Splurge on that Game System!
A Primer on Playstation, Nintendo 64 and -- gasp -- Sega Saturn
By JO ACEDILLO
Blast San Francisco Bureau
Remember those arcade and video games people played in the heyday of Chuck E. Cheeses before they became big-time corporate kiddy-fun? Does the name Atari ring a bell? Or Intellivision? Or Colecovision? Maybe you managed to stick around for the glory years of Nintendo. But in the wake of dating, high
school graduation, college partying, and the 9-to-5 rat race, you figured it
was time to put away such childish things. All because you became an adult.
I know, many of you booted your inner child out as soon as you discovered in
college you can get attention by pretentiously extolling the virtues of some
long-dead, unknown poet. You've decided to hole up in coffeehouses in a vain
attempt to live the bohemian lifestyle. Sure, you grew up, but video games
are still around, entertaining millions worldwide and earning grosses
comparable to film earnings. They allow the kid in you to have some selfish
fun. And last Christmas was the biggest for the video game industry, leaving
many inner children undoubtedly happy.
Here now is quick breakdown of the major home video game systems and reasons you may want to shell out cash for them.
Any video game player worth his and her extra life knows the Sony
Playstation is a worthy investment; it's the must-have of the video game
world. There's a Playstation game for every genre, including games that
represent the best of all the industry. You wanna fight? Let's get it on!
Like to race? Go grab the racing gloves.
The Playstation, released in September 1995, has always had a hip reputation
that challenged its audience, with an ad campaign that told players, "U R NOT
(red) E." But let's face it: Anything that advertises itself as "cool" is
definitely more uncool than cool. And its target audience (the more affluent
18-34 age group) is bound to abandon the PS quickly in favor of new systems.
(Oh yes, we of the emotionally detached, unable-to-commit, "find the next big
Here's a short list of games to pick up if you possess a PS:
Action/Adventure: Crash Bandicoot 2, Tomb Raider 2, Time Crisis
Fighting: Bushido Blade, Street Fighter EX Plus, Super Street Fighter
Collection, Tekken 2
Puzzle: Intelligent Cube, Super Puzzle Fighter 2
Turbo Racing: Cool Boarders 2, Test Drive 4
Role-Playing: Final Fantasy 7 (Duh!)
Sports: NFL GameDay '98
Of special mention is a certain PS game called PaRappa the Rapper, a hip-hop
game version of Simon (Extra points for those who remember what Simon is).
You may have seen the ads for it on buses and billboards, seen it on TV, and
saw on the "Best Picks" lists of various magazines and newspapers. They like
it. And heck, even I like it, but I'll give you the honest truth: It's a
horrible game not worth more than the price of a rental. It's really cute,
and even some of the lyrics and rhythms are fun, but it's repetitious,
predictable and if the third-level chicken chef doesn't grate you after the
numerous attempts it'll take to defeat her, you must be deaf.
Nintendo has been in business as a video game maker for over a decade. So
the chance of any Nintendo-made game being excellent is, well, excellent.
Their latest system, the Nintendo 64, is a video game powerhouse. N64 has
been targeted at an even younger market, hyping itself as a cutting-edge
system. So in many ways, it has become the "cool" system; the console of
choice for kids.
The sleek, elegant console design invites a gentle touch when powered on.
The innovative analog controller sports an ominous Batarang-shaped design.
And the N64's cartridge-based games aren't filled with the memory-eating
full-motion video and redbook-quality audio made possible by CD storage
capacity. They're games that are pure, simple and fun.
Nintendo's problems stem from their game release strategy and the hungry
appetite of video game players with short memories and little appreciation.
Compared to the PS, games for the N64 are infrequently released for whatever
reason Nintendo claims (its game releases have emphasized quality instead of
quantity, hence the shorter list of titles.). Compounding the problem, most
N64 games are average or worse. Aside from the handful of third-party
companies that design and make N64 titles, only Nintendo has been able to
consistently release games that justify purchasing the system.
The one-year-old N64 is at a point where it needs to prove itself. If
Nintendo titles continue to be released with less frequency than other
systems' games, that's fine, but N64 games had better be good enough with
satisfying game length to impress prospective gamers.
On the other hand, if Nintendo releases games more frequently, it will have
an even tougher time maintaining game quality, as history has demonstrated in
past game systems. Already encountering a publicity backlash from older
gamers, Nintendo would reap a huge whirlwind of bad consumer opinion from a
glut of expensive mediocre games, and even worse, lower sales per individual
Still, when Nintendo does release good games, they surpass other console's
games, and are comparable to decent PC games minus the costs. Here are some N64 games to check out:
Goldeneye, Super Mario 64, Turok
None. They exist, but don't waste your money.
Diddy Kong Racing, Mario Kart 64, WaveRace 64
They don't exist. Yes, this upsets me too.
International Superstar Soccer 64, Madden 64
Poor Sega and its two-year-old Saturn system. They built up a loud and loyal
following with their previous systems with an image big on attitude and low
on substance, but the company imploded with their current 32-Bit CD system.
Playing the video game market too much like Sony, Sega wasn't able to keep up
with the Playstation in terms of quantity and exclusive titles, and suffered
accordingly. Only die-hard, niche genre and sports fanatic game players still
believe the Saturn is better than the PS and N64. (Isn't conviction grand?)
Still, if you must have that new Sonic the Hedgehog game, then only the
Saturn has it (whenever they decide to release it). The Saturn isn't
different enough from the PS to establish its own real market identity and
doesn't have the loyalty, mystique, and exclusive games of Nintendo to carry
it through impending problems of increasingly infrequent releases and
questionable game quality. With Sega in this position, they'll do what any
game company with some money left in the bank does: release a new system, the
Sega Katana, in late 1998 or early 1999. How's that for company loyalty to
its consumers, Sega fans?
The bottom line for Sega: Its system and games make up the smallest pie of
market sales; a large portion of the Sega's American work force has been laid
off; third-party companies are dropping support for the Saturn like a bad
habit; Sega's own U.S. game production has been lowered; and retailers are
liquidating Saturn stock. But, hey, it has more games than the N64.
If you have some Christmas money or holiday bonus, I highly recommend you
get a system, either for yourself or a loved one. Now is a good time to
indulge and spoil yourself and others.
With a Playstation, you get the best game system on the market, and the
variety should keep you entertained for a long time. Sure, the other systems
have some exclusive games, but the PS has more games and more good games.
With a Nintendo 64, you get a good system with titles high on quality, low
on quantity. A game like Goldeneye will give you an entertaining couple of
weeks to explore all the levels, then you can move on to Diddy Kong Racing,
or Mario 64, or etc. Remember, when cool kids ask for video games, they ask
And if you already have a Saturn, don't despair. Sega products are
undergoing price reductions, with games reportedly selling as low as $5.
That'll save you a ton of money when you're ready to dig in and get a real
game system. Or if you already have a real game system, there's nothing like
a cheap thrill system with a ton of games. After all, variety is the spice of
life. (Warning to all: There is a Spice Girls game being made.)
And for the rest of you -- those who love to tell game players to get a life
-- lighten up! Life is about fun, and video games are all fun. If you're not
playing games, you're missing out on one of America's greatest pastimes, to
be mentioned in the same breath as sports, movies, music and art. Instead of
buying that car modification or computer upgrade, why not invest in
recapturing a lost portion of your youth? What more do you need? Go play now!