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September 09, 1999 - Image 12

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The Michigan Daily, 1999-09-09

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12A - The Michigan Daily - Thursday, September 9, 1999

Sega's Dreamcast serves up a next generation of video gaming

By Ted Watts
Daily Arts Wter
Isn't that cute? The next generation of
video game consoles just got born in this
country. With its 200MHz processor and
built in 56k modem, the Sega Dreamcast
seems more like a home computer than a
$199 video gaming machine.
It's hard to directly compare consoles,
but the Dreamcast is a 128 bit system
compared to the 64 bit systems already
entrenched in the market. There have
been more than a quarter of a million
pre-release sales of the Dreamcast in
North America, about three times the
analogous numbers for the Playstation.
And the Dreamcast is launching with 16
titles, twice what Playstation came out
with and eight times the Nintendo 64's
initial roster.
The Dreamcast was originally
launched in Japan last December, so
there has been time for porting
Japanese games and for new devel-
opment. Many games initially
released in the far east have been
tweaked for the U.S. system to
improve them, including the system's
lovingly crafted flagship title, "Sonic
Adventure."
In addition to games, there is a
bumper crop of peripherals available,
from a fishing rod controller to tremor
packs. The standout item, however, is the
Visual Memory Unit. The VMU is a
memory card with a small LCD screen
that fits into the game controller itself
This allows a person to play a game with
their friends without revealing important
game information. For instance, in "NFL
2K" you can choose a play on the VMU
instead of on the television, so your
friend sitting next to you won't know
where your men will be running. Even
better are the minigames that can be
downloaded into the VMU. Simple yet
addictive, these minigames give you sec-
ondary related play options, expanding
the scope of your, purchase. The
mimgame in "Sonic Adventure" allows
you to take characters and make them
more powerful. It is also a good example
of the possibilities of the technology. The
VMU controls are simple; a mini joypad
and two buttons. But being less than

three inches long, any more would just
get in the way.
The Dreamcast comes with the
console itself, one controller, a power
cord, an AV cable, a phone cable, an
instruction manual, a web browser
disc and a game sampler disc. You
may notice there are two very impor-
tant things missing; a game and a
memory card. Sega's last system, the
Saturn, had a pleasant amount of
internal memory, but they appear to
have abandoned that strategy to lower
the unit's price, following the lead of
Sony and Nintendo. For similar rea-
sons, Sega is not packing in a game.
Additionally, no one is stuck with a
game they had to buy but never had
any desire to play. However, the need
for a game automatically raises the
cost of the system by at least the cost
of a rental, and more likely by the $50
each of the games costs.
What they are packing in and not
giving anyone a choice about is the
Dreamcast's modem. In an attempt to
encourage companies to develop the
internet capabilities of the
Dreamcast, Sega is ensuring that
there will be a big installed base to
make it worthwhile to include the
option in games. The most promising
facet is the multiplayer options;
developers are promising several
games in the next few months that
allow a vast number of people to play
together online.
You can also view websites and check
email with the Dreamcast; that seems to
make it a cheap alternative for the com-
puterless. But, there is no printer and no
hard drive (yet), so the experience is a bit
ephemeral. Additionally, you still need to
have an ISP to use these functions or the
gaming functions. This is not a problem
for people online already; University stu-
dents are online, whether they know it or
not. Using the modem to dial into the
Universities's system at 489-2222, using
your password and <youruniq-
nane>@umich.edu as your user login
and your password, you should be able to
easily surf the web.
The game spread seems a bit off, near-
ly one third are fighters and one third

racers. It seems like the mix is a bit out
of whack, even though those games are
produced in inordinate numbers anyway.
It may merely be that these games can
more quickly take advantage of the
Dreamcast's capabilities, since there are
relatively few elements to improve.
Racers have relatively few types of ele-
ments; cars, roads and simple back-
grounds more or less covers it. Fighters
tend to just involve a background and
people. The fewer elements that need to
be improved, the faster they can be
developed. And the easier they are to
show off.
The Dreamcast's sampler disc is also
designed to show off. A new Dreamcast
owner gets a taste of games as varied as
"Sonic Adventure," the brilliant arcade
gun game, "House of the Dead 2," and
the bizarrely good "Sega Bass Fishing
"amongst many others. In addition to a
few hours of entertainment, it makes for
much more informed game buying.
The Dreamcast has had a big advertis-
ing budget; in addition to being the pri-
mary sponsor of the MTV Video Music
Awards tonight, they have been running
plenty of somewhat oblique TV and print
ads. With tag lines like "It's Thinking"
and "It's Alive; What's Worse, It Knows
It's Alive", the ad campaign has been try-
ing its hardest to create a buzz. There
was plenty of talk about the system
before the campaign, too, and it seems
nearly superfluous. The Dreamcast is
good enough that it shouldn't need
obscure advertising that barely mentions
that it is a video game system; the games
speak for themselves.
NFL 2K
Sega
Dreamcast
Sports games have always had a cer-
tain burden of providing realism that
other games have not. It's a legitimate
cost in exchange for trying to cash in on
a widely popular piece of existing cul-
ture.
"NFL 2K" succeeds famously in
terms of realism. The disk succeeds in
conveying the impression of watching a
football game on television.
Power Stone
Capcom
Dreamcast
Capcom became famous for the
2D fighting game Street Fighter and
its spawn. One of their initial ven-
tures into the Dreamcast realm is
Power Stone, an active little 3D
fighter created for the arcade and
(cleanly ported to the newest console
Ion the block.

SEGA SPORTS

Rushing to stores as the latest and greatest football game to hit the shelves, Sega's 'NFL 2K' is in the zone,baby.

Convincing weather effects like rain
and fog during the game are part of this.
Retween play shots of players on the
field that look so much like video you'll
be doubting that they're merely exam-
ples of the power of the Dreamcast are
perhaps an even more important aspect
of the effect. The delicacy of light and
shadow, the flattening effect of zoomed
video cameras and motion that has been
quite realistically captured make these
shots breathtaking.
But it's more than just visual realism.
"NFL 2K" has used its access to the
It's the 19th Century, although
oddly one of the characters is an air-
plane pilot and you get to use
bazookas and flame throwers. But
since the game is based on the idea
that if you get three magic stones in
a round you get super powers, it's
probably not worth quibbling over
anachronims.
Power Stone retains the cartoony
look of Capcom's past games, but
adds a lot of playability. It's not just
the third dimension, but the ability to

Dreamcast's Visual Memory Unit to
add a new dimension of realism to foot-
ball video games by allowing players to
hide their choice of play from their
opponents. Instead of a selected play
being displayed on screen for your
friend sitting next to you to see while
she chooses her own plays, you can
hold your cards closer by choosing on
the LCD screen of the VMU in your
controller. Secrecy will help you as a
player, but if you get predictable in your
choices, your opponent will know how
to put the smack down on your repeti-
take common objects from the 19th
century like kegs and toy ponies and
smash them into your opponents.
And you still have old chestnut fea-
tures like signs showing the number
of quickly placed hits on an oppo-
nent, so satisfying for situations
where you've just pelted your friend
with 16 missiles.
It's easy to learn the normal moves
and the special moves only require
you to gather three power stones and
press a button. Not that it's so simple

tive strategies.
The game is very complicated for t'
non-fan howver. Unlike games base on
other worldly ventures, sports games
require a fair bit of knowledge about the
sport. And "NFL 2K" is no exception.
This may prevent a curious person on
the periphery from buying the game.
"NFL 2K" has brought more of the
sporting world to sports gaming. The
only thing that seems to be missing
from the experience is a lot of commer-
cial interruptions.
Ted at s
to jog around the screen to do so
without getting smashed by some-
one. The need to move for reasons
not directly related to combat adds
an interesting twist to the game, and
will change the strategies for this
fighting game.
Entertaining with nicely compli-
cated environments, Power Stone is
promising beginning to Capcon
Dreamcast fighters
Ted Watts

i

Intel extends a warm welcome

to the

Class of 2000.

~, ,' ;S'

~ ,.

Simon Bartletta
Matthew Baughman
Paul Cantrell
Steve Corcoran
Jason Diwik
Jonathan Gol
Dayna Gossett
Ken Herbert

Jon Kjos
Russell Klein
Shao-Lun Li
Derek Middlebrook
Bradley Mulvhill
Matthew Neidlinger
Jeffrey Shomper
Darren Williams

The Intel
Experience
www.intel.com

Intel On Campus
Presentation
Tuesday, September 14, 1999
4:30 p.m.
Hale Auditorium
Reception Immediately Following
Dominicks Restaurant

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