Channelling Dreamcast: 3 games doing what Sega won't

If you spend any time traversing the corners of the internet that many gamers of a certain age do (*cough I'm nearly 40, cry, cough*), you'll no doubt be familiar with the notion that Sega continually fails to capitalise on its rich, diverse and - quite frankly - incredible back catalogue. Before you spit your Earl Grey all over your comfy slippers dear reader, allow me to retort to your exasperated tea-infused convulsion. See, while Sega is very adept at re-releasing its 16-bit hits with (alarming) regularity, there are several generations' worth of titles which the fallen giant, for one reason or another, has failed to re-release or reimagine for a new audience.

We've never really seen the Mega-CD, 32X, Saturn or Dreamcast libraries plundered and re-released like we have the Master System and Mega Drive, and granted that's mainly due to the limitations of both hardware and software emulation endeavours, even today. Yes, we saw Sonic CD on iPhones and the Dreamcast Collection on the Xbox 360 and Steam, and even Streets of Rage was successfully rebooted recently; but post Mega Drive, the re-release choice has been decidedly threadbare.

Christ...again?!

Gamers - this one included - are crying out for reboots or revisits to the likes of Jet Set Radio, Sega Rally, Virtua Fighter, Spirit of Speed 1937 and many other first and third party Dreamcast titles; and while some IPs have been reluctantly resurrected (I'm looking at you, Shenmue); it almost feels like we'll never see a return to some of the most popular and beloved franchises of the Dreamcast era. Almost.

See, even in the face of Sega's reluctance to revisit some of its most famous titles for a modern era, it looks as though other developers have taken the initiative themselves. Several games channelling the Dreamcast's unique visual and design styles have either already been released or are coming to modern platforms in the near future, taking the baton from Sega with varying results. And naturally, as advocates of the Dreamcast, we thought we'd take a glimpse at some examples of Dreamcast vibes on modern systems...


Last Fight

Released back in 2016, Last Fight was met with fairly average reviews on both console and PC, and a Switch release followed. Initially expectations were high, especially since the developers openly mooted Power Stone as an inspiration. 

Yes, we know Power Stone was developed and published by Capcom and not Sega, but really...is there any other top down, 3D fighter of this ilk that isn't as instantly recognisable as a Power Stone derivative? I think not. And by association, Power Stone is inextricably linked with the Dreamcast. Yes, it was later released on other systems...but the Dreamcast is synonymous with Capcom's 3D chaos-em-up. So there.

Capcom's seeming reluctance to remaster Power Stone for anything other than the Sony PSP undoubtedly lead French developer Piranaking to go it alone, putting together a similar - if not entirely equal - alternative for those yearning to run around a 3D arena throwing fists, feet and inanimate objects at their adversary. Check out Ross's review from 2016 here.


Taxi Chaos

Ah, Taxi Chaos. In a move some have described as 'not at all taking the piss,' Dutch developers Team6 Game Studios have blatantly taken the Crazy Taxi formula and...well, nicked it. While simultaneously taking the piss. Honestly, I don't think I've ever seen a game so blatantly mimic another. From the concept, to the NPC chatter, even down to the green 'touchdown' zones that appear and the 'jump' mechanic seen in Crazy Taxi 2. It's actually crazy how much Taxi Chaos apes Crazy Taxi (sorry).

That said, the fact remains that if Sega - for whatever reason - fails to give the gaming public a new Crazy Taxi title...then the onus is on someone else to do so, surely? Even if the resulting product is a bit of an Android-level mess. Copying is the best form of flattery is it not...even when done as poorly as this? The jury is out. 

Whether you agree with this sentiment or not, the fact remains that Team6 have put out a pretty faithful reimagining of Crazy Taxi and well, there's nobody to blame but Sega. There's more than likely a lawsuit in the works (or at the very least a heated Twitter debate), but for now it's fair game. I also recently learned that Team6 claimed to have gotten Sega Japan on board to publish the game in Japan...something which Sega rebuked via an official statement. Ouch. Check out Dreamcast Year One & Two author Andrew's video for The Cross Players above.


Bomb Rush Cyberfunk

Jest Set Radioooooo! Ah, the sound I wake up to every morning...as Professor K screams into my ear after another night spent lying in a drunken stupor as my Dreamcast plays the Jet Set Radio demo on repeat. Good times. Once I wipe the vomit from my face though, I realise it's 10am and I need to be in a Teams meeting I'm hosting...but I digress.

Jet Set Radio is the Sega franchise most people would like to see rebooted and brought to modern systems (probably). I mean, back in 2017 there was the news that Dinosaur Games tried to woo Sega with a concept for a reboot (titled Jet Set Radio Evolution) which was subsequently turned down. Yes, there was Jet Set Radio Future that most people got for free with their Xboxes alongside Sega GT 2002, but now Team Reptile has taken the concept (of love) one step further and basically created Jet Set Radio 3 in all but name. 

Ladies and germs...Bomb Rush Cyberfunk:


Bonus content

The following games have been added as a sort of footnote, as they do kinda channel the Dreamcast in some way, even if they aren't really direct homages. The first one is a platformer called Balan Wonderworld which is actually being directed by Yuji Naka, the father of one Sonic the Hedgehog. The game does look like a fairly run of the mill 3D platformer and the main character's design does have more than a passing resemblance to NiGHTS wearing Isambard Kingdom Brunel's stovepipe hat than the aforementioned spikey blue one. That said, the bright colour palette and general whimsical tone do have a feint whiff of Dreamcast platformers of yore. By all accounts, the latest demo version wasn't well received but you never know - Balan Wonderworld could be one to watch in the future.

The second game worth mentioning is Wigmund: The Return of the Hidden Knights from The Scholastics. This is a top down fantasy RPG very much in the vein of Dreamcast and PC title Silver, and - so the developers tell me - takes a lot of inspiration from Spiral House's role player-lite. Wigmund is designed from the ground up for people who aren't really into menu-heavy traditional RPGs, with a unique mouse-driven real-time combat system and some very straightforward (and action heavy, puzzle light) dungeon crawling. I've played Wigmund on Steam Early Access for several hours and it's right up my street as a gamer who isn't that interested in role players. Might be worth a look if you're of the same mindset.

Finally, there's a game that has been out on other platforms for quite some time now, and which is most definitely channelling ChuChu Rocket! - that game is Blobcat, and it was reviewed right here at the Junkyard back in 2018 by our very own Kev. It's essentially ChuChu Rocket! but with cats...that look like blobs. I should probably have added this to the top section and called this article '4 games doing what Sega won't'...but I'm not doing that, simply because ChuChu Rocket! got a modern sequel in the recent past so technically Sega is doing what Sega won't...in some cases. Sort of. What?

Anyway, I have no more words. What do you think? Happy? Sad? Indifferent and want to just eat a sandwich without your dog staring at you? There are probably more Dreamcast-infused releases too. Let us know in the comments.

3 comments:

Henrick said...

Completely sad because bad decisions ruined the best brand of the 80s and 90s #SEGAFAN4LIFE

Brian (@VirtuaSchlub) said...

This is an excellent run down, Tom! I hadn't even heard of Last Fight. Will definitely look into that one.

Generally speaking, I'm glad to see the ideas and concepts from Dreamcast-era Sega games influence modern titles. It's even better if new and talented game makers add their own fresh ideas and perspectives to create inspired games that stand on their own. To Sega's credit, it could do a lot worse than sit back and let hungry, enthusiastic developers pick up the mantle of its classic franchises. Even if Sega was willing to risk the resources to officially resurrect these IPs with new installments, is that really what we want from a company that no longer resembles the one that created them in the first place? As long as others are eager to take the reigns, I'd say Sega's current hands-off strategy is the correct one.

Unfortunately, we'll also need to accept that many of these homage projects are going to fail, whether Sega is involved or not. Not everyone can be a generationally talented developer like Smilebit and Hitmaker were. For me, games like Jet Set Radio and Crazy Taxi resonate in large part because they were so distinct from anything else that existed prior. For any brave devs seeking to pay homage, I'm far more interested in seeing them innovate and build on those concepts and mechanics rather than regurgitate them verbatim. At the very least, they need to dive past the superficial facade of cabs and disarray and focus on capturing the deeper design fundamentals that made those original games compelling in the first place. If I want to play Crazy Taxi, I can already do that. In a world where Crazy Taxi exists, I don't see much point in an uninspired knock off.

Lewis Cox said...

Honestly a big fan of companies making the games Sega refuse to develop. Agreed with Brian above though, to me, Crazy Taxi is a pretty perfect game, so I don’t need it to be recreated, but a concept like Jet Set Radio is something that can definitely be explored even further, and has sadly missed that chance for a whole two generations now. Bomb Rush Cyberfunk looks like it’s going to be an excellent homage, very much looking forward to it.