Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Super Tempo (Red Company, Sega Saturn)

Super Tempo was one of the later Sega Saturn titles, released in 1998 by developer Red Company. A sequel to a Sega 32X game, this is a rare 2D side-scrolling platformer from the age when 2D platformers became persona non grata. Once, these kind of video games were a dime a dozen; then, suddenly, the Sony Playstation dropped like a ten-megaton bomb, and 3D polygons were the new hot thing. Everything else was given a swift kick in the rear and shoved out the door. Sprite graphics were out. Texture-mapped polygons were in.

I'm reminded of the great Genesis action-platformers, games like Aladdin and Earthworm Jim that played like living cartoons, but also games like Castle and World of Illusion, and their masterful level designs. Super Tempo has that excellence in design, the variety in levels, goals, gameplay styles. Most of the action is run-and-jump, but there are plenty of twists and turns to keep you on your toes. And everything is presented with an absurdist sense of humor; probably closer to Dave Perry than Treasure.

Visually bold, endlessly clever, and packed with a wicked sense of humor, Super Tempo is a standout title in the Saturn library. It's also a testament against the absurdity of the herd mentality. Who decided that 2D games were suddenly terrible? Look at all those once-beautiful Playstation, Saturn and Nintendo 64 games that have aged terribly. All those gouraud-shaded polygons don't look so hot today, do they? And yet, the more traditional sprite graphics still look lovely. Funny how these things work themselves out.

How many great Sega Saturn games were left in Japan? Far too many to count. This system has one of the deepest software libraries in history. I've been digging for years and I'm still discovering gems. True, not everything out there is a masterpiece, but something like Super Tempo doesn't have to be one. It just has to be very entertaining and very fun. Thank God for Internet Downloads!*

(*Now there's something you'll never read from another videogame critic. Hah!)

Monday, February 02, 2015

Classic Video Game Price Gouging

Back around 2008-09, I got back into collecting physical video games again, after a decade of playing classic games exclusively via PC emulators. I think it was the arrival of Nintendo Wii's Virtual Console that reminded me of just how much fun it was to play the actual video games and systems connected to a picture-tube TV. At that time, Sega Genesis cartridges and Saturn discs were dirt cheap, and barely any title ever creeped above $10. I passed on a lot of titles that, frankly, weren't worth that kind of money. They were "rental games" at best.

So what the heck has happened? Across the board, classic videogame prices have skyrocketed to ludicrous levels. It's becoming difficult to find anything under $20, but what's really shocking are the large number of games being sold for $100 or more. And we're not talking about extremely rare, limited-edition cartridge games. We're talking about videogames that sold very well, are available in ample supply, and often available on modern formats, including XBox Live Arcade, Playstation Network, and Steam.

My guess is that Ebay sellers and retro game stores are caught in one massive circle jerk. The first joker who successfully sold his mint copy of Panzer Dragoon Saga for over $250 inspired everybody else to furiously jack up the prices. Hey, if that guy on Ebay is selling these games for $100, I can too! And so everything except sports games (which, thankfully, are still dirt cheap) gets priced through the roof.

Perhaps the younger Millenium Generation hasn't been taught the value of old computer hardware and software. And perhaps they haven't been clued into modern digital services. And certainly nobody has informed them that every classic videogame ever made is freely available on the internet. I have over 300 Sega Saturn games copied onto CD-R, and this ridiculous price gouging will only inspire me to burn more.

In any case, this is becoming a joke, and if retro videogame stores believe they're sitting on a gold mine of Sega and Nintendo titles, they're in for a shock. No, Galactic Attack on Saturn is not worth $70, Gaiares on Genesis isn't worh $100, and Mortal Kombat 2 is definitely not worth $150.

My advice for consumers: Don't believe the hype, and don't feed the trolls.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

World Series Baseball 98 (Saturn) - Still the Greatest Nine

Whenever I'm feeling the itch to play Sega Saturn, I always have a short list of "must play" games to play, and World Series Baseball 98 is always near the top of that list. Back in 1997, I was convinced this was the greatest baseball videogame ever created, and in the year 2015, I still hold to that belief. I don't think this sports title has ever been surpassed.

One of Sega's greatest strengths during the 16-bit era was their stellar lineup of sports titles. If you wanted to play sports games, you had to have a Genesis. On Saturn, however, Sega struggled and stumbled for years, as Sony and Electronic Arts dominated the sports arena on the Playstation. It remains a cruel irony that Sega finally regained their mojo just as the Saturn was being phased out in the US; the '98 sports lineup - World Series Baseball 98, NBA Action 98, NHL All-Star Hockey 98, Worldwide Soccer 98 - proved to be their strongest in years. It may have been Sega's best sports year ever.

World Series Baseball 98 looked stunning when it was new, running on Saturn's high resolution mode (Sega's ace in the hole that was criminally underused). Graphics are clean, clear, sharp and detailed. Colors are bold, confident and smooth. In other words, what we've come to expect as the "Sega Look." It's a good preview for what would follow on Dreamcast. All the official ballparks are realsically rendered and in the proper proportion (you'd be surprised how many old baseball games screwed this up), and the polygon players are confident, solid. There's that squarish, slighly chunky look that comes with Sega Saturn, owing to its use of quads instead of triangles; as a visual style, it was widely criticized by software developers, but I personally enjoy it. It gives Sega Saturn's best games a unique charm and adds to the mystique.

All in all, this game looks fantastic on Saturn, one of the system's finest hours, and a far cry from those early roughshod days in 1995, where everything looked ugly. Sega clearly needed two more years added to Saturn's lifespan: one at the start, and one at the end. Fortunately, I think a lot of this momentum carried through to the Dreamcast, where Sega was creatively unstoppable.

Now we come to what really makes World Series Baseball 98 great, why it's still the video game baseball king: the pitcher/batter duel. The pitcher chooses from his aresenal, aims the pitch during the windup, and lets it go. Available pitches are based on the real-life players' skills, making their curveballs, sliders and sinkers very unique (and lose their effectiveness as the pitcher tires). The batter has two methods of attack. He can attempt to follow the pitch with the cursor, where it will "lock on" at the correct destination. Precise swings can result in fly balls, grounders, or curves, depending on where the cursor strikes.

The batter's second option - and this is the masterstroke - are the quadrants. The batter's box is broken into four quadrants, and each player has their unique "hot" and "cold" zones. By selecting a quadrant before the pitch is thrown, the batter will focus their attention on that area. If the ball travels towards that quadrant, the batter will "lock on" the ball, guaranteeing a hit. These are essentially the "power" swings. If the batter guesses wrong, he regains the batting cursor, but with only a fraction of time to attempt a swing.

This is the genius of Sega's design. They've turned the pitcher/batter duel into a strategic series of mind games and shootouts. No longer do you swing at every pitch, or just throw the ball wildly. The pitcher tries to get the batter out of his zone, away from his power swings that could result in home runs. The batter tries to wear the pitcher down, drag out the count, wait for that arm to get tired. A tired arm results in bad pitches. Those lead to "lock on" power swings.

For the pitcher, your strategy is to keep your opponent guessing, try to make him swing at a bad pitch, try to keep away from his strong side. For the batter, the strategy is to know when to use your normal swings (cursor), and when to aim for the power swings (quadrants). Get a hit, get a man on base, then try for a bunt or steal. It's difficult to move around those bases. This game doesn't make things easy. And home runs are, thankfully, uncommon. You can't rely on them to win games.

Traditionally, nearly every baseball game followed a basic formula for pitching and batting: you just press a button. Press a button to throw a pitch (and maybe weave it side-to-side in midair); press a button to swing the bat. Whether it's Home Run on Atari 2600, RBI Baseball on NES, Sports Talk Baseball on Genesis, or Ken Griffey Baseball on Super NES and Nintendo 64, the gameplay remained extremely basic and simple. WSB98 on Saturn smashes that paradigm to pieces. Thank God for Sega and their eternal underdog spirit. Something special about videogames died when they were forced out of the hardware business.

For reasons I have never understood, Sega never used the WSB98 pitcher/batter model again. Nobody did. If anything, modern software developers have only succeeded in making baseball games needlessly complicated, without adding anything to the strategy. Heck, we hardly even have baseball video games anymore. The modern scam of "one developer per sport" is a sick, demented joke. Thank God you can find a Sega Saturn and WSB98 for less than the price of dinner.

I'm serious. Get yourself off the couch, step away from the desk. Find yourself a Sega Saturn, a couple controllers, and copies of Sega's '98 sports lineup. It's the best bargain any videogame sports fan will find.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Pebble Beach Golf Links (T&E Soft, for Sega Saturn)

Pebble Beach Golf Links was one of the early titles from Sega Saturn's notoriously early launch in the summer of 1995. An installment of the popular golf sim series by T&E Soft (which appeared on the PC), this was the very definition of a "launch title." That is, it's a videogame that is servicable, not very impressive, and largely present to satisfy early adopters before the real software titles arrive.

My first impression with this game was at a local Funcoland (remember those?), and was none too impressed. With the imminent arrival of Sony's Playstation taking all the buzz, Sega's early Saturn launch felt like a desperation move, and such wimpy titles were not winning us over. However, first impressions can be deceiving, and once I bought a Saturn myself (because of Panzer Dragoon, which just knocked my socks off), I picked up Pebble Beach, and it grew on me. Within a few weeks, my opinion completely turned around, and I saw this humble sports game as one of Saturn's early triumphs.

Pebble Beach Golf Links is still easily available at retro game stores for very little money, usually under five bucks. I think that's a great bargain, and heartily recommend it to any Sega Saturn owners or classic videogame collectors. It just plays a very solid game of golf, and even if only one 18-hole course is available, it's a very nice course, one of the best. You can't do much better than Pebble Beach.

One of the main selling points to this game is the inclusion of PGA golfer Craig "The Walrus" Stadler, who appears in video clips, narrating each upcoming hole on the course, and even competing against you. Now this is where I really love this game, and not for a reason you'd expect: Stadler is a real jerk.  He's a selfish, condescending know-it-all who knows you'll never play at his level, and we're all just lucky to bask in his greatness. And we all know that Stadler himself will never reach the heights of a Tiger Woods. Especially him. And so Walrus takes it out on us.

Playing against Stadler definitely brings out his bad side. I know the developers wanted to inject some friendly competition, but his snide comments and taunting just become comical. "You're gonna have to practice a lot more," he sneers when you botch that third hole. "Think you can beat that?" he boasts when his tee shot on the seventh lands inches from the hole. I suppose it's meant to inspire me. But I just want to whack him with my club and knock him into the ocean. In that sense, yes, it's very satisfying to beat him.

The graphics in Pebble Beach Golf Links serve as a time capsule of that era, when 3D polygon graphics and CD-ROM technology were new, and software developers had yet to figure it all out. There are digitized graphics and full-motion video clips (which Americans were obsessed with at the time), pre-rendered CGI sequences, and even some rudimentary polygon graphics that never quite held up. I tend to turn off the "ball cam" when playing, and stick with the basic view. Graphics are quite colorful, richly textured, and sprites of your golfer and other objects are very large. Much of the background artwork is pixelated, and this is, again, a snapshot of that era. It would have been nice if T&E Soft had rendered new graphics for the Saturn, instead of a simple PC port. But this is what launch titles are often like. Again, we're only passing time until Virtua Figher 2 drops.

Two of my favorite features in this game: the music, which is laid back, mellow, almost like "elevator music" but without the "please stay on the line" irritation; and the mid-game break, which shows off a series of digitized postcards of the Pebble Beach clubhouse, then allows you to get up and stretch your legs for a "coffee break." It's a very nice touch. This is especially helpful for a long session with your friends.

The only real complaint I ever had with Pebble Beach Golf Links was that judging the power of your swings was difficult to gauge; but that's true of just about every golf videogame ever made. This genre has barely changed at all since US Gold dropped Leaderboard Golf onto the 8-bit home computers 30 years ago. The Nintendo Wii Remote offered some needed innovations, but even then, the core gameplay hasn't budged. This is probably why I remember this title for its little intangibles; the little touches are all you've got. Pebble Beach is the textbook definition of "hidden gem," and Sega Saturn owners should definitely scrounge up the five bucks to add it to their software library.

Monday, January 26, 2015

DTVOL4 and Writing Update

This is just a quick message for my followers on this blog (all three of you). I've been telling myself to write more regularly on this site, but 2014 proved to be rather busy for me as a writer.  I'm going to try to publish more frequently, write more about turntables and music and videogames.

I'm also working towards publishing several manuscripts, all based on my blog writings since 2003. This is something that I've threatened to do many times, but always held back because of my own insecurities. I never felt that I had enough content. Well, nuts to that.  And so I'm working on a couple videogame volumes, one on Nintendo's "Virtual Console," another of critics' rants and raves. I definitely want to write a "Videogame Classics" book, but that requires a lot more work to complete, so it will have to move to the back burner for now. I also want a "kitchen sink" book that combines my essays on music and movies and politics and whatnot.

I always had this idea of stealing the album covers from Black Sabbath's Master of Reality and Vol 4. I just liked the graphic design of those two, and the way they complimented one another with the purples, oranges and blacks. Add in the Virtual Console book (now tentatively titled, "Zen Arcade Vol I"), and we've got the beginnings of a little publishing empire. Add in a book of essays from Ghibli Blog, and we've got the first four volumes.

Anyway, this is just an update for anyone lucky enough to stick around. My thanks to everyone who visits Vol 4 and Ghibli Blog. Now let's all take a break and play videogames!

You're Never Too Old to Play Sega Saturn

I've been pretty busy on the writing front lately, between Discotek Media's Horus, Prince of the Sun DVD and Ghibli Blog. This weekend, I put away the work and spent my time slacking off and playing video games. This becomes a rare luxury when you reach my age; being a grownup is a full-time job.

I dusted off my Sega Saturn, the Japanese model in the eggshell white, and spent most of my time playing through Steep Slope Sliders, Cave's excellent snowboarding game from 1997. The graphics still look wonderful, in that squarish Sega Saturn style; the gameplay is still sublime. I find myself competing endlessly for higher scores on the courses. Another hill over here, another drop over there. I could work in another 720 backflip over the railroad tracks if I time it right...

I can only imagine what today's teenager, with a new Playstation 4 and its earth-shattering technology, would think of this. Could they even stand to look at these old, blocky, chunky, ugly graphics? Could they bear the horror of a controller that doesn't have dual analog sticks and 18 buttons? Do they even have the gameplay skills, after years of sitting quietly, idly watching the millionth Call of Duty movie cut-scene? Who knows? Who cares. If they can't grok greatness, then it's their loss. I feel sorry that they missed out on arcade video games.

It's probably true that, as the old folks say, "you had to be there." Playing Sega Saturn in the Year of Our Lord 2015 is one part nostalgia, one part defiance. I'm rebelling against the passage of time and its erosion of all things I hold dear. But I'm also having a lot of fun playing Sega Saturn, and enjoying myself in the present. These are the greatest toys ever invented, and when its creators became obsessed with "creating art," something very crucial was lost in the equation.

Why can't Sega release a new video game system that plays all the old hits from their classic consoles? There has to be a market for a "Netflix of Video Games." Somebody just has to get off their butts and remember what video games were like, before the industry was taken over by Hollywood Envy. And I'll bet I could win those teenagers over to the charms of Sega Saturn. Just a couple runs on Steep Slope Sliders, enough to get the blood pumping. That should do the trick.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

Memories of Sony PS-X5 Direct Drive Turntable

In January, 2009, I purchased not one, but two, Sony direct drive turntables.  My main goal was, of course, the PS-X75 Biotracer, "The Battleship," which I scored from Ebay for $300.  But I had a second deck that I had my eyes on, and when the dust was settled, I paid $100 for a Sony PS-X5 deck.  As fortune would have it, this is the deck that arrived at my apartment first.

I snapped these photos the evening I received the package.  I was thrilled to have this exciting new toy to play.  The Sony's size immediately jumped out at me;  next to my decked-out Pro-Ject Debut III (my turntable throughout 2008), the PS-X5 was as large as a tank, heavy and metallic and shiny.  This was a marvel of an ancient relic, from an age when the world's greatest Japanese engineers spent millions to build the perfect record players.  My humble Pro-Ject Debut was just swallowed whole.

As a mid-fi turntable, the PS-X5 was, and remains, a solid deck.  It launched Sony's vaunted "X" series, introducing a number of key features, including a BSL (brushless-slotless) motor, Quartz Lock/Magnedisc, a non-resonant frame design called SBMC (Sony Bulk Mould Compound), and gel-filled feet designed to block outside resonances.  Sony's PS-X6 model would replace the mechanical buttons and gears with touch-sensitive electronics, and the PS-X7 introduced a carbon-fiber tonearm.  All in all, a very impressive design from Sony's most creatively fertile years.

The Quartz/Magnedisc system is especially impressive.  The quartz lock became the new standard for direct drive turntables in the late 1970, with greater speed stability than the older servo designs.  The magnetic strip under the platter is by a magnetic head, monitoring the speed, telling the computer to make necessary adjustments.  Sony's engineers were so obsessive, they even aimed to compensate for stylus drag with this system.

Unfortunately, there are a few negatives against this deck.  The PS-X5 I purchased arrived with a broken automatic play system, refusing to even play records until I manually disabled everything by removing a gear from the tonearm mechanism.  This is a very common problem with this series of decks, owing to plastic parts that have decayed over time.  In addition, I was never very fond of the tonearm, certainly when compared to the later PS-X50/60/70 series and the Biotracers.  But I treated mine terribly, either by attempting any number of silly "hacks" (damping the tonearm), or mismatching with the wrong headshell or cartridge.  If you find one of these turntables, be very careful not to lose the original Sony headshell.

This is an important lesson that all turntable junkies must learn: you will always have maintenance issues with vintage decks.  I can personally testify that every classic deck I bought has required repair work, usually minor, but sometimes more serious.  This is true for any consumer electronics over 30 years old.

The sound of the PS-X5 is highly impressive.  Compared to the Pro-Ject Debut III, there was far greater bite and growl from the music, greater detail and resolution.  Bass and drums are punchy and clear, as one would expect from a quartz lock deck.  The slim BSL motor doesn't appear to suffer as badly as other direct drive turntables from the dreaded "cogging effect," which can give a harder edge to your music.  I think the only limitations come from the standard-issue 1970s aluminum tonearm; again, compared to my Pro-Ject Debut, there's really no contest.  The Sony stomps it flat.

Using a Denon DL-160, I was surprised to hear the cartridge "open up" in a way never heard on the Pro-Ject.  The sound became more spacious, more clear, as though it finally had room to stretch its legs and breathe.  But it also seemed to lose a little color, a little of that warm, romantic sound coming from the fully decked-out Debut (Speed Box II, acrylic platter).

I think the Biotracer deck spoiled me.  A few days after the PS-X5 arrived in the mail, the PS-X75 Biotracer Battleship appeared in a very large box.  Angels descended from high with a Robert Ludwig press of Led Zeppelin II, and that was the end of that debate.  And thus entered the greatest turntable I have ever owned...for four months.  Oy, let's not revisit that tragic loss, shall we?

The PS-X5 stayed with me for four years, my constant tinkering and attempts to "improve" the sound usually making things worse.  I never could get the automatic functions to work properly, and there was an issue with flickering lights that I couldn't solve (turns out the cause was worn capacitors).  Eventually, I broke the anti-skate and knocked the tonearm loose from the chassis.  Oops.  By that point, in Spring of 2012, I was deeply frustrated with my budget-minded stereo system, which was nowhere near as good as what I had in 2008 and 2009.  And so, I ended up selling or junking the entire stereo system, saving only my Marantz 2235b stereo receiver, and began the slow process of rebuilding.

So that's my story of the Sony PS-X5.  On a 1-10 scale, this deck rates a solid 7, maybe an 8.  This depends on whether everything is working properly and whether you can fix what's broken.  But, again, that's true of all vintage hi-fi gear.  If you see one, check it out, but move fast!  Sony turntables are becoming more expensive, and more rare, on Ebay these days.  Supply and Demand, kids.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Sony PS-X75 Biotracer Plays The Who

Well, if I am going to dust off Daniel Thomas Vol 4 and get back into a publishing routine, I will have to write a lot more about music and hi-fi audio.  What better time to listen to my favorite turntable, the mighty Sony PS-X75 Biotracer battleship?

My own hi-fi journey often feels like Billy from Family Circus: a lot of meandering and jumping around the neighborhood, only to wind up at the house across the street.  Back in 2009, I had a spectacular stereo system: Sony PS-X75 Biotracer, Dynavector 10x5 phono cartridge, Pro-Ject Tube Box II with a pair of Mullard 12AX7's.  In less than six months, it was all gone, and I've lamented the loss ever since.  You would think that I would have saved my pennies to rebuild that classic system...but, ohhh nooo.  I've spent years with varying budget turntables, cartridges and phono stages.  It's been a fun journey of learning and discovery, but I'm still sorely missing the days when my music rattled the windows.

Thankfully, I have a Biotracer deck back in my hands, the smaller and more svelte 1981-84 PS-X600.  But I have a tube phono preamp that's nowhere as richly musical as the Pro-Ject Tube Box.  But I'm working to solve that problem right now.  Hopefully, before the end of the year, I can score that Dynavector cart and be back in the promised land.  Maybe...the key difference between 2014 and 2009 is that I'm now married.  "Spare Money" has become a fleeting illusion to me now.

Anyway, enjoy this video of Who's Next.  This LP only really came alive on the PS-X75.  It's a spectacular example of what makes spinning records so much fun.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Project Y - A New Sega Genesis Brawler!

As a dedicated Sega fanboy, I am thrilled and delighted to see video games for my beloved systems continue to arrive all these years later.  The Sega Dreamcast gets most of the attention, but a few indie titles have also appeared on the Sega Genesis.  Project Y (tentatively titled) is the latest and greatest to appear.

Project Y is a classic side-scrolling brawler, features some amazingly detailed and colorful 16-bit graphics, and appears to take many cues from the Streets of Rage series, including adapting SoR3 character sprites, a move which has generated controversy among online circles.  I personally don't have a problem with this; since Project Y's graphics have been so heavily reworked; adapting an existing graphics engine is an affordable way for indie programmers to develop software titles for the Genesis, without all the heavy investments in programming from the ground up.  We forget, all too foolishly, that these indie video games are a labor of love, made with next to no money, and barely earn enough money to pay for the raw materials.  If this title sells 1,000 copies, that would be considered a blockbuster smash hit.

I have my "High Definition Graphics" Model 1 Sega Genesis connected to the Sony Trinitron, and I'm ready to rock.  Today's video game industry is melting down, crumbling into extinction under the weight of sheer incompetence.  You can keep your reruns and franchise sequels that were burned out 15 years ago.  I want something new.  I want real video games again!  And I'll be first in line to grab a cartridge copy of Project Y whenever it is completed.

Let's keep our fingers crossed and hope this beat-em-up is completed and released to the public.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Original 2K Basketball - NBA Action 98 (Saturn)

NBA Action 98 arrived during the Sega Saturn's final days in the US, and it has become almost entirely forgotten, even by sports fans.  That's very unfortunate, and it's a cruel twist of fate that in 1997, the Sega Sports brand was firing on all cylinders.  Worldwide Soccer 98, World Series Baseball 98, NHL All-Star Hockey 98, and NBA Action 98 are arguably the finest sports games of the 32-bit era.

Sega struggled to find quality software studios for their Sega Sports brand, especially during the Saturn era.  Their fortunes famously turned when they discovered a key Electronic Arts collaborator - Visual Concepts.  VC established their fame with a stunning John Madden Football 94 on the Super NES, and soon began to be groomed by EA to helm the Madden franchise.  Their debut, Madden 96, became an infamous debacle and was eventually cancelled.  This was the only year since 1990 without a John Madden Football title, and shattered the relationship between EA and VC.

In 1997, Sega turned to the developers for their basketball title, and the result is nothing less than stunning.  For a hardware system notorious for its difficulty, NBA Action 98 offers smooth, sharply detailed graphics, fully polygonal arenas and players, animated fans in the crowd, a dynamic camera system, elaborate play-by-play announcers, and a richly complex gameplay system.  Included features: pre-game player introductions, team-specific playbooks, offensive and defensive formations, player trading and "create-a-player," impressive instant replays, and a rock-solid frame rate that never clogs, stutters or slows.  This is a technical marvel for the Sega Saturn, and plays a superb game of basketball.

It's very easy to think of NBA Action 98 as a test run for NBA2K on the Sega Dreamcast in 1999.  The gameplay is virtually identical, and it's exciting to see where the 2K series began.  We are also reminded just how slowly sports video games evolve these days, if they evolve at all.  I honestly can't remember the last sports game that felt fresh, or innovative, or revolutionary, other than Nintendo's Wii Sports.  Visual Concepts sports games felt fresh.  These guys were hungry, desperate to prove themselves and leave their mark.  And they certainly succeeded.

I don't know how many people are willing to spend time on NBA Action 98, when the rest of the 2K series is readily available.  But I think it's important for fans to see where it all began, and appreciate the sheer challenge of creating such a beast from scratch.

Here's a gameplay video to enjoy.  See if this does anything for you: