Today celebrates the North American launch of the Sega Dreamcast. Hard to believe that it really has been 12 years, but it was on September 9th, 1999 when SEGA’s final console had its North American release, and the gaming landscape arguably hasn’t been the same since.
There are of course many ways that I can, as a writer for a SEGA-driven website, choose to honor the system. In the end, though, I’ve decided to shed some light on Dreamcast games that don’t often make any lists, that aren’t looked back fondly upon, that will likley divide up even people who read this editorial. But these are games that were not met with warm reception, even back in the day, but that I loved anyway. Someone’s gotta remember them, right?
Why I liked it: The first game I’d like to highlight is a launch game, one from now-defunct publisher Acclaim. TrickStyle wasn’t a title that got a ton of press, and certainly didn’t benefit from great reviews, though IGN, for example, awarded it an incredibly generous high score. It was just one of those filler launch titles that you’d pick up based on the boxart. The game’s all about futuristic hoverboard racing, one with cartoonishly over-the-top characters, a trick system, neon-green luge rails, and some nice tunes. Not a perfect game by any stretch of the imagination, and one with its share of tediousness. But futuristic New York, London, and Tokyo are represented with an amazing visual flair; the art direction in TrickStyle is truly something to behold and even today, there are some startlingly pretty-looking environments. The music sets the scene perfectly for each race, with the adrenaline-pumping tracks mixing with some soft and ambient numbers as well. The quiet song that plays during a nighttime race through a futuristic Central Park is really a showstopper, and I wish the track was on Youtube to demonstrate to you guys. Between races you can hover through the Velodrome, an indoor skate park of sorts where you have the opportunity to practice your moves to the cheers of the crowd. In this hub you can also accept a series of missions. These range from fun to brutally difficult, but it’s a nice addition to the game and an opportunity to unlock new moves and boards.
Why nobody else did: This is one of those games where you have to finish the race in 1st place to progress, and some tracks, especially those later in the game, can be quite unforgiving. Often winning the race comes down to sheer memorization, and while it’s fun to perform tricks in the Velodrome, they’re a liability more than anything else during the races themselves. Controls are also rather sluggish, and it’s far too easy to find yourself stopping dead in your tracks, either by hitting a wall the wrong way or by falling from too great a height.
My Verdict: Art direction and music alone I think make TrickStyle worth playing, and as far as nostalgic value, you just don’t see games like this anymore. Definitely more frustrating than it needed to be, but still a fun ride. Fun fact; the studio who developed this game, Criterion Games, would go on to create Burnout, as well as last year’s critically-acclaimed Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit reboot.
Evolution 2: Far Off Promise
Apologies for the watermark, but it’s hard to find good images from that era without ’em.
Why I liked it: Evolution 2: Far Off Promise is the next game I’d like to shed some light on, and actually, this series of admittedly basic but charming dungeon crawlers is what got me into RPGs to start with. The Evolution games feature a main character named Mag Launcher, the youngest in a long line of a family of explorers who have, over the years, acquired a shit-load of debt, one he’s now forced to pay back. To do this, he undertakes archaeological missions from the Society, where he’s sent into randomly generated dungeons to collect artifacts. In between these dungeons, you get to wander through town, interacting with a handful of locals, choosing your party members, upgrading your equipment, etc. Evolution 2 took everything that worked about the 1st game and expanded upon it; the town became much larger and had more to do; the story, centering around the character named Linear and the mysterious Yurka, was more compelling, and you throw in some bandits, voice acting, (though in Japanese) and some fantastic music, and you have a game that I really enjoyed for what it was.
Why nobody else did: These games are the most basic of the basic. The turn-based combat system, besides some flashy moves, doesn’t attempt anything big. The dungeons are (for the most part) randomly generated and not much to look at. The bosses can kick your ass if you’re under-leveled, and the town, while it has its share of small diversions, really could have used more in the way of things to do.
My Verdict: All of this said, and while I fully admit that serious RPG fans were probably laughing at these games back in the day, they were a great way for me to dive into the genre. Evolution 2 picked up from where the first game left off and really expanded on its ideas. Evolution 2: Far Off Promise is an incredibly basic, but pretty charming, dungeon crawler. Fun fact; About 1/3 of the first Evolution and the entirety of Evolution 2 were combined into one game and released on the Gamecube, with the addition of English voice acting. We haven’t seen this series since, though developer Sting continues to make games, mostly for the PSP.
Don’t believe me about the music? Check this out:
Why I liked it: I’m going to be honest, this is the one game on this list that I just can’t for the life of me understand the hate for. If you scroll through the Metascores of any of the Gauntlet titles, whether it was Gauntlet Legends on the N64/PS1/DC, or Gauntlet Dark Legacy on the PS2/Xbox/Gamecube, critics did not like these games. And I can’t understand why. You get 3 other friends together, you pick a character, and you charge headlong through areas loaded with enemies, hacking-and-slashing, powering yourself up, flipping switches, collecting hidden items, and all that great stuff. Anyone who has never heard “BLUE WIZARD…HAS GAINED A LEVEL” announced to you by a deep-voiced narrator while playing a video game hasn’t lived, I’ll just say that. This was a great co-op game and my friends and I loved it.
Why nobody else did: I don’t know, I don’t get it. Graphics weren’t necessarily too hot but with all the action happening on screen at all times, I think it’s forgivable. I don’t know, that’s all I’ve got.
My Verdict: Anyone who hasn’t played Gauntlet Legends or its enhanced port, Gauntlet Dark Lagacy, has missed out. Midway attempted to reboot the series with Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows, a game which seemed like an attempt to at least partially listen to the critics. The result? The game sucked, killing off the series. Oh well…
Why I liked it: Certain Segabits staff love giving me shit for being a Nintendo fan, and I’ll admit, sometimes it’s warranted….sometimes. But here you go, SEGA fans, here’s a bombshell for ya: I liked Sonic Shuffle, well, better than Mario Party. Just take a moment to process that.
You ready to continue? Okay. Yeah, I actually really liked this game. I thought a lot of the mini-games were fun, I like the Sonic characters much more than the Mario ones, the card-based gameplay allowes for more strategy than simply rolling the dice, and hell, this even had a voice acted story mode! Even the inexplicably cel shaded visuals were…well, let’s not go that far.
Why nobody else did: Long load times, though they really didn’t bother me all that much, and my friends didn’t seem to mind either. Cheating computers, yeah, they were annoying, but not unbeatable. Bad graphics? Okay, I can admit that, and having to unlock half the roster of characters and the mini game mode was a pain, but I won’t make any apologies for this game…I really liked it. Fun Fact; I’m the only one on the planet who did.
My Verdict: Fun game. Forget the haters, yo.
Well, there you have it. I guess not every game can be universally loved. Today I took a look at some Dreamcast games that people either disliked or outright hated back in the day. That said, they’re games I really liked. Who knows what my opinions on them would be if I was a bit older back when they had come out, but I make no apologies for this list, and some of these games I still find myself coming back to. As flawed as each of them are….well, except Gauntlet; that’s just gaming excellence right there.Ad: