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E32001: First Details - Propeller Arena
Online play, voice chat, classic planes? This AM2 game has it all!

May 17, 2001 - Sega is showcasing AM2 and Yu Suzuki's Propeller Arena: Aviation Battle Championship in playable form at its closed-off E 3booth. We haven't had a chance to sink our teeth into the game, but what we saw from afar certainly managed to impress. We'll be back with full gameplay impressions shortly, but we thought we'd provide a few facts on the game as revealed by Sega's press materials.

Propeller Arena: Aviation Battle Online takes place in the year 2045 and focuses on a series of nostalgic flight contests set within futuristic settings. You chose a character and join up with a flight team, then take off for some promised intense aerial combat action.

Flight in this game is pure arcade style, with simple control, power meters, special moves and continuous power. To get you used to the gameplay, AM2 is planning on including some "outrageous" mini games. We can imagine the forms these games will take, although they probably won't be crazy ala Crazy Taxi (this game isn't really crazy).

Online play seems to be the main focus. AM2 is equipping Propeller Arena with spport for up to six simultaneous Online players in team or battle royal modes. Like the upcoming Alien Front Online ,Propeller Arena will feature in-game voice chat allowing you to communicate with your squadron and bad mouth your opponents. Sega tells us that the game will ship with the microphone included (in addition, we presume, to a package without the microphone).

Look forward to full impressions of this game shortly, and check out this story for screenshots.

- Anoop Gantayat , Contributor


August 21, 2001 -UPDATED: 08-21-2001 Sometimes, I wish the video game would merge with reality. More specifically, it would be pretty dandy to have a real-life WWII dog-fighting tournament where no one gets hurt just like Propeller Arena . Of course, it would be pretty darn difficult to have floating icons that power-up your airplane. But hey, that's what the Dreamcast is for and if the thought of blasting aerial buddies with an assortment of artillery online, while talking trash as they parachute down sounds appealing, welcome to the AM2's Propeller Arena set to release later this month.

Select from eight different characters piloting five different World War II aircrafts: P-51 Mustangs, P-38 Lightnings, Supermarine Spitfires, and the Messerschmitt Bf109. Of course, each plane has their own attributes in speed, power, and armor, but each pilot has their own set of skills that will definitely make a difference when engaging several enemies at a time. While there are a few different battle modes, all revolve around the same idea: shooting down as many planes as you can within the time limit. Just like any deathmatch game, if you get shot down, you will automatically be reappear in a random part of the arena to battle again. Each of the arenas take place in all sorts of places ranging from clear blue skies, huge canyons laid upon a sunset backdrop, and even a stormy night around a mountainous castle surroundings. There's no real boundaries in these areas, but you are required to stay within the arena; if you fly out of the boundary, the computer will automatically take control of your plane and turn you around.

Having played the game a great deal, I'm quite surprised that there's more than just reenacting your favorite Top Gun scenes in this game. First off, there's great deal of items to pick up that range from three different classes. Weapon icons are the red floating icons that can give players better machinegun fire, multiple missiles to fire, or even a gigantic homing missile that slow trails the targeted plane. Yellow area effect items can freeze every other players controls temporarily, or reverse the controls of your opposing planes. Then there are the green help items that repair the damage to your plane, speeds up your plane, or even gives your aircraft better armor. These are just some of the items found floating in the sky, but you shouldn't totally rely on them to win a match; they don't appear that frequently and with up to six other opponents. So, you have to rely on your own piloting and aiming skills. With that in mind, it's a must that you keep your eye on three meters: POW, Speed, and Damage. Speed obviously measures how fast you're flying, and damage keeps track of how much damage you've taken. The POW meter measures how much "juice" you have left to pull tricks; in order to perform a trick, you perform a motion with the Analog pad and press the trick button (X). For example, to perform an ascending loop, you would press down, up, and the X button. Every time you perform a trick, your POW meter decreases (the POW meter gradually refills over time). These tricks are necessary as they enable you to dodge enemies and often get you into better position against other pilots. Additionally, if you want to compete in the Stunt Mode, it's good to know every trick each pilot can perform. Each pilot has their own assortment of tricks, so experiment with different pilots to see what tricks you like best.

Although Propeller Arena has been really fun so far, I do have a few gripes. First off, our newer version is still running at a very solid 30 fps... but I know the Dreamcast can go the full 60 fps, can't it? Secondly, the control of your plane, while quite solid, is also rather simplistic; unless the pilot can perform it, there's no way to get your plane to roll and bank to make tighter turns. Sure, it's an arcade-like flying game, but it would've been nice to perform some of the more fundamental maneuvers. As of right now, I have yet to go online to experiment with both the online play and voice chat system, mostly because I haven't had anyone to go online with. Of course, I'll have all the details of online play and the voice chat system at the end of this month.

- Anthony Chau , IGNDC

SEGA's AM2 Division has been extremely busy as of late. In these times of the Dreamcast where developers have been dropping DC projects that are nearly finished, Yu Suzuki's team is still cranking out new and inventive Dreamcast titles - 18 Wheeler American Pro Trucker being the most recent. As if having Outtrigger and Shenmue 2 weren't enough, AM2 is also bringing their unique take on the WWII aircraft combat game, Propeller Arena and while the actual gameplay isn't innovative, it's all the bonus online features that will make any Dreamcast "Top Gun" fan very excited.

Those familiar with a SEGA arcade game called Wing War will know what to expect from Propeller Arena . The early E 3version that we played allowed us to select four different WWII planes and we only had access to the Battle Royal mode. Obviously, each plane has its own advantages in speed, armor, firepower, and maneuverability. Once you've selected your plane, you'll take to the skies automatically - no worries of taking-off and landing - and engage numerous enemies. In the Battle Royal mode, the player that gets the most kills wins; if you get shot down, you automatically "materialize" in the skies.

Visually, the game looks quite good; there are some really nice explosive effects and the sensation of speed as you're dogfighting can make you quite dizzy (in a good way, of course). I do have to point out that the game was currently running around 30 fps when playing in the split-screen two player mode (the game also supports a four player split-screen mode). That's not bad, but it would sure be really sweet to see this game burn a fiery sky trail at 60 fps, so let's hope AM2 can get the game up to that speed. For those that really want to get the full piloting view, the game offers three camera positions: third person (behind the plane), cockpit view, and first person view.

Gameplay and controls are a mix of simulation and arcade; it's not unlike playing simulation mode in the arcade game Wing War . For those that never touched that game in the arcades, there are flying simulation mechanics of stalling and you do have to watch your elevation because hitting the ground is a bad thing that I've experienced a few times in this game. However, the flight-sim aspects end there especially when you see floating boxes in the air. Shooting these boxes will reveal power-ups that include repair kits, missile launchers, speed boosters, cloaking devices, and many other unique items. AM2 really wanted to give you as much control as possible over your aircraft, and at the same time, they didn't want you to focus too much on wind speeds or propeller torque. It's a nice balance and couple with the great control, the game is quite a blast to play.

Obviously, Propeller Arena really shines when you're hunting down your buddies. Though you could duke it out with four buddies via split screen, the online play features are the ones you should be setting your sights on. Though there the final number of players has yet to be nailed down, the game will definitely support up to six players online. Additionally, similar to Alien Front Online ,Propeller Arena will have mic features so that you can talk trash to any of your online opponents. Hopefully, Propeller Arena will also incorporate many team-based online modes so there's more than just talking trash to your online opponents. Lastly, I have to mention the music. Anyone who has played F355 Challenge or Daytona will know exactly what I mean by "butt rock". Intense guitar riffs and laughable lyrics, the music of Propeller Arena won't win any Grammys, but it certainly adds to the atmosphere to the game. Due out in August, we're looking forward to our first preview to come soaring in next month, so stay tuned for more updates.

- Anthony Chau , IGNDC

Propeller Arena Release To Be Determined
SEGA has postponed the release of their World War II airplane action title indefinitely

September 18, 2001 - It will likely to be one of the most tragic moments in the history of the US. The horrible terrorist attack that occurred in New York has not only effected my personally, but will also affect our way of life. Even in video games, the rippling effect of the World Trade Center tragedy has affected SEGA, as they have indefinitely postponed the release of Propeller Arena . Here's the full statement from SEGA Corporation:

"Sega Corporation was greatly saddened to learn of the terrorist attacks on the United States on Tuesday, September 11, 2001. Our deepest condolences go out to the families and friends of those injured or who lost their lives in the horrific events.

At this time, we have decided to postpone shipment of 'Propeller Arena' for Dreamcast. Although the game content does not deal with terrorism in any way, it is possible for a determined individual to deliberately play the game in a manner that generates images similar to those we have seen on the news. We want to avoid causing any additional grief to those involved in this week's tragedy and feel this is an appropriate action.

Again, our hearts go out to those affected by Tuesday's tragic events."

- Sega Corporation
September 13, 2001

Anthony Chau, IGNDC

TGS 2001: Propeller Arena Flies Away For Good
Don't fret, American gamers. The Japanese have it worse this time around.

October 18, 2001 - By now, you've probably heard that Shenmue 2 won't be arriving for the American Dreamcast. As Sega winds down Dreamcast support in favor of greener pastures as a full-time third party, a few more nasty cancellations have come into light.

The first one, if we read Sega`s statement correctly, directly affects America. The company has announced that Propeller Arena , AM2's voice-based Online dog fighting game has been officially cancelled for the Dreamcast. As far as we know, this affects all territories. The game was shown as recently as AM2's Shenmue 2 unveiling event in August, in full playable form. It seemed to be near completion.

The other cancellation only concerns Japan. Bizarre Creation's Metropolis Street Racer , which has already seen release in America and Europe won't be released to the Japanese market. Sega has been tinkering with a Japanese release date for the game for some time now; apparently, this was all in vain.

Sega's reason for these cancellations, as well as the cancellation of Shenmue 2 for the US Dreamcast? "[We] want to protect the brand," said COO Tetsu Kayama.

Let the futile petitions begin. Looking at the cup as half full, though, we wonder where these games will end up in the future: PS Poo, Xcrate or GameFlop (sorry... this is probably my last chance to make fun of the competition)

- Anoop Gantayat , Contributor