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About
Hey, I'm sonic429, just call me sonic. I've been gaming since the 8 bit days, my first system was the Atari 7800. I try to play as many different types of games as possible, but my favorite genres are platformers, adventure, and fighters. I grew up with Nintendo and Sega so they will always be special to me, but I also have love for Sony and Microsoft.

Being fair and balanced is always my goal when forming my opinions, and I'm a very opinionated gamer. So if you don't agree with me I have no problems hearing the other side of the argument provided you can back it up. That's the way we all grow in knowledge and gain maturity. But most of all I'm here to have fun and interact with the community.

Happy gaming.
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As much as we all love to see a new IP, there's something reassuring about picking up a sequel to one of your favorite games. There's a lot less mystery, and you generally have a pretty good idea what to expect. After all, who likes putting down food money on something and being totally disapointed? 

So it should come as little surprise that the gaming industry banks so heavily upon them. Just look at a list of recent or upcoming games and there's going to be quite sequels, reboots, or spinoffs in that list. Making an original game (particularly a AAA game) is simply more risky for both the developers and consumers.

So the question then arises: how does one make a proper seqel? Well I've always said the second entry is always the easiest. It's simply a matter of taking everything that was awesome about the second game, and expanding it, while taking everything that sucked, and try to minimize it. And if you look at the direct sequels that followed that formula, they turned out pretty well.

I don't feel like I need to go too far in depth with examples, but some major ones are Mortal Kombat II, Diablo II, Resident Evil 2, Unchatrted 2, Virtua Fighter 2, and Mega Man 2. All of these games are universally considered better games than their predicessor. They took that solid base and blew it up. 

But that's not always what developers chose to do. In fact, back in the 8-16 days, developers made sequels that didn't play much at all like the originals and tried to expand the gameplay to attract a new audience. Some turned out really well, while others, not so much. Some great examples are Castlevania 2, Super Mario Bros 2 (USA), Zelda II, Mario World 2  and Actraiser 2. 

More than just a perspective change

While I find the notion respectable, it's hard to argue that those games are considered more "black sheep" of their series. Sometimes it turns out well, but often people just don't respond well to the change. 

The third game of a series seems to be a lot more tricky. Developers often seem to nail that second game, and the third (for whatever reason) just can't seem to measure up. Take a look at Mortal Kombat 3, Streets of Rage 3, Mario Party 3, and even (to a lesser extent) Donkey Kong Country 3, Diablo 3 and Marvel vs. Capcom 3. The were by no means were bad games, but they did fall short of what fans were expecting. 

So that's what I really want to address: how much do you really need to change in a sequel? 

Now I'm of the school that a sequel can change, and be more than just a fresh coat of paint and very much needs to be. I find that the market it just too dependent on samey sequels to make money. I think this needs to change. 

I'd like to point out some really good examples. One of the best examples is Uncharted. The first game, while fun, is just repeitive, the mechanics aren't the greatest, and it needed better puzzles and lengthier platforming sections. Far too often I would run into yet another gunfight. The story was somewhat weak too. Uncharted 2 did so much that frankly Uncharted 3 felt at least a little unnecessary. 

The issue, is that some sequels just have no legitimate reason to exist. Be honest, what did New Super Mario Bros 2 bring to the table? Some coin collecting gimmick? That's time and effort that could have gone into 3D Land which (by comparison) felt fresh and new. By that token, why do we need new sports games every year? Are you really saying that a football game is out of date in 12 months? I believe that they could sell DLC for Madden the entire generation and it would serve the same basic purpose. But of course, it wouldn't bring in the same kind of cash.

See the progression? Yeah, neither do I

The industry is far too money driven when deciding what games get sequels, how much should be changed and how often they happen. I understand that developers and pubishers need to be financially responsible and not take stupid risks, but it's frustrating to see some franchises lie dormant while others get needless annual sequels.

Resident Evil is a franchise that I have far more respect for than most gamers. Do you know why? It's because the games legitmatley change from each incarnation, there's enough room for the games to grow, and there's quite a bit of experimentation. With a game like Call of Duty, someone could walk by and have no idea which version you are playing, but that's not nearly as much so with Resident Evil.

I'm playing Revelations 2, and despite some flaws, I feel like it's a geniunely good game. I like the episodic nature. I love that it's introducing new characters and bringing back old ones and continuing the story. The pacing is slower than previous games, and even the inventory sysytem was overhauled. It stays true to it's roots and compells me to keep playing. 

But what about those games that don't stay true to their roots? You know what I'm talking about. What about the Banjo Kazooie Nuts and Bolts, the Metroid Other M kinds of sequels? Honestly, I say play it by ear.  I really enjoyed both of these games. I felt like they breathed new life into their games. But I know I'm in the minority. 

I'm glad they called it a Banjo Kazooie game because I got into the world once again, and see it in HD. I got to see all those familair characters and a few new ones along the way. I don't know that I would have enjoyed the game nearly as much or even had cared at all to play it had it not had the Banjo Kazooie name.

I'm glad I got to play other M because I finally got to see Samus as a character. She was vulerable for the first time, and I actually liked her better that way. I can't associate with a god-like character or a silent protagonist because I don't have those traits. Sorry, but characters like Gordon Freeman do nothing for me. It's always kind of awkward and feels lazy on the developers end. I can somewhat excuse Link, particularly Toon link because he's so expressive (and so damn cute!) but still I would love to see him have a voice and personality of his own.

Maybe that's just me though. What do you guys think? Do you want to see sequels take more risks, or do you think they should follow a more linear progression? Let me know in the comments below.









They say little things bother little people. I don't know that I agree with that, but I do think there's more than a few things that bother me in gaming. Maybe I've just let things fester more than they should have, but I think some are actually a pretty big deal. So I thought I'd make a blog about it, because video games. 

 

NES-cartridge reading issues.

It's an issue synonymous with the NES itself, the system simply can't reliably read cartridges. See, Nintendo designed the hardware to distance themselves from the video game market because of the crash of 83-84. Part of that was making the system look like a VCR and loading the cartridges in front into what's called a ZIF drive (zero insertion force). The problem with the design is that when you instert the cartridge and press it down into the drive and press it down it bends the 72 pin connector. Combine that with a embeded chip (called the 10NES chip) that wouldn't boot the game without a good connection or force a reset until it did (hence the blinking light) and you have a system that's just a hassle to play anything.

It got so bad that Nintendo released a redesign in 1993 under the name NES-101 dubbed "the top loader" It. was smaller, fixed the pin connector issue and removed the 10NES chip. The only issue with it is that its only supports coax video (which is the worst connection available). Not only that but since they were released so late in the system's life, they are pretty hard to come by, and therefore expensive. But that goes to show how bad the original model's design is that people are willing to compromise video quality and pay 3 times the price, just so they can play their games reliably.

 

Nintendo's third party support

Another notorious issue that has been going on for years is Nintendo's third party supprt, or rather the lack thereof. You could date this back to the NES days as well, when Nintendo lorded over third party devs to ensure quality control. That worked to their advantage back in the 8 bit era, when lack quality control caused the market to crash. And it was tollerable during the 16 bit era back when they had a powerful hold on the market, but it came to a head in the 32 bit generation when Nintnedo stubbornly stuck to cartriges, exacerbated by rival Sony who was much more open and used CD-rom technology.

Nintendo has never really recovered. The Gamecube certainly saw better support than the N64, so did the Wii due to it's runaway success, but the quality of many of those ports suffered due to the hardware limitations. And despite the Wii U's more competitive specs, it still suffered lack of support due to low sales. It's the reason Nintendo is left out of the conversation so often. Nintendo systems are for all intents and purposes, first party only machines. 

Noticing a pattern?

 

Poor image quality

While I've already touched on the NES 101, it's not the only culpurate when it comes to poor image quality. There are some systems out there in which the games are transition poor to modern day TV's. That isn't to say the graphics are bad, it's just that they can't show the game the way it was intended. The PS2 for instance, despite having built in component support, tends to look aweful on modern day TV's. Look at something like Soul Calibur II, the Xbox version looks night and day better. Yes, it's more powerful hardware, but the 480p and 16x9 support do wonders for an image.

But what really frustrates me is that I would be happy if I could get a clean signal from these systems. I still haven't purchased the equipment to do RGB Scart and clean up the signal. And even with the 6th gen systems it's a pain. The Dreamcast's VGA box is a cluster of cables, the Gamecube component cables are outragously priced (due to rarity), and most PS2 games don't even bother with 480p support alltogether. Thank god for HDMI and modern hardware.

Put out your hand to be smacked if you are using these cables

 

Propietary hardware

In the days of SD cards and USB ports, why are companies using proprietary connections? Sony used the flimsy excuse that SD cards have varrying speeds for the Vita cards. And I might have believed them had they not put $100 price tag on a 32 GB card. Microsoft is just as guilty with $100 wifi adapters. I also hate those power bricks, not only are they bulky but expensive to replace, worse yet, there's like 5 different versions for the 360 alone. The power adapter of the PS4 is the same as the PS3, PS2, PS1, Saturn, and Dreamcast. I can't come down too hard on Microsoft's stupidly overpriced 360 hard drive as they are super convenent.

 

Convoluted solutions

Finally, we come to where devs try some back door kind of work around to common problems. I know, I should be happy that the manufacturer cares enough to listen to our complaints, but it's still frustrating, especially when there are established solutions.

Why is this even a thing?

Nintendo's whole DRM setup comes to mind. Why do I need both systems to be online to transfer liceneses? Why can't that be done via a website, or just transfering them with an online account? The Wii menu on the Wii U is just contrived. The backwards compaitibility of the Xbox 360 is never going to be complete, and the PS3's removal of PS2 compatibility drives me up a wall.  

I could go on about how Microsoft won't let you remove a credit card from you account if you used it to purchase your live subscription (and auto renews by default), how Sony won't let you use external hard drives or automatically disable the HDCP for when you want to record gameplay footage, but I've ranted on long enough. 

So what about you guys? Do you have anything about hardware or software that drives you crazy? Sound off in the comments below. 









With all the talk about The Order 1886 being a short game, I couldn't help but want to chime in on my philosophy on how long a game should be. Now this isn't the same as my blog on what makes a game complete. Because I feel like a game's length isn't always tied to how complete it is.

Just to throw it out there, some good examples of a "complete" game that isn't long, is Call of Duty Advanced Warfare, Trials Fusion, and Super Smash Bros. While they all have a pretty healthy amount of content with plenty of replayablity, just playing through the main game takes only a matter of hours.

Try completing these on hard

On the other end of the spectrum, we have games that while lengthy, don't really have any replay value and the experience is what drives it. These are the Legend of Zelda's, the Arkham Games and most JRPG's.

Ideally, the shorter games make up for it with mechanical depth and wealth of modes, and longer games have more gripping narative and gamplay that's slower, more methodical. So you could theoretically play Virtua Fighter for hours trying to nail the perfect timing on that devistating combo, just the same as you could trying to EV train that rare pokemon you found.

But what happens when a game can't provide either the mechanical depth, the wealth of modes of play, or a longer narrative experience? What happens then? Well that's okay too, becauase there are ways around that too. I don't feel like I need to bring up all the countless examples of indie games that provided a brief expereince, with no replay value, nor other mode to extend the playtime, yet are beloved by the gaming community. They did this by making a clear vision of the experience they wanted to provide, made it mechanically sound, unique and (most importantly) sold it for a resonable price.

Not an experience you'll easily forget

At the heart of the issue is The Order 1886 has failed to deliver in this regard. Now, I haven't played the game, so I'm not speaking from personal experience. But I have played quite a few games that I feel this was exactly the sin that the developers commited. Much like a wedding dress, it was purchased at a high price, loved immensely for one day, then forgotten. 

People are reasonably upset too. They feel like they aren't getting enough bang for the buck, and I concur. But you also have your crowd that defend the lack of content. I heard someone say that you pay $12 to see a 2 hour movie, and if you factored in the math $60 for a 8 hour game isn't totally unreasonable. But I feel like that's comparing apples to oranges. I could just as easily use an example of buying an old dictionary from the thrift store for a couple bucks and spending countless hours reading it. Can't say how enjoyable it will be, but there it is.

I don't feel like the campaign needs to be a set amount of hours, nor have a certain number of multiplayer maps, but there is a certain amount of content expected for a full price retail game. I don't know about you, but I expect to feel like I got my moneys worth. No, I'm not asking for needless padding like a tacked on multiplayer. Games like Tomb Raider, and Dead Space 2 simply never needed a mutiplayer, but it had to be shoehorned in. Why? Because developers felt that if they didn't include them, people would trade in their games for new ones.

Maybe I'm the exception, but I feel like if a game made an impact on me, I want to keep it around. I want to share that experience with my friends or keep it so I can play through the game later. The Last of Us is not a game I would just casually trade in for a few bucks off another game, it's a quintessential Playstation game. 

So I implore developers to stop short changing us on content. That's fine for a game to be short, just make it worth our hard earned gaming dollar.









Us console gamers don't exactly have the luxury to make our systems the way we want. Sure, you can upgrade the hard drive, or add some accessories, maybe even change out a faceplate, but that's about it when it comes to customization. That kind of freedom really only comes with PC gaming, but I thought, what if I could design my own console? What would I do? How would I make it? 

Well I've been thinking quite a bit on this lately, and I've got some crazy ideas that just might work. Now granted, I'm not a hardware designer, I don't know all the tech, and a lot of these ideas have been tried before, but I think a lot of them could work better if done in a different way. Other aspects I feel are already figured out, and that I'm basically fine with how they are already done. So without further ado, let us begin. 

Format

Let's start with the easy stuff: format. Blu Ray discs, done. I know, simple, right? But Nintendo absolutely instits on making proprietary versions of standardized formats so their consoles can't play the formats they are based upon. I agree with them in the sense that this is a gaming console, not a media hub, but I say why not both? The fact is modern gaming consoles are already expected to have all the components of a modern media hub anyway, why not go that extra step and give it that functionality? Sure you could save a few bucks on the licensing fees, or potentially make a higher capapacity disc, but the tradeoffs simply aren't worth the incompatibilities. Plus, if you can attract a larger audience, you can get more people buying your games, and more developers wanting to make games. It really is a win-win.

Storage

In my mind none of the consoles did this right, yet all 3 have an aspect that they did get right. With the PS4 is that you have a system that you can upgrade the internal storage but forces you into the limitations of a single laptop hard drive. With the Xbox One, you have a system that supports external storage won't allow you to upgrade or replace the internal storage at all. And while the Wii U allows for you to buy exactly what storage you want, there's no room for an internal hard drive and worse yet, it can't be transferred from one system to the next.

What I propose is a modification of the Xbox 360's setup. I feel like the idea behind a drive that's internal yet easily removable and upgradable is amazing. What people don't realize is that underneath that propretary case is a simple laptop hard drive. All developers would need to do is make that case open with a few small screws and allow you to swap out the drive for a larger one. Data transfers could be done via a USB cable much in the same way they work with the Xbox 360 data transfer cable. There would be no need for an external drive to back everything up and restore, streamlining the process. That being said, I would also support external storage if someone was so inclined. It is a bit easier to expand hard drive space without digging into the nuts and bolts, plus you can easily move content to other consoles. 

I'm sure there are people out there who would disagree, but I fail to see the need for a full manual install of games. This is one thing I think Nintendo has done right to avoid and applaud them for it. I don't understand why it's so hard for developers to take data directly from a disc. I'm sure there is some performance improvement somewhere, but I honestly don't see it. When I download a game on the Wii U and 360, I see no changes in load times or performance at all. The drawbacks are painfully obvious too, particularly on the Xbox One. I understand the need to download and install patches but not forcing installs would make console gaming a better experience all around. At very least make the installs minimal (less than 5GB) This would make hard drives much easier to manage. 

Finally, I love the idea of having two different models on the market, one with internal flash memory, the other with a hard drive. I think 32 GB of storage is an excellent place to start, for casuals and those who primarly buy physical releases, it would be plenty of space, and even then, there's a bay for expansion should someone decide they need more space. It would also be nice for those who want more than the standard capactity drive, or even those who are buying a replacement console. That 12GB PS3 that everyone hated was excellent for me, because I already had a laptop hard drive sitting around. But for those who just want a 500 GB system without a hassle, that would be there too. And ideally the console should operate without storage at all (which is a problem with the Playstation 3-4).

Accessability

The problem with a closed box is that you can't upgrade the specs without segmenting your audience (ahem, new 3DS). But that doesn't mean you can't fix your system. In my opinion, consoles should be so designed to be able to be accessed and worked on by the common gamer. I feel like I should be able to open my system easily with simple phillips head screws and replace a broken part. I would love it if I could go to the manufacturer and buy a replacement optical drive or internal power supply. There shouldn't be 10 different versions on 1 part, and I should be able to swap them with a few basic tools. Now maybe not every part (like the motherboard for intstance) but the ones more prone to breaking would be grand. 

Now that isn't to say I want it to be like a PC where it's up to the user to service his own machine, but if someone had the knowlege to fix a problem, why should he have to pay $100, send off his system across the country to fix a $20 part? Ideally, you should be able to take in your Xbox to a local Microsoft store, and either drop it off it be fixed or buy the part directly from them. At very least they could take care of the legwork for you. Maybe that wouldn't be realistic for someone like Nintendo, but maybe they could even partner with another company (maybe Gamestop?) 

Inputs/Outputs

What about inputs and outputs? In my opinion Nintendo has got a really great setup for that, they have HDMI plus a multi A/V output. So there's you digital and analog outs, plus support for composite, S-video, and component. Component in particular makes for ease in recording gameplay footage to an external device. (Of couse the system should allow you to use the internal HDD as well). I'm not sure what Sony and Microsoft expect people who use DVI or need analog conntections to do because their systems don't support it. What's also odd is that Xbox One only supports 720p and 1080p output, the Xbox 360 had a broad range of resolutions that it supported, those should be included as well.

USB is unbiquitous at this point, as it should be, and all 3 systems support it, but the placement is off. In my opinion, you should have 2 USB ports in front for charging controllers and immediate access to wired accessories (such as arcade sticks), one on the side (like the Xbox one) for temporary things such as flash drives or a friends external hard drive, and at least one on the back for a permanent accessory such as a kinect or sensor bar. But all accessories should be USB, I see no need for a propriertary port. It should go without saying USB 3.0 should be the standard too.

Companion devices

I would also design my console around a companion device, but not force it on anyone. In my opinion, Sega was onto something with their VMU. A memory card that was also a handheld, but could also be used to play mini games, and transfer data. I would love something like this, and the closest we have now is the PS4 and Vita. I would take the integration a step further, all it needs is a cradle for charging and transferring data between the two systems. wifi is too slow. Ideally, once it has been synched you should be able to put your portable device down in the cradle, the system would recognize it and allow you to play any installed game on your device with a standard controller. Now imagine it would also serve as a memory card and have access to the clould to make it an all encompasing device. Obviously, much like the PS4, off screen play would be universally supported. They could even be sold at different features and price points. 

Controllers

Controllers to me are pretty straightforward, use the Wii U pro controller design. Layout is perfect, 80 hour batterly life, and a battery that can be replaced easily by the user, comes with an 8 foot mini USB cable (micro is too flimsy IMO), it would need drivers for PC compability. I would only add analog triggers and support for up to 8 controllers, just for compatibility. Use the Dual Shock 4's microphone port for chat or headphones but the system should also allow any bluetooth headset like the PS3.

The operating system

The OS is yet another issue that I feel like needs to be tackled. There's something about each of the 3 that I like and dislike. I like the Xross Media Bar for it's minimalist design; it's responsive and non intrusive, but options are totally burried and it's hard to find things like what's taking up all your hard drive space. The Wii U menu is clean and easy to navigate, but is barren in the options department. The Xbox "metro" layout is gaudy and forced advertisements down your throat, even when offline, but is fairly well laid out. The 360 version of it has plenty of options, and it is mostly intutitive. 

That's just kind of a fine line to walk, do you want ease of use or plethura of options? Do you want it attractive or minimalist? Honestly, I think you can have both, it just takes some smart design choices. But basically, I would take the Xbox One metro setup where your main functions take up the most space, but then have a seperate section just for a shop and another one just for options. The shortcuts, folders, backgrounds, and screen savers could ALL be customized. Let me make my own themes, download fonts, or even have my ow background music playing. It's my console, let me make it the way I want. 

Most of all it should just be easy to get around and figure things out. The user shouldn't have to be intimately familiar with every aspect of the interface to load up a game and have a good time, nor should he have to find some burried option to change basic things. 

Online

Online should be free. At the end of the day, developers pay for servers, and I pay for the game, why should the console manufacturer a cut? Yes, I know they have their own servers and such, but the cut they get from online purchases should go into that. That's not to say I'm against a paid version such as PS+, in fact that's a fantastic deal, but give me basic access for free and incentiveize me to want to get the premium version. I could even see more options, make a bundle that includes PS Now, EA access, or Sling TV.  

Things like Miiverse make the community better too. But I'd take that a step further, how about a game hub like the Halo Channel? Imagine other major game series having a hub like that where you can get all your news, tips, tricks, leaderboards community contributions and DLC all in one place? Sega hinted at that with thier first party games back in the day (you could launch it in game)  and I think it could really be special if they took that to the next level. 

Achievements should be handled differently too. Trophies and adding to your gamerscore are arbitrary, what about a system like the 3DS play coins? Each game could have their own achievements that, when unlocked would also act as in in game currency that would allow you access exclusive content. So you could possibly see a character online with a costume, you just knew they worked hard to get it. 

Conclusion

Sorry if I rambled on, but as you can see I have some pretty interesting ideas. I'm sure that a lot of these companies have already thought of a reason why it isn't done, but still it doesn't stop a guy from dreaming. Maybe I'm way off base, but I feel like there are still plenty of areas where Sonyy/Microsoft/Nintendo could improve. And I want to hear from you guys, what do you think they should do to make consoles better? Sound off in the comments below. 








sonic429
2:20 PM on 02.05.2015

If you went and asked the average gamer if they considered games "art" I think they would overwhelmingly say yes. They would point out examples like Journey, Limbo and Shadow of the Colossus and say that is the proof. If proded to go further, they could give the concept drawings of games like Soul Calibur and the music of Final Fantasy as further evidence to support their opinion. But I think when pushed to what art is, how to define it, and how it correlates to video games, the average gamer would be hard pressed to do so.

I am of the opinion that video games aren't art. But before you bring out your pitchforks and burning crosses, hear me out. In my opinion, games themselves are not art, but rather contain art. That is to say, that there are certainly aspects of games that have artistic value, such as the style of the world, or the music, but does something that houses art, constititue art itself? I don't think so. The halls of a museum a work of art? Does the CD or the file of an MP3 qualify as art? No, that's propsterus, but you'd be surprised how easily that idea is embraced when it comes to games. 

I don't think there is an easy definition of art, but if I had to define it by my terms I would say it's a skillfull expression of self. To clarify, I see things like music, dance, visual depictions (such as paintings or scupltures), literature as art. They all have that common thread where someone is using their skills to express something. I think it goes without saying that art is a very personal thing and is open to interpretation, even the definition iteself is open. 

But that's where my problem is with calling games art, there's no personal part. Most modern games have a vision made up or a few individuals, but there are masses of people working on them. The AAA game is so designed that the people working on them have little to no creative input. It's too big of a machine to just take out ideas or implement something new even if it might work better. Theres too much money on the line, and time is too short to allow for any creative input.

I'm not just picking on games either, Hollywood blockbusters are the same way. At a certain point, when these games get so big, the would be artists becoming nothing more than laborers. Take Lady Gaga for an example. Who are those people playing the music to her song; did you ever think about that? Those are just performers, they have no input to how the song is written. They aren't creating anything except playing the notes put before them. Art is about creation and expression, this is not the case when it comes to big budget productions. 

In my opinion, the more people you add to a production the less artisitic value it has becaue in order to gain continutity each person has to agree to a decision. Those games that are a scattered mess of ideas,  the games with half baked ideas and loose ends on the story? Yeah, those are games where the developers members weren't on the same page. 

Another problem with big productions is: who exactly is an artist? Are the janitors that clean the office artists? After all, they contributed to the project even if it is indirectly. If they didn't have a clean work environment how can the composers be able to make music? Do you see how ridiculous that argument can get? 

But what about smaller projects? Fez was basically programed with one guy. That I think tends to blur the lines a bit. Because frankly, that is very much a skillful expression of self. And if you added a couple more people, it doesn't suddenly cease to be art. So I'm not implying a hard and fast rule here. I just feel like it becomes harder to see the vision when it's spread so thin.  

So this is how I come to my conclusion. It's undeniable that there is a lot of art in video games, and a lot of talented artists working on games, but to say that games in it of themselves are art, I struggle with that. 

So I'm sure there's plenty of you that will probably disagree with me, and that's fine. But I would like to hear your thoughts, maybe there's something I'm overlooking. I'd like to hear where everyone else is and why they feel that way. 








sonic429
8:59 PM on 01.30.2015

While I've given quite a bit of love to Nintendo, and some towards Microsoft and Sony, I feel like there's another company that I haven't quite given some love to, and that's Sega. While they still exist in today's market, they are a shadow of their former self. But back in the day (which is always Tuesday by the way) they were something else. They took on a giant in the industry who at the time owned 90% of the industry and challenged them. If you look at them today, it's hard to believe they were ever a juggernaut, but they really were. And they did that by releasing edgy, unique and well made games that helped define the 16-bit era. So I'd like to share with you my history with the company and their systems. 

My first introduction to Sega was the Genesis. It was never my system you see, much in the same way I had to earn my N64, my brother had to earn his Genesis. But that meant that I got to play it. I remember we got the core system which didn't come with any games in the system, but a free copy of Sonic 2 with a mail-in coupon. Of course, that game took what seemed like an eternity to come so we rented from the local video store in the meantime. I remember the first game we got and by proxy the first 16 bit game I ever played: Tiny Toon Adventures. 

I remember the production values were just heads and tails above what the NES could produce. In case you've never played the game it's chock full of fan service, the music the characters, it's a licensed game done properly. Now in hindsight, it's nothing groundbreaking, but it's a well done platformer.

The Genesis in general felt very different to me than the SNES. The former had such a dark, underground feel to it, like it may have been the underdog, but it also meant you got to go though some uncharted territory in gaming. Sega did a lot of things that Nintendo didn't. They were more open to mature content, instead of trying to block things like the Game Genie, they endorsed it, and had a very strong arcade lineup. 

I think their biggest undoing happened because they stretched themselves too thin, they started getting hardware crazy and at one time they were juggling multiple incompatible formats. If they had just stuck to the Geneis and Sega CD and made some games that actually took advantage of the format it might have been a different story. Imagine more games like Snatcher, Lunar and Sonic CD, and less like Night Trap and Sewer Shark. 

I would even take that argument a step further. Imagine if the Sega Saturn had been backwards compatible with both the Sega CD and the Genesis. It wouldn't have mattered that the system was $400, it would have been this amazing value proposition where you would be getting 3 systems in 1. See people don't have a problem with spending more money, as long as there's a way to justify it.

The Sega Saturn was never my system either. I never got one because by the time I knew it existed it was discontinued. But my friend had one, in fact the first time I went to his house he introduced me to the system. To this day he still talks about the Saturn and how it was his childhood system. I got to see games like Xmen: Children of the Atom, Darkstalkers, and Panzer Dragoon. These were the kinds of games I had almost no familiarty with outside the first two being based on Street Fighter II. While they were cool games, they were decidedly niche, even by today's standards. In fact the Saturn is if anything a niche system; you don't see casual gamers playing the system. It wasn't just the higher price point that was damning, even the chipset that made the system needlessly expensive and difficult to develop for are obstacles that could have been overcome, it was that Sega couldn't produce a game for the masses. 

Look at the Saturn's library. You have a plethura of fighters, action games, shmups, and the occassional RPG, but what game even became the killer app? I suppose you could argue Nights into Dreams, but isn't that somewhat niche too? Even something as amazing as Virtua Fighter 2 got overlooked in light of other fighters like Tekken and Killer Instsinct. 

Awesome, but it's not Sonic the Hedgehog    

But of course we must come to the Dreamcast. The ever amazing, terribly underrated Dreamcast. It's hard to believe that there is only 3 years difference between the release of the Saturn and the release of the Dreamcast. You could not chose too more opposite systems put out by the same company. It's as if they took everything that held the Saturn back and fixed it.

I got one for Christmas of 1999 (and yes, once again I had to earn that system). While I enjoyed playing Soul Calibur quite a bit, the game that won me over was Sonic Adventure. I must have played the demo 50 times till I just had to have the game. 

Dreamcast easily had the best launch lineup of any system ever. Now it is a bit of a cheat, the DC launched in Japan the year earlier and we got all those first gen games in the US in one giant launch splooge. We got House of the Dead 2, Hydro Thunder, Mortal Kombat Gold, Power Stone, Ready to Rumble Boxing, Sonic Adventure and of couse Soul Calibur. There were a few others, but these alone were enough to consider getting the system day 1. Modern systems don't do that. You usually get a couple exclusives and the rest are a bunch of ports. Even as good as the Wii U launch lineup was, it didn't touch Dreamcast's. 

That's the legacy the Dreamacast left behind though.  It may have had those niche titles that only appealed to the core, but it a broad range of games to appeal to pretty much everyone. But I like that the features the system had were about gaming. It didn't have a bloated price to get a built in DVD player and worry about games second, it was games first, the way it should be.

The system was ahead of it's time. How many console gamers were playing MMO's in 2001? Who was using voice chat, getting downloadable content, surfing the web, and running games in 480p back in the day? Yeah, Dreamcast gamers were. 

But of course, we all know the story, Sega basically went bankrupt. They couldn't afford to support the Dreamcast and became a third party publisher. I have to say my heart sank when I heard the news. If any system deserved to succeed and didn't, it was the Dreamcast.

While it was initially hard to bear the news, it became much easier as we started to see projects moved to the PS2 Gamecube and Xbox. And in the 6th gen we saw what Sega wanted to do with the Dreamcast, they were just across multiple platforms. We saw Shenmue II, Panzer Dragoon Orta, Virtua Fighter 4, House of the Dead 3, and Jet Set Radio Future, and for a while it seemed Sega was going to be okay.

But something happened to Sega last gen; it didn't happen overnight either. I'm sure you guys have noticed it too, but 10 years ago Sega was one of the best third party publishers out there, if not the best. But you'd be hard pressed to make such a statement of them today. I mean, they do put out good games today: Sonic All Stars Racing, Sonic Generations and Aliens Infestation are all pretty well recieved games. But there's also a lot of crap like Aliens Colonian Marines and Sonic Boom. If you were to tell kids back in the 90's that Sonic would be reduced to annual installments with wildy varying degrees of quality, they wouldn't beleive it. 

Sega is sitting on more dormant IP's than any other publisher in the industry. I could go on how Comix Zone could be a fantastic downloadable game, or how much fans have been clamoring for a conclusion to the Shenmue story, but I think I've went on long enough. Thing is, I don't really know why Sega is in such financial straits. If they had just stuck to their guns they would be doing fine like they were 10 years ago. I just hope they can turn things around. I don't want to see them go the way of Atari.