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Wai Wai Racing – Let the Adrenaline Going

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Things you’ll need for your GameBoy Advance: batteries, carrying case, Gamecube connecting cable, and a good cart racer like this one. Driving games have always been hard to do on pocket games. The small screen makes upcoming turns hard to see, and the 2D graphics and sometimes slow refresh rate makes for some occasional ugly ghosting or motion blur. That won’t be a problem, however, with Konami’s WaiWai Racing for the GameBoy Advance.

We recently had a chance to take a few laps on a GBA at the Tokyo Game Show and what we saw was a colorful and pretty racer with huge onscreen characters, lots of powerups, and plenty of speed. Like most cart racers, WaiWai Racing pits you against a colorful cast of malcontents who can’t decide whether they want to race the perfect line or zap you with a lightning bolt. The addition of the GBA’s shoulder buttons allow for greater depth of gameplay than the standard “start with A, stop with B” scenario. And the digital thumb pad was comfortable enough the laps around the exotic and varied landscapes.

There wasn’t a great deal of information available at the time, but we’re hoping that this game will team up with some Gamecube titles to bring us the next generation of crazy racers. Look for WaiWai Racing to be available at the launch of the Gameboy Advance.

Gaming Generations Knowledge Base

Paperboy – The Game for all Ages

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Although you may not have ridden a BMX in years, and you probably hated your paper-route, it’s all coming back
Paperboy was one of the all-time arcade classics in its day, with tight responsive controls and addictive gameplay. The entire game was based around the exploits of a paperboy as he rode through a tough and dangerous neighborhood (or rather harmless burb), attempting to win new subscribers through his timely delivery and paper throwing prowess. On the way he was beset by bees, dogs and traffic, making for some very dangerous delivery routes.

This year’s Paperboy takes the same game mechanics to the 3D realm and enables a whole new generation to experience the fun. Every level has a theme, from run of the mill trailer parks and neighborhoods, to strange spooky horror scenes and each has secrets to unlock by beaning everything in sight with your papers. You can also do freestyle bicycle tricks and pick up power ups to help you on your way. The tricks gain you extra subscribers, who are apparently wowed by your skills and think it will translate into canny newspaper delivery skills.

Strangely enough there are actual boss levels on Paperboy. After you gain a set number of subscribers you will have to fight baddies like a Frankenstein’s monster clone to go on to other levels. What this has to do with delivering papers is beyond us, but it might spice up the gameplay a bit.

So far it looks like the game is shaping up well but the experience of playing on a rail seems extremely dated, especially in a 3D game. You can’t back up two feet to toss a paper at something you missed and the screen will push you forward if you dally more than a second. Hopefully Midway will get enough of the old school fun into the game that it will appeal to more than just Paperboy fans.

Gaming Generations Knowledge Base

Paper Mario — Get your Game Going

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Nintendo released a Paper Mario FAQ, and we use it as an excuse to deliver an updated preview on the next Mario RPG.
One of the last games Square made for Nintendo was a little title called Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. It was light, quick and amazingly fun. Ever since its debut on the SNES, gamers have clamored for a sequel, and while it’s not Square-made, Paper Mario contains all the fun, cartoonish roleplaying excitement of the old game in a new, bizarre, 2D manner. You see, all of the characters are actually made of paper. While the backgrounds are all 3D, the 2D characters (remember Parappa the Rappa?) are nearly invisible when standing sideways.

This obviously gives the game an interesting feel, as cities and characters take on a definite pop-up storybook characteristic. The background story is unsurprising Mario fare — Mario and his friends have to recover the seven Star Spirits to save the Princess. Yet again, Mario has to risk his neck to take care of the damsel in distress.

Paper Mario will contain a whole host of items, creatures and weapons, as any good RPG should. The gameplay will actually be rather similar to other Square games — as Mario and friends run around the countryside, random combat will pit the group against bad guys. Players can use magic and weapons to beat the enemy senseless while they work on uncovering the Star Spirits. The more battles they fight, the stronger they’ll get.

The battle system also contains elements that make it completely unique, such as Action Commands. During the attack animation, players can hit the A button at the right moment to inflict even more damage (or to reduce damage done during an enemy attack). Hopefully, trying to inflict maximum damage on the enemy will make constant turn-based battles a bit more interesting than in other RPGs.

Nintendo is gearing up for the game’s release on February 4, so it released a special FAQ to answer some questions about the game. Here it is in its entirety:

Why “Paper Mario?”
Mario and the other characters are 2D, but they move in a fully 3D world. The result is a game like no other, a full-bodied adventure with a whimsical look and feel and all those great touches you’ve come to expect from Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto!

Why do you call this game an adventure/role-playing game (RPG)?
In RPG battles, players select the moves they want, then watch their characters execute them. Paper Mario increases the challenge with the Action Command. If you press the A Button at just the right time when attacking an enemy, you can cause more damage. The more Action Commands you can pull off, the more damage you can cause. The Action Command can also be used to limit the damage Mario takes.

Tell me about the new characters in this game.
Are you crazy? There are decades-old soap operas with fewer characters than Paper Mario! Seriously, one of the great things about this game are the many colorful, unusual and just plain wacky characters you’ll come across. Of course there are Princess Peach and Bowser. Other new characters include Kammy Koopa, Bowser’s sharp-tongued accomplice; Kolorado, a loud-mouthed archeologist seeking buried treasure; and Moustafa, the mysterious leader of a remote desert town. Meeting and talking with all these characters is a blast.

What about Mario’s team?
Throughout the game, helpful characters will join Mario in his quest. Each has special abilities. Team members include Bow, a Boo who can make Mario invisible; Sushie, a friendly Blurp who can carry Mario on her back; and Parakarry, a Parakoopa who specializes in flying attacks. Only one team member can be active at a time, but you can switch them as often as you want, even in battle.

What are HP?
Heart Points. If Mario loses all his HP, he faints and the game is over. You will restart the game at the last save. Enemies have HP, too. To defeat them, you must eliminate all their HP.

What are FP?
Flower Points. Mario and his teammates need these to execute their most powerful attacks.

I’ve heard about a new element in this game called Badges. How do they work?
Over the course of the game, Mario can find, buy or trade for dozens of Badges. Badges do many different things. Some allow him to execute special moves. Others protect him from status changes like poisoning, allow him to collect extra money, or increase his maximum HP or FP.

Mario can only equip a limited number of Badges at any time. That is because equipping a Badge requires Badge Points (BP). The most BP Mario can ever have is 30. To succeed at Paper Mario, you’ll need to develop a good sense of what Badges to activate and when. Don’t be afraid to change your Badges often!

How does Mario level up?
Most defeated enemies surrender at least one Star Point. When you collect 100 Star Points, you have a choice of leveling up your HP, FP or BP. HP or FP will increase by five, while BP will increase by three.

What are these Star Spirits I’ve been hearing about?
Each Star Spirit you free from Bowser will reward you with a new Star Power. Examples include Lullaby, which can put your enemies to sleep, and Smooch, which gives Mario 20 HP. Star Powers are great, but they require Mario to charge up his Star Energy.

Nintendo also sent Nintendo Radar a CD filled with screenshots, character art and even a movie. We’ve posted the screenshots, and the movie link is below. But for those who are blessed with a fast Internet connection, here is the entire interactive press program in full. If it doesn’t work right on your computer (it’s PC only) don’t come crying to us — we didn’t make it.

The Press CD
Paper Mario Press CD (includes movie – 56.5MB)
*In order to use the press CD files, just unzip the above file into a new directory on your hard drive, and double-click the file PMPC.EXE. The rest should be self-explanatory

Gaming Generations Knowledge Base

Echelon – Go screaming over alien canyons!

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Action flight sims may be on the way back. After the success of the beautiful but buggy Crimson Skies, PC gamers can look forward to a similar title in Echelon. Like Zipper Interactive’s recent effort, Buka’s Echelon removes the emphasis from sober realism and places it on fast flying and loads of combat. We recently had a chance to play through a beta build of the title, and we were impressed by the graphics, controls and action.

There is a wealth of options before the game begins, so players can tailor the level of detail to the strength of their rigs. Everything can be adjusted, from the resolution and the water detail to the amount of dust kicked up when hovercraft buzz over the landscape. There is even the option to adjust the draw distance of the objects in the horizon, which can be scaled from 1,000 to up to 8,000 meters.

This sounds pretty optimistic, but the fact is that the landscapes in Echelon are huge. Although the publisher claims that the landmasses in the game are almost the size of continents, it’s pretty hard to verify that claim — and, quite frankly, who would want to? The fun comes from flying through ravines and canyons and picking off enemies as you peel around an enormous mesa. There were some indigenous trees and bushes, but we didn’t see fauna or radically different environments. We will probably have to wait until the final build to see what kind of details Buka will want to add, but even at this stage, the landscape was interestingly varied.

But that landscape wouldn’t be nearly as interesting without all those cool textures, alpha blending and particle effects. Often in flight sims, the ground looks like a muddy quilt on close inspection, but since Echelon has been designed from the outset as a close-to-the-surface flight sim, the landscape looks fantastic. As tanks rumble over the surface, they leave dust trails behind them. And as your ships take damage, not only do they reflect that with damage textures, but the geometry actually changes so shredded wings fall off — along with the important missiles that were on them.

The sky textures are just as impressive, with rolling clouds and a gorgeous and rather Earthlike moon waxing gibbous. The water textures, however, are interesting but a little too silvery, as if the lakes were made out of mercury. Considering that this is an alien planet, almost anything is possible. Because this was only a beta build, we weren’t able to get to some of the different environments, but other builds we’ve seen show arid deserts, stifling jungles and arctic wasteland.

Flying over those different landscapes was pretty straightforward, no matter which setup we used. We started with the mouse/keyboard configuration in an FPS style. The turning and banking were smooth with the mouse, but with several buttons needed to control acceleration, banking, climbing and strafing — yes, strafing — there is a lot to keep track of. Combine that with the ability to look around the cockpit, and you have a lot of buttons to worry about. We tried it out with a gamepad, and found the same comfortable feel as the mouse, but ultimately, this is the sort of game that plays best with a good flight stick.

The actual combat feels more like a MechWarrior game than a flight sim. The use of strafing in the air feels funny at first, but with fixed wing, rotary wing and hovercrafts to choose from, there won’t be any traditional dogfights. Weapons can be linked together to form awesome, blistering torrents of firepower, and each of those weapon systems can be damaged or knocked offline. Threats will come in the form of opposing fighters, enemy armor like tanks and hover vehicles and anti-aircraft sentry guns. There are also a host of nonmilitary structures to give the contested planet more of that homey, lived-in look.

The full version of the game will feature a single-player campaign mode and multiplayer support for up to 16 people. The campaign mode has branching missions, which will reward players with more control over their wingman or objectives the better they play in the game. Buka is still working on balancing the title, so look for it to hit store shelves in the first few months of 2001.