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MARCH 20, 2000 VOL. 155 NO. 11

T E S T   D R I V I N G   T H E   P S 2
Listen to the Kids: "It's Smoother, More Realistic"

A week before stores in Japan put the PlayStation 2 on sale, Sony quietly unwrapped eight of the new consoles at its showroom in Tokyo's Ginza district. Hundreds of game freaks turned up, even though Sony hadn't advertised the event. How did they know to come? For weeks, fans hungry to try out the PS2 had been showing up at Sony headquarters, hoping for a sneak preview. So on Feb. 26, when they finally found what they were looking for, they quickly called friends on their mobile phones. Within an hour, the place was packed with fans eager to test drive the device that's been billed as the Porsche of game machines.

The Sato sisters don't look like your stereotypical game fanatics. For one thing, they're girls. Madoka, 18, and Mai, 13, dropped by the Ginza building after taking in an art exhibition. At home, the Sato sisters and their three younger siblings have to scramble for playing time on their one PlayStation console, which is usually switched on from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m. Mai had already gotten a glimpse of PS2 at a show Sony put on the week before. Now she was hooked.

Indonesia: Rising From the Ashes
Charismatic former guerrilla leader Xanana Gusmão brings hope that his beloved East Timor will finally be freed from centuries of fear
Starting Over: Love and food bring the crowds to the Burned House
'I Don't Feel Prepared to Lead this Country': Xanana Gusmão discusses the past and looks to the future
East Timor's Reconstruction: Is aid doing more harm than good?

Business: Sony Plays for the Big Stakes
After breaking the mold to create PlayStation 2, the Japanese company is hoping its new game box will make it a major Internet player
Test Driving the PS2: Listen to the kids: 'It's smoother, more realistic'

South Asia: Into the Breach
In tense South Asia, U.S. President Bill Clinton may face one raw, ruptured relationship he cannot heal
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Books: Bland Fare
A 'hot' Indian novel caters to foreign tastes

The Son Also Surprises
With a stunning takeover of Hong Kong's telecom giant, Richard Li steps out from the shadow of his tycoon father, Li Ka-shing

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"It felt so good," says Madoka. On the PlayStation machine at home, she prefers fighting games, like Namco's Tekken. A PS2 version of Tekken was on hand, and Madoka perceived a definite improvement. "When I won, it felt as if I actually won the fight," she said. "The image is better than that of regular video. You can watch your favorite scenes over and over again in clear images."

The buzz on PS2 was generally positive, with one exception. Most of the games now available don't take advantage of the machine's full capabilities. Only 10 new titles are being sold, although games for the original PlayStation will work on PS2. Sony plans to release 27 new titles by the end of March, and several players said they'll stick with the original PlayStation until the latest, killer games hit the market.

Eighth-grader Matthew Ireton, 13, doesn't seem like the patient type. He already spends a couple of hours a day--six on weekends--bouncing among PlayStation, Sega's Dreamcast and the Nintendo 64 at his home in Tokyo. His father works for Warner Bros., which is conducting a promotional tie-in with Sony, so he had a chance to try out the PS2. His analysis:

The joystick controls? "Wow, they're really light. Controls are getting so heavy now, but these are light." So light, he confessed, that he wasn't able to hit any home runs in a virtual baseball game.

The speed? "The load time is a lot faster. I don't have to wait as long for the game to come up."

Graphics? "On the other PlayStation, they're choppier, like the hands on the fighter. But here they're smoother, more realistic. You can see the shadows on the race car when it goes under the bridge."

Would he buy it? Not yet. "It's supposed to be better than Dreamcast, right? But right now, I don't see much difference. Still, the companies making games for PS2 are the best in Japan, right? When they come out with games, I'll want it."

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