There’s a certain segment of Dreamcast games that you hear about all the time on “greatest game” lists including ours. Games like Skies of Arcadia, Space Channel 5, Shenmue, etc. obviously deserve those honors but there are a ton of other great Dreamcast games that often get overlooked due to their lack of commercial success or several flaws that keep them from true greatness.
Throughout the next few weeks we’ll be going through each of Sega’s consoles to pick out games that may have been missed but we feel are worth any console owner’s time.
Hit the jump to read our top 10 nominations for Dreamcast Hidden Gems.
Scott Morrison: Who hasn’t purposely been destructive with their own remote-control car before? It was only logical to send RC cars flying off the highest jumps possible and into the deadliest territories imaginable. Re-Volt took this idea to a whole new level by throwing RC cars into race tracks including super markets, toy stores, and neighborhood streets among other locals. Taking a nod from other kart racing games, you had a variety of weapons at your disposal from bottle rockets and thumbtacks to oil slicks and water balloons. Level design was slightly reminiscent of Toy Commander in the vast 3D landscapes that begged for more exploration outside of the secret paths to claim first place. There was also nothing more satisfying than watching 2 cars fly in opposite directions as your lone bottle rocket claimed one of their bumpers. Multiplayer was also a blast with four people yelling at each other during races or the “Battle Tag” mode, which claimed the majority of my Saturday afternoons. With its “just one more race” attitude and intense multiplayer, Re-Volt was the Mario Kart of the Dreamcast, and in my opinion a far superior kart racer overall.
9. Sword of the Berserk
Mike Kyzivat: Wow I’m getting all the weird monster games this week! Sword of the Berserk: Gut’s Rage is a game based on the Manga and the Anime Berserk about a swordsman named Guts who wields a sword so large it would give Cloud from FFVII “Sword envy”. He is accompanied by Casca his ex girlfriend turned vegetable (after being raped by a demon) and Puck a little sprite with an annoying voice. The game takes place between volumes 22 and 23 of the original manga. Which means it takes place after the anime.
The game is a hack and slash that plays sort of like Devil May Cry and God of War, you wield your impossibly large sword in different combos to kill enemies but you also have a Gatling arrow launcher on your metal prosthetic arm, as well as the ability to transform that same arm into a cannon. There are lots of monsters to hack and chop in half, so you’ll never get tired. What makes this game a lost gem is 1. It’s a must have for anyone who is a fan of the Berserk series and 2: It has a great overall design (especially the monsters) and has some great boss battles. The story is not bad either, though since it takes place in volume 22 of the series there is a lot of back story that is missing. But the basic plot involves the mythic Mandragora plant. This plants roots are said to resemble a small child with legs arms and a head, but if you pull the plant out of the ground it will give a blood curdling scream that will kill anyone who hears it. They have been featured in such movies as Harry Potter, and Pan’s Labyrinth. In this game however, they also change people into hideous monsters that are plaguing King Balzac’s realm (you heard me right, Balzac). so it’s your job to hunt down the Mandragora Tree and rip it’s heart out to stop the Mandragora threat, but things are not so cut and dry. This game successfully melds good story telling with fun and fluid hack and slash game play, anyone who loves the manga or anime should check it out. And anyone who loves a good bloody game.
Scott Morrison: In a time when Resident Evil was conquering the survival horror world, everyone was taking a stab at their own version of the spooky genre. Carrier made an attempt with the same B-movie charm as Resident Evil, and may have even “surpassed” it with some notable voice acting. Carrier is definitely a creepy game, due to how much it relies on awkward noises from enemies and the setting of a dark, atmospheric battleship in the middle of the ocean. It may have been because I was only 16 years old when playing it, but I remember not even wanting to walk down some dark hallways for the fear of creatures killing me. However, those fears were broken up with some hilariously bad dubbing in attempts to advance the simple plot of, “hey people died, and we don’t know how, so we’re going to explore a desolate area and hopefully survive with proof of secrets.” The ability to “scan” people with gogglesin a first-person view to determine whether or not they are infected actually took away from the fear of the game, because it completely counter-acted the static camera angels. Enemies in Carrier move quicker than a typical zombie, which made them seem more threatening, along with the fact that stairs and elevators were accessible without load times – making the general close-quarters even more life-risking even though there were more places to run. If you are a survival horror fan and Carrier is missing from your library, then I recommend you check out eBay after you finish reading this feature.
7. Shadow Man
Tom Kyzivat: “Over here, Michael!” Shadow Man! Definitely better than it looked it was going to be, Shadow Man follows the story of a failed student-turned voodoo zombie warrior as he trapses through the land of the living and dead, killing demons and wearing sunglasses. Everything about it seemed to scream “generic third person action horror”, but the story is surprisingly interesting and well put together. It probably helps that it’s loosely based on a Viliant comic book. But anyway, published by Acclaim (what? Acclaim made a good game?) in 1999, it became a Dreamcast favorite in Mike’s dorm room. The levels were very clever, as you dive into various serial killers’ minds, represented by old, creaky farm houses and the like, as well as the creepy Land of the Dead and the slightly less creepy Land of hte Living. And for a game with limited graphics, it actually managed to be pretty scary–not on the level of Silent Hill, but genuinely disturbing and odd at times. The voodoo theme throughout provided a good basis for background and enemy design, as well as something unique from other games like it at the time. And, of course, the highlight: your informant named “Jaunty”. With the body of a snake, human skull head, sassy personality and charming Irish accent, he quickly became one of the highlights of the game. Aside from that, there’s not a whole lot I remember from Shadow Man, other than it warranting a sequel on the PS2. Not to make it sound forgettable, but c’mon–it came out like 13 years ago. Check it out! Jaunty wants you to.
6. Maken X
Flake: First person sword fighting. It is the year 2012 and yet even incredible games like Skyrim still implement this mechanic awkwardly. Oddly enough, Maken X, a game that only approximately 367 people on the planet are aware of, did it perfectly. In the year 1999. In Maken X you utilize speed, acrobatics and brute force to cut through armies of soldiers. Offense is emphasized over defense and that keeps the action moving along at a very fast clip.
Maken X is a weird mix of sword play, Japanese cartoons, and a first person shooter. The game has a very dark, creepy atmosphere to it. The eponymous sword, Maken, is both an incredible weapon and a unique plot element that gives the game an excellent plot and also adds some consequence to choice of character you make as you proceed towards one of many endings.
If you are at all a fan of horror movies or conspiracy theory stories and / or swords, there is no reason a copy of Maken X should not be sitting in your Dreamcast right now.
5. Cannon Spike
Josh Newey: It’s hardly fair to say that Cannon Spike is underappreciated—that is, by the people who have actually gotten to play it. This fantastic little all-star arcade game is one of many Sega titles that were printed in such limited quantities that procuring one today is just prohibitively expensive and too much effort for your average gamer. Without constant musings from blogs like ours, Cannon Spike falls into obscurity, along with dozens of other titles from the Dreamcast’s surprisingly deep library. Well trust me, this one is worth the chunk of change it demands. Another excellent utilization of the NAOMI hardware, Cannon Spike is sort of like a simplified, arcadey top down shooter like Smash TV, mixed in with the rhythmic and mesmerizing enemy attack patterns of shmups. Even cooler is the fact that the game’s all-star roster, which includes heavy hitters like Cammy and Charlie from Street Fighter, Baby Bonnie Hood from Darkstalkers, Arthur from Ghosts and Goblins, and even the blue bomber himself, Mega Man!
Clocking in at no more than an hour or so, Cannon Spike’s not exactly the longest experience in the world, but the challenge and fun that it provides calls for several sessions with every character. Really, more people should be playing this game on a regular basis. It’s easily one of my favorites in the entirety of the Dreamcast library.
Alex Riggen: Omikron, like many hidden gems, is far from a perfect game but for me it offered a lot of what I look for in a videogame. Developed by Quantic Dream (Indigo Prophecy, Heavy Rain), Omikron is a third-person adventure game that takes place in a some-what dystopian future. The main gameplay mimics Shenmue in quite a few ways as you run around a few districts, talking to people, and solving puzzles. The game’s setting and plot are very memorable, especially for the time, and it still remains my favorite game Quantic Dream has developed as it gives the player much more freedom than their later games. However, it’s not all good as the game is a little unpolished with slowdown and speed ups occasionally and the fighting and first-person segments leave a lot to be desired but if you’re looking for a different take on the adventure game you couldn’t find a better place to start.
Mike Kyzivat: D2 is a strange game, not only in game play and cinematics but the fact that it really isn’t a sequel to the original D on the Sega Saturn. Nonetheless, it is still a gem of a game in my eyes.
D2 is a survival horror game created by the famous-back-then Kenji Eno, he was kind of the Itagaki of his day (a software rock star). He came up with the idea of a digital actor, Laura Harris in the game D. He also created more digital actors David, Kimberly and Parker for the game Enemy Zero which also starred Laura. It is a cool concept that I don’t think has been used since (plus it keeps you from having to design new characters for each new game).
For D2 the only thing that ties it back to D is that Laura is again the main character, but her name here is Laura Parton and she has just survived a plane crash that has stranded her in the wilderness of Canada. People are being turned into strange plant like creatures that attack our hero and her friends, David, Kimberly and Parker. The game has you run around the wilderness in nothing but a suit coat and skirt packing a hunting rifle. Enemies are placed randomly in the wilderness and when encountered the game switches from a Resident Evil like view to a first person shooter, where you can’t move but you can aim your gun at the enemies and take them down before they reach you. So I guess it’s more like House of the dead in that respect.
What makes this game a gem is the strange plot and the even stranger enemies and cut scenes that were toned down for the U.S. release. For example you fight an old man turned plant monster with a long plant stalk coming out of his chest. It also has an Audry 2 style Venus flytrap on the end, which makes it look very phallic. Well guess what? in the Japanese version of the game that same stalk does not come out of his chest, can you guess where? that’s right down south of the equator! This old dude is sporting a monster plant stiffy in the Japanese version. Well, that explains why there is white liquid coming out of the tip. He also drones on about his Granddaughter (very weird) and doves occasionally come out of him. If that’s not enough for you you also fight a naked clone of Kimberly, An old woman with angel wings on her back and green arms with giant claws coming from under her dress, so I can only conclude those claws are coming out of her vijay-jay. Oh and did I mention she plays classical music on her violin the entire time you fight her? Now do you see why this game is such a gem? Where else are you going to see that?! Not in Pokemon Snap that’s for sure.
2. King of Fighters ’99: Dream Match
Flake: When the Dreamcast came along, SNK continued the tradition they had started with the Saturn of publishing near-perfect arcade ports. SNK wasted no time in porting the game that many still think is their finest fighter to date, King of Fighters ’98. Because it was published in the states in 1999, they renamed it “KoF ’99 Dream Match”, which is totally not easy to confuse with its sequel (also on the Dreamcast), KoF ’99 Evolution. Oh well.
KoF 99′ Dream Match is essentially SNK’s answer to Street Fighter Alpha 3. It is a diverse game with a huge roster and multiple play styles. Every single character that appeared in the series (including bosses, dead characters, and the silly-as-shit “Sports Team”) from KoF ’94 onward made it into the cast. Some how this large roster does not completely ruin any semblance of balance; although certain characters have more utility than others, almost any fighter has a fair chance at winning out. The character artwork ’99 is also gorgeous. The large, hand drawn sprites mesh well with the updated back grounds and minor 3D effects. Even on a large, modern TV the Dreamcast keeps everything looking sharp.
Rounding out the package is a tight, four-button control scheme that maps well to the Dreamcast pad, plenty of gameplay options and Neo Geo Pocket Color connectivity with King of Fighters R-2. To this day, I still do not understand how it is we live in a world where this game gets left off of Dreamcast top-10 lists in favor of Street Fighter Alpha 3!
Josh Newey: Whenever people wax nostalgic about the Dreamcast, they almost always go straight for the console’s most distinguishing, personality-fueled games. People bring up Chu Chu Rocket, Space Channel 5, Crazy Taxi and Jet Grind Radio at the drop of a hat, but why the hell don’t more people talk about the B-movie love letter known as Illbleed? Best described as a grindhouse horror game, Illbleed is wonderfully original, disturbingly twisted, and utterly hilarious, offering absolutely ridiculous horror-based missions like “The Homerun of Death” and gameplay that you simply cannot find elsewhere. Based less around combat and more around trying not to bleed to death, Illbleed has you playing as Eriko, a purple-haired horror fanatic traversing a sick and twisted theme park in an attempt to win $100,000,000. In it, you have to rely on your character’s senses (literally) to traverse and unearth several booby traps and scares that will deplete your blood, increase your heart rate, and lower your stamina.
To be honest with you, a lot of people place Illbleed in a list of terrible games you should still try, and I won’t deny for one second that, much like the developer’s inferior Dreamcast game Blue Stinger, this title can be an infuriating mess to slog through. But the blood-splattered, insanity-driven lunacy that courses through Illbleed more than makes up for its shoddier moments. Figuring out traps and trudging through the clunky combat can be quite the chore, but every moment of frustration is rewarded with some of the most unabashedly strange scenarios and hilariously gross moments I have ever seen in a horror game. If you dig modern schlock celebrations like House of the Dead: Overkill, and just can’t stand the action-based, cookie-cutter horror games of this generation, you need to give Illbleed your time. There’s nothing–literally nothing else like it.