1995 Winter CES Commentary by:
Michael Lambert (mike@bend.ucsd.edu)

Nintendo Comments

Hiya. I just got back from CES, and wanted to share what I saw. This post contains Nintendo information (other systems are located in the Atari, Sega, 3DO, and misc newsgroups as appropriate).

To let you know where I'm coming from, I do own a SNES, and havefor over a year. I also own a Genesis and a 3DO. My philosophy towards video games is that I don't care what system it's on so long as it's a good game. I'm no company's advocate.

Everything from here on out is my opinion. Opinions were gathered from watching, playing, and listening to other players and designers. I had a very limited amount of time at CES, so on average I had only a few moments with many of the games. This is so you take everything with some reservation -- there's no way to measure depth of play or lots of neato features. I think that many of my first impressions are valid, but there are bound to be games that I mis-judge since I didn't have lots of time to spend on any one.

Phew! Done with the quid pro quos. Let's have at it, shall we? Most impressive stuff first, but there's no strict order.


My favorite in the Nintendo area, Starfox 2 looks to be everything the original was, with a whole lot more. And less, in a manner of speaking. Less restrictions. You can now fly anywhere you want, and the missions do not follow a scripted path anymore. That alone is worth the price of admission.

You can transform your ship into a walker, and (I believe) leave inthe middle of missions to go to another planet -- I saw one person do this and I don't think it was scripted. What a refreshing update!

The Starfox 2 machines were *always* occupied. In fact, it seemed that noone wanted to leave. This one looks like a winner.


I didn't play this one, but I watched it. KA is Nintendo of America'sversion of Puyo Puyo, the smash puzzle game in Japan. Unlike the original Japanese version, Nintendo changed all the characters to Kirby-themed ones for maximum marketability. This seems a little less lame than the face-lift that Sega imposed on their version, but not by much.

Fortunately, the great gameplay isn't influenced at all by the character portraits. This is a fun game, and it's *awesome* with a friend.If you don't already have it, get it.


This was described as taking the physics of a golf game and putting them into the Kirby universe. Kirby's been a busy guy in the past six months! This is the ultimate in non-threatening video games, and lots of people wanted to give it a try. In fact, the Kirby machines were far more popular than the FX Fighter machines.

I didn't give this a try since golf really isn't my thing, but it was bright and clear, and had good graphics. If you like miniature golf, this one might be worth checking out. It won't appeal to blood and gore fans, but it will probably appeal to most everyone else.


Let me state now that I like Virtual Boy. I think it's a neat little portable, and I enjoyed playing with it. However, it's *not* virtual reality, not at all.

If I had to describe VB, I'd say you take a Gameboy, color it red, and attach the Sega Master System 3D glasses and a SNES pad and there you go. The quality of the system is better than this description implies, but I feel this describes the contents better than "virtual" anything.

The 3D images are nice, sharp, and plentiful. I had no problem resolving the images, nor felt any eyestrain or discomfort. I found the red coloring a bit sharper and brighter than the Gameboy, and I wasn't turned off by having just red.

There were two games on display -- Space Pinball, and a first-person rock'em-sock'em type game. I got to play the pinball one, and it was very nice. The pinball physics was a little off, but it was a fun game and the 3D effects made some great eye candy. I had a real sense of depth and 3D images. There were a good selection of tables, although some were much better than others.

My biggest beef is Nintendo trying to pass this off to the public as virtual reality. It's not. If this is virtual reality, so is the 8-bit SMS and *that* was in color. As a minimum, I think VR necessitates head-tracking, something the VB wasn't designed to do.

The VB itself is also underpowered for real VR environments. It plays a good game of 3D pinball, but the one demo which showed a spaceship traveling through a 3D environment looked pretty bad. Imagine theold Atari vector Star Wars with 1/3 as many lines and lots of flashing and jagged lines everywhere. Yuck.

Personally, I don't see this going over too well. $200, with $50-$60for games is too much for this technology. It's nice, but that's toosteep for my wallet. I wouldn't mind having one, but not at that price.


The only signs of the U64 in the convention was a demo tape by SGI concerning their development tools kit for the U64. There were some graphic demonstrations, but none of them were actually produced by a U64. Nintendo and SGI were very careful to verbally dance around the fact that they didn't have a real demo, actually running off of a U64 or prototype hardware.

The demos are outstanding. In fact, they're so outstanding that it's just too hard to swallow yet. Not until I see it, without a VCR or a SGI connected to the display. Nintendo's demo is very slick, and it looks light-years beyond the currently available systems. If they pull it off, it will be a spectacle. I'm definitely rooting for them, but don't take it personally if I find it just a little hard to believe just yet.

Why? The demos were just perfect. In one, they showed a town landscape with a bird's eye view. In the first half of the demo, they described how current consoles have a pop-in problem -- with complex scenery, the machines can't draw everything in the scene from all distances, so when the camera comes close enough, the details "pop" into view. Then, they showed thegot scene over again, telling us what the U64 would look like. Here, there was no pop-in effects at all as thelandscape scrolled smoothly by and everything scaled into view flawlessly.

The next demo concerned anti-aliasing. They showed a town with a fence around it, and as the camera closed in on the town, brought attention to how the fence seemed to shimmer and the rooftops on the buildings had jaggies all over the place. Now the demo started over, telling how the U64 anti-aliases which removes the problems in the previous scene. It looked perfect -- the fence was crystal clear, and the rooftops were pixel perfect. Actually, that's a lie. I couldn't distinguish any pixels anywhere.

The level of perfection they promise bothers me. I find it hard to believe that Nintendo and SGI will deliver something so far ahead of their competitors. I'd love to see it, mind you, but it just seems too good to be true.

To put this into perspective, the demos I saw are essentially promising that the U64 will deliver graphics and performance that is an order above Sega's *arcade* Daytona machine. Daytona has the pop-in problem, and it's graphics weren't as detailed as the ones on the U64 tape. So is the U64 going to deliver better-than-Daytona quality for $250-$300? You can bet that if they do, I'll be first in line at the cash register. I'm not going to start holding my breath *now*, though.

As for delivery time, a SGI rep on the tape stated that they are on schedule, and they're just where they want to be with regards to production. Take that how you will.


Nintendo was pushing this title. I won't spend much time on it, since it's out, but to be honest, I don't see the appeal. Maybe if I sat down and tinkered with it for a few hours, but it didn't impress me at CES.


As I mentioned in my misc posting, Sunsoft had quite a few platform games for Genesis and SNES, all based on licensed characters and all less than inspiring. Thankfully, the SNES didn't have an overdose of platformers like the rest of the show did. Still, I was struck by the utterly repetitive nature of this exhibit. They have games for the SNES, but I wouldn't want them :)


In one sense, the designers should be commended for attempting the impossible: VF on the SNES. The final product, though, is kind of ugly. It looks flat, color-impaired, and grainy.

At this point, only two of the characters were done, and a GTE rep told me it was 40% complete. However, I get the feeling that much of the remaining 60% is adding the remaining characters. The game could reallyuse a graphical boost, but I don't think it's going to get it.

I'm really bad at VF type games, so I can't really comment on gameplay. I couldn't seem to get that many moves out of the fighters, and there wasn't a summary of the controls anywhere in sight. People seemed to ignore this one, as I had no problem finding an open SNES in both the GTE and Nintendo setups.

The game is a nice attempt, and it may play very well, but it's hard to get excited over it. VF isn't exactly the world's most popular fighting game to begin with, and I wonder how a version which is alot less in the graphically impressive department is going to do.

(Of course, it didn't help that DGHF brought a Sony Playstation anddemoed Toshinden, which has to be seen to be believed. It makesSaturn VF look pale in comparison, so just imagine what it makesFXF look like. Sony blew it big by not showing off the Playstationat this CES, where they would have commanded a lot of attention bydefault. Their loss is everyone else's gain, though :)


This one didn't impress me too much, especially next to the Sega version(now how often do you hear *that* ?) Genesis JL had large, brightlycolored characters that looked true to their origins. SNES JL had muchsmaller characters, and while they were drawn with many more colors,they didn't look right. Objectively, the coloring was beautiful, butit just doesn't fit the genre. Also, this game looked a lot darker(not in tone, but in coloring).

I didn't play it for any extended period of time. Controls were different than the Sega version, as far as I could tell. If the fighting engine is like the Genesis version, watch out. The Genesis game, while impressive-looking, is waaaaay too easy. I completed the whole game without losing a match. First try. Not good.

There were lots of other software titles, but not much stood out. Titus was showing Ardy Lightfoot, which was a 3/4 perspective game like Equinox of Landstalker which looked fun, but I couldn't get to play it because this guy was there forever. I'd give this a look. I saw Vortex, which looked somewhat impressive, but not overly so. I'd trade for this one, but wouldn't go out and buy it tomorrow. Konami had a sequel (I think) to Cybernator, but it didn't look all that different, and felt like it was shaded in red tones -- maybe their designers have spent too much time playtesting VirtualBoy :)

Konami and Capcom had really lackluster displays, with nothing of any real excitement. Same with Squaresoft, where I didn't see anything new. Same with most of the SNES booths -- they had stuff, but none of it especially attention-grabbing or attractive.

A special award to Nintendo for *not* having a Doom clone. This seemed to be the only platform in existence without a pointless and boring retread of Doom. Nintendo-only fans may not be happy about this, but it was so refreshing not to see one! :)

After last year's bombshell of DKC, it seems like Nintendo took sometime to relax. Nintendo's offerings were good, just not revolutionary or exceptionally exciting. The no-show of the U64 was just another component of the whole lack of energy. Nintendo is offering some good solid titles (Starfox 2, Kirby's Avalanche) that will be top-notch additions to anyone's game library. But there was nothing that made me stand up and take notice. Oh well.

Hope you enjoyed this report.

- Michael

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