"Gather yee, gather yee for tales of generations past. Today is a special edition of SOAGC, dedicated to the once almighty but still ever present SEGA. You will find no Sonic games here (sorry, Ellen J.) for that would be too easy to pick, overly exposed and extensive to talk about. Oh no, these are the SEGA classics that left memories from my personal GameCube collection…"
It was a nightmare. It came out of nowhere and without warning: SEGA was broke. SEGA was over or nearly there. One of the finest home consoles in history, the Dreamcast was in 2000 the reason for a 412 million US dollars net loss. In early 2001, Dreamcast production would end. SEGA would end. But it didn't, much like a Phoenix, SEGA was reborn. No more it would produce hardware but focus on their IPs to produce games for what where once their rivals Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft. It's fair to say the Dreamcast lived on with both Xbox and Gamecube getting many SEGA titles along the way, something unthinkable for any veterans of the 16-bit wars like myself. This is a Tale of…
That's "Super Monkey Ball" all right! A title that sums up perfectly what you're getting with this game. AiAi fantastic début outing on GameCube straight from arcade shows SEGA taking us back to our old gravity puzzle toys where we had to role the balls trough maze corridors to get to the exit. But with added colour, fantastic music, challenging nerve wrecking gameplay and such a perfect fit for the GameCube's joypad. Left stick controls AiAi direction inside the ball and the Right stick controls the inclination of the surface of the level you're currently on. Brilliant stuff! It successfully spawned various sequels across many systems, but for me this is where it all began. This was the second game I bought for the GameCube.
Kinda of cheating, isn't it? Of course "Virtua Striker 3 ed. 2002" is arcade perfect because the arcade ran on Triforce hardware, the Nintendo / Namco / SEGA co-developed arcade board that itself was based on GameCube hardware. You will find a solid arcade, fun soccer game right here, best played like most things in life with friends. Since this was popular at local arcades, it was awesome having this to play at home without spending any quarters.
What's with video games making every day regular jobs awesome? It happened with "Trashman" on ZX Spectrum, it happened with "Paperboy" and who knew, it happened with SEGA's "Crazy Taxi". Nothing like driving passengers in the most wreck less manner possible blasting The Offspring and Bad Religion as you go. This game legacy can be felt in games like "Grand Theft Auto" series and even in the recent 8-bit throwback "Retro City Rampage". It's a perfect pick and play arcade game when you're feeling the need to tune out the real wolrd for a few minutes.
Need I say anything else? It's "Jack Burton's Truck Driver Simulator"! Or so I keep calling it. It's all on the wrist.
"Phantasy Star IV" is one of my favourite games of all time, so when my friends began playing this on Dreamcast I was not very impressed (please note that online MMORPGs where not exactly new to the PC gaming self of the 2000s) but I eventually had to let go of the old 2D ways of "Phantasy Stars" of old and embrace this new bold direction SEGA was taking the series. There was nothing like this on console before this one arrived, making sure that everyone bough a keyboard to properly communicate online with other people. And it certainly was necessary to coordinate with friends exactly how to take on those huge bosses. "Phantasy Star Online Episode I& II" was quite a welcome GameCube bundle featuring both episodes from the Dreamcast PSO's with a few extras. Not only was one of the very few games that allowed online multiplayer gaming on the GameCube, it also featured split screen which was a very welcome addition because nearly no one had the GameCube broadband adapter. It remains not only a curious first step into console online gaming but quite a pleasant and colorful RPG experience. Sadly I never played "Episode3 C.A.R.D. Revolution" much. Maybe I should?
Oh Billy, why didn't anyone love you? "Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg" is a fantastic, quirky, unique egg rolling platformer produced by Yuji Naka. This GameCube exclusive (ported to PC in Europe later on) sadly failed to light retail and reviewers on fire but I always found it to be quite an enjoyable experience and have no trouble recommending it nowadays because it's as cheap as a dozen eggs! As usual, great music and a colourful world to explore wrap up yet another trademark essential SEGA offering.
The Dreamcast was fertile ground for JRPGs and "Skies of Arcadia" was my favourite. So I was most pleased in learning it was being ported to GameCube under the name "Skies of Arcadia Legends" with some extra content and improved loading times. It is a truly fantastic, unique world to get oneself lost into and explore. The fact that when I got this I was super into "Last Exile" anime just made the whole pirates in flying ships motif absolutely appealing. It might set you back a pretty penny nowadays, but well worth it if you're into low-tech fantasy settings. Fantastic soundtrack to both! It was great bumping into Vyse last year in "SEGA & All – Stars Racing Transformed"!
Oh don't mind me just put my favourite game of all time here in the end of the article. How bitter-sweet it still is to see the logo come up and display the "Developed by SEGA & Nintendo" but the terrible thought of this game never being made as it exists in its current perfect existence just makes all the terrible pain of SEGA's hardware demise worth the pain. Combining talents from both sides, the tow greatest rivals in the video game industry produced. While we eagerly wait for Nintendo to step up and produce a better game than this (is that even possible?) it's never too much to remind everyone just how insanely good this outing was. Yes, it's hard, but not unfair, just takes skills which will come to you in time as long as you keep playing it, RPG like. And so much content for a single GameCube mini-DVD! Don't even get me started on that awesome soundtrack! A GameCube without "F-Zero GX" is a GameCube not worth owning.
SEGA lives on nowadays on several formats as both producer and publisher, with games both new and based on old IPs. They certainly have had some rough waters to navigate, and no one knows if we will ever see "Shenmue 3" in any way or form. But their video game design philosophy lives on several titles despise their hardware manufacturer days demise. It would have been awesome to see more of their games on GameCube, like an entry of the "Virtua Fighter" series, arcade perfect conversions of "SEGA Rally" and "Daytona USA", a compilation of both "Shenmue" titles, or even "Panzer Dragoon Orta"! Ah yes, I'm still a dreamer… but overall we all won as gamers from SEGA ambitions and mistakes, so can we call them mistakes at all? Maybe we should just call them "lessons" and move on instead of constantly claiming the Wii U to be the next Dreamcast, that Nintendo should make games for Mobile or as much as it pains me, to expect SEGA to ever get back to the hardware making business. For better or for worse, this is the reality we live in nowadays.
Hope you join me next week for the very last "Stuck on a (Game)Cube". So until then: Play Hard! Play LOUD! ᕦ(ò_óˇ)ᕤ