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PAX 2010: Visiting the SEGA booth and Happy Birthday Dreamcast!

Posted by: Ryan

Instead of doing one huge PAX Cblog, I'm gonna try to write one smaller post every day for maybe an entire week,
if I can. And I didn't take many pictures, so bear with me.

Yup, the Dreamcast launched in America 11 years ago as of today. Happy birthday Dreamcast! Can you believe it's been that long? And it's not a big secret that SEGA's Dreamcast console is my favorite video game system of all time. Though maybe not for the most obvious reasons.

You see, I'm about to turn 22-years-old next month, so when the Dreamcast was released in 1999, I was in sixth grade. (Yup, I'm younger than I look. Also, Noelani is older than she looks.) So obviously, I didn't have a job, and after the Dreamcast died, games just fell to the floor in terms of their prices. So I would just go to my local game shop, and any game that anyone said was any good at all, I just picked it up. I bought Soul Calibur for $12, Jet Grind Radio for $6, Chu Chu Rocket for $5, and there was Grandia II, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2, Crazy Taxi, Virtua Tennis, and the list of great games that I bought for disgustingly cheap just goes on and on. I was only a middle/high school kid, and yet thanks to the Dreamcast dying so quickly, I was able to afford a large library of games that I really liked and was proud to own.

(via IGN Boards)

And so I have more happy memories of Dreamcast games than I do of any other console. Samba de Amigo and Power Stone 2 (and even the original Power Stone) are still some of my favorite games of all time. Now to be fair, the Dreamcast actually had very few games that I would consider "perfect 10" games, but I'd be willing to say that over half of the Dreamcast library is filled with 7 and 8 games that were absolutely great.

All right, all right, all right: I know you guys came here to read about PAX and not Dreamcast nostalgia, so instead, I've decided to mark the occasion by talking about the stuff I did at the SEGA booth. That's related, right? Oh, but goodness, I played five games at the SEGA booth, and that was only a little over half of the games they brought with them to PAX. There were seriously nine different games to play at the SEGA booth, which is pretty rad and kind of insane. It's nice to see them finally doing well and coming to PAX with a great line-up, but now I've got a lot to write about in just one post. I'm probably biting off more than I can chew, but aww, here it goes.

So I guess I'll start with the game that everyone wants to hear about: Sonic Colors! Well, it's the game that I personally was excited about, and once I got to the SEGA booth, that was certainly the game I made a beeline to. The Wii version of Sonic Unleashed is the closest SEGA's come to making a good Sonic game, and so from watching videos, I just assumed that Sonic Colors was going to be nothing more than Sonic Unleashed with the night levels stripped out.

My assumptions were wrong. Sonic Colors certainly has the skin of Sonic Unleashed, but after my time with it, I realized that the level design makes all the difference. So first off, the boost mechanic is now mapped to the B button and since you get boost from white Wisps (from killing enemies and such) and not from collecting rings, you don't get as much boost as before. Also, the game actually seems to spend the majority of the level in 2D, which means it feels less like a twitchy arcade racer, and it has some more actual platforming, if you can believe that. I'll say that I did not completely blast through my demo of Sonic Colors the way I would have with a level of Unleashed. I did have to occasionally slow down, and I'm totally okay with that.

In addition, the levels still don't take a very long time to complete, but they seemed pretty huge. The branches in the path seem much more weirdly organic than previous games, and I was kind of surprised once or twice when I unexpectedly fell down to a different path instead of a bottomless pit.

Now the Z-button drifting thing from Sonic Unleashed is still here, and though it was very underutilized in the demo I played, I'm still holding out hope that the cool warping floors will be making a return. But the sidestep move is completely gone, and it will be missed. (The sidestepping section of Eggmanland was totally badass.) Oh, and the Wisp powers: they're activated by shaking the Wii remote and they're horribly unresponsive, but that turned out not to be a problem. From what I played, the game never asks you to use a Wisp power with any sort of precise timing at all, and they even seemed almost optional. Seriously, the Wisps may be on the cover, but they're not a big deal when it comes to the gameplay side of things.

So as far as I'm concerned, it looks like Sonic Colors is doing everything it needs to be doing, at least from a gameplay and level design standpoint. Well done, SEGA.

I also got to demo a level of the DS version of Sonic Colors, but in stark comparison to the Wii version, the gameplay of the DS version is exactly the same as the previous Sonic Rush and Sonic Rush Adventure. Don't get me wrong, those were great games and all, but there's really nothing to see here. If you want to play a DS Sonic game, just go buy Sonic Rush Adventure right now. It was a highly overlooked, excellent game (once the raccoon girl shuts up), and you can grab it new for only $15 in a Best Buy bargain bin.

But even worse than Sonic Colors DS, which left me apathetic, was Sonic 4, which was actively frustrating. And I can deal with the graphics or whatnot that people are bitching about, but yeah, the physics are just borked. The game just really doesn't feel good to play, and even people around me were getting a little frustrated at the game. We all overshot jumps, fell from vines, and got stuck on things we simply shouldn't have. We even had trouble fucking spin-dashing up an incline, and that's just wrong. I've heard that SEGA is aware of the problems and they're making changes to the game, but yeah... it's not in a good state to be demoing right now.

Edit: Jim Sterling says: "Wow, I didn't have those troubles. The only thing I would agree with are the vines, which are a bit tricky. They're only a small part though. The rest of it, I was fine with. No problem with physics for me. Argument DENIED!"

And then there's Vanquish, and no one cares what my opinion is on this game because I don't play many shooters and the demo that I played is the exact same demo that you could be playing in a few minutes (depending on how good your bandwidth is) on XBL and PSN. But you know what? You're gonna get an opinion anyway. Take that! Hah!

So as I was saying, I don't play many shooters, and I died two or three times during my demo of Vanquish, but that didn't hamper my enjoyment of it at all. In fact, I think I probably liked it even more because I suck. So if you don't know anything about Vanquish, the best way to think of it is Gears of War with a crazy boosting dash move and a lot more enemies.

But as someone who isn't too great with the analog stick aiming thing, damn does it feel good to just get out from cover, dash over to three guys, shotgun or melee them in the face, and then crazy-dash off again to another cover point. There's a point in the demo where a bunch of soldiers are coming down off of the stairs, and they're accompanied by a hulking robot. I was seriously able to dash right along side the robot and shotgun him several times from point blank before taking off... and that actually worked. I really killed him that way.

Unfortunately, this takes a lot of the methodical pacing out of a Gears of War-style game, which will appeal to psychopaths (me) and maybe not so much to others. I don't know, it's tough to tell how much mainstream interest there is in a game like this. I shot out the driver of a mech walker, and instead of mentally checking my surroundings and figuring out the best way to cover-hop my way to the mech without dying, I just dashed my guy over there, jumped in, and started shooting people with the mech walker. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

Vanquish moves fast and furious, and it gets your heart pumping, but in a very good way. The only problem is that I've heard it doesn't have any multiplayer, which I know is going to be a deal-breaker for some people. I'm disappointed too: a bunch of players booster-dashing back and forth around a large map would be a sight to behold.

But hey, what is there looks pretty great. I liked it so much that when I got back from PAX, I pushed the XBL demo onto my friends, who promptly made fun of the game being "Gears of War in the future," but since they were already big Gears of War fans, they also seemed to really enjoy playing it too.

...and as for Valkyria Chronicles 2, I think the game is already out, isn't it? As in, if you liked Valkyria Chronicles, then you could totally go buy the sequel right now! It wasn't too much different from the demo I played of the original game. And while I had some hands on time with one of the missions in the game, and I enjoyed what I played, I definitely won't be buying it because I don't own a PSP!

Not only that, but I've almost never used one either, so I didn't even know where the analog stick was on the thing. Luckily, the dude at the booth was really nice, and showed me the ropes of how to play the game. In fact, in general, all the people at the SEGA booth were great. One of them saw Noelani with her DS out and offered to give her the Sonic Colors DS demo, and one of them even took a picture of me since I was wearing a Sonic shirt on Saturday. Seriously, visiting the SEGA booth was a really pleasant experience, they've got Vanquish and Sonic Colors on the horizon, and they threw a big fan party at the Gameworks across the street. So despite everything, it seems like they're doing well these days. Thanks SEGA!

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About LK4O4one of us since 1:47 PM on 05.07.2009

Hello there.

My name is Ryan and I work at a pretty prominent web company. I'm 24 years old, which makes me one of the youngest people at the company (out of over 100 people). I have half of a college degree, a full-time job, and now I've got a place to hang out and talk about awesome video games.

Feel free to talk to me! <3

== Currently Playing ==
FTL: Faster Than Light
Slitherlink by Nikoli

== Recently Finished ==
Thomas Was Alone
Fire Emblem: Awakening
FTL: Faster Than Light (Easy)
Hotline Miami
Little Inferno
Analogue: A Hate Story
Mark of the Ninja
Atom Zombie Smasher
Time Fcuk
Thirty Flights of Loving
Lone Survivor
Might & Magic: Clash of Heroes
Dynamite Jack
Slitherlink by Nikoli
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Ghost Trick
Mighty Switch Force
The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords AE
Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked
Mighty Flip Champs
Donkey Kong (Game Boy version)
Escapee GO!
Aura-Aura Climber
Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D
Shantae: Risky's Revenge
Dragon Quest Heroes: Rocket Slime
Elite Beat Agents (Normal Difficulty)
Paper Mario
Sonic Colors (Wii version)
Dragon Quest V: Hand of the Heavenly Bride
Mother 3 (Fan Translation)
Muramasa: The Demon Blade (Both Second Endings)
Portal (Steam version)
Cave Story (Wii version)
Spartan: Total Warrior (GameCube version)
LostWinds: Winter of the Melodias
Half-Life 2 (original Xbox version)
The Lost Vikings (Genesis version)
Pokemon HeartGold Version
Bangai-O Spirits (All 160+ Levels Cleared!)
Super Mario 64 DS
The Great Circus Mystery Starring Mickey & Minnie
The World Ends With You
Ninja Gaiden Black (Normal Difficulty)
Chrono Trigger

== Systems I Own and Love ==
Sega Genesis
Sega Dreamcast
Game Boy Advance
Nintendo DS Lite
Nintendo 3DS

== 3DS Friend Code ==
5241 1905 5146

== Wii System Code ==
4688 2108 9135 7828

== Tatsunoko vs Capcom ==
4297 4386 7686

== Monster Hunter Tri ==
Mii code:4688 2108 9135 7828
3DS Code:5241 1905 5146


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