You are familiar with the hype and whether it was generated by the media, George Lucas, or the fans themselves, it's helped to sell everything and anything Star Wars. Whether a product was any good was irrelevant, if it was graced with Star Wars, it was a must-have for any "true" fan. So as soon as Nintendo announced that they had a limited exclusivity deal with LucasArts, many in the media saw it as a coup for Nintendo. Others, however, doubted the game's significance because although it carried with it a big-license name, Pod Racer (as it was then called) was still merely a racing game.
When it came to role-playing games (RPGs), there was Square, there was Enix, and then there was everyone else. Nowadays, however, Konami, Capcom, and Sony are entering the fray with competent RPGs that seem to improve with each consecutive release. Square apparently had taken notice and decided to blow them all away with Final Fantasy VII. Enix, on the other hand, is still sitting on its hands. I figured Star Ocean was supposed to hold us over until the latest Dragon Quest epic was completed, but after playing Star Ocean, I have to say they'd better come up with a new plan.
My suspicions of confusion proved to be correct. Trying to figure out what the developers were going for is difficult and describing the results isn't easy either. The best I can say is imagine the jumping platform elements in Super Mario 64 mixed with the puzzles in Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time; all from a locked-down, overhead, three-quarters perspective.
I take exception to the comparison Chi made of The Phantom Menace to Super Mario 64 and the Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina Of Time. Being a fan of both games, I can say that The Phantom Menace has little to show in terms of inspiration from either masterpiece. What I do see is that LucasArts wanted to capitalize on the trend of third-person perspective titles and the Star Wars prequel license at the same time.
The over-the-top multiplayer mode in Super Smash Brothers was good enough to outweigh the games major flaws for Dale, but that wasn't the case for me. I simply couldn't get past how shallow this game played in single or multiplayer modes. For me, it boiled down to the near-MIA of attack moves.
The main sell of Midtown Madness is that it allows you to race through an incredibly accurate recreation of Chicago (complete with landmarks, pedestrians, and rush-hour traffic). Old-school PC gamers (really old!) who remember Spectrum Holobyte's Vette! (circa 1990, the game allowed a spirited drive through the streets of San Francisco), know that Midtown Madness isn't the first of its kind, but compared to many of today's driving games, it's a breath of fresh air.
I think Dale was more insulted by this title than I was, though I was particularly appalled at the horrendous art direction. Like some kind of outsourced nightmare, everything from the cut sequence, to the pre-rendered backgrounds, to the character sprites, don't just look as if different teams did them, they look as if different companies did them! There isn't any visual cohesion to ground all the other elements in the game.
Midtown Madness is a good racing game and this comes as a surprise because arcade-racing titles like this don't usually translate well on the PC. In "Cruise" mode, I got to drive anywhere and everywhere in the city of Chicago. Driving through heavy traffic is unlike anything else and the AI (though weak) offers a convincing city-traffic model.
Perhaps the best aspect of Racer is that it positively draws from the movie, including a temporary boost and repair feature that Anakin Skywalker clearly utilizes in the movie. These two features add an extra dimension because a level of on-the-fly resource management, not often seen in racing games, is introduced.
Rather than wiping out endless hordes of monsters for fortune, glory, and (of course) experience points, Pokémon encourages captivity over annihilation. So much so, that collecting, trading, and training the stubborn little pocket monsters make up the heart of the game.