It’s not always easy being a Sega fan. In the 80’s the Master System flew below the radar here in America, never really getting much attention from gamers or third party developers. However, as the decade came to a close, things started looking bright. The Genesis/Mega Drive became a huge success in North America and Europe, eventually beating out Nintendo with a market share of around 55% in The States. However, as the 90’s went on, things went downhill. The Sega CD and 32X add-ons tanked and the launch for their next system, the Saturn, was a complete mess. The Saturn was handled poorly internationally, and as a result many quality titles remained over seas and third party support faded fast until the system met its end in 1998. Sega’s next system, the Dreamcast, was innovative, had a great library of games, and was well received, but again things ended quickly and Sega dropped support for the Dreamcast after two and a half years, leaving the console business for good.
Currently, Sega continues going up and down as a software developer and several of the companies key IP’s have either faded away or fallen in quality. So, after all the ups and downs, many gamers have lost pride in being Sega fans or even worse, forgotten all the good points that made them fans in the first place.
However, just because Sega hasn’t always had great consistency with their work over the years doesn’t make them a failure. Even today they still keep coming out with some true gems, such as Valkyria Chronicles and Rhythm Thief and the Emperor’s Treasure. So, this is why I am here with a list of five great titles from Sega to boost Sega fan self-esteem. These are the titles made it possible to argue against that pasty Nintendo fanboy you sat next to in class who waved Mario and Zelda games in your face. With this list, you can go up to that same boy and say. “Look, who needs your chubby plumber? I’ve got super-sonic speed.”
Phantasy Star Series
Sega never really had as many RPGs to throw around as Nintendo back in the day, but they did have the four original Phantasy Star games, and they. Are. AWESOME. In fact, Phantasy Star I was the first J-RPG released on a home console in the US and it STILL holds up well today, much better than the first Final fantasy and Dragons Quest games. With bright anime-styled designs, strong characters, and a wide array of interesting environments and monsters, the Phantasy Star series got your attention and kept it for hours. Each game had it’s own cool little quirks that made them unique. The first had 3D dungeons, the second had the biggest dungeons on the Genesis, the fourth one had manga styled cutscenes, and the third one had… um… a big twist at the end. These games showed what Sega could do when they pushed the games and systems to their limits, and it was always impressive.
Shenmue (I & II)
Without Shenmue, we would not have sandbox games like we know them today. With a highly detailed world filled with hundreds of things and people to interact with around every corner, it was truly groundbreaking for it’s time. The game took immersion to the next level with tons and tons of tiny details in graphics, sound, and the way that the environment changes. Weather effects happen in real time and work surprisingly well. Walking around looking for clues to the mystery of who killed your father and why, watching the sky become cloudy, the lights change, and after some slight rumbling watching the rain fall and splash about the ground… it’s breathtaking. Some people feel that Shenmue’s story and pacing is too boring, But the second game tightens all of these little problems up and improves on the design making an already enticing game world more mesmerizing.
NiGHTS into Dreams
The Sega Saturn is a system that’s gotten a bad rap over the years. Even today people, (who still remember that the system even exists,) hear about it and cringe. A friend once asked, “The Saturn? Does that old thing have any decent games?” That’s when I sat that joker on the couch and popped in NiGHTS into Dreams. This game is great. It’s got creative levels, colorful graphics, and has tight controls making the game easy to play yet hard to master. It’s a perfect example of the creative stride Sega hit on the Saturn that was unfortunately overlooked. Luckily, NiGHTS hasn’t been forgotten. The game recently got an updated HD re-release for PSN and XBLA where you can choose between playing classic Saturn mode or with new overhauled graphics. After spending some time with the port I can honestly say that I highly recommend it.
Sonic 3 and Knuckles
How can there NOT be a Sonic game on this list? Sonic was Sega’s main man for a long time, and there’s a really good reason for this. His games on the Genesis, (in the main series,) are excellent. Each game has excellent level design, tight controls, fast speeds, and colorful graphics, but I feel like Sonic 3 coupled with Sonic and Knuckles has to be singled out. With better graphics, a save system, and a new character to play as, Sonic and Knuckles livened up an already good formula. With the special plug on the top of the Knuckles Cartridge, you can not only fuse Sonic 3 with Sonic and Knuckles to make a supersized game, but also plug in Sonic 2 to add a new character to the game. Genius.
Panzer Dragoon II: Zwei
I’ve already established that the Saturn won no popularity contests, but it wasn’t just because of it’s smaller, awkward library of games, people severely doubted the power of the machine because of how it’s complex construction made programming games difficult. People were skeptic about if the Saturn could pull its weight. Then came along the stellar rail shooter Panzer Dragoon II. The game was in the vein of shooters such as Star Fox but had a totally different feel and atmosphere. Panzer II had a unique post apocalyptic art style, smooth controls, and superb gameplay. Panzer II Not only proved that the Saturn had good games, it proved the system could handle some heat. The game is always throwing tons of things at you to shoot down from all directions as you ride on the back of an evolving dragon through burning cities, catacombs, and warzones. With speed, style, and hectic yet fluid gameplay, Panzer II proved that Sega still knew what it was doing and had some tricks up its sleeve.
Sega is currently on that gaming roller coaster where games that come out range from an F to a A+, (Sonic 2006 to Valkyria Chronicles,) and people still like to hop on the “Screw Sega” bandwagon, bu do these people even really know Sega? The next time someone starts bashing the blue blur, or questions what’s so special about the Dreamcast, think back to this list. If you are a true Sega fan, think of these games. Ask yourself, could this guy even last 10 minutes in Shinobi 3? Has he ever grooved to Space Channel 5? Look that person in the eye, stand up straight and proud, and tell them the favorite taunt, “Sega does what NintenDONT.”