A Whole New Playing Field
New game console technologies have resulted in more than pretty graphics; they have allowed for a wider variety of gaming genres -- simulations, puzzle solving, fantasy, and role-play. One major reason has been a vast increase in data storage capabilities.
Nintendo 64, which debuted in 1996, relied on cartridges that contained less than 48 megabytes of data. By contrast, today's PlayStation 2 and Xbox read DVD-ROMs that hold 4.3 gigabytes of data, and GameCube reads mini-DVDs that store 1.5 gigabytes.
This extra space enables designers to insert storage-hogging audio and digital video files into games. Role-playing games like Summoner from THQ, about a boy who collects rings that help him battle evil, employ audio and video files to create extensive cinematic sequences that advance the game's story line. Programmers can also convert storage into bigger worlds or additional levels. Games like Jak and Daxter, for instance, take place in vast and intricate environments such as swamps, mountains, and even undersea cities, all of which appear in more exquisite detail than ever before.
As a result, games are getting not only prettier but more ambitious. Take Final Fantasy X, an interactive adventure story made for PlayStation 2 that merges fantasy, romance, and science fiction. This is not just the typical fighting-shooting-driving fare. In this game, players steer a star-crossed couple, Tidus and Yuna, through futuristic, pageantry-filled vistas where they explore, solve puzzles, make allies, and defend themselves against monsters. Final Fantasy X is a modern fairy tale that looks like a movie and interacts like a video game.
Another game born from the recent burst of processor power and designer creativity is the odd and original Pikmin. In this game, players take on the role of an astronaut who has crashed on an alien planet. Though he is helpless on his own, he can cultivate the aid of "pikmin," adorable little plant people who can be put to work solving problems and hunting for parts from the broken spaceship. And in Ka, a game for PlayStation 2 that's currently available only in Japan, the player views the game world from the perspective of a mosquito flitting around a woman's apartment.