To celebrate the new generation of consoles, we will be honoring the last generation by listing our favorite games on each system. These aren’t Best of lists, or games you will die without, rather they are simply the titles we think made these systems special.
The first console of the past generation was the Sega Dreamcast. This proved to be Sega’s final console so while we remember it fondly, keep in mind that emotion partially clouds our view. Teary eyes aside, there is no denying the console had a number of excellent exclusives, most of which were made by Sega themselves. Anyone new to gaming and confused about why Sega exists at all only needs to look to the games they developed for the Dreamcast (and Saturn, and Genesis).
To quote Planet Dreamcast’s comically inaccurate, unbridled optimism:
At the end of the day it isn’t up to us to tell you whether or not you should buy a Dreamcast. It is certainly a safe investment even from day one, with enough quality in the software to keep you amazed and playing for quite a long time. The software will keep coming too, with the prospect of Resident Evil: Code Veronica, the amazing RPG Shenmue, the beautiful Ecco the Dolphin, NiGHTS 2 as well as conversions of Half-Life and Quake 3 Arena the future is looking very rosy indeed.
Soul Calibur (Namco/1999) – This is one of the most perfectly balanced fighters I’ve ever played, and really the only fighter I’ve ever loved. In the right hands, the huge list of seemingly unrelated moves and blocks start to flow together, providing perfect follow-ups and transitions, and combat becomes a thing of fluid beauty.
Crazi Taxi (Sega Hitmaker/2000) – You are an unkillable taxi driver in an indestructible taxi, set loose in San Francisco with a punk soundtrack. That’s really the whole game, but go back and read the previous sentence again, and you will realize how awesome it is.
Toy Commander (No Cliche/1999) – It’s rare that I actually get to fulfill a childhood fantasy, but this game has pretty much done it. You know you lined up all your toys in massive wars as a kid, creating forts and conducting daring raids and surprise attacks. Now you can pretend
the same thing all over again, but in a more adult-acceptable format.
Skies of Arcadia (Sega Overworks/2000) – Air Pirates. Just think about how cool that concept should be, and then realize that they made it cooler. It has ground-breaking ship-to-ship combat and just such a wonderful feel to the game. I keep going back to replay it over and over, despite a
somewhat stereotypical storyline.
Samba De Amigo (Sega Sonic Team/2000) – This game is what makes me want a Wii. It’s amazingly fun, and the only game people still ever play at my parties. The smiling monkey and his Latin music have time and time again gotten my friends to jump around shaking red maracas and posing in hilarious positions, and they have _loved_ doing it.
Jet Grind Radio (Sega Smilebit/2000) – This game just oozes cool. It made cel-shaded graphics popular, because it’s one of very few so far who have really done them right. The music was amazing, coming in large part from one of my favorite artists, Hideki Naginuma. Playing this game, you feel like you are cool enough to tag Tokyo with a Japanese gang. And when you’re me, that’s a pretty rare feeling.
These last two games for me transcend video gaming and become art forms. Not just in the sense of any craft taken to a certain level being art – these are art at their core. Art first, video games as a coincidence. They are potentially my favorite games of all time.
Rez (Sega United Game Artists/2002) – Synesthesia. The gameplay is just a well-implemented shooter in the style of Rebel
Assault, but everything you do alters not only the screen, but also the music. The music then re-emerges in the visual representation of the world around you, so that your actions create chain-reactions of sound and color, all of which merge into music as you get better and better at the game.
Shenmue (Sega M2/2000) – One rainy day I was playing Shenmue for a few hours. I had just finished my soba noodles and was going in search of a tattoo artist. I looked out my window, and to my surprise the rain had cleared up. That was when I realized that it hadn’t _been_ raining. And that was when I realized that it was only raining in the game. That had never happened to me before. I am not that hardcore a gamer. Shenmue is, however, that immersive an experience.
Seaman (Vivarium/2000) – Probably not the best name for a game, but still a great fish/man simulator. I’ve been trying to get a TV to act as my Seaman fish tank, but something tells me a talking fish will only make my life weirder than it already is.
Jet Grind Radio (Sega Smilebit/2000) – The first truly cel-shaded game, Jet Grind Radio was bursting with personality and coolness. The funky techno was amazing, and the graffiti system was bad-ass.
Shenmue (Sega M2/2000) – Although not the savior SEGA was hoping it to be, it was still an amazing game. I still play this realistic-RPG/fighting/ cat simulator today, desperately waiting for SEGA to announce the third sequel.
Soul Calibur (Namco/1999) – This one speaks for itself. It is the most content rich fighting game of its time, and something that still looks gorgeous years later. I haven’t put as much time into any other game as I have the original Soul Calibur. I don’t think I’ll ever find something that is as finely crafted and highly playable as this fighting game. I have been truly spoiled with this one
Jet Grind Radio (Sega Smilebit/2000) – Jet Grind Radio was short, simple, and had no multiplayer. And it’s still the second best game on the Dreamcast. That isn’t a comment on how much better it could have been, but is a testament to just how amazing this formula really is. Skating, tricking, tagging or just exploring the city to some of the greatest beats assembled in a video game equals pure bliss for Dreamcast gamers. It’s as Zen as Tony Hawk, and more stylish than every EA Playstation release combined. As Next Generation magazine once said, “Dreamcast naysayers can bite our collective butt”
Skies of Arcadia (Sega Overworks/2000) – This game had me hooked from the opener. While it may fall for some of the biggest traps of both jRPGs and anime, Skies of Arcadia manages to somehow find itself a heart of gold. There is an indescribable charm to this game, one that makes you fall in love with even the most trite characters, and can make even the most hardened gamer feel like the wide eyed youth just itching to explore the world. Funny, romantic, serious and even a little goofy, Skies of Arcadia is a bewilderingly beautiful game that continues to baffle us. Maybe that little bit of mystery is what makes it so special.
Skies of Arcadia (Sega Overworks/2000) — I am slightly embarrassed to admit this is the last traditional Japanese RPG I have finished. Skies was made by some of the Phantasy Star team and it is apparent that they still have a ton of talent left (note to Sega — Kill Sonic Team, destroy PSO series). Skies is nowhere near as Dark as the Phantasy Stars. It’s actually almost painfully upbeat, but there’s something about it that is just amazing. I think it’s how it continually wows you. Time and time again I’d gotten comfortable with the game and then they’d introduce another element that made my jaw drop.
Ikaruga (Treasure/2002) — I’m still saving up for Radiant Silvergun, but until the glorious day it arrives in the mail, I will be playing Treasure’s other shooter, Ikaruga. RSG is said to be the best shooter ever made, but after playing Ikaruga I am skeptical. Ikaruga is the complete opposite of brainless bullet fests like Gun Bird. The game’s black/white mechanic takes a lot of grey matter.
Bangai-O (Treasure/2001) — Another Treasure title, this is one I didn’t get at first. It seemed overrated by the types who love obscure 2d games and shooters – people like me. So you can imagine my confusion. Not too long ago I decided to give it another try and I’m glad I did. I hadn’t been playing it right; I didn’t “get it.” Now I do. The main mechanic is to allow enemy bullets to get as close to you as possible without hitting you before launching your special attack. After your first 300 kill special attack, you will “get it” too.
Chu Chu Rocket (Sega Sonic Team/2000) — What a small, unassuming game this was. Sonic Team (before all they made was shit) was expected to make enormous, blockbuster titles. I respect that they spent a lot of effort making games like Samba De Amigo and Chu Chu Rocket. Chu Chu is an insanely fast and chaotic puzzle game that bears no resemblance whatsoever to Tetris, and is still excellent. The game may not really be important in the overall history of video games, but it was fucking fun playing four player, as long as you didn’t end up with lame friends who complained that it was too fast and confusing (I need better friends).
Shenmue 2 (Sega AM2/2001) — What’s there to say about this game? Stefan and Matt covered the first (though I know he adores both) so I’ll mention the sequel. It’s a love it or hate it series that I happen to love. My love for Shenmue makes what I feel for my family and friends look like hatred (yes, that’s a slightly changed Bible quote). You are entirely free to hate it without incurring my wrath because it’s just one of those hit or miss games. But you’d still be wrong.