|By Zach Patterson||Tuesday, 8 Sep 2009|
Today, Skip, Zach, Chris, Andrew and Matsu will look back upon the Dreamcast games that debuted as big hits for the console, and later found life on other systems. Which ones were the start of something bigger, and which ones kinda sputtered out? Read on for a selected list of Dreamcast games and their history.
Game Title: Crazy Taxi
On Dreamcast: While the whole arcade taxi genre has all but died in 2009, in 1999, there was quite the buzz about this game. Featuring a wonderful punk soundtrack by The Offspring and Bad Religion, tons of real life locations (KFC, Tower Records, Gap, etc), and a fun cast of characters, the seemingly simple gameplay hid the fact that this was a deep and complex game to truly master. A port of a fiercely addictive arcade game, the Dreamcast version was the definitive copy to have, as it improved the graphics, and added an entirely new gigantic city to cruise around in, in addition to some real meat beyond the game in the Crazy Box. This was a bonus minigame portion that allowed you to ever-so-slightly master your skills while competing in fun-yet-ever-challenging games such as bowling, drift events, balloon popping, monster jumps, and crazy traffic evasion. The whole package resulted in a game that challenged you to keep coming back for more. I remember spending hours by myself and with friends learning small tricks, shortcuts, and mastering the art of evading traffic in the pursuit of that monster high score. What once was a game that took a few minutes per session soon became a game where I would be playing a single credit for over an hour. The sequel features more of the same addictive gameplay, but added the ability to jump your vehicle and pick up multiple passengers. I never got quite as intimate with the sequel, but it certainly had its own charms, and the Crazy Box returned as well for another go.
Later Resurrected For: You name it, it probably got a port of this. Okay, that’s a little dramatic, but there were ports to PS2 and Gamecube a few years later, most of them popping up in bargain bins nowadays. Additionally, there was an inferior Windows version that removed the original soundtrack (sacrilege!). Crazy Taxi 3 for Xbox snuck in the original cities from Crazy Taxi 1 and 2 as bonuses. Finally, after years of the series being in hiding, an upgraded port of Crazy Taxi 1 and 2 was released for PSP. I love this version of the game, but it has its issues. The game is much glitchier than the original, the sponsors are taken out of the game, giving it a sterile feel, and the soundtrack is completely stripped out for generic stuff. Luckily, you can add in your own soundtrack, so feel free to welcome back in The Offspring and Bad Religion. There’s lots of nice bonuses in this version, and if you like Crazy Taxi as much as I do, it’s worth taking a look at.
Legacy: Crazy Taxi managed to get a high profile sequel for Xbox called Crazy Taxi 3: High Roller, but unfortunately, the game simply didn’t do enough to keep the series going. It flopped, and seemingly the entire Taxi arcade game genre of games disappeared with it. Before that, The Simpsons Road Rage and titles like GTA III managed to incorporate the Crazy Taxi idea into their games. In fact, Road Rage was as blatant a knockoff as it could be. A middling GBA game was released, and finally the PSP compilation. This series was an artifact of the time in 1999, and has kinda lost its relevance since its release.
Game Title: Dead Or Alive 2
On Dreamcast: A beautiful looking fighter with big breasted women, multiplatform environments, and Ryu Hayabusa. This one, like Soul Calibur really legitimized this series as a premier 3D fighter, with great locales, amazing effects for the time, and an easy-to-learn-difficult-to-master rock paper scissors fighting system that separated itself from the rest of the pack of fighters on DC. Also noted as an upgraded arcade port.
Later resurrected for: PS2, as an upgraded port called DOA2: Hardcore. Added new characters, outfits, and locations, among other things. Finally, Dead Or Alive 2 Ultimate was released for Xbox as an online capable, graphically updated fighter, designed to be the “ultimate” version of the game.
Legacy: Dead or Alive is still going strong, and you can look at DOA2 as the reason. DOA2 was a big hit, and DOA3 was a flagship Xbox game. DOA4 has also since been released for 360, as well as gratuitous Beach Volleyball spinoffs that essentially function as creepy skimpy dress-up simulators.
Game Title: Grandia II
On Dreamcast: A wonderful RPG on a system starving for them, this was likely the high point for the genre on DC. Great battle system, fun characters, good translation, and built on everything that made the first game great.
Later Resurrected For: PC, PS2. The PS2 version was a shoddy port, but the PC version is solid.
Legacy: The Grandia series never quite hit it big, but it received a sequel in Grandia III for PS2 and a dungeon crawler in Grandia Xtreme. Grandia II and its predecessor remain the high points of the series.
Game Title: House of the Dead 2
On Dreamcast: An arcade perfect port of the hit gun shooter. Grabbing this game, 2 guns, and going at it double barrel or with a friend was the definition of a great time for DC. The hammy acting, tough bosses, and plethora of little secrets made it a little more than just a throwaway shooter.
Later Resurrected For: Xbox, Wii, PC. For Xbox, it was included as a bonus with HOTD III. For Wii, it was packaged together with HOTD III.
Legacy: This version of House of the Dead propelled the series into every arcade in America, and spawned 2 more arcade sequels, a pinball game, a typing game, and more recently, a Wii console exclusive, HOTD: Overkill with a grindhouse style to it. It received near universal acclaim.
Game Title: Ikaruga
On Dreamcast: The heralded vertical shooter from hardcore gamer darlings Treasure. Featured a system in which you had to change your ship to either black or white to affect how you damaged enemies while also absorbing bullets.
Later resurrected for: Gamecube, XBox Live Arcade
Legacy: It was only available on the Dreamcast in Japan, but it garnered a huge cult following through word of mouth and importing frenzy. It may be a difficult game, but it’s a game everyone had to play. Tons of gamers still refer to it as the pinnacle of shooters and the one that broke a whole new mold for future shooting games to build from.
Thoughts: I bought a Japanese Dreamcast on EBay just so I could play this game. Enough said.
Game Title: Marvel Vs. Capcom 2
On Dreamcast: An Arcade perfect port of the insanely hectic 3 on 3 2d fighting game that features 56 total characters from the Marvel and Capcom universe. Also featured online play in the Japanese version, although the major lag was a big reason behind not throwing it in the North American copy.
Later resurrected for: PS2, XBox, XBox Live Arcade, Playstation Network
Legacy: A game that is both simple to learn and hard to master, MvC2 is regarded as one of the greatest 2d fighters ever. While character balance is far from perfect, which renders most of the roster obsolete, the game is still played in tons of tournaments small and large (some tournaments even still use the Dreamcast version) and is currently enjoying new found life as a downloadable game on the 360 and PS3.
Thoughts: I have a deep love/hate relation with this game. I remember vividly how the disc never left my Dreamcast for months on end, and how I maxed out the game’s timer at all 9′s in the blink of an eye through playing with friends every week or staying up late nights in training mode. I learned every move, every combo, theorized over the best possible teams that work with each other. Then when I saw the best gamers in the world play the game, my world was turned upside down. I saw how the game truly needed, nay, HAD to be played in order to have a chance of winning. I learned then and there that if you ever want to have fun playing a fighting game, never watch the pros take it apart and discover the only “useful” characters.
Game Title: Phantasy Star Online
On Dreamcast: For those that never played Ultima Online, Everquest or Diablo and were somewhat intimidated by the experience, PSO was an easy and welcoming game to get into. It had a varied character class system with a fair amount of customization to make your character unique. There was an game looked better than those MMO’s too, with its bright colors and simple character designs, it was almost like a 3D Zelda game online. The combat was real-time with a simple combat system instead of selecting actions, which made it feel a bit like an action-adventure game at times. The soundtrack was memorable and appropriate for every moment of the game. The addiction was in building your character and working in a team of four to get through each level all while searching for coveted rare items such as scythes and bushido swords. This game and its followup were pretty much the first console MMORPGs. It sucked years out of my life. I have fond memories of playing until 4 in the morning on a dial-up connection just to find that ultra rare item.
Later Resurrected For: Gamecube, Xbox, PC. Gamecube and Xbox versions were a compilation for PSO I and II.
Legacy: Phantasy Star Online essentially kicked off the MMORPG for consoles. This paved the way for titles such as Final Fantasy XI to jump over to consoles. The Phantasy Star series lives on as well, with two additional sequels to the DC games, with C.A.R.D. Revolution and Blue Burst. The series also spun off to Phantasy Star Universe for mulitple platforms, and a couple portable versions in Phantasy Star Zero and Phantasy Star Portable.
Game Title: Power Stone
On Dreamcast: The first Power Stone title was a launch title, alongside the juggernaut that is Soul Calibur. While one might think that it would have been totally overshadowed by one of the marquee titles on 9/9/99, Power Stone garnered its own following for being a fun, non-technical fighter that had great use of color, frenetic action, and a new 3D arena fighting style that had not really been mastered on consoles prior to that point. (I will now get 200 retorts stating otherwise, I just know it.) And while there are some that endear themselves to the original, in this writer’s opinion, it is Power Stone 2 where the series really took off. Launching less than a year later, Power Stone 2 kicked the action up a notch by bumping up the user controllable players to all four fighters on screen, creating multi-layered arenas (one level has you starting on an airship, which soon explodes and has you and the characters falling to the ground, attempting to grab an umbrella so when you eventually arrive at a waterfall platform, you float down as opposed to crash landing…that’s just bad ass in so many ways), and an item creation mode that I never got to work right. It took all that made the original Power Stone great and amplified it to a truly great casual fighting experience.
Later Resurrected For: Sony PSP in 2006 as the Power Stone Collection, which combined both Dreamcast games onto one PSP UMD. Not having a PSP himself, this writer cannot add much more to this other than that Wikipedia claims there were “slight updates”, whatever the hell that means!
Legacy: By releasing a game like Power Stone on an essentially failed system software-wise, Capcom makes one wonder how truly invested it is in the Power Stone franchise. There hasn’t really been a game out there that has properly replicated the frenetic action of these games, and the fighting genre itself has pretty much stayed in two dimensions for all of its big releases in the recent past (Street Fighter 4, Soul Calibur, even DC vs. Mortal Kombat) What truly boggles the mind is why a game like Power Stone (and Power Stone 2 especially) has not seen an XBLA/PSN version released. Capcom drops the ball every day by not taking advantage of the arcade and party foundation that the Power Stone series was built on. We can only hope that changes soon.
Game Title: Resident Evil Code: Veronica
On Dreamcast: What the Dreamcast desperately needed early on was signs of developer trust and legitimacy to consumers on the fence. When they secured an exclusive Resident Evil game, I thought for sure this was a sign the Dreamcast was about to become a big-time player, as RE has always been a premier series. Code Veronica was the first game in the series to not have pre-rendered graphics, and had some pretty, creepy visuals with some scary scenes and new creatures in an entirely new environment for the series. It was a tough, rewarding game that stuck to the series’ conventions but was a great addition to the franchise.
Later Resurrected For: PS2, Gamecube as a slightly upgraded port. Updates included new cutscenes and a slick new haircut for the character Steve.
Legacy: I have fond memories of this title, but it’s often the more forgotten of the Resident Evil games. It wasn’t a numbered entry in the series, and for many people, that relegates it to the status of secondary games in the series. Additionally, the art design was a bit of departure from the rest of the series, and some people disliked the changes. Later, in 2005, Resident Evil 4 would transform the series and leave the older games in the dust. Resident Evil 5 was released earlier this year to most positive reviews. The series keeps on chugging along, and this is a solid entry.
Game Title: Rez
On Dreamcast: Well, to be fair, if you were an American, you didn’t really get Rez on the Dreamcast. It was only released in Japan and Europe, with Sega of America failing to bring it stateside (being released at the end of 2001, when Sega had already announced its withdrawal from the hardware business, probably lead to that). But this on-rail shooter with its impressive visual style and “synesthesia” made itself a much desired import for those hardcore Sega fans who refused to buy a PS2 version (which, oddly enough, released at the same time as the Dreamcast version in Japan.) The on rails movement through the wireframe world was enhanced by a pulsing soundtrack and sound effects that were not a typical gunshot effect but rather melodies and sounds that were created by the player both locking on and firing at enemies on screen. This created an incredible visual and sound experience, the likes of which had not been seen before.
Later Resurrected On: PS2, kind of. The PS2 version launched at the same time in Japan as the Dreamcast version, so it’s hard to say it was “later” resurrected on that system. This was more than likely where most Americans got their introduction to the game, until it was re-released in 2008 for Xbox Live Arcade on the Xbox 360 in high definition. The PS2 version (and, through extra controllers, the Xbox 360 version) could also be used with a Trance Vibrator, which was to sit in the player’s pocket or be sat on and would pulse in time with the music. This truly brought the orgasmic pleasure of the game to the masses. Due to the fact that the graphics have been upconverted to high definition with achievements and the rest of the gameplay remains the same, the Xbox Live Arcade version is this writer’s recommended version.
Legacy: Mizuguchi, creator of Rez, has continued with his implementation of music, color and sound all coming together with Lumines, but still, Rez’s legacy remains unfulfilled. There hasn’t been a successful combination of music and another genre of gaming like Rez since it’s release.
Game Title: Samba de Amigo
On Dreamcast: A ground breaking music rhythm game with rather expensive maraca controllers, but an undeniably catchy, fun, crazy atmosphere with festive pop tunes. Samba de Amigo still made you look like a goofball when playing, but unlike Dance Dance Revolution and Guitar Hero, shaking a maraca controller is something that is pretty intuitive for a mass audience. If you could invest the $200 for the game and two maracas controllers from Sega (none of those $40 rip offs that never worked just right), you had a party just raring to go. (There was also the Samba de Amigo ver. 2000 to import, which added the “hustle” mode, where you would move your maracas in an arc that never was properly readable by the game, and also added new songs.) This game also shows that the Sonic Team could actually still make games that were fun!
Later resurrected for: Wii in 2008, using the Wiimotes as maracas. Surprisingly sharing many of the responsiveness issues of the original, but keeping the same spirit and adding in many new songs.
Legacy: The Wii remake failed to really inject new life into the series and can be found in most bargain bins, possibly due to the overpopulation of rhythm games in modern times. However, it was an early entry into the music rhythm genre that showed people were willing to pay extra money for the plastic instruments that could be used only for that game (though we did have Samba maracas controlled Marvel vs. Capcom 2 games that were ridiculous.) Samba de Amigo also has a legacy of downloadable content: special songs from the Sega library (Burning Rangers, Magical Sound Shower, Opa Opa, and more) were available to download straight to your VMU for the amazing price of FREE. Later developers would take this idea and make an entire business model out of it (Harmonix with Rock Band) by charging people for that luxury. So the next time you go onto Xbox Live and download an album pack for one of your plastic guitar games, remember the game that started it all.
Game Title: Shenmue
On Dreamcast: Legendary game designer Yu Suzuki’s brainchild revenge saga was hyped to no end as the next big thing for storytelling and game play with a free roaming adventure aspect and day/night cycle which made it actually seem like a real life simulator. Featured some of the very first Quick Timed Event scenes that lots of current blockbusters still use and a deep fighting system with loads of moves to learn, along with collectibles mini games and almost every NPC being unique with their own voice/dialogue. The first chapter was released in Japan first then finally arrived in North America about a year later. The sequel, however, only reached Japan and Europe as the Dreamcast’s lifespan was sadly reaching its end in North America.
Later resurrected for: Xbox (in DVD movie form via sequel only)
Legacy: While the free roaming gameplay appealed to some gamers, others were turned off by the tedious things necessary to continue through the game such as working a real job or running around asking the same question to random villagers. Many also found the action sequences to be few and far in between before the game ended suddenly with a cliffhanger. It turned out not to be Sega’s savior blockbuster and sold less than expected. When the sequel finally came to the XBox the reviews were mostly positive, but it was too late for the series as most gamers had given up on the series or refused to play it on a different platform than the Dreamcast. To this day, Shenmue III has only lived through rumors and nothing more.
Thoughts: My days and nights with Shenmue were special, to say the least. When I first got the game I somewhat knew what I was getting into, but I truly wasn’t prepared for what the game had in store. I was drawn in by the story immediately with the very memorable intro, but one of the most special moments is when the game puts the control in your hands and lets you do whatever you want. Go talk with townspeople, feed a stray cat, get a job and save up some money (or go spend it all at the arcade playing Space Harrier or Hang On, which I was pretty guilty of doing), or maybe stay up late at night and pick a fight or two by the playgrounds. It was kind of like a more realistic Animal Crossing or The Sims in which the game never had to end, except there was actually a progression towards an ending, if you’d call it that. You were just living an every
day life of another human being, albeit a bit exciting and dangerous life at times. I was incredibly hooked, and when I did finish I couldn’t wait to transfer the game data straight into the sequel. Unfortunately that day never came, and I have yet experienced a game quite like Shenmue.
Game Title: Skies of Arcadia
On Dreamcast: Along with Grandia II, Skies of Arcadia was a landmark RPG that hit the Dreamcast about a year after its launch. While a stereotypical JRPG story of underground freedom fighters taking on an evil empire was the foundation for this game, the bright graphics, endearing characters, and entertaining ship battles made Skies of Arcadia a much beloved game for the new generation of systems. Released a day before Final Fantasy IX, Skies broke from that series’s recent games by avoiding a brooding main character to give a much lighter and more adventurous feeling to the story. While the random battles occurred FAR too often during exploration of the skies, the actual battle system itself was pretty solid fare, as far as turn based RPG battle systems go. What made them so enjoyable was the Super Move system, which took great advantage of the graphics and looked amazing compared to the other RPGs of the day, and also had brief but well acted voiceovers. I never wanted to battle without hearing Aika’s sweet voice yell “Fire consume my enemies! LAMBDA BURST!” Just a very fun, captivating RPG that helped bring that genre out of emo territory.
Later resurrected for: Nintendo GameCube in 2003, with minor upgrade in graphics, improved loading times, additional content, lesser sound quality (to fit on one GameCube disc…bad move!) and decreased random battles (good move!). Still well received but not a massive seller on the GameCube.
Legacy: To be blunt, Skies of Arcadia doesn’t really have a legacy. It never had a proper sequel, the production studio that created it (Overworks) has moved on to Valkyria Chronicles, and the producer of the game is working on handheld titles. One can hope that someday they will reconvene and give the fans a sequel to the air pirate storyline, but seeing as how the RPGs Overworks has made have never reached Final Fantasy numbers in terms of units sold, it will be unlikely that another Skies will hit shelves any time soon.
Game Title: Sonic Adventure 1/2
On Dreamcast: Sonic Adventure was the launch title that Sega needed. With crisp, colorful graphics, quick and varied gameplay, and a familiar face, Sonic Adventure was practically Super Mario 64 for the Dreamcast. Six playable characters (some old, some new) and a fairly expansive overworld made this the biggest and truly most adventurous Sonic game. Sonic Adventure 2 continued the tradition, although fell short in the eyes of some gamers. In my opinion it was tarnished by the fact that it forced you to play with certain characters, and thus gameplay modes, that could be skipped entirely in the first adventure. Overall the Sonic Adventure games were familiar enough to draw in Sega’s fan base, but cutting edge enough to appeal to a growing population of gamers.
Later resurrected for: Gamecube in 2001 (Sonic Adventure 2 Battle) and 2003 (Sonic Adventure DX). Each re-release contained extra bonuses and slight revamps of the original games. Sonic Adventure DX is notable for containing unlockable versions
of every Sonic game released for the Game Gear. Each game also enhanced the Dreamcast’s VMU capabilities by using GBA connectivity.
Legacy: The Gamecube re-releases were popular enough for Sega to continue producing 3D sonic titles. Many games similar to Sonic Adventure have been released since, ranging from moderately successful (Sonic Heroes) to awful (Sonic the Hedgehog, the 2nd worst scoring Xbox 360 game). None have seemed to capture the essence of what made Sonic Adventure so great, and all continue to stray farther and farther from traditional Sonic values.
Game Title: Soul Calibur
On Dreamcast: This game was a big one. Available at launch, this is often one of the first games to come to mind when one mentions Dreamcast. To say this game was important to the DC is an understatement. A graphical tour de force for its time, this upgraded arcade port brought the Dreamcast one of the best weapons fighters of all time. I can look back at this now and almost be in awe of how much time I sank into it. Hours and hours of beating the arcade mode, unlocking fighters, and then conquering the mission mode. As much as I loved Soul Blade for Playstation, this ended up being a superior game in every way.
Later resurrected for: Xbox Live Arcade. Released as essentially a promotional tool for Soul Calibur IV, this port brought HD graphics and live leaderboards to the game, along with everything unlocked from the get go. The only thing it was missing was online play, which is a shame. All the same, it still holds up remarkably well both graphically and mechanically after 10 years.
Legacy: Soul Edge started the franchise, but Soul Calibur really launched this into the big time. Since its release, there’s been 3 susequent sequels. II was a multiplatform release for PS2/Gamecube/Xbox, III was a Playstation 2 exclusive, and IV was again a multiplatform release for PS3 and 360. Additionally, an adventure game was released for Wii called Soul Calibur Legends, and a portable version was released for PSP called Soul Calibur: Broken Destiny.
Game Title: Street Fighter III
On Dreamcast: Originally released in 1999 as Double Impact, containing the original version and 2nd Impact. The final version, 3rd Strike was released in 2000. The Dreamcast version was an arcade perfect port, but featured its own soundtrack. The game is quite a bit different from Street Fighter II, but continues in the tradtion of quality 2D fighting. The only two returning characters are Ken and Ryu, and that was mainly a resuly of fan outcry. In 2nd Impact Akuma was re-introduced, and in 3rd Strike Chun-Li was brought into the fight. Many of the characters have familiar fighting styles but all in all this was a completely new game, especially with the parry system. Graphically Street Fighter III truly was a new generation of fighting game, being much more stylish and fluid than Street Fighter II or the Alpha series.
Later resurrected for: PS2 and Xbox. Street Fighter III was brought to the PS2 and Xbox in the form of Street Fighter Anniversary Collection, which included Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting as well as Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike. The Xbox version also included an online versus mode, being one of the first fighting games featuring online play.
Legacy: Street Fighter III continued to be a hit with fans and tournament players, especially with renewed interest after the re-releases. It took over a decade, but what was once thought to be the last 2D Street Fighter finally got a sequel in 2009 with Street Fighter IV on the PS3 and Xbox 360.
Game Title: Virtua Tennis
On Dreamcast: An anyone-can-play arcade port of a great tennis game. This stands out as one of the finest arcade sports titles of all time, with real tennis stars, easy to learn mechanics, and the feel of playing real tennis with it being unfun like many previous tennis games on other consoles. It received a sequel Tennis 2K2 near the end of the Dreamcast’s life.
Later Resurrected For: PS2 (sequel). Additional similar upgrades/sequels arrived on various systems such as PSP, PS3, 360, GBA.
Legacy: Still going strong, though not the definitive tennis game it once was. It is still a source of easy to pick up arcade actions with great minigames. The latest version, Virtua Tennis 2009, was released this year for PC, PS3, 360, and Wii.