The Dreamcast is 20 years old (in Europe at least) this October 14th. A system that will forever hold a special place in my heart, it was unfortunately not long for this world. A combination of the poor reception to the Saturn, a lack of big hitter 3rd party titles and the juggernaut that was the PS2 meant that our little white box never really stood a chance. Which is a shame, as a lot of the features in the console were ahead of its time, are have become the expected standard these days.
But while I could rattle on about the console itself for far too long, what I really wanted to focus on to remember the machine were some of the gems that have remained trapped on the system. After Sega shut the Dreamcast down, the original Xbox became a spiritual second home for some of the bigger titles. And indeed, we’ve seen most of them ported to just about every other console to date; from Sonic Adventure, through Crazy Taxi and – finally – Shenmue and its sequel. But there’s still a few games that I hold near and dear, and truly hope we see them on modern day hardware down the line.
Orignally debuting as the incentive to sign up for DreamArena – Dreamcasts online service – ChuChu Rocket never really got the love it deserved. The gameplay consisted of placing directional tiles down on a grid, with the aim of directing several mice (Chu’s) from point A to B – the spaceship on which to make their escape. In single player, you had ample time to place the tiles where you saw fit, before letting the Chu’s loose and seeing your plan fall in to place. Or not.
Playing online removed this time advantage, forcing you to react quickly in order to divert the Chu’s to your coloured pod in order to rack up the highest score. Despite the limitations of the DC’s 56k modem and the lag that entailed, I would spend hours playing online, such was the simple joy to be had in the mechanics. This was Sega is their hayday too; all ultra cute visuals and audio matched with solid gameplay. While the recent Apple Arcade saw a new take on the title released, I’m surprised that ChuChu Rocket didn’t get another shot with the advent of services such as Xbox Live. It’s never too late though, and I’m hoping the iPhone title generates enough interest to give Sega incentive to brings this classic back.
I’m not much of a racing fan, to be honest. While I appreciate the work that goes into them, I usually get my fill after just a few races. Not so with Speed Devils. Of course, it probably helped that things here were more on the wacky side.
For the time, there was barely anything that looked as good as Speed Devils. From the setting sun illuminating a beach side track in bright oranges and yellows, to that iconic Hollywood inspired stage, complete with stunt jumps and a massive T-Rex to drive under, it was truly a sight to behold. Car’s glistened in the sun, and crumpled with an impressive amount of detail. Things have moved on, obviously, but even today I think it’s a great looking game.
Of course, this would be for nowt if it didn’t play well. Thankfully, the arcade-y handling, various upgrades and challenges along the way were great. That feeling of unlocking the next super car, then blitzing a previously difficult race in style was brilliant. In the UK, we were sadly deprived of any online aspects though; an updated version known as Speed Devils Online added this, though by that point the console was beginning to wind down. A uprezzed package that brings online play would make my heart sing Ubisoft. Just saying.
House of the Dead 2
Always a popular staple of arcades, with some fun ports to the early consoles, light gun titles were a fixture of my early gaming days. As technology marches on though, inevitably things fall off and get left behind. Sadly, light gun technology fell victim to this trend. Due to the way they work, these old peripherals don’t function on modern displays. Anyone wanting to play them these days will need to track down a functioning CRT TV – which is not all that cheap. While the Wii attemped to revive the genre, the pointer never felt quite as accurate, and as such it remained a relic of the past.
There’s hope however. Between the recently kickstarted Sinden Lightgun and the upcoming Mars Lightgun from PDP, we could be in for a resurgence. All this is to say that should these guns find success (fingers crossed), then we absolutely need to see some re-releases from the genres heyday – and the DC classic House of the Dead 2 needs to be one of the first.
While I hold the original in higher regard for personal nostalgia, HotD 2 is a worthy follow up and arguably the better game. Released at the epitome of arcade popularity, it features smooth gameplay, massive boss fights, zombies that fall apart under fire and a brilliantly cheesy story, complete with B-movie level acting. Zombie games are a dime a dozen nowadays, but very few offer up such immediate thrills as an arcade light gun shooter. The relentless pace of action requires quick wits and an even quicker trigger finger. I still like to go back and play from time to time, but my Dreamcast and its gun are getting long in the tooth (as am I), so being able to play this on more modern hardware would be amazing.
In fact, while preparing this list, Forever Entertainment have made my dreams come true. While there’s no confirmation of consoles or hardware, I’ll be crossing every finger I can find that it comes to Xbox, with support for the aforementioned accessories!
San Francisco Rush 2049
This one is a slight outlier, in that I feel of all the titles listed here SFR 2049 will be the least likely to be known. The main aspect of the game is an arcade racer, with the cars also able to sprout wings to glide down from jumps, opening up new routes. The league mode was fun enough, with handling that encouraged hurtling headlong into corners at full speed and crashing out other racers.
But it was the stunt mode that I spent an inordinate amount of time on. Set in skate park like arenas, you needed to use the wings to execute flips, rolls and jumps to rack up the highest score. Even though the physics were simple (especially compared to today), it was so much fun throwing the cars all over the place, trying to squeeze out an extra little roll before smashing into the ground. With 4 players competing, this would get hectic quickly. In fact, this was so much fun that I only recently bought the full game, having used the demo that was on the front of the official magazine up until then!
So, there we have it. With Sega recently releasing the Mega Drive Mini, and a seemingly renewed interest in remaking more niche titles such as Panzer Dragoon, I live in hope that these games will make their way to current consoles in one form or another.
And after that, how about that Burning Rangers remake Sega?