I often look back fondly at the “old days” of gaming. It was a time that was marked by innovation, simple gameplay, and companies that were able to strike a chord with consumers through sometimes-corny mascots. One of those companies was Sega. The company’s hedgehog, Sonic, was its answer to Nintendo’s plumber, Mario. And it quickly became a legendary figure that lives on today through several different titles on a number of game consoles. But over the years, Sega made several missteps as a company. It failed to deliver a viable follow-up to the wildly popular Genesis. And its Sega Saturn was arguably one of the worst mistakes in the history of the gaming industry.
But then Sega came around towards the end of the 1990s. The company realized that it had made mistakes, it wanted to right the wrongs that it committed, and it turned to the Sega Dreamcast.
Released on September 9, 1999, the console was arguably one of the best gaming devices ever released. It was a trendsetter that helped ignite the online-gaming revolution. And it laid the groundwork for what would eventually help Microsoft, Sony, and even Nintendo capitalize on the changing gaming landscape.
During the Dreamcast years, Sega released a slew of outstanding games, including Shenmue. The title was an adventure title that, at least in my opinion, had no equal. It combined an outstanding story with fighting mechanics that worked extremely well as a body of work.
The game was a major release for Sega. And after the Dreamcast died, Ryo Hazuki continued his quest to avenge his father’s death by killing Lan Di, the game’s antagonist, on the Xbox. But that game didn’t sell as well as it could have. And Sega eventually decided to ditch the franchise before its completion.
Instead of trying to compete in the difficult hardware business, Sega is now trying to make a name for itself in the crowded software space.
But the company has had difficulty doing so. And its decision to release Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1 for Xbox Live Arcade, PlayStation Network, and WiiWare later this year speaks to just how badly the company has lost its way since the hey-days.
Lately, all I’ve seen from Sega is remakes of old titles. Yes, Sonic is great and having Crazy Taxi again will be nice. But the Yakuza franchise has run its course. And the company’s long line of titles outside of those main franchises are doing little to suit my fancy in any meaningful way.
Sega says it’s doing well financially. But I don’t really care about its business performance. I want the fabric of what made Sega so special in the first place back. And that can only happen with hardware and unique games.
Yes, I know my hopes for a Dreamcast 2 will fall on deaf ears, but I’d like to see Sega bring back some of its innovation from the Dreamcast days. After all, that was when the firm delivered Shenmue, Sonic Adventure, and Crazy Taxi — games that in one way or another still strike a chord with the hardcore gamer.
I guess I just don’t like today’s Sega. I want the old days back when Sega knew what it was all about and it took some chances. Nowadays, it’s a shadow of its former self.
Who’s with me?