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Showing posts with label Sega Sports. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sega Sports. Show all posts

Retrospective: Sega Extreme Sports

Sega Extreme Sports, released in 2000 and published by Sega in Europe and Japan as part of their “Sega Sports” series, was one of a multitude of titles in an ever-increasingly popular genre on the Dreamcast. The game’s title clearly wasn’t edgy enough for the US-audience however, and was instead published by Infogrames and simply called “Xtreme Sports” - with an X just to sound gnarly!

As part of this retrospective, I was fortunate enough to have Henning Rokling, then-CEO of Innerloop Studios who created Sega Extreme Sports, provide some fantastic insight into the production of the game. Henning kicked off by saying how impressed they were with the Dreamcast hardware in general, the first console they’d worked with: “As we learned more and more from Sega, we were very impressed with the specs of their platform. We received dev kits prior to the console’s release, and worked closely with Sega Europe and Sega of Japan.”

There are six different disciplines included in Sega Extreme Sports: ATV, Snowboarding, Mountain Biking, Bungee Jumping, Sky Surfing and Speed Gliding. What’s interesting in this game over other similar titles is that each course sees players transition from one discipline to the other. This basically means that after driving your ATV down a muddy or snowy track, you have to smash the A button as frantically as you can as your character runs from the ATV to their snowboard or hand glider to start the next section.

I really liked how this worked and it meant you had a good amount of variety in each course that you played, as each course uses a mix of disciplines coupled together with the transition phase each time. Things can get pretty frantic as you see your 5 second advantage slip away as you fumble your transition onto your mountain bike!

It is fair to say that some disciplines are a little more enjoyable to play than others. Driving the ATV is great fun and I honestly think they could’ve made a game just from this mode with some longer tracks. But I think it’s snowboarding that gets my ultimate seal of approval. It looks gorgeous and is great fun to rack up the tricks along the way down the slope as you race to the finish, which in turn give you a replenishment on your turbo meter. None of these different disciplines are perfect by any means and some, like bungee jumping do feel a little tacked on, but it’s nice to have quite a bit of differentiation between them.

Graphically, Sega Extreme Sports is a smart looking title. Both the terrain and character models are all very detailed and it is certainly one of the better looking, more realistic games on the Dreamcast. Despite this, I have to comment on the strange texture-warping that goes on as you make your way through the stages. It’s not something I’ve seen in many other Dreamcast games but it can be pretty distracting when you’re in a cave and it looks like all of the walls are moving!

The Coolest Game On Dreamcast: The NHL 2K Series

My first encounter with NHL ice hockey came in the form of EA Hockey on the Mega Drive. The purity of the top-down, fast-paced gameplay just worked, and the game provided hours of entertainment. Later, EA Hockey was replaced with NHLPA Hockey '93 in the cartridge slot and my love affair with the exotic, ultra-violent sport of American hockey was born. A succession of annual updates during the 16-bit era allowed my knowledge base of popular players and teams to grow, and while the games on the Mega Drive reached their zenith with the spectacular NHL '96 my affection for the rough-and-ready sport came with me to the 32-bit Saturn and beyond.

NHL All Star Hockey and the successive NHL games from Electronic Arts kept me going on the Sega Saturn; and during my time as a Nintendo 64 owner games such as Wayne Gretzky's 3D Hockey, NHL '99 and NHL Breakaway '98 allowed me to keep an iron in the fire, so to speak. They were instrumental in teaching me the names of the stars of the day - Jaromir Jagr, Keith Tkachuk and Dominik Hasek; along with the franchises sporting such alien-sounding names as the Red Wings, Bruins, Penguins and Flyers. Naturally, there was a hockey league in the UK at that time (and there still is), but it never got the same coverage and was never really reported on in the news (my local team was Manchester Storm, but as far as I know they folded some time ago now) so games really represented the best way to get to know the rules and the stars of the sport.
This looked like a TV broadcast in 1993
Basically, the hockey games I played in my youth were the only real glimpse I got into the world of professional ice hockey, its best players and its culture, and whenever a new title was released it always caught my attention. They taught me what 'icing' was, that fights were normal, the strange makeup of the NHL with its weird divisions and playoffs and the oddness of the trades system when compared to something like football (soccer) and the Premier League. I've mentioned a few here already, but I played pretty much every major hockey game released on consoles between EA Hockey and NHL Breakaway '99. However, it was when the Dreamcast arrived that ice hockey games really reached a new level in terms of visuals, quality of commentary and gameplay. These advancements all came in the form of NHL 2K from Black Box.

It's actually pronounced "Ull"
What's interesting about the original NHL 2K for Dreamcast is that its developer - the aforementioned Black Box - was eventually acquired by Electronic Arts and renamed EA Black Box. As most Dreamcast fans will no doubt be aware, Electronic Arts famously ignored the Dreamcast and refused to publish any of its sports titles on Sega's platform. The reasons for this are subject to much conjecture but one of the more convincing stories to come out of the whole saga was that EA wanted exclusive rights to publish sports games on the platform. Sega refused EA's request and thus FIFA, NHL, NFL et al were not ported. In some ways this lead to a gaping hole in the Dreamcast's library, but in other ways it opened the door for Sega to introduce its own 2K series and a whole new franchise (and one that arguably trumped EA's own offerings) was born.

Back to Black: Restoring a Sega Sports or Regulation 7 Dreamcast

Last year we revealed how you can brighten up your standard white Dreamcast using nothing more than a fairly cheap hair serum and a bit of sunshine. Granted, the sunshine might be a problem if (like me) you live in the UK and the sun appears only once every 16 years after a drawn out ritual and sacrifice; but if you managed to try it on a rare day that it stopped raining and the clouds parted, you'll find it worked a treat at banishing the dreaded yellowing. As a side note, all of the systems I treated back then are still bone white to this day, so the fears that the yellowing would return with a vengeance have not been realised as yet.

This is all well and good if you have a standard Dreamcast, but what if you have a Dreamcast that's a different colour? Black, for example? While black Dreamcasts such as the Sega Sports and Regulation 7 special editions don't suffer from yellowing, they can get scuffed and light surface scratches show up clear as day. I know this because recently I was lucky enough to take delivery of two such systems:
The seller did list them as not being in 'showroom condition' so I expected them to be a little beat up, but when they arrived the only thing I really noticed was the surface scuffing all over them. It's not overly noticeable from a distance - and both systems work flawlessly - but up close and from a certain angle the light catches the scuffs and the marks are quite visible. So, I wondered how I could go about removing these scuffs and return these rare beasts to their former glory. Turns out the answer is actually rather simple...