13 Sega Classics We Want On XBLA/PSN
Jet Set Radio and NiGHTS have just hit Xbox Live Arcade and PSN Store but Sega isn’t taking it easy. The publisher is said to be raiding even more of its back catalogue for its classic fighters.
What other games are left for Sega to plunder and re-release on Xbox Live Arcade and PSN? They’ve still got plenty of big-hitters to go before we get to the likes of Shadow The Hedgehog…
13. Last Bronx
While Soul Edge had brought its own flavour of fighting-games-with-weapons to PlayStation in 1996, Sega had its own version in Last Bronx.
While it wasn’t quite as bouyant or eccentric as Namco’s series, it was backed up by Sega’s powerful Model 2 arcade board, which had just powered Virtua Fighter 2 to critical acclaim.
Last Bronx was broadly similar to that title but with tonfa and wooden swords thrown in. It was also memorable for the alternate weapons each character had – frozen tuna, cutlery and toy trains are some of the examples.
Like much of Sega’s recent XBLA and PSN releases, Last Bronx has already been spruced up for PS2 re-release, so this is a likely candidate to hit digital download in the future.
12. Samba De Amigo
Sega’s colourful rhythm-action was famous for its maracas peripheral, which you had to shake in time to the music.
It didn’t seemed too out of place in the arcade in 1999 but Sega of that era was an ambitious creature that loved spending money on projects that would sell four copies worldwide (Shenmue, Sega Fishing Controller, Seaman). It would have built a 20-foot metal dinosaur as a peripheral if it knew someone to supply the metal.
Samba De Amigo bounded onto Dreamcast complete with maracas peripherals. It’ll be much cheaper and easier to release these days, thanks to Kinect and Move. Samba De Amigo has already done the rounds on Wii, so it’s not a huge leap of imagination to imagine this on XBLA and PSN.
11. Super Monkey Ball
There are more Super Monkey Ball games around that there are stars in the sky. You could challenge Sega to name them all and they’d probably name half, panic and then make a Shenmue joke to try and divert your attention.
Super Monkey Ball: Banana Splitz is the latest lined up for an assault on Vita owners and Microsoft Word spellcheck but we’d love to see Sega go right back to where it started – the very first Super Monkey Ball on GameCube.
Even today, it stands out as a wonderful example of restraint, with the focus on delicate controls, smart level design and character.
10. Virtua Cop/Virtua Cop 2
A weird suggestion, if only because both of these games have been trumped by another light-gun game from Sega’s past that has successfully made the jump to PSN – House Of The Dead 4.
Looking back at Virtua Cop doesn’t do it any favours either. Cereal boxes vaguely assembled in human shape stumble about the screen with all the menance and urgency of a deflating balloon.
But sometimes, hearts rule over heads and this would tickle our nostalgia glands until we giggled with glee. No company has really matched the eye Sega had for quality arcade game and the Virtua Cop titles shows Sega at the height of its arcade powers.
9. Chu Chu Rocket
It’s the best game about turning right you’ll ever play (NASCAR being the best game about turning left, obviously).
Decent as a puzzle game in single-player, where Chu Chu Rocket excelled was its multiplayer, as four players slap down arrows to try and direct the mice into their rockets.
Multiplayer is the one where Xbox Live Arcade and PSN are way ahead of iOS and mobile – online play, leaderboards, erm, well, just online player and leaderboards. But that would be enough and we’d love to see this as a budget release.
8. Shining Force III
It was arguably the first successful episodic game, being split into three scenarios that made up three separate retail releases.
The idea was that war had broken out between Aspinia and Destonia. In Scenario 1, you play Synbios, a general from Aspinia. In Scenario 2 you play Medion, Prince of Destonia. In Scenario 3, you play as Julian, a mercenary involved on both sides who is the ‘true’ main character of Shining Force III.
As a strategy RPG, Shining Force III had a mix of ye olde RPG graphics and crude attempts at 3D for battles. The 3D has aged badly but the rest of the game looks glorious.
More importantly, only Scenario 1 was released outside of Japan. Rounding up all three games together would therefore be quite a special event for strategy RPG fans and will also contain roughly 80 hours (!) of gameplay.
7. Toejam & Earl/Toejam & Earl 2
In August 2009, Sega set up a poll asking what Megadrive classic fans want to see on Xbox Live Arcade. Toejam & Earl emerged the eventual winner, and it was safe to presume that it was therefore due for release on Microsoft’s service.
That never happened.
There are a few explanations here. Sega might have been asking because, you know, why not. Maybe it was a slow day. It could be that Sega are master trolls. Or it could be there was a licensing snag behind the scenes as Greg Johnson, the creator of the characters, owned the IP rather than Sega.
You’d think this would be the sort of thing sorted out before listing it as a poll option. But hey, our legal knowledge only extends to not being able to say things like John Terry was [sorry I had to remove this bit I’ve been told I can’t say this] and [had to remove this bit too] and apparently if you look closely enough and ignore the smell as best you can, you can still see bits of crocodile there to this day.
Annoyingly, two of the other games on the poll – Wonder Boy In Monster World and Earthworm Jim – have since been released on Xbox Live Arcade.
6. Panzer Dragoon Zwei/Panzer Dragoon Saga
This was the best series on Saturn and remains a cult classic to this day. Panzer Dragoon Zwei was a 3D Space Harrier/Rez of sorts where you could shoot all around you, while Saga shifted the gameplay formula into RPG territory.
Despite the gameplay differences, both games share the same strengths – Panzer Dragoon is a unique series unlike anything else with its own distinct look, feel and backstory.
There’s an argument that such a game won’t find an audience on XBLA or PSN, just as it didn’t find a huge audience back in its Saturn days. But if Sega can release Virtual On, surely it can release one of these titles?
5. Sonic R
“Everybody Super Sonic racing, try to keep your feet right on the grooound”
The immediate memories of Sonic R would be that glorious soundtrack, an awkward but mesmerising mish-mash of sugary pop, Engrish and thumping techno.
It was perfect for a game that was also an awkward but mesmerising mish-mash of racing, platforming and Sonic nods (Chaos Emeralds, ring-collecting, power-ups).
It also had the Tails doll, the most inadvertedly terrifying character we’ve seen in any game since Dr Muto.
4. Fighters Megamix
The Marvel vs Capcom of its day, Fighters Megamix can loosely be described as Virtua Fighter 2 vs Fighting Vipers, with characters from both.
But it was the unlockable characters which really made this stand out. Kiddy Akira, Janet from Virtua Cop 2, the AM2 palm tree and the Hornet car from Daytona USA are some of the weirder characters available.
The game itself could have its play type switched between Fighting Vipers and Virtua Fighter – somewhat similar to the groove system in Capcom vs SNK 2 but affecting both players – while it also had a ‘dodge’ move, making it the first 3D fighting game where you could use the 3D plane to your advantage.
3. Burning Rangers
As Saturn was on the ropes and waiting for PlayStation to deliver the knockout blow as the console battle drew to a close in the late 90s, the release schedule for Sega’s console began to dry up.
That’s one of the reasons the excellent Burning Rangers never found the audience it did. Sonic Team’s game saw you fighting fires and saving civiliansby collecting crystals dotted around each level.
Short but sweet, it was punctuated by Sonic Team flourishes throughout – saving dolphins, the naff but endearing dialogue, the boss battles that included fire-spewing flowers. Much of the look survived through to Phantasy Star Online, from the character design to the level aesthetics.
The other reason Burning Rangers never found the audience it did is that it’s a little odd and a little different – a game where fire is the main obstacle rather than enemies in the usual sense.
But XBLA and PSN could work as a home for such an oddity, especially given its short nature and the replay value added by the random level generator after you’ve completed the game.
2. Skies Of Arcadia
Sega teased that this RPG was being prepped for Xbox Live Arcade release in March earlier this year.
It would make a great addition to the service, as it’s arguably the best JRPG Sega has made. Its colourful cast were entertaining and endearing, its distinct, chunky look hasn’t aged too much and its battle system was solid and simple to understand.
But Skies Of Arcadia was really about the one thing console JRPGs have almost completely abandoned – exploration.
Finding and reporting discoveries in the game world, accepting bounties, hiring crew for your ship and customising your base – there was plenty of reason to go out and explore thanks to the level of influence you had over the game.
The excessive random battles might grate with less patient gamers but this title deserves to find a new audience and remind us all of how JRPGs were not so long ago.
1. Shenmue/Shenmue II
To get the obvious out of the way, both Shenmue games have glaring flaws. There’s no defending the awful controls. By recreating the small, intricate environments of the real world, Sega failed to find controls to match. It meant Ryo stumbling around, backing up, walking forward, then stumbling around inside small rooms and shops like a wobbly lorry.
Another problem is the pacing. Both games have sections that drag. Shenmue II and its airing out the books was especially dull (even though that’s almost the idea, as it’s supposed to teach Ryo patience). For a game about chasing Lan Di, there’s a surprising lack of urgency at any point in either game.
Then there’s the English dub, awful to the point of comedy.
Yet there’s nothing been a series quite like Shenmue and likely never will be again.
It was Sega at its most ambitious, as Sega AM2 jumped from arcade gaming to open-world and somehow caught elements of both. Shenmue has Sega’s attention to detail honed through years of crafting arcade games while the open-world look cleverly disguised the linear routes through the game.
The fighting was also ripped straight from Virtua Fighter and re-tuned for a fully 3D world while the Shenmue series has the best implementations of QTEs – the hand-cuff escape with Ren in Shenmue II showing how the mechanic can enhance rather than hobble gameplay.
Shenmue also had – and we hate this word – charm. Lucky hit, finding sailors, forklift driving, duck racing and the pointless activities from vending machines to playing darts to arcade games.
But then Sega created a series that provided surprises and distractions for those who slowed down enough to find them. Sega has teased Shenmue HD for Xbox Live Arcade release. This, above everything else on the list, is the one game we’d love to get stuck into again.