August 27, 2009

Celebrate the Dreamcast’s 10-Year Anniversary

Mike Marks Says It's hard to believe that 10 years ago this very instant, I was at my parents house, pouring over page after page of the Sega Dreamcast magazine I had picked up. It wasn't my first game console, but it was my first console purchase, which was an even bigger deal to me. I had worked as a lifeguard all summer, and I honestly still remember walking into Best Buy and seeing the Sonic Adventure demo running, and racing back home to figure out if I could afford it. As my luck would have it, I could, and on 9/9/1999 I walked out of there one happy guy. The best part is, with 9/9/2009 quickly coming up, I'm still just as happy with that purchase.

You can find a Dreamcast at many used game stores now, and they're usually pretty cheap. So with the big 10-year anniversary on the horizon, I figured some of you might want to see what you missed out on and may need a little help. Most people are aware of Shenmue, Space Channel 5 and the Sonic Adventure games already, so I've decided to list the ones that you might have missed when looking for the classics. Here's some of the more random titles that still have a spot on my bookshelf.

Blue Stinger--Currently: 100 points
Blue Stinger is an odd choice, I'll totally admit that. And because I have to be honest, I'll also admit that I actually own a Blue Stinger poster, and my band name in Rock Band is, in fact, Blue Stinger. This game somehow burrowed deep within my brain, and has lived there since I snagged it around Christmas time, 1999. It's a third person, survival horror/action title, and it's got more flaws than I'd care to admit. The cut scenes look wooden, the voice acting is awful and you run way too slowly. But, even with all that said, it's an absolute blast. It's a campy, sci-fi adventure set on an island, called "Dinosaur Island," that is enclosed in a blue bubble. Using a bunch of weapons found on the island, Eliot G. Bilade (that's you!) and Dogs Bower (that's also you!), will have to find out the mystery of Dinosaur Island, and help out some of the folks they meet along the way. The plot and acting (or lack thereof) is just so out there, you just can't stop playing. Every enemy you kill starts showering you in golden coins, which you can use at the vending machines to buy food and weapons.

And did I mention there's a part where you have to fight the monsters while dressed in a Santa suit? Because that's also there. So is the totally random, and unnecessary, tie-in with the mega obscure "Pen Pen Tricelon" Dreamcast game. And karate! You can karate chop, but only after you put on karate clothes! At 100 points, you owe it to yourself to give the game a shot. It's by no means perfect, but few games out there capture that same feeling as watching a "good" B-Movie, and this one (even if it wasn't trying to...) just nails it.

Cannon Spike--Currently: 550 points

Add it to your queues, folks, because you'll want to have a spot in line if and when this game comes up. The Dreamcast was home to the world's most notorious shooter, Ikaruga, but before that there was Cannon Spike. It's a 3-D, top down shooter, using a random collection of Capcom characters. Pop the game in, and quickly select who you'd like to play as. Arthur from Ghosts 'n Goblins, B.B. Hood from Darkstalkers, Cammy or Charlie from Street Fighter, Mega Man, Shiba Shintaro from Three Wonders, or newcomer Simone. Then you’re thrust into a random level. The game cycles through four levels and eventually you'll battle your way through all of them. Many of them use a different Capcom game as the theme, and almost all of them mash multiple Capcom classics together. Fight off "Evil Balrog" (known as Vega in the U.S.) on the Resident Evil themed level, for instance. There's 10 different difficulty levels, so replay value is through the roof (I still have never beaten difficulty 7), and your sessions with the game are short and sweet. Each level is all about the boss fights, which range from mutant gorillas to giant mechs, and are usually done and over with in under 5 minutes.

Cannon Spike supports two players, and is just as fun with a friend. At first glance, it's your standard shooter, where you're dodging huge sprays of bullets. But the addition of special moves and melee combat adds more depth to it, as well as gives you added incentive to play through as everyone, so you can see who does what. It's a hard game to find because of it's late release in the life cycle of the Dreamcast, but it's the type of game Goozex was made for. Get your name on that list, because at some point, someone will have a Dreamcast die, and they'll decide to part with this gem instead of replacing the system.

Jet Grind Radio--Currently: 200 points

While it is more than likely Jet Grind Radio is something you've already heard of, I needed to make sure I put this on my list. This is my favorite game for the system. On 9/9/09, I'll make sure to pop this in and take a long trip around Shibuya-cho. This game excels on every level. The soundtrack is phenomenal, the graphics are cutting edge (and still look great) and the gameplay has that unique style Sega used to be known for. Starting out as Beat, a member of the gang the GG's, you go around town, spraying your gang tag over the tag of rival gangs. Tagging is done by using the analog stick to match some cues on the screen, a much more fun and intuitive way of doing things, when compared to it's X-Box sequel, "Jet Set Radio Future." On top of that, you can design the tags yourself. There is an editor in the game that allows you to create your own artwork for the different sizes of tags available. I put hours into this thing, and I still think it's awesome when I load it up now. Shibuya-cho is covered in art that I actually created.

The game deserves a lot of credit for the innovation it brought with it at the time, and it's a shame JSRF didn't do too much to continue innovating. That's why I gave it a spot on this list. While I'm sure a lot of you have heard of the series, and almost anyone who bought an original Xbox had JSRF thrown at them, I need to stress how much better I feel this game is than it's successor. The simple ability to create your own tags, and to actually do the spray painting with the analog stick, just adds an unbelievable amount of charm to the title. If you played JSRF, and liked it, but haven't tried this--add it to your queue now.


MDK2--Currently: 100 points
This is a game for those of you who want to be driven insane. One of the hardest games I've ever played in my entire life, MDK2 manages to be both controller-smashing frustrating and an amazingly hilarious experience all at once. You play as three characters, alternating levels as you progress. As space aliens threaten life in Canada, you'll first take on the role of Kurt Hectic. He's a janitor, who has been forced to fight the aliens, and is given a 'ribbon suit,' which allows him to glide around platforms, and gives him a gun for an arm. The gun can be a machine gun from distances, but when using Kurt's sniper mode, is a pretty awesome sniper rifle. His levels are more about platforming, and using the sniper rifle to hit switches that open doors. Rounding out his arsenal are a whole slew of awesome gadgets to help you destroy and distract your foes. Next up, you'll play as Max, a robotic, cigar smoking dog with six legs. Remember what a big deal it was when Halo introduced dual wielding weapons? Psh, Max was quadruple wielding years earlier. Running on two legs, that left Max four that could carry uzi's, pistols, shotguns and anything else he could get his paws on. He has a jet-pack, which gets a little tedious at times when you're running out of fuel, but overall was a blast. Max's levels were straightforward and his firepower was heavy and fun. Finally, you'd get Doc Hawkins, the scientist behind all of this. His levels are pretty funny, and involve him collecting objects. The objects can then be combined to create weapons, and a wide variety of other things the Doc will need to get to his goal. It's much more puzzle oriented and slower paced, but just as entertaining.

MDK2 was unique because it was three games in one. There's 10 levels, each with 3 sub-levels involving the above mentioned characters. The stories mesh together very well, and it seemed everytime I was finishing a Kurt level, I vowed to never play another Kurt level again...only to crave his sniper scope right around the time a Doc level was almost done, making me really excited to continue. The only downsides to this game were it's extreme difficulty (I think I still have a save somewhere around level 9-B, a level I haven't even come close to in recent years...), and the weird control scheme. Moving is done using the buttons (Y is forwards, X and B are strafing, and A is backwards), and that frees up the analog stick to aim and move the camera. As unconventional and awkward as it sounds, it really isn't too bad once you get a handle on it.
So there you have it, my picks for some great games you could pop in to celebrate 10 years of the Dreamcast. I hope you've enjoyed my first column for The Goozex Report, and don't hesitate to let me know what you thought of it. Are these horrible picks? Think you deserve an apology for actually trying Blue Stinger? Wondering what I'd do if I could make an MDK3? Mad I didn't include "Fur Fighters," the one game on the brink of making this list I had to cut? Contact me at mikexmarks@gmail.com, and let me know what you'd like to see in the future.

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