Friday, September 28, 2012

The 100 Greatest Sega Dreamcast Games of All Time! PART FIVE - #020-001

The 100 Greatest Sega Dreamcast Games of All-Time!
Counting Down #020 to #001...


HEY! The previous installments in the countdown can be found below:

PART ONE

PART TWO

PART THREE

PART FOUR

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 Dr. Eggman and Knuckles the Echidna 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 “Napple Tale” and “Fighting Vipers 2" 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, why haven't these been mass produced yet? Well, I mean besides the fact that they kind of violate INTERPOL copyright law and stuff...

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


#020
Seaman


The Dreamcast was home to a ton of bizarre games, but there was clearly no weirder a title to be found on Sega’s last home console than “Seaman.”

The name alone would be enough to vaunt it into the upper echelon of strange-ass video games, but the premise of the title - and especially, the presentation - makes this an all-time contender for most unusual video game ever released. And the truly amazing thing about the game? Not only is it one of the most unique experiences to be found on the Dreamcast, it actually is one of the most enjoyable games one can “play” on the system. No, seriously.

OK, so the initial part of the game - raising the fish monster people - is a little time-consuming, and having to constantly clean the tank and adjust the water temperature is a bit boring, but once the “fruits” of your labor start talking back to you, you will quickly realize that you’re on the verge of a truly incomparable gaming experience. Yeah, we’ve shot aliens and karate chopped the hell out of each other for twenty years, but when was the last time you had an existential chat with a humanoid guppy about religion, politics and even your own sex life? More so than any game I can think of, “Seaman” is the epitome of “post modern gaming” - as long as you can keep crafting “identities” for yourself, it’s easy to assume that you could play the game for an eternity and STILL get different responses and conversational fodder from your aquatic friends. From the Leonard Nimoy voiceovers to the myriad self-reflexive Easter eggs (try asking your fish buddy what he thinks about “Nintendo” and “Sony” sometime) to the almost sorrowful final farewell at the “end” of the game, there is just so much to love about this game…and without question, you will never get an opportunity to play a title quite like it ever again.

#019
Sonic Adventure


For all the criticisms you heard about the game - the occasionally wonky framerate, the very occasionally clumsy camera and the inclusion of extra characters, that, to some, was superfluous to the gameplay - I still consider “Sonic Adventure” a mini-triumph of 3D platforming, for a multitude of reasons.

For starters, the fact that we were even GETTING a 3D Sonic the Hedgehog game was, in and of itself, something of a tiny miracle, seeing as how the abject failure of “Sonic Xtreme” left us without a proper Sonic game for more than console generation. As Sega’s response to “Super Mario 64,” it’s safe to say that “Sonic Adventure” didn’t have as vast an impact on the gaming world, but there’s no denying that the game was - and in many ways, still is - pretty damn impressive, regardless.

The visuals and audio were downright fantastic, and the fact that the game had an actual storyline - albeit, one that was just a tad convoluted - made the title feel way more polished and immersive. While some have argued that the multi-character gameplay  hook bogged the title down, I think it made the game infinitely more enjoyable and replayable, as it gave the game six very distinct modes of play, complete with plenty of unlockables. All in all, there was just so much variety to the game that I find it preposterous that anyone can consider it underwhelming - hyper-speed platforming, Zelda-esque adventuring, fishing, snowboarding AND a hidden “virtual pet” mini-game, in one launch title? If you can’t get behind that, I’m not sure if this whole “video gaming” business is for you, amigo.

#018
NBA 2K1


NBA 2K1” isn’t just the best basketball game on the Dreamcast, it’s easily one of the greatest hoops video games ever made. It was the first NBA game I played online, and for me, it struck the absolute perfect balance between strategic simulation and arcade fun.

You have to give the guys at Visual Concepts all the credit in the world here, because there’s pretty much something in the game for everybody, whether or not you’re a through-and-through NBA fanatic. For starters, there’s the street ball mode, which I spent a ridiculous amount of time playing - call me crazy, but I thought it was, overall, a more enjoyable experience than the first two “NBA Street” games. And then, there’s the franchise mode, which is so ridiculously intricate and in-depth that I don’t think you’ll ever find yourself truly “finishing” the game. Coupled with a sublime multiplayer mode, this is one sports game that is sure to thrill pretty much everybody that sticks it into their console.

The presentation is fantastic, the graphics still hold up very well and the audio - especially the commentary - is outstanding. The absolute best thing about the game, of course, is the stellar gameplay, which is both technically sound and strategically exhilarating - in other words, it’s everything you could possibly want in a basketball game, and then some.

#017
NFL 2K


NFL 2K” was pretty much everything you could want out of a launch title. Its graphics were amazing, the gameplay was outstanding, it showed off the amazing capabilities of the new hardware (being able to pick plays on the VMU, to this day, remains one of the most mind-blowing experiences of my gaming career) and a good goddamn, was it addictive. I picked the game up at launch, and played the thing for at least a year straight. By the time January 2000 rolled around, I had already led the Raiders to three undefeated Super Bowl runs, and had “NFL 2K1” not been released, I’d probably have ended up playing the franchise mode until CD-ROM went kaput.

“NFL 2K” wasn’t just a great football game, it was a mini-revolution in gaming. It may not have been as technical as the “Madden” series, but there’s no denying that the “2K” games were way, way more enjoyable and immersive than any of the PS1/N64 football games on the market, and in many ways, even superior to EA’s games up until the end of the sixth console generation. Not only did the game look like something out of the future, it’s presentation pretty much WAS the future - in short, it makes every football game released before it look downright primitive by comparison.

It’s really hard to express just how innovative this game was when it was first released. All of the things that are pretty much customary in sim sports titles - on-field referees, dynamic crowd audio, player physics, in-depth customization modes, etc. - were all  either pioneered in this game or greatly improved by “NFL 2K.” It’s not only one of the best sports games ever made, it really is one of the most influential games in history - and as a true testament to its greatness, it’s still an immensely fun game to play today.

#016
Fatal Fury: Mark of the Wolves


This game was one of the absolute best produced by SNK, and in many ways, one of the greatest technical fighting games in history. It’s an astoundingly deep game with well-tuned, extremely-balanced characters and an extremely satisfying combat system - in addition to being beautiful and an audio delight, too.

While the gameplay isn’t quite “Virtua Fighter” levels of realistic, it’s a pretty intricate fighting system for a 2D fighter. Every character plays differently, and each move set seems to gel quite nicely against other move sets - as a result, no one character has an advantage over the other, and the bouts can get very, very competitive. The character design deserves applause, as well - as should be any game that has a Freddy Krueger-inspired fighter with moves named after Morbid Angel songs AND a dude named “Khushnood Butt.”

SNK made so many great moves with this one, starting with the “Tactical Offense Position” bar, which allows characters to unleash super-powerful projectile and grab-attacks - a variable that makes one-on-one matches very strategic and cerebral. Also brilliant is the inclusion of “defense” bonuses, which allows players to recover health by successfully blocking attacks - such a small addition that makes the game that much more competitive and riveting. Simply put -  if you’re a fighting game fan, this is one Dreamcast selection you better have in your library.

#015
Quake III Arena


Quake III Arena” was the game that proved, once and for all, that online shooters could “work” on home consoles. While plenty of great FPS games had made their rounds to home systems prior to this Dreamcast release, “Quake III Arena” was the very first to offer an online, multiplayer experience that was on par with what you would experience on a PC. All of the big time franchises, from “Call of Duty” to “Halo,” owe more than a bit of gratitude to this title, don’t you think?

For all of you whippersnappers that don’t know what “Doom” was, this game was pretty much the competitive, online multiplayer shooter of the early 1990s (and probably, the industry’s best until “Counter Strike” came along.) The action was fast, frenzied, chaotic and an absolute blast to experience - and believe you me, the online play in this one was as addictive as crack-fueled “Tetris” binges.

While you could play the game with the standard VMU controller, you also had the option/blessing to play the game with the Sega keyboard and mouse peripheral…meaning that not only was the game playable with a PC setup, it was, for all intents and purposes, indistinguishable from the PC version of the game. Even now, I’m kind of surprised that more console shooters don’t give you the same set-up options that this game gave you - which, summarily, describes why it’s a game worth going out of your way to experience, too.

#014
Marvel vs. Capcom 2


The anarchic arcade-classic made its console debut on the Dreamcast in 2000 - and to this day, many hardcore fighting fans consider this iteration to be the ONLY way to play the game, outside of owning a full-sized, first-run coin-op.

By now, you have assuredly heard of the game, and its “hook” - you choose three characters from a massive pantheon of Marvel and Capcom characters - and then, things get INSANE. What the game lacks in strategic depth, it makes up for in excellent animation, ridiculously fantastic special attacks (complete with triple digit combos!) and some of the most intense button-mashing action in the history of video games. The multiplayer was - and still is legendary - but a lot of people tend to overlook how addictive the single-player mode on this one was, as well. Hell, I spent an entire summer joyfully unlocking the 60 plus characters in the game, even if that ultimate battle against Abyss always made my thumbs bleed (and probably gave me delayed carpal-tunnel-syndrome in the process. But damn it, it was worth it to unlock that Sentinel, I still attest.)

There’s not too much to say about the game, which is probably why it remains such a ridiculously fun title today. This game is just awesome, button-melting fighting action, with arguably the greatest cast in the genre’s history - honestly, I don’t know if I would want to live in a world where a game doesn’t exist in which players can have Mega Man, Jill Valentine and a Doctor Strange B-villain duke it out against Strider, Marrow and a giant eyeball squid. Oh, and in case you’re wondering who made Team Jimbo’s final cut? Cable, Iceman and Venom, bitches.

#013
Rayman 2: The Great Escape


While the game’s lasting impact has been tarnished a bit over the years (thanks in no small part to the million-billion watered-down ports that seem to get re-released every time a new handheld is launched), “Rayman 2” remains one of the absolute greatest 3D platforming games of all-time, and one that, in terms of contemporary influence, has had a greater significance to the genre than even “Super Mario 64.”

All modern platforming games owe a bit of gratitude to this one. In fact, the platformers of the present tend to borrow so heavily from this game that I guess you could consider it the touchstone of the genre. Without this game, would we have had “Jak,” “Ratchet,” or “Sly Cooper?” Probably, but without a superlative title like this to ape, they probably would’ve been worlds suckier as final products.

Stylistically, the game was breathtaking. The visuals were smooth and vibrant, and the minimalist soundtrack provided the perfect venue for the game’s outstanding sound effects to shine. That, and the controls and game play were absolutely phenomenal, providing gamers with a platforming experience so solid and enjoyable that it’s practically impossible to go back to the early “Spyro” or “Crash Bandicoot” games after you’ve played this one. “Rayman 2” is one of the most beloved games ever, and for very good reason - and I think you’d be hard pressed to find a better iteration of the title than this Dreamcast release.

#012
Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike


It’s arguably the greatest installment in arguably the greatest 2D fighting series of all-time. Not only is “Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike” one of the best fighting games ever, it’s also one of the most cerebral multiplayer games you’ll ever get your hands on.

Simply put, this game has the best defensive controls I’ve ever experienced in a fighting title. The addition of guard parrying turned what was already a deep, strategic game into an incomparably thought-provoking experience: once you factor in all of the air parries, throws and leap attacks (all of which can be countered), the game begins to resemble a heated chess battle more than it does a button-masher. The inclusion of a “judgment system” - an in-game scorekeeper of sorts that ranks players on offensive and defensive technique - proves just how hardcore Capcom was about making this a thinking man’s fighter.

The 20 player cast is outstanding, and each character plays completely differently than the next. All in all, it might just be the most diversified setlist in gaming, with characters like Ryu and Necro playing like figures from two totally separate fighting games. Even so, the game is exquisitely balanced, and it seems like competitive, technical bouts arise no matter which two characters are duking it out. Practically every thing about this game is pitch perfect, from the animation to the voice acting to the console-exclusive (at the time) add-ins, including entirely different endings and music for each character - and if that’s not enough, they even brought back the car-smashing mini-game! “Street Fighter III 3rd Strike” is a fighting game fan’s fighting game - and one of the best reasons to own a Dreamcast that I can think of.

#011
The Last Blade 2: Heart of the Samurai


For my money, “The Last Blade 2” may not only be the best game SNK ever made (itself, a gargantuan accolade), but quite possibly the greatest 2D fighting game of all-time. It’s a massive honor to heap upon a game that so few people ever played, but for anybody that actually has experienced the title…they know it’s praise much deserved.

“The Last Blade 2” plays out a lot like “Samurai Shodown,” although I think it’s more accurate to describe it as a 2D “Soul Calibur.” The weapons-based combat is smooth and technical, and playing defensively is every bit as fun as playing on offense. I really liked the slower tempo of the game, which made it feel more like “Fatal Fury” than “Guilty Gear” - a kinetic brawler, this may not be, but if you are in pursuit of a cerebral, rewarding and intellectual fighter, you’re probably not going to find a better title on ANY console.

The graphics - in particular, the sprite animations - are among the best you will see in a 2D game, and the title has one of the best scores in the history of the medium. Every character feels and plays differently, although the fighters are all expertly balanced. Pulling off combos isn’t too difficult, and the inclusion of “Super Desperation” moves - basically, fatality attacks - adds an element of unpredictability alongside the combat system’s strategic depth. All in all, “The Last Blade 2” is one of gaming’s greatest triumphs - and an oft-overlooked title that is long overdue for industry-wide celebration.

#010
Power Stone 2


If you were to ask me what was the best multiplayer experience on the Dreamcast was, there’s no denying that this game would be at the top of the list. “Power Stone 2” is an exceptional, ridiculously fun four-way brawler with outstanding visuals, fantastic music and downright sublime game play. It’s everything that made the already-great original so terrific, only multiplied by a thousand.

One of the things I really like is the emphasis on the single-player experience. While it is fun to endlessly pound you and three of your amigos into 2D paste over and over again, the “adventure” mode in “Power Stone 2” also give solo players an incentive to play through the title a few times, since it allows you to unlock a number of items and weapons. And the weaponry list in this game, I might add, is downright phenomenal, as you’ll be able to mow down adversaries with flamethrowers, katanas, roller blades, chairs and even cacti!

The stage interaction is what really separates “Power Stone 2” from the pack. Pretty much everything in the foreground and background can be used by the player, either as a melee weapon or an attack multiplier. And then, there are the environmental effects, which puts just about everything in the “Super Smash Bros.” series to shame…completely firebombed stages, an absolutely awesome battle atop a moving submarine and at one point, even the giant boulder from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” makes a guest appearance. This is the kind of game that made the Dreamcast one of the most beloved consoles in history…and if you haven’t gotten around to playing it, what the hell are you waiting for?

#009
Jet Grind Radio


Yes, “Jet Grind Radio” is the game that kicked off the short-lived cel-shaded graphics revolution, but it’s overall legacy has meant so much more to gaming. “JGR” stands out as one of the most original, refreshing and innovative games of the last two decades - a daring, stylistically unheard-of mishmash of rhythm action, extreme sports, platforming and yes, even a little bit of arts appreciation.

In many ways, “JGR” is an old-school styled arcade experience. You have a finite amount of time to accomplish a set list of tasks - in this case, tagging some billboards while avoiding a platoon of bumbling bad guys. The awesome thing here is just how cinematic the mechanics of the game are - while you are spray painting, the camera zooms out to show you a squadron of corporate drones homing in on you. In the hands of most developers, this would have been a laborious, repetitive experience, but the pioneers at SmileBit knew how to turn the tried and true into something dazzling new and incredibly enjoyable.

The character design is outstanding, the visuals are top-notch, the controls are spot-on, the soundtrack is absolutely fantastic (I STILL bump “Bout the City” every now and then while I’m working on articles) and although a lot of people overlook it, the story in “JGR” is actually one of the better you’ll find on the Dreamcast. This is the kind of game that they just don’t make anymore…and yet another reason why the DC remains one of the most beloved consoles of all-time.


#008
Phantasy Star Online


Way before “Everquest,” way before “World of Warcraft,” and way before all of Square-Enix’s hilariously awful attempts at creating online “Final Fantasy” games, there was “Phantasy Star Online.” To this day, it remains the only MMORPG I’ve ever played…and I don’t think it will be losing its mantle as greatest console MMO ever anytime soon, either.

Yes, “PSO” is a bit simple compared to today’s gigantic RPGs like “Skyrim” and “Mass Effect 3,” but in the game’s simplicity lies its charm (and hyper addictive drawing power.) While your character choices are limited to permutations of six (a robot, a human, or an elf of each gender), the game gives you plenty of “professional” options, as playing as a hunter, ranger or force completely changes the dynamic of your online (and offline) adventures.

For an online game released in 2000, the game’s MMO mechanics are shockingly robust, with three separate game modes to monkey around with - including two supremely addictive challenge and versus modes. A lot of people tend to sleep on the game’s single player, offline mode, but it’s actually a damn good RPG in its own right, too. And you have to give Sega mad props for the excellent communication system here - with the SegaNet keyboard in tow, this game plays almost equivalent to “Diablo II” on a PC. Factor in the great graphics, sublime audio and ultra-satisfying game play, and you definitely have yourself one of the decade’s absolute best RPG experiences.

#007
Skies of Arcadia


Skies of Arcadia” was the Dreamcast’s answer to “Final Fantasy VII,” and while the game didn’t achieve quite as much critical and commercial acclaim as Square’s offering, there’s no denying that Overworks’ title is one of the console’s greatest traditional RPG experiences…if not the best overall role playing game the Dreamcast has to offer.

As far as dungeon crawlers go, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better one on ANY console from the timeframe. The battle system in “Skies” was really well-structured, providing users a simple interface that still had enough wiggle room for some strategy in more ferocious battles later on in the game. Additionally, I really liked the use of the “flying” mechanism as a way of mapping the over world together; while a lot of people may not have liked the random battles that popped up, I thought the ship-based combat was one of the most fun aspects of the title. And hey, what about that “hidden” RPG that you can play on the system’s VMU screen?

Aesthetically, the game is downright astounding, a visually immersive and aurally outstanding offering with one of the more detailed and engrossing storylines to be found in any RPG from the era. The characters are fleshed out, the weaponry is fun, and just exploring the game’s many, many dungeons is a hoot and a half. And then there’s the exquisite soundtrack composed by Yutaka Minobe and Tatsuyuki Maeda…needless to say, this game is worth playing though just for the audio-visual kick. The fact that it’s one of the most enjoyable and gripping games on the Dreamcast certainly doesn’t hurt, either, I suppose…

#006
Sonic Adventure 2


The last truly great “Sonic the Hedgehog” game we’ll ever get to play? While Sega’s forays with its cash cow franchise have produced less than sterling results since the Dreamcast’s demise, we can at least hold our heads up high knowing that the franchise’s finale (on a Sega-produced console, anyway) was a worthy, fitting conclusion for the company’s flagship series.

The Internet consensus seems to be that this is the game “Sonic Adventure” really should have been. Although I really enjoyed both games, I have to go with the mainstream here and agree that “Sonic Adventure 2” is a far superior title to the Dreamcast launch game. As a hybrid action-adventure-platforming game, there’s something here to please gamers of all walks of life…although, admittedly, I kinda’ wish the would have brought “Big the Cat” back for this one, but whatever.

There is just SO MUCH to do in this game. To get 100 percent, you’re going to have to complete the title using 6 different characters, collect 180 emblems and scour the game world for collectible “chao” creatures. And then there’s the two player mode, which is actually way more fun and addictive than you’d think. While the camera is STILL an issue, it’s nowhere near as bad as it was in the first game, and all of the new additions to the game…not to mention the improved audio and visuals…more than make up for whatever brief moments of frustration you’ll have trying to make the occasional wonky jump. This is the kind of game that puts a smile on my face every time I boot it up - now excuse me for a bit, I have to complete the “City Escape” stage just ONE more time this evening…

#005
Test Drive Le Mans


The best racing game on one of the best consoles for racing games ever. Not only is this a game on par with the second and third “Gran Turismo” games, after a decade of play, I think this one might be an even better title than those two much-revered simulation titles. Believe the hype, kids…this game IS that good.

For starters, the game looks absolutely amazing. Even though the game came out in 2000, it looks glossier than most PS2 racing games, and at first glance, you might even mistake it for a first generation 360 game. Visually, this game is an absolute masterpiece, but it’s not until you get in the gameplay that this criminally overlooked sim racer truly shines.

Where to begin here? Although the game may lack a lot of manufacturer licenses, it makes up for it with some excellently designed autos and giving you a plethora of tuning and tweaking options. On top of that, you are given an astounding array of game modes, including your basic GTs, a number of arcade races, and of course, the signature endurance mode, which replicates the 24 hour Le Mans marathon. In my opinion, that mode is one of the most amazing Dreamcast moments of my life, displaying the extraordinary technical capabilities of the hardware (trust me, watching the game time lapse from day to night to day again is STILL a remarkable sight to behold.) The audio is among the best I have ever heard in a racing game, and the cockpit mode is arguably the best in any game up until “PGR3” on the 360. The controls are outstanding, the racing gets extremely competitive and exciting and the 10 tracks (including some of the best recreations of the Suzuka and Donington circuits you’ll ever see in a video game) are extremely fun and challenging. All in all, this might very well be the single most underrated game on a console legendary for its unheralded classics; and if you’re even the teensiest racing game fan, this title alone is well worth tracking down a Dreamcast for.

#004
NFL 2K1


The first online football game on a home console (unless you want to get all technical and drudge up the ill-fated X-Band add-on), and to this day, one of the finest 3D sports games I’ve ever experienced.

To non-football fans, it’s going to be difficult to explain what made this game so great. Empirically, I suppose, one really wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between this game and “NFL 2K” by a screenshot alone, but after you played this game as long as I did…well, you begin to note the differences, and there are many. For one, the graphics are much improved, the audio is was better than it was in the first title and the physics are utterly remarkable. You can look at the tackling animations in this game, and compare them to the latest “Madden,” and there really isn’t a marked improvement in that particular category at all. If “Tecmo Super Bowl” laid out the template for a truly great 2D football title, than “NFL 2K1” is the touchstone for modern, ass-kicking, three-dimensional pigskin action.

Online play nowadays is old hat, but at the time, the appeal of being able to play a New York Jets fans while you were sitting in Iowa was absolutely flooring. Indeed, I spent DAYS defending the honor of my beloved 2000-2001 Oakland Raiders squad, accepting challenges from just about ever Denver Bronco or San Diego Charger fan that had a steady Internet connection. Factoring in the franchise mode, I probably spent at LEAST 200 hours playing this one over the course of a year; I think there was a steady three month window in the summer of 2001 where this title NEVER left the disc spinner of my console. When you talk about fundamental gameplay, I don’t think there was a game on the Dreamcast that had better, pound-for-pound quality than “NFL 2K1” - if I was stuck in a deserted island with only a DC unit and a power generator and I could bring only ONE game with me, I seriously doubt there are any other options to choose from other than this outstanding gridiron classic from Visual Concepts.

#003
Soul Calibur 


The “killer app” that sold thousands of arcade-dwellers on the prospect of a Dreamcast, and THE title that proved we weren’t going to get “Saturn-ed” this time around by Sega. It’s regarded as one of the most important launch titles in history and a complete paradigm shift for the industry of console gaming - and atop all of that, did I forget to tell you that it’s one of the most awesome fighting games ever made?

“Soul Calibur,” in the eyes of a lot of people, was the game that effectively “killed” the arcade market in the U.S. For the first time ever, a console port of an arcade game could truly be called “arcade-perfect” - in fact, with all of the new additions to the game, “Soul Calibur” on the DC was easily “better-than-arcade-perfect” in my eyes. The visuals were polygonal candy, the audio was outstanding, the combat system was sublime, the multiplayer was tits, and the quest mode? Absolutely friggin’ riveting. You really couldn’t ask for a better day one title for a new console - and 13 years later, it still plays as awesome as it did during the heyday of Lou Bega.

It’s debatable whether or not “Soul Calibur” is the absolute greatest 3D fighter ever (for me, it’s a toss-up between this one and “Virtua Fighter 4”), but there’s NO DENYING that it’s the best 3D fighter on the Dreamcast. There are so many characters to choose from, and the controls are so smooth and flexible that it feels like the VMU pad just melts away and you’re controlling the characters by telepathy or something. It’s one of the best-feeling games ever, and a game that ALWAYS produces some outstanding one-on-one battles. While it’s easy to dismiss the hype on most games, I’m certain that every great thing you’ve heard about this game still holds weight; and if you ask me, a grueling marathon on ultra-hard mode with Nightmare is about as close as one can get to sheer video game nirvana.

#002
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2


The “Tony Hawk” series has become a pale, pale shadow of itself over the last decade and a half - thanks in no small part to Activision’s perpetual milking of the cash cow, not to mention some downright HORRIBLE attempts to turn the series into a more “casual” experience. As a result, we tend to overlook just how spectacular those early “THPS” games were - and to me, there is no better “Tony Hawk” experience to be found ANYWHERE than when you have this game wedged in your DC.

The first “Tony Hawk” game was a remarkable, innovative title that created its own genre of gameplay. As good as that game was, it still had a few missteps here and there, and just about EVERY problem that was around in the first game was not only remedied in “THPS 2,” but pretty much perfected as a game mechanic. The inclusion of the manual alone - which allowed players to link combos together, conceivably until your Dreamcast just exploded - turned “THPS 2” into an absolute cultural sensation - there wasn’t an eighth-grader alive back in 2000 that didn’t adore this title, and the game probably got more kids into skating than the X-Games, Bart Simpson and those CKY videos COMBINED.

I’m always hesitant to describe anything as flawless, but I really can’t think of a single thing in this game that could have been improved. The skating system was perfect, and the expansive levels were the best mix of realistic and fantastical I’ve ever experienced in an “extreme” sports game. I spent DAYS just messing around in free skate mode, and with the inclusion of both a create-a-player AND a create-a-park mode, this game was more addictive then playing Tetris while high on crack-cocaine. The soundtrack was superb, the graphics were outstanding and the bonus content is among the best unlockable stuff you’ll find in any video game. Skating around a vacant school, while dressed as Spider-Man, jamming out to Lagwagon and Bad Religion - this game really is one of my most cherished teenage memories, and I’m not being even remotely sarcastic about it, either.


And now, the moment we’ve ALL been waiting for. For the last month, we’ve explored, relived and replayed 99 of the absolute best games Sega’s last home console had to offer. We’ve shed tears of nostalgia, tears of joy, and sometimes, tears of frustration. We’ve laughed, we’ve remembered and we’ve rejoiced. And as we come to the number one Dreamcast game EVER, I’d just like to thank the guys at Sega and all of the third party publishers that are responsible for giving us these games. A lot of these developers and publishers are long-extinct, and we’ll probably never see a console dedicated to such innovative, quality games ever again. Your efforts are not to be forgotten guys, and me -and the millions of retro game fans the world over - appreciate what you’ve done for us, and we’ll never forget your hard work and devotion to entertaining us.

With that said, I think it’s pretty obvious what my pick for the best Dreamcast game of all-time is. In fact, there’s only one title that I think deserves such an honor, and it’s the game - for better, or for worse - that came to define not only the Dreamcast, but Sega as a video game company. Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen…the greatest Sega Dreamcast game, of all-time:

#001
Shenmue


While the Sega Dreamcast's time on this earth was not long, there is NO denying the impact it had on the world of video gaming while it was here. In many ways, it was the last true console for dedicated, hardcore gamers, a place you could go when you wanted heavy arcade action and innovative genre-blenders as opposed to shovelware casual games and rehashed rehashes. It gave us amazing 128-bit graphics and wacky peripherals and online play and games that were so ahead of their time, it was ridiculous. Although we're all mourning the prospects of would could've (or in the eyes of many, should've) been, we should all feel fortunate that we got as much time with the system as we did - and the 100 games listed on this countdown are true testaments to the greatness of Sega's last(?) foray into home gaming. 

You're gone, but not forgotten, my beloved orange-lighted, noisy-ass-internal-fan-embedded beauty. And reflecting upon the 100 CD-ROM discs that made up this countdown, one thing is certainly clear; this is one dream that's going to live on and on for a long time to come...


No comments:

Post a Comment