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Zelda 64 helps Nintendo to the winner's circle

By ROBB GUIDO

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 1, 1999


Sony and Nintendo must be celebrating the latest numbers about the video game industry. According to market research firm PC Data, U.S. software sales for the N64 and PlayStation have risen 44 percent from the fourth quarter of 1997.

Nintendo has Zelda 64 to thank for helping it sell 23 percent of video games. Also, Nintendo had five of the top 10 games of the year. Sony came in second, selling 14 percent of all games, with third-party companies accounting for the rest.

Sales of video game hardware and software for 1998 add up to $5-billion.

A 2 percent decrease in console revenues in 1998 may signal the saturation of current game systems in American households. That means America could be ready for the next wave of systems, beginning with the Sega Dreamcast this year. Sony has been quiet on its plans for the next generation PlayStation, but news could be coming out next month.

***

It started with the Gameboy game, followed by the cartoon series, the toys and now, PokeMon the card game. You think America would be sick of the kooky little characters. Think again.

The PokeMon card game, which recently went into its fourth printing, sold 400,000 sets at $7.99 a pop, in less than six weeks. The sales were 10 times the amount predicted.

Every PokeMon card game starter kit includes an ultra rare card, engraved with a hologram -- yet more collector's items for PokeMon-crazed fans. Like in the video game, players collect, train and send their critters into battle in an attempt to become the world's greatest PokeMon trainer.

On the video game front, PokeMon Yellow, the third in the PokeMon series for Gameboy, is scheduled for release soon. Called PokeMon TV in Japan, it starts players with the most popular pocket monster, Pikachu.

***

Sure, Mario is cute and his games are great. But, admit it: Sometimes you want to give him a pop, right on his big nose. Well, soon, you can take your aggression out on him and the rest of Nintendo's characters -- video game style. In what is sure to be a big hit among Sony executives, Super Smash Brothers, due April 26, will pit Mario, Donkey Kong, Link from Zelda and Samus from Metroid in head-to-head fights with the other Big N icons. Chances are Super Smash Brothers won't be a brutal bloodfest, but we will have an opportunity to wipe the smile off PokeMon Pikachu's face once and for all.

***

Big games on the horizon include Castlevania and Super Mario RPG 2 for N64. But the game we'll all be clamoring about in '99 is the sequel to the smash Final Fantasy 7 for the PlayStation. Reviews of Final Fantasy 8 from Japan, where it was released Feb. 11, are extremely favorable, so start saving your sick days.

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