It was 2015 when I posted the four part retrospective of Sega of Japan’s game development. 2015 was the year where they announced a new initiative and went as far as to make their previous corporate divisions their own separate companies. Such as Sega Games, Sega Interactive for arcades and so on (which they are already undoing again in April). Sega Game’s new president, Haruki Satomi, promised that he would right the wrongs of the past, gain back the trust of consumers and also shareholders with their “Road to 2020” initiative. Of course this encompasses the evolution of their Japanese in-house studios, which are arguably the core of Sega.
M2 might be a familiar name for SEGA fans out there. Indeed, this modest development studio has worked with SEGA for more than a decade helping to bring their older titles to modern system, from the “Complete Collection” installments in the SEGA AGES 2500 series to the SEGA 3D and SEGA AGES series on Nintendo’s more recent systems. But their history goes far back, from their modest days of porting games such as Gauntlet and Gunstar Heroes back in the 90’s. The YouTube channel My Life in Gaming has recently done an interview/retrospective with key staff members such as M2 CEO Naoki Horii and Chief Programmer Tetsuya Abe to talk about their personal experiences with working at M2, including the enduring relationship between SEGA and M2 and their general philosophy of adding something extra to these re-releases. The video itself is over an hour long, so there’s plenty to digest, complete with English subtitles for convenience.
If you liked the above video, maybe also subscribe to My Life in Gaming if you’re a fan of technical aspects of video games or retrospectives.
Arcade? When you ask the modern western gamer about such a concept, they will likely know about the genre of “arcade” in today’s market of downloadable games on console, PC and smartphone. Home and mobile ports of classic coin operated titles. But twenty years ago, people would visit actual venues to play games they could otherwise not to, offering considerable advantages in graphics, controls and cabinet designs.
Putting a coin into a machine should get you more enjoyment that you expect out of it. That has been the ethos of SEGA’s coin-up division for as long as existed. Immediate, visceral, thrilling; all of that should be encapsulated into the experience. One session should not go longer than 3 minutes. Often times games offer more depth as well, which is best summed up by the phrase “easy to learn hard to master” – which can be said of countless fighting games.
But different cultural perspectives can transform one concept considerably, and this can be applied to arcade games. Back in the glory days of arcades, westerners played in an arcade maybe once a month or even once a week at most. However in Japan, with its density of population, going to an arcade can become simply a part of your everyday routine, similar to how westerners play their games on home and mobile platforms. But what could one keep coming back to the arcade, time and again? Cards. Yes. Magnetic cards.
Virtua Fighter 5 turned 10 years old on Tuesday, July 12th. Community members Oliver “oneida” Leland, Mikél “BLACKSTAR” Grissett and VFDC co-creator Mike “Myke” Abdow reflect on how the entry fits into the series at large, and how its community ebbed over the course of a decade.
On July 12th 2006, Virtua Fighter 5 was released in Japanese arcades – that’s ten long years ago this past Tuesday. To put that time-frame in perspective, Soul Calibur III had been in arcades for three months. “X-Men: The Last Stand” was in theaters, “The Sopranos” was still on the air, and there was no such thing as an iPhone. SonicFox, fighting game tournament champion, was in the third grade. Put simply, Virtua Fighter 5 was released a long, long time ago.
Ten years ago fighting games were in that period of purported dormancy which spanned from the release of Capcom vs SNK 2 to Street Fighter IV, during which 3D fighters like Dead or Alive and Tekken saw sequels and revisions. And although Dead or Alive 4 technically brought fighters to “next-gen” on the Xbox 360 the previous November, Virtua Fighter 5 shouldered the responsibility of ushering the high-definition era to the arcades, which is where the franchise has flourished since its inception in 1993.
Sonic the Hedgehog’s 25th anniversary officially kicked off on June 23rd, which was of course the release date of the eponymous game that started it all. In this SEGA News Bits, George and Barry look back on 25 years of Sonic by spin dashing through all the main series Sonic Team developed console games. There are quite a few to get through, so consider this more of a SEGA News Smörgåsbord. Why are you still reading this? Click play and enjoy!
What are your favorite Sonic games? Let us know the comments below and like always thanks for watching! If you like our SEGA News Bits videos, make sure to subscribe to us on our YouTube channel.
Over the years, video game franchises have come in many styles. Platforming, fighting, puzzle, shooting, the list is never ending. But one thing many franchises have in common is that they have to start somewhere, setting up the foundation for future titles to follow up and improve on. However, on occasion, something happens down the line that causes the franchise to become twisted, causing things to become complicated. Copyright issues might make the prospect of new titles impossible so spiritual successors might be necessary (For example Bayonetta being the successor to Devil May Cry), or the franchise suffers from an identity crisis when localized like with Puyo Puyo, or games having inconsistent releases cause confusion like the infamous Final Fantasy I to VI problem.
By far one of the most curious cases is with a franchise called Wonder Boy (Aka Monster World).
A NEW STRUCTURE, A NEW SEGA
The executive team, Hideki Okamura (Left), Hisao Oguchi (Middle) and Takayuki Kawagoe (Right).
In 2005, Sega was back in the black in all areas for the first time in a long time. The Sega Sammy structure was completed, and the next generation home consoles were ahead. Like in the formation of twelve new R&D studios in 1998, executive management had a reset. Long time executives Hideki Sato and Hisashi Suzuki retired from Sega, after their thirty – or even in Suzuki’s case – forty years of service.
As mentioned in Part 3, Hisao Oguchi would atain the highest executive position which he held until 2008 where he received even wider responsibilities as Chief Creative Officer of Sega Sammy.
Then there is Masano Maeda, who joined in 1991. Madea was responsible for building a new Western management team that made crucial partnerships and buyouts of Western companies, like Creative Assembly, Sports Interactive and Secret Level On a side note: the amount of games developed for Xbox 360 amount to roughly forty games, and on PC to about sixty games. On the Dreamcast, the amount comes to fourteen, and old PC releases amount to sixteen.
REUNIFICATION AND TWELVE INNOVATIVE R&D STUDIOS
Playing up an executive managing director and joking about the state of the Dreamcast at the time, says a lot about Sega’s attitude at the time.
In Part 2 we covered Sega’s golden age, but great heights inevitably can bring great lows. Sega had lots of up and downs throughout their history. They also had great games, lots of them! But ultimately Sega did not make that much money from the Saturn. However, in the arcades they did absolute gangbusters. Sega needed to change their approach in regards to development and also their hardware. The solution was to make the Dreamcast and NAOMI arcade hardware the same and have all of the internal studios make games for it,in turn allowing them further grow and prosper. Twelve R&D studios in total were established, and the nine software studios were not split into arcade and console divisions – they made games for everything. Hisashi Suzuki and Yu Suzuki would manage the arcade business, with Hisashi putting in his final stretch at Sega before retirement.
This month we are proud to celebrate the unique and musical driven games of United Game Artists (ユナイテッド・ゲーム・アーティスツ). The team was made up of members of SEGA AM6 and headed by Sega AM3’s Tetsuya Mizuguchi. Unfortunately, the team was short lived and only released three titles under the ‘United Game Artists’ banner. Regardless, those three games have made such an impact on us gamers that we are still talking about them over a decade later.
In the West, SEGA’s Smilebit has become synonymous with the Jet Set Radio games, and for good reason. Like Sonic The Hedgehog to the Genesis and NiGHTS into Dreams to the Saturn, the original Jet Set Radio became one of the Dreamcast’s defining games, showcasing unique graphics and reinventing a video game genre. As SEGA left the hardware market in 2001, internal developers announced which consoles they would favor and Smilebit fittingly ended up with Microsoft’s Xbox.
I say “fittingly” because it only made sense that a developer known for pushing the graphical envelope would choose the Xbox, given Smilebit members’ propensities for expansive worlds in past titles like Team Andromeda’s Panzer Dragoon Saga and the first Jet Set Radio. While Jet Set Radio tried to conceal the fact that the game actually consisted of several small areas linked by clever tricks allowing the Dreamcast to load the next area as the player skated to the another section of the map, on the Xbox Smilebit could truly create expansive and detailed worlds. Utilizing the Xbox’s power, Smilebit did just that with Jet Set Radio Future, Panzer Dragoon Orta, and Gunvalkyrie.
SEGA’s development team Smilebit existed in the public eye for only four short years, yet in that time they managed to create one of the company’s most unique franchises, revived a classic Saturn franchise, contributed to a long running series of popular Japanese sports titles, and managed to create a few new franchises that have gone on to become true hidden gems. It’s fitting that we follow Team Andromeda Month with Smilebit, as Smilebit was actually the bringing together of the SEGA AM6’s Team Aquila, Team Andromeda, and G9 Team (though some staff ended up moving to United Game Artists). This mix of talent lead to Smilebit being primarily tasked with the Let’s Make series of sports titles, franchises that were largely confined to Japan. Utilizing former Team Andromeda staff, the team spearheaded the latest (and thus far last) Panzer Dragoon game. But what really made Smilebit unique were their new franchises including the Jet Set Radio games, Gunvalkyrie, and Hundred Swords.
All month long we’ll be celebrating Smilebit’s eclectic mix of games, celebrating the classics, the lesser known titles, and the ones that never left Japan. Ready to look back? Let’s go!
The SEGA Saturn’s surprise early launch in America is considered one of the most disastrous mistakes in the history of the video game industry. It angered SEGA’s third party publishers and retail partners, it allowed Sony to get the drop on the Saturn with a lower price point and it ultimately destroyed SEGA’s dominance in the American market, financially crippling SEGA permanently. The launch did have a bright spot though: it introduced the games of SEGA’s Team Andromeda to the West.
This month is devoted to the games of Team Andromeda, and to kick things off we have a developer and Panzer Dragoon franchise retrospective. Ready to take flight?
Moving into the second month of our Year of the SEGA Developers, we shine the spotlight on two beloved SEGA development teams as well as their short life as a single entity. SEGA’s Overworks and WOW Entertainment were formed in in the midst of the Dreamcast era alongside several other internal SEGA development divisions. Prior to the formation of these teams, SEGA had a long history of shifting about, renaming, and refocusing the efforts of their many internal developers. To better understand where Overworks, WOW Entertainment, and SEGA’s many other divisions came about, let’s dive into a short history of SEGA’s internal teams!
When we kicked off Virtua Fighter week, we took a look back at the main titles from the series. Despite being only five games long, thanks to the many revisions, updates, and upgrades as well as arcade to home console ports, what was five games felt more like ten. While Virtua Fighter didn’t dip into bloody fatalities or energy blasts, there did exist the metallic cyborg final boss Dural. Despite this, Virtua Fighter could be described as a fighter that tends to keep things in the realm of the real world. So where did SEGA-AM2 unleash their pent-up wackiness? In the spin-offs of course!
From 1996 through to today, Virtua Fighter has done everything from turning their adult roster into children, to crossing over with other SEGA fighters and even sharing the ring with a rival franchise! Join us as we look back on the many spin-offs, cameos, and crossovers that the franchise has produced over the years.