Welcome to Part 3 of my look at early online console gaming. This is more of an “epilogue” post than anything, as I'll be going over a Saturn NetLink compatible game that I myself own. If you'd like to view the first two parts, click on the links below:
1997, Sega and Hudson Soft
Before I begin this review, I must confess I'm not much of a connoisseur in the ways of the classic Bomberman games. Depending on who you ask, I might be in an even worse category; I grew up on the N64 games.
Now, don't get me wrong. Bomberman 64 is a game I'm very fond of and one of the very first Nintendo 64 games I ever owned (I got it on the very same Christmas I received my Nintendo 64 console, alongside Diddy Kong Racing). I'll definitely get to that one someday. But for purists, Bomberman 64 was considered a large departure from the classic playstyle. Instead of explosions going in a 2D “plus” shape where you only had to worry about the explosion stretching along the floor, explosions took place in an actual burst that had vertical height and circumference to it. As you could guess, this transforms the game considerably. Having skill at the classic Bomberman games didn't mean jack when you got your hands on Bomberman 64. And likewise, being good at Bomberman 64 didn't mean jack when you got your hands on a classic-style Bomberman game. And Saturn Bomberman was definitely a game for the Bomberman fans, with easy enough gameplay for newbies to pick up and have a blast (let's just get the pun out of the way now). Many people have even hailed this as the best game on the entire Sega Saturn console, bar none. While I haven't played enough games on the Saturn to make such an incredibly bold claim, I can definitely speak of it being a quality piece...for the most part.
Saturn Bomberman was pretty late to the Sega Saturn party. By the time it was released in mid-late 1997, the ice in the coolers had already melted, the cheese was at room temperature, the “party jams” mixtape was already at the end, and damn near everyone had either left for Playstation's party across the street or was making the trip to the other side of town for Nintendo's kegger. This game got such a limited release, that on any other system it would put it in “crown jewel of the system” territory. But of course, since we're talking about the Sega Saturn, being a game worth triple-digit prices just makes you part of the family. Strange how Bomberman games either tend to be super-common (“Bomberman World” on PS1, “Bomberman 64”) or incredibly rare (“Saturn Bomberman”, “Bomberman 64; The Second Attack”).
However, it came out at the time that the Saturn NetLink was in as much of a prime as it was ever going to have. Saturn Bomberman was a hell of a killer app to have on the service, providing not just 2-player vs. mode support, but it would also allow two players per console to connect to an opponent, allowing 4-player online. This did come with a caveat however; having 2 players per console was the only way to do a 4-player match. There was no way to have 4 different consoles in 4 locations battle each other, likely due to the 28.8k speed of the NetLink modem. Having to draw a live location from 3 other players was probably asking the world from the modem (cut the modem some slack...wait, how much did it cost again?). And as I mentioned last week, this game can still be played online using the Saturn NetLink and is one of the more popular games due to how well its aged (more on that in a bit). A quick YouTube link can net some footage of online matches, and it's one of the more popular games (if not the most popular) on the NetLink League boards.
And the game doesn't just shine on the online multiplayer front. Oh, hell no. The local multiplayer “Battle Mode” is an absolute gem. Providing several maps and characters for players to use (though only providing cosmetic differences between characters), the game is totally frantic even when facing off against CPU opponents. Add in even one friend, and you'll have a hard time finding a good stopping point.
As if that isn't insane enough, the game can actually support up to 10 (TEN!!!) players in the multiplayer mode. While this is difficult to pull off (a copy of Saturn Bomberman, two Saturn multi-taps, and 10 controllers are all required, and a TV large enough for everyone to see what's going on is recommended), those that have experienced this madness have professed it to being an incredible gaming experience, and is a common staple within gaming convention game rooms and events. I've never played a Saturn Bomberman match against 10 live opponents, but I hope to someday. It might sound like I'm simply trying to hype this up to high heaven, but the multiplayer is where this Bomberman game makes its mark.
Saturn Bomberman's multiplayer was so fantastic, it received Electronic Gaming Monthly's “Best Multiplayer Game” award for 1997, over highly-acclaimed multiplayer masterpieces Mario Kart 64 and Goldeneye 007 (March 1998, Issue 104, Page 94).
The graphics in the game have a pretty simple sprite style, and don't really do much to push the Saturn. There were games at the Saturn's launch that had more going on than this. It almost feels like you're playing a touched-up SNES or Genesis game, and that the game could have been pulled off on those systems with minimal liberties taken in terms of graphics. That having been said, the cartoonish sprites and anime artstyle of the game still look decent in this day and age, they've certainly aged much better than the polygon-based graphics of many games during the Saturn/PS1/N64 era. Just don't expect some graphical masterwork, even by 2D or sprite-based standards.
The sound effects are pretty cartoony but do the job just fine without being overly obnoxious or repetitive. The voice-work within the game itself is minimal without being overbearing. And the voice acting within the cutscenes is on-par with anime dubbing from the mid 90s. That is to say, it's incredibly obnoxious and overdone. Either you'll like the charm or totally cringe at the heavy-handedness and awkward delivery of every single line.
The music on the other hand, is fantastic. From start to finish, June Chikuma delivers an Electronic soundtrack that is good at worst, and amazing at best. This is par for the course when it comes to Bomberman games, as June Chikuma was also responsible for the soundtracks to previous Bomberman games, and would go on to compose the highly-acclaimed soundtrack for the N64 entry, Bomberman Hero. But I would argue that these tracks are the best ones out of those games. In fact, you can check out the vast majority of the game's soundtrack in it's original form on June's SoundCloud page (https://soundcloud.com/junechikuma/sets/saturn-bomberman-june-chikuma). For as much as you'll play the Battle mode, “No. 13 (Jungle Techno Mix)” blends in well without becoming a song you phase out completely or find annoying. The track from the game's Master mode (which unfortunately isn't available on the Soundcloud page) is an intimidating track that stresses the hard road you have ahead. “No. 15 (Breakbeat Bossa Nova Mix)” is a good credits theme, and of course I gotta mention “No. 2 (Over Drive Guitar Mix)”, which totally hasn't been my phone's ringtone for the past few months, I promise.
Now, if I could cut the review off right here, I feel I could justify a five-star rating and move right along. However, there are a good handful of shortcomings with this game.
If you're buying this Bomberman game for its single-player component, then you've made a bad investment. This isn't to say the single-player game is horrible. But it's not the gem that the multiplayer mode is.
“Normal mode” simply puts you through stage after stage where you simply need to clear the enemies, take out certain markings on the stage, and reach the exit within the time limit and without getting killed either by your enemies or your own bombs. The boss stages can provide a decent challenge, but aren't too varied in how to hurt them. In fact, there isn't too much strategy in the enemies in this game. Each one only requires being in the path of one, sometimes two bomb explosions in order to be defeated. A few enemies might counter simple “plant and run” strategies by as shielding or absorbing explosions, but there's not a whole lot of deviation from that setup. It does get some bonus points by having a 2-player mode within it, but you'll both find yourself itching to just go back to the Battle mode.
As well, the game's “Master Mode” is a fun little distraction but falls short of the other two modes. This mode is single-player only, and consists of a tower climb. Once you lose a single life, your run ends and your high score is tallied. The enemies in this mode are even less varied, and in the runs I made in the mode, the true “test” seemed to be less in the types of enemies and more trying to overwhelm the player through the number of enemies or the designs of the room. The HUD of this mode also displays the statistics in a different layout than Normal mode, which can be a distraction (likewise if you just went from playing Master to playing Normal mode). A high score board is appreciated, but a little more enemy variety (or having the variety appear in the earlier floors), as well as an element of randomness or a hidden rogue-like mode (the layout of the floors never change, making it possible to just look the floor layouts up and follow a guide) would have made Master mode as much of a home run as Battle mode.
So now we've reached a true conundrum within this review. As a multiplayer game, we have a masterpiece. As a single-player game, we have a good not-great game. The conundrum comes with the price of the game.
Now, with this being the first uncommon/rare game I've reviewed, I want to stress that the price/value of a game will NOT affect the final score I give to the game. But I do want to discuss whether an uncommon/rare game is worth the cost to obtain it and what to consider if you want a copy yourself.
First off, the import version of this game can be obtained around the $30-40 mark. So if you have the means to play imports on your Saturn (which requires little more than an Action Replay cart, which can be obtained for around $30 on eBay), importing this game is a much more sensible move if you don't really care for the collectors value. The American version of this game is a whole nother story. Complete in-box, with the case and instructions, this game is a bank-breaker, going for over $300. Now, I didn't pay near that much for my own copy, but I also didn't get mine CiB. In fact, it's kind of stunning how much the case makes a difference, as the game can be obtained for under $100 without the case and instructions.
As for whether it's worth that price, it really depends. If you don't intend on exploring the multi-player aspects of the game, I'd argue the game isn't even worth it to import (especially if you don't already have the means to play imports). If you have a friend or family to play it with though, it would certainly be worth it to import. And of course, if you find it in the wild at a thrift store or flea market on the cheap, it's a no-brainer. I'd just recommend either finding friends with their own Saturn controllers or collecting the equipment for 10-player battles as you go instead of snagging everything at once (even though some eBay sellers will try to bundle everything needed into one auction).
In the end, Saturn Bomberman's greatness is reflected in how you play it. As a multiplayer game, it's a masterpiece that very few games have touched even to this day. As a single-player game, well...I'll just stick to Bomberman 64.
OVERALL – 4 out of 5
Welcome to Part 2 of a look at early online console gaming. Last time, we looked at the XBAND modem for the Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo. If you haven't checked that out yet, you can read it right here:
In 1996, the XBAND service was in high gear...OK, as high a gear as it was ever going to get. While Nintendo did give the item their official “Nintendo Seal of Quality”, they did little to push the product as a difference-maker for their system. While they didn't blatantly look the other way or denounce the product (like they would with products like the Game Genie and Gameshark), the XBAND modem was something Nintendo felt no need to applaud.
Sega, on the other hand, was more impressed with Catapult Entertainment's device. They pushed the product much harder than Nintendo, and Catapult knew this. A quick YouTube search for the XBAND promotional video that ran in Blockbuster stores shows that it features the Sega Genesis almost exclusively; Sega game boxes, a Genesis controller, “Tiny” even rips open an XBAND in a Genesis soft-box. Except for minimal blurbs about Nintendo and a handful of SNES-exclusive titles shown on the game roster near the end of the promo, the Sega branding is dominant.
This continued into the publication realm as well. Nintendo's own magazine, “Nintendo Power” would never advertise the XBAND modem within their pages even once. Whereas Sega's magazine “Sega Visions”, would advertise the product. On top of that, advertisements that appeared in third-party videogame magazines such as Electronic Gaming Monthly and GamePro also made the product seem like a brainchild of Sega's. The only modem shown was the Genesis model, the Sega Seal of Approval was shown within the advertisement, only games compatible with the Genesis model were listed within the ads. The only mention of a SNES XBAND modem would be something along the lines of “SNES coming soon” or “also available on SNES”.
This relationship between Catapult and Sega would build the backbone of the next step in online console gaming.
Entering late 1996, there were already telltale signs the Sega Saturn had its legs cut off from it. The Sony PlayStation had been an overwhelming surprise hit for the entire videogame industry, and with the success of late-gen classics like Donkey Kong Country and Super Mario RPG, Nintendo had bought itself a little more time to produce their next-gen system. However, Sega was well known for having technology on their side. You could almost fill an entire blog on the advances Sega made when they were in the console market, both ones that hit the market (Game Gear TV Tuner, Genesis Power Base Converter) and ones that were released in limited quantities or shelved outright (Dreamcast VMU MP3 player and a DVD player expansion). And they were about to unleash a huge step in their technological advances, a step that would send shockwaves through the console landscape that are still felt today.
Sega had called upon Catapult to assist them in the creation of the Saturn Netlink. This was the very first time a first-party modem was released for a videogame console, and was a technological step the PlayStation and even the eventual Nintendo 64 would never accomplish. At first glance, the stats seem underwhelming; it was limited to dial-up, and a 28.8 KBPS speed guaranteed it carried all the negatives people associate with dial-up connections. However, the service used a similar interface as the XBAND modem from the previous generation, both inside and out. The menus looked similar, and the servers were the same as well. This was actually seen as a positive, as the XBAND network was known for being very reliable. Though this made the item's price point seem strange. While the XBAND modem was originally just $20, the Saturn NetLink added another zero to the price; it sold at an MSRP of $200. Though it could also be obtained in a bundle with the Saturn itself for $400. Such a high price of entry stuck in the craw of many. Even though this price got you on the hook for the lifespan of the network, it's hard to imagine too many people today being willing to pay $200 up-front for online play with no option for monthly of annual payments.
Today the modem can be obtained for a rather inexpensive price; in my own experience I've found the device loose for under $10, and you can find one completely brand new for around $30-40. On top of that, there are also a few “game bundle” versions that include two compatible games with the modem, but those are rather uncommon and you'd be lucky to find the set under the three-digit price range. Even the short-case pack-in games themselves, "Sega Rally Championship NetLink Edition" and "Virtual On NetLink Edition" aren't the most common of games on the system. However, they're not in that "unreasonable" threshold and can be obtained for short of $50 each. If that price is too high for you to consider, you might wanna find a console to collect for other than the Sega Saturn.
Upon starting a NetLink compatible game with the modem inserted into the Saturn, a menu will pop up with three options: Traditional, QuickLink, and NetLink Zone. Choosing “Traditional” would simply start up the regular game as if the modem wasn't there at all. If you changed your mind and wanted to play online, you were required to reset the system and return to the NetLink screen. The NetLink Zone was a central hub where you could find public opponents and even chat in an IRC lobby setting. While this was the preferred method at the time, this service was shut down in 2001. However, the QuickLink option can allow for private matches; as long as you and your opponent have dial-up internet service and have the information required to connect to one another, you can face off in any NetLink compatible title. Now, notice how I spoke that last sentence in present-tense. That's correct, if you should still have access to a dial-up ISP, it's still entirely possible, in 2017, to take your Sega Saturn online. Hell, there's even a “PlanetWeb” web browser that still works, though with the evolution in webpage design and technologies (as well as the NetLink being able to churn no faster than 28.8 KBPS), it's not an optimal way to browse the web.
And while setting it up might be a lot of work (there are other ways rather than using a dial-up ISP, though I won't pretend to know all the details, nor would I bore you with them here), the SaturnLeague website is seen as the leading place to find opponents for NetLink games. While it's not the most hopping of message boards on the web, it might be worth seeing if there's worthwhile opponents before you try to gather the equipment to try it out.
Another way the Saturn stepped up from the Genesis XBAND was with the game lineup. The pickings were actually very slim, considering how many companies had abandoned the Saturn and how steep the entry price was. But the variety was much better, compared to the all-sport and fighting lineup of the Genesis.
If you bought the game bundle edition of the NetLink, you got a NetLink compatible version of Sega Rally right out of the box. This was considered one of Sega's finest entries in the racing game genre, and the NetLink allowed 2-player races. Collisions would be disabled, which limited the races to just head-to-head time trials, but the game pretty much ensured both players were getting the full, uninhibited game with a live ghost racer to compare against. While this is a far cry from Trackmania's hundreds of simultaneous ghost racers, it was decent enough execution.
The bundle also included the cult arcade classic, “Virtual On”, a mech battle game that is widely considered to be a fantastic game if you can wrap your mind around the controls (or obtain one of the game's signature twin-stick controllers). The online mode worked pretty much equivalent to the offline multiplayer; each player would pick a mech and throw down in a best two-out-of-three match in a selection of arenas.
I'd say more, but this is a game I sincerely hope to obtain and review in the future. Gotta leave something in the tank.
Another noteworthy title was Duke Nukem 3D, one of only two NetLink compatible titles that didn't require a specific "NetLink Edition" for it to be compatible. This would make Duke Nukem 3D the first official console First-Person Shooter to include online play, a feature that is a staple in FPS games in this day and age. And one has to wonder if maybe the developers, 3D Realms, knew this would be a big hit. Connecting via NetLink allowed players to not only access a full deathmatch suite (unlike the SNES Doom on XBAND where ammo didn't respawn and options were minimal), but full co-op play through the otherwise single-player campaign was possible too.
The last game we shall cover in this section is worth mentioning for a major reason. That game is “Daytona USA Championship Circuit Edition NetLink Edition”, often referred as “Daytona USA CCE NetLink Edition” to avoid the redundant use of the word “Edition”. This game was sold exclusively through Sega's online store, and no advertisement or mention of the game's existence was made upon release. These factors have made this title not only the rarest game on the Sega Saturn (a noteworthy crown for a console rich in uncommon/rare games), but the rarest title Sega has ever released. This title is rarely available even on eBay, to the point that price-charting the game or viewing sold listings is often a fruitless endeavor. It also doesn't help that the only distinctions in its presentation are a logo on the disc and a NetLink booklet included in the box. In 2013, a copy of this game sold for just short of $2,000. Because of this, speaking of its online execution is to speak in mere speculation, as it would be almost impossible for two people to play legitimate copies of this online anymore. Maybe there's a couple of millionaires playing it between one another or some hooplah like that. But if by some act you should stumble across this at a thrift store or flea market, you'd be in the presence of a Sega collector's holy grail. Just.....don't make the common “Stadium Events”/”World Class Track Meet” switcharoo.
I understand I'm leaving out one major exception to the lineup, a very well renowned Saturn game. It's an entry in a franchise known for multiplayer greatness, and many consider this entry in the series to be THE crown jewel of the franchise.
Online gaming is a megaforce. The Playstation 4 and X-Box One rely on their online infrastructure so heavily, that many games will not function at all without a high-speed online connection. Gamers gladly fork over $50 a year (at least) to play online with/against friends and other online players. Many gamers will weigh the online functionality before buying a new current-generation console. It wasn't long ago that playing online was considered just an extra feature, and before that it was a novelty that only knowledgeable PC gamers seemed to get the opportunity to experience.
Before online gaming arrived at the point it's at now, the previous console generation started the heavy reliance on network capabilities. Sony's Playstation 3, Microsoft's X-Box 360, and Nintendo's Wii were all capable of updating the system's firmware, which allowed for enhanced security and downloading of games through networks. Before that, the original X-Box and Playstation 2 had optional online features, with Microsoft first introducing its “X-Box Live” initiative, which has become the model for how to base online console gaming. Sega's Dreamcast was the first console to come included with a dial-up modem that made online gaming readily available (or at least, when they launched the service proper some months after the Dreamcast's launch).
However, online gaming on a console was available even before this point. And while it didn't take the world by storm like X-Box Live did, for anyone with the equipment, the money (or cool enough parents to foot the bill), and the right games, it was possible to play online well beforehand.
The first of these devices to allow for online gaming via console was the XBAND modem. It was available for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis near the end of 1994. While this was close to the end of the Genesis and Super Nintendo's life cycles (although the SNES would soon get a second life when “Donkey Kong Country” arrived), this was definitely a product that was well ahead of its time. But as you'll find out here (and as is common in the gaming industry even to this day), sometimes it takes an innovative martyr to “start” the fire before the industry begins to truly feel the heat.
During the mid 90s, the concept of online gaming in general was still foreign to many. There were LAN parties for PC gamers, and some PC games were playable over an internet connection (or at least could be modded to allow such things). But this is the mid 90s we're talking about. Arcades were still a massive draw, and console ports of any arcade game fell well below what the genuine arcade article presented. This was considered the premiere “social” form of gaming, unlike today's voice-chat enabled, screenshot and footage sharing form. So Catapult Entertainment, the developers of the XBAND modem, had an uphill battle that might seem strange to gamers unfamiliar with this era in gaming; they had to convince people that the arcade was out, and online gaming was in.
To its credit, the XBAND modem sold for a fairly cheap price. The device was merely $20, and Blockbuster stores would even throw in 4 free game rentals, the cost of which would actually cover the cost of the modem. I find this stunning even today, considering that the device we'll discuss next week, the Sega Saturn Net-Link modem, sold for $200 at launch. On top of this, there were two pricing choices for using the XBAND modem. One offered 50 “connections” for all users on a console (4 maximum) for $4.95 a month, or unlimited connections for $9.95/month. A “connection” would be used not only when finding an opponent to play online, but when accessing newsletters (one would provide gaming news, while another would provide leaderboards and contest announcements, though it was possible to view these statistics on the XBAND website as well) or downloading e-mail (I'm sorry, “XMAIL”). Past this fee, it was free to play against other players as long as they were within local calling range. There was an option included to allow long-distance connections (in case you wanted to play a friend or relative far away) that cost $3.95 an hour.
Now, up to this point it sounds like the product was a slam-dunk winner. Being able to play 16-bit classics online against other local opponents?!? Man, jumping on some 2-player Sonic the Hedgehog matches or co-oping come Super Mario World sounds like a surefire recipe for a winner! In fact, Nintendo even officially licensed the XBAND for its Super Nintendo console, which was itselff rather newsworthy. To this day, Nintendo has never officially licensed any other external product used to connect online. This thing must sound like a no-brainer, and would bring about a new age in videogaming.
Hold the phone there, cochise. It's not that easy.
Genesis and SNES games were never made with the device in mind, save for one; a fighting game known as “Weaponlord” that, while cited as the basis for the Soul Blade/Calibur series, would never step out of the long shadow cast by Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter II. Because of this, Catapult Entertainment had to reverse-engineer each game they wanted to use on the service. The modem would “trick” the game into thinking Player 2 was right there in the room with their controller hooked up to the console, when in reality, Player 2 was on an entirely different console somewhere else. This is what's commonly known as “client-side”. An easy way to imagine it is to just imagine any of the compatible games in 2-player mode, except Player 2 has a REALLY long cord on their controller and their own way of seeing the screen. And while it was possible for a hosting player to simply choose 1-player mode and force the opponent to watch, it was possible for either player to “plug pull”, or pull the phone line from the console, forcing a disconnection. The XBAND had no way of knowing the circumstances for the lost connection or even who's connection failed, it only knew that the connection failed. Therefore, it was impossible to punish players that plug pulled, whether they were being trolled by a host or just getting their butts kicked.
This meant, while the games included were pretty major hits, the compatible lineup was pretty slim. If you owned a Sega Genesis and wanted to play something other than sports or fighting games, you were pretty much screwed. I'm sorry, did I say “pretty much”? I didn't mean to cast a ray of hope. No, you were screwed. EA's lineup of sports games (between the NBA Live, NHL, and Madden NFL franchises), Midway's NBA Jam, the 16-bit Mortal Kombat trilogy of games, Super Street Fighter II, Primal Rage, and the aforementioned Weaponlord were your only options. To be fair, these were monstrously popular games on the Sega Genesis, so it's hard to argue against the games that were chosen, aside from variety.
On the SNES, the lineup was a little more varied. Multiplayer Doom was possible on the device, which was as close as a console could get to the PC experience for some time. Kirby's Avalanche provided a fast-paced puzzle game to face off in. And Super Mario Kart was a major hitter in the lineup, allowing players to face off in any multiplayer mode the game had to offer. This was along with much of the Sega Genesis lineup, including EA's sports lineup and the 2nd and 3rd Mortal Kombat games. Also included in the catalog of games was the SNES exclusive “Killer Instinct”, Nintendo and Rareware's take on the arcade fighting genre. The SNES XBAND even included compatibility for The Legend of Zelda; A Link to the Past. Now, the idea of multiplayer Zelda might sound too good to be true. Unfortunately, it was too good to be true. Connecting with this game in the XBAND modem would unlock a maze game hidden within the modem, where the winner would be the first to reach the finish line. This game was also accessible by entering a special code, but using the code method would only allow for local play.
The XBAND though, was not long for the world. Only truly hitting its stride in Mid-1995, at this point the 16 bit consoles were already starting to falter. The PS1 and Sega Saturn were already close to release, and Nintendo's post-SNES console was already looming in the shadows (despite the SNES receiving a strong second wind in the form of “Donkey Kong Country”). By early 1997, Catapult only allowed connections to local players and disabled long-distance play outright. Shortly after that, Catapult shut down the XBAND network.
It's often cited that a lack of popularity led to the downfall of the service, but as to why the service wasn't popular is often debated. Some believed the miniscule amount of advertising played a role; unless you rented games often from a Blockbuster store participating in selling the XBAND or had a subscription to a third-party gaming magazine, you probably heard little-to-nothing of it. Others believed that only being able to tack the XBAND brand on only one game (Weaponlord) kept the hype down, and if they had been able to advertise it on EA's sport titles, it could have spread the word a little better. At its prime, the XBAND had around 15,000 players. Another cited reason was the discovery of an exploit where a recording of the dialtones used by the XBAND modem to connect to Catapult's servers could be used to dial long-distance and leave Catapult Entertainment to foot the bill for those calls.
Today, it's not diffficult to find an XBAND modem, even one still in its original shrinkwrap packaging. However, they are about as good at playing online as they are at being shot glasses. With the modems requiring a connection to Catapult's XBAND network in order to function, directly connecting to another player is impossible. And it makes a mind like mine wonder..........how much would games like Kirby's Avalanche, the Genesis port of Mortal Kombat, or even EA's yearly sports titles go for today if it was still possible to play them online? Hell, the mere idea of playing someone online in a round of Super Mario Kart makes me itch for the mid 90s.
This has been Part 1 of my look at early online console gaming. However, you won't have to wait long for Part 2. Next Wednesday, we will look at Sega's contributions to online console gaming; the Sega Channel and the Sega Saturn NetLink. See y'all there.