had the prototype games done. You where sitting in a
"Captain's Chair" (Used in large RV's) and on either side of your head
were two small Panasonic Ramsa two-ways, and a large 15inch Sub-woofer
placed underneath.... Visually you where attacked by a 47 or (i think) 50
inch Sony Trinitron XBR Projector TV's.... "McCloud" and two new members
of the crew have a new job to do this coming August....

(Sorry if i sound too much like a guy from the "Big N's" ad agency....)

More Later....

terrell gibbs

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Jan 13, 1995, 12:53:16 PM1/13/95
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In article <3f4k7c$h...@classic.iinet.com.au>, Nathan Cochrane wrote:

:If ever there


:was an expensive piece of mental candy then the whole U64 thing would have
:to be it. Anyone remember the Nintendo CD??

Sure. It was a collaboration between Nintendo & Sony. Nintendo dropped
out, and Sony continued the project. The final version is called the PSX.
It's out in Japan, and is said to be a pretty hot machine.

terrell gibbs

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Jan 13, 1995, 12:55:59 PM1/13/95
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In article <3f4k7c$h...@classic.iinet.com.au>, Nathan Cochrane wrote:

:As for all the people who are crowing about how great the games for the


:Project Reality/U64 are going to be based on the arcade games, I wouldn't
:get too excited. Cruis'n USA was definitely mediocre, and while Primal
:Rage is a kick-ass beater, according to the development crew at Williams,
:the technology that will be inherent in the U64 is somewhat different to
:that in the coin-ops themselves. Basically the technology that is in the
:coin-ops is _not_ what you will have inside your U64 wonda-box. This is
:one of the few official statements to come from any of the developers
:working with the U64.

Primal Rage has nothing to do with the U64. You are probably thinking of
Killer Instinct, which is said to be running on an "incomplete" version of
the U64 chipset.

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