It may be 2020, but 2019 isn’t truly over until the SEGAbits writing team weigh in on their favorite SEGA games of the year. While George and myself shared our picks in a SEGA News Bits video, we wanted this round table to focus on what the rest of the team enjoyed most from our favorite company. So, what did they like? Read on and find out!
SEGA in 2019 has been an interesting year for SEGA for several reason. For example, a new IP in Judgment, the return of the Sakura Wars series, and a lot of love for retro enthusiasts like the SEGA AGES brand and the SEGA Genesis Mini.
The love for SEGA’s past thanks to the efforts of M2 is why I personally want to nominate the SEGA Genesis Mini as my SEGA product of the year, since it’s such a massive upgrade from the shovelware produced by AtGames and easily surpasses Nintendo’s mini consoles with it’s strive for quality and fanservice. Though I equally want to acknowledge the efforts of the SEGA AGES series, with special mention to Virtua Racing being overhauled to take advantage of more modern hardware, along with giving more obscure titles like Puzzle & Action Ichident-R some time in the spotlight too.
My favorite SEGA game of 2019 would have to be Project Sakura Wars also known as Shin Sakura Taisen in Japan. When the game was announced back in Japan during SEGA Fes 2018, I jumped with excitement by having the chance to play a new entry to the Sakura Wars franchise after 13 years of absence. SEGA CEO, Haruki Satomi, wasn’t kidding about what he said when the company wanted to gain trust back from the fans. The series has always appealed to me as a youth after I was first introduced to the original video animations with its unique cast of characters, setting, and hybrid gameplay system between dating sim and tactical strategy.
Throughout the year, I’ve been following updates on the game through the official Sakura Wars Twitter page and imported my limited edition copy of the game on the first day. After finishing my play through with Project Sakura Wars, the game captured the charm that the original games had with a newly fun battle system similar to Bayonetta, the joint gameplay elements borrowed from Yakuza and Sonic the Hedgehog’s Hedgehog Engine 2 makes the graphics look really clean, and a few fan services for people who had follow the Sakura Wars series since the beginning. If you want to check out Sakura Wars, I highly recommend trying out the fan english patch for the first game that was recently released last year. For the time being, I look forward to playing the game again in english this Spring 2020 and many projects involving the series.
Runner-ups: Judgment, Team Sonic Racing, Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, SEGA AGES: Virtua Racing
Hey guys, Shenmue III came out this year! Shenmue III! That game that was lost to the mists of time and thought impossible to release?! And it was GOOD?! Pigs flew in November, I held one in my hand the morning of November 19th. That whole week was basically one long birthday celebration and that was probably the best part. I’m still kind of in disbelief that it released. But more than that, I’m really happy it turned out as well as it did. Many articles from other sites have been written on how Shenmue III feels old, and how that works in its favor, and I think there’s some merit to that, even if it’s not the whole story.
Shenmue isn’t just ‘an old game with some jank,’ it’s a game that hasn’t been replicated. Games have tried, but none have ever captured the spirit of Shenmue, only ever cribbing parts of its success. Elder Scrolls inherited the “every NPC is voiced and has a backstory and schedule” part. Yakuza took its “small sections of towns and cities that are ultra-detailed” part. Other games took other parts, but that’s all it ever was: parts. Shenmue, despite all the cribbing games have done to it, is still wholly unique as a singular experience. And Shenmue III absolutely nails that experience, even if it came at the cost of limited controls, a meandering story, and strange pacing.
I admit, putting it in this list is weird to do. It’s technically not a SEGA game, but I already reviewed Rez Infinite so maybe don’t take me as the gospel on SEGA games. The SEGA name IS everywhere in the game, shockingly so, plus the logo is on the back of the box and every bit of footage has to be accompanied by “original game copyright SEGA” so I’m gonna count it. But if you didn’t want to discount my vote for that, discount my vote for not finishing it! Yeah, I got halfway through and then December happened and I lost track of it. My family, my friends, and my partners took over, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. 2020 resolution: finish Shenmue III.
This is so weird though, admittedly, submitting a game I didn’t beat and wasn’t published by SEGA for the SEGA game of the year. How about a consolation? How about…
The House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn
Wait, this didn’t come out this year? It came out in the US October of 2018!? Ah…hmm…
Still best arcade game I played this year.
Best SEGA-Published Game That Honest-to-Goodness Released in 2019
SEGA Ages OutRun
Wait, no, this is a game from 1986. That released at the end of last year in Japan. And technically speaking, this could beat out Scarlet Dawn for best arcade game I played this year!
Hold on, I had to have played SOME bonafide new SEGA game this year…hey wait, almost all of the SEGA games that came out this year were remasters and re-releases! This is a no-win situation! I’ll have to get creative, then…how about…
Best SEGA Game That Didn’t Come Out This Year
Space Channel 5 VR: Kinda Funky News Flash!
All jokes aside, I wanted to highlight this game because I think more than any other game, SC5VR is a microcosm of virtual reality as a whole. It’s existed in some form since VR got off the ground, and has experienced all of the peaks and troughs of the medium. From starting out as a flailing simulator, to just a viewing show, to a full-blown, full-force Space Channel 5 Part 3 in all but name. It’s exciting as a long-time fan! Getting to see this series in HD, and not just old environments brought to life through VR, but brand new ones! People, including myself, have been wanting a Space Channel 5 sequel for a long time, and as unfortunate as it is that not everyone will get to play it thanks to its medium, VR is definitely the next step for the series. Its 60’s psychedelia meets space opera aesthetic is perfect for viewing in the highest immersion possible, and Space Channel 5 is a game made for motion controls.
All that excitement said, though, SC5VRKFNF! (I’m never using that full acronym again) worries me. It worries me as a new sequel in a legacy series. It worries me that we’ve barely seen any of it. It worries me that SEGA is releasing a game in such a niche series as their first real foray into virtual reality. It worries me that the first gameplay we got was in a thirty minute virtual YouTuber livestream, and it wasn’t even full screen. What doesn’t worry me is its delay, if only because it’s still a microcosm of VR’s existence, even if by accident. Assuming all goes to plan, Spring 2020 is gonna be right after the recently-announced Half-Life: Alyx debuts for VR. You may have heard that as a result of that announcement, VR hardware sales have gone into a major boom, with headsets selling out in some places, and a lot of people jumping on the craze for the next Half-Life game. But that’s only one game coming out next year, and although Space Channel 5 will most likely still be niche, I think it releasing after the medium gets a big increase to its install base will help it out a lot! Plus, it won’t be PC-exclusive like Half-Life will be.
So, that’s my SEGA games of the…not…year. I guess the closest they really come is Shenmue III, so I guess that is my definitive game of the year. I rarely play games the year they launch these days, I can only think of a handful of times I did that this decade. Most of my gaming is in older games, both ones I’ve played, and brand new experiences from decades past. I’ll probably be doing the same in the 2020’s, but…hey, new decade’s resolution: play more new games.
Also, finish all the articles I’ve been too busy with personal life to complete.
Upon the eve of what is the culmination of everything that is SEGA, the Road to 2020 has been a very interesting one. It is always exciting now to see what new SEGA IP/IPs will make its returning debut or releasing another charismatic sequel in the coming years. And while a lot of it may have felt very similar to previous ones, SEGA wraps up 2019 with a compelling line-up.
It seems like we are starting to get blessed with at least five good SEGA games a year since 2017 and this year was no difference. We saw the rise in old IPs, such as Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz, ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove, and Shenmue 3. Mario and Sonic go to the Tokyo Olympics to compete an awesome sports game. And the rise of the SEGA AGES titles has taken the Switch’s E-Shop by storm, with wonderful retro titles all cleaned up and featuring new options and settings to make the game more assessible for a broader audience while also catering to the hardcore fans of those specific titles. Virtua Racing, OutRun, and Puyo Puyo are some of the ones have enhanced features, like difficulty settings and save states. But one title has stood out to me among all, to recreate a special gaming experience and fall in love with one arcade title all over again.
Runner Up: Space Harrier: SEGA AGES
While I already went in-depth earlier this year about how much M2 has put into their re-released version of Space Harrier. Part of the SEGA AGES family, the arcade classic represents the same rail-shooter gameplay flying through the Fantasy Zone across 18 levels. One major change has made the game a brand-new experience: KOMAINU Barrier Attack Mode. Acting as a soft “easier” mode, you are equipped with a barrier that lets you take a hit and will replenish over time. However, the actual difficulty doesn’t change (unless you do so in the settings), and the mode lets inexperienced and new players have more chances to keep your flight going without the cost of difficulty. Space Harrier: SEGA AGES is still an intense but challenging arcade game that adds more to a wonderful classic.
Runner Up: Judgement
It is a shame that I have not finished the game at the time of this article, otherwise it probably would have been my favorite of 2019. Objectively, I can look at this game and the winner and say nine times out of ten that Judgement is the better game. Taking place in the Yakuza world of Kamurocho, you play as Yagami, a private investigator that uncovers a special case of unique murders. Using the same great gameplay and setting of the Yakuza franchise, Judgement adds a detective element with sleuthing for clues in arcades, tailing possible suspects, or even questioning their motives, perhaps stopping them with your fists too. It blends everything that is wonderful about the Yakuza games and makes it into a Japanese mystery novel, but with added beat-em-up gameplay with plenty of side quests and things to do.
Favorite Game of 2019: Team Sonic Racing
It has been since Sonic Mania that I truly feel about a game the exact same as when I first got it. Even after many months, Team Sonic Racing has meant something special to me that no other game has done this year. I followed this game from the very beginning and first experiences of it was the demo at E3 2018. While the driving and overall gameplay was solid, it felt lacking and I was not hopeful for the future. At the same time, the Sonic community was in a welcoming and wonderful state and we would all share our thoughts and concerns about anything related to the blue hedgehog. Afterwards, SEGA and Sonic Team got wind that fans were unhappy about the progress and demos and took more time to hopefully polish up and fix the game.
While nothing perfect, Team Sonic Racing is a game that deserves more than what it gets. It is a great kart racing game with offers a lot to do between modes and missions. The story mode offers a harmless, yet somewhat silly story that offers great voice acting by the English cast. The team mechanic creates a new way to compete in races and making it fun on top of it and keeps the tricks and mechanics from the All-Stars Racing games. The shining star is the track design and music, with fun and interesting layouts and the best soundtrack of 2019 as well. Local and online play is a plus, although there is a lack of players online in my experiences, usually lucky to have one or two at max. But the ones shared with friends and members of the community have some of my favorite gaming moments of this year and will always enjoy Team Sonic Racing for all its faults and improvements.Ad: