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What's on tap for players

By ROBB GUIDO

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 12, 2000


Summer is a slow time for video games for good reason: Who wants to stay inside when you can go out and play?

But just in case it rains, players can look forward to a few hot titles.

Nintendo 64 and Game Boy Color

The most notable choices for summer come from Nintendo. If you haven't bought a Nintendo 64 or Game Boy Color yet, now is a great time. Players can expect an onslaught of high-profile titles in the fall and winter, including the hilarious but mature-rated Conker's Bad Fur Day, Dinosaur Planet, Zelda: Majora's Mask, and, of course, Pokemon Gold and Silver.

Players can look forward to these N64 titles:

  • * Perfect Dark ($59.99): Aliens, espionage and lots of guns highlight this first-person shooter starring Joanna Dark. This game takes the Goldeneye engine and refines it, adding vehicles and other perks, forming what could be the game of the summer.

  • * Starcraft64 (not yet released, $59.99): It's a battle for control of space in this real-time action-strategy game. You'll build fleets, harnessing planets' natural resources, and then lead your fighters against a number of enemies. Look for a multiplayer mode as well.

  • * Banjo-Tooie (not yet released, $59.99): Banjo-Kazooie earned my praise for its game play variety and cute characters. The sequel expands on the original 3-D action classic. Banjo and Kazooie, a bird-bear tag team, can morph into different creatures and explore huge areas in their search for golden puzzle pieces. And wait until you see some of their new moves.

  • * Hey You! Pikachu (not yet released, $69.99, including microphone): Now players can talk directly to Pikachu, Nintendo's cover Pokemon, with an included microphone. By issuing simple commands, you can help the little guy complete tasks and earn his love at the same time.

  • * Wario Land 3 ($29.99): This Game Boy Color game gives Nintendo a chance to show once again that it is the king of 2-D action games. This spinoff of Mario Land features the Italian plumber's arch-rival Wario and 25 levels, each having four goals. It's solid fun for the road.

Dreamcast

Sega is the company to watch over the next couple of months, but players will have to wait for its biggest releases. Jet Grind Radio, a rollerblading and graffiti funfest, as well as Shenmue, the role-playing game to end all role-playing game, won't arrive until the holidays. In the meantime, there are a couple top-flight games to keep Dreamcast players happy:

* World Series Baseball 2K1 (not yet released, $49.99): Sega finally delivers a baseball game to go with its football, basketball and hockey franchises, and it should please fans to no end. Graphically, the finest details of the game, including the stadiums, look better than ever, and the game play isn't too shabby either.

* Space Channel 5 ($49.99): Usually guns save the planet in video games, but this time around, it's dance moves. As space age reporter Ulala, you'll have to mesmerize packs of extraterrestrials, recruiting fellow Earthlings to join your dance team in this critically important mission. The fate of the universe rests on your sense of rhythm and button-pushing abilities.

PlayStation

It seems that PlayStation 2 is drawing more criticism than praise these days. Sony probably will sell a million of its new systems in its first month on the market this fall, but that won't satisfy players of Sony's old system, who won't be seeing much action until Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 and Spiderman come out later this year. Still, there are one or two titles to look forward to:

* Vagrant Story ($39.99): This role-playing game has garnered acclaim from every major video game magazine and Web site. With its deep story, beautiful graphics and unique battle system, it's everything that Final Fantasy VIII should have been.

* Grind Session ($39.99): Look out Tony Hawk. Sony's Grind Session does skateboarding justice with a wide selection of tricks, fun skate parks and objectives. There's even cool music from KRS-One and Sonic Youth.

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