Sega’s final home console, the Sega Dreamcast launched September 9th, 1999 (9/9/99) in North America. The console received much critical praise, and is still one of the most beloved game consoles, despite its short 3 year life. There are multitude of reasons why the Dreamcast, and ultimately the Sega of old ended the way they did. That is not the focus of this piece- not to examine its martyr like demise, but to celebrate a true game console, that lived and died with a fantastic library at its side. It’s no coincidence that my first look at video game collecting here on A Gaming Genesis is about the Sega Dreamcast, its ultimately my favorite video game console of all time, as well home to my loftiest goal as a game collector. What could such a lofty goal be? To own a complete copy of every NTSC (North America) Dreamcast game released. There were approximately 250 games released for the Dreamcast in North America, it’s not a small number, but it’s doable, especially when compared to other consoles, like the Nintendo Gamecube, which despite poor sales, still had upwards of 600+ games released! There were also 17 titles released in the “Sega All-Stars” line of re-releases. Essentially a greatest hits line, they featured an orange spine, and orange on the box art, versus the white / black of other games. I plan to get those as well.
While owning every North American Dreamcast game is the biggest goal for Dreamcast collecting, it won’t end there. I would also love to add PAL (Europe) exclusives games into the mix, thankfully, there aren’t many games that were only released in PAL territories for the Dreamcast. As for Japanese releases, there’s no way I will own them all. The Dreamcast was supported massively in Japan, with officially licensed games coming out until around 2008, 7 years after the console was discontinued. Granted there were not a ton being released, but it gets far to pricey for my tastes and I’ll probably just end up collecting the “must own” Japanese games. Which brings me to the last set of Dreamcast games I want to talk about. As I mentioned earlier, licensed games were being released for the system long after production of the console ended, but even still, in 2015 homebrew and indie titles, as well as fan ports of arcade games are still being released for the Dreamcast. While I would love to own all these, due to the low key nature of these games, I’ve yet to find a definitive list, so I’ll ultimately end up just picking up some of these, the star of my collection will be the complete US library anyway, which will include all US Dreamcast Magazine demo discs, Dreamcast Generator demo discs, and Web Browser software discs.
With the talk of what I want to collect for the Dreamcast out of the way, I guess I should talk about the “why” of it. It’s hard to explain. I did say earlier that the Dreamcast is my favorite console of all time, as well as having a stellar (yet small) library. In all honesty, I would say the Dreamcast has the best ratio of “good games” to “bad games” out of any console released. All in all, I think my love of the system and its library make me want to do it. I am a champion of the Dreamcast, I always have been and always will be, I share it with friends, and recommend it to new gamers and people who may have missed out on it. The system is cheap, and most of the games are cheap too, sure it has a few pricey games, like Project Justice, and Cannon Spike but overall, it’s a cheap and easy system to collect for. I think the biggest reason is that I just want to celebrate that such a great console was released, with such an amazing library of games. I want to celebrate, to show my love to everyone and show just how much the Dreamcast means to me as a gamer. Maybe owning a complete US collection isn’t the best way to show my love for it, but it will be a good starting point. Perhaps one day after I own every US game I will then review every US game! It’s hard to say, or commit to such a lofty goal and such a long term plan, but it’s something I would like to try to do at the very least!
So where does my collection stand currently? I talk of such lofty goals that I must have made some kind of notable progress right? As of the writing of this article, I own about 50 complete Dreamcast games. It’s my largest library of any console (though the PS3 is close, at around 40). I have been buying the games alphabetically using a nice checklist compiled by fans (modified by myself, to note which games had Sega All-Stars re-releases. I own no PAL, Japanese, or Homebrew games. So my collection is still in its infancy, though I do own a number of more sought after titles, like Skies of Arcadia, and Shenmue. I’m not actively seeking the games out though, typically, I just buy games when I find them, but I have on occasion splurged some extra money into buying 5 or 10 games in one sitting from eBay. So that’s that. A small look at my goals for collecting on the Dreamcast, why I want to do it, and where my collection stands so far. If you’ve never played the Dreamcast, I highly recommend you do. It’s got a fantastic library, and features a ton of great games that won’t break the bank, and will offer you hours of fun, classic Sega Gameplay- you’ll quickly see why its my, and so many others favorite console of all time. It’s thinking.
The year is 2005- the location is a small district of Tokyo- called Kamurocho. Former yakuza gangster Kazuma Kiryu is fresh out of a 10 year stint in prison for a murder he didn’t commit. Now the members of his clan want him dead, but when 10 billion Yen goes missing from the Tojo’s bank- Kazuma may be the only man who can save his former clan.
Yakuza was released in 2006 for the Sony Playstation 2. The game is a story driven action adventure title. It incorporates many similarities to the Shenmue franchise such as QTE events, large and highly interactive world, tons of mini-games, and a large focus on plot. The series is viewed by many as a spiritual successor of sorts to the Shenmue franchise.
The district of Kamurocho is large and bustling with life. There is a lot to do is your spare time- going to restaurants, playing games at the arcade, golfing, batting, gambling, pawn shops, hostess clubs and many other activities. There are dozens of side quests to expand your game experience. The playtime is somewhere around 8-10 hours- without doing any side quests or exploring. This time can be easily doubled when going for 100% completion.
Graphically, the game is pretty impressive for a PS2 game. The city is pretty big and there are lot of people in the town. The game can have some slowdown when there area lot of characters on screen. The town is vibrant and colorful and lends itself well and can feel as if the town is in own character. The soundtrack is varied and does an amazing job. You will here techno music, rock, metal and some traditional Japanese music. One of the best track in the game is played during some of the bigger fights in the game. It opens with a jangly acoustic guitar and goes into a nice hard rock piece- it really sucks you into the battle. However this game is only playable with English voices- which to put simply are laughably bad. A few characters are good- like Kazuma and Date- but most are just atrocious.
The game-play is deep and fulfilling. You spend most of your time running around Kamurocho and talking to people and trying to get leads- on your way thugs, yakuza, and would-be hard-asses try to take you out in random encounter battles which you can win by fighting in a sort of 3D Virtua Fighter style. When you win get some some experience points which you can use to upgrade your Tech, Body, and Soul stats. Each one giving you different abilities and upgrading your health bar.
There are two modes unlocked upon completion of the game- Premium Adventure- which lets you continue exploring Kamurocho and completing side-quests on your current save file. The other mode unlocked is Premium New Game- which is essentially a New Game + where your Yen, items, and various other things carry over into a new story mode- this allows for a more fun replay of the game with less of a focus on getting items and simply enjoying the story.
Yakuza was a moderate success in the U.S. and Japan- and Sega continued the franchise with numerous console games (Yakuza 2– PS2, and Yakuza 3, Yakuza 4, Yakuza Kenzan– PS3, Yakuza 5 – PS3, Yakuza Dead Souls – PS3 and Yakuza: Isshin – PS4) and 2 handheld games.
If you own a Playstation 2- I highly recommend you give this game a chance. It is available cheaply now and will provide you with 10-20 hours of solid game-play with great characters and a great story development. Yakuza is one of the greatest franchises to come out in the last 6 years- and despite the later titles now overshadowing the original- it is still very much a worthwhile title- one of the very best on the Playstation 2.
Note: This review was originally written February 5th, 2011 for the Average Gamers Show blog.
You are Ryo Hazuki, son of a famed martial artist Iwao Hazuki, you live a quiet life in 1980s Japan, in the town called Yokosuka. You are in high school, and things are heating up with a girl named Nozomi. Everything changes one day, when a mysterious Chinese man named Lan Di shows up, and murders your father, and begin an epic quest to get your revenge. This. Is. Shenmue.
Shenmue is the brain child of famed Sega employee Yu Suzuki. The game started out on the Sega Saturn, and would go through many changes, before landing on our doorstep as the “Shenmue” we know and love on the Sega Dreamcast. The game is largely a cult classic, and even has a sequel, Shenmue II which ends itself on a cliffhanger. Due to poor sales- the franchise has not been continued and Shenmue III has become one of the most requested games of all time, and 10 years later, very little is known about what Shenmue III holds for us.
Shenmue is a game that is hard to define as simply in one genre, it is largely a sandbox game, there is a lot of action, adventure, and a few small RPG elements. Yu Suzuki called the game “FREE” an acronym meaning “Full Reactive Eyes Entertainment”. There are five main areas of the game, the large Hazuki residence, which comprises the Hazuki home, and Hazuki dojo, it’s larger than it seems. Next there is Yamanose, which is a small area with a few homes, and a shrine that is home to a kitten (which you take care of as part of a side-story). The next area is Sakuragaoka, which is slightly larger. There are more people here, vending machines, Sakura Park, and a construction site. Dobuita is the main town area of the game. There are many kinds of shops, and activities including: Bars, Restaurants, an Arcade, thrift stores, tobacco shops, most of which are relatively useless but are fun to explore. The final area is the harbor, which houses nefarious characters, and where you land a job (and do surprisingly little work)
Most of the story progression happens as you wander through the various areas talking to largely clueless people to try and piece together why Lan Di wanted to kill your father and how you can locate him. While the game did not innovate a lot of the features it has, did popularize them, and bring to them to the mainstream audience. Shenmue was one of the first games, to have different dialog trees, events, and actions that could only be gotten depending on the weather, day, or time. For example, a man in the park will teach your karate moves, but only if it is not raining, and only if it is in the morning. The game popularized random weather as well, no two games have the same weather on the same day, and not even a different save file will have the same weather! During Christmas time, the town of Dobuita plays Christmas music, and men dress up like Santa Claus in the town. The game also uses a time feature, you wake up at 8:30 every morning, and stores open and close at different times, and you can go to bed after 8pm- however you will automatically return to the Hazuki home shortly after 11pm. One of the biggest things Shenmue popularized is the “QTE”, or Quick-Time Event, where during a cutscene you are prompted for a button press in order to complete the scene. For example, during a chase scene, someone may knock something into your path, and you must quickly press the correct button to avoid the hazard, this was later popularized with games like God of War on the Playstation 2.
The game is truly a massive place that is also very immersive. The graphics and detail put into the world is astonishing, it’s no wonder the game uses three GD-Roms (and a 4th disc, which contains extras- this equates to a little over 1 DVD and not to mention it has very low quality audio sampling in the voices- if it were in CD quality it could easily be a DVD9 size game). You can pick up and examine all kinds of objects in the world, you can purchase things from the stores, and use your cassette player to listen to the cassettes you have found (be sure to replace the batteries) the world is a very vivid place. However, when there are many people on screen, there is some slowdown (especially during the Harbor sections). The music is always very fitting- most notably the music that plays during the Forklift races. Overall the soundtrack has a very 1950s – 1960s Hollywood-esque orchestrated feeling that suits the game very well. The story of the game is absolutely amazing, and leaves you wanting more all the time. I would play for five hours at a time, and not want to quit, the end leaves you craving the second game even more.
Shenmue offers many reasons to replay the game. There are many things to collect, such as Cassettes, Photographs, Martial Arts Moves, Toy Capsules and various other items. You also have a notebook which you fill up by talking to people all over, trying to play through the game with a complete notebook will add a lot of time to your game. The arcade offers many opportunities to try and break your high scores and win prizes- during its heyday- you could use the 4th Shenmue Passport disc to share your scores at the arcade with an online leaderboard!. Upon completion of the game you unlock a new weather option, which simulates the real weather for Yokosuka, Japan in 1986. There was a feature planned for the US release of Shenmue II, that all of your items, moves, and yen would transfer to your Shenmue II game. However, since the Dreamcast version was never released is the US this trick only works in the PAL and Japanese releases of the game.
Overall the game is an amazing gaming experience that needs to be experienced by every gamer. It has some flaws, most notably some slowdown in crowded areas, and sometimes the game can be slow (in terms of time and pacing) but the positives far outweigh the negatives. Shenmue has one of the most loyal fanbases in video game history. More than ten years after the release of Shenmue II, fans are still waiting for Shenmue III in one form or another, maybe one day our dream will be fulfilled. As for Shenmue, the game is truly a most own for any fan of video games, and it is one experience I will never forget, I look forward to playing Shenmue II.
Guest Review by Sulivan McBride
Over the course of gaming history there has been a popular urban myth that many games actively attempt to spite players over time. From random drops only appearing when you aren’t looking for them in Monster Hunter, or any MMO; to Castlevania intentionally spawning in Medusa Heads at just the right spot to ruin your day; to that elusive Abra always appearing right when you run out of PokeBalls, it has been a common and popular practice to assume that games just have it in for us. And why not? Clearly it has to be SOMEONE’S fault! Well, normally this is not true. The game is just generating random numbers based on algorithms and variables, etc., and you keep drawing the short straw. Unless, of course, you are talking about From Software’s Dark Souls. With a soul-crushing vindictive hatred for everyone who plays it, Dark Souls will take you out, kick you while you’re down, and laugh as you squirm. And you will realize that it was exactly what you wanted all along.
On paper, Dark Souls is a simple action-adventure RPG. You go through stages packed with all manner of evil and slay them for the good of the land, collecting items and souls to increase your avatar’s power. You have one of several starting classes to choose from, but all of them start to lose focus as you approach the game’s 700+ level cap at an infinitesimal rate. By the end of the game anyone can become any role to suit their choosing, so your starting class largely only affects the opening few stages. Some people find this lack of definition a negative, but I embrace it; as it means your characters become defined by your direct choices instead of an arbitrary job you chose three hundred levels ago.Level design is both consistent and inspired. Dark Souls is non linear via its own intersecting linearity. All of the levels are clearly designed with a beginning and end, but they weave together within each other to create an intricate web of branching paths that form together in one solid, cohesive world. It is truly a remarkable sight to see how well the game integrates every single stage without ever once making you sit through a loading screen.
The controls feel well polished and very easily memorized and accessed. You can equip any manner of weapons and shields and what not to your left and right hands, in any combination you like. The R buttons control the right hands, and the L buttons control the left hands. The most common (and ideal) configuration has you pressing R1 to attack, R2 to power-attack, L1 to block, and L2 to either shield bash or parry. Pressing the triangle button allows you to hold your weapon of choice in both hands, drastically increasing damage output at the cost of blocking ability. Circle has your character dodge in the direction you hold the control stick at the cost of stamina, and square allows you to use the item currently set in your hot bar. The D-pad allows you to quickly shift through two sets of equipment for either of your hands, as well as scroll through a list of items set to your hot bar. Overall, the interface of Dark souls is elegant and simple to master, which is very important when moving on to the next topic:
This game hates you, and everyone you know.
To say that Dark Souls is hard is like saying that the Pacific Ocean is just a little bit of water. Every single aspect of the level design in Dark Souls has been engineered with the cruel precision of an evil mastermind to make you hate yourself. Enemies will ambush you constantly, deal unholy amounts of damage, and often absorb incomprehensible amounts of damage before finally dropping dead the first time you find them, only to most likely reappear the next time you rest. Projectiles will pierce you at best, or blow you right to hell at worst. Large enemies will crush you, fast enemies will parry you, invisible enemies will slit your throat from behind, and gigantic dragons will roast you from the sky before you can even say “eep.” Boulders will crush you, lava will boil you, spikes will impale you, head parasites will eat your brains, treasure chests will devour you, swamps will poison you, trees will whip you, and a fat man with a hammer will completely break your will to live. You can’t even pause the game.
If all of this sounds ludicrously unfair, then you will be quite surprised to hear that, well, it isn’t. The game rarely, if ever, deviates into the “Oh COME ON that was just CHEAP!” territory, as it is very clear with almost every single death that it was your fault entirely. The game is a perfect example of forcing the player to rely on their own personal skill rather than the strength of their avatar. This trait was exemplified in games like Castlevania or Ninja Gaiden on the NES, along with the entire Mega Man series. There are no easy ways to success here. You have to earn every single step you take, and it is every bit as gratifying as it is an exercise in self-flagellation.
Dark Souls is unique from other games in the current “RPG” genre in that it could very easily have been released on the NES (albeit not in the same exact form it has now) and nobody would give it a second glance. As a JRPG that mimics western medieval fantasy ala the NES days with a difficulty curve that could be more easily be described as a brick wall, Dark Souls is a game that you just cannot find anymore on modern systems, and the change of pace is remarkably refreshing.
Adding to the robust core feature set is a unique method of online play (unique inasmuch as the only other game to ever do it was its predecessor, Demon’s Souls) that places all of the world’s players in the same game while only letting them interact in cursory ways. You can leave messages on the ground that other players can find and read, and you can summon other players “Phantoms” to help you defeat enemies and bosses, and the game’s difficulty becomes somewhat abated via camaraderie. The other side of the coin is that dickheads can invade your world at the same time, and completely destroy you with end-game level gear before you can even figure out where they are. Griefing is an unfortunate problem in Dark Souls, but the game’s penalty for death is admittedly fairly lax so it never becomes a serious issue. Yes, you lose all of your souls, but it is both easy and enjoyable to grind out more so it never really becomes more than a few minutes annoyance.
The core elements of Dark Souls are very well polished, but the peripherals are somewhat hit and miss. The music is very well composed and always fits the mood of the fight at hand, but the visuals sometimes suffer from a lack of definition and clarity. In particular, Blighttown becomes a complete mess of brown and grey platforms that make avoiding the massive amounts of enemies somewhat of a chore. The graphics aren’t -bad- by any means, but they look and feel like they were an afterthought. The game also suffers from some noticeable frame dropping, especially in the aforementioned Blighttown. It seems that if you angle the camera just right in certain areas the frame rate takes a complete nose dive. Never a deal breaker, it can still be a bit annoying.
Overall, Dark Souls is an exceptional game. It has truly outrageous amounts of content all honed to a sharp, if occasionally chipped, edge. By combining old-school sensibilities with modern technology and systems, From Software has crafted one of the finest RPGs ever made, and a genuine force to be reckoned with. You owe it to yourself it at least play the first five hours.
This Review was written using the PlayStation 3 version of the game. It is also available on the Xbox 360. Online access is recommended to fully enjoy this game. If you made that “Jolly Cooperations!” image, please let us know so we can credit you!