March 23, 2011

Japan Week Day 3: Sega

SEGA! The mar­ket­ing indus­try was not very tal­ent­ed back in the ear­ly 90’s, not that today’s is any bet­ter, but that was Sega’s slo­gan for their com­mer­cials and was effec­tive. Every­one knows Sega because of a blue mam­mal and a relent­less obses­sion with added periph­er­als to hard­ware. Once a proud indus­try chang­er and hard­ware man­u­fac­tur­er, Sega’s days are not so proud any­more; with recent lay­offs and grow­ing library of crud­dy titles, this once king of the 16-bit era is slow­ly dying. Though hav­ing mod­ern trou­bles, Sega has a rich his­to­ry based in home con­soles and king of the arcade. Two of those peo­ple were are going to remem­ber today, one for being a vision­ary in the arcade scene, and the oth­er for cre­at­ing great games and a mas­cot only sec­ond to Nintendo’s Mario. 
Yu Suzu­ki is a name every Sega and arcade junkie should know. The lead of Sega’s AM2 dev stu­dio, he would go on to devel­op such titles as Vir­tua Fight­er, Out­run, and Space Har­ri­er. His arcade cab­i­nets would always be the most advanced and extrav­a­gant. Out­run was the first time I was able to get behind the wheel of a Fer­rari at age 8 and has been one of my favorite arcade games of all time. His cre­ation to make a more real­is­tic fight­ing game became Vir­tua Fight­er, the first 3D polyg­o­nal fight­er. I still remem­ber walk­ing into the one of the local arcades, Pock­et Change, and see­ing this cab­i­net and won­der­ing what is this? Where was Street Fight­er? Where was Mor­tal Kom­bat? Who are these goofy square peo­ple? Well it turns out this game would become a beloved fran­chise and the top game on the Sega Sat­urn. Vir­tua Fight­er still lives on today with the 5th iter­a­tion that graced the PlaySta­tion 3 and Xbox 360, in 2007. Vir­tua Fight­er was dif­fer­ent; there were no flashy moves or blood and gore, it was straight mar­tial arts and went more on tech­nique than com­bi­na­tion. Once the Dream­cast hit the mar­ket Yu Suzu­ki dreamed of a larg­er game that would be a depar­ture from his arcade scene with Shen­mue. Shen­mue was an adven­ture game that was to be bro­ken up into 16 chap­ters, the Dream­cast game being the first. This would be the sec­ond most expen­sive game to devel­op cost­ing 70 mil­lion USD only sec­ond to Grand Theft Auto 4 at 100 USD. It was rev­o­lu­tion­ary imple­ment­ing an open world, day/night cycles, work­ing vend­ing machines, NPC’s that would go about their dai­ly rou­tines, and gave birth to quick time event that would become a sta­ple of mod­ern gam­ing. It was well received by crit­ics but was a finan­cial dis­as­ter for Sega. Shen­mue would con­tin­ue to be on sev­er­al pub­li­ca­tions top video games of all time and would spawn a sequel on the Xbox. Yu Suzu­ki is still at Sega with a much small­er role, with Sega los­ing its licens­ing rights with Fer­rari, the XBLA ver­sion of Out­run has been delist­ed. He was Sega’s answer to Nintendo’s Miyamo­to, and in a lot of ways he has pio­neered gam­ing in a much big­ger light than Miyamo­to. He was a game chang­er, out doing oth­er arcade games either with tech­nol­o­gy or extrav­a­gant cab­i­nets. His con­sole offer­ings sold hard­ware and paved the way for future games. He may have nev­er cre­at­ed rec­og­niz­able char­ac­ters but pushed style and sub­stance, with the out­come of push­ing the indus­try for­ward.
Son­ic The Hedge­hog, one of the indus­tries mas­cots and know by all. He is only sec­ond in the indus­try to Mario. The lit­tle blue speed demon was the cre­ation of Yuji Naka. Naka has had a hand in sev­er­al Sega titles nor­mal­ly con­sole defin­ing. Son­ic has com­pet­ed to grab gamer’s atten­tion away from the Ital­ian plumber since the 16-bit era. The speed­ing mam­mal would give the Gen­e­sis what it need­ed to edge out the SNES, atti­tude. Naka, in 1996, would make one of my favorite games on the Sat­urn, Nights into Dreams. Get­ting to lay hands and eyes on the game was a won­der­ful expe­ri­ence (espe­cial­ly since it was in a Sears, noth­ing spe­cial ever hap­pens there). The inter­ac­tive glowed with delight and the 3D con­troller that it was pack­aged with was large and intim­i­dat­ing but the game made get­ting a Sat­urn all the more sweet (which I still have by the way). The 2D game play flowed with the 3D envi­ron­ments and mod­els and was a sight to behold. In 2006 Yuji Naka left Sega to pur­sue his own devel­op­ment stu­dio Prope.
Sega has had a strong her­itage in the arcade and at home. The Dream­cast was ill fat­ed by the PlaySta­tion 2 and we have not seen the same Sega since then. Pub­lish­ing games by Plat­inum Games has help make Sega a con­tender again, but more is need­ed. Will we ever see Sega back in the game or left to sell out their beloved hedge­hog to the high­est bid­der? Hope­ful­ly his­to­ry repeats itself.


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  2. thsoundman - March 24, 2011 8:33 am

    You know I actu­al­ly nev­er real­ly played any sega game until the release of the Sega Dream­cast. Sad­ly the Dream­cast was my first and last Sega sys­tem This was sad con­sid­er­ing how far ahead of it’s time the Dream­cast real­ly was. It lit­ter­ly was a game chang­er. Even the con­trollers were game chang­ers because you could take out the mem­o­ry cards and play games on them as well. I remem­ber hav­ing saved mon­ey for months if not a year to get one only to find out 3 weeks lat­er that they were dis­con­tin­u­ing the prod­uct and that they would be mak­ing no more Dream­cast games.
    As for Son­ic this was the first title I played on the Dream­cast and I have to say it was prob­a­bly my favorite. Iplayed alot of Son­ic on the DC and I was engrossed with the title the entire way through. The game was just sil­ly fun with a inter­est­ing sto­ry line and I can remem­ber for the time it had amaz­ing graph­ics. If i remem­ber cor­rect­ly dream­cast had some of the best graph­ics in the indus­try across all plat­forms at the time.

  3. zero_19 - March 24, 2011 9:12 am

    I don’t know if any of you ever Played Rock­et Jock­ey, but that game was a blast.

  4. DianaQ - March 24, 2011 8:40 pm

    Thank you for a great arti­cle that explains to the non=gamer the details of an indus­try that has proven its longevi­ty through­out tough eco­nom­ic times.

  5. ScrotusKilmystr - March 25, 2011 11:44 am

    Hey did­n’t you tell me Yuji Naka said that damn hedge­hog should be put to pas­ture? (but it japan­ese haha)
    I always thought the dream­cast looked awsome BUT as I men­tioned in a post or two sega cd-ugh, sega-32x dou­ble UGH! holy pix­i­lat­ed pix­ils bat­man that was total crap!
    but yeah the ear­ly days a sega were great i spent many a quar­ter on coin ops don­ning the SEGA tag!


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