Cool art, roller blading, and graffiti have all come together for the first time in one video game, Jet Grind Radio. Set in an oppressive future, the only things that kids can do to rebel are ride around on magnetic shoes and spray up graffiti. Jet Grind Radio is unlike any other game you've seen, partially due to the graphics that utilize a new technology that allows 3D characters and environments to look like hand drawn cartoon cells. The concept is unique yet simple; you ride around on your magnetic-motor skates throwing up your tag, and the goal is to stake out your territory and avoid the fuzz all the while pulling tricks in the ultra urban world. It may sound kind of amorphous but there are at least 13 different missions as well as three different cities. An in-game screen allows you to design and modify you graffiti tag to evolve with your tagging and skating style. The game is really cool but the graphics are simply stunning. The next generation Dreamcast titles, especially Jet Grind Radio, definitely change the way we look at video games.
Last year at E3 I had to pry myself away from the Seaman demo, and back then he hardly spoke English. I was told they were showing it more to show off the hardware's capabilities than to garner interest in Seaman. Seaman probably wouldnt see America. I was heartbroken, but came home talking about Seaman anyway. Well someone was listening and pretty soon America will have its own smart talking fish guy. The graphics are simplistic (just Seaman and his aquarium) as are the controls. But none of that really matters when you begin talking to Seaman. That's right, you talk to Seaman via a microphone and he talks back. The goal of the game is to help Seaman through his various stages of development by talking and listening. There are puzzles to solve, but really it's all about getting to know a new friend. Seaman is poised to take the virtual pet to a whole new level and I for one am dying to have one to call my own.
Shenmue is almost more of an interactive movie than a traditional video game. It is the first part in an epic story that focuses on Ryo Hazuki, a marital arts guru that is trying to figure out who killed his father and, more importantly, why. Shenmue takes place in China and Japan, features over 300 interactive characters, and a fully interactive environment. The Shenmue world also includes "magic weather" and "time control," which allow the world to have day and night, to change with the seasons, and whether the occasional rain storm. You can take the story any way you please; there is no set order for any of the events. The gameplay ranges from fast paced action scenes requiring quick one button responses to an in depth fighting system that evolves throughout the game. There are also chances to drive a wide assortment of vehicles as well play video games in the arcade. All this and beautiful graphics to boot. Shenmue is going to change the face of gaming forever.
Phantasy Star Online
Sega is mixing up a little old and a little new to create this year's hottest online game. Phantasy Star Online builds upon the Sega Genesis hit Phantasy Star, but brings it to the 21st century with the Dreamcasts online capabilities. Billed as the first networked console-based RPG, PSO looks like a console version of Everquest. Of course, Sega is trying to take it to another level. Up to four players can quest off of a single console connection and the PSO world is going to require a lot of cooperation. Communication in the PSO world will be simplified to keyword phrases- this may seem like a hindrance, but it will allow for totally international playing. Using an ID number system players will be able to log in and out, coordinate parties, and attract new party members. If Chu Chu Rocket is any indication of SegaNet's viability, the outlook is very good for PSO. PSO is essentially promising Everquest for your living room. It seems like they don't want me to get anything done at all.
Samba de Amigo
Perhaps the silliest looking game at all of E3 this year, Samba de Amigo had huge lines of people waiting to shake their things to a Latin beat. SdA is a flawless port of one of Sega's next generation arcade games. Essentially you've got to dance and shake your maracas according to the beat and he screen. In two player mode you're able to shake your way to victory by dropping bombs on your opponent. The graphics are pretty good but the sound track is great, I heard Ricky Martin's Livin la Vie de Loca. Samba de Amigo isn't the kind of game you can play by yourself (unless youre on some weird exercise program). It's a party game, stocked with great Latin tunes that will get the dance floor pumping (and shaking) in no time.
18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker
Move over Crazy Taxi, your little brother is coming on with a vengeance. 18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker is the next in Sega's line of working driving games (What's next pizza guy or maybe ambulance driver?). Like Crazy Taxi, 18 Wheeler, is a port of an arcade game and like Crazy Taxi they've made a few changes for the console. The premise is the same, a wild cross country (America) race in big rigs. Sega has added new stages, parking mode (what is this Driver's Ed?), and a cool two player mode. 18 Wheeler takes you from the pick up to the delivery in your choice of five rigs. This is no Ridge Racer, so buckle-up and get ready to roll.
Power Stone 2
Just when I thought the fighting game genre was getting stale Power Stone debuted. Power Stone 2 takes the 3D interactive environment game to a new level. The only problem that I had with Power Stone was the limited number of characters, but Power Stone 2 has taken care of that with four new ones (still not quite enough for me). They've also added a four player simultaneous mode that shows no sign of slowdown as well as three playable vehicles. The levels are linked for progressive gameplay. The icing on the cake are the 120 plus items, including 65 weapons. Just like a good sequel should, Power Stone 2 broadens the franchise's capabilities without interfering with the games mechanics that made it so playable in the first place.
Think Grim Fandingo in space. This adventure game based on an animated series that I've never seen, is coming out on PC, MAC, and Dreamcast. Stupid Invaders features five wacky aliens stranded on Earth, and on the run from the evil Dr. Sakarine. It has great cartoony but high resolution graphics as well as stellar sound. Expect tons of puzzles, 120 locations, and over 50 characters to interact with. But most importantly Stupid Invaders has a great sense of humor (it makes me want to see the series), ranging from witty dialogue to downright slapstick comedy. Stupid Invaders looks like a great story driven game that doesnt require graphic violence.
POD is another old title that Sega breathing the life back into. POD II looks a lot like Episode One: Racer, which is cool with me. The difference is, this planet is no Tattooine. You have to keep your speed up or risk suffering from the mutagenic virus POD, which actually can be kind of cool because it mutates your pod in dramatic ways. There are only ten tracks and eight vehicles, but that doesn't matter when you can actually play this speedy game online. As one of the titles that SegaNet is pushing, POD II will supposedly work just fine with the standard 56k modem. POD II's ultra fast racing will be the perfect compliment to Phantasy Star Online's RPG action.
Yet another arcade port for the Dreamcast, Spawn creates Todd McFarlane's world on your TV. Its like a 3rd person fighting game mixed with 1st person action title (like Quake III). Furious arena style death matches are viewed via an over the shoulder 3rd person camera, which means split screen. Up to four players can participate as individuals or on teams. The console port allows for lots of tweaking, including stage configuration, night vision, and adjustable gravity. Spawn is bringing together the 1st and 3rd person fighting genres, and is one of the most unique fighting games scheduled for this year.