Seething Cauldron of Pop Culture Talk

Irascible Analysis of Popular Culture

Nostalgia Challenge: The Dreamcast

Following the breakout success of the Genesis, Sega released a series of hardware flops that failed to capitalize on the goodwill that they’d generated and, instead, succeeded in flustering customers and confusing retailers. To rectify this, Sega developed and released what they hoped would be a return to form with the Dreamcast. Released in November 1998 in Japan, September 1999 in the States, it debuted with Sonic Adventure, Soul Calibur, Power Stone, and Hydro Thunder, a very strong lineup by any measurement. It did well for itself early on, but was quickly overwhelmed by Sony’s hype-machine leading up to the release of the highly-touted PS2. While not a total failure, the Dreamcast was the nail in Sega’s hardware coffin, almost leading them into bankruptcy, and, by the accounts of many, the point where Sega’s software quality took a severe nosedive. That’s all history now, so let’s see how things have held up a decade later.

The System: Though covered in dust and grime and yellowed plastic, the system starts right up without a hitch. Very sturdy. It makes a bit of noise as the disc spins at speeds reaching the sound barrier, but that’s about the only sound that the system makes. No problems here!

The Controller: It’s not good. The handles are shaped oddly, giving you feeling that you’re attempting to rip it in half, and using it is very awkward. I don’t remember this being a problem when I was young, perhaps because my hands were smaller then, but it’s definitely a problem now. Using it for any length of time is bound to give you hand cramps. Also, the odd bumps on the analog stick have a tendency to rub your thumb raw. Not good.

Sonic Adventure: One of the quintessential Dreamcast titles and, arguably, one of the last great Sonic games. Unfortunately, it doesn’t held up as well as it could have. Sonic feels very floaty, the camera has a tendency to move where you don’t want it to, and there’s an abundance of scenes where you’re meant to gaze in awe at the power of the Dreamcast as the game takes control and plays for you. There’s also the awful story and equally bad dialog/voice-acting. There’s still fun to be had here, don’t think otherwise, but a host minor issues plague the title and make going back to it a bit more difficult than some other classic titles. Upsides include some good music, colorful graphics and art style.

Crazy Taxi: Drive very fast and wildly as you take passengers from one destination to the next, just like a real taxi driver! It’s fast paced and arcade-y, so don’t expect anything remotely resembling realistic physics and even collision detection. None of the downsides really make much of an impact though, as the game is still very fun to play for short stretches. Music is really dated though.

Jet Grind Radio: Lots of funky music and art style that holds up pretty well, being one of the first games to have celshading. Movement is, at times, clunky and unresponsive. On the second level I quit in frustration because, for the the dozenth time, I fell down in the sewers as I was trying to skate across a chasm on top of a crane because I couldn’t get my character to move in a straight line. The game still has some fun moments, but it’s something you’ve really got to be committed to, you can’t just drop in after a ten year absence and immediately blaze through. Patience is necessary for this one.

Shenmue: Possibly the most famous Dreamcast title and easily the most hyped. Considered by some to be one of the greatest game experiences of all time and considered by others to be the most boring, it’s definitely garnered a lot of debate in its time. Even now, you can still strike up a lengthy conversation just by mentioning it. Anyway, I played it lightly when it first came out, preferring to watch my brother play through it, and I recall being fascinated by just how much freedom the game gave you and how many random, little things there were to do. Unfortunately, none of that really translated to FUN. To put it simply: Shenmue is a like a Japanese kid simulator. You live the life of Japanese kid, getting up in the morning, walking around your house, venturing into town, buying capsule toys, and occasionally fighting Yakuza. There are some really great ideas here, but few of them are put across in ways that actually make the game FUN. Here we come back to that word. Ambitions? Tons. Fun? There are time when it can be, but you have to fight through tedium to get there. Is it worth your time? Unless you’re just really curious to see what the fuss is all about, probably not.

Sword of the Berserk – Guts Rage: Slow, awkward, and repetitive. Puck is annoying is aggressively annoying, graphics are bland and barren, and the voice-acting is atrocious. Excessive violence doesn’t save it from aging very badly. The theme song is pretty awesome though. Overall, it’s a game that seemed really fun at the time, but was simply a novelty.

I’d like to replay a few more titles, but time has not been kind to my collection and these five are the only remaining games that I really care to play again.

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April 15, 2010 - Posted by | Games, Nostalgia Challenge | , , , , , , , ,

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