SEGA Retrospective: Let’s get sweaty as we celebrate a SEGA Dreamcast classic, it’s Shenmue Week!

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Welcome to a franchise week that many readers have been requesting ever since we began to dedicate seven days to classic SEGA titles, this is Shenmue Week! Like Jet Set Radio Week, we’re going focus exclusively on the first game of the franchise throughout the week. While Shenmue and its sequel are not incredibly different games from each other like Jet Set Radio and Jet Set Radio Future, we felt that both Shenmue titles are both so epic on their own that to try and cram both into seven days would do a disservice to the series. Not to mention, we love Shenmue so much that the prospect of another Shenmue Week in the future is something we’re looking forward to.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s travel back in time, before Shenmue II and before the original Shenmue. Before the series went by the codename Project Berkley, to a time in the mid 90s when SEGA’s Yu Suzuki was working on a SEGA Saturn prototype known as The Old Man and the Peach Tree.

Comics to Cartridge: Comics that inspired Comix Zone

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[Sketch Turner drawn by RainDante]

It’s quite obvious that Comix Zone is a 16-bit video game tribute to the comic book medium. It takes several aspects from a variety of popular comics throughout history and uses them in its own way to create a unique world.  Here are some that I’ve noticed during play. Since the developers never talked about stories in comics that influenced them, some of these could only be coincidence.

Let’s have a look.

SEGA Tunes: Comix Zone’s Road Kill plays Grunge music

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It’s no secret that Comix Zone‘s Sketch Turner was design around a grunge rock musician. Grunge music started in the mid-1980’s in Seattle and slowly spread thanks to labels like Sub Pop. It didn’t become commercially successful until the first half of the 90’s thanks to Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, and of course Stone Temple Pilots.

Howard Drossin, the composer behind the soundtrack for Comix Zone put a band together called ‘Road Kill’ (named after Turner’s pet rat and humble side kick).

SEGA Retrospective: Turn the page, it’s Comix Zone Week!

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Welcome to Comix Zone week, where we will be giving you a whole week’s worth of Sketch Turner love. If you have a copy of this SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive classic, give it ago for nostalgia’s sake and stay tuned all week long for new content. This fabulous game was first made available in 1995 for the SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive. It was later ported to Windows PC, Game Boy Advance, Virtual Console, Xbox Live Arcade, and PSN. Its also been featured in both Sonic Mega Collection Plus and Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection.

Check out our full overview of Comix Zone after after the break!

Retro Review: Sky Target (SEGA Saturn)

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In the mid-nineties the rise of 3D gaming left many of SEGA’s older franchises behind. While most were either abandoned or received largely forgotten two dimensional entries, some were completely reinvented for the third dimension. Though it doesn’t bear the After Burner name, Sky Target was in fact the first 3D entry in SEGA’s After Burner franchise. Released in 1995, the arcade version of Sky Target never achieved its predecessor’s success, failing to even leave Japan. Western gamers wouldn’t get to play Sky Target until SEGA ported the game to the Saturn in 1997, where it would be quickly forgotten.

At first glance, After Burner looks like the perfect candidate for a transition to the third dimension. After all, the game is already trying to simulate 3D play. In reality, Sky Target’s design decisions actually perfectly illustrate why so many SEGA franchises struggled (or failed) to make the 3D jump to begin with. Sky Target would introduce many drastic changes to the After Burner formula, many of which would find their way into 2006’s After Burner Climax. Do these design decisions work, though? Does Sky Target live up to the reputation built by its predecessor?

Classic SEGA Ads: Let your imagination run wild with Tiger’s After Burner!

In an era where most home gaming consoles were couldn’t produce anything more than simple 8-bit sprites, video game companies did have to occasionally get a little…creative with their marketing. This goes double for Tiger, whose LCD games were about as immersive as…well I don’t think there is anything less immersive then a Tiger LCD game. So naturally, Tiger encouraged the kids of the eighties to imagine their own arcade experience! After all, who needs stereo surround sound, fluid super scaling graphics and a full motion cabinet when you have the power of you mind?! This kid certainly doesn’t. He even brought his own flight helmet!

To be fair though, throwing a kid into a jet fighter was a pretty common way to market the game. SEGA took it a step further with their Master System commercial. This kid didn’t just imagine flying through some hazy clouds, he imagined a whole damn plane! The kid from Suburban Commando, which we highlighted earlier this week, even took it a step further by completely changing the setting of the game, complete with some new enemies.

If there’s anything I miss about games from the 8 and 16 bit era, it’s how vague their stories and characters were. Sure, I love having deep, interesting characters and engaging stories in my games, but an unfortunate side effect of this is that we can’t let our imaginations run wild about the nature of the game’s world and characters anymore. Oh well, I guess we’ll always have the imaginary jets of our childhoods at least, right?

 

SEGA in the Media: After Burner, Hulk Hogan, Aliens, and the Nostalgia Critic

It may be hard to believe nowadays, but there was a time when After Burner was once a pretty big deal. It helped the Master System find success in Europe and Australia, it was advertised on television and it even received a cameo in one of the highest grossing films of the nineties, Terminator 2! We’re not going to talk about that though, because you’ve probably already seen it. Instead, we’re going to focus on another science fiction movie released the same year as T2 that practically nobody saw: Suburban Commando.  We’ll also mention a certain popular reviewer of nostalgia who took a look at it back in 2009, and later took a look at one of After Burner’s commercials in a separate video a few years later. The video above features both clips. Take a look, then join me for more after the break!

SEGA Tunes: After Burner’s Final Take-Off from Gunstar Super Heroes

After Burner’s soundtrack ranks among the most iconic in the games industry. We’ve already featured two versions of After Burner’s main theme on a Tuesday Tunes a few years ago, so today we’ll be showcasing something a little more obscure: an unused track from Gunstar Super Heroes. Released for the Game Boy Advance in 2005, GSH was originally supposed to include numerous tracks referencing classic SEGA titles, including Altered Beast, Galaxy Force and of course After Burner. Unfortunately, all of these tracks were cut at the last moment, but some hackers managed to pull them out of the ROM and slap them onto the internet.

If the Gunstar Super Heroes rendition of Final Take-Off isn’t your cup of tea, I’ve also included the original version of the track from the SEGAAGES Album. Check it out after the break!

After Burner Week Article Compilation

We at SEGAbits love us some After Burner, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that we’ve written about the franchise a few times before. Before we kick off our week of features, we’d like to point you towards the previous After Burner features we’ve written. Also, be sure to check out the video above to see AJ Rosa’s quick take on After Burner Complete for the 32x!

Reviews:

After Burner Climax Arcade Review

After Burner Climax Console Review

Tuesday Tunes:

Project DIVA blazes through the blue skies singing the After Burner theme

After Burner Theme, the Bayonetta Remix

 

SEGA Retrospective: Get Ready For After Burner Week, Fire!

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SEGA made a name for itself in the eighties thanks in no small part to the incredible talents of Yu Suzuki and his team at AM2. Though the company saw numerous successes throughout the decade ranging from Zaxxon to Fantasy Zone to Altered Beast, it was AM2’s innovative tetralogy of super scaler powered games that would make SEGA a big name in the arcades. From 1985 to 1987 SEGA released a crescendo of innovative mega-hits, including Hang-On, Space Harrier and OutRun, culminating with the release of After Burner.

Much like the rest of its brethren, After Burner was a resounding success, spawning numerous updates and spiritual successors. This week, we’ll be giving you a taste of what After Burner has to offer. First, we’d like to present an overview of the franchise for the uninitiated.

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Round Table: We look ahead to Jet Set Radio’s future!

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Jet Set Radio Week enters the final boss battle that is the SEGAbits Round Table! Despite containing only a few games, Jet Set Radio and its sequel pack in a lot of unique ideas and feature an amazing art style and selection of music. With all this unique content, it’s a shame that the franchise has only seen two and a half games (the half being the Game Boy Advance version). This week, our writers have assembled in the GG’s garage to share their ideas for the Jet Set Radio franchise’s future, and seeing as we’re SEGA fans, we can’t help but reminisce and share a few memories. After the break, join us as we look to the future!

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Classic SEGA Magazine Corner: The Official Dreamcast Magazine previews Jet Grind Radio

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Jet Set Radio Week rolls onwards! Today’s feature dusts off a classic issue of the Official Dreamcast Magazine (ODCM), which was published in the United States from June 1999 (the premiere Issue 0) to March 2001 (the final issue 12). Issue 6, which we’re shining the spotlight on today, released in the summer of 2000 and was a much anticipated issue as it featured an extensive preview of the upcoming Jet Set Radio – which was retitled Jet Grind Radio for the US market at the time the magazine went to print.

The author of the preview, Francesca Reyes (former Editor-In-Chief of the Official Xbox Magazine), is a name SEGAbits readers may remember. Francesca, as well as former ODCM Editor-In-Chief Simon Cox and former Gamespot Editor-In-Cheif Ricardo Torres, joined us for our 50th podcast to celebrate the Dreamcast’s birthday and talk about the history of the magazine. For the preview, Francesca not only flew out to Japan to go hands on with the game, but she also met with SEGA’s ragtag Smilebit team! After the break, let’s crack open this classic issue and see what this wacky cel shaded graffiti game is all about.

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SEGA Retrospective: Over the ‘hood, through the streets and right into your brain – It’s Jet Set Radio

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We’re transmitting our signal straight to you! Y’all got your antennas on?
Welcome to Jet Set Radio Week – a week long celebration of SEGA’s off-kilter cel shaded Dreamcast classic! Past SEGA Franchise Weeks focused on more than one game, but Jet Set Radio Week is going to be different. Rather than splitting our time between the Dreamcast original and its radically different Xbox sequel Jet Set Radio Future, we’re devoting the next seven days to simply Jet Set Radio. But don’t fret, Jet Set Radio Future will have its own week soon enough!

Like Sonic The Hedgehog on the Genesis, and NiGHTS on the Saturn, Jet Set Radio on the Dreamcast turned heads with amazing visuals, memorable music, and unique gameplay mechanics. Jet Set Radio (Jet Grind Radio in America) may not have taken off like SEGA had hoped, but it did do well enough to warrant the previously mentioned sequel and has since become a SEGA cult classic. After the break, let’s take a look back and how such a crazy concept for a game came to be.

Interview with “Sega Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works” creator Darren Wall

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In November of last year, Darren Wall, graphic designer and art director at Read-Only Memory, took to Kickstarter in an effort to fund a book that was to be “the ultimate retrospective of the SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis”. Dubbed a “documentary art book”, Darren had the official license from SEGA, including access to the company’s archives and staff from both past and present. The only thing left to to obtain was the funds to make the project a reality.

This part was probably the easiest step of the project, as in less than 48 hours the team had met their £30,000 goal, and by the end of the campaign they earned £98,725! Prior to the end of the campaign, Darren joined George and I for a Swingin’ Report Show interview to discuss his plans for the book. It is now five months later, and Darren is nearing completion of the project with only SEGA’s approval and printing remaining. We caught up with Darren in a written interview, as well as another podcast which you can listen to tomorrow. Darren was even nice enough to give us some exclusive content from the upcoming book: design documents from the development of the original Streets of Rage!

After the break, check out the full interview as well as the cool exclusives from Read-Only Memory and SEGA.

SEGA Retrospective: Grab some trash can chicken – it’s Streets of Rage Week

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This website was once a happy, peaceful place… until today, when an awesome SEGA franchise took over. This memorable series soon had control of our featured articles and even the Swingin’ Report Show. Welcome 16-bit brothers and sisters to Streets of Rage week at SEGAbits!

As we reach the halfway point of SEGA Genesis Month, we wanted to shine the spotlight on SEGA’s popular side-scrolling beat ’em up series of games. Streets of Rage (Bare Knuckle in Japan) was a franchise that spanned most of the lifespan of the the Genesis/Mega Drive, and like Sonic the Hedgehog, Phantasy Star, and Golden Axe, the series came to be one of the console’s defining franchises. To celebrate these titles, we have a slew of features planned this week including an interview with Darren Wall, creator of the official book “SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works”, exclusive never before seen design documents from the development of the original game, a special podcast looking back on the franchise, part three of My Life with SEGA’s Streets of Rage retrospective (watch part 1 and part 2), and more!

So put on your favorite fingerless gloves, tie on a headband, and hit the streets with us as we fight our way through Streets of Rage Week! After the break, a SEGA Retro rundown of all the games the franchise has to offer, including rereleases and cancelled titles!