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.

6 comments

  1. computer - January 6, 2014 7:21 am

    I want to to thank you for this fantastic read!! I definitely loved
    every bit of it. I’ve got you bookmarked to look at new things you post…

    Reply
  2. 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!

    Reply
  3. 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.

    Reply
  4. 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.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rocket_Jockey

    Reply
  5. 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.

    Reply
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