Greetings all, and welcome once again to The Vent, where discerning gamers have a voice. As this is being written, we still don’t have a President. Is anyone else worried that this may just be God’s way of saying “Get ready, kids. No matter who wins, it’s all going to be downhill from here…?” At this point, The Vent is toying with the idea that we should just let them wrestle for it.
Enough about that; let’s talk games. This week’s column will no doubt stir some people up, but it couldn’t go unsaid. The Vent touched upon this last week, but the more he considers it, the more he thinks it deserves the full treatment.
Sega is kicking ass.
It really is. Yeah, the PS2 is just barely out, and in a year, it will have given us some mind-bending software, but pound for pound, buck for buck, game by game, the Dreamcast is far and away the better system to own right here, right now. Why? Because Sega is cranking out one incredible title after another; it’s been doing this for a few months now, and it looks to continue for quite a while. Now, granted, these are fightin’ words to many of you, so The Vent will now spell out some of what he’s talking about.
What’s here already
Chu Chu Rocket
This one’s been around since March, but there are plenty of you out there who haven’t played it yet. Get it. It’s cheap, it’s incredibly addictive and it’s from Sonic Team. What more do you need to know? Nothing. Go.
Space Channel 5
A futuristic, retro-hip dance game with a sassy female lead character named Ulala. This one is short and not particularly difficult, but it’s fun, and the groovy, psychedelic atmosphere is very compelling. This should have sold much better than it did.
Crack on a disc is what they should call this. It’s been said before, but it bears repeating. This may very well be the best tennis game of all time. It’s fun with one player, but get some friends to play against, and it’s the most exciting multiplayer game since Bomberman. The next Virtua Tennis game (and it’ll come, announced or not, trust us) will most likely have network play. And that’s gonna rock.
Who would have thought that Sega could make a game out of getting insulted by a fish? A technical innovation that became one of the most… unique… game experiences of recent memory, Seaman is staggeringly popular in Japan, where new versions continue to be released. This game is not something you can rent for a few days and get the hang of, but if you give it the time, it will sink its hooks into you. Deeply. And it’s undeniably original.
Ecco The Dolphin: Defender Of The Future
Say what you like about the diffused focus of this game — it’s gorgeous, beautifully atmospheric and (again) completely unique. Like many of Sega’s recent releases, this title blurs the line between “game” and “experience.”
This is probably the best racing simulator out there, at least until GT3 comes out. Although The Vent is patently baffled by the fact that so many people keep insisting it has amazing graphics. Are they looking at a different game?
This one opened the floodgates for the goodness that is washing over us right now. Yes, as far as depth of simulation goes, it can’t compete with Madden 2001. But, as The Vent has said before, there’s just something about knowing that there’s another human being on the other side of the game that makes it so compelling, it’s scary. An incredible game. Too bad it doesn’t support Sega’s broadband adapter.
Sega’s arcade conversions are a huge asset, and this is one of the best. It’s a bit short-lived (as are most arcade conversions), and you need that fishing pole controller to get the most out of it, but it’s still one of the purest distillations of absolute arcade fun you’ll ever come across.
Samba De Amigo
Another of Sega’s arcade conversions, this time taking full advantage of the Bemani craze Konami has cultivated both overseas and in the US. It’s a blast, even if it drains a man’s machismo so quickly the shriveling is actually visible. Those maracas are pricey too, at $80 a pair, in addition to the cost of the game. Damn Sonic Team and its creative ways.
Quake III: Arena
The online FPS finally comes home to consoles, although with a few limitations. The framerate isn’t great, and the limited number of competitors per map saps the old adrenaline a little, but the bottom line is this: You can finally log on, meet total strangers and blast them to bits with a rocket. And that’s worth a lot.
Jet Grind Radio
While mainstream worrywarts’ claims that this title should be banned for its unabashed promotion of graffiti and reckless skating sound somewhat silly to The Vent, the game’s appeal is impossible to deny. Once you get used to the slightly wonky control and camera, you can do nothing but get sucked into the unique attitude, graphics and gameplay of this cutting-edge title.
The slightly less-polished little brother to NFL2K1, this game nonetheless looks awesome and retains its sibling’s killer feature — the ability to pound it to a real live human being via SegaNet. There’s broadband support this time around too. (Supposedly. The Vent doesn’t have the adapter yet, so you can’t sue if he’s wrong.)
There’s really not room here to discuss everything that’s amazing about Shenmue. Suffice to say it’s like nothing that’s come before. And it’s very good.
Metropolis Street Racer
This one should hit the streets any day, and while The Vent himself can’t verify its quality, he’s told it’s simply awesome. It should be — Bizarre Creations knows how to make a good racing game (it made Formula 1 for PSOne), and this one has been in development for years. Literally.
At last. The SuperCell finally has an RTS worth raving about (assuming it actually shipped today). It’s beautiful, the characters are good, the story works and the world is actually interesting. It’s been a long time coming, but worth the wait. This one’s golden. Read here for more info.
18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker
was fun, wait until you try it in a semi. The best thing is, you’ll be able to race online. The fun may be shallow — after all, this is an arcade port — but it looks to be a great one.
Crazy Taxi 2
Or you could just wait for this game. It’ll probably be just as cool as before, with a new city and online play.
Daytona USA: Network Racing
It’s pretty old, sure, but it’s widely considered one of the finest head-to-head racers of all time, with four humans and over 30 CPU-controlled cars per race. Yeah, The Vent is excited about this one.
Phantasy Star Online
Yuji Naka’s online RPG is one of the cornerstones of Sega’s online strategy. Simply put, there’s a very good reason for the company’s faith in it. It looks awesome.
Sonic Adventure 2
Again, this is set to be an experience you can’t get anywhere else but on Dreamcast. The original was one of the best selling of the early titles, and it’s a safe bet the sequel will be better.
Alien Front Online
Early plans called for this title to pit arcade players against Dreamcast owners. Even if this doesn’t come to pass, Tokyo Wars-style online battle looks sweeter than candy.
Typing Of The Dead
Here’s one last example of the way Sega takes chances the other guys often don’t. It’s House of the Dead 2 — only instead of shooting the creatures with a gun, you kill them (again) by typing specific words on the Dreamcast keyboard. Sure, it’s a niche title, but there’s something really satisfying about typing the words “Hot Pot” and watching a zombie burst into gibs.
And there’s more …
Bass Fishing 2
Planet Harrier (Oh, please, please, please)
Crackin’ DJ (probably) and that Samba-with -a-tambourine game whose name The Vent forgot (again, probably).
So you see, Sega’s doing all right. You literally have to look hard to find a sub-par Dreamcast title right now. Then there’s the third-party support, which, at least for the moment, is astounding. Capcom’s bringing out every 2D fighter or shooter it can muster, from Capcom vs. SNK to Gunbird 2, and while not every one is a winner, the fact remains that some are amazing, and PS2 doesn’t have them. Then there’s Ubi Soft’s Grandia II, Crave’s Ultimate Fighting Championship, Acclaim’s F355 Challenge: Passione Rossa (a port of a Sega-developed arcade sim) and (someday, supposedly) Sierra’s amazing Half Life.
In light of all this, there’s really no other way to say it. Sega is kicking ass, and pushing the boundaries of the genre as it goes. The company says it’s all about the games, and is truly putting its money where its mouth is. The Dreamcast may not be your first choice in a year, but right now, it’s an incredible value. And we all need to give credit where due: Good job, Sega. Way to take care of the people.