The fourteenth anniversary of the Dreamcast’s launch is fast approaching. With September 9 right around the corner, we wanted to spend a few minutes talking about the list of DC titles we want to see remade or remastered in glorious high-definition. I mean, what better way to celebrate the life of Sega’s last piece of hardware than to highlight the games that so clearly deserve to live on into the next generation of consoles and gamers. The games included here have been chosen based off how great they would look in HD, their gameplay merits or, like most, a combination of both.
So without anymore fluff, let’s get right into it.
14. Elemental Gimmick Gear
Overlooked and under-appreciated, this overhead action-RPG from developer Birthday is a true diamond in the rough. Filled to the brim with puzzles, action and gorgeous hand-drawn art, Elemental Gimmick Gear is a game unlike most others in the Dreamcast’s library. The best aspect of EGG (aside from its abbreviation, naturally) is its willingness to adopt a unique take on a classic genre. Ask anyone who’s played the game and they will tell you that it’s loaded with authentic ideas and design philosophies, while also entrenched in old-school mechanics, creating an experience that feels fresh and familiar at the same time. With its beautiful vistas and 2D graphics, this would be a wonderful game to remaster in high-definition simply due to just how damn vibrant it is. As one of the more original and aesthetically-pleasing titles on the Dreamcast, it would be wonderful to introduce EGG to a whole new audience — an audience that will easily go on without ever even knowing of its existence without such a move. To think that could happen strikes me in the chest and fills my eyes with big old tears of depression.
13. Cannon Spike
The Dreamcast played host to some fine Capcom games — many of which will be featured further down on this very list — and among those solid installments was none other than Cannon Spike. The multi-dimensional shooter from the team at Psikyo (Gunbird 2, Zero Gunner 2) was originally released as an arcade shooter at the turn of the year and then ported to the DC just a few short months later. While the game didn’t receive huge praise from critics, earning a 30/40 from Famitsu and mediocre reviews from Western journalists, it was no less an incredible beat’em up, Smash TV-like experience that was meant for on-the-couch multiplayer. Aside from its shooting conventions, what makes Cannon Spike stand out is its roster of playable characters. On the docket: Arthur from Ghost ‘n Goblins, Bonnie Hood from Darkstalkers, Cammy and Charlie from Street Fighter, Shiba Shintaro from Three Wonders and of course, to round it out, Mega Man. If that’s not a stacked line-up, I don’t know what is. This world needs more local multiplayer games. Why not bring back a title that can deliver just that?
12. Ooga Booga
Ooga Booga is the game that everyone with a Dreamcast wrote off. Perhaps it was the name, perhaps it was the time of its release, perhaps it was its art direction which seemed to market to children. Regardless of the reason as to why folks missed out on Ooga Booga, it would be nigh offensive if I didn’t mention it on this list. Ooga Booga is an arena combat game where players ride atop hogs while brandishing weapons to dish out pain to a variety of opponents. That synopsis alone should be enough to perk up some ears. But then we add into the mix a slew of unlockables and an enchanting art style that is akin to a Saturday morning cartoon. Then, of course, there’s the online integration that made the competitive matches all the more high-stake, as players vied for supreme bragging rights in some hilariously entertaining showdowns. The best part, Ooga Booga ran like a dream, never dropping in frame rate once, despite the beautiful vistas and amount of action taking place on-screen. Visual Concepts may have left their legacy as the team that could produce excellent sports games, but this hidden masterpiece is a true testament to their capabilities as honest-to-god video game developers.
11. Alien Front Online
Alien Front Online, a game that followed in the footsteps of Phantasy Star Online in terms of offering a multiplayer experience that was ahead of its time. Sure, PCs were doing the online gaming thing long before their console counterparts, but home systems had only just dipped a toe in the proverbial online waters. Thus, when Alien Front came along, and offered a healthy helping of modes for internet play in addition to features like voice chat, it was easy to see that gamers had a winner on their hands. It then only helped AFO’s cause that its gameplay was rock-solid. Responsive, precise, explosive and frenetic would be just four words to describe the take-away experience from Alien Front, but the truth is there’s so much more to the game. WOW Entertainment may have been a subsidiary of Sega that was eventually done away with, but one can’t deny their impact on the Dreamcast’s fans. Truly AFO embodied what the Dreamcast’s principles were, no doubt. That said, right now online multiplayer is at its pinnacle; re-introducing a title that relied so heavily upon that very feature just makes sense. And I’m all about making sense. Thus, it’s very evident to me, AFO would clearly fit into the gaming structure of 2013.
10. Project Justice
Much of Capcom’s efforts in the late 90s and early 2000s appeared on the Dreamcast, and Project Justice is among their best. Heralded as a complete, satisfying 3D fighter, Project Justice is a solid addition to the DC lineup. While there are certainly other fighters with more depth from which to choose, Justice feels so rewarding because of how accessible it is. That aside, just because it can be almost immediately picked up and enjoyed by anyone, doesn’t mean it lacks substance. In fact, this is the type of experience that is easy to learn, but difficult to master. Truthfully, those are the qualities that define a classic in the fighting genre — just look at all the big-hitters, they all possess those elements.
Nevertheless, Project Justice not only has extremely competent design mechanics, but also incorporates a style of humor that is both endearing and alluring. The zaniness of the characters and team attacks feels unique, providing players something refreshingly humorous in a genre that is straight-faced more often than not. Perhaps that’s Project‘s greatest strength: it never takes itself too seriously. It can lay on the wacky antics without ever compromising its gameplay or competitive edge. To be able to have true character and personality amidst so many games that don’t, is a feat in and of itself; then, to be able to do that while offering a sound fighting experience… Well, that’s something that many developers simply can’t get right. Capcom is king of fighters for a reason — Project Justice speaks to that pedigree, and puts on display what makes the company such pros at what they do.
09. Fur Fighters
Is there anything cuter than puppies, kittens and a whole carnival of animals running amok toting fire arms, bludgeoning devices and an assortment of weaponry befit for a super soldier? The answer to that question, ladies and gentlemen, is obviously “no”. It doesn’t get much better than Fur Fighters because it is all of that I just mentioned. From the studio that brought us Project Gotham Racing and Geometry Wars, Fur Fighters is a third-person shooter with, you guessed it, furry creatures. While it might be easy to get caught up in the game’s basis, however, it would be unwise to only view this game as such. This is a sound shooter that featured a host of unique mechanics for a third-person shooter during that time in gaming. Maybe most significant were the huge, expansive levels that took sometimes hours to fully explore. Furthermore, maneuvering through these stages usually required a meticulous understanding of the environment to avoid getting lost, in addition to puzzle solving segments.
Also exclusive to the game for its time was a feature that enabled players to switch between characters that possessed their own advantages, disadvantages and special abilities. What I’m trying to say here is this: Fur Fighters, like Dreamcast itself, was ahead of its time, incorporating elements into its systems that were distinct and satisfying. Being currently stuck at a point where games are mere copies of the successful ones before it, I’d kill to be back in a time of gaming where developers were willing to take risks — risks like the ones Bizarre Creations took with Fur Fighters.
08. Napple Tale: Arsia in Daydream
Most people probably haven’t heard of Napple Tale thanks to it being an import title; even still, it’s one of the best platformers in the console’s entire library. At its core, Napple is a 2.5 side-scrolling platformer that is sound in design and rich in imagination. That being said, the game never really strays too far off the beaten path. In other words, its basic gameplay approach isn’t all that ground-breaking. Realistically, the mechanics in-place have almost all been exploited in just about every game of its kind: moving platforms to navigate that require expert precision and timing, large expanses to hurdle, baddies to trounce and plenty of boss encounters that encourage quick wit and a dash of luck are all par for the course here. So when evaluating Napple Tale just by the sum of its parts, it sort of seems like a been-there-done-that type of game. But when put together, this is an imaginative title that dares to dream big.
So needless to say, its fundamental gameplay philosophies may not be entirely authentic, but its visuals are any but traditional. In fact, Napple Tale is a feast for the eyes. Its aesthetics are magical, evoking a a kind of anime version of Alice in Wonderland, with plenty of wild creatures and set-pieces that will take any gamer back to their childhood. That’s Napple‘s most defining qualiy, actually: it can make players feel a kind of warm nostalgia — the exact type of charm that is lacking in most games these days. Of course, being able to do that while simultaneously producing a near flawless platforming experience is no small accomplishment.
07. Power Stone 2
A third Capcom game?! Yep! Power Stone 2 could be seen as the Big C’s answer to the Super Smash Bros. craze. After all, it features all the same tropes found in Nintendo’s brawler: four-play action, an intuitive control scheme, a cast of unique characters, weapons to ascertain to beat down foes, fighters with unique movesets as well as a frenzied, competitive edge to it that has the ability to draw in any player, no matter their gaming preference. No matter which piece of the Power Stone 2 pie you get, there’s something to like in every bite. It’s full flavored, goes down smooth and is addicting to the point of having that ever so distinct “just one more bite” quality. Power Stone may have never reached the same level of success as Smash Bros., but that shouldn’t deter folks away or skew their thinking into quantifying this as a subpar fighter, because the truth is, it’s so much more.
Power Stone 2 is a refined fighting experience, but one that doesn’t require a career as a professional gamer to enjoy. It has enough to satiate the appetite of the hardcore, while stripping away the usual suspects that impede on newcomers being able to have a good time right out of the gates. Meaning to say, this is a game that can be as high brow as you make it; it can also be one with astonishingly low barriers to entry. At the end of the day, Capcom got so much right with both games in the series, but especially the second installment. It is, without a shadow of a doubt, a class act. These younger gamers truly don’t know what they’re missing. So giving them this piece of history would go a long way in reminding folks what gaming is all about.
At one point, arena shooters dominated the market. Essentially, they monopolized the industry on both the PC and console front for while. Unreal Tournament, Quake II/III, Half-Life, Rise of the Triad, you name it… The arena shooter was definitely at its apex during the 90s. Taking advantaging of players’ need for high-octane, bunny-hopping, rocket-launcher toting, first-person shooting goodness, Sega’s AM2 studio released Outtrigger. An equivalent to all of those already mentioned, Outtrigger is a fast shooter. Maps are small, enclosed and built around the idea of putting players as close to one another as possible. Because of this, the level designs leave very little room to breathe, which of course only means one thing: kill or be killed. That’s the name of the game with Outtrigger — it’s an out and out arcade game (in fact, it began as one), and as such, never dials back the action.
What’s so wonderful about Outtrigger outside of its kinetic gameplay are its aesthetics. The game is cheery in tone, bright in color use; it’s like someone threw up a bag of skittles all over the characters, as models are decked out in a sort of near-future military attire with plenty of lambent blues, reds, yellows and greens. With its striking visual presentation then, Outtrigger would look downright electric in HD. Why Sega hasn’t re-visited this jewel is beyond me. With the next generation of consoles just on the horizon, this would be a great way for Sega to make a statement, all the while paying homage to the type of game that became synonymous with the Sega name.
05. Cosmic Smash
It’s a shame that more people don’t talk about Cosmic Smash. With stylized, Rez-inspired graphics and an interesting take on sports gameplay, Cosmic Smash is what would happen if Tron and racquetball had a love-child. This game would look absolutely breathtaking in HD, with an aesthetic that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. What’s so incredible is developers Sega Rosso somehow made the sport of squash actually riveting to play! Alright, so the game isn’t an exact squash simulator, it’s more a squash, breakout mish-mash, but it’s no less amazing that the game works as well as it does. And I don’t mean it just works — I mean it really, really works! This is one of the most surprisingly satisfying games on the system. The wonderful part of it is, no one saw it coming! It’s simple in its approach, but indescribable in the amount of enjoyment to be had.
What Cosmic Smash is probably most remembered for, though, is its heart-stoppingly gorgeous art style. (Certainly, many will see the game and instantly think of Rez.) Its visuals are eye-popping, hypnotic and stylized to the point of being heavenly. The visuals are truly one of a kind, with a basic, neon-loud artistry — captivating in all senses of the word.
04. Grandia 2
So let’s just put on hold the fact that Grandia 2 is one of the best JRPGs of the past 13 years. Instead of harping on that obvious point immediately, I want to discuss how beautiful a game it is. To that end, Grandia 2, perhaps more so than any other game on this list, deserves a high-definition remake because it has a vibrancy that made even the Dreamcast’s capabilities look far beyond their years. Even better is the fact that its art direction is so strong and clean that it easily holds up to today’s standards. Grandia 2 was without a doubt one of, if not the single most, gorgeous game on Sega’s box; bringing it into the HD era would only strengthen the already brilliant aesthetics.
So now that I’m done gushing over the lush graphics, let’s talk about just how damn good a game it is. Grandia‘s most important element is its incredibly fluid, fast-paced and dynamic combat engine. You can think of the battling as something between a Tales game and Final Fantasy XIII. It’s action-oriented and never dull for a moment. Moreover, the level of challenge is nearly always fair — in fact, after all these years, that’s one of the qualities I remember most about the title. So many JRPGs are either outrageous easy or unnecessarily difficult to the point of requiring needless grinding. Grandia 2 never employs that cheap tactic. It’s rewardingly difficult… It’s insatiably addicting… It’s a battle system that is one for the ages. At the end of the day, Grandia 2 stands as one of Game Arts’ finest pieces of work. The fact that it rarely gets talked about despite all it does well is frustrating beyond imagination. People, this is a wonderful game. Play it. And if anyone from Game Arts is reading this: just know you have a fan here — one that pines for this game in blazing high-definition.
03. Skies of Arcadia
Skies of Arcadia is the pinnacle of JRPGs. It includes all the genre’s benchmarks, but elevates them to a miraculous level thanks to brilliant design all around. Let’s see here… Troupe of varied personalities? Check. Turn-based combat? Check. Engaging storyline about saving the world from an evil empire? Check. Airships? Check. And there you have it, ladies and gents: all the core features that make up a Japanese Roleplaying Game. The thing that sets SoA apart from the crowd is how it delivers all of those tried-and-true mechanics. In truth, it takes those genre staples and manages to put its own spin on them. Even though the characters could fall into some kind of archetype, they are unique to the point of feeling refreshing, even though at the most fundamental level they’re not outlandishly original. Whether it’s the look of Vyse or the gruff in Drachma’s voice, Skies of Arcadia truly provides an experience that at times is bigger than its genre. While RPG-goers will certainly get the most out of Skies, it just so happens to be a game that almost any player can take something away from.
When it came out, one of the highlights of Arcadia was its rich graphics that made use of a bright and effervescent color palette. To see that kind of lushness translate to high-definition would only make a (still) beautiful game all the more timeless in aesthetic. At this point, the JRPG genre is struggling to stay afloat. While it’s looking for ways to re-invent itself, sometimes all that needs to happen in these instances is to remind players of why the genre became popular in the first place. Skies of Arcadia embodies everything that’s right about JRPGs. That niche market could use a little of that right now – a revitalization is never a bad thing. Here’s hoping Sega recognizes the importance and potential benefits of showing off to the world one of their best roleplaying games.
Shenmue is without a doubt one of the most divisive games to come out of the Dreamcast’s lineup. Still to this day, about half of its players love it, while the other half don’t. We tend to group together with the former rather than the latter mostly because of how ahead of its time Shenmue really was. In all honesty, Shenmue was an open-world RPG long before being an open-world RPG was cool. It was a cinematic game long before games started adopting such a narrative approach. It had a unique fighting engine that was quite akin to Tekken or Virtua Fighter. It was, and still is, one of the most realized game worlds ever created. To possess only one of those qualities would be grounds enough to receive praise – but to have all of those features simply means that you’re at the head of the class. And that’s what Shenmue is – the best damn Dreamcast game, at least in our minds.
Thus, having the game in HD would be wonderful. It would not only allow the fanboys to replay one of their favorites in full HD, but it would announce the series to a whole new generation of gamers who missed out on it the first time around. Murmurings of Yu Suzuki wanting to finish the trilogy of games have been sprouting up on the interwebs for years now. Releasing Shenmue HD would not only give folks a chance to experience this magical world one more time, or for the very first, but it would also prove to Sega that investing in a third game would be worth their time. What better way to gauge interest than to release an HD remaster that will make a profit? It’s a win-win situation, really.
01. Propeller Arena: Aviation Battle Championship
This is the only game on the list that never actually came out. Now, that doesn’t mean that the Dreamcast community never played it. In fact, we’ve been playing it for years, as it was leaked online many years ago after the project was canceled. Interestingly enough, Propeller Arena was scrapped despite being 100-percent finished. In the wake of the 9/11 tragedy, Sega opted to pull the product due to the fact that players could theoretically crash planes into buildings to recreate the horrific scene. Someone thought that was too much, considering the circumstances, and thus folks were deprived of one of AM2’s best games.
So what is Propeller Arena? Well, in the plainest of terms, it’s an arcade-y, dog-fight, combat arena game. In other words, and as it’s been dubbed by many, it’s Quake but with planes. Truthfully, this is a deathmatch extravaganza of epic proportions. It just so happens that all the fragging takes place in the air — hence the name. It’s fast, frenetic, frantic but also calculating and jam-packed with white-knuckled shootouts so intense, even Quake quivers in its boots. What’s most memorable about Propeller Arena is just how tight a game it is. It controls like a dream, despite putting players in the sky with arcade-like controls.
When it comes down to it, Propeller Arena is an ode to the roots of gaming. It’s an arcade experience that doesn’t get bogged down in modes, unnecessary filler or a contrived storyline; it’s just pure combat that never stops punching you in the face. Its hard-hitting, punk rock soundtrack featuring big acts like No Use for a Name, Zero Down and Rise Against only serves to further emphasize what the game is all about: fun. It’s really quite basic — and that’s what it works. Sometimes less really is more, and that mentality could not be any truer for Sega’s Propeller Arena. Not only would an HD re-release/remake give the game a nice coating of fresh paint, but it would also introduce so many players to a game that they have probably never heard of or played. This is an unreleased gem, and because of that is perhaps the single greatest disappointment of the Dreamcast dynasty.
“The [Top] Hat” is a monthly article evaluating the reasons why certain games are great or awful and/or the overall accomplishments of our gaming industry. Sometimes we take on the top 20 best games of the 2000s, and other times we analyze the reasons why a game that isn’t on a certain console should be. It is a lengthy editorial piece designed to elicit either nostalgia or an assessment of a product or group of products within this media. It is also a time for Bradly to rant about his opinions on the industry and its efforts. Agree or disagree, love his opinions or hate them, “The [Top] Hat” is the article you will want to look forward to each month.