This is the best game yet in the Mortal Kombat series, but it just seems to me that all fighters these days, especially the Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter series, are getting just too repetitious. It's not that I don't like fighters, it just that this one offers nothing new. While I'm on the subject, take a look at Street Fighter Alpha. Jesus! Let it go! Three words: Street Fighter 3.
Graphics: There's really no improvement over the nicely digitized graphics that were present in the other installments. The backgrounds seem to be a little better drawn and brought out than in the last ones, though. The graphics on the title and select screens are much better than the originals. There is hardly anything lost here from the arcade version, except the character sprites, which are slightly fuzzier. Overall, though, the graphics in the cart are difinitely above-average. Overall: 8.0
Sound: I definitely could not tell the difference between this version of the game and the arcade version. The music is also done extremely well, with the same basic tunes that we've heard in the other installments, but with a few changes to make them quite a bit better. The F/X are nothing really new, but they definitely are not bad. Overall: 8.5
Gameplay: The gameplay is really nice, and very smooth. The fluidity of movement and special moves is a true delight. Often, though, the computer will resort to using "cheap moves" just when you begin to beat it, throwing off any strategies you may have. Overall, though, hardly anything is lost in making the transition from the arcade to home. Overall: 9.0
Control: The special moves, combos, and fatalities are almost always performed without any degree of flaw. There is usually no trouble pulling off combos and special moves. Overall: 9.0
Overall: A really great installment in the Mortal Kombat series, for fighting and non-fighting fans alike. 9.0
"Hey, Bill, wanna make a game?"
(Five months later...)
"Uh, Bill... it isn't selling."
Avoid at all costs.
I didn't expect much from Eek! The Cat (based on the Saturday-morning TV show), but to my surprise, the game was above-average. The graphics and sprites were nicely drawn and brightly colored, and it has a true "multi"-platform style to it. The one category that lags, though, is the character control. Instead of stopping on a dime, it is more like stopping on a billion dollars. When jumping, you "float" a'la Princess Toadstool in Sooper Mario Bros. 2. An unexpectedly nice platformer/side-scroller, which would be great if it weren't for the horrid control. Definitely worth a rent.
It absolutely amazes me how companies can still get away with making games this pitiful. It seems that companies like T*HQ and Acclaim, especially with their movie translations, use the same programming code and just plug in the background graphics, sound, and sprites. Anywayz, you play Judge Dredd in the year 2139, and all the citizens have justice dispensed by "Judges", unforgiving, authoritarian keepers of the peace. It's hard to tell Judge Dredd from Judge Reinhold in this title's blurred-beyond-recognition sprites, tinny, annoying music, and average control. No fun.
Wow. This is a true fighter that really stands out from the rest. Aside from, maybe, Battle Arena Toshinden, this is one of the best fighters out on the market today, whether they be in the arcade or on a home game system. The attention paid to detail in this title is tremendous, and the smooth, fluid movements of the fighters is fantastic. The control uses only three buttons, which is a nice change of pace compared to the other fighters which require eight or more buttons. Get this title.
The titles coming out for Sega's Genesis seem to be declining in quality every second, and this one is definitely no exception. Also, Acclaim, makers of the ever popular Mortal Kombat series for home platforms, is turning into a T*HQ of 1996. Every title I've seen from them lately is an absolute disgrace to the electronic gaming industry. Ah, well, I just don't "get" how one of the producers of this title can look at it before its release and say, "Hey! This is gonna be a hit!" Anywayz...
Take control of Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield, members of a top secret government operation entitled S.T.A.R.S. (Special Tactics and Resuce Squad) as you make your way through a frightening deserted mansion in which grisly murder and monster sightings were recently reported by local citizens. With the death of many former members of your group, you are left with only three survivors, assigned to stake out the dreaded mansion.
In what can only be described as one of the freshest, most innovative games to be released in the past few years (yes, and by Capcom, too!), Capcom has managed to combine smooth graphics, sound, and FUN into this haunting Friday night fest. I must admit that I was a little scared sitting at home alone at night with this new title- the whole feel is downright "spooky". Witness the action through constantly changing security camera-type views. A nice full-motion video cinema at the beginning does a wonderful job of presenting the intricate story. The save feature is a definite plus, as is the ability to take charge of more than one character. A single minus are the voice-over actors, as they have no more talent than the programmers' family members (I wouldn't be surprised...). Evil's pure, scary, enthralling addictiveness will no doubt leave you with a craving for more and an incredible urge (fear?) to keep the controller in your hand. This extremely original title comes as a highly recommended purchase, and a possible reason to purchase a Playstation. Let's see a sequel!
Sega and Sony are preparing for September 29th. That is the day in which Nintendo's anxiously-awaited Nintendo 64 will start selling in retail chains across the country. Its premiere title, Super Mario 64, has already been given the title of "the best video game of all time" by thousands of players and the media. Nobody denies that it will cause a close-to-euphoric experience for almost any and all players. But, if you just can't wait until September 29th, Sega and its super-hyped Sonic Team have put together quite a nice little competitor.
The game is called NiGHTS. Most of the time you play as the character of the same name, a mysterious purple-clad jester (talk about originality!) who flies around awkward dreamscapes diving through loops and collecting stars and rings.
You begin as either Elliot or Claris, two ambitious kids who are felling down; Elliot because of a lost basketball game, and Claris because of a horrible case of stagefright. They return home that night and go to sleep. Meanwhile, in Nightopia, the land where all dreams take place, an evil entity, Wizeman and Wicked, is using his evil power to take "dream energy" away from the sleeping... once he get enough, he will be able to arise from the subconscious Nightopia and enter the real world. His henchmen, the Nightmaren, start to fulfill his plan and begin taking over Nightopia. A lone Nightopian escapes and scurries to the minds of Claris and Elliot and begs for their help. Feeling like failures, they accept the request and enter Nightopia.
And so begins a literally breathtaking journey through incredibly vivid dreamscapes. Elliot and Claris must collect four types of dream energy: white for purity, green for wisdom, yellow for hope, and blue for intelligence. The fifth, bravery (which is red), cannot be stolen by Wizeman. In each dream world, the player begins as Elliot or Claris (your choice- both are equal in power), but soon stumble upon NiGHTS, who is available in every dream world. Apparently he or she (the character's gender, as well as his/her background, remains unknown through the entire game) is, for some reason, the only one who is not yet under Wizeman's power, and is attracted to the fifth energy which both Claris and Elliot possess.
When either of the two children find NiGHTS, who resides in so-called "Ideya Palaces", they become a flying acrobat who must collect blue chips that are scattered throughout the Mares (stages). Once they have enough, their power will overload the Ideya Capture in each level, which is where the other four types of dream energy is hidden.
The first thing that you will probably notice when you first become NiGHTS is the real sense of flight. The backgrounds, painted wonderfully, scroll smoothly and have no pop-in. This add a wonder third dimension that is usually presented nicely. There is no real controlled flight track (a'la StarFox) for you to follow, giving you the opportunity to explore and look around to your heart's desire. The only limitation is the timer... you usually only have about a hundred or so seconds to fly and complete your tasks.
The music, a dreamy melodic/new age hybrid, is composed completely in sync with the storyline... sometimes you wish you could hang around a little longer just to listen to it a little more.
Overall, score a big one for Sega. While it may not be quite up to Super Mario 64's standards, it comes damn close, and no Saturn owner should be without it. If it weren't for the unimpressive Saturn line-up, this may very well have been reason enough by itself for a new Saturn purchase. This one comes highly recommended for all ages.
There are good games. There are great games. And then there are those that fall into the category of magical. That elite half-percent of all titles that capture your attention, take it for the ride of its life, and then leave it for dead... right in the middle of a Bob-omb Battlefield.
Super Mario 64 is one of those games. It is a rare occasion indeed when such important video game elements as simplicity (see last issue), gameplay, and fun are combines flawlessly into a masterpiece even a bandicoot could appreciate.
Nudged along by a new and much-publicized 93 MHz processor, the Nintendo 64's graphic and sound capabilities play no small role in the seamless execution of the game. Not that the direct visual frills are all that spectacular- rather, it's the smooth, incredibly high frame rate and delicately textured objects (something Mario's previous adventures have been incapable of)- that provide the realism. For example: as you look around for the first time among a vast grass courtyard surrounding a massive castle, birds chirp and flutter across the scene at irregular intervals; sometimes you'll see them flying directly in front of the camera and other times you'll only hear faint chirping coming from the distant east. You hear a monotonous roar far in the distance and decide to follow the sound. You then see a faraway rushing blue streak. As you briskly walk toward it, it gets louder and more detailed... it's a waterfall.
You walk even closer, right up to it, and it becomes even more refined. The rapid, flowing texture makes it unbelievably authentic: you can almost feel the cool mist spraying your mustachioed face. You'd love to just jump right in... but there's an impassable wooden fence blocking you. As you walk to the immediate front of the fence, you can now tell that the waterfall spills into the castle's winding moat. You jump the fence, just to see what happens, and are surprised when you fall many yards and make a splash landing, complete with ripples and a now noticable rushing current.
It is situations like the one described above- and the fact that the entire game consists of such magical exploration- that make Super Mario 64 just so damned fun. Let the revival of the gaming industry now take place.
It turns out that the maniacal Bowser has done it again, kidnapping the lovely Princess Toadstool in an attempt to take over the Mushroom Kingdom. The Mushroom Castle serves as the game's centerpiece, in which access to all levels within can be obtained... provided, of course, that you have gathered enough "Power Stars" for clearance (kind of the equivalent of an electronic keypad). Seven Power Stars are scattered in each of the fifteen levels. These stars, in addition to a few scattered around the castle's courtyard, equal a grand total of 120... the number you'll want to get to see the game's complete ending sequence.
Mario's vast new three-dimensional world is littered with everything imaginable. During your journey you'll encounter everything from the traditional Goombas, Thwomps, and Chain-Chomps to mischievous monkeys, rabbits, and other animals. However, because of Mario's new 3D environment playing more of a challenge than ever before, the amount of enemies has been toned down considerably, leaving the player to deal more with the playfield than anything else. This, mind you, isn't a flaw in any sense; the N64's new analog control pad provides allows you to control Mario with the greatest of ease.
Thanks to the innovative 3D environment, the player is now forced to change the viewing angle for reality's sake. The integration of this came across clumsily in the finished product... thankfully, the designers realized this, and employed an automatic cameraman companion in the game, played by none other than the infamous flying Lakitu, Mario's enemy in the game's previous incarnations.
Certainly, the uninspired soundtrack, courtesy of Koji Kondo, doesn't detract from the game. It's just there. For the sake of nostalgia (if nothing else), the classic 8-bit Mario tunes would have been better off orchestrated as 64-bit quality MIDIs, rather than resorting to the new and rather twangy melodies. Nevertheless, the audio (both the score and sound effects) fits the game's environment almost perfectly.
While Super Mario 64 can't quite nab the ever-prestigious "Best Video Game of all Time" award, it competes with the best of 'em. This cart excels in absolutely every respect. A purchase is required.
A surefire sign that you need a life? Instead of going out on the lake early in the fog-laden morning to hook a few bass- as if that weren't boring enough!- staying at home to play a 16-bit simulation of it.
Such is the case with Black Pearl's (an alias, er, "division" of T*HQ) Bass Masters Classic: Pro Edition. It's not that it's a bad game; it's just that the concept is fundamentally flawed, and always has been.
The game's redeeming aspect, however, is the fact that the speed of fish catching is unrealistically sped up (just as it is on all those Saturday fishing shows), so all the boring waiting is virtually eliminated. Plus, contrary to real life, the fisherman has a view underwater, allowing for super-accurate lure placement.
The object of the game is tournament-driven. You must achieve a certain place among your competitors to continue to the next tournament. Winners are decided by total weight of the bass- and only bass- caught. Experienced players can try the professional difficulty level, but there's also an amateur mode for the rest of us. The bait shop is available, a'la Skate or Die, where you can purchase various lures, equipment, et cetera.
The cart's score has a western/redneck/southern beat, and carries that unmistakable 16-bit MIDI feel, although sometimes it even seems like 8-bit fare.
Visually, the title contains some impressive (for 16-bit) rendered still shots, a'la Myst. The visuals shown while maneuvering the player's boat are almost all below par, even stooping to 8-bit quality. Some rather unimpressive Mode 7 scaling is used when looking underwater.
Most importantly, is this fishing game fun? Mildly amusing, but not fun. It's too late to be another nail in the 16-bit era's coffin; it's one of the first cobwebs.
FANDOM AND LIFE
FANDOM AND LIFE
As it again comes time to start yet another issue of Above and Beyond, I've been doing some thinking. Thinking about where electronic gaming fandom is going, and where it came from. And why I, just as so many others, enjoy it as much as I do.
I've been involved in EG fandom for about four years now, but have been aware of its existance for even longer, about five or six. I, as most others, was introduced to it through Arnie Katz's column, which at the time, I believe, was appareing monthly in Electronic Games magazine, the most intelligent prozine on the market in most peoples' opinions. I sent for a sample issue of two 'zines, Warpzone #2 (by Matthew Smith) and the Digital Press Classic Video Games Collector's Guide (by Joe Santulli). I am not sure why I chose these particualr two, but they are what introduced me to fandom. The first one that arrived at my door was Warpzone, with a handwritten note on the back by its editor, Matthew Smith. I believed myself to be pretty special to be getting a personal note from the editor in chief, but at the time, I was not fully aware of what a "fanzine" was, and didn't know exactly how they operated. Of course, no I know that a fanzine is exactly that; a magazine written by a fan of a particular hobby. I read through the entire issue and loved it. I quickly wrote off for more of these "fanzines", with each letter beginning with "Dear Sirs:".
I received several more 'zines in the next month or so, and read them all eagerly. Since then, I have saved every 'zine I've gotten, and often reread them, often for nostalgia's sake if nothing else. A few of my favorites at the time included Uproar (by Mike Pittaro), Fantazine (Pat Reynolds), In Between the Lines (by Sean Pettibone), and Video Apocalypse (by Josh Lesnick). Since then, Mike, Pat, Sean, Josh, and most others have left fandom in favor of other pursuits, but in contrast, many other fan-eds (fanzine editors) have joined the game, producing some very respectable 'zines. Some of these include Jonathan Ratcliffe's Game Mag, Chris Kohler's Video Zone, and many others. The past year or two has produced some of the best fanzines and fan-eds in existance, and they definitely deserve some recognition.
At the time, fandom because the only thing I was interested in, the only thing I could think about, and the only think I participated in... aside from some much-needed video gaming, of course. Many months after getting my copy of Warpzone, I began thinking about becoming a fan-ed myself. I spent two weeks attempting to conjure up a title for this 'zine, but to no real avail. The best I could come up with was "Freezing Point"... I am still not sure how this title came to mind. I quickly wrote an opening editorial, colophon, and a game review or two. Soon after, though, came a major event in my life. A plumbing-related flood inside my house during a vacation forced me to relocate to a hotel in downtown Wichita for three months. It was extremely hard to get and receive mail from that location, so I lost a degree of interest in fandom and video gaming as a whole, and put Freezing Point in the back of my mind. Upon my return, and seeing the stacks and stacks of mail that had accumulated, I regained my interest in full force, but literally forgot all about Freezing Point. It took me awhile to read through all the 'zines and mail I'd gotten during the three month time span, but I managed to do it in the better part of a week.
I then was doing some rethinking about fandom, and decided to start my own fanzine (again). I spent a considerable amount of time mulling over a title for this 'zine (again), and finally one popped into my head: Above and Beyond. I thought it was all right, but didn't especially care for it (and still don't). For lack of anything better, I proceeded, composing the 'zine on a Toshiba laptop PC, I wrote the opening "Habberjabber" editorial, some fanzine reviews, and some game reviews. When these were done, I quickly churned out two mediocre articles, "System Wars" and "The History of Acclaim." I copied off the pages at my father's workplace, and distributed the issues to all the fan-eds I knew at the time. The response was favorable, and I went on to make a second issue. After I distributed this ish, Arnie Katz reviewed it, giving it a very favorable review in EGM2, which was where his Fandom Central column was appearing at the time. The response to this review, while they could have been very plentiful, were virtually nil, due to the fact that Mr. Katz misspelled my last name (Tommy Donaho) and got the address wrong (1894 Tony Lane). The post office understandably has a very difficult time delivering mail to this person. I still thank Arnie for his review, but I wish he hadn't made those mistakes he'd made in it.
VideoGames magazine reviewed Above and Beyond soon after this, with a somewhat less favorable review, but still generally good. I got quite a bit of mail due to this. All of the various responses pushed me to get Above and Beyond #3 finished, which, at the time, was the best issue yet.
After issue three hit the streets, I became extremely busy with school and everything else, which is why number four, again the best yet at the time, was so incredibly late. Four was eventually released, convincing fellow fan-eds that I was still alive and paving the way for issue five.
Well, this little editorial/article was meant as a contribution for another 'zine, but I eventually began giving a chronological history of Above and Beyond, so I figured its rightful place would be here, in the pages of A&B itself. Bagel.
ABOVE, BEYOND, AND BETWEEN THE LINES
Well, my l'il tributing friend, I've stopped traveling for a moment and actually have the time to respond to the stacks of mail I've been cartin' with me from Boston to New York to Boston to Maine to Boston to Maine to Boston to New York to Troy, MI, to Harbor Springs, MI, where I'm finally resting for a while. Befoer that I was spending my post-semester early summer period waking up (or staying up to...) every fucking morning at 5:15AM to deliver fucking bagels, then spending the afternoon and night taking care of my usual supplemental job. In so many (by all accounts many) words, I'm sorry, as I always seem to be, for taking a while to respond. Looks like things have been hectic and creatively draining for your original self too, what with producing that all-new, innovative, and pioneering 'zine of yours, eh? Tee hee hee...
All right, Thomas, everyone who's seen In Between The Lines and Above and Beyond has been asking my feelings on your immaculately replicated "tribute" ("Aren't you pissed off?" tends to be the most specifically asked question!), so here we go: Of course I'm not pissed- you should know me well enough to surmise that I'm not the silly copyrighting "my Godvent work is MINE!" type- in fact, I'm flattered that you enjoyed/enjoy (really, a conclusion is STILL coming!) IBTL so much as to tribute it with a two issue, alarmingly accurate duplication series. I would be lying, however, if I was to say that my curiousity has not peaked. Do you intend to continue tributing me and my 'zine by, uh, "borrowing" everything from cover to font to reviews to clip art to bloody fucking phrase-lifting ("avoid at all costs"... etc.) to habit of taping woodland creatures to inner thighs? If so, Tom, it's cool by me, but if your 'zine is going to be an eternal tribute, I find it within reason for me to expect eternal credit and recognition. With only a small amount of hyperbole, an obnoxiously large placard proudly proclaiming, "AS ALWAYS, A TRIBUTE TO SEAN PETTIBONE'S INDOMITABLE AND CHRIST-LIKE IN BETWEEN THE LINES" on the cover of every Above and Beyond issue would suit this retiree just fine. I don't need pretentious copyrights if I've got respect. Do you agree? To close on the overdone (by now) subject, thank you for the appreciation you've shown IBTL in the past to me and now to your readers- it means a lot.
Obviously, I found your issues #4 and #5 nothing less than fantastic- to do otherwise would be staple-gunning myself in that excruciatingly tender skin right above the armpit on the underside of the bicep. I'm gonna piss on the handles of Pittaro's car doors. Hey, 'ya never saw Uproar Entertainment, Inc. coaxing an even lukewarm review of its product from me, did'ja? Hee hee. Matthew Smith is appearing in every seventh package of Juicy Fruit from here on out according to Acclaim's quality control manager, who moonlights as Atari's publicity director and rinser of cars at Wrigley's executive offices. Sheeit, more "honor" you're throwing my way as I just read in issue five's "Passing of an Era"... thanx once again my friend. Although it's more than understandable, in fact expected, that people have confirmed the death of In Between the Lines before I formally recognized such a thing, it upsets me a bit. It saddens me that readers and editors think I would just "fade away", as this is uncharacteristic of myself as a person who requires a sense of closure. I appreciate everyone who views the passing of my video game fanzine with sadness- hell, anyone who views it as passing at all! I can only assure ya'll that an issue six will be coming if for no other reason than to thank and fuck those who deserve it. As I'm sure I'll convey in the editorial, playing video games is still of immense enjoyment to me- writing about them seems like a chore now, and that's no impetus to produce an electronic gaming 'zine... it's fair to neither myself nor the readers. Getting back to the issue at hand, your writing (although often in an eerily familiar style) is very good and in some time could become excellent. Issue five displayed a remarkable improvement over four in terms of all dat shit that makes a 'zine a 'zine, but most clearly in regard to layout... huh, I guess we could be talking about either Above and Beyond or In Between The Lines here, eh? Good work on all levels; your 'zine has progressed to a commendable level... it's one of the few fanzines I'm familiar with presently that I look forward to receiving. Keep it up as long as you can.
The Consortium sounds like a novel and welcome idea. In all likelihood whatever I have lying around will be used in IBTL #6 but what remains (or perhaps, in duplicate form if appropriate) I could be sending to Rick's l'il collaborative thing.
When I do write for The Detroit News (which has been very infrequently since my last reviews of Criticom and Warhawk hit the News' on-line paper in January), it's been video game reviews with a play review ("Tommy", Tommy) on one occasion. OF COURSE Ass 'o Tile isn't yet out, whining infidel! I see it now, as should you, soldier, as a chronicled diary of two and one half years of my life. Friends, betrayal, college, drugs, punk, family, emotion... life, that's the (eventual) 'zine's content.
Well, my son, it was good speaking to you... perhaps it could be "with" you soon. I'd really like to keep in touch and continue to teach your mom finger painting. Gimme credit, avoid diary, gimme credit, consider your faith in the presidential vote, gimme credit, and view "The Prophecy" by all recommendation. Reupholstering couches isn't just for loners any longer. Take care, thank you, and make contact. And don't tell me you still don't know who Paige was...
Vowels would be free in an anticapitalistic
I tell you what, avoiding dairy AND meat in my diet here on out would put a serious dent in my food life. Uh, what's left? Bread and fruit... yummy! Okay, before I get too far into the response: my conclusions on the extremely overrated issue of "tributing" In Between The Lines...
Pardon the egotism, but I thought the "IBTL Remembrance" themed issue four was a nice touch. Really, though, for the umpteenth time, everyone, all the remnants of issue five (including the cover) resulted from the following: My using issue four as the template for the next issue, The fact that before starting work on issue five, that I reread all my second generation fanzines (including IBTL) and something may have leaked in subconsciously, and lack of a better idea at the time, with the intentions of changing it before the issue went to press. As I may have mentioned before, the cover happened like this: at press time, I was mulling over several covers I had mad, and in the end, the specific one was chosen due to the fact that it just looked so nice in comparison to the others... even though I knew it looked suspiciously like the one used for IBTL #4. A couple of instances of so-called "plagarism" were, in my opinion, no more than coincidence, such as the "phrase-lifting". Anyway, to put this subject to death (I hope) forever, I've tried to change the layout as much as possible, as you can see in this issue.
I hope this didn't come across the wrong way, however... IBTL deserved/deserves every bit of "tribute" it got. Moving on... yeah, you might want to consider sending the In Between the Lines #6 material, if it never makes it into a final closing issue, to The Consortium. At least it would have a chance to be read. Uhm, thanks so much for the praise of Above and Beyond... to (once again) put it in your words, "it means a lot".
Well, hell, put an ad in IBTL #5 for Ass of Tile, which was out more than two years ago, and what the hell do you expect?! The concept sounds exciting, though. Be sure and send me an issue when it's released, eh?
Welp, anywayz, thanks so much for the superb (albeit long) letter; 'twas great hearing from you again. I'm delighted that it sounds like In Between the Lines #6 is almost nothing short of "likely"... hopefully it'll prompt many other "old school" fan-eds to make a come back, like Pat Reynolds, Todd Lintner, Jess Ragan (yeah, you read right!), etc., etc... As always, take care, stay in touch no matter what, and keep them bagels a comin'...
I WANNA KNOW...
I WANNA KNOW...
Who invented the computer chip? Obviously, the computer chip is an amazing invention, light the light bulb, yet we don't know! Do they test the "occupancy load" of a room? If it says "200", did they actually stuff two hundred people in there? What the hell are Bananas in Pajamas? Eck! The bottom of typed 9s go to the left, I've noticed. Why does it look stupid to handwrite them this way? Why do printed "a"s look different than the way people write them? Why are the sounds "ch" and "th" composed of two letters when they clearly make a single, unique sound? Shouldn't they have their own letter of the alphabet? Why do I always wear a hat? Hmm... I think it's grown to my head. Why is the last light always red after a straightaway of green lights? What's the best thing about Game Mag? My mom excuses me from chores to work on it! And what the hell is Rogaine?