Chronicles: The First 10 Years - 1995
the start of E3, a shocker hit everyone when Sega announced the early
release of the Saturn, pushing the console into retail in May. Up to this point, most were expecting the system to be
released in the fall, around the same time as the PlayStation. With very few games available at launch, the Saturn releasing
on the heels of the failed 32X, and a high price tag of $399US (which
didn’t compare well to the PlayStation’s announced launch price of
$299US), many at E3 wondered why Sega didn’t wait a little longer to
release the Saturn, and ensure it was a more enticing package.
The big news from Nintendo back in 1995 was the announcement of what would eventually be known as the N64. Known as the Ultra 64 at the time, there were plenty of big expectations for Nintendo to keep on trucking as the leader in the console wars. There were plenty of impressive features for the system, especially considering the graphical clout it sported over the competitors, and this was what Nintendo was pushing that year, as they continually emphasized the Ultra 64’s 64-bit processor.
It wasn’t only the Ultra 64, though, that Nintendo was showing off in terms of hardware. E3 1995 also marked the debut of the ill-fated Vitrual Boy, the now legendary gigantic goggles on a tri-pod. Nintendo was busy touting the August 14 launch of the system at just under $180US, and were predicting that they would be able to sell about 1.5 million systems, and almost twice as many games by the end of the year.
the new kids on the block, Sony had a lot to prove if they wanted to be
a success in the console market. They
were getting ready to release the PlayStation against two veterans in
the industry, Sega and Nintendo. One
of the big things Sony was out to prove with their console was the
CD-ROMs would become the storage medium of choice for console gaming,
and after Nintendo dropped plans for a CD-ROM add-on for their SNES (and
Sony along with it), many gamers were becoming increasingly curious as
to what Sony had in the works.
1995 marked a year that showed just how well Sony knew how to generate
interest in a product. While
the other console manufacturers were talking about a dozen or so games
they had in the works, and never really going beyond that, Sony was out
at E3 talking about how over 160 licensees were onboard for the
PlayStation, and there were currently 200 titles in development for the
system. On top of this,
there was plenty of talk about the system’s September 9 release date,
complete with $299US MSRP, and how there were expected to be about 50
titles available for it by Christmas.
After releasing one of the most expensive consoles ever, the self titled 3DO, the atmosphere in the game industry made it quite obvious to the powers that be in the company that the current 3DO needed some sprucing up in order to compete with the likes of the Saturn, Ultra 64, and PlayStation. As such, the company was busy displaying some images for what was planned to be an upgrade to the 3DO: the M2, powered by a PowerPC 602 processor, and sporting quite a bit of hardware to display better 3D graphics.
SNK Corporation of America:
While we’re on the subject of companies known for releasing pricey hardware, SNK was also busy at E3 1995, as they announced the US release of the Neo Geo CD that year. Clocking in at under $500US, the system was an attempt to step away from the awe-inspiringly expensive image associated with Neo Geo consoles up to that point. This was seen most clearly when looking at how much SNK planned to sell Neo Geo CD games for, as they were looking at a price range of $39-$79US at the time, a far more appetizing price for most gamers when compared to the $250US games on the cartridge-based Neo Geo. With the Neo Geo CD, it also showed how much SNK was committed to 2D, sprite-based visuals. While all of the other console makers were busy leaping head first into the world of polygons, SNK was keeping its feet firmly planted in sprite country with the Neo Geo CD, as they talked about the console’s hardware, which included 7MB DRAM (56Mb), 8MB RAM, 64K SRAM and 512KB VRAM, max 65,536 color palate, and PCM sound.
Nintendo wasn’t the only hardware manufacture at E3 in 1995 to be showing of some virtual reality technology. Atari was also getting on the bandwagon with their Jaguar VR unit. Unlike Nintendo’s gargantuan Virtual Boy, the Jaguar VR was a far more portable piece of technology (relatively speaking, anyway). The unit looked like what most expected a VR unit to, with its headset, small controller, and main unit for games. Of course, with the Jaguar VR being announced at $300US with Missile Command 2000, and Zone Hunter at launch, it was looking very unlikely that it would have a chance of keeping pace with the Virtual Boy.
Also at the show from Atari was their soon to be released CD add-on for the Jaguar, which was slated for release in August of 1995 for $150US. Given how the games were looking at the time compared to Sega, Sony, and Nintendo, it’s not surprising that the whole E3 showing of the Jaguar CD was a bit underwhelming.
was one more piece of hardware shown at the first E3 worth touching on,
that being the Q-Sound SNES gamepad.
During the mid-90s, Q-Sound was being pushed as the poor man’s
surround sound, as it only used two speakers to try and bring a full,
all-encompassing sound to games. With
that, 1995 saw this horrific eye sore of a gamepad being displayed at
E3. It was basically a SNES
controller with a big stick on the back, and a speaker on each end of
the stick. Not pretty.
year 1995 wasn’t only the first year of E3, it also marked Capcom
USA’s tenth anniversary in the game industry.
With that, there was plenty to look at in the Capcom booth that
year. Not surprisingly, a
good sized chunk of the games being shown were 2D, like Dark Stalkers
for the PlayStation, and it’s Sega Saturn counterpart, Night Warriors,
as well as Breath of Fire II and MegaMan X 3 for the SNES.
Biohazard (PSX) was another game getting a lot of people talking
at the show, as well as Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom for the
PlayStation and Saturn.
shown at the Capcom booth was Street Fighter: The Movie, which was being
released for seemingly every console system in the universe whether gamers liked
it or not.
an almost overwhelming experience to those who visited their both,
Konami showed a small army of games in 1995.
A few of them turned into legends, and one would eventually make
its way into the Whatever Happened To Files.
showed new installments to some major franchises, with Parodius on
display, as well as Dracula X for the SNES.
There was also Castlevania: The Bloodletting images to look at, a
new Castlevania, which was being planned for the 32X.
However, the team working on this game was eventually swallowed
up by the Symphony of the Night team, and Bloodletting was no more.
the new games being shown were a couple of titles that would become
quite prominent in the 32-bit era.
Firstly, Konami had their new RPG, Suikoden, for press to take a
gander at, and secondly there was Hideo Kojima’s Policenauts.
at Namco’s library of games, some of the series that have become the
most popular in recent years have been Ace Combat, Tekken, and Ridge
Racer. It was at this
particular E3 that gamers got to see these games for the first time.
the case of Ridge Racer, people had already been playing the game in the
arcades for quite some time.
The PlayStation version, which was shown at this E3, was a
surprisingly viable port to those who saw it, with many considering it
to be a perfect port of its arcade counterpart.
Also getting a lot of attention at the show was the 3D fighter
Tekken, which brought about plenty of speculation that it may be a
Virtua Fighter killer. However,
what slipped under the radar of many at the time was Ace Combat, and its
aerial dog fighting. Despite
its quiet debut the series has gone on to be one of Namco’s
wasn’t just the Ultra 64 and Virtual Boy that Nintendo was showing off
in 1995, they also had quite a few games that year at E3, as the SNES and
Gameboy still ruled the roost at the time after all.
the most heavily pushed game by Nintendo at the show was their fighter,
Killer Instinct. With
plenty of gamers blown away by the arcade version, home versions were
shown at the expo for the SNES, and, surprisingly, also for the Gameboy.
Donkey Kong also made a strong showing at this E3 with Donkey
Kong Country 2 on the SNES, and Donkey Kong Land on the Gameboy.
One game that was shown in 1995 that tends to show up these days
in a lot of people’s “Best Games Ever” lists was the RPG
Earthbound for the SNES.
becoming known as Sony’s Studio Liverpool, this merry band of game
developers ran under the Psygnosis banner.
At the first E3, gamers got to see early versions of some games
that would eventually earn this developer quite a bit of respect.
First and foremost was WipEout on the PlayStation, with its
maddeningly high speeds, and futuristic racing.
Also of note at the show was Destruction Derby on the
PlayStation, which, as the game’s name suggests, was a demolition
the surprise announcement of the Saturn’s launch, the number one
priority that Sega had at E3 in 1995 was to show off some games for it.
Unfortunately, a lot of what was shown were things gamers knew
already. Most people were
well aware of Daytona, Virtua Fighter, and Panzer Dragoon, and what they
wanted to see was the sorts of new games that were being handled
in-house by Sega. What
gamers were greeted with were a bunch of sports games, the light gun
shooter Virtua Cop, and a couple of platformers in the way of Clockwork
Knight, and Bug.
a couple of the most interesting games that Sega showed at E3 1995
weren’t even for the Saturn: the side-scrolling action game, Vectorman,
for the Genesis, and the 32X hummingbird simulator, Kolibri.
Nowadays when people think of Sony’s in-house development teams it’s all about SCEA, but back in ’95 there were still two separate studios: Sony Computer Entertainment America, and Sony Imagesoft. Both of these groups had a fair amount of titles at E3 that year that would eventually be looked at by many as strong points in the early years of the PlayStation.
From SCEA there was the 3D fighter Battle Arena Toshinden, which had people ooing and ahhing at the nifty glowing affects of the special attacks. Meanwhile, Sony Imagesoft had a couple of games that they were displaying. First there was the aerial shooter, Warhawk that had gamers flying around in futuristic planes, in a 3D world. Secondly, there was Twisted Metal, which marked the birth of vehicular combat, as players drove around in various vehicles armed with machine guns, rockets, and other armaments, as they tried to collect power-ups, and blow the competition to smitherines.
The Best of the Rest:
There’s quite a few other games that debuted at E3 1995, here’s a quick rundown of them: Decent (Interplay – PC), Chrono Trigger (Squaresoft – SNES), Syndicate Corporate Wars (Bullfrog/EA – PlayStation).
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