Welcome, one and all, to another retro gaming post. As discussed in my Saturn article, Retro Bit announced a new partnership with SEGA back in December last year. The idea was that they would create new controllers for various SEGA systems, including, but not limited to, the Genesis/Mega Drive, Saturn and Dreamcast. As stated in said article, Retro Bit also make consoles and cartridges though, including some officially licensed systems! So, just like last month, I’m going to be looking at a list of titles that I’d like to see in a hypothetical SEGA Dreamcast Mini.
But first, some history. The release of the Dreamcast was staggered, with Japan getting the system in November 1998, the USA in September 1999 and Europe in October 1999. The console, sadly, only had a short lifespan and was discontinued in March 2001. The total worldwide sales were only 9.13 million, meaning that the console actually sold less than the Saturn. Despite this, the system is generally seen as ahead of its time, and it was the first home console to feature a built-in modem for online play. It also had a great catalogue of games. So, if I had to choose ten games to feature in a SEGA Dreamcast Mini, what would they be? Well, here they are:
1 – Resident Evil: Code Veronica X
Releasing in early 2000, the original game was actually announced back in 1998. The problem was, sales of the Dreamcast were lower than expected. Despite this though, the game launched to critical acclaim and was deemed to be a must-own title for the failing system. In the end, Capcom released an updated version, Code Veronica X, for both the PS2 and Dreamcast in 2001. This version includes ten minutes more cutscenes, and was eventually ported to the GameCube, PS3 and PS4. That alone should tell you how well loved the game is. Technically, it was a big step up for the series too, featuring a much better camera and using real-time backgrounds rather than pre-rendered. The game was atmospheric, fun, and a great entry in the series.
2 and 3 – Shenmue I and II
Sure, we got some high definition ports of the games in recent times, but let’s be honest here: the original titles were way ahead of their time. But why is that? Well, it belonged to a genre that SEGA named ‘FREE’ (Full Reactive Eyes Entertainment). Yeah, I know, it’s a bit odd, right? It did sort of fit with that though. The huge open worlds are easily on par with some later titles, and you were indeed free to explore a lot of things within the constraints of the world. Everything ran to timetables, with shops and buses tied into the clock, and the series is credited with naming the quick time event system. Your character can take work, earn money, and spend it on things like capsule toys and food, and you can even play arcade games if you’re bored investigating your father’s death! These are must have titles.
4 and 5 – Sonic Adventure I and II
Another double header enters the list. While the Saturn lacked a Sonic title, the Dreamcast finally saw the cool blue hedgehog jump into the 3D world. While many say they feel dated now, both titles were actually met with critical acclaim at the time of release. Sure, the voice acting was panned, and there were some minor glitches with the camera and collision detection, but for their time, some of the visual were absolutely stunning. The first game was the best selling Dreamcast game of all time, which was really a testament to how much Sonic was missed in the Saturn era. The thing is, these games set up a lot of what would become staples of the series. New characters, the 3D gameplay elements, the music … it all began here. How much mileage you get out of that will depend on your views of the modern game, of course, but I for one view these as must owns.
6 – Crazy Taxi
How could this not be included, right? Originally released in the arcades, the Dreamcast port was – much like many of the well-known Saturn ports of arcade games – universally praised. Yes, it saw ports to other systems, but none gained the same high scores as this release. The gameplay was addictive, so much so that the high level of difficulty became part of the fun rather than a frustration, and the city you roamed in search of customers was suitably big enough to keep you exploring for ages. If they could license the original soundtrack, featuring Bad Religion and The Offspring too, that would be a real coup, and help set the port ahead of later releases with altered tunes. If not? Well, we still have the gloriously detailed backdrops and cartoony character designs to accompany us through a fun people carrying romp.
7 – Jet Set Radio
One of the original games to feature cel-shaded graphics, Jet Set Radio was determined to stand out from the crowd. And boy did it do that! This was a real visual treat, and at the time, there wasn’t really anything that you could compare to it. But the appeal wasn’t just in the aesthetics. The game sees you using rollerblades to navigate Tokyo while tagging set spots with graffiti and avoiding the authorities (who give chase not just on foot, but in tanks and helicopters). Unlike the trick focused Tony Hawk games, this title played to SEGA’s maintained arcade strengths and allowed for simple controls that placed the emphasis on fluidity of movement. Though not a big seller initially, the game has since achieved cult status and is generally viewed as a strong example of when SEGA took more risks than any other company. It’s just a shame that those risks didn’t all pay off.
8 – House of the Dead 2
Another great arcade port, this classic zombie shooter received far more positive reviews in its Dreamcast port than in its PC port. Featuring multiple endings and pulse-pounding action, the game throws you right into the middle of an undead horde, and leaves you to fight for your life. Now, SEGA never released an official light gun for the Dreamcast, but there were a few third party ones that could fit nicely here if bundled with the system. When it comes to rail shooters though, even without a gun, you’d be hard pressed to find many better in the Dreamcast days.
9 – Soulcalibur
The Dreamcast was actually a virtual heaven for fighting games, with multiple titles releasing to critical acclaim. None can deny the impressiveness of Soulcalibur game though. The second biggest selling title on the system was allegedly released for the Dreamcast because Namco didn’t want to place the better known Tekken on the console. Featuring slick graphics and tight gameplay, it was more than worthy of the praise it garnered though, and is easily one of the best showcases for how good Dreamcast games could look. This was a launch title that became a classic, and would be a fine fit for a mini console.
10 – Ecco the dolphin: Defender of the Future
Ecco first appeared in a series of quirky titles on the SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis, and this title was a welcome return for the character. Serving as a reboot for the series, you take control of Ecco and explore a 3D world, using sonar to help with navigation and interaction. What made it really special was that the translation of the old 2D gameplay into the 3D world was actually fairly seamless. On top of that, the game was graphically taken to be among the most realistic on the system. Even if you weren’t interested in the storyline (written by award winning sci-fi author Glen David Brin), the game offered plenty of opportunity to swim around enjoying the scenery while attempting to flip out of the water.
So, those are my ten picks for a Sega Dreamcast Mini. But what about yourselves? What did you think of the console? Did you have any favourite games? What would you like to see in a Mini console if it were released?