SEGA has created some highly popular and cult classic series of games that have stuck with people over the years. While most of you guys already know that Sonic the Hedgehog is celebrating his big 25th Anniversary this year, many other games get ignored because they aren’t as relevant as they used to be. Today we will list those mostly ignored video game franchises we all love. Did your favorite game make our list?
United Game Artists
It’s unfortunate that a game like United Game Artists’ Rez, the third and final title from the developer, ended up releasing at the time it did. One one hand it could be said that it was one of the Dreamcast’s final great games from an in-house developer, but on the other hand due to the time in which it was released over in Japan, US and European releases were at the time up in the air. While the United States missed out on Shenmue II, Headhunter, and Rez, those in Europe were lucky enough to end up with all three titles for their blue swirl emblazoned console. When it comes to digging up english language commercials for Rez, prepare to be disappointed. Due to SEGA’s shifting interests, english Dreamcast ads for the game are non-existent. In fact, when digging for UGA game ads, I didn’t even come across a Japanese Dreamcast ad for the game.
Thankfully, not all is lost! Rez saw worldwide release on Sony’s Playstation 2, and while english ads still seemingly never materialized, we did get a collection of corny Japanese ads for the game. The first, seen above, features a man on a toilet who gets into a wall pounding contest with a man who really has to go. They end up pounding the wall in rhythm, and in turn they “Open New Sense” before the man outside punches straight through the wall.
The Dreamcast era was a unique time for SEGA when it came to marketing their characters. While the Saturn’s launch made the error of shifting the spotlight away from Sonic the Hedgehog, the Dreamcast launch proved that there was more than enough room for established characters as well as new faces. Joining Sonic was a lineup of first party and third party faces, from Midway’s Afro Thunder of Ready 2 Rumble and Namco’s Soulcalibur fighters to SEGA’s own creations.
Space Channel 5’s Ulala was without a doubt the most heavily marketed of these new characters, with her face seen just about everywhere. Ulala appeared in a promotional stage show at Universal City Walk, she dominated SEGA’s booth at 2000’s E3, she was seen in print and on TV and even appeared as product placement in the 2001 movie Josie and the Pussycats. There was even talk of Ulala hosting her own TV show! Suffice to say, there came a point in Space Channel 5‘s promotion where Ulala nearly overshadowed her own game. There is no doubt that Ulala is a fantastic character (she is a favorite of the SEGAbits staff, so much so that we named our podcast after her report show), but has the original game stood the test of time? Let’s find out as we look back at the United Game Artists’ classic Space Channel 5!
Like Space Channel 5, United Game Artists’ Rez was a game in which music was not only a defining element, but a vital one. While Rez played very similarly to the Panzer Dragoon rail shooters, music acted as a heartbeat for the game, a pulse which every action was tied to. To say Rez was a rhythm game, however, would be inaccurate. Attacking enemies out of synch with the beat was doable, and in some of the more hectic moments of the game it was necessary. Yet if you truly gave in to the game’s soundtrack and pulse you’d discover a whole other level of play where music and visuals meld into some magical new sensation.
Rez’s soundtrack featured the likes of Keiichi Sugiyama, Ken Ishii, Mist, Joujouka and Adam Freeland. Each artist contributed a unique sound a feel for their respective stages, and no track was more memorable than Adam Freeland’s “Fear”. Perhaps I say this because the track accompanies the final stage, a moment when the game is building to its big climax and the player is now fully invested. “Fear” itself is quite epic, starting small and building to a electronic string section crescendo. Seeing as Rez‘s soundtrack is popular with fans, the music is readily available on both an official game soundtrack and on albums from the individual artists. However, unique to Adam Freeland’s “Fear” is the fact that while the track is out there, the in-game edit is not… until now.
SEGA fans love to wax nostalgic on old commercials. Whether they’re the fast paced and competitive ads of the Genesis/Mega Drive era, the bizarre ads of the Saturn era, or in the case of today’s featured SEGA ad, the American Dreamcast campaign featuring fun vignettes taking place inside the console. We’ve featured an ad from this campaign before, and its no wonder we’re going back to the same well because it truly is one of SEGA’s best. The campaign’s concept was simple. Viewers would be introduced to the Dreamcast console’s triangular orange light which acted as a gateway to a magical world inside the console consisting of several levels. On each of these was a different scenario, it could be a DJ party or it could be a sleepy cantina. Sometimes viewers would be treated to an epic crossover of characters from recently released and upcoming Dreamcast titles and every ad ended with a zoom out featuring the console, controller and the memorable slogan “It’s thinking…”.
During their short run, the US Official Dreamcast Magazine managed to produce some excellent covers showcasing a wide range of Dreamcast titles. Unlike other gaming magazines tied to a single company, ODCM didn’t rely on mascots to sell the latest issue. Amazingly, Sonic only appeared on two covers during the magazine’s run; the promotional Issue 0 and the premiere issue. from issue 2 and beyond, ODCM shifted the spotlight to both first and third party franchises from a range of genres. Either it was a testament to the console’s strong library, or the editorial staff’s taste, but not a single issue of the magazine gave a cover story to a dud of a game. In this installment of Classic SEGA Magazine Corner we’re taking a look at issue 4 which gave Space Channel 5‘s Ulala the cover treatment, a full introductory spread, and the top slot in an article about great Dreamcast games due for release in 2000. Enough talk, let’s crack this issue open!
While SEGA music fans celebrate the likes of Jacques, Naganuma, and Mitsuyoshi who created hours of original tracks for iconic SEGA games during the Saturn and Dreamcast eras, its important to remember that SEGA has also relied heavily on pre-existing music licensed for their titles. Samba de Amigo, for example, used contemporary tracks from the likes of German pop group Bellini, Chumbawamba, and Santana, as well as classic music from the 50s and 60s including tracks from the Gipsy Kings, Perez Prado, and Quincy Jones. Jet Set Radio and Jet Set Radio Future also featured several licensed tracks, so many that subsequent re-releases were once in fear of losing iconic tunes thanks in large part to the fact that Crazy Taxi‘s HD release scrapped the original game’s soundtrack which featured Bad Religion and The Offspring. SEGA learned their lesson with Crazy Taxi, however, as the mobile release of the game reinstated the original soundtrack and Jet Set Radio‘s HD release promoted the fact that the soundtrack was largely intact in their marketing of the game.
Internal SEGA development team United Game Artists, known for Space Channel 5 and Rez, put music at the forefront of their titles. Music not only played a part in enhancing the mood, it was a vital part of gameplay. Sure one can play Jet Set Radio or Samba de Amigo with the speakers muted (why would you want to though?), but muting Space Channel 5 or Rez? You might as well unplug the console. Throughout the month of May, SEGA Tunes we will be focusing on both the original and licensed music featured in United Game Artists games. This week, we’re kicking things off with a classic.
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.