The Dreamcast’s birthday is right around the corner, and you know what that means? That’s right, Dreamcast articles! As a big fan of many of the Dreamcast’s more obscure games I enjoy writing about Dreamcast games that even many Dreamcast owners, over a decade later, haven’t played yet. The five games in this list are games that are still relevant, games that Dreamcast owners should still pick up even years later. These games have aged gracefully and while not necessarily unique to the Dreamcast, are still games that need to be experienced on the Dreamcast.
Somehow, I feel like Cannon Spike should be occupying this position, given Starlancer is also available on PC. Still, I think Starlancer has aged just a little bit better. Starlancer was among the last of the dying space sim genre that had been popularized by games like X-Wing and Wing Commander in the early 90s. Created by many of the same people responsible for Wing Commander, Starlancer gave space sim fans one last great experience before the genre all but died.
Why is it still relevant on the Dreamcast? Because it remains the best space simulator ever made for a console. PC gamers have their fair share of awesome space sims like the aforementioned Wing Commander and X-Wing, as well as games like Tie Fighter, FreeSpace and Privateer. On consoles, however, it’s been a different story. The space sims on consoles are overly simplified and arcade-y, lacking the more complicated mission structure and ship controls in favor of simpler flying and gunning, resulting in a typically mediocre experience. The Rogue Squadron series has been the only space sim in the last decade to really stand out, but with its use of physics it is much closer to Ace Combat then X-Wing, essentially putting it in a different genre.
Starlancer is the only modern space sim on a console to ever really get it right. Missions often have multiple objectives, often happening simultaneously. Missions can often vary from simple reconnaissance or attack missions to taking part in massive capital ship engagements or sneaking behind enemy lines in a captured enemy ship. The game provides players with a variety of ships to choose from, many of them with special capabilities or built to suit a certain player’s particular play style. Players have far more control over their ship then they do in other console sims, able to control their speed and set escort speed for escort missions, barrel roll, reverse thrusters and utilize afterburner and flares. In a PC space sim this sort of thing is nothing special, but on a console these features make Starlancer the deepest and most complete space sim available on any console.
Finally, Starlancer is also one of the few Dreamcast games that are still online. Feel free to head over to OnlineConsoles to set up a meet once you get the game. I would highly recommend Starlancer to any Dreamcast owner looking for a fresh single player experience that has aged gracefully. In the case of Starlancer, it remains as fun now as it was in 2000, if only because it was the last really good game of its kind. If you are an avid PC gamer or simply have an extreme hatred of space sims, feel free to replace this game with the still-awesome Cannon Spike, which will be getting a review tomorrow.
#4. Dynamite Cop
Known in Japan as Dynamite Deka 2, Dynamite Cop was the sequel to Die Hard Arcade. Much like Die Hard Arcade, Dynamite Cop had the atmosphere of a corny 90s action movie, complete with over the top villains, destructible clothing and absolutely ridiculous weaponry. Dynamite Cop is a beat ‘em up that plays reminiscent to Streets of Rage, with QTEs and over the top, poorly directed cut scenes interspersed between various play areas.
How is it still relevant? Well, it’s still Dreamcast exclusive for one, but more importantly the game’s simple beat ‘em up game play formula still holds up very well. It lacks the deep combos and gadgets of contemporary action games like Batman: Arkham Asylum, but makes up for its lack of depth with fast paced game play and a well done fighting system. The fighting is simple and fluid, with the large variety of weapons constantly spicing up the game play to keep it from getting repetitive and stale. The ridiculously corny cut scenes do nothing but add to the game’s bad action movie atmosphere. The game possesses that timeless SEGA arcade charm that we just don’t really get anymore, and can be incredibly silly and fast paced. One moment you’ll be fighting a man in a turtle costume, the next a group of henchman dressed as pirates.
Dynamite Cop is a Dreamcast game that continues to hold up well. You can find my complete review here. Keep in mind, at the time of that review I had only bought the game a few months before.
#3. Samba de Amigo version 2000
Dreamcast is probably the only game console in existence that had just as many rhythm games as it did RPGs. Samba de Amigo was a Sonic Team music game directed by Shun Nakamura, the same person who also directed the recently released 3DS game Rhythm Thief, that focused on classic and contemporary Latin tunes while also providing some original songs such as Vamos a Carnaval and classic SEGA tunes like After Burner, Dreams Dreams and Let’s Go Away.
Samba de Amigo was an innovator in its day. Before Guitar rocked the world with its peripheral focused game play, before the Wii made motion control a mainstream part of gaming, and before DLC became the massive profit center it is today, Samba de Amigo had already done it, and done it well. The maracas let players experience rhythm gaming in a way they hadn’t been able to before, becoming one of the earliest and best examples of motion control done right. The simulation aspect of the maracas also worked incredibly well and allowed players to become really engrossed in the game’s music. The DLC allowed players to unlock dozens of music tracks. While the DLC is technically already on the disc, SEGA didn’t have the gall to charge people for it like Capcom and many other publishers do today.
Samba de Amigo Version 2000 remains the best version of the game to this day, largely thanks to its well made and well implemented maraca motion controls. These controls easily trump the motion controls of the 2008 Wii port, thanks in no small part to the specialized nature of the peripheral. Samba de Amigo was a very forward thinking game, and because of this it has aged very well. It is still a one of a kind experience best played on the Dreamcast, with game play elements that feel as fresh now as they did in 2000. Even with motion controls now widely available and utilized, Samba de Amigo still ranks among the best motion control games around.
#2. Project Justice
Seriously, Capcom, why hasn’t this game been ported? Project Justice was one of the best 3D fighters Capcom had ever made, and it remains so today. Mixing Street Fighter’s over the top special moves with 3D fighting game play and three person teams, Project Justice is a very fluid, fast paced fighter, with just enough simplicity to keep casual fighting fans just as enthralled with it as hardcore fans. The game’s graphical fidelity has also held up surprisingly well, thanks to very smooth stylized graphics that are very impressive for Dreamcast.
I’m not exactly a hardcore fighting game fan, so forgive me for not exactly going into excruciating detail here. Simply put, the games fast paced action, crazy special moves and team moves give us a game that is still very unique even today, though it still feels like a Capcom fighter. The game has aged very well over the last decade, making it a game that is still a must play for fighting game fans.
#1. Grandia 2
This last game was an amazing Dreamcast RPG that got a very lousy PS2 port. Grandia 2 featured a good story with many twists and turns, told through an excellent localization from Ubi Soft. At the heart of the game is an excellent battle system that mixes standard turn based battling with a real time gauge. A character’s speed and distance from an enemy effect when and how they can attack. This creates a dynamic battlefield that requires both quick thinking and strategic use of every character’s position and speed in order to get the best outcome, making Grandia 2’s battles far more engaging then the majority of turn based RPGs these days.
Thanks to the dynamic battle system and solid localization Grandia 2 remains a great RPG today. The battle system is still very unique among today’s JRPGs, and is deep enough to stand up with the best of them. Of course, Grandia 2 may not have made the list at all, had the PS2 port not been so inexplicably atrocious. Despite coming two years after the PS2’s Japanese launch, the game was still graphically inferior to the Dreamcast version. The game was riddled with frame rate problems, pop in and sound issues, resulting in a game that just couldn’t hold up to the original version.
Grandia 2 is an excellent JRPG that any fan of the genre needs to experience. If you’re a Dreamcast owner and you haven’t played this yet, pick it up. Now!
Even all these years later, in an era dominated by digital re-releases and ports, the Dreamcast still has a library that holds up. I hope you will celebrate the Dreamcast’s birthday this year by purchasing a few of these games. You won’t be disappointed.