Friday Flashback Five: Dreamcast Games


It’s that time again, fellow gamers—time for another Friday Flashback Five!  Normally, we’d go through five random games that debuted this week in history, since no matter how well a game is received, they all contribute to our hobby’s history.  This week, however, we’re going to do things a little differently.

Any gamer even marginally interested in “retro-ish” gaming should know what today is.  Twelve years ago today, the Dreamcast debuted in North America.  Every country that got one got it that year, save Japan, who got it a year earlier.

We’ve already discussed, if briefly, the genesis of the Dreamcast, and we’ll get to it again as we go through our article series on SEGA as a whole.  The Dreamcast was, I dare say, nearly the pinnacle of gaming—but not solely for what the actual, physical device could do.  As mentioned before, it represented what happens when a company seeks financial success while seeking to give gamers the most bang for their buck possible.

Therefore, this week we step away from our usual method of looking at five random games that debuted this week in history, to look at five random Dreamcast games.

Now the usual disclaimers: For starters, this isn’t a “top” or “bottom” list.  It’s just a look back at five random titles.  Secondly, when possible I’ve included links to Let’s Plays, game play footage, play-throughs, or whatever else.  Some, many, most, or all might well be laced with profanity and vulgarity, so keep than in mind before you start clicking with abandon.

Monaco Grand Prix
SEGA has always had a good relationship with hard-core racing fans, and it showed right here.  Graphically, it was astounding; there were a lot of nice little touches that hadn’t really been seen before, like yellow flags near accidents, and assistant in the pit, and more.

Where it really shone, however, was in the game play itself.  It appealed to the hard-core gamers as arcade-style physics simply weren’t to be found here.  They really went to town, pushing the Dreamcast’s G.D.-Rom system to its fullest.  There was a four-wheel-independent physics concept for the cars, which let players really feel like they were racing around a track—and speaking of the tracks, there was a startling number of true-to-scale tracks from around the world (some of which, in the real world of racing, are still used to this day).

One of the more interesting alternate modes was a “Vintage” mode where you raced truly classic cars through farmland and such.  The realistic physics was even more prevalent, here, but it was certainly a nice change.  As a whole, the title showed a taste of what the Dreamcast was capable of.

Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX
Monaco Grand Prix debuted with the system, but Mat Hoffman’s Pro BMX was released two years later—just as the system was reaching its end.  The only other B.M.X. game out there, Dave Mirra Freestyle BMX, wasn’t exactly the best thing since sliced bread, so gamers weren’t really expecting very much.

They got one heck of a surprise when they popped it into their consoles.  A comparison to the Tony Hawk Pro Skater series was a good thing—where the skateboard-centered games were solid, this game was, too.  The levels were interesting, visually appealing, and above all else, it was fun to just bike around the levels.  All in all, it was about as fun as it got, and was an insanely good addition to any gamer’s collection if they were even vaguely interested in “extreme sports” titles.

Game play footage of the first level can be found here.

Crazy Taxi
If Grand Prix prided itself on realistic physics, Crazy Taxi prided itself on being as far away from “realistic physics” as possible.  It was nearly the antithesis of Grand Prix in other ways, too—where that one offered you numerous options on how to customize your car’s performance, this one—didn’t.  You just picked a driver/car combination and got going.

The game was very simplistic—get a fare, get them to their destination as quickly as possible, rinse and repeat—but that simplicity was as much a benefit to Crazy Taxi as the complexity was to Grand Prix.  You could just enjoy the cities—one from the arcade version of the game, and one made just for the Dreamcast—and the crazy stunts.  It was incredibly easy to pick up and just play, making sure the title would be enjoyable even to this day.  That the announcer sounded an awful lot like Wolfman Jack only helped.

Some game play footage can be found here.

Marvel vs. Capcom 2: New Age of Heroes
There certainly isn’t a dearth of one-on-one fighting games, especially when it comes to Capcom, but the franchise that arguably stood out the most is the Marvel vs. Capcom series.  Marvel vs. Capcom 2 took everything that made the first one fun and added more of everything.  More levels, more characters, and they even added an additional team member—you could have three fighters on your team, where most other titles (even these days) only have two.

The game play was more or less what it had been before, which is to say it was focused on ridiculously fast-paced combos with enormous laser blasts and fireballs and what-not.  Interestingly, the Japanese version had a few things the exports didn’t—the main thing is the ability to connect the V.M.U. to the arcade version.  While it’s almost lamentable that such a thing wasn’t done elsewhere, it also makes some sense, unfortunately.

As a whole, the game was a solid title that hit home everywhere—it had solid game play, incredibly striking backgrounds, and great music.

A play-through with Mega Man, War Machine, and Charlie can be found here, here, and here.

Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future
We’ve discussed this game before in a review—it was an attempt at bringing the smash Genesis/Master Drive hit series to the Dreamcast.  It was handed to a new developer, but not only did Appaloosa Interactive not have a large number of diverse titles under their belt, it must have also been difficult to create a three-dimensional game in what was up until then a two-dimensional series, and based underwater at that.

To give them credit, Defender of the Future was a fantastic game.  It was pretty as heck, and it was unimaginably fun to just swim around and leap into the air.  It was beautiful, it was fun—it was also somewhat simplistic yet hard as heck.  In the review, I couldn’t recommend it for modern casual-ish gamers, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t think it was a great game on its own.  If nothing else—if absolutely nothing else—it was an appreciated attempt at trying to make what made the original games fun without being a straight-re-hash.  It, and Appaloosa Interactive, deserve props for that.

A play-through can be found right here.

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That’s all for this week.  See you on Monday, as we continue our look at the history of SEGA.  Have a great weekend!

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