Ten Dreamcast games we're itching to see on PSN
- Posted October 17th, 2009 at 10:22 EDT by Michael Harradence
PSU has very fond memories of SEGA’s ill-fated Dreamcast console. From the early days of unwrapping our beloved white wonder and indulging in copious amounts of Sonic Adventure, to experiencing some of the platform’s final offerings such as the mammoth Shenmue II, SEGA’s 128-bit box crammed in some of the most enjoyable gaming moments in its few years on the market that some consoles failed to deliver in an entire lifecycle. In addition to its stellar software line-up, DC pioneered a number of innovative features in the industry at the time, such as its inclusion of a modem for online gaming and net browsing, to its Visual Memory Unit (VMU), which doubled as a memory card and handy hub for various mini-games. Alas, it wasn’t to be. Call it a victim of the inexorable dominance of Sony’s PlayStation 2, SEGA’s inability to become a firm staple on Joe Public’s consciousness, or lack of third party giants such as Electronic Arts, Dreamcast’s time on the market was turbulent to say the least, having been beleaguered by heaps of issues until company bigwigs ultimately plumped to pull the plug on DC production in early 2001, unceremoniously bringing the curtains down on SEGA’s career as a hardware manufacturer.
Indeed, we could hark on until the end of time extolling the virtues of SEGA’s white box of tricks and recall how we threw a paddy like an obstreperous child when we heard of its subsequent demise, but we won’t. Why are we here you ask then? Simple. A couple of weeks back, a rather tantalizing leak found its way on to the interwebs allegedly taken from a meeting with SEGA and Sony Computer Entertainment of America (SCEA) back in August. Among the many interesting tidbits garnered from this list, one in particular caught our eye more than anything else – Dreamcast games hitting Sony’s PlayStation Network service. While SEGA has adhered to its ‘no comment’ policy in the weeks that followed (Sony, predictably, are also keeping mum on the subject) we can’t help but feel a surge of anticipation creep up inside as we ponder over the numerous DC delights one could conceivably indulge in should both companies ultimately decide to see this idea through. Also, given the console has just passed its 10th anniversary in Europe this week, we couldn’t think of a better time to reflect on some of the system’s undeniable pleasures.
As a result, we’ve cobbled together a list of the ten Dreamcast games we’d be more than willing to pay a fair price for should they make their way to PSN in the near future. Check them out below, and be sure to let us know your own picks in the comment section.
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A landmark release, Sonic Adventure signalled the spiky Hedgehog’s triumphant foray in to the realms of 3D gaming, catapulting players through a fast-paced platform romp chock full of vibrant locations, mammoth boss battles, branching story paths and heaps of mini-games. Crucially, the game succeeded in transporting the series’ key elements – specifically, the sense of speed and intuitive control scheme – to a new generation, packing in the usual suspects of sprawling speedways, gargantuan loops, robotic foes and ease of use to demonstrate that our heroic Hedgehog still had what it took to rival Nintendo’s plucky plumber for the platform crown. Oh, and who could forget that Killer Whale segment? Jaw-dropping, quintessential 128-bit gaming in its generation-defining infancy right before your eyes.
Chief among the game’s major attractions is the opportunity to raise Chaos, a race of squeaky, lovable chaps that made use of the DC’s innovative VMU device in which to tend to your pint-sized partner Tamagotchi-style, though we’re not quite sure how this would translate to a PSN iteration. Regardless, Sonic’s 3D romp still offers a meaty adventure, featuring six characters, stacks of secrets, plus ample replay value in the form of the Sonic Emblems, which are awarded to players for accomplishing specific goals in each stage. Indeed, While in recent years SEGA’s spiky blue mascot and seemingly endless entourage of cuddly mates have trundled off the highway and found themselves plowing through a grotty back street of mediocrity, this early DC gem (and its subsequent sequel, for that matter) proved that, unequivocally, the franchise could survive the transition from pixels to polygons. Quite how they’ve been getting it so wrong for the past decade boggles the mind, though.
Since its inception, Shenmue has garnered a reputation likeable to that of marmite – you either love it or hate it. Evidently, we at PSU slot firmly in to the former. At its time of release, the series represented an emphatic leap in videogame interactivity and storytelling, laying the foundations for modern day adventures such as SEGA’s own Yakuza, which many consider a spiritual successor to the $70 million epic. In Shenmue, players can converse with literally hundreds of NPC’s - each one adhering to his or her own daily routine - examine heaps of objects from innocuous household goods to ambiguous plot devices in meticulous detail, watch the day transition from dawn till dusk and even bag themselves a part-time job. So crucial was Yu Sazuki’s masterpiece that it actually coined its own genre, Full Reactive Eyes Entertainment (FREE), as well as popularising the now ubiquitous Quick Time Event sequences.
Weaving an intricate tale of revenge chock full of twists and turns, Shenmue takes place during the mid-1980s and stars brash high school student Ryo Hazuki as he attempts to track his father’s killer from the gritty, thug-infested back streets of Yokosuka to the tranquil mountain paths of Guilin. Drawing influence from a variety of genres, both titles crafted a cohesive amalgam of street brawling, exploration and RPG elements to drive its core plot carriage along a beautifully crafted, albeit linear track line. Aside from the main quest line, there’s also heaps of amusement to be had by indulging yourself in numerous non-mandatory delights such wasting long hours down at the local arcade or collecting everything from cassette tapes to toy capsules. Admittedly, these distractions are purely inconsequential; though nonetheless perpetuate the feeling of assuming part of a living, breathing community. Still, the game isn’t without its quibbles, notably the inherent monotony that creeps in as a result of the sheer amount of gum flapping and laborious treks back and forth across town one must endure to get a lead on your next vital clue. Thankfully, Suzuki’s magnum opus manages to transcend these issues, with the sequel in particular doing a fine job of patching up a number of faults, notably giving players the ability to speed up time when you need to wait around, as well as punctuating the more explorative tasks with a higher frequency of battles and QTEs.
Ultimately, it comes down to the sheer scale and depth on offer that pulls you in, refusing to let go until the climax. The Shenmue games offer a sumptuous world begging to be explored. The narrative unfolds as such that you are fed each portion in bite sized chunks, compelling you to guide Ryo to his next destination to unwrap yet another piece of the puzzle, whether that be slapping about some unruly sailors, creeping around the HQ of unscrupulous Yellowhead gang boss Dou Niu while handcuffed to your mate Wuying Ren, or unearthing a secret room in the Hazuki Dojo. As for the brash, young kicker of ass himself - despite some embarrassingly gormless, almost stoic performances - Hazuki makes for a believable human protagonist, from his platonic relationship with long time friend Nazomi, to his instinctual desire to protect those he loves.
More importantly, you feel for his increasingly convoluted predicament, and his tale ultimately bring out sympathy among players, from the heartache and grief at losing his father, to the sheer isolation and solitude facing the young karate expert as he departs his native Japan for the sprawling, maze-like madness of Hong Kong. The fighting sequences are also top notch and surprisingly comprehensive, the QTE set pieces are amusing, gratifying and surprisingly tricky (especially in the second game), while the visuals – even by today’s standards – positively ooze sophistication and act as a fine showcase for the Dreamcast’s impressive graphical prowess. As such, it’s just a crying shame that, almost a decade since the first game hit western shores, we’ve still yet to see a conclusion to Ryo’s epic journey – and sadly, probably never will.
Every man and his dog should aspire to get some quality hands-on time with Namco’s stellar Dreamcast brawler. Hailed as one of the most influential and greatest fighters of all time, Soul Calibur extricated the beat ‘em up genre from the fidgety, third-axis shuffling antics of Tekken and Virtual Fighter, and replaced them with a fluidity and intuitiveness that helped the series attain revolutionary status among fighting fanatics and industry folk alike. Released as a launch title, the celebrated brawler brought back a host of favorites from its predecessor, Soul Edge, including Voldo, sultry Sophitia and nimble ninja Taki, along with new faces such as Hwang, Maxi, Ivy and Yoshimitsu. Visually the game remains a competent, vibrant affair, packing in some of the most striking character and stage designs of the series, even without the added HD polish.
Combining freedom of movement without the weighty, intricate timing required of other offerings in the genre, Soul Calibur endowed players with a responsive, albeit more lenient approach to combat, while introducing subtle expansions on existing mechanics such as the Guard Impact manoeuvre, affording players additional techniques to execute. Keeping in tradition with Namco’s penchant for tossing in numerous extras for its home conversions of arcade games, the DC version of Soul Calibur features an abundance of additional goodies, including obligatory offerings such as Versus, Team Battle, Time Attack and Practice, to more luxury distractions in the form of Museum and Mission Battle. An essential purchase for casual gamers and hardcore beat ‘em up aficionados alike, Soul Calibur deserves a place in anyone’s collection and quite frankly, the prospect of delivering DC games via PSN would feel decidedly incomplete without it’s inclusion. Unmissable.
At first glance, ChuChu Rocket’s inclusion my raise a few eyebrows. It’s not revolutionary, it’s not overtly pretty, and it’s certainly not going to provoke mass consumption – at least, not at first. Indeed, it’s these very points that lend the game a certain incongruity in the face of the onslaught of blockbuster, visually stimulating delights found elsewhere in this feature, and yet, this doesn’t deter from the fact that it’s an essential purchase. Why? Simple. Pure, unadulterated fun. Helmed by former Sonic Team boss Yuji Naka, ChuChu Rocket is an overtly cute, yet ultimately challenging affair where players must safely guide groups of mice throughout a board while avoiding enemy cats, before dropping them off to safety. While functional as a single player experience, the game truly shines in its multiplayer component, which accommodates up to four participants at any one time.
Here, gamers are encouraged to subvert each other’s efforts by sending enemy cats into your opponent’s rockets (while rescuing your own mice) via the use of cunningly placed arrows used to manipulate the on-screen caricatures. Crucially, however, each player is only allowed three arrows at any one time, which, combined with the ever-increasing game speed, perpetuates a feeling of intensity that is alleviated only by your ability to outwit and second guess your opponents next move. Lose concentration for just a few seconds, and it’s over. Make no mistake; ChuChu Rocket is fast, addictive, compelling, and undoubtedly one of the most rewarding party romps you’ll ever play, bar none – throw in an online mode for a possible PSN release and you really can’t go wrong.
While there are ample pickings to be had in regards to a defining DC racing experience suitable for a PSN rebirth, we ultimately plumped for Metropolis Street Racer, quite possibly one of the most challenging, aesthetically pleasing drivers to hit SEGA’s white box. Originally pencilled in as a launch title, MSR endured an arduous development cycle until finally hitting shelves in Europe in March 2000, with a U.S. release arriving in early 2001 - too late to save the DC, but not too late to leave it’s mark on the public consciousness. Conceived by brilliant Brits Bizarre Creations, who’s pedigree as a developer in the racing genre at the time was already overtly apparent with PlayStation classics Formula 1 and Formula 1 ’97, MSR is essentially a precursor to the critically lauded Project Gotham Racing, and rightly so – much of its core fundamentals were later utilized by Bizarre for the famed Xbox franchise to even greater success.
The nucleus of MSR involves the now infamous Kudos system, where players are required to rack up as many points as possible by making it through each track in a quick and efficient manner. Inherently, this system breeds meticulous attention to detail among players when mapping your journey through every bend, curve nook and cranny, throughout each and every track in order to come out on top. Be under no illusions – MSR is designed for pain-staking, vigorous sessions in the pursuit of absolute perfection, and is by no means a light-hearted arcade affair to indulge in when you fancy burning some rubber for a quick half an hour. Admittedly, we’re disappointed that the creator’s didn’t decide to take a leaf out of Gran Turismo’s book in terms of customisation, and you’re unable to tweak any of the motors you obtain in the game. A shame, as there’s over 40 licensed machines on offer from a host of prestigious manufacturers, including staples such as Mercedes, Toyota and Mitsubishi.
Still, a PSN release would equate to a budget price, and you’d still get plenty of bang for your buck with a healthy dose of game modes including Quick Race, Time Attack and meaty championship circuit. In addition, while there’s only three locations on offer, the team at Bizarre endeavoured to leave no stone unturned, rendering each of the Big Three (London, Tokyo and San Francisco) with such fineness that even we’re surprised they managed to squeeze that much juice out of hardware that has been around for over a decade. A testament to both the developer’s finely tuned coding capabilities and DC’s visual prowess alike. Indeed, while tame in comparison to today’s offerings in the genre, MSR is as tough as nails, immaculately crafted racing romp still worth picking up should SEGA ultimately decide to shove it through the digital distribution door anytime soon.
Harking back to Capcom’s acute, pioneering sensibilities as a renowned beat ‘em up developer, Power Stone represents one of the DC’s finer slices of arcade action, arriving on the scene as a launch title and eventually going on to spawn a sequel and PSP re-release. An arena fighter by trade, Power Stone doesn’t push the envelope as such, though nonetheless remains an incredibly compelling affair thanks in no small part to its stylistic, fast-paced combat and gripping multiplayer functionality. Packing in a modest roster of 10 characters – each boasting a distinct playing style in accordance to weight and power – Power Stone pits two brawlers in a vibrant, sprawling arena packed to the rafters with weapons of varying descriptions in the attempt to bash seven bells out of each other. Indeed, while fighting games are already an intrinsically competitive affair out of the box, Capcom’s colorful arena brawler shifts up a gear in this particular area thanks in no small part to the contribution of the game’s eponymous gems that players must duke it out for – that is, when they’re not busy smashing each other’s faces in.
Utilizing these Power Stones, combatants can unleash all manner of supped up power attacks, ranging from proximity-based throws and counters, to more outlandish, health-devouring moves to turn the tide of battle in an instant. As such, bouts not only become a matter of trading fists and feet (or tables, chairs, firearms, poles or whatever else you manage to get your mitts on) with each other, but a desperate race to acquire as many of these precious items as possible in order to slap your opponent about like a rag doll. As mentioned, Power Stone also features an abundance of weapons ripe for the picking, from firearms to regular inanimate objects. As a result, brawls seldom transition from tense to tiresome, as there’s literally dozens of methods in which to batter your adversary, whether by the fist or firearm, creating a unique brawl each and every bout. Visually the game is an absolute gem (no pun intended), fusing intricately crafted battle zones with colorful, larger-than-life combatants that serve as the ideal companion to Power Stone’s vast array of equally extravagant manoeuvres. As ever, scrapping it out solo is merely the tip of the iceberg, with the game providing virtually endless amounts of replay value via a stellar multiplayer offering; thrown in an online component for a possible PSN iteration, however, and you’ve got the proverbial icing on the cake.
Still going strong some nine years after its inception, SEGA’s Virtua Tennis franchise has remained one of the most competent offerings in the genre, successfully blurring the line between arcade and simulation, affording players a finely tuned, user-friendly experience on court. Indeed, this inaugural DC outing is no exception to the standard, remaining one of the finest sports sims available on the ill-fated console. Developed by the talented code house at SEGA’S AM-3 division, the console port of Virtua Tennis builds on the more casual, lenient playing sensibilities of its arcade counterpart and expands in to more hardcore territory, offering a fully fledged campaign mode, heaps of diverse training missions to tackle and an additional eight tennis stars.
Virtua Tennis offers a sort of pseudo realistic interpretation of the sport – at its core the game is essentially an arcade sports romp. Despite this, the game contains a surprising amount of depth, and there’s a fair degree of meticulous timing required on the player’s part to land some of the more complex swings, volleys and other assorted manoeuvres if you’re to keep on your toes and claim match point. Crucially, the A.I. is particularly fierce, and requires some quick thinking on your part to outwit your opponent and gain the advantage – both literally and figuratively. Multiplayer matches represent one of the game’s crowning achievements, and form a vital component in elongating Virtua Tennis’s overall lasting appeal after you’ve chiselled away at an already fairly meaty single player offering. Sure, the series has already graced PS3 with no less than two entries, but a wallet-friendly PSN re-release of the original classic would still go down a storm with fans and prove an ideal starting point for new adopters to boot.
Jet Grind Radio is an aesthetical extravaganza. An eye-popping, fast-paced combination of vibrancy and stylistic pleasure, all rolled in to one of the most innovative, addictive titles to grace SEGA’s white box – or indeed any format – over the past decade. Birthed from the marvellous minds of Japanese studio Smilebit, Jet Grind Radio pioneered the utilizing of the now infamous cel shaded visual effect, which went on to achieve even greater commercial success with the likes of The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker among others.
The game drops you in three diversely crafted locations in the sprawling Japanese metropolis of Tokyo-to – namely, Shibuya-cho, Benten-cho, and Kogane-cho. Taking control of runaway ‘rudie’ (a colloquial label for the legions of moody teens who skate about the place spray painting walls in an exercise of expression), players strive to topple rival factions in an effort to bolster their own ranks, while avoiding ever-vigilant police sorts who will everything in their power to subvert your streetwise shenanigans. Things quickly become a race for territorial supremacy, as you notch up new ground and spray paint various hot spots to spread your influence throughout the local suburbs while under increasingly tight time parameters. Throw in a stellar soundtrack and you have one of the most idiosyncratic, albeit immensely rewarding games to come out of the DC’s tragically short market stay. An absolute gem.
One of the finest achievements to come out of the RPG scene, Overworks’ airborne-themed pirate parade Skies of Arcadia represents one of the most memorable offerings to grace the DC, coming from the same code house as SEGA’s highly lauded Phantasy Star franchise. Building on many of the core fundamentals of the genre, Skies of Arcadia packs in a mammoth adventure thwart with dingy dungeons, epic boss battles, heaps of magic and spells to acquire, gorgeous visuals and compelling storyline. The game is particularly brutal, and is noted for its abundance of random battle encounters, encouraging players to beef up their characters in vigorous character levelling sessions. If there’s one RPG that tickles your taste buds and you’re lucky enough to clap eyes on this over at the PlayStation Store any time soon, Skies of Arcadia offers the most sumptuous of feasts this side of Final Fantasy.
When it comes to arcade shooters, you'd be hard pressd to find a game better suited to digitalized consumption than Treasure’s horrendously unappreciated 2D masterpiece, Ikaruga. Although it sank without trace from the public consciousness at the time of its release, the game was nonetheless hailed by critics as one of the most distinguished arcade shooters of its time, and has, unsurprisingly, already made the transition from disc to digital form via Microsoft’s Xbox LIVE Arcade service.
Where Ikaruga succeeds is in its simplistic yet decidedly brutal and challenging gameplay, based on traditional space shooter conventions. However, Treasure spices up the proceedings with the introduction of the bullet-absorption technique, adding a new dimension to an otherwise familiar (though nonetheless extremely competent) 2D blaster. As with countless other entries in the genre, the game is an inherently meaty affair, affording heaps of replay value not just limited to its multiplayer, but also the near insatiable desire to topple your previous score. As such, you’ll likely be playing this in to the wee hours of the night on a regular basis. A barrel of fun, Ikaruga is practically begging for a PSN re-release – an online multiplayer with leaderboards wouldn’t go a miss either. Classic stuff.