Although the summer CES took place almost one month ago, the mainstream press is still reporting on what was there. Take a read at what The Chicago Tribune found noteworthy, and forgive them for referring to The Legend of Zelda as “The Adventures of Zelda”. Chances are they’ve never touched a NES before.
The Summer Consumer Electronics Show made its annual visit to McCormick Place last month, and once again a large part of the high-tech extravaganza was devoted to demonstrating entertainment software being readied for release this year. Exhibitors use the show to woo dealers, figuring that the games dealers enjoy playing in June will be the same games lining store shelves come Christmas.
Nintendo of America Inc., maker of a popular dedicated game machine, had the highest profile. While most other software manufacturers were content to use a small booth to display their wares, Nintendo had a glitzy compound the length of a football field, replete with scantily clad models and countless dazzling game displays.
Nintendo had reason to splurge, for it’s riding the crest of the video game revival. Before Nintendo entered the U.S. market in 1985, sales of game cartridges had plummeted to $100 million a year. This year sales are projected at $2 billion, with Nintendo accounting for 70 percent of that.
The only cloud on Nintendo’s horizon is that its game cartridges are expected to be in short supply because of a worldwide shortage of computer chips. A game cartridge is a computer game contained entirely on a chip instead of on a floppy diskette. General-purpose computers, such as the Apple, Commodore and IBM lines, use floppy diskettes; dedicated game machines, such as Nintendo, Sega and the Atari 7800, use cartridges. Because cartridges can contain up to five times more data than disks, cartridge games are generally more colorful and arcade-like than disk games. But there may not be enough chips around to handle Christmas orders for cartridge games.
And you can bet that a lot of orders will be flowing in. Cartridges are once again the most popular medium for game software. Consider this: Flight Simulator, the most popular game ever on a diskette, has sold about 800,000 copies in five years. Yet when Nintendo released Dragon Quest III this year in Japan, it sold 1/2 million copies in five days.
Coming Nintendo releases include Zelda II-the Adventures of Link, a sequel to the Adventures of Zelda, which sold more than 2 million copies. Also, Super Mario Brothers II should be available by the end of this month. A riskier bet for success is Nintendo’s Power Pad, an interactive exercise mat that lets a player use body movements to control the actions of players on a video screen. Titles using the Power Pad include Dance Aerobics, World Class Track Meet and Super Team Games.
Other new peripherals for game machines are also appearing. The most interesting new piece of hardware at the show was the Camerica Corp.’s Freedom Stick, a wireless joy stick for Nintendo, Sega, Atari and Commodore machines. Suggested retail price is $69.95, but it should be available now for less at toy and game stores.
Of course, makers of diskette-based products and games responded to the Nintendo challenge at the show by pushing some exciting new products of their own. The game that should cause the most stir when it is released is Electronic Arts` sequel to its classic One-on-One Basketball. The new One-on- One (tentatively titled Bird vs. Jordan: One-on-One) features Michael Jordan against Larry Bird and looks like it will be as spectacular as an Air Jordan slam.
Several movies and television shows are being transformed into video games, including a few you wouldn’t expect. First Row Software demonstrated games based on “The Honeymooners“ and “The Twilight Zone,“ and a lot of money will be spent hyping these releases this fall. Unfortunately, the games fail to capture the spirit of the originals. Meanwhile, Data East Corp. debuted games based on “RoboCop“ and “Platoon.“ The “RoboCop“ shoot-`em- up works well, but anyone who was touched by “Platoon“ will feel that the movie has been cheapened by turning it into a standard arcade game.
Interplay Productions and Mediagenic Corp. displayed a couple of fascinating new products. Battle Chess is an animated version of chess with stunning, three-dimensional graphics. Neuromancer is a cyber-punk graphics adventure based on a novel by cult author William Gibson and featuring a fully digitized original soundtrack by everyone’s favorite dweebs, Devo.
CinemaWare Products previewed a line of releases with the most breathtaking graphics of any I saw at the show. Forthcoming titles to look for include TV Sports Football, Rocket Ranger and Lords of the Rising Sun. Each boasts movielike graphics that have to be seen to be believed.
Another release worth keeping an eye out for is Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders, a game that is much better than its title. Put out by LucasFilm Games, Zak follows the hilarious adventures of a tabloid newspaper reporter who uncovers an alien plot to loosen a worldwide epidemic of stupidity. Along the way Zak encounters possessed toasters, Martian minestrone recipes and vegetarian vampires. You’ll appreciate the one-liners, sight gags and zany sound effects. And let’s face it, any game that has a newspaper writer as its hero has got to be good.
[Source: The Chicago Tribune]