Videolamer noticed that in our attempts to keep Dreamcast Mania! alive, so very many of our articles were about the things we missed out on, rather than a celebration of what we had. That changes now. Today we will be going over some of the absolute best games the DC (and only the DC) has to offer. These are not only the reasons why we loved it, but while we still do. These are the games that make it a system still worth owning and playing (meaning you won’t find games like Third Strike, which has a superior PS2 port).
Oh, and I only have a paragraph to describe each game. Prepare for distilled glory.
Soul Calibur – As far as I am concerned, the only game in the Soul series that you can argue was better than this one (and have me actually listen to you) is Soul Blade. For my money and time, this is still the pinnacle of the series. It offered both simple arcade modes and deep single player options. It has interesting characters whose stories are fleshed out away from the actual game. The graphics are sharp in a near timeless way. Characters were are balanced, and the mantra of “fun to play for newbies and experts” holds strongest in this one. When other 3d fighters were content with bastardizing years of 2d fighting design, Soul Caibur gave us true 3d combat. While the sequels began to go down the path of DOA cheesecake and anime silliness, Soul Calibur still stands as a classy, well crafted game, and one of the finest that I have ever played.
Power Stone – A lot of people think Power Stone 2 is a better game than the original. This is wrong – the sequel is very entertaining if you have some friends over, but is lacking when it comes to actual combat. It is far too random and demands platforming skills as opposed to sheer fighting technique. Power Stone is less frantic multiplayer fun and more of a real fighting game. The one on one fights are still faster paced and more random than most fighters, but without the level falling apart around you, combat tactics are much more the focus. Adding this game to the list may be cheating since the 37 people who have the new PSP, the Power Stone Collection and the desire to play through their TV can have the approximate experience of playing Power Stone on the Dreamcast.
Jet Grind Radio – Jet Grind was one of the first cel shaded games. Somehow, it is still one of the best looking, featuring details and subtleties that give it that “lived in” feel. It has well designed levels that use both vertical and horizontal space effectively. The controls are simple, the rules are simple, and yet it is incredibly interesting and very challenging to ace every level. And of course who could forget one of the greatest soundtracks ever, a eclectic mix of techno, house, rock and electronica that always feels right. The greatest testament to Jet Grind is that it uses only three buttons and has no multiplayer, and it is still one of the Dreamcast’s best. The idea of a bigger, badder, feature rich Jet Grind is almost scary (unfortunately we would not get this with the sequel).
Chu Chu Rocket – One of the last good games made by Sonic Team, Chu Chu Rocket is a hit or miss title. If you “get it” (meant to imply those who don’t like it simply are too dumb to understand why the game is good) then it’s a frantic four player puzzle game with nearly unlimited replay value. If you don’t “get it”, it’s not frantic but rather confusing and a headache to play. If you manage to find three other people who “get it”, a feat I have never accomplished, prepare yourself for Cat and Mouse Mania.
Virtua On: Oratorio Tangram – I hear playing any VT without Twin Sticks or a Saturn pad is blasphemy. Indeed, the Dreamcast controller just isn’t up to the task for this game, but if you can get around this you will still find a game more than worthy of your time. At first glance, Virtua On might seem like an shallow fighting game with a small roster and few moves. Spend enough time with it, and you will not only learn new moves, but you will see just how tactical and visceral a good fight in VOOT can be. Dashing across the stage firing a trail of missiles then rushing in for a devastating melee strike is consistently satisfying. Then you realize just how uniquely each robot plays, or how gorgeous the game still looks, thanks to clever art direction and silky smooth performance. This game is far from shallow – VOOT has a learning curve like a brick wall, but the candy behind it is oh so sweet.
Crazy Taxi – A DC classic that has been ported to a zillion other consoles. I still feel that it is most home on the DC, and in its original form, Crazy Taxi is great arcade fun. Learning to effectively drive the cars and go on a huge streak of fares manages to be far more replayable than you might think, and having two cities helps keep things fresh. Crazy Taxi is one of those games that requires that you know how to play arcade games, otherwise it looks like shallow discount drivel. Once you master it, it can and will stick with you.
Fatal Fury: Mark of the Wolves – Mark of the Wolves is a decent port of the arcade original, and technically it has seen a post-Dreamcast US release (on Gametap). But since the ‘tap isn’t that widespread, and since MOTW has yet to see a Live Arcade or VC release, I am going to include it on the list.
As SNK’s answer to Street Fighter 3, MOTW ends up complementing Capcom’s masterpiece rather than competing with it. Both feature small rosters and simple but challenging engines, but each features a different spin on defensive countermeasures (Just Defends are a bit nicer than SF3’s Parries) and super moves. Throw in some of the best visuals ever put on the Neo Geo, and this is an absolute winner. Getting into MOTW is another difficult task, but the rewards are there. If any fighter is in dire need of a sequel or a revision, this is the one.
Bangai-O – Treasure recently announced a sequel (remake?) of the cult hit Bangai-O, so now is a good time to play the original… well, not the original, because that’s a Japanese N64 game with different game mechanics. The next best thing to importing that, though, is to get the Dreamcast version of this hectic 2d shooter. This is another game it’s possible to “not get” but with Bangai-o, I have experience on both sides of the “get” fence. Thus, I understand exactly how you feel if the game seems decent but spectacularly unspecial. The odds are you aren’t using your special attacks properly and/or are still very early in the game. Once you hit the later levels and fully understand the timing of your specials, you will be in explosion heaven.
Shenmue – Shenmue is a hard game to defend. It cost $20 million to make, sold 214 copies, possibly ruined the Sega we once knew, has an overly complex battle system, stilted repetitive dialog, an emotionless jerk as a main character, hours of doing nothing but waiting around, and forklift races. Shenmue is also the best example I can think of for the whole of a game being greater than the sum of its parts. We have gushed (and bashed) this game elsewhere on the site many times so I will not tell you you must play it because it has unparalleled gameplay and you will love every second of it.
If you have an interest in gaming history, however, it is worth investigating just to see what all the fuss was about. You may find a dated, boring, stiff adventure game and understand why the Dreamcast died, or you may just find one of the most compelling video games ever created. For your sake I hope you find the former.
Honorable Mentions – Resident Evil: Code Veronica gave us a glimmer of what action-oriented RE could do for us before RE4 nailed it. Tech Romancer is a shallow fighter, but is one of the best anime spoofs ever made. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 is something I’d rank higher than a few of the games listed above, but it is multiplatform. Still, I have to mention it for its sheer greatness on the DC. Seaman is both tedious and bizarrely wonderful, and Zombie Revenge has BULLETS.
Thats weird – I thought that Code Veronica was the least action oriented RE since the original.
the most welcome addition to shenmue 2 was the ability to skip ahead in time. it made for less time punching air in parking lots (“let’s get sweaty”) but made the game more enjoyable.
and i’m slightly ashamed to admit it, but i’ve probably played more zombie revenge than any other DC game. i won’t implicate any other vl writers for whom that may also be true (or at least close to it).
I don’t remember Code Veronica well enough to field this one chud, Christian may want to say something though.
Pat, the ability to skip time was useful to heathens who would not buy into the Shenmue world, but for the authentic experience you really need to stand around doing nothing at least 10% of the time or it’s just not Shenmue.
code Veronica had dual SMGs and a handgun that was upgraded to a 3 round burst monster less than halfway through. I was constantly fighting monsters in that one, and was consistently low on ammo.
Now RE3 was actually quite action oriented, but like the first two you could play through most of it dodging zombies. I rarely kill anything in RE2 at this point in my life. Code Veronica did not seem to offer this option with as much frequency. I really felt like it was a precursor to RE4 in that I it offered me just enough ammo to blow everyone away, but only if I was smart in how I used my weapons (ex: using acid grenades on bigger, non boss monsters rather than wasting pistol rounds) and I was quick and accurate to the draw.
Veronica also had that aimable sniper rifle and (in the PS2 version anyway) a first person battle mode.
Back to Dreamcast stuff, what is Bangai-O about? What’s it’s hook?
There is an explosion counter, the hook is to blow up as many things as possible in quick succession. As more things blow up around you, the fruit (pick up for points) left in the wake of explosions changes and is worth more. Blowing things up also charges your special attack meter, which is good because the best way to blow up a ton of stuff at once is by launching your special attack.
The special attack converts incoming enemy fire that is immediately surrounding your character into outgoing projectile attack. Thus, to perform a maxed out special attack (meaning you fire the maximum allowed missiles/lasers) you need to time it so you have a large amount of bullets about to hit you.
Waiting for bullets to get close enough to convert them into a special attack works well because of the obvious thrill of getting so close to death. The game plays very differently, but it’s similar to how your weapon is stronger in Castle Shikigami 2 when you are almost hit by attacks. Some other shooters use the same mechanic I think and it’s called buzzing (?).
Bangai O is a four directional game with no forced scrolling so it isn’t really a SCHMUP. There are also two characters with slightly different weapons (the previously parenthetically mentioned missiles/lasers). To top it off, the translation is hilarious. I’m not sure if the game was funny in Japanese or if all the humor stems from how purposefully Engrishy the dialog is.
No forced scrolling you say… And is that a life bar I see there? If someone mentions upgradable weapons, I might just have to break down and buy a Dreamcast…
That is a life bar but there are no upgradeable weapons. You should really have a Dreamcast, though. Hasn’t Dreamcast Mania! taught you anything?
i think a dreamcast console costs less than $30 on ebay-type sites. there is really no reason not to have one (even though i havent played mine in a while). i would say the $30 system + $30 game (from the above list, i think only bangai oh should cost more) is more worthwhile a purchase than just about any current gen game.
I suppose I should. I heard about the system while still a jealous Sony fanboy. Instead of embracing what it had to offer I focused my worried attention on how the Playstation 2 would kick Sega’s ass and desperately trying to convince myself that Parasite Eve 2 was the best thing ever.
I’ve since learned the folly of my ways, but not in time to pick up a Dreamcast from a reputable source. That’s not even taking into account trying to find something as
obscure looking as Bangai O.