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Weigh My Fish

Hi everybody,

We have decided to try and provide the forum with monthly updates to let you all know how the project is coming along. For our first update of 2018, Italia64 has sent me an extensive article to post and apologises for not being as active here as he used to be, but I'm sure you can understand that it's for a good reason. Here's what he had to say about what goes into one of our reviews:

Why Isn't the Book Finished Yet?

This is a very understandable question that I'm sure a few people have. Every Monday - Friday, I spend up to 12 hours working at my new job where I have the position of project manager, which comes with a lot of responsibilities and even more stress. So, as you can imagine, during the week my free time is very limited, basically when I'm not sleeping I'm working on the book. God bless the weekends, where I can spend more than 10 hours a day doing what I love, playing N64 and writing the reviews. Considering all the hours we put in the book would probably already be on the shelves, but our ambitions have continued to grow from what I first had in mind back in February 2017. Everything is now more detailed and professional but sadly the trade-off is the pace at which we can finish each review.

Researching the Review.

Throughout December I decided to tackle all 12 basketball games on the system. For many gamers, the old sports sims are rather unappealing, outdated and can be regarded as useless, I can see this point of view however I couldn't disagree with it more. I consider myself a soccer expert as well as an N64 soccer games expert, so every time I read soccer game reviews I get frustrated that they are leaving things out, or all too often, giving out inaccurate information. While it has been easy for me to avoid these plagues with my soccer reviews for the book, it has been an issue with basketball. In fact, I have never played it, nor was I ever really a fan of the sport.

However, with N-Cyclopedia 64, we aim to give the same meticulous attention to every game, be it a Mario or a Zelda, or a cheap sports title, so reviewing these games would require much more research than normal. In one month I started to learn about the NBA history, gradually assimilating the teams, players, statistics and everything related. During those few short weeks I had become addicted to the NBA. I started watching documentaries and classic highlights about Pistol Pete, Drazen Petrovic, Latrell Sprewell, Tracy McGrady, Vince Carter, along with literally dozens of other players I hadn't heard about before. I have even watched entire final matches, such as games 3 and 6 of Miami Heat vs Dallas Mavericks 2006, and game 1 of the 2001 finals when Allen Iverson let the 76ers fans dream big.

Alongside all of this, I was researching each game in turn in our usual way. That is to pour through all the existing reviews I can get my hands on and absorb as much as possible from them. As well as using old magazines and contemporary websites to go through the development history of the game. I strive for every single review we do to be the best out there, providing the reader with a vastly detailed account of the game that is concisely contained to a page or two, whilst ensuring that everything we print is entirely accurate.

Playing Through the Game.

When playing each game for review, we don't just whack it on “easy” and play for ten minutes, we aim to complete it properly. Sadly, we just don't have the time to 100% every game, poor Shellshocker has spent the last few months slowly grinding his way through the Japanese RPG Shiren 2, but we do complete most, and certainly play the games until we have gotten as much as we can get from them. For the ten basketball sim games, I literally spent hundreds of hours playing and checking every feature to be as thorough as possible. NBA Jam 2000 in particular, was a long journey. I beat all the 29 teams in arcade 2 vs 2 mode, just in order to unlock secret body types and every court. Another example of us going above and beyond was when danilochka amazingly unearthed the roster update download for NBA Live 99 that EA once hosted on their website long ago. The idea was that you could add the update to your controller pak by using a DexDrive and it would give you all the official line-ups for the season due to the game releasing during the 1998-99 lockout. Eagle-eyed fans of each game may be able to pick up on these kind of details with the screenshots we include.

Once we have beaten a game, that doesn't mean we stop there. Usually the first version of a game we play is the USA release, if one exists, but then we also check all the known ROM updates and versions for other markets. All the time we are discovering little, and sometimes not so little, differences between these N64 versions. When required, we also compare versions of the game released for other consoles, in the case of the basketball games, I compared them to their PS1 counterparts, and I can confirm, in most cases, we definitely got the better deal there.

Writing the Review.

By going the extra mile at the research stage, it really helps us to give an informed analysis of each game. Of course, gaining knowledge about the sport has been especially useful to me when it comes to games like NBA Courtside 2 Featuring Kobe Bryant, where the AI is particularly challenging on the hardest difficulty. You try to make 3 pointers with your best shooter, try to use the raw power with big men, rely on passing and dribbling with the skilful players, etc. Having learned all the real NBA play calls, I now know which games faithfully replicate them and which don't. When I reviewed Fox Sports College Hoops '99 I spent a whole day just learning about the NCAA and, as real names aren't in the game, trying to understand what were the future NBA drafted players of the game.

As English is my second language, the other guys go through my reviews to ensure nothing has gotten lost in translation and that my grammar is correct. No64DD also helped me find the best way to put forward my concepts and the right b-ball terminology to use as he is a fan of the sport; go Spurs!

What's Next?

Now that all the basketball games are done and dusted I have set myself a new challenge; to review all 13 NFL games this February. With Super Bowl LII having just happened, I feel like now is the perfect time for this mammoth task. I also promise that I will do my best to provide the same level of care and attention that I've so far used for the soccer and basketball game reviews. I just hope my girlfriend won't be too annoyed that I'll be playing some old American football game this Valentine's Day.
Edited by danilochka, Feb 10 2018, 06:32 AM.
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