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Holiday 2000 Console Buying Guide

For those under the age of 18, December has to be a highlight. You kids get the works - a few weeks off from school and plenty of treats from friends and family. That's right. It's Holiday Season 2000. For big kids such as myself Christmas comes every day, thanks to a steady job. But for the rest of you unlucky souls who have to depend on the generosity of mom and dad during this part of the calendar, it's time to put those gift lists together. Console gamers have to be absolutely ecstatic over the many possibilities awaiting them this Holiday Season. No matter your platform of choice, there are bountiful gifts to be had. Just read on to discover what's worthy of your attention.

Purchase of the Season - Sega Dreamcast Sports Bundle, $169.99
Parents can't find a PS2 yet? No bother. The absolute best bargain in console hardware comes from Sega. Yeah they blew chunks with the Saturn, but the Dreamcast is a whole different beast. With a decent sports library (particularly for racing fans), the Dreamcast Sports Bundle would be my first choice. Why? Well, I'm glad you asked. How does a jet black Dreamcast sound? If there weren't enough, Sega is kind enough to toss in 2 games, NFL2K and NBA2K. Sure they're from last year, but they are still a blast to play. Soon enough you'll be saying "Madden who?"

The Games
If $170 is stretching the budget a little too much, there is no reason to despair. There are plenty of great games on every console.


    Madden 2001/EA Sports - The perennial pro football winner on the PlayStation. The addition of the Madden cards has been known to cause addiction to the game in some gamers. If you've played Madden before, you know what to expect. If you haven't, expect a nice simulation of the game.

    NCAA Football 2001/EA Sports - The college equivalent of Madden, NCAA packs incredible atmosphere into a CD sized platter. Featuring similar play to Madden, NCAA is a favorite among football fans. While not as good as editions past, this one still holds its own against the competition.

    Triple Play 2001/EA Sports - EA is batting cleanup with their latest baseball title. Combining both arcade and sim elements, TP2001 clears the bases.

    MLB 2001/989 Sports - If the baseball purist in you wants more meat, MLB 2001 is made to order. While not as pretty graphically, the game scores runs for replay value. An extensive franchise mode lets you play general manager. Now doesn't worrying about salary arbitration sound like fun?

    NBA Live 2001/EA Sports - Think what you will, EA does have its share of fine games. Compared to the competition from 989 this year, the basketball title goes to NBA Live. Featuring exciting arcade action, the game is fast and furious fun.

    ISS Pro Evolution/MLS GameNight/Konami - Sports Gaming threw these two reviews in together. And for good reason. Both are based on the acclaimed ISS engine, which many consider the best in the biz. Footy fans can't go wrong with either title. If you want to mimic the American MLS season, the obvious choice is MLS. For a more worldly view, ISS Pro Evolution can't be beat for its realism. Footy fans rejoice.

    Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX/Acclaim - Following the success of Tony Hawk, Acclaim one-ups the competition. Moving from skateboards to BMX bikes, Dave Mirra BMX puts you behind the handlebars where you'll complete radical stunts. If you liked Hawk, you'll like Mirra.

    Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2/Activision - Not one to rest on their laurels, the crew behind Tony Hawk followed up the successful inaugural title with one with even more depth. You won't be disappointed with this one or the budget priced original.

    Knockout Kings 2001/EA Sports - The best boxing title released to date on the PlayStation, KK2001 puts you right in the action. Choose any of the licensed boxers past or present or create one modeled after yourself. Even watch girls fight!

    Jarrett & Labonte Stock Car Racing/Codemasters - I know what you're thinking. A bunch of hillbillies driving around in circles. Forget that notion. Rather, expect incredible physics while you drive around on many road courses.

Nintendo 64
Ouch. If you though sports gaming was rough with an N64, just look at this year. Though the titles are appearing like rain in the desert, there were a few good titles this year.

    All-Star Baseball 2001/Acclaim - Probably the best-playing baseball game on the market, ASB 2001 is one fine baseball simulation. The graphics match the quality of the gameplay. It's your only option, and fortunately it's a good one.

    Madden NFL 2001/EA Sports - What can you say? Take your pick - Madden or QB Club. Yeah, that's what I thought.

    Mario Tennis/Nintendo - At least the big N is doing its part to keep their system alive. The cartoony Mario Tennis has fun and addictive play that's a snap to pick up.

    Excitebike64/Nintendo - A classic rehashed. Aside from last year's Supercross Circuit on the PSX from 989, motocross and supercross games have been pathetic. Nintendo saves face with the wonderful Excitebike64.

    San Francisco Rush 2049/Midway - The great arcade game makes its way to the home. With plenty of hidden paths and extreme competition, Rush 2049 is an adrenaline pumping game.

    Advice - No, it's not a game. But if you are serious about sports games, I hope you have another medium besides the N64. Expand those horizons. The best thing about advice? It's free.


    NFL2K1/Sega - The best console football game on the planet. The atmosphere beats out the incredible NCAA Football 2001 from EA. That's saying something. Great AI makes this a game for the ages. Throw in intense online play against a complete stranger and you've got a game for two ages. It's that good.

    NBA2K1/Sega - While the gameplay is mostly intact from last year's NBA2K, the online component makes this game yet another keeper. In addition, the game features classic players from the past. Now you can put Russell up against Shaq and see who's best. The 2-on-2 (or 3-on-3 and 4-on-4) options make this game an even better buy.

    NHL2K/Sega - Sure it game out way back at the beginning of the year, but this game is the best hockey sim around. The pace is perfect. Its only flaw comes from tough-playing goalies. If you need a hockey fix, this is the only place you'll get it on the Dreamcast.

    Virtua Tennis/Sega - One word: Buy. Tennis was never so easy. The incredibly addictive gameplay will keep you up until the wee hours of the morning. The arcade translation is nearly perfect, and the inclusion of unique mini-games in the career mode makes Virtua Tennis a classic.

    Striker Pro 2000/Infogrames - Soccer has been weak so far on the Dreamcast. Fortunately, Striker Pro 2000 is a nice footy package. Playing similarly to the ISS series, Striker Pro is more sim than arcade in play.

    Ferrari 355/Sega - Whoa! F355 chews Gran Turismo and spits it out. If you are looking for a serious driving simulation, look no further. This is the absolute finest driving simulation on any console. It's you against 7 other similarly performing Ferraris. If you take the time to learn how to drive it, you'll regard this game as the best driving game you've ever played.

    Ultimate Fighting Championship/Crave - Why no wrasslin' titles yet? Wrasslin' ain't no sport. It's all acting. UFC guys, on the other hand, are tough. Get in the octagon in this licensed game. The simple controls let you command a hybrid boxing/wrestling game.

    Sega GT/Sega - Sega's answer to Sony's Gran Turismo, Sega GT does a fine job at recreating the GT experience. While some of the physics may be suspect at times, there's no denying that this game has the depth to keep you playing for hours on end.

    San Francisco Rush 2049/Midway - While Rush 2049 looks good on the N64, it looks fabulous on the Dreamcast. With near arcade quality graphics, the fast-paced racing is captured fully. One of the best arcade racers on the Dreamcast.

    Test Drive Le Mans/Infogrames - The best bargain in this whole list. At only $30 new, Le Mans is addictive due to its simple handling and intense racing. The graphics are nothing short of spectacular, and the sound puts you right smack dab in the field of the race. For the strong, the game features a full 24-hour race (fortunately you can save during pit stops). While not the best driving sim, this game ranks near the top in racing games.

    Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 or 2/Activision - Both game out this year, and either will fill your skateboarding fix. What more can be said about this game that hasn't already been said?

    Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX/Acclaim - Just like the PlayStation version, only prettier.

    Jet Grind Radio/Sega -While not a direct competitor to Hawk, this skateboarding game is fun with a capital "F." Avoid the law as you spray paint graffiti across the city.

    Tokyo Xtreme Racer 2/Crave - The sequel to the sleeper launch hit comes loaded with more miles of highway than you can possibly imagine. With the same play as last year's version, TXR2 is more of the same. Just more of it.

PlayStation 2
Lucky enough to get a PS2 already or are expecting one as a gift? Well, pat yourself on the back. Unfortunately, with any new system there is a general lack of titles. Sports fans, however, can still find a few titles to cherish.

    Madden 2001/EA Sports - Madden has the best visuals you'll see on a console football game. The game is loaded with options and retains the excellent franchise mode of the PlayStation version. While the passing game is a little too easy, it makes for a fast-paced contest. The only sensible choice for a football title on the PS2.

    NHL 2001/EA Sports - All we can say is that the PS2 version is much better than the PSX version. The game plays with a fairly realistic pace. The game lacks a franchise mode, and sim fans may be put off by the arcade nature of the game. Nonetheless, it's pretty fun.

    SSX/EA Sports - One of the must-buy titles for the PS2, this snowboarder mixes speed with somersaults. To make it down the course effectively, you'll have to perform outrageous stunts. The more outrageous the trick, the faster you go. You need to bring your "A" game if you want to succeed here.

    Ready 2 Rumble Round 2/Midway - Making his first appearance on the PS2, Afro Thunder comes at you with all his mates for some over-the-top arcade boxing action. With more depth and difficulty than the initial PSX version of the game, this graphical beauty should hold you over until sims like Knockout Kings arrive.

There you have it. No doubt some great titles are missing. There are just so many great games these days. Whether you like traditional or non-traditional sports titles, you can't go wrong with any of these titles. And with more titles to come in 2001 and beyond, now is the time to be a sports gamer.

By: James Smith 12/12/00

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