Top 10 Dreamcast Games
I have been immersed in video games since 1991 when Sega first gave me Sonic The Hedgehog. And so began a lifelong love affair with Sega and it’s blue blur. However, in late 1999 (it was Christmas to be exact) Sega changed my life with the Dreamcast. To this day it is still my favourite console and I hold many fond memories of playing some of the most fun and finest games I’ve ever witnessed. In honour of this I present to you my Top 10 Sega Dreamcast games!
10. Chu Chu Rocket
Part of the Dreamcasts main selling point was it’s online capabilities. These obviously pale in comparison with the standard of online play we know today but this was pre-broadband and it was pretty amazing at the time. With the exception of Planet Ring (the Dreamcasts online launch game) Chu Chu Rocket was the first game to really push online play to the forefront. It offered fast-paced puzzle solving in a similar vein to Lemmings, providing head-scratching single player missions and competitive multi-player both locally and online. The action was frantic as you guided your Chus to their safety rockets and away from the deadly Kapus and bottomless pits. The game has also been re-jigged and is now available for iPhone and is definitely worth checking out to help keep you entertained on your daily commute.
9. Crazy Taxi
If you’ve been aware of games over the past decade then you must have had your head inside a rock buried under another rock if you haven’t heard of Crazy Taxi. A true arcade classic that has the player take control of a taxi and drive around town picking up and dropping off as many customers as possible in the craziest fashion possible. The game truly lives up to its name. Even today, the visuals are as bright and vibrant as ever literally screaming “have fun!” at you whilst playing and you can’t help but comply. The console version included bonus features such as an extra city to be just as reckless in and the brilliant Crazy Box. A mode that acted almost as a tutorial having you improve your driving techniques whilst knocking down bowling pins or precariously racing along narrow pathways. As a complete package, this game is fun personified.
8. Toy Commander
You won’t find this game in many Top 10 Dreamcast lists but to me this is a true under-appreciated gem. Taking influence from the Micro Machine series and throwing some bizarre yet genius story ideas, Toy Commander sees a group of neglected toys led by a teddy bear (perhaps an influence for Toy Story 3?) take control of their owners home in response to being replaced by army toys. It’s then up to the army toys to take the house back! This game is definitely not breaking the mould in any way but it certainly has a distinctive charm allowing the player to immerse themselves in the challenges. The graphics were brilliant for the time, yet the game’s main fault was a slightly awkward control scheme that would make the later levels even more frustrating as they progressed in difficulty. Regardless of this, Toy Commander makes for a fun and challenging romp through many children’s fantasies.
7. Power Stone 2
Expanding on the critically acclaimed original, Power Stone 2 takes the fully 3D arena-fighting genre to another level. There are more characters to choose from, 4 player simultaneous combat as well as the inclusion of literally hundreds of items to aid you in battle. The style of Power Stone is all out frantic 1 on 1 combat from an isometric viewpoint allowing for full 3D movement by the player whilst fighting for the power stones to gain that all important advantage over your opponent. Power Stone 2 throws 2 more fighters into the fray making things doubly chaotic. Another addition with this instalment that ups the ante is that the stages change during the battle. An example sees the 4 combatants starting out in a small courtyard setting that is quickly engulfed in flames prompting the players to climb the outside of a building in order to escape. Once at the top, the first 2 players to arrive successfully make it inside the building leaving the remaining 2 to take damage in the flames before being unceremoniously dumped inside. The best way to describe this game would be endless frantic fun!
6. Soul Calibur
The Dreamcast is rife with fighting games. But none share the prowess or respect that is given to Soul Calibur. As the second game in the Soul series, Soul Calibur continues the tale of “souls and swords” with a host of new characters. What is most notable about Soul Calibur is the quality of the graphics. They are simply stunning and still hold up today. It really got the most out of the Dreamcast’s power and earned it numerous accolades including many 10/10 scores. One of the other standout factors of Soul Calibur is the simple control scheme, allowing novices and experts to pick up the game with relative ease and most importantly, enjoy themselves. While it doesn’t have the depth of other fighting games or later instalments of the Soul series, Soul Calibur still needs to be played to be truly appreciated as words alone cannot do it justice.
5. Jet Set Radio
Jet Set Radio is mainly known for its striking cel-shaded visuals. Around the time of this games release, only a handful of games had used the new (at the time) cel-shaded style. Jet Set Radio really bought that technique to the forefront and is yet to be topped in the way it was utilized. The format of the game is an action/adventure style that sees you take control of a rollerblading gang that has to defend itself against other gangs, the police amongst other threats all in the name of self-expression. The sheer ridiculousness of the plot coupled with innovative pick-up-and-play gameplay and graphics allow this game to shine but the soundtrack is really helps the game move. Including both licensed and original songs all with an upbeat tempo helps you immerse yourself into the underground world of rollerblading-graffiti and provides an excellent experience for the player.
4. Sonic Adventure 2
Sonic Adventure 2 took over from the previous instalment by utilizing better graphics and focussing more on action sequences than the hub exploration demonstrated in Sonic Adventure. The game splits the story into two halves, the hero story and the dark story with both utilizing three different playing styles. The hero story sees you taking control Sonic, Tails and Knuckles whilst the dark side mirrors them with Shadow, Dr Eggman and Rouge the Bat respectively. As the player progresses from stage to stage they will swap between characters and also playing styles. The Sonic/Shadow stages focus on fast-paced action platforming, the Tails/Eggman stages play in 3rd person shooter style whilst the Knuckles/Rouge stages take more slowed down exploration approach. The three variations of play help break the game up and also allow for both sides of the story to interlink as the characters cross paths. The final chapter of the game sees both sides forced to put aside their differences and work together in order to stop the greater evil and provides an excellent crescendo the game’s story.
3. Skies of Arcadia
If you’re looking for a truly enjoyable RPG experience on the Dreamcast then look no further. It’s not exactly breaking the mould of the JRPG but the way Skies of Arcadia tells its story and explores the world separates it from the pack. It is rich with great characters and locations that make you want to play more to see the story unfold. The world of Arcadia is a land made up of floating islands where the only way of travel is by airship. There are several continents that each resides under a different moon of various colours and properties. For example, the land of the red moon is a hot, desert land whereas the green moon looks over a lush, rainforest style land. The story is driven by the antagonists desire to harness the power of the Moon Crystals (pieces of the moons that have fallen from the sky) in order to wake the Gigas (giant creatures of destruction controlled by the Moon Crystals). It’s up to our heroes Vyse, a young pirate, his best friend Aika and a mysterious young girl named Fina to stop the evil Lord Galcian from possessing all the Moon Cyrstals and controlling the world. It’s not the most original of stories, especially within its own genre, but it is the way the story unfolds as the game progresses that makes you fall in love with the world of Arcadia. The game was ported to the Gamecube but desperately needs an XBLA or PSN port as it was severely under-appreciated at its time.
2. Sonic Adventure
For Sonic’s first foray into 3D this is a pretty phenomenal first attempt. Firstly, yes the game has camera issues that have plagued nearly every 3D Sonic title but other than that there really isn’t anything to fault this game by. It is a departure from previous Sonic titles by heavily focussing on the story and allowing players to view the story from 6 different characters viewpoints. Each character has their own style of gameplay and their own take on the overall story, interlinking with the other characters. This really brings the game together and offers different pacing for the player to immerse himself or herself in. The game is divided into 2 parts, Action Stages and Adventure Fields. The Action Stages act as the games main ‘levels’ and provide different challenges depending on which character you are playing as at the time. Sonic’s take on the stages ring true to the series as a mad dash to the finish, smashing robots along the way. Tails’ stages see him racing against other characters whilst Knuckles has to use the open world to search for emerald fragments. Amy’s stages are similar to Tails’ but instead of racing against an opponent, she is escaping a mad robot. New characters Big the Cat and E-102 bring unique play styles such as adventure/fishing and 3rd person shooter/platforming respectively. The Adventure Fields really open the game up and allows the story to unfold between stages as you explore several hub areas in order to unlock the next level. As a life-long Sonic fan I may be slightly biased towards this title but I really think that despite its shortcomings in the camera-work it is a real gem in the Dreamcast and Sonic crown.
1. Shenmue/Shenmue 2
This is not only my favourite Dreamcast game, this is my favourite game ever! The reason I’ve included both titles together is partly because of the continuation in the narrative and partly because I can’t decide which one I’d place higher than the other. Shenmue was ahead of it’s time in so many ways. A decade before Heavy Rain became a big deal, Shenmue had pretty much done it all. It was a completely different beast of game combining elements from RPGs, beat ‘em ups, adventure and puzzle games whilst bringing the narrative the forefront all the time. The story is a classic revenge tale of young Ryo Hazuki following him witnessing his father’s murder setting out to bring the killer to justice. An interlinking web of side-quests then opens up as you literally start with a blank slate and have to ask around town for clues as for where to begin. The game then splits up between exploration as you find clues, fighting sequences that play very similar to the Virtua Fighter series and QTE’s that can occur at anytime during play. Sega always wanted this to be seen as an interactive movie and the QTE’s really reinforce that. Another brilliant little touch is the night/day/weather system in the game. The story is set in Japan circa 1986/87 and the game reproduces the weather that was experienced in that part of Japan on that date at that time. Nothing of significant importance but just one of the many little touches that shows the attention to detail Sega had with this game. At the end of the first game, Ryo is on a boat to Hong Kong pursuing his father’s killer, which is where the second game begins. In a new location and with warmer weather the visuals change, as does the tone of the game. Ryo is out of his comfort zone being away from home for the first time and has no safety net to fall back on. Therefore, in order to provide a roof over his head in between tracking down murderers he hast to get a job. This may sound tedious but is represented as mini-games and does prove fun. Unfortunately, due to Sega’s decision to cease production of consoles and lack of funding, Shenmue 3 has never seen the light of day despite numerous online petitions and constant uproar from the fans, leaving the series on a seemingly eternal cliff-hanger. I could have filled this entire article talking about Shenmue and Shenmue 2 however I must draw to a close and I do so with the following. Please do what you can to get a hold of either of these games and play them because they are still relevant and still worthy of the prestigious praise they receive. And if you see a Shenmue 3 petition online anywhere then sign it!