Piracy The Early Years

Gamestyle Archive intro: well I wrote this but cannot remember doing so, a real oddity pulled out. I guess the site was a constant stream of reviews and we were fully aware of that. Reviews, previews the endless debate whether we should do news and if we did, that we had to support it fully. Keeping that fun without it becoming a chore was difficult as with any hobby that slowly takes over.

This feature dates from August 2001 and was probably thrown together to break up the review production line. Plus any excuse to write about the Spectrum days!

 

Piracy has been around since the days of the Spectrum in Britain and has grown into our gaming culture ever since.   The lads at Gamestyle have been through it time and time again but this taboo subject is worthy of an article, as everyone seems to have a different opinion of the pros and cons.

We all have our first memories of pirate games, at school it was a blessing to have this option as pocket money was probably only enough to splash out on booze nevermind videogames.   I rarely saw an original game in my Spectrum era at school and on average for everyone sold perhaps ten copies were made.   The only original games that I can recall owning during this period were Skooldaze, Booty and Elite, the rest being spread across a pile of C10 cassettes.   Did Clive realise the ease of which you could copy games on his system?  Was a blind eye turned to the problem back then?  I would think so as it no doubt contributed to the sales of machines and blank cassettes and the problem was left squarely at the publisher’s feet.   Perhaps that is too harsh at a time when a universal and cheap format such as cassette most likely seemed the only was to release videogames.

The knock on effect of the widespread piracy was the increase in retail prices with many games rising to the £9.99 price point.  Don’t laugh kids, that was a fairly large wedge in those days.   Publishers reacted in different ways and with no universal body to represent them everything seemed hit or miss.   The only attempt that I can recall combating the problem can with Elite when it was released in 1985.  The publishers were a company called Firebrand who was part of British Telecom.  Anyone opening the box for the first time was in for a shock because they had to use the Lenslok device.   The idea was novel but the execution was very poor, from my own Elite boxset, follow these instructions complete with emphases words:

1.      Once the program has loaded, press ENTER, the screen will change and you will see three vertical lines appear on the screen – don’t worry about anything else on the screen at this time.

2. Place the UNFOLDED LENSLOK holder length ways on the screen, between the two outmost vertical lines. Using the cursor keys “5” and “8”, adjust the two outermost vertical lines until they are the same as the LE

3. Fold the LENSLOK holder back (as indicated on the holder) place the holder on the screen, (with TOP on the holder, uppermost) and align the centre line of the lens with the vertical centre line on the screen. Now by closing one eye and looking directly at the screen through the lens, you will see the letters “O” and “K” appear.

4. If you are unable to see the letters clearly, use the adjustment keys to “fine tune” the display until “O” and “K” are seen more clearly.

5. When you are satisfied that you can see the “OK” message properly and whilst keeping the holder in the same position, press ENTER. Two more characters will be displayed.   Type these in and the protected program will run as normal.

If, however you make a mistake, two more characters will be generated and you should type these two new characters in. You are allowed three attempts before the computer will reset, making it necessary to re-load the program.

Right is that clear enough?   Ask anyone who played Elite back then to name the two most annoying features of the game and it’s a cert. that their reply will include docking a ship and the Lenslok.   The lens itself was 3.5cm by 2cm, imagine trying to square it up between your much larger television and your squinting eye, with one finger on the keyboard.   More often than not you blew the three chances and had to reload the game again.  Not so bad if it was a cart or one of the recent consoles but the Spectrum was infamous for its loading times.   Clearly Lenslok was not the answer.

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Nintendo Online

Gamestyle Archive intro: this feature dates from 2003 when Nintendo were stepping back from the rush to embrace the growing online option. Writer JJ.

 

Nintendo has been the recipient of much criticism for its online stance – or frankly lack of.  The critics, who may have included myself until recently, see online gaming as the next step in the evolution of gaming.  So why the sudden change in opinion?  No, I haven’t been abducted and brainwashed by the elite fan boy Nintendo North clan, or received a promise of Animal Crossing PAL.  Apart from being able to admit the error of my ways, recent experiences have forced me to re-examine my reasons and come to a new conclusion.

Nintendo firmly believes that the online market is frankly a minority, and they do not see themselves as developing games for a minority: especially when most Nintendo releases sell in large quantities without such options.   There is no argument against such titles as Mario Party, Mario Kart or F Zero GX, which could be highly playable in an online arena.  Without question these, and several more Nintendo franchises would make memorable online releases.

Consider the number of Playstation 2 and Xbox units sold in each of the three territories: Japan, America and Europe.  Whilst the actual conclusive figures are open to debate, what is certain is that we’re talking about millions, albeit with the obvious exception of Japan and Xbox.  Consider further that even in America the number of online users for either the Xbox or Playstation 2 systems has yet to break the magical million barrier, and you realise just how savvy Nintendo has been.  Clearly the demand for online console gaming has not broken into the mainstream; yet.

So why hasn’t the mainstream embraced the concept of online gaming as it currently stands?  For starters we are still waiting on the first killer app to embrace the concept of online gaming and fully exploit its features.  The Xbox may have Ghost Recon, Unreal and Moto GP2, whilst the Playstation 2 offers SOCOM, but none of these will capture the imagination of the public in comparison to Gran Turismo, Mario, Halo or Grand Theft Auto.  Interestingly Yamauchi-san (creator of GT series) is unsure as he recently commented “the flickering you see is a technology problem… it’s not something the team has any control over.  My problem with this is that the quality of GT will be reduced.  It’s not something I’m happy about.  Maybe, it’s not the direction in which we should be taking the game.”  From this you can deduce two things, firstly the technology isn’t as fully developed as it could be, and secondly how badly GT online is needed by Sony to take its online service above ground.

For many developers the prospect of creating a console release which features online play is not only new, but also not financially viable.  The prime example of this is Final Fantasy Online, created by Japanese giant Square Enix.  With no experience of developing an online title, the first few months of the game were beset with server and code problems – resulting in constant updates.  For such a high profile game (released on the market-leading platform) it took well over a year before the game reached profitability, and it still remains unreleased in other territories.  If this was the case for a huge company such as Square Enix, then the majority of American, British and Japanese studios would struggle even more so.

Beyond merely software, further problems exist that need to be overcome before online gaming can be considered mainstream.  Broadband penetration in American is fairly standard, but Japan and Europe are playing catch up.  There is little price competition in the UK, with the current monthly broadband charges ranging from £25-£30 on the whole.  The cost is prohibitive – even if you are able to receive broadband in your area.  Add to this the fact that many online releases will involve a monthly or annual fee, and then you are looking at sacrificing a game per month in order to fund your online habit.

The key philosophy for Nintendo is connectivity and followers of E3 will notice that this has been the firms’ buzz word.  Nintendo excels at creating offline multi-player experiences and has done so ever since the SNES.  The Nintendo 64 delivered the first four player games and established the first steps towards linking with Game Boy Colour – now fully realised with the Gamecube and GBA.  The Gamecube design does allow for a broadband adapter, but this has been left to third party developers to exploit.  Nintendo instead will use the device to facilitate LAN releases, which promises to bring a new dimension to franchises such as Mario Kart: Double Dash.  Many (mostly American) will criticise the lack of online developments from Nintendo, but I cannot help but feel that they are right.   Other new experiences await; many have overlooked the possibilities displayed through realistic AI (Halo) or communication (Seaman).  The latter release builds itself around an idea, which Nintendo could easily take onboard and develop further.

Online gaming might well be invigorating and competitive, but on current experience it cannot match the environment of sitting amongst friends and playing.  The interaction and nature of events becomes far more personal than any online release.  Here you cannot lose, and it’s an enjoyable social activity.  My partner frowns at the thought of online gaming, but inviting around friends is a far more welcome activity – even though we make noise and argue incessantly.  Nintendo understands these social or family values, more than anyone.   Given the choice between an online evening or having some friends around – which would you choose?

My own experience of Playstation 2 online has been completely overwhelming – in the negative sense.  Unlike most Telewest and NTL subscribers who can connect to the network with the minimum of fuss those of us who have USB modems (supplied by BT fact fans) face a difficult task.  BT is the largest broadband supplier with over 1.8 million subscribers (and counting) that supplies its customers with a standard USB ADSL modem such as Speed Touch.  Unfortunately this is unable to plug into the USB socket on your console, well technically you could, but it wouldn’t do anything as the network adapter is on the reverse side, and it requires certain software.

So you are left with the option of instigating internet sharing on your PC, which with XP is straightforward enough, but a little more complex for other operating systems.  Also required is a cross-over cable that will set you back £10-£20 depending on the length required.  Sounds simple doesn’t it?  In theory yes, but given that I’m reasonably proficient with PC’s and several friends work in related industries guess how many of us has managed to get this option up and running?  A big fat zero.  Believe me it isn’t for the want of trying and phoning the technical support at Sony, who were as friendly and informative as possible – even though it seemed they were discovering compatibility problems with network cards all the time.  Going online with the Dreamcast was never as painful as this.

One of the main problems is the fact that Sony cannot supply the technical details such as DNS and ISP, which can only come from your Internet service provider.  Not only that, but they cannot comment on your PC or offer advise here, because that is down to Microsoft.   Initially I did wonder if Microsoft had built into XP some anti-Playstation 2 software, but you can see the complex problems that this option creates.  The final solution (for many it will be a step too far) is to purchase a USB router, which BT will gladly sell you via its Playstation 2 solutions page for £100.00.  Bear in mind that for most of us the direct cable, which comes bundled with your network adapter won’t be of sufficient length; therefore you’ll need to order one at a similar cost to the aforementioned cross-over cable.  Is it worth the cost to experience only SOCOM and Twisted Metal: Black Online?   Currently the answer is certainly not.

Now after such an experience (which no doubt is being replicated all over the UK) you can see why I’ve rethought this whole concept of online gaming.   The masses won’t stomach such problems, as gaming is meant to be a leisure activity, and not one that equals the hassle of daily life.  Until the hardware manufacturers can create a simple method of connection that does not involve additional equipment, then I can only agree with Nintendo.

The time is not now.

Headhunter Interview Questions

Gamestyle Archive intro: an interesting oddity from September 2001. SEGA must have asked Gamestyle if we’d be interested in an interview with Amuze who were developing the delayed Headhunter that didn’t arrive until 2002. These interviews were a team effort with all the team submitting questions. I’m not sure if this interview did go ahead but here’s what the team put together. The numbering is all over the place, apologies but this is faithful to the original document.

 

  1. To many of us, Amuze is a developer that we have not heard of before, how long has the company in exsistance and is Headhunter its first game?
  1. Was the initial concept of Headhunter created by Amuze or did Sega approach you with the project?
  1. How long has the game been in development?
  1. Are you also handling the PS2 version of Headhunter and will this have any new features?
  1. In comparison to other machines how straightforward is the Dreamcast to work with?
  1. Briefly give us an outline of the plot and what we can expect from Headhunter.
  1. Other main characters include Angela Stern, Grey Wolf and Mr Stern – should we be looking out for anyone else?
  1. Several previews have compared the setting of 2019 Los Angeles to that of Robocop. Are you happy with that comparison?
  1. Most of the FMV is done in a newscast style, what were the reasons for this?
  1. Is there a set route/sequence of events in the game i.e. Resident Evil or does it involve more freedom i.e. Deus Ex?
  1. We know the plot involves the illegal trade of body parts, does that include heads?
  1. When dealing such content as bodies and violence how aware are you of the age classification system? What age rating will Headhunter have when released?
  1. The main character (Jack Wade) in the game strikes me as a young Chuck Norris, how did you decide on the look of him?
  1. At the start of the game you are just a common bounty hunter, looking for small-time criminals. Can you select your jobs/missions like in Grand Theft Auto?
  1. Will you have the option to customise your character in anyway and how much weaponry is on offer?
  1. Developers always have one feature that in a perfect world they could have included in the game but unfortunately could not due to time restraints, budget, technology etc. What would you have loved to include?
  1. You’ve tried to offer several different experiences in the game (stealth, driving) but how would you classify the genre of Headhunter?
  1. With so many different aspects to consider no doubt you’ve tried to keep the control system as simple as possible have you achieved this?
  1. Going back to the motorcycle section, Shenmue included such a feature but it was very limited. What features have you included to ensure the same doesn’t happen?
  1. Is there a chance to explore the environment or do you have to drive from point A to point B within a certain time?
  1. Apart from the villans does Headhunter have any one else to look out for on his travels?
  1. There was talk of online features for the Dreamcast version, do these still exist and in what form?
  1. The VMU has unfortunately been underused by most developers, we know that the game will take advantage of the feature but how?
  1. What features will be included to encourage repeat playing after the main game as been completed – bonus items, new levels?
  1. How realistic and intelligent are your opponents?
  1. The game seems to employ a variety of camera angles, what was the reasoning behind this?
  1. Richard Jacques has been working on the soundtrack and special attention has been given to the sound effects. How important are both in the game and can we expect anything new?
  1. Will there be a Stateside release of the game?
  1. How has it been working with Sega?
  1. What games are you playing/looking forward to playing?
  1. How are your opinions on the PS2, Xbox and Gamecube?
  1. What can we expect next from Amuze, a sequel or something new?

ECTS 2003

Gamestyle Archive intro: The European Gaming show marked an opportunity for the team to meet up from all corners of the UK and experience the latest games. From 2003, Writer JJ.

At the end of the summer the video game industry descends on London for the annual ECTS gathering.  The prime European event is this year complimented by the burgeoning consumer Playstation 2 Experience and various developer events in the capital beforehand.  This is a time for old friends to catch up, deals to be offered and a chance to check out the competition.

The consensus was that this year’s event was an improvement on the previous year, and certainly a massive improvement over the lacklustre 2001 Docklands event.  Despite the demise of numerous developers during the last twelve months the general mood was one of hope, excitement and fierce rivalry.     These factors combined with several promising games on show filled attendees (including Gamestyle) with hope that the coming months will provide some much needed excitement and originality.

With a congregation built on a pan-European basis and beyond, it is no surprise that Gamestyle ignored many booths.  Package suppliers, media publishers, recruitment companies, development packages and CD producers may well form the foundations of the industry, but it’s all about the games – excluding PC games of course, as despite criticism it is outside our remit.

Our tour and brief overview begins outside the main entrance to ECTS, where Nintendo had set up camp to promote its forthcoming Gamecube and GameBoy Advance releases.  Rather than taking centre stage amidst the chaotic scenes and deafening volume of Earls Court, Nintendo had decided to make advantage of the concrete area outside.  Here a fenced enclosure was decked out in the style of Mario Kart, with various palm trees and banners in abundance.  Taking centre stage was the truck, which offered booths in and around its structure.

A large video screen dominated the area and allowed Nintendo to continuously run footage of its wares – if only another screen was located at the opposite entrance where the masses queued for the Playstation 2 Experience.  Beneath the screen sat four karts, which came with screens that allowed the LAN ability of Mario Kart Double Dash to be fully exploited and allowed Nintendo to run daily competitions.  The Nintendo stand soon became a favourite escape for Gamestyle as it offered a tranquil, relaxed and crowd free environment – especially when it rained.  The Nintendo girls (dressed in mechanic overalls) were surprisingly knowledgeable about the games on show and eager to help, although on one occasion on Friday they outnumbered the guests!  However on Friday several officials from Nintendo of Japan where evident, Gamestyle hopes that this is the start of equal treatment for Europe.  Luckily on Friday, one Gamestyle staff member was not wearing his Lik Sang tee shirt.

The games on show were of varying quality, excluding Viewtiful Joe and Soul Calibur II, which are already very familiar with most visitors.  Those that disappointed included Rogue Squadron III and Metal Gear Solid: Twin Snakes, which prompted one staff member to exclaim “Bleemcast!”  The former was perhaps a victim of a disappointing level selection, but there was no hiding from the disappointing lack of evolution.  Mario Kart Double Dash received mixed responses and Gamestyle cannot help but feel that is a release on a hiding to nothing; no matter what it will be judged against the sublime SNES version.  The new version is playable and therefore enjoyable, but the visuals fail to harness the power of the Cube or offer a high frame rate.  The same can be said of the sequels to 1080 Snowboarding and Pikmin.

Despite the negativity there were delights to be found in the Nintendo penitentiary, namely Pac Man, Harry Potter, F-Zero and Billy Hatcher.  Perhaps Pac Man was the biggest surprise – only available on one machine, but immensely playable and satisfying.  Unfortunately the need for a GBA with cart plus three friends (with controllers) and the game disc really limits the appeal and potential market of the release.  Pac Man is wonderful and more modes may add further dimensions but you cannot avoid the niche nature of such expenditure.

Depending on which way you entered ECTS; you were confronted with either the colourful Konami/Vivendi stands or the budget Play It offering – located nicely beside the press side entrance.  The Konami stand featured an original design, which really leant itself toward interaction and participation.  The Pro Evolution Soccer 3 stalls were consistently busy, whilst the official Konami dancers kept showing off their undoubted skills.  Every hour on the hour, a Metal Gear 3 video played and came complete with 007 rip-off credits, backed up with footage of forthcoming releases.  Unfortunately two of the most promising games on show were available on single machines; Castlevania and the ultimate music game.  The latter really showed Codemasters how to create a music game and with the headset provided the most laughs to those watching or the brave soul who attempted to sing.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles failed to impress and Zone Of Enders 2 only seems to have received a cosmetic make over.

Across from Konami lay the Vivendi stand, which lacked any modern visual design – instead relying on the games on show to attract attention.  The centrepiece was the Half-Life 2 presentation booth, which always had a queue – bitterly disappointing if you have already seen the footage.  The rest of the stand featured a varied selection of forthcoming releases.  Glitch in the system offered nothing new, while Buffy Chaos Bleeds is a step backwards after the playable Electronic Arts release.  Crash Bandicoot’s latest kart racing release matched Mario Kart Double Dash in playability terms but may lack the finesse of the Nintendo racer; only time will tell.

Normally any video game based on the Simpson’s license is enough to turn off any interest, and so it was initially with the empty Simpson’s Hit & Run booth.  Those brave enough to pick up the controller were rewarded with a rampant take on Grand Theft Auto, doused in Simpson’s humour and presentation.  Star Wars has turned the corner with Knights of the Old Republic and so it seems has another abused license

Game Boy Advance Why should I bother?

Gamestyle Archive intro: written on the eve of the GBA release, Gamestyle considered whether it was worth picking up Nintendo’s new handheld. Did we? Yes.  Writer JJ, published June 2001.

It’s under a week to go before the replacement for the longest serving piece of hardware becomes available in Europe.   The Game Boy has been with us now for a decade and yet continues to sell either in colour or monotone.   The handheld console has seen off challenges from Atari, Bandai, Neo Geo, Sega and many more during its long history and only now does the bell toll.      Although some of the recent software for the Game Boy has been exceptional for instance recent examples such as Grand Theft Auto, Alone In The Dark, Perfect Dark and Pokemon, the general feeling is that no more could be done on the system.   We can only take so many platform, puzzle or poor license releases.   The arrival of its 32bit successor should be a day to remember in Europe but this seems not to be the case.  In fact the general public seem more anxious to experience the new look Gamestyle website that launches on the same day.

Consumer apathy is pretty widespread when it comes to the GBA and it’s all down to the price.  The price point of £89.99 has been widely adopted by retailers which seems fine until you compare that the same machine in Japan costs 9800 yen (£58) or in America $99 (£73).   No discounts either for buying several titles or link cables.  That makes us easily the most expensive place on earth to buy the next generation handheld.   Yet the reason for this isn’t solely down to Nintendo, Gamestyle point the finger of blame at the retailers.   The reason is quite simply Nintendo have recommended a retail price of £73 to £79 for launch day but no one is listening, why?   The fact of the matter is all the main high street retailers are experiencing lower revenues from videogames in general.   The N64 is frankly dead, the Dreamcast has almost joined it and the PS2 continues to disappoint with its lack of quality software.  The GBA is seen very much as a cash cow and therefore we’re going to have to pay a bit more for it.   Of course Nintendo aren’t entirely free from blame, almost all of the titles will retail for £29.99 with the exceptions being Nintendo titles that will come in at £34.99.   If anything the Nintendo games should be cheaper as all the royalties go to the Japanese firm unlike 3rd party titles where they take a percentage.

Even with the price issues high in our mind Gamestyle would still buy the GBA on day one, not because we’re millionaires or Nintendo are giving us freebies, no we’ll be down in that queue with you come Friday 22nd June.  One of our team already has the machine on import and hasn’t been seen since its purchase.   Not only do we have to buy the latest bit of kit with the excitement and thrill of it all in our minds – it’s an essential purchase.   What many have overlooked is that the GBA represents the first piece of Gamecube hardware to become available.   Not only are you buying a handheld but also a controller with extra qualities for the home console.  The inbuilt ability to link up to three other GBA’s and play certain games from only one cart should lighten the blow to your pocket.   The thoughts of hammering the rest of the Gamestyle staff at F Zero will soon become reality, then Mario Kart, then the world!

We all moan about the various formats and exclusive games across many systems.  In order to play the best you need to buy several systems and the argument for a single format has been with us for sometime.   The Game Boy and of course the GBA are the only format to own when it comes the handheld market.  If your favourite game developer is going to release a spin off handheld version chances are it’ll be on Nintendo’s machine.   Unless you’re Squaresoft that is, who are still paying for their allegiance to Sony after the SNES, you’ll have to import a Wonderswan for their games.  By buying a GBA you’re almost guaranteed hundreds of forthcoming handheld games from all the developers across the globe.   Added to this is the backwards compatibility with the Game Boy and Game Boy Colour games so no need to lose that Tetris cart.

Sega are now on board and from day one you’ll be able to buy Chu Chu Rocket, a fantastic game that any Dreamcast owner should be familiar with and a Sonic game to follow.   Only Microsoft and Sony are missing out on the party, rumours do persist that both are working on handhelds of their own.   Most think that Sony are untouchable when it comes to the number one position in the console market, compared to Nintendo and the handheld market they’re in weak position.   Such is the domination of Nintendo and its number one brand.   Mobile phones and Palm handhelds are often projected as being the future of the handheld market but are so far behind its not worth even mentioning them.   Another game of Snake or Tony Hawks 2, that is all we need to say.

At the end of the day we all make our own decisions but after you’ve seen the GBA in action it will prove hard to resist.   Gamestyle will be covering the system in our usual way with news, previous and reviews shortly.

N64 Knocking on heavens door again

Gamestyle Archive intro: here’s the second and final part of our Nintendo 64 summary from 2001

There plenty of N64 bargains to be had in retailers and on the various Internet auctions sites at the present time.   The console itself must number one when it comes to the different variations available.   We’ve had Mario, Pikachu, Goldeneye and Donkey Kong to name but a few.   In the previous article I mentioned the limited Mario console version currently on sale and as I found out Nintendo have cut a few corners on this version.   While not evident to everyone this version does not support the S-Video signal and the controller lead and connections don’t look as sturdy as earlier versions.   You won’t notice these till you plug it in at home and Nintendo have obviously cut costs on the final version.

Jet Force Gemini                                            
Rare                                                             
1-4 Players

A unique space adventure that unfortunately wasn’t to everyone’s tastes and didn’t sell as well as it deserved.   You must save the world by blasting various bugs all over the galaxy.   A top adventure by Rare with plenty of challenges and extras to work for however a disappointing multiplayer mode that just doesn’t work in third person.   Features some of the unique Rare humour that was so evident in Conkers Bad Fur Day, fancy going down the alien disco anyone?

Mischief Makers                                            
Treasure                                                            
1 Player

Took me ages to track this one down but it has been worth the effort.   Yes it’s a 2D side on view title, which doesn’t push the N64 to any degree however it’s by Treasure and that means a skyscraper of gameplay.   A unique refreshing experience, if you give it time.

Mario Golf                                                     
Nintendo                                                     
1-4 Players

I hate golf, I hate the whole dumb idea of it, I hate those quiet crowds and officials, golf is nasty and evil, yet I love Mario Golf.   Set on golf courses that should be built, the game injects life into a boring and mundane genre.   As with most Mario games the premise is simple as are the controls but you soon become aware of the fantastic depth and skill on offer.   Plenty of challenges are on offer in the single player mode and the multiplayer option will create as many arguments as Goldeneye.   The game also links up to the Gameboy version, which by doing so, opens up new characters, and can improve your statistics.

Mario Kart 64                                    
Nintendo                                                      
1-4 Players

Whether or not you believe the SNES version to be superior, there is no denying what a fine game this is on your own or against friends.   Don’t judge it by its cartoon looks and try it out for yourself.

Mario Tennis                                                  
Nintendo                                                     
1-4 Players

I hate tennis, I hate the whole boring idea of it, bland, uninspiring, Cliff Richard, and Wimbledon should be burned down.   Yet this game along with Virtua Tennis is one of the most enjoyable and addictive games that I have played in recent times.   The simple control method hides a great amount of depth and with plenty of hidden extras and a fantastic multiplayer mode creates a great game.   Even better than the real thing.

Perfect Dark                                                   
Rare                                                              
1-4 Players

A game that had too much to live up to and struggled to meet the hyped expectations of those who had waited for so long.   Perfect Dark does have a strange storyline, which perhaps overshadowed the excellent level design and ideas on show.   Forget about its predecessor, this is still one of the finest games of last year and has a multiplayer mode to die for.   The expansion pack was needed to fully play the game.

Pilot Wings 64                                   
Nintendo                                                        
1 Player

At times an addictive and relaxing game that could suddenly become infuriating due to the almost impossible challenges that you could undertake.   As with many Nintendo games this was often copied but never beaten and the visuals are still good when you consider the age of the game.

Ridge Racer 64                                              
Namco                                                         
1-4 Players

A long time in coming but finally the N64 had a decent arcade driving game in its ranks.   The game moves at a frantic pace and everything is solid although the analogue stick just didn’t feel right.   Still with your mates around, this game is worthy of your time.

Sin & Punishment                                          
Treasure                                                            
1 Player

A Japanese only release, earlier this year from Treasure who with the help of Nintendo take their first steps into a fully 3D game.   Once you get past the unique control method and start coming to terms with the difficulty you will regard Sin & Punishment as one of the best titles not to make it out of Japan.   With so much happening on the screen (all in 3D) it may look like a gun game but its not.   A true test of ones gaming skills, decision-making and reactions.   Blast your way to victory but are you good or bad at heart?

Super Mario 64                                              
Nintendo
1 Player

Easily one of the finest games ever created and the first fully 3D world that we had the opportunity to play in.   It’s hard to describe my feelings on first seeing this game and the amazement in others when it was first released.   The visuals may have become dated but it still has that undeniable gameplay and is laden with ideas and innovation.   It’s a sad reflection on others that the camera system here has yet to be equalled and the next instalment from Miyamoto on the Gamecube will set another precedent.

In general I dislike games with platform elements but here the design is flawless and Mario is tuned to perfection.  The control system feels so natural and covers a wide range of moves.   A classic that will keep you occupied for months.   Press start to play!

Wave Race 64
Nintendo
1-2 Players

The only realistic looking on water racer still to date often copied but never equalled.   As you’d expect from Nintendo, fantastic game design and implementation.   Once mastered you can show off to your hearts content, great stuff.

Zelda: Majora’s Mask
Nintendo
1 Player

Features some of the ideas that just couldn’t be put into Ocarina and is more of a side story rather than a completely new game.   As you would expect there is plenty to see and do in order to save the world from certain disaster.   For some the time travel feature will be the highlight but sometimes it feels like you are making no progress at all.

Zelda Ocarina Of Time
Nintendo
1 Player

This one was in development for so long that many began to wonder if the N64 would have a Zelda game or that it would ever be finished.   What we have here isn’t the envisaged game due to time constraints but my god, what a game Zelda is.   The world of Hyrule is brought to life with a great storyline, soundtrack, design and with so much to see and do, the Zelda experience is one that you will never forget.

Close but not good enough

There are plenty of games, which didn’t make it onto the above list for one reason or another yet they do deserve a mention and are well worth picking up.   So just behind the front-runners we have:

Banjo Kazooie

Body Harvest

Diddy Kong Racing

Donkey Kong 64

Lylat Wars

Mystical Ninja

Quake II

Rogue Squadron

Shadowman

Silicon Valley

Snowboard Kids

The World is Not Enough

Wipeout 64

We’re on the highway to hell

An N64 cartridge has a million and one uses if the game isn’t that much cop, from propping up a wobbly table to becoming a dangerous missile – the cart is useful if the game isn’t.   Even with this in mind, you would have to be certainly mad to pick up one of the following and don’t believe that Nintendo seal of quality:

Aero Gauge

Army Men: Sarge’s Heroes

Carmageddon 64

Clayfighter

Daikatana

Fifa 64

Fifa ‘98

Fifa ‘99

Fighting Force

Mortal Kombat Mythologies

Paperboy

Power Rangers

Rampage World Tour

Rampage Universal Tour

Rugrats in Paris

Rugrats Treasure Hunt

Superman

What Next?

Even with titles such as Dinosaur Planet disappearing off the release schedule no doubt to rise again on Gamecube, the N64 does have some titles worth watching out for in 2001.   Such games as Paper Mario, Indiana Jones and finally Excitebike will be (hopefully) welcome additions and there is always the chance of importing some great Japanese releases.   At the end of the day, not much beats an N64 and 4 pads when your mates visit.

Console Rage

Gamestyle Archive intro: the site was all about fun and honesty. This feature from April 2001 shows a bit of both about an age old topic. At first I was struggling for the writer but then I recognised the examples so its JJ.

Rage is everywhere these days and we’ve all had at least one experience of something blowing up in our faces.   It may be someone jumping out of his or her car and shouting abuse (road rage) or a shopper breaking down in the aisle of the local supermarket (trolley rage).   Other known rages are air rage, raith rage, reddie rage, work rage or even bank rage.   Yet long before these symptoms of modern life became widespread, an underground rage known only to game players existed on the small screen and blighted their lives.   This is known as Console Rage.

Console Rage comes in many forms and can reduce even the most stable person into a shaking, crazed and disturbed animal.   It can produce physical and mental affects – perhaps even resulting in damage to the environment or innocent bystanders.   Gamestyle thought it was about time to uncover the facts, horrific tales, and shattered dreams with a view to producing a guide on the warning signs and rules to avoid the Console Rage.

The stories of flying machines, snapped pads, crushed cards and broken friendships have overwhelmed us here at Gamestyle.   You need to know how much weight a SNES will take before it collapses or how flame resistant games are?     We have changed the names in order to protect the guilty and ashamed except Digital Disaster whose trail of damage could fill a branch of EB and currently has spent £120 on Psone pads alone.   He can even provide a unique style of home decorating yet to be seen in Changing Rooms.

The symptoms of rage are very obvious to the experienced observer but must not be confused with an addiction syndrome and are as follows:

  • Shouting.
  • Talking to the game (N/A in Hey You Pikachu/Seaman)
  • Pressing the buttons harder than usual.
  • Knuckles ready to explode through pressure.
  • Being unable to walk away and take a breather.
  • Restarting the level rather than playing through to its conclusion.
  • Oblivious to anyone or anything else.
  • Staring even straining at the screen.
  • Moving closer to the screen.

These are the warning signs that you must act upon, what you choose to do is up to you, either leave the building or remove the seemingly surgically joined person & console from one another.   It won’t be pretty but they’ll thank you for it later someday, perhaps.   If the person is mentally unstable and prone to violence (a common symptom with Console Rage) then we’d suggest leaving even if it is your own house.

Through research and the forums we’ve managed to put together what we hope is the definitive list of things that create Console Rage.   Games that may include these must be avoided at all costs and the preventative measures must be followed, otherwise…

1.Loading/Saving

The longer you have to wait for a game to load the more tense and wound up you will become.   This is probably why the PC has such a bad reputation when it comes to compatibility with games, direct X no. needed etc.   Anyone who owned a Spectrum will understand the length of time it took to load a game (errors were so common) and the tapes were easily damaged – meaning you had to start again from scratch.   One press of the break button during the game meant you had to reload again from scratch.

I wonder how often after a hard session of Football Manager you made a precious save – only to later realise that you hadn’t connected the ear/mic ports correctly or had the volume at the right level?  Many games such as Gauntlet (99 levels) did not include a save feature, which is a prime example of bad design and a slap in the face to you.   Spare a thought for Mr Jones who decided to play Gauntlet through till the very end.   He was nearing the finish when we noticed a burning smell.  Unfortunately he had left the Spectrum near a radiator and it had melted onto his desk, then the machine crashed.   He did what any civilised person should do, took a hammer to the machine and smashed it into pieces.

Saving on Phantasy Star Online has been the recent focus of much anger as characters have been lost (imagine hundreds of hours gone forever) or as happened to me, loosing all your item data.   As you are unable to transfer your VMU saves for this game, it makes the problem far more serious than it should have been.   These are the new risks, which we face with increasing regularity, as more complicated and online games become the norm.    Those N64 carts that have the saves built in seemed like a good idea at the time, until you reset the game a few times in quick succession only to lose that completed Goldeneye save that you had spent months on.   Not only losing the save is bad enough but the thought of having to go through the game once more to acquire the extras – it drove me over the edge and I almost never came back.

2. Third Party Peripherals 

Whether it is a memory card or controller, tales of defective peripherals are common today, as they were 5 years ago.   Those driven by price soon regret their decision.   You want to put your valuable, hard-earned data onto a fancy patterned or coloured card?   Your choice, just sit back and wait for that time bomb to go off.

An example from a colleague is when he lost his Vagrant Story and Front Mission 3 saves, which he put onto a third party memory card.   The cost was over 100 hours of work lost, we’ve all probably learnt the hard way but why do we keep repeating our mistakes?

Freebie items that you receive from high street retailers for pre-ordering a game must be handled with care.   There is a reason why these are being handed out.   That N64 pad which looks nothing like the official pad is being given away because its cheap crap & will cause permanent damage to your hands.   Precision control I think not.

3. Platform Games/Jumping/Cameras

If the devil created a genre then this would be the one.   That loveable Italian plumber would be his general and Miss Croft his lover.   Impossible jumps with dodgy cameras and no save points are the stuff of nightmares and a prime source of Console Rage.   From the tales that we have heard it is obvious that you agree and many games should be come with a government health warning.

Turok 2 not only had massive levels with few save points and many jumps; it was in first person throughout.   You’re on a roll, taking out the reptiles as they come and making good time.   Now the whole level comes down to a series jumps, no skill involved here, close your eyes, press that button and pray.   You think that they would have taken note of the feedback from the original game.   Take that cart and stick it up the programmer’s ass!

A nasty case of rage has been documented with the first Tomb Raider game, or to be more precise the temple room with the flames.   This involved a series of jumps across the temple floor while avoiding the timed flames.   After 30 minutes of fruitless attempts, Mr Smith broke down, screaming, jumping up and throwing the pad and console across the room.  Lost in his own personal hell for several hours, he could not look at or play with Lara Croft ever again, scared for life, even to this day.   The following morning he was onto Sony Customer Services to get his machine repaired.

Since the jump to 3D a dramatic increase in the number of incidents involving platform games & Console Rage has been recorded.   This is because no matter how good the developer, many still struggle to provide a camera that does not require constant attention and correction i.e. Rare.   Even static camera angles such as those found in the survival horror genre are not exempt from blame.

4. Guidebooks

Very much a product of recent times and mostly connected to the Psone and bad journalism.   It’s amazing how they can fit everything into such a small booklet (take note N64 magazine), except they don’t, and miss out things that they consider irrelevant – try playing the game while following one of these guides.   Guides given away with pre-orders (just like third party peripherals) should be treated with extreme caution.   Not only will they spoil your enjoyment of the game; more often than not you’ll be tearing the pages apart in sheer frustration.   Gamestyle firmly believe that if you’re spending £30+ on a game only to follow the guide, you are not getting value for money.

A group of friends were playing their way through Tomb Raider (Lara yet again) using a guidebook to help them through one of the later tricky levels.   They were taking turns playing and navigating; obviously they were heavily into the game by now, while the rest of us were paying little attention to what was going on.   Our attention focused on the twosome due to raised voices (edited version):

Friend 1: Something is biting me, it’s a crocodile

Friend 2: Nothing is mentioned in the guide about a croc in the water

Friend 1: Well I’m telling you something is biting my arse and I’m not imaging it mate, look!

Friend 2: You must have taken a wrong turn somewhere; there should be nothing in the pool

Friend 1: I’ve taken a wrong turn?  How about your naff navigation?   You’re probably on the wrong page!

Friend 2: Aye right, coming from someone that can’t find their way home after a couple.

Friend 1: I’m dead!   You’re f***** great – don’t become an air traffic controller.

A fight ensued which resulted in good beer being wasted and apologies all round, although violent, it was hilarious.   Games can ruin friendships, be warned!

As games have become bigger and more complicated the need for guides for many inpatient gamers has grown.   Surely the puzzles on Resident Evil don’t need explaining?  An easy rule is that if an item is in the game, more than likely you will need it at some stage.

5. Versus Modes

Ah yes, the source of much frustration and embarrassment to everyone so it seems.   If there is one thing worse than losing, it’s losing in front of your friends or unimpressed strangers.   You know the game inside out but lose to a button-bashing idiot, a fluke goal or someone who constantly performs throw moves – we know who you are.

The beat ‘em up is still the arena for game players to prove their superiority over others while the thrill of inflicting humiliation on another during Quake III is hard to beat.   Versus modes are about competition and winning, coming second does not matter, kill or be killed, pedal to the metal, you are the modern gladiator and you must win at all costs.  This is unfortunately how some people play the game, no wonder they get upset when they lose.

A bad loser is like an active volcano, ready to explode at any moment, for instance my mate who we’ll call, Guv.   I must admit that I am partially to blame – as anyone who knows about this will tell you.    The offending game is Soul Blade and the character is Taki.   I could perform any move or combo however I had invented the “three move winning formula”™ – everyone knew what was coming but couldn’t stop it.   Victory after constant victory followed.   Needless to say after a few weeks my friends’ patience began to wear very thin indeed.   Now Guv is pretty damn good at games and couldn’t accept the fact the Tekken 2 master (cough) could loose to a punk performing the same three moves.   One afternoon he finally let his frustrations get the better of him.   After a bit of verbal abuse he threatened to throw my console out of the window (not so bad as I’m on the ground floor) to which I replied that his machine would fly back in, to replace it.   After some more banter he promptly stood up, sighed, turned the machine off and walked out the door not to return (or speak with me) for a couple of weeks.   Now this incident should have been long forgotten but when importing Soul Calibur from Japan upon its release for the Dreamcast, my friends informed me that Taki was banned and not available.   I’m sure till this very day that Guv hunts me down first in Perfect Dark/Goldeneye on some revenge trip.

Now that we are seeing co-operation modes in console games I would expect more arguments about team members not pulling their weight or spoiling the mission for others.   Can you put your life in your partners hands?

6. Difficulty

Some games are guaranteed to have you banging your head against the wall, punching the wall in frustration or stomping in anger.   Gazza may have cried on the pitch but you’re most likely to see grown men crying over some of these recent examples; Goldeneye, Perfect Dark, Quake III, Soul Reaver, Shadowman, Gran Turismo, Pilot Wings, the list is endless.

We all prefer a challenge to a game that offers no depth but sometimes it can be taken too far.

7. Bad Design

Games that are poorly designed or just not finished, often make it out into the high street and are purchased by unsuspecting individuals.   Like lambs to the slaughter they purchase based on flash advertising, biased review and freebies.   This often occurs in the run up to Christmas when the pressure is on publishers to get that game out on time.   Programmers and game testers must laugh and joke amongst themselves at the torture they know you or I will endure while playing the game.   Several titles have been created with the player obviously last in the programmer’s thoughts.   How often do you read a review, which mentions a bad control system, bugs or basic flaws?   This problem is more common than you would think.

Did you ever try to dock a ship in Elite without the docking computer?   Spent hours trading and avoiding enemies only to see yourself killed by a bad-parking manoeuvre?   Bugs are often found in games when they should have been easily spotted for instance Wonder Boy for the 128k Spectrum, which was riddled with bugs and more often than not crashed on level 3.  Cue much anger and flying joysticks.

The Rules

You may have your own suggestions to add to the above list (we’d love to hear them) and based on the above we have created the Gamestyle rules to avoid Console Rage.   Read them, learn them, and spread the word.

1. Been given a freebie that is of dubious quality?   Why not give it to someone you don’t like, the thought of him or her struggling to come to terms with the product will give you immense pleasure.

2. When buying a platform game or any other that tries to hide its platform elements, ask yourself, do I feel lucky punk?  Well do you?

3. Most stores offer trade in prices, they will take anything.

4. Hype a game to your friends, one of them will take the bait and sell it to him, sucker.

5. Keep all alcoholic drinks away from the merchandise.    Remember alcohol leads to poor performance, which leads to humiliation then rage.

6.  Read the Gamestyle review before buying.

7. Find an activity to do while the game is loading, take the dog for a walk, make a cuppa or god forbid read the manual?

8. Try a different type of game, rpg’s for instance don’t have versus modes and you can play by yourself for hours on end without the worry of losing.

9. Avoid cute little characters – Mario, Rayman, Spike the dragon, Banjo, Abe.  Their cuteness factor is a trap.

10. Its your life you make one.

Hope I Die Before I Get Old Part 1

Gamestyle Archive intro: now this is a personal retrospective. This Hope I Die piece was the first in a short lived series or columns at Gamestyle. Written around 2001 in the midst of a Phantasy Star Online addiction that many of the team were working their way through. It was also the age of online innocence where folk actually helped and looked out for one another.

The other night I had a revelation, a question of faith, whilst playing Phantasy Star Online with Killquik, DanGod and Jizza.   Here was I, now 28, sitting on the living room floor surrounded by every known junk food substance to man playing a game in the early hours of the morning with others (people who I haven’t even met in person) via a telephone line.   Now I’m sure this image is repeated across the world with varying degrees of extremism but this was no consolation.   For that moment I panicked, society demands that I grow up and move on.   Phantasy Star Online shows your total time played per character and on reading this I often go red with embarrassment.   145+ hours isn’t too bad compared to some players but when you could do a great deal with that time if given back, it makes you think, but I wouldn’t change a thing.   I’m sure many will look down on us who do such things in our spare time and label us with various false tags.  No friends and no social life?  Plenty mate, thanks, and dare I say it, I have more fun online that you would do the local?   I have no interest in cars, sporting clubs, snooker or being an advertisement for various clothes designers.  Self-improvement is masturbation after all.   It is hard for those who have not experienced something as wonderful and captivating as PSO to fully understand just how good it is, better than sex?   Just kidding but you catch my drift.

What I asked myself wasn’t how sad playing online is, because it isn’t, and five years from now, myself and PSO comrades will be seen as pioneers.   Remember us when the world is playing and enjoying new experiences in the future.  Remember how you mocked us and dismissed us as sad individuals, and then take a look at what you’re doing.  The way the world is heading, it won’t be safe to exist outside of your home soon only via your data stream – plug in your senses and wake up.   Welcome to the new world.   Instead of this I found myself questioning whether I was in fact too old for games in general and if the time had come to put down the controller and pick up the pipe and slippers.   Ever since I broke open the box containing my first video game many Christmas’s ago its been this way and something I have never questioned before.   It has been a great voyage full of fantastic memories and experiences over the years but should it end and how?   We are all aware of friends who once had a love similar to us of games but somehow they moved on or lost interest.   Is that part of their life still empty? How do they cope? Do we even care?   Do we wish to even know these answers?  Now more than ever it is acceptable in some small way to have friends around to play a game as sales of Who Wants to be a Millionaire and The Weakest Link suggest.   Board games are thing of the past, video games rule the lounge and slowly we are brainwashing the masses to our evil ways.   We will win there is no question of that comrades.

Even though we have grown up with games and played through every era and bit revolution the same stigmas that existed in the beginning are still here today.    It is something that I and no doubt many fellow gamers encounter every day, yet many of these commentators flock to watch the latest video game movie (Tomb Raider, Final Fantasy, Resident Evil) or expect to be able to buy a PS2 on Christmas Eve.  As the first generation to grow up with video games we are once again true pioneers and are paying the price for it.   I know of one friend who won’t even discuss games in general with his work colleagues as they think he is some strange outcast and doesn’t fit into their nice cosy social group.   Yet the same people would rather watch the latest soap or waste away their leisure time doing things more trivial and pointless than any 3DO game.   The key here is leisure time, for it is your own and who is to judge what you do within that?   Society certainly mocks us and why should we let them win?

When it happens I would rather my children play games instead of watching television, within reason of course, no Soldier of Fortune at that age or Army Men game, ever.   Has anyone else noticed that video games are now being blamed for everything now when a few years ago it was television?   No one likes us, we don’t care, is a motto we should have adopted long ago.   Getting back on track, is there a national retirement age for gaming; do we hang up our controllers at thirty and progress to simulations on the PC?    I certainly hope not but wander into any retailer and take a moment to look at the customers, where the ages tend to branch out, a pattern is visible and it is quite distinctive.   This is perhaps why I am looking forward to the launch of the Xbox in March for it is aimed at older gamers, say 25+ but it will hopefully attract everyone – once the price is lowered.   Just by reading an issue of PC Gamer recently I was amazed at the amount of interest and coverage of the Xbox console.   This market has money to burn and for the price of a new graphics card you could instead have the latest console from Microsoft.   The American launch was very clever for it had games that would appeal to everyone, cherry picked for every genre.   I’m sure more PC type games will soon follow, as will the gamers within that market, after all they are desperate to play Halo, just as we are.   Xbox – haven for the older gamer?

Being the second oldest at Gamestyle, after Lee and just ahead of Dean (even though he looks like 35) this topic of age is relevant today.   Without talking to the others I would suggest today that we spend more time playing or writing about games than ever before even though we now have wife/girlfriend/children/work and other commitments taking up our time.   Why?   I find it enjoyable, simple as that plus you meet people – some great, some unfortunately conniving scum of the worst kind imaginable and you are forever learning things.  My work colleagues cannot understand why I would spend X amount of time doing website work/writing or rush out to buy the latest release when there are other fantastic things I could do, or so they say.   There will be times when I will have to slow down but I’d rather do this than anything else, following the status quo isn’t for me.

So will I be hanging up my controller shortly?   Not a chance, it’s a part of me that you are just going to accept and learn to live with, I won’t force it down your throat and I expect the same from you.   As I move into a new house to accommodate my forthcoming Xbox (one of the reasons you know!) she understands the position and accepts it.   I just wish more people out there would in general do the same.   See you around on Phantasy Star Online sometime, especially when Dream Key 3 and Version 2 are finally released.    I’ll never be too old to play games.  Where do we go from here?  I’ll leave that up to you.

Lost Gamecube reviews part 1

Gamestyle Archive intro: As I’ve mentioned, we do have some excel files for several formats (retro, Gamecube, Playstation 2 and Xbox) that contain some of the earliest Gamestyle reviews. These are categorised after format by when they appeared online and after this, the cells contain the author, score and review text. 

For whatever reason many of these are incomplete when its comes to the text; some hilariously so. However others do contain an essence of what the review was. The most difficult aspect is actually identifying the title being reviewed from what remains of the text. I think its important to catalogue and archive whatever we can and maybe one day, we can restore full reviews as they become available. So here are some on our wish list.

excel

 

Scooby-Doo! Night of 100 Frights

Author: DJ

Score: 5/10

Scooby Doo. Loved by many, hated by myself. I could never see the appeal of 4 gormless teenagers running around with their klutz of a dog, solving the same mysteries week after week. The fact that the series is still going strong all over the world and that a film has recently been made of their exploits shows how little I really know about the franchises popularity. So without further ado let

 

Driven

Author: JJ

Score: 5

There are few harder tasks in videogaming than taking a license based on a poor film about the Grand Prix lifestyle and creating a racing game. Every system has its fair share of racing games with the majority of them being instantly forgettable but this did not deter Bam Entertainment

 

Super Monkey Ball

Author: AA

Score: 9

Monkeys in Balls ehh? What will they think of next? A monumental game though, as it is the first Sega title to be the released on the Nintendo GameCube. Not so long ago these two gaming giants were at loggerheads, but since have jumped in bed together. Super Monkey Ball sees you take control of one of four monkeys. Aiai, Meemee, Baby or Gongon, all varying in attributes, but none that make a considerable amount of difference. Your job is to guide these little critters across over 100 levels. The major difference being you do not control the ball, but instead the platform, ala Marble Madness. The game, like many of Sega

 

Unknown title (believe this is Universal Studios Theme Parks Adventure)

Author: JJ

Score: 2

At the launch of every console there is one title that is quite often, rightfully ignored due to the its obvious flaws and shortcomings. Would you on launch day take Incoming over Sonic Adventure when the Dreamcast first hit the shelves? No I didn

 

Virtua Striker 2002

Author: CF

Score: 2

There are few things that people should actively hate. Government ministers, money-grabbing lawyers, the rise of the Far Right, smug ego-crazy TV hosts, penalty Shoot-outs, Maradona’s cheating hand, and Chris Waddle’s mullet in 1990. Add to that list the original Virtua Striker. From the arcade to the Dreamcast, it just doesn’t play like a football game should do, and in my time I’ve played quite a few football games. Some, like European Super League, just seemed like a good idea that went wrong through poor programming, but Sega’s Virtua Striker appeared to be intrinsically flawed and irredeemably awful.

Now, Amusement Vision have brought an enhanced version of the third edition of VS, and I Just Can’t Wait, No, Really I Can’t. The problems with the earlier versions of the series are still present and correct. Said problems being the feeling that you aren’t totally in control of your players because there isn’t either a change player button or a un button, which in tactical and gameplay terms restricts you a great deal. I suppose that the argument for Virtua Striker is that it’s old-skool football gameplay, I mean there was no run button in Microprose Soccer or Emlyn Hughes International Soccer. But, welcome to the twenty-first century Sega, come and join us and Pro Evolution. We’re playing football, what are you trying to do there?

It’s hard to like Virtua Striker. It’s doing something differently, but that ‘thing’ is the holy game of football, and it doesn’t seem right. The players are little more bright than those on a foosball table. They run away from the ball if they are tackled, leaving you to compensate. Tackling is actually really easy, and players will dive in to get the ball, or walk over the ball and come away with it, or just take out the player in possession. Passing is less easy. Many times the ball will bounce off an opposing player, to your or his benefit, but passing is tricky thanks to the minimalist methods- that is, they go a set distance and can’t be changed. The obligatory dodgy camera doesn’t help by swooping down far too low, so when you’re through on goal but being chased by three defenders they block your passage of vision and won’t be able to avoid their slide tackles. Built into the game engine is a change in formation and tactics- offensive, normal and defensive. But there is less inclination to use them if the AI isn’t up to much. I mean, for England there’s the massive choice of playing 4-4-2 def or 4-4-2 straight. You can, however, select which formations to choose from in the edit mode, but you’d expect a wider choice to be made just from the options screen.

Unfortunately, the AI is rubbish. I sent a great through ball to the French left-winger, only for him to run backwards immediately, turn around and then run onto the pass. The inability to change players at your whim soon frustrates, in offense and defence, as you can’t choose who you want to use to challenge the opponent. The arcade roots are compromised with a substitute mode, effectively useless because it’s so difficult to tell what subs are good and who isn’t, thanks to the ratings system of ever so slightly different coloured bars which have to be interpreted by standing right next to your TV and squnting at the screen. This also affects your motivation for the ‘road to international cup’ option, where you take a squad and have 4 years (split into weeks) to train them up into the winning ticket. As the difference between players is a matter of pixels, what does it matter? A good idea is screwed in practice. There is no commentary used, apart from a Power Stone-esque voice-over which soon becomes incredibly annoying. “Almost”, he says when you miss, “goal goal goal” overexcitedly when you do. When he says “corner kick” you know that you’re firmly in Soccer (and not football) territory. The crowd noise is good, as is the music, triumphant gaming trumpets marking goals and victories, but it

 

Unknown title

Writer: DJ

Score: 9

One thing you are always going to find in schools up and down the country is snotty-nosed kids hanging around the always banned bike sheds discussing their favourite things, while simultaneously taunting the glasses wearing, carrier bag holding fat kid. Depending on the generation you grew up in these topics could have ranged from the coolest character in Battle of the Planets to your favourite ring tones (for the new millennium

Wavebird controller

Gamestyle Archive intro: the team were big fans of the Nintendo Gamecube and this spilled over into the Wavebird controller that liberated gamers from the restraint of short leads and tangled webs. This article dates from August 2002. Just checking online now; Games Importer is no more.

Writer: JJ

wavebird

With each new Nintendo console you are guaranteed a controller that ultimately breaks the rules in one way or another, often overshadowing even the machine itself.   Therefore it came as a considerable surprise when the Wavebird was first revealed, not only because of the superb design of the current Gamecube controller, but also Nintendo never try confuse the consumer with a range of accessories.   Once a controller is released, it is stuck with, through thick and thin, despite criticisms until the next machine brings the next revolution.

In an age where we are able to send men to the moon (allegedly), split the atom and clone sheep, up until now one thing has remained firmly out of reach from each and every scientist: the cordless controller.   For sure there have been attempts previously, but these were made by third party manufacturers, where quality and budget were compromised on a daily basis.   Nintendo are the first hardware manufacturer to pick up the gauntlet and try to achieve the impossible.   What they have created is a controller that it is cordless, operating by radio frequency only, and is promised to offer the same level of control from up to 20 feet away.  To date this revolutionary device is currently only available in America, with Europe, as ever, waiting eagerly for confirmation of a release date.   Patience is always a virtue that each and every European gamer has to acquire, but Gamestyle could wait no longer to bring you our impressions of the Wavebird, which does work on a European machine.

The advantage of such a device is immediately clear: one more lead removed from the strands that litter your audio visual home set up.    With the recent exception of the Xbox controller, the leads between the pad and console are consistently too short, never mind potentially dangerous to passers by, with extensions only increasing the dangers.   The Wavebird fits in well with the complete transportability of the system: the cube handle, discreet size of the memory card and unit.   Nintendo not only want the Gamecube to be the smallest, most environment friendly system but also the most transportable.   Many of us no doubt hate wrapping the wire around the controller or looping the cord after you’ve finished playing in a desperate, ill-advised attempt to clear up the console clutter.   These days are now a thing of the past.

Despite its hippy-esque name, the Wavebird is a carbon copy of the current Gamecube controller with two noticeable differences.   The first is the added bulk at the base of the unit, which houses the two AA batteries (supplied) and necessary signal equipment.   The Wavebird does not contain a rumble function, which is not only an attempt to conserve battery life but also to prevent an idle controller moving along your coffee table, while you attend to matters elsewhere.   Given recent health warnings and friends, who specifically turn off the rumble function on games, I sincerely doubt many will mourn its absence.   The two supplied batteries are adequate but do not offer the durability of Duracell Ultra, which I promptly installed.  Worries about rapid battery consumption are in my opinion unfounded, and instantly erased by the performance of the Wavebird.   Nintendo have included a light on the controller to display the status of the batteries and an On/Off switch to limit any wastage.

The first thing I noticed about the Wavebird was its weight, I had visions of an almighty handful but I could not have been more wrong: it is extremely light and because it’s from Nintendo feels just like the standard controller.   As the system uses a radio frequency, and given the amount of invisible signals bouncing around lives, you would think that tuning would be a major hassle.   This is simply not the case because Nintendo have devised a system so simple that even your parents could figure it out.   On the receiver, which plugs in the Gamecube, there is a dial that goes from 1-16; these are the possible frequencies that correspond to the same dial, which is located on the base of the Wavebird.   Simply select whichever works for you and then you can get on with playing.   Nintendo have included a green light that will flash on the receiver whenever you press a button or move the stick, thereby showing that everything is functioning correctly.   The additional frequencies can be used to accommodate more players, taking advantage of the four player capabilities of the system, regardless of the number or combinations of Wavebird’s and standard controllers involved.

Great you may be thinking, but just how does it perform during games?   Are we looking at a slight delay or variation in the signal?   To answer these questions I tried the Wavebird on a variety of games, over a variety of distances, to give you an indication of its performance.  For the record the games were Super Monkey Ball, Rogue Squadron 2, Pikmin, NBA Courtside 2002 and Bloody Roar.   These were selected on the basis of what each game demanded – Pikmin (every button), Bloody Roar (combos) and Super Monkey Ball (analogue) and so on.   Throughout each of these and regardless of the distance, I did not encounter any problems or noticeable delays between my actions and the on screen response.

Out of curiosity I picked up the Wavebird and marched out of my living room, across the hall and into the bedroom.   Even here I could still hear those familiar Pikmin responses to each button press, so I went the opposite way, through the entrance hall and out onto the front lawn.   Again, much to my surprise, the controller worked perfectly and is a testament to the quality of the design.  On the product box the maximum distance Nintendo quote is 20 feet, this is obviously a safe distance because on testing it can theoretically work from greater distances.   The only factor I believe you have to contend with is the positioning of the receiver as if it becomes blocked or hidden, which is likely if the unit is on the ground, but such problems are about positioning, rather than the inner workings themselves.

Using the Wavebird soon becomes second nature and opens up your gaming space even more.  Previously I had plonked myself on the floor, leaving room for others to move around with no fear of tripping or utilise the sofa if they so desired.  Now the whole room is a new playing space, I could even sit at the dining table and play during dinner, although this may be hazardous to my health.  Still I do suggest that you try the Wavebird as it could be the answer to your problems.

The Wavebird controller was kindly supplied by www.gamesimporter.com and if you would like further information on purchasing a Wavebird then please email g.importer@blueyonder.co.uk for further details.