To this day I still find myself pulling out the trusty Dreamcast and once on a blue moon the good ole Genesis. Sega made a lot of great titles but just wasn’t a well managed company. For fifteen plus years it was managed as if a bunch of really creative alcoholics and drug addicts ran the show and money wasn’t a issue in any way. The Dreamcast is so highly regarded by many hardcore gamers that rumors of a new Sega system pop up every so often, although after a reorganization and merger with the company a few years ago that would be impossible. Still, Sega and the various incarnations produced several incredible and influential titles. Below are just some of the most worthy to deserve continuation into the generations to come.
Space Channel 5
What Is It?: Originally released on the Dreamcast in 2000, the premise of the game is as space reporter Ulala you have to save a space station from alien attacks by dancing. You press buttons at the rhythm of what they say, essentially throwing it back at them. Throughout as you save people, they become part of your constantly dancing posse, looking similar to a Michael Jackson music video or a performance from the musical Stomp.
Speaking of Michael Jackson he actually has a small role, with a much bigger one in the Part 2 sequel of the title that came to PlayStation 2. In both titles he provides his likeness and voice, helping out Ulala overcome evil with the power of dance. If it sounds strange, it is. The game had a decent amount of appeal however, especially in Japan where the Japanese didn’t much pay attention to any of “Space Michael’s” real life problems as we did in America. That combined with the simple but catchy music and premise, along with a game with quite a bit of panache and sex appeal thanks to Ulala helped it enjoy a decent PlayStation 2 and GameBoy Advance title.
Why we haven’t seen it: Japanese rhythm game of all types fell out of favor with the advent of American created games such as the Guitar Hero series and now the American rhythm genre also seems to be falling out of favor. Sega’s restructuring in 2001-2005 had a hand in it as well as Michael Jackson being unpopular amongst many people kept them from pursing the title fueled by the star power of the Moonwalker.
Will we ever see it again?:Yes, at least when it comes to the original, or rather it’s sequel Space Channel 5 Part 2 that made its way to PlayStation 2 originally. The title is now coming to Xbox Live Arcade and PlayStation Network complete with updated HD visuals and of course the late Michael Jackson will reprise he role as Space Michael. Still the simple mechanics of the game are dying for the developers to take advantage of every single consoles motion-sensing offerings.
What alternatives do we have?: Dance Central, Dance Dance Revolution to get your dance on however the game’s quirky premise of stopping evil and defeating enemies by dance hasn’t really made its way into any other title.
What Is It?: Possibly playing off its name’s double entendre, 2000’s Seaman was an incredibly strange and suggestive game. Released on Dreamcast, it was a virtual pet game that you controlled by talking to him with a microphone peripheral and by doing actions to watch him grow from a strange fish creature with a Japanese man’s face to a eerie frogman. He would respond and remember basic information that you told him, carry on simple conversations and even insult you as he saw fit. The virtual pet simulation was unforgiving, if you missed feeding and interacting with him to many times he would die and weeks of progress would have to be restarted, making it more suitable for the older hardcore audience.
Adding on to the incredible weird game’s allure was a introduction by Leonard Nemoy, most famous for his role as Spock in the sci-fi series Star Trek and his own penance towards doing strange work in entertainment.
Why we haven’t seen it: It is a pretty darn weird game. Usually when you think of virtual pets you think of cute, big-eyed cuddly animals, not creepy monotone-voiced half fish/half middle aged Japanese men introduced by Spock. Also most virtual pet titles are geared towards children for a reason; they have relatively little responsibility so artificial responsibility can be used as a teaching tool and be fun at the same time. For many adults it can just feel like more work, especially due to the games unforgiving nature.
Will we ever see it again?: I would file this one under highly unlikely. While Seaman and references to the title might make there way into other Sega titles, the latest release of the game was the 2007 Japan only PS2 release Seaman 2.
What alternatives do we have?: It definitely is not the first virtual pet title out there, but it was unique in that it was voice controlled. Since then, Microsoft published N.U.D.E. a simulation for the original Xbox for the Japanese market only. The game gave you a female humanoid robot to take care of and talk to similarly to how Seaman worked. It was also strange but for obviously different reasons. The recently released Kinectimals for Xbox 360 allows you to talk to your animals as well as interact with them via the Kinect motion-sensing but the game is a very lose virtual pet. It is very possible however, we will see a virtual pet title for Kinect in the near future, but it would be hard pressed to meet the endearing weird qualities that came with Seaman.
Jet Set Radio Future
What Is It?: The Jet Set series was initially released on Dreamcast in 2000, with a sequel released on the original Xbox in 2002. The game has a simple enough premise; you are part of a Japanese graffiti skate group that sprays over other groups graffiti tags in increasingly harder to reach areas, while outrunning the evil and condemning police force of Tokyo. The simple and addictive skate and tag gameplay isn’t what made the game though.
What made the game was the incredible artistic lengths developer Smilebit went to. Aesthetically the game was a visual master piece. It popularized the cel-shaded graphical style that became cliché by the end of the last console generation and still lives on today. The sound design and soundtrack are regarded as some of the best still today in the gaming of music with an ecliptic mix of acid-pop, techno, and funk that seamlessly blended together and meshed well with the colorful underground inspired visuals. The funky and “to cool for you” vibe the game gave off with the hipster story was the cherry on top.
Why we haven’t seen it: Like many of the titles on this list, despite massive critical acclaim, it didn’t fair well commercially. The developer behind it, Sega internal studio Smilebit also was merged back into the corporate culture of Sega following their merger with Sega and has since been delegated as managing Sega’s sports offerings out of Japan.
Will we ever see it again?: It isn’t likely we will ever see a full fledged Jet Set title ever again although it is great to imagine what possibilities motion controllers hold for graffiti spraying mechanics. Sega has renewed the copyrights for the titles recently, and characters from the game have made it into Sega Superstar Tennis, and Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing. It is possible we could see an Xbox Live Arcade version of JSRF, although I wouldn’t hold your breath. Until then you can typically find JSRF for the original Xbox used for under ten dollars, and it is backwards-compatible with Xbox 360.
What alternatives do we have?: Really as stated above, nothing much has been able to touch the Jet Set series. The Tony Hawk series has gone towards the adventure route in the past, but ultimately failed after doing it for a few games.