Even at its height, Sega was Watson to Nintendo’s Sherlock Holmes. A second fiddle, a warm-up act, Sega never managed to wrest the crown of console domination from Nintendo’s grasp.
But before a series of ill-judged peripherals and mistimed console releases put the company out of the hardware market in 2001, Sega captivated millions for more than a decade.
The flimsy, Darth Vader-like Mega Drive was host to some of the finest shooters and platform games available in the early 90s, and the Dreamcast surely ranks among the most underplayed consoles ever. With a stunning library of games, an innovative controller and built-in modem, the Dreamcast’s commercial failure was due, at least in part, to its being ahead of its time.
But fail it did, and Sega’s never been quite the same since, with its attempts to trade on past glories, including the woeful Golden Axe: Beast Rider and Project Altered Beast a wan echo of their 90s originals. Even Sega’s flagship Sonic The Hedgehog games have appeared to increasingly negative critical responses.
There have been recent signs, however, that Sega may have relocated its mojo. The Sonic series, after almost twenty years and numerous forays into the realms of 3D, shows every sign of returning to its classic roots with Sonic The Hedgehog 4. Ignoring completely the various spin-offs and attempted reboots that came after 1994’s Sonic 3, the game finally delivers what series fans wanted in the first place: a side-scrolling platform adventure filled with speed and blue-rinsed attitude.
And as Sega prepares to launch its first episode of Sonic 4 (the game’s gone down the digital download route, with the initial part due out later this year), CVG has said that the company is set to announce “two major hardcore games” in the next few months.
While it’s likely these soon-to-be announced games will be new, original properties, it’s hard not to imagine just what Sega could do with some of the forgotten titles gathering dust in its back catalogue.
Simian, side-burn clad hero Alex Kiddmay have been kicked out of the limelight by Sonic The Hedgehog, but a high definition platform game based on his surreal exploits would make for a more than welcome download from Wiiware, PSN or XBLA.
Side-scrolling beat-em-up Streets Of Rage could also make a superb Ninja Gaiden-style 3D brawler, or even as a 2.5D fighting game along the lines of Behemoth’s excellent Castle Crashers.
Similarly, Yuji Naka’s hugely ambitious Shenmue, a game which, like its native Dreamcast, was ahead of its time, would make for a brilliant current gen sandbox adventure, and it’s high time the series was given a second sequel in any case.
More than any other game, however, I’d genuinely relish the chance to play a remake of Road Rash.
In its 90s heyday, Road Rash’s mixture of Hang On-style motorbike racing and full-on beat-em-up was one of the most exhilarating games available, and whacking an opponent around the head with a baseball bat while travelling at one hundred miles per hour is a pastime I’d dearly like to return to in the 21st century.
Nostalgia aside, an equally burning question is: just what happened to Aliens: Colonial Marines?
Originally announced in 2001, Gearbox Software’s potentially stunning squad-based shooter has been in development hell for nine years, with tentative release dates announced and then withdrawn.
While Rebellion’s Aliens Vs Predator remake was entertaining enough, it’s Colonial Marines, which faithfully recreates the vehicles and locations of James Cameron’s Aliens with the help of original concept artist Syd Mead, that I’m really looking forward to playing.
Barely mentioned over the past year or two, could Colonial Marines be one of Sega’s soon-to-be-revealed games? I hope so, if only so I can finally get the opportunity to off thousands of virtual aliens, while shouting things like “Game over, man! Game over!”