If anything will save Sega Dreamcast from becoming an also-ran in the next round of video game console wars, it's titles like "Resident Evil--Code: Veronica," a fantastic graphic adventure that brightens up a day the way only a horde of flesh-eating zombies can.
The "Resident Evil" series launched on Sony PlayStation in 1996 and has delivered three installments--each better than the last--telling the story of the Umbrella Corp.'s unfortunate experiments with a virus that "zombifies" its victims.
Set three months after the first installment--in which all the residents of Raccoon City turned into zombies--"Code: Veronica" follows Claire Redfield and her brother, Chris, through very different adventures.
The beauty of the "Resident Evil" series has always been its long-term playability. Finish the game as one character, play as another. Complete that character's mission and then restart as the first character with all new weapons or costumes. It keeps the game interesting longer and makes players feel like their $50 was well spent.
"Code: Veronica" upholds that tradition. Playing through as Claire can easily take a week or more. Then it's time to play as Chris. Each has his or her own objectives and each unlocks different pieces of the story. So players who want to understand everything about the game can plan on spending a month of leisurely horror to play through.
And it's worth the time. The story itself is way above average for a video game. The cut scenes that tell the story sparkle with cinematic touches. For instance, as another character comes to the aid of Claire, he smashes through a window and sends a shower of glass toward the screen as the camera spins "Matrix"-style around him.
Graphically, the game is without peer in its genre. As always, the game unfolds in third-person perspective. The visuals are so sharp that players can see their characters blink as they face the camera--even from across the room.
The camera pans more often than in past versions, making it easier to keep a character under control during long sequences of running or fighting. There are plenty. In addition to the standard zombies, "Code: Veronica" teems with every sort of unnatural freak the most demented minds in video games could devise.
None is easy to kill and players must constantly monitor their ammo supply. It's a true bummer to run out of exploding arrows right in the middle of a fight. The puzzles that fill the game get progressively more difficult, and all involve a great deal of backtracking and running around to solve. If there's a downside to "Code: Veronica," it's the amount of repetition players must endure before moving on.
Overall, though, "Code: Veronica" offers Dreamcast something it has sorely lacked in the eight months since it hit the shelves: an adventure that adults want to play. The general public thinks that kids and teenagers are the core video game market--and Sega aimed squarely at teenage boys--but grown-ups spend more money than kids. And when they find a game designed for them, they're not above plunking down the dough to buy the system to play it.
It's the kind of insurance Sega could use as PlayStation2 creeps toward North America this fall.
Dead or Alive 2
Let's get one thing straight before we move on: I don't make this stuff up. I just write about it. Now then. . . .
The original "Dead or Alive" for Sony PlayStation featured a novel option: Players could toggle whether they wanted the breasts of female characters to bounce. And "Dead or Alive" being a martial arts fighting game, there were plenty of opportunities.
The sequel, "Dead or Alive 2," jumps platforms to Sega Dreamcast, but still features the bouncing breasts option. This time, however, it's not quite so flagrant. In the options menu, the higher the age a player enters, the more jiggling the female characters do.
As astute readers may have guessed, "Dead or Alive 2" is designed for teen-age males--or adult males who still think they'll find eternal happiness with a woman like Tina, a 115-pound blond wrestling superstar who fights for honor in a black leather bikini.
For this audience, "Dead or Alive 2" delivers. The fighting control is dead-on as players duke it out to solve the mysteries of the various characters. Each character brings a story to the ring--finding a mother's killer, curing a sick grandchild, settling old scores--and as players advance through the game, the tales reveal themselves with some nice cinematics.
Tolstoy it ain't, but who cares? "Dead or Alive 2" gives fans of martial arts fighting games something to cheer with great control, complicated moves and massive combat rings. The game takes full advantage of Dreamcast's 128-bit processor and pumps out beautiful, bouncing visuals.
Like I said, I don't make this stuff up.
Sammy Sosa Softball Slam