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E3: A Rehash and A Sequel

Joseph Szadkowski details the proceedings at E3 and details the new games and products, and who is bringing them to life for us.

Even though this year's Electronic Entertainment Exposition seemed lackluster, the Interactive Digital Software Association reports that more than 55,000 industry professionals and media types from more than 70 countries attended this year's event held May 13-15. That's an increase of approximately 33% over 1998 attendance. Maybe it was the introduction of Sega's new system, Dreamcast. Maybe it was anticipation of Sony and Nintendo's plans for new gaming systems. Maybe it was the splendid California weather. New Games? No matter, the electronic gaming industry seems to be following the movie industry when it comes to rehashing characters and story arcs. Sequels and stories based on animated properties and the comic genre seemed plentiful while new story and gaming ideas were few and far between. Some "been there before" sequels fighting for attention on the floor included "Final Fantasy III" (Squaresoft/Electronic Arts for Playstation), "Um Jammer Lammy" (sequel to "Parappa the Rapper" by Sony for Playstation; August 1999), "Spyro II" (Sony for Playstation; November 1999), and "Croc 2" (Fox Interactive for PC, Color Game Boy and Playstation; 4th quarter 1999). However, I still found a few games more than able to entertain cartoon fanatics: Games for Big Kids For the big kids there is "Fear Factor" an action/adventure/shooter that incorporates animated backgrounds with anime style character design (Eidos for Playstation; Fall 1999). This game promises to provide an interesting game play environment that combines camera position with real time 3D models allowing for seamless camera movement and creating a dynamic and alive world. South Park remains an animated favorite for the older crowd and is coming on strong to gamers with two new titles. "Chef's Luv Shack" is filled with fun mini-games like Spank the Monkey with Mr. Hankey, Asses in Space with Terrance and Phillip and an insane game show hosted by Chef. Players can choose to assume the persona of Cartman, Stan, Kyle or Kenny and up to four can play. "South Park Rally" has your favorite characters racing around their Colorado town in dozens of "sweet" vehicles including Cartman's police tricycle and Chef's station wagon. Racing tracks can be found in the South Park Forest, Big Gay Al's Big Gay Animal Sanctuary, downtown and more. The game provides multiple secret characters, shortcuts and gadgets like the Mexican Starting Frog, rats and chocolate salty balls to help confuse the race and racers (both games by Acclaim for N64, Playstation and PC; Winter 1999). Back on the convention floor, "Mega Men Legends' The Misadventures of Tron Bonne," takes Tron and her trusty Servbots around the world in their air ship in search of adventure and priceless treasure. This game boasts over 100 worlds across eight distinct destinations. Multi-channel character animations allow the player to perform simultaneous actions, such as drawing and firing weapons while running, walking, crouching and sneaking around corners. Though "Mega Men" is an ongoing series, this game combines action, role playing and puzzle elements within a 3D polygonal environment (Capcom for the Playstation; Fall 1999).

Playing into this year's biggest silver screen hype are "Stars Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace" and "Episode 1: Racer" (Lucas Arts for PC). Lucas also announced two new Star Wars Episode One titles including Obi-Wan in a 3D action-adventure featuring motion-captured movements and the "Insiders Guide," which appears to be asequel to "Behind the Magic," and which answers the question of "How did they do that?" for the new movie. Disney's Slate Some of the most inventive new gaming comes from children's titles including Disney Interactive's "Winnie the Pooh Kindergarten," "Preschool" and "Toddler," which bring back the familiar A.A. Milne characters from 100 Acre Wood for another educational romp (hybrids for the Macintosh or PC; August 1999). Also new from the Disney Folks will be "Toy Story 2 Action Game and Activity Center" (November 1999) and, bringing in the same stunning animation as seen in the feature film, the "Tarzan Action Game and Activity Center" titles (June 1999). Bringing back classic characters, like Peter Pan and Captain Hook for a game of strategy, Alice in Wonderland in a 3-D cube hedge maze, and The Seven Dwarves from Snow White in a mining for gold game, is "Villain's Revenge" (October 1999). For the young, and young at heart, these titles will allow a wonderful visit back to some of Disney's first animated characters. Disney Interactive titles can also be found on Sony PlayStation ("Tarzan," "Toy Story" and "A Bug's Life" titles), Nintendo 64 ("A Bug's Life" and "Toy Story 2") and Nintendo Game Boy Color ("Tarzan," "Toy Story 2," "Alice in Wonderland" and "Beauty and The Beast").

Warner Owned Characters

Infogrames Entertainment was promoting their Looney Tunes and Mil-Looney-Um 2000 titles such as "Bugs Bunny Lost in Time" (3D platform adventure for Playstation; June 1999), "Taz Express" (action puzzle for N64; November 1999), "1000-1 Toons Odyssey" (adventure for Game Boy Color; November 1999) and "Duck Dodgers" (action adventure for N64; November 1999) that sends Duck Dodgers (Daffy in superhero disguise) and Porky Pig to fight Marvin the Martian for control of the cosmos.

Also from Warner Bros., keep on the look out for fun titles based on the cartoons The Flintstones, Animaniacs and Scooby-Doo. "Scooby-Doo: The Mystery of the Fun Park Phantom" and "Animaniacs Splat Ball" are part of the SouthPeak Interactive "Fun Stuff for All Ages" line (PC; October 1999). Scooby-Doo's title is a mystery adventure game that strands players at the Gobs O' Fun Amusement Park where they must unmask the ghoul who is scaring away park patrons. Players can choose to play as Shaggy, Velma, Daphne or Fred and will interview six suspects and search the park for clues with Scooby-Doo. "Animaniacs Splat Ball" is a game of "Capture the Flag" against Ralph the Guard, Dr. Scratchansniff, Thaddeus J. Plotz and the Director. Players are equipped with paint guns as they take on the persona of Yakko, Wakko or Dot to defend their own while capturing their opponent's flag. Fred Flintstone goes "Bedrock Bowling" in a 3D arcade game (developed by Adrenaline Interactive for SouthPeak; available 1st quarter 2000). In this game, the town of Bedrock has been turned into a series of bowling alleys with lanes appearing all over town. For single or multi-player bowling with up to eight players and three difficulty settings, players can choose to play as Fred, Barney Rubble, Pebbles or Bamm Bamm. Bring on the Action! UBI Soft's "Rayman 2" takes the whirling dervish into a new 3D adventure (UBI Soft for PC and Nintendo: October 1999; Sega Dreamcast: late 1999; and Playstation: 2000). The adventures of Rayman have also made their way to an animated television show of 3-D adventures. The 26 fully animated, computer-generated 3-D adventure episodes are already scheduled to be shown in Canada and Europe this fall. Look for it in the U.S. soon. From the pages of Marvel Comics and in support of the Sega Dreamcast will be "Marvel vs. Capcom" based on the arcade fantasy fighter. This game will set fifteen characters from the Marvel and Capcom universes against the diabolical villain, Onslaught (Fall 1999). Todd McFarlane's comic book and cartoon series character, Spawn, will be found in the arcades this fall in a coin operated four player game. Though it has not been announced, it is surely only a matter of time until Spawn hits the home platform market as well (Capcom for arcade).

For the Little Tykes

Possibly the biggest children's gaming phenomena is Pokemon, and "Pokemon Snap" allows players to propel vehicles through five regions of Pokemon Island looking for the wild Pokemon to appear. The players' quest is to snap a quick picture of the creature before he dashes back behind a rock, tree or into the brush (Nintendo for N64). "Pokemon Stadium" (Game Boy and N64) is a 3-D fighting game that allows players to train their Pokemon warriors (fall 1999).

The Rugrats take on a new adventure in the "Rugrats Scavenger" (Nintendo 64; Summer 1999). This board game features great character likenesses and multiplayer abilities. Also for the kiddies is Nickelodeon's "CatDog: Quest for the Golden Hydrant" adventure game (Hasbro Interactive for PC). Six games can be played over and over again as young players earn tokens in their quest to help CatDog find the elusive Golden Hydrant. Joseph Szadkowski writes on various aspects of popular culture and is a columnist for The Washington Times.