July 14, 2000
During my entire visit to Sydney during the first week of July 2000 it did not rain for one second. In fact the only time I saw the slightest hint of rain was a light drizzle during the drive down from the Gold Coast. It only lasted about 45 minutes before the sun broke through the clouds again. I was fortunate enough to visit all the major attractions in Sydney including Taronga Zoo, Maritime Museum, Fox Studios, Darling Harbour, numerous shopping centres and of course Sega World which met all of my expectations and then some. But it was the final day before leaving that I was looking forward to the most. The day I visited Ozisoft.
Steve O'Leary was the man who I went to see and I got more then I expected, not it's not because of his imposing size, but the games he had lined up to show me. After dragging in a 68 cm monitor, not TV - a monitor, and finding a VGA Box it was time to play. While my girlfriend looked on I grinned as Steve pulled out one upcoming classic after another. Below is a listing of the games I saw and some brief impressions.
Virtua TennisThe first game that Steve pulled out of his briefcase was Virtua Tennis. If you are unfamiliar with this game then you probably haven't been to many arcades lately. This game is one of the biggest crowd pullers in recent months and is one of the most impressive coin-ops of late. I could hardly wait to see how the Dreamcast port stacks up against it's Naomi based arcade version.
To say that the Dreamcast version is impressive is an understatement. After playing an almost complete version all I can say that this is one of the best tennis games on any gaming system ever. Having come from the Naomi chipset in the arcade this game loses nothing in the translation. The graphics are amazing with some wonderful animation and models of real life players. With thge inclusion of several bonus games and 4 player doubles action, which I didn't see in action, this title is sure to be a smash hit on the Dreamcast. This was one extrememly hard game to put down but more titles awaited.
Release Date: Late August
Metropolis: Street RacerDeveloped by Bizarre Creations, who are behind Formula 1 on the Playstation, this title should be huge. I had heard of the impressive visuals and seen some nice movies and screen shots. However it's not until you see this title in action that it becomes apparent where all the development time has gone and why this game is generating a lot of excitement. This is quite simply the best looking racing game ever.
The cars are magnificently rendered and handle exactly as you would expect the real cars to. As I have said previously this is the best looking racing game ever with superb trackside details and scenery which is based on real world locations. But it's the silky smoooth frame rate that impresses the most. MSR is an amazing racing game and should be on the top of everyones Dreamcast shopping list this September, that is if it isn't delayed again. My only disappointment is that the game won't include online gameplay. That would have guaranteed legendary status for the game and added yet another dimension.
Release Date: September
Shen Mue: YokosukaAfter witnessing this game at Dreamworld last year I was very impressed. After seeing a demo of the final US version while in Sydney last week I can only say that this game is stunning. The graphics are sharp, the English speech is excellent, and the game is so full of subtlies and intricate details that you truly believe that it is a living breathing world.
Controlling the character is simple with a clock determining the time of day. Each 1 hour of our time is equal to about 24 hours in the game. All of the non-player characrers are interactive and will talk to you. The first part of the game sets up the story with several flashback which are of superb quality. While many people will be embracing the Playstation 2 over Christmas it's highly unlikely that the will have a game that comes close to the detailed environments of
Release Date: December
18 Wheeler - American Pro TruckerImagine Crazy Taxi with 18 wheel trucks instead of taxi's and you should get a pretty good idea what this game is all about. Your aim is to haul cargo from the beginning to your destination while trying to avoid other cars and a competitor truck who will try to slow you down by any means possible. While there was still quite a way before the completion of this game is should be one of the most enjoyable racers in a long time.
18 Wheeler is yet another Naomi based arcade game which is extrememly rare in Australia. Still in uncompleted form the version I played looked great although the trucks feel a little sluggish. I guess I'm a little to used to the speed and recklessness of Crazy Taxi. Hopefully this game will also include several additions for the home version. This is one title that you should definately keep an eye on before it's release late this year or early next year.
Release Date: Late 2000 - Early 2001
Jet Grind RadioOne game that I wasn't expecting Steve O'Leary to pull out for me to play was Jet Grind Radio. This game uses a unique cell animation technique to create a great cartoon world in which you can skate around and perform tricks as well as spray painting or "tagging" cars and buildings.
Playing this game was a treat. The character is very responsive and the frame rate was very smooth. With an awesome soundtrack and very cool characters this game is a huge amount of fun. While it may not be a conventional game or one that will amaze with it's great storyline, but it is tremendous fun. Think Trickstyle, Xtreme games and rap/hip-hop music and you should get a rough feel for the game. I can't wait to see the final product.
Release Date: Late 2000
SF3: 3rd StrikeYet another Street Fighter game is headed to the homes and this is the most complete game ever. Including enough fighters to make you dizzy this game returns to the more realistic backgrounds of the original titles as opposed to the pastal colours from the Alpha or Zero series.
It must be said that I was a little disappointed by the graphics in SF3: 3rd Strike which looked a little jaggered through the VGA cable on the large monitor. As Steve mentioned this game, as with all 2D fighters, this game looks better hooked up to a TV as normal. As expected, the gameplay is similar to past games with the characters each having their own selection of moves to use. Fortunately the load times are very respectable which has always annoyed me in the past, especially on the Playstation. Once again the Street FIghter series has taken an evolutionary step rather then revolutionary.
Release Date: TBA
OutTriggerFinally Steve O'Leary pulled out the biggest surprise, an official Dreamcast mouse and Out Trigger. AM2's action game may not have been seen too much in Australian arcades, I've only seen it in Brisbane City, but one thing is certain. It will be a hit on the Dreamcast. With 4 player split screen action or 4 player action over the internet this game is just as intense as QIIIA or Half Life.
The game, having come from the arcades, is a little different. Out Trigger is a very fast paced game with frags occurring several times quicker then the PC games. The graphics were simply awesome and easily matched any games running on my brand new PC. Controlling the game was a combination of the controller and the Dreamcast mouse. Unfortunately the Internet option was not yet enabled.
Speaking of the mouse it was smaller then I expected with it's size about 1/2 - 2/3 the size of a PC mouse. While I was a little concerned at first it was easy to use and very responsive. This peripheral is currently due out with the release of Quake III Arena later this year. OutTrigger certainly makes great use of the device.
Along with Virtua Tennis this was the highlight of my visit to Ozisoft. With doubts now emerging about the online gameplay in Half Life action fans will be well served with this extraordinary title. Expect to hear a lot more about this game in the lead up to it's release late this year.
Release Date: December
ConclusionThanks must go to Steve O'Leary who took some time out from his busy schedule to spend some time with me demonstrating these game. All the games I played were beta/demo versions and the final games may differ slightly from the ones I played. Even so, almost all these games should be hits upon their release over the next year. The Dreamcast is far from dead.