Game Zone: ESPN NFL Football, Alter Echo, Pokemon Pinball: Ruby & Sapphire

By Jae-Ha Kim and Misha Davenport
Chicago Sun-Times
September 12, 2003

ESPN NFL FOOTBALL (Sega, E for Everyone, Xbox)

It’s no “Madden” but you gotta give Sega’s “ESPN NFL Football” props for being innovative. The game puts players where they’ve never been before: in a first-person viewpoint that shows the field from the inside of your helmet. It’s a perspective that takes some getting used to, but it’s especially wicked when playing bone-crushing defense. Graphically, “ESPN” actually bests “Madden” in players’ facial renderings. The game also benefits from the great use of the ESPN license, which brings the cable network’s SportsCenter to your console.  It may be a rookie franchise when compared with “Madden,” but “ESPN NFL Football” is one rookie with promise. –Misha Davenport 

ALTER ECHO (THQ, T for Teen, PlayStation 2)

It is the future and if you’re a shaper, you’ve got it made. Using a substance called plast, shapers may create anything they want-like weapons of mass destruction, space-age style. You play as a fledgling shaper named Nevin. It’s your mission to stop power-hungry Paavo from trying to wipe out the human race with an uber substance he has developed called echoplast. Like the power of the ring in “The Lord of the Rings,” this echoplast is heavy stuff. The cartoon-style graphics aren’t up to anime standards, but they’re not bad. The thumping music is well suited for the game and the voices are appropriately theatrical. “Alter Echo” will provide plenty of fun, especially if you’re a good combat fighter. –Jae-Ha Kim

POKEMON PINBALL: RUBY & SAPPHIRE (Nintendo, E for Everyone, Game Boy Advance)

Just how easy is Nintendo’s latest pinball game? Apologies to The Who, but a deaf, dumb and blind kid could still play a mean Pokemon. The pinball is the familiar red and white “monster ball” used to catch Pokemon. Hit targets or run certain ramps and you unleash one of 200 Pokemon that you then need to hit three times with your ball before the timer runs out. Pinball enthusiasts will miss such game standards as multi-ball and the ability to tilt if you nudge the board too much. Worst of all, the popular, yellow character Pikachu is completely wasted as a left and right alley ball saver. –Misha Davenport 

CHICAGO’S TOP 10 

The hottest games sold in Chicago on amazon.com last week:

1. Madden NFL 2004    PlayStation 2

2. Madden NFL 2004 Xbox

3. Final Fantasy: Tactics Advance    Game Boy Advance

4. Soul Caliber II    GameCube

5. Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Chaos Bleeds    Xbox

6. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City    PlayStation 2

7. F-Zero GX    GameCube

8. Silent Hill 3    PlayStation 2

9. All Star Baseball 2004    GameCube

10. MLB Slugfest 20-04    GameCube

Biz bytes

Let’s just say Activision is having a Marvel-ous year. Activision has not only inked a deal that gives the company exclusive use of Marvel Comics’ “Spider-Man,” “X-Men,” “Fantastic Four” and “Iron Man” franchises through 2009, it also has signed Stan Lee–the comic book writing legend who created many of the characters–to consult on future video games based on his characters.

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