Planet N2000 traveled to Los Angeles to see Nintendo swerve around the Dolphin and show off the final wave of Nintendo 64 games.
20 years ago this week, Planet N2000 (that’s what Nintendo World Report was called back then) attended its first E3. Our founder Billy Berghammer traveled from Minnesota to Los Angeles to check out the latest Nintendo 64 games as Nintendo was still trying to keep quiet about the mysterious “Dolphin” console that was still over a year away from release. Billy even kept a diary. This site’s so old that it wasn’t even called a blog. Our fearless founder rocked a Game Boy Color on his flight out, playing Mario Golf (for more details on that classic portable sports RPG, check out the recent episode of The Thirsty Mage), but all that mattered was this: “I am on my way to Los Angeles for my first E3 experience,” Billy typed. “In a few short hours I will be in the thick of the best in Video Games.”
It’s interesting seeing Billy write about the video game industry in that era, as it’s so different but still the same. E3 2000 was set to be dominated by Sony, as the PlayStation 2 was on the cusp of launching in America after debuting in Japan. Microsoft was a year out from releasing the Xbox and even Sega was still kicking in the hardware biz, less than a year away from the Dreamcast’s woeful end. Rumors swirled of Nintendo’s next console being out by the end of the year 2000, but, well, let’s just say we have hindsight and know that didn’t happen. Even still, Planet N2000 was all about Nintendo so that was Billy’s focus.
“I think Nintendo will come out of this year’s E3 looking just fine,” he wrote. “C’mon everyone, don’t forget Mario Tennis is here to save the day! Werd! With all kidding aside (and Mario Tennis will kick ass btw!) and without any Dolphin talk, Nintendo has so many heavy hitters that will still drop jaws. Perfect Dark and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask will look and play brilliantly, and impress a lot of people. Just those two titles alone will help Nintendo look good. No question about it. Rare’s Conker BFD title is sure to turn some heads as well with its foul mouth cutesy characters. Then you have Dino Planet (playable or on Video) [Editor's Note: Dino Planet eventually became Star Fox Adventures], which looks like it could be a high quality Zelda-esqe title. Of course every Star Wars fan is looking forward to praising Lucasarts for The Battle of Naboo, but question their sobriety for Bombad Racing. As long as you can kill Jar Jar in the opening lap of each race, and you can actually see him spin out and explode horrifically, I'll be satisfied. Hehehe. Oh yeah, and what about Indy?”
Nintendo stated they weren’t going to focus on Dolphin at all - something that would prove true. Comments from representatives reiterated that Nintendo Space World would be where Dolphin would be showcased. As then-Nintendo of America Marketing exec George Harrison told MCV, “There is a strong belief at Nintendo Company Limited [the Japanese parent company] that they really want to be the ones to unveil these great new game systems.”
Billy made it to Los Angeles and wound up in attendance at Nintendo’s press briefing on May 9, 2000, which was held at the Regal Biltmore, a hotel still occupying downtown Los Angeles a ways down the road from E3’s home at the Los Angeles Convention Center. You can see the full recap from Steven Thomas here, but here’s some takeaways:
- Nintendo stuck to their guns: no news on the Dolphin
- Then-Nintendo of America President Minoru Arakawa brought up Metroid unprompted. It was likely at this point that Nintendo was talking to Retro Studios about making Metroid Prime using the engine for their untitled action-adventure game. Retro reportedly was locked into making Prime before August 2000.
- The Planet N2000 gang was seated behind Rare; Steven Thomas even met Chris Stamper.
- A sign of how long ago the year 2000 was. After the briefing, Shigeru Miyamoto just kind of hung out.
E3 2000 was also longtime-Planet GameCube/Nintendo World Report/Radio Free Nintendo co-host/director/writer/editor/generally-rad-guy Jonathan Metts' first E3. He wrote about it in retrospect when he came on staff at Planet GameCube and it contains the most Jonny Metts line ever, which is his detail on what he did while waiting outside the show floor entrance: "I also played Bionic Commando on my GBC and read some Frank Herbert."
It’s ultimately weird looking back at Nintendo’s relatively quaint E3 2000 press conference. Reports came out of it about how both the Game Boy Advance and the Dolphin (which would eventually become GameCube) would be online capable. This event seemed somewhat reminiscent of Nintendo’s 2016 show, where the Switch was still not announced or shown and the aging systems of the Wii U and 3DS carried their show. Nintendo’s core line-up was Perfect Dark, Dino Planet (“Dare I say...Zelda Killer?” said Billy), Majora’s Mask, Eternal Darkness, Mario Tennis, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, and “Mario Paper.” To close the pre-show spectacle, Billy managed to make his way into an invite-only Rare press briefing, which was focused mostly on Banjo-Tooie.
May 11 was the first official show floor day of E3 2000, so naturally Billy and the gang had much reporting. Billy claimed Mario Tennis 64 was “Tight as HELL,” which tracks. Dino Planet, in its pre-Star Foxification, was “beyond intense.”
This was the year of the Conker bar, where an open bar dialed in on Conker’s Bad Fur Day’s ribald content. Other games shown included Perfect Dark, Paper Mario, Majora’s Mask, Eternal Darkness, and Banjo-Tooie. The emphasis on Rare games was apparent, likely in part due to Nintendo’s internal focus on Dolphin and Game Boy Advance.
What was most interesting about looking at old E3 2000 coverage is the game CatRoots. According to Billy back then, CatRoots was a new presumably Nintendo 64 game that was very early in development. Only a video demo existed. Nintendo of America had no idea what the game was, and it eventually was canceled. CatRoots was supposedly being worked on by a team under Marigul Management, which was a collection of smaller developers that Nintendo had a stake in. Some of the games that came out of Marigul included Hey You, Pikachu! (from Ambrella), Doshin the Giant (from Param), and Custom Robo (from Noise). Marigul Management was shut down in 2003, but a number of the teams still existed. For example, Ambrella is still kicking around working on the Pokemon Rumble series.
Lastly and potentially most importantly, Billy met Brett Favre at E3 2000. I apologize if this is a problem to you, but Nintendo World Report was founded by a Green Bay Packer fan and is currently in the hands of a Green Bay Packer fan. That’s just how it goes. Go Pack Go.
If you want to see more E3 2000 images (from whatever digital camera that was probably awesome 20 years ago but looks rough in 2020), check out our full gallery here.