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The last year of the millennium (at least to those who don’t give the uptight argument that the new millennium is actually in 2001) marked E3's return to Los Angeles after a couple of years in Atlanta.  Not only was it time for a return to the West Coast venue for the tradeshow, it was also time for the console manufacturers to start talking about their next generation systems.  Sega had already announced the Dreamcast over a year ago, with the system already available in Japan, and were in final preparations to launch the system in North America.  This left Sony to announce early plans for the PlayStation 2, with plenty of talk of the mysterious Emotion Engine.  Meanwhile, Nintendo had a little something called the Dolphin that they wanted people to know about.

 

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E3 Chronicles: The First 10 Years - 1999

 

The Hardware:

 

Playstation 2:

 

After the dust had settled at E3 in 1999, most people had photo-realistic images of Gran Turismo in their heads.  Sony was giving a tiny taste of what their upcoming PlayStation 2 would be able to do, while pumping out info on some of their plans as to what sort of hardware to cram inside.  We were still a few months away from the official unveiling of the system in Japan, but what was seen keep most happy to speculate for the time being.

 

Nintendo:

 

Gamers got a bit of a surprise from Nintendo at this particular E3, as the company announced some of the basics as to what they had planned for a new system.  Most were expecting Nintendo to keep highly secretive, as they had been in the past, but considering how far ahead Sony was in the console war, it looked like the announcement of the Dolphin was going to come sooner than later.  Many were pleased to hear that this new system would abandon cartridges in favor of some sort of optical disc, and there would be speculation for the better part of the summer regarding the console’s hardware, such as its 400MHz “Gecko” processor, and its 0.18 micron chips.

 

Sega:

 

Everyone following the Dreamcast knew all they needed to know about the system technology-wise by E3 1999.  Hell, most people who really, really cared about the console already had the Japanese version.  For this expo, Sega was out to wow people with a North American price point, and talk of how they would market the Dreamcast so everyone on the continent would want to go and buy it.

 

It was at this particular E3 that all of the talk surrounding 9/9/99 came about (which only escalated when Squaresoft also announced that Final Fantasy VIII would be released on the same day).  Peter Moore, then Vice President of Marketing with Sega, informed the press how he expected the Dreamcast to sell 1.5 million units by March 31, 2000, while also talking about the 76,000 pre-orders for the unit to date, with 200,000 expected by launch.  Discussion of the massive ad campaign planned for the unit also came up, touching on how adverts would show during a number of top TV shows.  What got people particularly excited was the MSRP for the Dreamcast, clocking in at $199US, and that there would be 15 games available for it at launch.  Another surprise was that the system would even come with a 56K modem, something most simply assumed would be a peripheral sold separately after, especially after the Saturn NetLink that Sega tried to sell separate for a couple hundred dollars.

 

SNK Corporation of America:

 

By this time the Neo Geo was the high-end boutique console of gamers with very deep pockets, and it was looking more and more obvious that few were in the mood to buy the console’s CD-based cousin these days.  As such, SNK went in a totally different direction, announcing that the Neo Geo Pocket Color would be coming to North America, complete with pretty colors, tight graphics, and a reasonably affordable price tag.  Considering that the GBA was still a twinkle in Nintendo’s eye at the time, this new handheld from SNK was looking kinda sexy at E3.

 

Nuon:

 

With most signs pointing to the probability of consoles switching from CD-ROM to DVD with the next generation, VM Labs stepped on the scene with the Nuon, a means of trying to hybridize games with DVD players by embedding Nuon technology in newer model units.  The whole idea got torn apart by most gamers, with many a forum post poking fun at it.  The company did its best to promote the unit, but in the end it just became another footnote in video game history for most.

 

The Games:

 

Capcom:

 

Walk into Capcom’s booth in 1999, and one of the first things that would grab people’s attention was their big display for Power Stone on the Dreamcast.  With all of the experience the company had in creating fighting games up to that point, this new take on versus-based fisticuffs got a lot of attention for its overhead view and ability to allow four people to compete against one another.  However, not only was Power Stone getting attention among Capcom’s Dreamcast efforts.  Gamers were 

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also getting excited about Resident Evil: Code Veronica, as they wondered how much the graphical abilities of the DC would add to the fright factor of the survival horror title.

 

On top of these two Dreamcast games, Strider 2 for the PlayStation was also drawing some attention, especially among the nostalgic old school gamers who were happy to see the Sega Genesis classic finally get a sequel.

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Eidos:

 

With a trio of very impressive titles among their wares this year, PC gamers were going gaga for what laid on the horizon from Eidos.  Deus Ex was leading the charge, getting a number of “Best of Show” nods from the press for its stealthy take on gaming.  Meanwhile, Anchronox was looking good, with some decent visuals, and sci-fi sensibility, making for some happy RPG fans looking to escape from the legions of sword and sorcery games littering the genre at the time.  One other title that was looking particularly interesting was Omikron: The Nomad Soul.  By this time, traditional adventure games were getting into a slump, and this game’s 3D style, and new approach to the genre were things that had people keeping an eye on the title as a possible way that the genre may go in the future.

 

Gathering of Developers:

 

It wasn’t all about loud music, and scantily clad women for GoD Games in 1999.  They had a strong line-up of games on deck this year, with a few that stood out in particular.  Right off the bat, there was Max Payne, which was leading the charge in milking the bullet time effect made popular in The Matrix.  The game was looking slick, and getting PC gamers quite excited.  Another interesting showing at the expo was Heavy Metal FAKK 2.  After several years, there was finally a new Heavy Metal film in the works, and GoD was taking full advantage of it with FAKK 2.  Between blowing stuff up, and seeing a virtual Julie Strain running around in next to nothing, the game was looking sinfully delicious.

 

Also on tap from this year were the Viking-oriented action game, Rune, as well the horror / action game, Nocturne.

 

GT Interactive:

 

While GT Interactive was showing games like the Total Annihilation expansion, Kingdoms, as well as what must have been a dream come true for many Robert Jordan fans, with Wheel of Time, what everyone was talking about in 1999 was Unreal Tournament.

 

The original Unreal got plenty of critical acclaim, and success at retail, showing that there was more to first person shooters than what id had to offer.  With the multi-player online gaming craze in full swing, and LAN parties popping up everywhere, Unreal Tournament’s foray into full-on multi-player gaming had everyone keeping an eye on the title.  The visuals were looking top-notch, and gamers could hardly wait to tear through the games maps.  With what was shown at E3 of Unreal Tournament, it was becoming quite apparent that Cliff Bleszinski would soon be joining people like John Carmack, Ken Levine, and Warren Spector as one of the top designers in the industry.

 

Konami:

 

It was hard to ignore the sheer number of sports games that were on display from Konami this year, not so much because they looked great as because there were just so many of them.  Despite the push these games were getting, what would wind up being some of the standouts were action titles.  Hybrid Heaven was getting some love from N64 owners hoping to see their system of choice’s library expand a bit more hastily, while the PlayStation crowd took a gander at Soul of the Samurai, and Metal Gear Solid VR Missions.

 

Looking Glass Studios:

 

The sadly now long since defunct developer was looking great in 1999.  They had sequels to a pair of their most popular games, showcasing System Shock 2, and Thief II: The Metal Age.  If these games proved to be even half as good as their predecessors, PC gamers would be very, very happy people indeed.

 

Namco:

 

With the Dreamcast launch only months away, Namco was showing what would be the console’s marquee title: Soul Calibur.  With this game, people could see that console gaming had finally gotten to the point where its visuals could easily rival that of the arcades.  The graphics in the game were looking phenomenal, and just the thought of a sequel being made for Soul Edge was tantalizing.

 

The other standout from Namco this year was R4: Ridge Racer Type 4.  Just as Soul Calibur was to the Dreamcast, R4 was to the PlayStation, as it pushed the console further graphically than any could imagine.  A lot of show goers would look at the game and have to double-check that it was indeed for the PSX, because it just looked too darn good.

 

Nintendo:

 

By this time, Nintendo was starting to get into a pretty good rhythm for providing first and second party games for the N64, and with their line-up in 1999 things were looking promising.  They were busy promoting Perfect Dark, as gamers got increasingly excited about playing a GoldenEye sequel.  Also from Rare at this year’s show was Jet Force Gemini, with its third person action.

 

As for Nintendo themselves, there were a number of classic franchises getting a facelift for the N64.  Between Mario Golf, Donkey Kong 64, and Excitebike, the first party showing from the company was looking pretty decent, if a little subdued when compared to the juggernauts it was showing off in the past two years (Zelda, and Mario).

 

Interestingly, there was also some talk about horror games making their way onto the console.  Firstly, there was Resident Evil 2, which was being planned for the N64, and would require an absolutely mammoth cartridge.  The second game was the early hints that Eternal Darkness was in the works, which would, of course, eventually find its way onto the Gamecube instead.

 

Sega:

 

It was less than six months until 9/9/99, and Sega was kicking it into high gear, showing off several high-profile first party games that would soon be available for the Dreamcast.  Largely consisting of sequels to popular series, titles like Sonic Adventure, Virtua Fighter 3tb, Sega Rally 2, and House of the Dead 2 were on display.  Also getting a fair bit of attention was Yu Suzuki’s ambitious new project, Shenmue.  While the game wasn’t looking much different from what was released a couple of months earlier, many were still suitably impressed by what they saw at the show.

 

Sierra:

 

There were a trio of games from Sierra that would go on to become must haves for PC gamers that were shown in 1999.  First and foremost was the first person shooter, Tribes II, which was looking increasingly likely to piss off spouses everywhere, as their significant other retired to the computer room for untold hours to play this game.  It was looking just that good.  Another FPS on display that couldn’t come out soon enough for PC gamers was Team Fortress 2.  The first game was great for team-based online gaming, and everyone was dying to see just how much the sequel could improve upon its predecessor.

 

But it wasn’t just first person shooters that were getting people talking at the Sierra booth, as Homeworld was also looking quite promising.  Alex Garden and Relic’s outer space real-time strategy effort was showing just how far one could push the genre when played in 3D, and the whole thing was looking very promising, not to mention very pretty as well.

 

Sony:

 

It was another E3 where Sony had a ton of games on display, and among them there were quite a few that really stood out.  Obviously, people were excited about a new Gran Turismo being in the works, but what came as a surprise was that Polyphony Digital was also working on a new mech-oriented action game called Omega Boost.  The game easily showed off the developer’s graphical prowess, and had people wondering just what other sorts of games Polyphony Digital may try in the future.

 

1999 also saw a pair of interesting games from SCEI in the form of the monkey catching game, Ape Escape, and the PaRappa the Rapper sequel, Um Jammer Lammy.  What was particularly nice to see, especially for RPG fans, though, was that Grandia was coming to the PlayStation in North America.  Considering how much praise the game got on the Saturn, coupled with the fact that it was only released in Japan, many were anxious to finally play the game.

 

Squaresoft:

 

It was another year with tons of games on display for Squaresoft in 1999.  A lot of what was shown was in some way connected to the Final Fantasy series with games like Chocobo Racing, Chocobo Dungeon 2, and Final Fantasy Anthology.  Final Fantasy IX was also at the show, looking very old school, as it was a throwback to the more fantastical style seen in the early games of the series.

 

The two games that didn’t have anything to do with Final Fantasy that were being shown were Ehrgeiz and SaGa Frontier II.  With Ehrgeiz, it was nice to see a new Tobal-styled game being made, and what was particularly interesting about it was just how full-featured the game’s RPG mini-game was this time out.  What was the showstopper for many who visited the Squaresoft booth, however, was SaGa Frontier II.  We all knew that Square had a real gift for producing great graphics in games, but the watercolor-inspired art here was really something to see.

 

Best of the Rest:

 

Ye shortlist of the other nifty games at E3 in 1999: Freelancer (Digital Anvil – PC), Sinistar Unleashed (GameFX – PC), Drakan (Surreal Software – PC), Planescape Torment (Interplay – PC), Black and White (Lionhead – PC), Sled Storm (EA – PSX), Wu Tang (Paradox – PSX), Quake III Arena (id – PC).

 

Back to E3 1998 // To E3 Hub  //  On to E3 2000

 

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