Friday, September 7, 2012

The 100 Greatest Sega Dreamcast Games of All-Time! PART TWO - #080-061

The 100 Greatest Sega Dreamcast Games of All Time! Counting Down #080 to #061...



HEY! Part One - counting down #100 to #081 - can be can be found right here.

It’s been 13 years to the month since the Sega Dreamcast was released in North America, and to commemorate the console’s birthday, I decided to embark upon a journey to quantify and rank the 100 greatest titles the system had to offer. It was a gargantuan assignment, obviously, but it was also an absolute blast to take such an all-encompassing trip (really, more of an extended vacation) down memory lane; if you have half as much fun reading it as I had writing it, than I know I’ve made DJ Professor K and Big the Cat proud. 

At this point, what more can be said about the Dreamcast? It was the Kurt Cobain of gaming consoles, that amazing, stellar vision that arrived, changed the industry forever, and then faded away long before its time. It was radical, it was revolutionary, it was, for lack of a better term, freaking awesome, and believe you me - narrowing the list down to just 100 games was a challenge in and of itself. 

Before we get down to business, a few notes about the countdown: 

1. To make things less complicated, I tried to list ONLY Sega Dreamcast games that were given North American releases WHILE the console was still in production. So, if you’re wondering why games like “Ikuraga” and “Segagaga” didn’t make the list…that’s why. 

2. There’s no real set criteria for my rankings. Simply put, I just weighed the overall quality of the games with their influence on my youth, and arranged the countdown accordingly. Your list, most certainly, would differ. 

3. Note that this is a list of the GREATEST Dreamcast games ever and NOT the best  (which, by the way, is not an interchangeable term for “favorite,” either.) You may think some of my selections are weak, and that’s totally cool. If you disagree, feel free to drop a comment or two. Just try to be civil about it, OK!

4. And lastly, did you know that if you put most first-party Dreamcast games in a CD player, you'll oftentimes get a brief, humorous message telling you not to do that shit? Well, you will. 

And with the fine print out of the way, who is ready to party like it’s 9/9/99? 

#080
Hydro Thunder



Hydro Thunder” was a launch window release for the Dreamcast, so understandably, most people assumed it was going to suck. As it turned out, however, the arcade port was actually one of the great, unheralded titles released in 1999, and a “Wave Race”-style game that remains pretty damn fun today.

This racer is no frills gaming at its best. Forget things like “customization” and “fine tuning,” with “Hydro Thunder,” it’s a select screen, a level select, and then, balls out arcade fun, While the graphics look a little harsh these days, the controls are still intuitive and the tracks are just as fun as they were during the latter days of the Clinton Administration…even if the seat with a sub-woofer installed in it wasn’t included on the home version.

There are only a few vehicles at your disposal, but the levels are very diverse (everything from an arctic landscape to a post-apocalyptic New York) and there’s definitely a lot of replay value. As with many other Midway titles of the timeframe, this game was an absolute hoot as a multiplayer experience - so if you and your best buds haven’t experienced it before, I think you’re all long-overdue for a play through or two on this one.

#079
Maken X



Maken X” is pretty much what would happen if Alejandro Jodorowski was commissioned to design a first person shooter. And the game itself, I assure you, is every bit as awesome as that premise sounds.

From the opening cinematic of the game - in which a gaggle of anime characters bring a cybernetic sword “to life” before an army of literally sharp-tongued Neo-Nazis invade a research facility - you just know you are in store for all kinds of awesomeness. “Maken X” is a rare entry in the first person slicer genre - so although the game takes place through the “eyes” of the character you are playing, you’re actually wielding huge assed cutlery as opposed to your standard firearms and whatnot. The graphics are stellar, and the swashbuckling gameplay is extremely satisfying. In addition to some truly kick ass boss fights, let’s just say that the narrative takes a LOT of unexpected twists and turns as the game unfolds. If you’re looking for a game that breaks away from all those boring ass action-game conventions, this is one title you definitely need to add to your queue.

Of course, most analysts will tell you that the original Japanese version of the game is the best way to go, and they’re probably right. Not only does that version have much improved voice acting, it also has a lot of material that ended up getting cut from the Western release…including a pair of swastika-headed enemies and even a boss fight inside the Vatican…against the Pope himself!

#078
Sword of the Berserk: Guts’ Rage



I’ve never been a big fan of anime or manga, so I really don’t know the first thing about the “Berserk” franchise. Additionally, I’ve never really been that big a fan of the hack and slash genre, but there’s just something about “Guts’ Rage” that jumps out at me…and no, it’s not just the copious amount of plasma flying all over the gaming landscape.

If you’ve ever played a “Dynasty Warriors” game, you know what to expect here. The gameplay is very smooth, and the graphics are generally pretty good. The game also implemented a lot of neat little hooks, including a “rage mode” that gave you super-duper powers when you were at death’s doorstep, as well as series of quick-time-events that actually had bearings on the outcome of the story.

Admittedly, the story is a little generic, and there’s probably way too many cut scenes in the game, but overall, “Guts’ Rage” is a fun, hyper-violent title with plenty of action, kick-ass swordplay, and some of the dopest boss battles to be found on the Dreamcast. If you’re in need of a good bloodbath - and definitely if you are in need for a challenging single-player experience - then “Guts’ Rage” is a title you definitely need to give a try.

#077
Silent Scope



For awhile, it seemed like the Dreamcast was going to be an absolute haven for light gun shooters. I mean, shit, this is the same company that gave us “Virtua Cop” and “The House of the Dead”…how could the company’s newfangled console NOT be glutted with such genre offerings?

Well, unfortunately, the aftermath of the Columbine tragedy insured that our offerings on the Dreamcast were to be limited, and as a result, this port of the Konami arcade hit DOESN’T support light gun gameplay in ANY regard. It’s a loss, no doubt, but thankfully, the gameplay here is still solid and addictive, making the title a worthy addition to any Dreamcast owner’s library, anyway. And hey, at least they included jump pack support for us.

There’s not really too much to talk about in “Silent Scope.” There are a ton of levels, with a wealth of game modes to run through, including a pretty entertaining (and challenging) story mode and a few time trial modes that will really keep you glued to your VMU. That, and if you’re wondering where Chris Nolan got the idea for the football stadium scene in “The Dark Knight Rises”…

#076
Ooga Booga



Ooga Booga” was an online game that played out, basically, like an amalgam of “Worms” and “Pikmin”…with just a little bit of “Super Smash Bros.” and “MDK” thrown in for good measure. And if that’s not enough to pique your interest? One of the playable characters is Honest Abe himself.

Thankfully, “Ooga Booga” has an offline mode, so you can still play the title now, and if you never tried it out back in the day, you really don’t know what you’re missing. Not only is this one of the most absurdly underrated games on the Dreamcast, it’s also one of the finest party games to be found on the console.

If you want some insane death matches, this game delivers just such an experience and then some. Forget running around grey corridors and shooting each other with laser cannons, this game allows you to run around an entire archipelago, blowing the hell out of your best friends with all sorts of kooky weapons. The graphics are very well done, the audio is tremendous, and the gameplay is simplistic, yet immeasurably satisfying. And if you think “Halo” was the first multiplayer game to allow players to run each other over in warthogs…well, think again (and much, much literally, as well.)

#075
Toy Commander 



I am willing to bet my entire bank account that this game was ignored when it was initially released simply because gamers thought it was a part of the underwhelming “Army Men” series. And that is a deep, deep shame, because “Toy Commander” was one of the absolute best launch window games for the Dreamcast.

At first glance, the game bares an uncanny resemblance to a certain, extremely popular Pixar franchise - and the fact that the protagonist’s name is “Andy” doesn’t really help the title distance itself, either. However, the game quickly demonstrates itself to be a rather competent action-adventure game - in essence, sort of what would happen if you combined “Chibi Robo” and “Twisted Metal” into a single experience.

“Toy Commander,” for the most part, is a vehicle based action game - albeit, with the hook that everything is set within the mind of a grade-school kid. While the “household warfare” shtick has been done before (like in “Micro Machines” and “Harley’s Humongous Adventure”), “Toy Commander” manages to implement the concept better than just about any game I’ve played, with so many awesome, creative elements (like, using #2 pencils as weapons of mass destruction). The fact that the graphics and music are outstanding certainly doesn’t hurt the title - nor does the shockingly fun multiplayer, which remains pretty much lag-free during even the most hellacious of skirmishes.

#074
Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2



It’s a boxing game, in which Michael Jackson - yes, THAT Michael Jackson - is a playable character. For that reason, and that reason alone, it deserves a spot on the countdown. The fact that it’s a really fun and well-designed arcade title, of course, is also warmly welcomed, I might add.

Much like “Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!”, “Ready 2 Rumble Boxing: Round 2” is a game that features very simplistic boxing mechanisms AND an absolute wealth of partially offensive stereotypes to pummel. There’s not a whole lot of meat to the game, but as far as just pick-up-and-play games go, this is one of the Dreamcast’s most entertaining - and offbeat - titles. I mean, shit, where else are you going to see Shaquille O’Neal fight a robot, or watch Bill and Hilary have a knockdown, drag-out brawl?

Oh, and did I mention that MICHAEL FREAKING JACKSON is a playable character in the game?

#073
AeroWings 2: Airstrike



Admittedly, I’m not a really big fan of the flight sim genre, but I do find something peculiarly relaxing about those kinds of games. “AeroWings 2” is something of an arcade-flight sim hybrid, meaning it gives you pretty much the best of both worlds here - intricate, technical challenges, as well as a sense of pick-up-and-play instant gratification every time you flip on your console.

While the visuals and audio are nothing to write home about, the gameplay is very satisfying, and very nuanced. If you’re all about quasi-authentic flight mechanics, you’ll find them in “AeroWings 2,” as large portions of the game can be spent honing your aviation prowess. And if you just want to shoot down some hot air balloons? Yeah, the game gives you that option, too.

If you’re looking for a challenging game, this is definitely a title with a steep learning curve. Even so, it’s also a very, very fine-tuned game, with a pretty outstanding multiplayer mode…that is, if you can find another person out there that has mastered the controls, anyway.

#072
Sega Smash Pack Volume 1



Sega Smash Pack” was a compilation disc that contained a pretty eclectic assortment of games. In addition to having all-time Genesis masterpieces like “Vectorman” and “Shining Force,” it also featured some, well, less-expected titles, including, among others, an unreleased arcade wrestling game from the early ‘90s, a really fun freeware title called “Sega Swirl” and even the PC version of “Virtua Cop 2,” which, awesomely, allowed for light gun use.

A lot of people complained about the quality of the ports, especially regarding the audio - as if “Altered Beast” was ever that much of an aural pleasure to begin with. Even so, you really can’t complain about the quantity of games you’re getting with the package - the first Sonic game, “Phantasy Star II” and even a mildly censored “Revenge of Shinobi,” on one CD-ROM? How about yeah!

That, and the game became infamous after a warez group found a way to turn the disc into an all-purpose Sega Genesis emulator…and if that’s not bizarre enough, the process was apparently simplified, as a programmer apparently left directions on how to co-opt the emulator WITHIN the actual game data itself!

#071
Dead or Alive 2



The Dreamcast is often celebrated for bringing better-than-arcade quality graphics to home consoles for the first time. It’s also celebrated for giving gamers the first truly great online service for a home system. And among those pioneering accomplishments, “Dead or Alive 2” demonstrates an equally important milestone in home computing - the debut of in-game breast physics.

OK, so maybe the fighting engine in DOA2 isn’t on par with “Soul Calibur,” or “Virtua Fighter 3” or even “Fighting Vipers” on the Saturn, but there’s no denying that it’s a fun, fun title, regardless. It may not be the deepest fighter on the system, but the controls are just spot-on, and the visuals, even now, look mighty damned impressive.

There’s just too much to like about this game, from the bizarre character designs (the dude from “Ninja Gaiden” versus a Sisqo clone? Why the hell not?) to the multi-tiered stages to the counter-system to the awesomely goofy story mode. The game may set the women’s rights movement back a couple of decades, but other than, it’s a downright excellent little offering.

#070
Sega Rally 2



Sega Rally 2” is simply fantastic, no-frills arcade racing at its finest. Although a lot of hardcore gear heads will probably be turned off by the lack of realism and customization features, as long as you have a proclivity for high speed, super-satisfying racing game play, I have a difficult time imagining anyone being disappointed by this offering.

While the graphics, generally, are quite week compared to today’s standards, it’s still a fairly impressive game for its time, with a particularly beautiful cockpit mode. I really like all of the environmental effects Sega threw into the game - really neat things like helicopters flying over the tracks, and track textures that alternate from gravel to tarmac and especially some of the in-game weather conditions. To this day, “Sega Rally 2” has some of the most fun snow-covered tracks I have ever experienced in a racing game.

While the model list isn’t the most impressive (unless you really like Toyota Celicas, I suppose), the championship mode (which is comprised of 10 years  worth of racing challenges) is definitely addictive, and the multiplayer, while not the best the system has to offer, is still very fun and enthralling. That, and it has quite possibly the most upbeat game over screen in history…

#069
NFL Blitz 2001


The “NFL Blitz” series was such a ubiquitous franchise back in the late ‘90s and early ‘00s that practically everyone - regardless of which console they owned - probably had a copy of the game in their library. Hell, even people that really didn’t like sports games usually had one of the games in their collection…and for good reason.

“NFL Blitz 2001” is arguably the greatest game in the arcade-football series. What the game lacked in technical realism, it more than made up for in extremely satisfying, balls-out pigskin action. While the No-Fun-League today makes EA include “concussion safety” pointers in their modern games, the NFL was considerably more lenient during the Tagliabue era - so expect plenty of leg drops after the whistle and uncalled pass interference via clothesline whenever you play it.

The graphics may not have been the best, but the audio was pretty good and the gameplay itself was sensationally good. If you’re looking for a party game, this is definitely one of the first games I would point you to - although the rubber band AI in the game, I must warn you, is absolutely notorious for cheating players out of victories in the fourth quarter.

#068
Floigan Brothers Episode 1: Moigle’s Secret Project



Every time I think about this game, I want to weep. This was precisely the kind of innovative, enjoyable, and original kind of game that you could only play on the Dreamcast at the time, and I can’t help but ponder how the industry would have turned out differently had the system - and its library of unique, cutting-edge games - been more commercially successful.

“Floigan Brothers” is basically a platformer-puzzler-adventure game, with truly excellent visuals, fantastic sound design, and absolutely stellar controls. It’s also one of the funniest games on the Dreamcast, in addition to being one of the console’s most creative titles.

The game’s “hook,” I suppose, is that it’s something of a “squad-based” platformer. You control a fairly diminutive character, who most rely upon his larger, stronger and (unfortunately, quite dim-witted) brother to solve a series of puzzles, so that you can progress to different areas of the game world. The thing is, the puzzles are actually pretty challenging, and there are so many different things you can do that, conceivably, spend hours just running around the place trying out different command combinations. For all of you jaded hipsters that bemoan the lack of originality in today’s gaming climate - perhaps it would serve you well to revisit this criminally underappreciated 2001 offering from Visual Concepts.

#067
Sega Bass Fishing



Leave it to Sega to not only make a FUN arcade fishing game, but an entire arcade fishing FRANCHISE.

It’s really, really easy to dismiss a game like this, but if you’ve never actually played it - well, you might be surprised by just how addictive the experience is. While real-life fishing is a rather boring experience anchored around jigs and lures and lots and lots of waiting, “Sega Bass Fishing” throws you into high-speed angling, with a two minute time limit to hook and reel in as many bass as you can. Of course, you do get some options when it comes to equipment, but really…it’s all about that fast-ass bass fishing right here.

The only regret I have about this game - which was one of the very first Dreamcast games I ever played - is that I never went out and picked up the proprietary fishing rod controller that Sega released alongside the game. Even so, this is a pretty damned fun game, with super enjoyable gameplay, even with a standard VMU pad. Sigh…is there anything Sega can’t turn into an awesome gaming experience?

#066
NBA 2K


When it was announced that EA would not be supporting the Dreamcast, a lot of sports fans figured the DC was going to bomb when it came to licensed games. However, Sega not only created a damn fine multi-sports series of its own, but one that totally eclipsed what EA was doing on the PS1 and PS2 at the timeframe.

“NBA 2K” was one of the first basketball sims that I felt really captured the NBA atmosphere. The player introductions had this epic grandness to it, and the audio aspects of the game - the superb commentary, the roaring crowds, etc. -really gave the game a heightened sense of realism.

Of course, it was the gameplay that really stood out in “NBA 2K,” and even now, it remains a very fun - if somewhat arcade-y - roundball experience. And damn, does this game have some awesome slam dunk animations!

#065
Tennis 2K2



Honestly, I don’t know the first thing about tennis. In fact, next to golf, tennis is my most hated anything ever. And with that in mind, you KNOW Sega crafted one hell of a sports game when even an unabashed hater like me can enjoy their virtual recreation.

While it would have been very easy to turn this thing into a really polished “Pong,” the guys at Hitmaker went that extra mile and made “Tennis 2K2” a very complex, very in-depth tennis title, with a relatively steep learning curve that, while initially frustrating, ultimately results in a highly technical, very cerebral sports game. And while the single-player mode is extremely satisfying, it’s the multiplayer that really makes this one worth going out of your way to experience.

The mixed doubles aspect of the game may seem like an inconsequential gimmick, but trust me, it leads to one of the most strategic sports games experiences you’ll ever play. It may take a while to get the controls down and really find your groove in the title, but once you do, you’ll no doubt find yourself picking this one up time and time again.

#064
Bust-A-Move 4



The “Bust-A-Move” series has always been a deceptively simple - and unavoidably addictive - franchise. While “Bust-A-Move 4” may not be a visual powerhouse on par with “Soul Calibur,” it’s still a very fun, immensely enjoyable game, with a particularly satisfying versus mode.

If you’ve never played a “Bust-A-Move” game before, this iteration is pretty much the same as the previous three installments in the franchise - which, considering the extreme replayability here, is very much what I would consider a GOOD example of a developer not taking any chances with its IP.

There are a ton of game modes here, including a challenge mode and a fairly lengthy story mode. While the character design and audio choices may put off some gamers, I think the sheer fun of the gameplay here is enough to keep any true gamer reeled in for hours at a time. All in all, there weren’t that many AAA-quality puzzle games on the Dreamcast - and certainly, “Bust-A-Move 4” is one of the absolute best genre titles that made it to Sega’s last home console.

#063
Bomberman Online



If you’ve never played a “Bomberman” game before, there’s a few things you need to go do to yourself…starting with actually playing a “Bomberman” game the first chance you get (just as long as it wasn’t released on the XB360, obviously.)

Of course, the big appeal of “Bomberman Online” way back when was that it was among the first puzzle games people could play online via a console with STEADY multiplayer support. Since the Dreamcast servers have been down for…yeah, about a solid decade now…sadly, you won’t be able to play this game online anymore. That said, the game still has a tremendously fun single player mode, and the local area multiplayer is as satisfying as ever.

Despite receiving a graphical makeover (dig those cel-shaded graphics, no?), the game is very much a true “Bomberman” release, with gameplay that’s virtually unchanged since the first game in the series was released on the NES. For those of you well-versed in Bombermanology, you already know how fun and intense theses games can be. And for those of you that are late (I mean, LATE) to the party? This is one Dreamcast title you SORELY need to experience.

#062
4 Wheel Thunder



I suppose you can count on one hand the number of “good” monster truck games that have been made since the days of the Atari 2600. While that racing subgenre has no doubt given us many, many atrocities over the years, “4 Wheel Thunder” remains not only an astonishingly enjoyable monster truckin’ experience, but stands out as one of the absolute best non-traditional racing games on the Dreamcast.

Actually, calling this game a “monster truck” racer is sort of a misnomer, since there are tons of vehicles to choose from in the game. As in, a pretty damn astonishing number, actually, all of which can be tweaked, modified and fine tuned - a real anomaly among arcade racers of the timeframe.

The graphics are shockingly good, and the gameplay is even better, with vehicles handling as smoothly as you could imagine them. That, and the game provides a real challenge for a change - as far as “arcade” style racers go, this game is about as hardcore as they get. Even racing fanatics tend to overlook this unheralded Dreamcast classic - a real rubber-burner that any adrenaline junkie needs to find pronto.

#061
Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver



While Eidos will forever be known as the house Lara Croft built, I think it’s pretty much a consensus at this point that the company’s true shining achievement were the “Legacy of Kain” games - an innovative, action-horror franchise that clearly influenced a generation of games, from the obscure “Shadow Man” to the very, VERY mainstream (“God of War,” anybody?)

Although the “hopping between two worlds” motif had been done to death even before “Soul Reaver,” was released, the game was pretty damn pioneering in regards to 3D action - even now, I consider it to be a way, way better non-2D “MetroidVania” game than just about anything that can be found on the PS3 or XB360.

The graphics were very, very good, and the combat, while mildly repetitive, was fairly solid, as well. That, and the game was really, really long, too - meaning you were almost guaranteed to end up spending many nights playing this one at 2 in the morning. A visually impressive title, with an immersive game world, and some really entertaining exploration elements? Yeah, there’s not a whole lot of negatives one can bring up when discussing this one. Well, besides the main character’s aversion to water, anyway…


And that folks, is our update for this week. Be sure to tune in next Friday for the second installment of the countdown, where we will countdown #060-#041 on our ever-dwindling list of the greatest Sega Dreamcast games of all-time. Until then, don’t forget: it’s still thinking…

1 comment: