View Full Version : Where Are They Now?

Black Ace
08-04-2002, 07:34 PM
By Colin Wahlert

Back when I was a kid, life used to be so simple. All the nutrition you ever needed could be found in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with chocolate milk. The boogey-man in the closet could be tamed with a cool proton gun that shot lightning. And if you wanted to play Nintendo, you bought the gray console; if you wanted to play Sega, you bought the black one. But today, things just ain't so easy. Big businesses are falling like dominoes under the weight of their own corruption. The WWF predicts the Earth's resources will be tapped within 50 years, and the other WWF is now the WWE. If you want to play Nintendo, your console is going to be any color but gray, and if you want to play Sega... whoa nelly.

After the Genesis went down in a blaze of expensive peripherals, I guess it was naive to think that Sega would always be there to sink ridiculous amounts of cash every year into a console just for the hardcore gamers. But when it finally did make the big change to third-party, who would've expected a mitosis into ten separate independent developers, each favoring a separate console? And though asking a Sega fan which Sega games s/he likes best is like asking a monkey how he likes his bananas, that's the state of the things that we're stuck with. We can no longer confidently walk into a game store and say, "Give me that console that nobody wants."

Sega fans, it's time to decide who you love best. This column will present the most important facts about the Sega teams: the games they've made in the past, and the games/consoles they're working on today. Whether you like your bananas split around ice cream or sliced over frosted flakes, well, that's up to you.

Developer:Amusement Vision
Past: Daytona USA, Virtua Striker, Spikeout
Current: Super Monkey Ball (NGC), Virtua Striker 3 (NGC)
Future: Super Monkey Ball 2 (NGC), F-Zero (NGC), Spikeout Extreme (Xbox)

Amusement Vision is led by AM2 veteran graphic designer Toshihiro Nagoshi, who was also briefly in charge of AM11. Clearly the team with the most Nintendo support, it helped launch GameCube with the excellent and innovative Super Monkey Ball, then quickly followed with one of the first of way too many GameCube soccer titles. Currently working on a Super Monkey sequel, AV was also contracted by Nintendo to continue the F-Zero franchise in both arcades and the home. But before you claim victory over this Sega spawn, Nintendo fans, look out for Spikeout's appearance on Xbox. Dividing its sickeningly cute monkey rolling games and its sickeningly violent street brawling games between two consoles is a threatening sign that AV buys into the whole "GameCube = Grade School" stigma.

Developer: Hitmaker
Past: Sega Rally Championship, Virtual On, Last Bronx, Crazy Taxi
Current: Crazy Taxi (NGC)
Future: Power Smash 2 (PS2), Crazy Taxi 3 High Roller (Xbox)

If it weren't for a few bright spots in this developer's past, I'd be tempted to suggest the name "One Hit Wonder" instead. Hitmaker struck pay dirt with Crazy Taxi, an addictive game that featured simple controls and a priest who exclaimed "You're one hell of a driver!" And via the Capcom theory of game design, it's been ported to every major console available (it came to GameCube a full four years after its original arcade release) and is already piling up the sequels. Hitmaker's pre-taxi days as "AM3" had more variety, but not the most success. While the venerable Sega Rally earned a place in the hearts of many Saturn gamers, Virtual On's "Twin Stick" control format proved too daunting for most casual arcade goers and too expensive for the home. Some of you may remember Last Bronx as Sega's last big fighter for Saturn... that was horribly upstaged by the home release of the original Dead or Alive. Hitmaker's most recent arcade release is "Maze of the Kings," a Tomb Raider-themed light gun shooter that's strictly average. For Sega's sake, let's hope this developer does something to deserve its ambitious name soon.

Past: Phantasy Star (offline), Super Shinobi, Sakura Taisen, Skies of Arcadia
Current: Skies of Arcadia (NGC, PS2)
Future: Shinobi (PS2), Sakura Taisen 5 (PS2)

Probably best known for the classic Shinobi series in the West, Overworks is one of Sega's biggest developers for the Japanese market. Its Sakura Taisen series is perhaps the cleverest combination since the Oreo Cookie: crunchy fighting robots on the outside, creamy, sexy, anime girls on the inside. No wonder it was greatly responsible for keeping Saturn afloat in Japan, and has even spread to China via translated PC versions. Specializing in RPGs and strategy, Overworks helped create the original Phantasy Star titles, as well as Dragon Force and Iron Storm (two Saturn titles localized for America by Working Designs). Their prowess was recently showcased on Dreamcast in the form of Skies of Arcadia, a gem of an RPG that GameCube and PS2 owners should really look into now that it's being ported around. For the future, Overworks has signed on pretty securely with Sony: Sakura Taisen is a big win for PlayStation 2 in Japan, and the newly resurrected Shinobi should be a hit worldwide with PS2 gamers who love ninjas but detest pre-rendered backgrounds.

Developer: Sega-AM2
Past: Hang-on, Outrun, Afterburner, Virtua Fighter, Virtua Cop, Shenmue
Current: Virtua Fighter 4 (PS2), Aerodancing 4 (PS2), Beach Spikers (NGC)
Future: Virtua Cop Re-birth (PS2), Ferrari F355 Challenge (PS2), Shenmue 2 (Xbox), Virtua Fighter Quest (NGC), OutRun 2 (Xbox)

Sega's long-time and most industrious arcade developer, Sega-AM2, is the only team famous enough to carry its old "Amusement Machine" moniker after the big split. Usually going toe-to-toe with longtime Sony bedfellow Namco, AM2 was the mommy that Saturn owners ran home to when PSX gamers made fun of them on the playground. Under its new structure, though, AM2 is spreading a little magic around for everyone. At the moment, PlayStation seems to be getting all the attention, but this is due more to Sega's "we need to start making money fast" policy than to an AM2 exclusivity preference. Before long there will be ample provisions for Xbox as well, and GameCube is lined up to get the strangest project since Shenmue. What in a goat's eye is "Virtua Fighter Quest?" Can VF fans resist buying a GameCube to get an in-depth look at the sordid lives of Akira, Pai, Jacky, and the rest? Can Virtua Fighter's storyline be adapted to make any sense outside of the fighting game format? Will Sarah say "even good guys blow it?"

Black Ace
08-04-2002, 07:34 PM
Developer: Sega Rosso
Past: Sega Rally Championship, Sega Touring Car Championship, Sega Rally 2, Star Wars Trilogy Arcade, Star Wars Racer Arcade, Cosmic Smash
Current: Initial D (Arcade)
Future: Soul Surfer (Arcade)

Another arcade developer born of AM3, and shortly known as AM12, Sega Rosso's racing fetish continues right up to their current Initial D (in which the "D" stands for "drive," consequently). So far, the group is yet to do any console work outside of Dreamcast, so whether any of its newer titles will ever see a home release is purely speculation. Sadly, Initial D is probably too run-of-the-mill to catch anyone's attention (beyond "What the hell is 'Initial D?" at least), and I've got a hunch that Soul Surfer will be controlled by standing on a big mock surfboard (think Pro Skater with water), thus restricting it to arcades. Sorry, Rosso, be sure to let us know if you ever consider nudging the envelope a little.

Developer: Smilebit
Past: The Typing of the Dead, Jet Set Radio, Hundred Swords
Current: Jet Set Radio Future (Xbox), Let's Make a J-League Soccer Club (PS2), Gunvalkyrie (Xbox)
Future: Panzer Dragoon Orta (Xbox), Hundred Swords (PS2)

Smilebit's Shun Arai joined Sega back in 1985, but not to make games. For thirteen years, he managed a number of odd jobs from educational and home banking software to making developer tools for the Sega Saturn. His first work on a game didn't come until the Dreamcast conversion of Sega Rally 2 in 1999, but only a year later Smilebit was born. And now that we all know that, I think we've finally got an explanation for Typing of the Dead, a bafflingly fun title that was very likely conceived as a solution to overwhelming stock of unsold Dreamcast keyboards (yep, even the arcade units use 'em). Since then, we've been twice blessed with the refreshing Jet Set Radio, a surprisingly hip game for a team led by a long-time tech-head. Most important on the Smilebit docket, though, is the recent announcement that they have inherited Team Andromeda's beloved Panzer Dragoon series for continuation on Xbox. If you owned a Saturn, then chances are you've got appendages you'd be willing to trade for this game. Microsoft, get ready to sell some more consoles when Panzer hits this fall.

Developer: Sonic Team
Past: Phantasy Star, Nights, Chu-Chu Rocket, Samba de Amigo, Phantasy Star Online, some game about a hedgehog
Current: Sonic Adventure 2 Battle (NGC), Sonic Advance (GBA)
Future: Phantasy Star Online (NGC, Xbox), Sonic Mega Collection (NGC), Sonic Advance 2 (GBA), Sonic Adventure 1 (NGC)

After a long break from Sonic games during the 32-bit era, Sega's most famous team is doing what would have been unthinkable a decade ago: giving every one of the company mascot's games to Nintendo. Whether or not there's still a market for these old games... well, I guess they'll find out. But even if you don't care for yesterday's Sonic, Nintendo fans will have a lot to thank this developer for once it's successfully dragged the GameCube (kicking and screaming all the way) into the world of online play. The enhanced port of Phantasy Star Online will make sure that 'Cube gamers aren't left behind when Xbox goes Live and PlayOnline actually starts working. Now if we could just squeeze a sequel to Nights out of Sonic Team, I'd never turn my GameCube off again.

Developer: United Game Artists
Past: Sega Rally Championship, Sega Touring Car Championship, Sega Rally 2, Space Channel 5
Current: Rez (PS2), Space Channel 5 Part 2 (PS2)

Just when you thought you'd met all the developers sprung from the old Sega Rally team, here comes Tetsuya Mizuguchi with his new gang, United Game Artists. Finally graduating from Sega's series of self-named racers, UGA graced us with the second virtual Michael Jackson in almost a decade in its Space Channel 5. And fun game though it was, Space Channel's overly simple "copy the pattern" game mechanics were a hard sell to the Dreamcast crowd. Perhaps that's the reason for United Game Artists' current focus on PS2: the console with the largest install base is also the best bet for reaching gamers interested in its decidedly quirky designs. Mizuguchi continues to exploit the role of music in his games; a good example is Rez, a shooter in which the player's actions actually shape the soundtrack. Since then United Game Artists produced a new and improved Space Channel and ported the original, as well. Though not a mainstream developer, UGA oozes originality like a cane toad does hallucinogens. Keep an eye or two on these guys, especially if music games turn your groove on.

Developer: Wave Master
Past: Sonic the Hedgehog (sound), Nights (sound), Roommania#203
Current: Roommania#203 (PS2)
Future: Roommania Porori Seishun (PS2)

Hmm. Unless you're really crazy about Japanese imports, you've probably got no reason to be interested in Wave Master for now. Though it boasts impressive credits as a game music composer, this team's foray into actual game making leans hard on Japanese native culture. The first Roommania simulates the apartment life of a Japanese college student, and the upcoming sequel features the same "hero" post-graduation, as well as a new female student character who's moved in upstairs. The word is still out on whether or not you can get the two characters to "get it on," but if you do, I think it's fair to say you've wasted precious energy that would've been better applied to your real life. Say Wave Master, why don't you make an online version of this, hook it up directly to players' brains, and rule over your new society like those bad dudes in The Matrix? Just an idea.

Developer: Wow Entertainment
Past: Golden Axe, Virtua Fighter Remix, House of the Dead, Zombie Revenge, Get Bass 2
Current: Pinball of the Dead (GBA), Vampire Night (PS2, with Namco)
Future: Sega GT 2002 (Xbox), House of the Dead 3 (Xbox)

The last developer on our tour, Wow Entertainment, was formerly known as ?AM1?. Perhaps not always historically the most innovative team, they do make solid, entertaining games. Kudos to whoever thought of mixing light guns and zombies: the resulting House of the Dead series is Wow's claim to fame as well as a highly anticipated Xbox release (next, they should try adding zombie magic to the Get Bass series). Xbox gamers will also be treated to the second Sega GT, a little something to help satiate simulation fans in lieu of PlayStation's Gran Turismo. It's unknown whether Wow has any non-sequels in development, but if its recent arcade offerings are an indication, the company may be preparing to try some wild ideas. Because nothing in Japanese arcades today is wilder than the dog-walking simulator. Take a look at the picture below, and just try to imagine what the minds behind it are capable of.

And there you have it. Confusing? You bet. But Sega fans must agree, this new structure is what's best for their favorite game developer. United it fell, divided it stands. Split across three consoles, it may be harder than ever to keep track of; but today's Sega is no longer beyond the reach of casual gamers who don't look much beyond the boundaries of the most popular console. Sure, the 21st century isn't perfect. But for video games, at least, a bright new era has begun -- with SErvice and GAmes for all.

08-05-2002, 01:11 AM
Sega is CLASS. Theres less then a handful of developers that can compare to them in awesomness. Sega and Konami forever!

08-07-2002, 10:33 AM
Alot of respect to SEGA They sure are covering the entire game industry i mean almost all catogory they got something going on and when they do it,it's a good game tobad alot of people doesn't appriciate SEGA games well anyway i enjoy them!

SEGA & CAPCOM 4-EVAH!!!:cool guy:

xXx Beaver xXx
08-09-2002, 02:29 AM
It is great that Sega is giving the other's some competition, and that they are living on.

- Triple X Beaver:spin smil

08-09-2002, 09:48 PM
Games I would like to see from Sega in the near future:

a new Golden Axe
a new Nights
a new Chu Chu Rockets