Nintendo Shoshinkai/Space World 1996



This year's 8th Annual Shoshinkai Software Exhibition was again held at the cavernous Makuhari Messe Convention Center near Tokyo, Japan, from Nov. 22-24. Unlike the CES and E3 shows, where all kinds of electronic devices are shown, only products from Nintendo and its licensees are on display at Shoshinkai. The spotlight was on Nintendo 64, or "the evolving video game machine," as it was being touted by Nintendo. A couple of examples of how the N64 might evolve in the future were actually on display at the show-- the much-anticipated 64DD and the "Jolting Pack" controller accessory.


Despite hints at the last Shoshinkai that Zelda 64 might be ready at this year's show, it was only shown in video form. Even those glimpses looked impressive, though. The 64DD hardware, however, was there, in operation. Nintendo models with digital cameras took photos of show-goers, which were then texture mapped on a rotating cube on a big screen display. Other big hits of the show included Mario Kart 64, Star Fox 64, Nintendo's "Jolting Pack" controller accessory, and Konami's J. League Perfect Striker.


Mario Kart 64 was game of the show. Even though there were tons of game play stations featuring this game, there was always a long wait to play. What's new in the Nintendo 64 version? In brief, the tracks are improved in length and quality. They have ups, downs, big jumps, tunnels, sweeping turns, tight hairpin turns, and tons of variety. I can tell it's going to be fun to find shortcuts in these courses! Items also seem easier to come by, and there are new items too. The Nintendo 64 supports four-player simultaneous play, and in Japan the game will be sold with an extra black and grey colored controller. I also heard that the US version of Mario Kart 64, due out next year, might be compatible with the "Jolting Pack" controller accessory.


Second only to Mario Kart 64 was another big Nintendo title, Star Fox 64. Although this game was only about 50% complete, it was very playable. So far, the game play seems to have a mixture of different types of levels. Some mission are course type, as in the first Star Fox game, others are wide open, full 3-D. The polygon ships and enemies look light-years better on Nintendo 64, and there are some really cool special effects for explosions and special weapons. The action unfolds in a really cinematic style, with the between mission cinemas blending seamlessly with the action. To top it all off, there is a four-player simultaneous dog fight mode where players compete against each other. Star Fox 64 also used the "Jolting Pack" to vibrate your controller when you were hit by enemy fire, crashed into something, or used your speed boost.


Imagineer's baseball game, which seemed somewhat similar in game play to Konami's Powerful Pro Yakyuu, was surprisingly good. The key to enjoying any of the "big head" baseball games from Japan is to look beyond the graphics, since these titles have more subtlety, technique and pure baseball strategy than those designed in the US or England. Pro Yakyuu King had many nice touches, from the dramatic camera angle switches on close plays at first, to the humorous faces on the players. There were rumors of interest in this title from US publishers, but no solid US release date was announced. I think it would be cool to see US players' faces on these big head players!


Wonder Project J2, the N64 sequel to Super Famicom Wonder Project J, is a strange cross between an interactive cartoon and 3D action. Rather than actually controlling the main character, you influence her actions to try to get her to go different places and do different things. This kind of "hands-off" game play can get tedious, and it was hard to tell if the action type sequences, which looked kind of cheesy, would be enough to add some excitement to the game. It will be interesting to see if anyone attempts to bring this game out in the US. It was just released in Japan.


If there were any doubts that the Nintendo 64 would have great sports games, this soccer game from Konami should silence the nay sayers. The play control was smooth, there were TONS of frames of animation for the players, and the play-by-play, though in Japanese, was continuous and matched the action perfectly (or so I heard). During the panel discussion, this game was brought up as an example of one of the advantages of the cartridge format. Because the players have so many different frames of animation, to only way to display the different frames in real-time is to transfer them directly from the cartridge ROM, something which slower media, such as CD-ROM, would not be able to do.


Seta was one of the more prolific licensees at the show, with a total of six titles announced for the Nintendo 64. Eikou No St. Andrews was the only golf game shown and was in its final form. The game play was not terrible, but the graphics did lag in some places and in others did not seem much beyond some of the better 16-bit golf games. It was also quite difficult to hit the ball out of the rough. However, most golf games are not known for their simple and intuitive play control, and when was the last time the graphics in a golf game blew you away? St. Andrews was evaluated highly enough to be in Nintendo's feature area, so after you've duffed around a bit and get serious, it's probably quite fun.


Blast Dozer (or Blast Corps. as it will be known in the US) was noteworthy because it was another game that was compatible with the "Jolting Pack" controller accessory. With the Jolting Pack, the controller vibrates every time you crash into a building, which is almost continuously, since the object of the game is to knock down every structure in sight. Because it is triggered more often than in Star Fox 64, the jolting effect seemed more fitting for Blast Dozer. The developers, Rare Ltd., are working with Nintendo to put the final touches on this demolition extravaganza.


Who knows how a game based on an obscure American comic book character will do in Japan, but Turok is shaping up to be a pretty cool game. The levels are starting to come together and actually have items (bigger and more destructive weapons!) and goals (there's now more to it than shooting everything in sight). The play control felt a little touchy and took some getting used to, but once I had some practice, it felt pretty good.


This side scrolling adventure game from Enix reminded me of a Capcom Super NES game with pre-rendered graphics, mainly because of some of the repetitive elements in the foreground platforms and backgrounds. It looked like there were some cool boss characters and other effects thrown in, so it bears watching.


Unfortunately, this game was only visible in a few short glimpses on video, but to me, this was the most surprising game of the show. Unlike the Super NES game, which used a hand-drawn style, the graphics in the N64 version are pre-rendered and look spectacular! The enemy characters are huge, and many N64 hardware special effects were used in their creation. Even though this is supposed to be a "2-D" game, with its solid, pre-rendered characters, it looks like it has a lot of visual depth. According to Mr. Tezuka, the Producer of this game at NCL, the target completion date is next summer.


Everyone knows that one of the initial games for Nintendo 64 was Saikyo Habu Shogi, or Japanese chess. Seta is planning a follow up version of the game, Morita Shogi, with an inexpensive modem built into the cartridge that will allow two players to play over the phone. Shogi is actually as simple to play as chess, and is just as challenging to master. If this game were translated into English, with its extensive teaching functions, perhaps Shogi could catch on in the US...


Another traditional Japanese board game, go, will soon be coming to the Nintendo 64. Like Shogi and chess, this game of strategy requires immense computing power to create an opponent worth playing, and the Nintendo 64 should provide a CPU foe worthy of a master's challenge.


Doraemon was one of the lamer Nintendo 64 titles. Even though it was obvious that most of the game play was lifted directly from Super Mario 64 (if you press the trigger your character crawls), the developers did not copy the fun, well-planned levels or the intelligent camera views on the action. This game seemed far from complete, so hopefully some of the kinks will be worked out before it hits the market, though it is unlikely it will ever be released in the US.


I was eagerly anticipating playing this racing game because it looked so good in the screen shots in the Japanese magazines. It was not complete (only two tracks were playable) and still needs some fine tuning. The car felt heavy and sluggish, and did not seem like it was going very fast. Some of the tracks were narrow and resulted in bouncing back and forth between the walls. Also, the penalty for crashing into the enemy cars was a wipe out that allowed all the enemy cars to pass you. Still, the graphics weren't bad and this one could be good once it's tuned up.


This jet fighter combat action game was only shown in video form. Some of the graphics were fairly impressive and were reminiscent of Pilotwings 64. In fact, it was rumored that this game is actually being developed by Paradigm Simulations for the Japanese publisher, Video System. Besides combat with other jets, it looks like alien invaders will also be on the bogey list, and one huge, crab-like, boss-type character was shown on the video.


In its current form, Hexen for Nintendo 64 looked like Hexen for the PC, so if you like Hexen, you should like the Nintendo 64 version. It's unfortunate that some more time wasn't taken to improve the game's frame rate or the quality of the textures for Nintendo 64. One cool thing the N64 version has is a split screen multi-player mode.


This helicopter versus tank battle simulation is an early work in progress. It was available for play on the first day of the show, but was only visible on video for the remaining two days. The simple, head-to-head battle concept of this game is appealing, but more work needs to be done to improve the presentation and graphics.


Wild Choppers from Seta is another 3D helicopter action game with a unique control scheme. The Control Pad cross is used to move your chopper forward and backwards, and the Control Stick is used to spin the copter. This takes some getting used to, but it is not an insurmountable obstacle to playing the game. One problem with the game is that it is too easy to move your chopper so you can't see what is ahead. In addition, the aerial targets are somewhat difficult to hit. However, the game looks like it has a good variety of choppers and enemies, and the novel control method makes you feel like you are actually flying a helicopter instead of a plane.


When I first tried to play this game like a standard racing game, I hated it. Then I remembered that in Formula 1 racing, you need to use your gears instead of your brakes to slow down. Using the Z Button and the R Button to shift up and down felt like using the steering wheel mounted gear shifters they have in real Formula 1 cars. This is definitely a simulation type racing game with lots of details such as stats, loads of winding tracks and tons of adjustments you can make to your car. It's no F-Zero, but it might be fun for the Formula 1 freaks out there.


Mission: Impossible, based on the blockbuster movie starring Tom Cruise, was only shown on video. There were some impressive looking scenes and violent enough action, but it was impossible to tell much about the game play from the video. The game will be published by Ocean in the US.


The next game in the super cool Power Pro Yakyuu series looked virtually identical to the previous incarnations on other systems. It was a bit disappointing that it didn't look much better than the Super Famicom version. Still, the game played very well, and this one was the easiest to hit in of the series.

The Shoshinkai Show floor.


Check out the giant floating Bomberman heads! New Bomberman games were shown for the Super Famicom and the Game Boy.


Our first look at the 64DD. We could look, but we couldn't touch.


This is the 64DD display from afar. This setup took pictures of show attendees, then mapped their likenesses in three dimensions on the screen.

© 1996 Nintendo of America Inc.