I Can Dream(cast), Can’t I? Underdog DC bids for XBLA/PSN

I don’t know if you’ve noticed (can’t blame you if you haven’t), but there was no post for my Underappreciated Gems article yesterday.  That’s because I’ve been prepping this offshoot article meant to indulge the Dreamcast fiend in me.  This article ended up being massive, so if you guys dig it, you may see a sequel in the near future.

If you’re anything like me, Sega’s recent announcement about Sonic Adventure and Crazy Taxi upcoming release on XBLA and PSN sent you careening into fits of sheer, uncontrollable joy.  This celebration only lasted a few moments, though, as the old, under-used gears in your brain started to creak into motion.  Any excitement was now replaced by a deep, methodical speculation, Of course the two most well-known Dreamcast titles would make it to the downloadable marketplace, you think, but what else would they release?

Of course, images of HD Jet Grind Radio and Power Stone came flooding into your head tampered by a sarcastic rolling of your eyes.  Sure, those titles represent everything that made the Dreamcast great, but there’s so much more potential in the underdogs of the Dreamcast’s library.  Sega just has to have the guts to remember it.
For the past few months, my brain has been wrought with the knowledge that my favorite underappreciated gems may never see the light of day on my 360, even if some of them seem tailor-made for our modern mode of gaming.  And so, I’ve compiled the following list of some of my favorite underappreciated DC gems that deserve a second chance on our favorite consoles of today.

IllBleed, developed by Climax Graphics, published by Jaleco


What is that?

Play as purple-haired horror lover Eriko Christy as she explores a murderous theme park in a search of her high school friends.  If she survives the terrifying ordeal, she and her beleaguered buddies will be rewarded with a one hundred million dollar prize.  A definitive example of true survival horror, Illbleed trades fast, predictable gunplay for slow suspenseful exploration that’s based purely on gauging your surroundings with your senses.  Instead of your standard health bar, Illbleed has you monitoring your adrenaline, stamina and heart rate to avoid fainting or dying of a heart attack as you navigate the park’s relentless booby traps and monster-infested rooms.

Why should it be on XBLA/PSN?

Illbleed is the videogame equivalent of a Troma movie. It’s chock full of disturbing imagery, characteristically bad voice acting, buckets and buckets of blood, and, most importantly, a bizarre tongue-in-cheek sense of humor.  Veterans of the horror genre will likely find the game’s wildly inventive HUD and unabashedly campy style to be a breath of fresh air amidst the sea of predictably gloomy, straight-faced horror titles that have overrun today’s consoles.   It’s an absolute shame that more people haven’t gotten to experience the bat-shit insanity that this game proudly wears on its gore-stained sleeve. Re-releasing it for download would give us all a second chance to enjoy those twisted charms.  Despite a myriad of undeniable gameplay issues, Illbleed still stands as one of my favorite horror titles of all time.  You just have to play it to understand

Don’t hold your breath…

You know as well as Sega does that there are a ton of other beloved money-makers that are going to see the light of day on your favorite HD console well before something as obscure as Illbleed does.  Like Climax Graphics’ other DC underdog Blue Stinger, Illbleed’s unyielding dedication to originality and character doesn’t change the fact that it’s a deeply flawed title, with clunky combat, occasionally agonizing pacing, and a janky camera dragging down much of the experience.  I doubt Sega would give something as awkward and polarizing as Illbleed a second thought, at least not without some kind of fanbase clamoring for it.  And that kind of support just doesn’t exist for it right now.

Spawn: In The Demon’s Hand, developed and published by Capcom


 

What is that?

Join the fray as Spawn or one of more than thirty of his friends and enemies in an all-out brawl across a handful of hellish arenas.   A direct port of the arcade game of the same name, ITDH’s gameplay is simple, fun as hell, and extremely addictive.  While the story is non-existent and gameplay modes are bare-bones at best (Boss Attack, Battle Royale, and Team Battle), the real depth of the game lies in each character’s exclusive arsenal of bullets, melee attacks, special moves, and even alternate forms that set him or her apart on the battlefield.

Why should it be on XBLA/PSN?

You may remember my article on the game a couple weeks back.  If you do, you probably remember how much I adore this game.  Even so, no matter how many matches I play, I always feel like a pivotal opportunity has been wasted.  If Capcom were to tweak and add to Into The Demon’s Hand’s already impressive multiplayer payload, they could potentially have a fantastic online experience on their hands.  With a couple new modes, higher party limit, larger stages, and improved multiplayer framerate, Spawn could finally have the stellar game experience that his diehard fans have always wanted.

Don’t hold your breath…

Besides Sega, the developer with the most potent Dreamcast library has got to be Capcom.  Think about it: Power Stone 1 and 2, Marvel vs. Capcom 1 and 2, the Capcom Vs SNK series, Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, Resident Evil Code: Veronica, Giga Wing 1 and 2, JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure, Cannon Spike…  I could keep going, but I’d risk blowing my load all over the internet.  The amount of memorable Capcom games just screaming for a spot on the XBLA/PSN placemat is nothing short of staggering, and there are plenty more worthy contenders standing well ahead of my beloved shooter.  If picking Capcom titles for XBLA and PSN is like picking teams in a high school gym class, the iconic Power Stone is the athletic kid everyone knows will get chosen first, while In The Demon’s Hand is the competent but woefully unpopular goth kid glued sullenly to the back of the crowd.

Outtrigger, developed by AM-2, published by Sega

Outtrigger

What is that?

One of the plethora of fantastic NAOMI board-based Dreamcast titles, Outtrigger is a fast-paced third/first person shooter that provided local and online play for up to six players.  The thinly laid plot puts you in the shoes of a member of Interforce, an anti-terrorist group created by the awkwardly-named military corporation Visitaria.  But all you really need to know about the game is “shooty shooty”.  Like the aforementioned In The Demon’s Hand, the modes of play are extremely lean (Arcade, Mission or Versus) but the gameplay is extremely fun.   It has been compared to simple first person shooter setups like that of another great Dreamcast title, Quake III Arena.

Why should it be on XBLA/PSN?

If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard of Outtrigger, it’s probably because of the abysmal control scheme.  Strafing, shooting, running, standing, breathing, just about anything is nearly impossible on every single controller setup they provide in this port.  If you were one of the few Dreamcast owners with a mouse and keyboard, you may have had the opportunity to play this intense, arcadey shooter the way it was meant to be played.  Unfortunately, all too many of us were scared off by the DC Magazine demo and its accompanying controller woes.  That stigma could change forever with the FPS-friendly dual stick layout of modern controllers.  Also, it’s an Am-2 game, so you know it’s at least worth a try!

Don’t hold your breath… Like so many other games on this list, Outtrigger is destined for obscurity, despite its stellar development pedigree.  The game is cursed by its awkward console control scheme, and the arcadey, simplistic gameplay doesn’t do enough to set it apart amongst today’s more complex, narrative-driven shooters.  It’s a shame, since Outtrigger remains one of the fastest, most entertaining shooters that the Dreamcast has to offer.

NFL 2K-2K2, developed by Visual Concepts, Published by Sega Sports

 

Wait, are you being serious?

Yeah, I know.  Just hear me out.  Don’t worry; I won’t bore you with a detailed description of a football game.  Suffice it to say that the NFL 2K series ushered in a whole new age for the genre of sports games.  Even sports-haters such as myself were hooked on the game’s riveting charms, from the innovative VMU play choice function, to the beautifully rendered players that for the first time didn’t resemble a pile of loosely connected cereal boxes.  To this day, NFL 2K is a perfectly balanced and meticulously designed entry into the sports genre.

Why would I want a ten-year-old football game on XBLA/PSN?

Ok, maybe this one is just me being throttled by nostalgia, but I have yet to find a sports game that drew me in the way the original NFL 2K did.   Thoroughly accessible while still maintaining a dedicated authenticity, NFL 2K managed to hypnotize an entire generation of Sega gamers with such innovations as maximum passing and hyper-realistic tackling.  A fervent fanbase remains strong even today, adamantly reminding us that EA’s more recent Madden titles still can’t touch the magic of Visual Concepts’ amazing series.  If you’re still not interested in playing a decade-old football game, just imagine what NFL2K could be like with updated high-speed online play – lagless games, up-to-date rosters and stats, and even prettier HD graphics would make this a whole new experience that still caters to my coddled nostalgic sensibilities.

Don’t hold your breath…

It’s common knowledge that EA signed an exclusivity deal with NFL back in 2005, effectively erasing all competition and eradicating any chance we had of seeing the classic NFL2K games pop up on our 360 games list.  EA has received unyielding criticism for this, not least for the complacency it promotes in their development studio.  How can the medium be pushed forward without the muse of healthy competition?  In 2007, Visual Concepts managed to locate a loophole in this injustice, producing All-Pro Football 2K8 with a roster filled with retired NFL stars.  While this satisfied some, most fans still longed to see their adored 2K series re-take the center stage.

Cannon Spike, developed and published by Capcom

 

Cannon Spike

What is that?

Yet another stellar crossover title from Capcom’s endless Dreamcast library, Cannon Spike is a Smash TV-style overhead shooter that has you blasting through ten endlessly explosive levels.  Like Outtrigger, Cannon Spike utilizes the awesome NAOMI hardware, delivering a fast-paced and insanely fun shooter that’s oozing with fan service.   Oh, and did I mention you play as a myriad of Capcom characters?  Choose from Arthur of Ghosts ‘n Goblins, Baby Bonnie Hood of Darkstalkers, Cammy and Charlie of the Street Fighter games, Shiba Shintaro from Three Wonders, and by far the coolest inclusion of all, the Blue Bomber himself, Mega Man.

Why should it be on XBLA/PSN?

If you got to play this back in the old days, I envy you.  Cannon Spike was criminally overlooked in its day, despite being any Capcom fan’s dream.  How the hell did we miss this?  This baffling neglect translated to a menial number of prints of the game, and thus a stinging scarcity that doomed it to the back of the DC library.  Now, retro gamers are clamoring for the thing, shelling out between $40 and $200 to get their hands on this piece of gaming history.  If it were released for download at a reasonable price, those of us who missed out will have a second chance to play as Cammie with a gun.  The experience is a pretty brief one, but every moment looks fantastic.

Don’t hold your breath…?

I’m actually holding out a significant amount of hope for this one.  As I mentioned before, Capcom has a myriad of great titles under their Dreamcast belt, but Cannon Spike is one of the most fervently sought after amongst retro collectors.  Since the game would essentially be a brand new title for most players, it would be like publishing a fresh title without having to go through a significant development process.  It would be a huge mistake on Capcom’s part to miss out on this opportunity.  I just hope they don’t take the high road and focus on all the games whose titles have become household names even amongst non-Sega gamers.

But that’s not all…

 

Rent-A-Hero

As you can probably tell, this is far from the end of my list.  There are tons of other Dreamcast games out there that have never had a US release, have never gotten the dedicated audience they deserved, or just never had the chance to reach the amazing potential that their concept seemed to promise.  There’s Rent-A-Hero No. 1, the mold-breaking JRPG that could be that blast of fresh air that the genre is currently desperate for.  There’s Suzuki Alstare Extreme Racing, the smooth motorcycling racer that looks nothing short of stunning, even today.  There’s the super-rare Rival Schools 2: Project Justice and Tech Romancer, the under-played Sword of the Berserk…  The list goes on and on.  I guess the conclusion to draw is that Sega has quite a palette to choose from when it comes to re-releasing titles from their amazing library for download.  Let’s hope that they continue to take the chances that have made them such a powerhouse company for so many years, releasing games that don’t just make money, but also deliver a satisfaction that we can’t experience with any other company.  It’s games like these that remind us of just why we’re addicted to Sega in the first place.

  • If there was ever a game that deserved a remake with online play and HD textures that was a shooter by Capcom, it was Cannon Spike.

  • It contains ZOMBIE VEGA for chrissakes!
    [img]http://www.hardcoregaming101.net/cannonspike/balroga.jpg[/img]

  • Josh Newey

    Man, Capcom makes crossovers look so effortless. Zombie Vega? FUCK!

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