Author

Bob Strauss

Based on the popular, fight-filled videogame for the Sega Saturn and Sony PlayStation, this Japanese-produced adaptation of Battle Arena Toshinden labors mightily to infuse a cast of motley combatants (the elderly Fo, the insane Chaos, and the prepubescent Ellis) with mythical appeal. But by the end, when a dozen or so warriors crowd onto the small screen to fight the forces of evil, even die-hard game players will have a hard time understanding what’s going on.

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Movie marketing turns to the Internet

Movie marketing turns to the Internet

Now that the movie trailer has been effectively ruined as an art form — the average coming attraction lasts three minutes, blithely reveals every major plot twist, and gives you the vague feeling that you’ve already seen the flick for which it’s supposed to whet your appetite — it’s up to promotional websites to add some anticipatory zing to Hollywood’s offerings.

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A few years ago, the bigwigs at Microsoft noticed that some canny game companies — such as Origin, with its Wing Commander series — were capturing a big chunk of the PC software market that rightfully belonged to Bill Gates. So the company spent tens of millions to create its own high-tech game division, and the result is discs like Hellbender — a futuristic, heavy-on-the-weaponry air-combat simulator that approximates the level of Wing Commander III (released two years ago).

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Blue Velvet, Leave It to Beaver, and the Friday the 13th series are some of the allusions that come to mind while playing this truly weird adventure game. Assuming the role of an amnesiac small-town teenager in the ’50s, you get mixed up with a mysterious cult, predatory aliens, and neighbors who rant and rave about meat, Communists, and shotgun weddings. (How over-the-top is Harvester?

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Two new Disney products

Two new Disney products

To quote the Borg from Star Trek: First Contact, when it comes to Disney’s merchandising juggernaut, ”resistance is futile.” Thankfully, it’s also unnecessary, at least as evidenced by these two discs. In Disney’s Activity Center: Toy Story, tykes can play imaginative, impeccably computer-animated activity games, engage in point-and-click silliness, and even visit the evil Sid’s room to mix and match doll parts under the tutelage of Spider Baby.

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Equal parts Umberto Eco novel, Masonic initiation, and Psychic Friends Network, this three-disc mishmash of astrology, reincarnation, ancient astronauts, and gnostic philosophy tries to be so many things at once that it sometimes amounts to nothing at all (the slow-loading point-and-click action often produces seconds-long blank screens). Drowned God: Conspiracy of the Ages is the logical apotheosis of the endless quest to build a bigger and better Myst.

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Tom Clancy's Real Patriot Game

Ask Tom Clancy why he decided to climb aboard a submarine-combat CD-ROM game, and he offers a typically jingoistic explanation. ”It’s a new world to conquer,” says the author of The Hunt for Red October and other hugely successful techno-thrillers that (according to the notoriously cantankerous novelist) have been imperfectly translated to the big screen. Unlike movies, ”you get to set the parameters” on CD-ROM, Clancy says. ”I don’t know how to do the ones and zeroes, but the whole process went very smoothly.”

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The Risque Business of 'Riana Rouge'

A dozen years ago, after graduating high school in her native Atlanta, Gillian Bonner was faced with an unusual decision: attend Southern Methodist University for a degree in computer engineering or wing off to New York to become a model. She chose the latter, but today — after a career that’s seen her appear in ads for Guess? jeans, start and sell a mail-order PC company, and grace the pages of Playboy’s ”Women of the Internet” issue as Miss April 1996 — she’s finally hit on a way to combine her two passions.

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Videogame Reviews: Making movies on PCs

Videogame Reviews: Making movies on PCs

In the cold, often cruel world of Hollywood, few stories are more heartwarming than that of the $100 million, lavishly hyped, crassly calculated epic that gets its butt kicked at the box office by an indie flick whose astonishingly small budget was charged to Mom and Dad’s credit card. That same maxim, appropriately enough, applies to the emerging genre of make-your-own-movie CD-ROMs.

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