E3: SEGA Breakdown

I must confess: in my younger, less game-savvy days, I had a strong bias against everything Sega. All I had was my Super Nintendo (and NES). I couldn’t afford a Genesis, and my parents sure as hell weren’t going to fork over a few hundred bucks for another console, so I only had the one option. As anyone in such a limited situation would do, I defended my choice to the bitter end. I am a reformed fanboy.

As I grew wiser, I saw the light and I began to accept Sega into my gaming vocabulary. However, with my past financial situations, I was always limited to one system per generation — and that was the PS1. I never had a Genesis, or a 32X, or a Saturn, or even a Dreamcast (I know, I can still get a used one.) As such, there are many Sega franchises that I never really experienced. Sure, I still occasionally blast processed through Sonic the Hedgehog; I sometimes had a bloody match of Mortal Kombat; and I even managed to do some Moonwalking in Moonwalker — but these games were rare to me, and entirely dependent on some passing friend’s library of Genesis games.

With Sega’s departure from the hardware side of the business, and with their subsequent revival as a software maker (and the resurrection of many classic franchises), I now have a chance to explore some of those series I missed the first time around.

Panzer Dragoon Orta

Panzer Dragoon Orta was drawing crowds, and for good reason. The combination of stunning visuals — from the amazing environment effects to the complex enemy airship models — and old-school gameplay guarantees Sega a major hit. While I was initially turned off by the fact that it was an XBox game (I’ve been holding off getting one as long as possible, as there are only a few XBox titles that have, in the slightest, piqued my interest), I was quickly converted over after playing it. It almost single handedly sold me on the XBox. When Panzer Dragoon comes out, I will be playing it.

Panzer Dragoon Orta
Brake, dash.

Panzer Dragoon feels very much like a rail shooter (ie. Raiden, or R-Type) in a 3D setting. Unlike a rail-shooter, Orta makes use of the 3D environment by letting enemies attack you from behind or from your flank, not simply from in front. By tapping either shoulder button, you can rotate the camera by 45 degree increments to your side. The resulting effect is a greater sense of immersion than that of a typical unidirectional shooter, like that 3D Gradius game that hit the arcades a couple years ago. There are, supposedly, other minor control features like the ability to turn completely around and go the other way (so I heard), or the ability to launch a panicked super-attack, but I missed those when I played it. Either way, not knowing those extra features didn’t in any way detract from the enjoyment of the game. Orta is engaging because it can be picked up and played almost instantly — a crucial detail for a shooter.

Panzer Dragoon Orta
Flying over the desolate plain.

Shinobi wasn’t the prettiest game at E3, nor the most innovative, but it was a hell of a lot of fun to play. It is, without a doubt, the best blood filled ninja slicing game since Bushido Blade; and the best running on walls ninja game since Ninja Gaiden. The comparisons to Devil May Cry aren’t without merit, as DMC did raise the bar for third-person action games like Shinobi, but as the two games might share gameplay elements they do have a completely distinct feel from one another. It’s difficult to quantify this distinctiveness, as the demo level was very limited in it’s scope, but it’s there and it will become more apparent as the final version is released.

If I wore a scarf, it would be like the one Shinobi wears.
Other titles

Among the other notable titles that Sega had on display, there was: Sega GT (XBox) looks comparable to Gran Turismo 3; Toe Jam and Earl 3 (XBox) marks Sega’s return to yet another classic series; Super Monkey Ball 2 (GC) has more of the same; Phantasy Star Online for the GameCube (and XBox) will likely be the only online enabled GameCube game for a while; and a whole slew of Sega Sports games, which now carry the ESPN brand.

Riding on the shoulders of Panzer Dragoon Orta, Sega’s exhibit was definitely one of the stronger ones present. However, for all the great games that Sega was showing, it would have been nice to see more original content rather than a reliance on past franchises and established names. Such is the nature of the market now, I guess, so Sega alone can’t be pointed out in this plague of sequelitis that has swept through E3 2002.

Sega GT
Better than Gran Turismo 3?
Sega Sports
Sega Sports + Sports Center.
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