Stripping Away Silence – A Thought on The Dreamcast vs. The Industry Today

When I remembered the Dreamcast anniversary and looked back on some of the pieces I’ve done in the past, I came to a startling revelation.  As I watched the unlockable anime opening for Tech Romancer, I realized that the Dreamcast could have been the last major console with a distinctly Japanese flair to it.  By that, I mean that the cultural shift we are experiencing now with Japanese games attempting to feel more Western and many gamers and developers expressing concern for the potential loss of the Japanese “look and feel” it’s had for decades may have shifted following the demise of the Dreamcast.

Some of the quirkiest, most truly Japanese games I know of were on the Dreamcast.  I mentioned Tech Romancer, which is a homage to a cavalcade of anime robots over the years, and it’s a prime example of what I mean.  Would Capcom dream of resurrecting this franchise in their current form?  I highly doubt it.  With a lot of money going into outside development of their established franchises to make them more Western (DmC, anyone?), there isn’t much room in the budget for an internally focused game so in tune with their culture.  Rival Schools, another heavily anime influenced game that plays around with school tropes set in a manga-like environment, hasn’t seen the light for years (in fact, the last one was Project Justice, Capcom’s last game for the …you guessed it – Dreamcast!) beyond the occasional cameo (Batsu in Tatsunoko Vs. Capcom was the most recent, and appropriate, considering Tatsunoko’s anime roots).  Power Stone, too, was very influenced by the look of anime, altering some familiar styles for the game’s rich cast.  And, again, Power Stone has disappeared from Capcom’s radar as of late.  Some of Capcom’s purest games made for Japanese gamers came out on this lovely system, and I just don’t know if we’re going to see that side of them anymore.

Sega themselves had a bevy of Japanese oriented games come out.  Jet Set Radio was a hugely stylized game that really let its culture influence it, with a cel-shaded look to mimic anime, a large selection of Japanese rock and techno to jam to, and relished its stereotypes to the extreme.  Skies of Arcadia tinkered with Japanese RPG concepts, turning a lot of them on the head but maintaining much of what made them truly Japanese.  The character designs were also heavily manga inspired.  Shenmue meticulously recreating a small piece of Yokosuka, Japan, and allowing players of all cultures to enter that world.  I could go on and on with how Sega emphasized their home country in their games for their last console.

My point is, could the pounding of “Western = Money” philosophy begun with the premature end of the Dreamcast?  I would say that it’s conceivable.  Smash hits from Japanese devs are shrinking in recent years – Demon’s Souls is one of the big surprises this current gen, for example.  I look at the rest of my PS3 library thus far and it’s full of Western-developed games – Portal 2, Red Dead Redemption, Dead Space, inFamous, and LittleBigPlanet.  I do have RE5: Gold Edition, which Capcom made internally, but that one too aimed for Western markets with its action flick story and dialogue.  Pac Man: Champion Edition is the only Japanese-made game not necessarily intended to target western tastes, and I find that a little sad.  Of course, I have much work to do in building up my PS3 library, and if I were to compare my Wii lineup to the PS3, I’d find many more Japanese-developed titles in a greater ratio to Western ones (A Boy & His Blob, Deadly Creatures, Dead Space Extraction, and Silent Hill: Shattered Memories are the western ones I have out of the 18 games I own).  But it’s something to ponder.

Looking Back: My Favorite Game of 2001

2001 marked the end of my high school career, and the beginnings of my college days.  My senior year had its fair share of tribulations – I spent my last significant time with Chad and Trent, lost both of them and Chris to drug addiction, crushed on, deliberated and eventually got the courage to ask my first girl out proper (and was declined), continued to avoid W. and his abuses, and had to take SAT tests.  Bleh.  On the flip side, my friendship with Anthony continued to grow, the drama program was awesome as hell (save one incident with a smart-aleck who was the son of the instructor who punched my testicles in some sort of dominance challenge – I stared at him, went to the teacher and reported the incident, and watched the torrent.  He never messed with me again), and I got a lot of kicks out of multimedia.  I began hanging out with a lot of young women this year – for some reason I felt that I got along with them better.  I have emotional understanding, significant amounts of it for a male apparently, and was able to listen to their problems and do my best to provide them with solutions, which helped my friends out a great deal, I hope.  I’ve continued to be more inclined to get along with women over most men to this day, although there are exceptions.  In short, despite a few setbacks and the loss of some of the dearest friends I had, I managed to have a solid cap to being a high schooler.  I wouldn’t EVER go back, though – I say fuck reunions. :p

College was a shock in many ways.  I grew up in a rural area which, I hate to say it, but I have to, was mostly white.  I went to college in a larger city and was flabbergasted at the cultural diversity.  It took some time to get over the culture shock, and I’m so glad I did.  It took a bit to get used to the changes in the schooling, too – I began with 17 units, mostly drama classes with a smattering of English and a Japanese writing course (which was difficult), and used the bus to get me to school and back.  I began learning how to drive at this point (late bloomer!), but it would be a year and a half before I felt comfortable enough to get myself to school via car.  I met some cool people on the bus who would become good friends I miss these days – Seth in particular was a joy to chat with.  Seth was a brilliant guy, especially at math, who aced everything he took (save one class, but the teacher was a douche and never gave A’s) and happened to be a huge Nintendo nut like me.  We spent a fair amount of time playing Smash Bros. Melee (woot) and Capcom Vs. SNK 2 (woot x 2), and Seth was responsible for landing me a Super NES!  So I have fond memories of hanging out with him, although we’ve lost touch today.  I also made many drama compadres during my tenure with that program, although, thanks to the death of Myspace as a social network and my hatred of Facebook, I haven’t talked to many of them lately.  No offense meant!  Drama was good fun, and many of the people were in multiple classes, so I had a great chance to bond with many of them.  However, I realized that I didn’t want to pursue that as a career a few years later, and changed my major to English after I had nailed the Drama one down pat.  I just didn’t want to be an actor – the fame and publicity didn’t appeal to me.  But I do love the stage and all of its aspects, and have a passion for live theater that gets fulfilled all too rarely.

I’ll save my other college thoughts for the next few posts of this, or I’ll have nothing to write about. XD

Anyway!  I acquired another new system this year – the Gamecube!  I bought Smash Bros. Melee before I had the system in my hands (which I got for Christmas if my memory is correct as a deal with my parents).  This game buying before system owning quirk  was a bit of a tradition that I wanted to continue but fell out of after this (shrug).  I had a black one, and I had a lot of great memories with it – you’ll notice Skies of Arcadia Legends, Resident Evil 4, Beyond Good & Evil, Tales of Symphonia, Metroid Prime and Zelda: Twilight Princess in my Top 30.  It felt nice to have another current-gen system, what with the Dreamcast suffering a premature death and the N64 wheezing its final breath.  I had a Game Boy Player for it, which was a nice if somewhat unneeded addition to my console, seeing as I had a Game Boy Advance, but playing GBA games on the TV was a pleasant novelty.  I also had all 4 controllers, although I’m down to three now (one broke, I think…the C sticks kind of wear out after a bit).  It’s the first console I wore out – the disc drive began to be unresponsive, so I dumped the thing once I had a Wii.  It’s the only console I don’t still own after all this time (alas, my personal Dreamcast died in 2010, but I had a spare, thank god).

This transition period is reflected in my candidates for the best game of 2001 – one N64 game, one ‘Cube, one Dreamcast, and one PS2 game.  Weird how that works.

But before we get to that, there’s two other topics I wish to briefly cover.  First off, my art began to evolve more toward its current form in 2001 in college.  I had up to that point relied on using circles to illustrate my character’s heads, which was something I wanted to get out of my system and make my characters look more human, so I began that here, and have been refining that for the last 10 years.  Secondly, and quite importantly to this site, I began Wildcat Online on August 6th, 2001!  I got a computer after a visit to my grandparents in Utah, and quickly immersed myself into the internet world I had been dabbling in with full haste.  My initial site and its long history are fully detailed out here,  if you care to read more.  And man, I can’t believe it’s going to be 10 years this August. O_O

Shortlist:


Paper Mario (N64, Nintendo/Intelligent Systems)

Taking the timing elements in battle from Square’s earlier Mario RPG outing, Intelligent Systems reinvented the concept with a unique graphical style and a more defined battle engine that pushed the action command aspect into the forefront.  A great beginning.


Super Smash Bros. Melee (GC, Nintendo/HAL Labs)

Building on the core from the N64 original came Melee, the game that launched Super Smash Bros. as a major Nintendo franchise and a system seller.  With more characters, stages, items, and moves, plus several new additions like the Trophy Mode and several new solo excursions, some still feel that this is the high point of the franchise.


Project Justice (DC, Capcom)

Capcom’s swan song for the Dreamcast is a fitting one, as it ended up being one of the best fighters on a system full of stand-outs.  Crazy-awesome characters, a versatile team system and a solid combat engine made Project Justice a joyous brawler.

In my opinion, the best game of 2001 was…

To be redecided!

Advance Wars

Castlevania: Circle of the Moon

Capcom vs. SNK 2

Civilization III

Devil May Cry (video game)

Golden Sun

Grand Theft Auto III

Ico

The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Seasons and Oracle of Ages

Luigi’s Mansion

Maximo: Ghosts to Glory

Pikmin

Shadow Hearts

Silent Hill 2

Sonic Adventure 2

Super Dodge Ball Advance

Super Smash Bros. Melee

Tactics Ogre: The Knight of Lodis

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3

Wave Race: Blue Storm

Back to 2000Forward to 2002

The Classic Intros of the Dreamcast

I mentioned yesterday I’d be doing some special posts for the Dreamcast’s 11th anniversary, so let’s kick this off with some of my favorite intro sequences from the console.

Sonic Adventure (Sega)

Tech Romancer (Capcom, unlockable intro)

Soul Calibur (Namco)

Skies of Arcadia (Sega)

Project Justice (Capcom)

Resident Evil: Code Veronica (Capcom)

What Made the Dreamcast Special to Me: Capcom Fighters Pt. 3

Street Fighter Alpha 3 and the two Marvel Vs. Capcom titles may have been system sellers for me, but Capcom didn’t stop there.  The Dreamcast became the center for their arcade hits, and the fighting lineup that they ported has to be among the finest in both the company’s history and for one system’s lifeline.  Let’s look back upon the other Capcom fighters* that wowed me in the Dreamcast’s heyday.

Power Stone 2

Power Stone 2

Both Power Stones took arena combat to a new level.  While I think that PS2 is the superior title of the franchise, the gameplay foundations of the original were also excellent.  Power Stone’s manic gem collecting, heavy item use, stage interaction and simplified fighting reminded me of Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros., but done in a 3D ring.  Power Stone 2 took that core and blew the gameplay into wide open frontiers.  Adding in 4 players, making the stages even more dynamic and complex, and giving players vehicles to control as well, PS2 was a brilliant fighter that is one of the DC’s brightest.  Add in the item creation system and one of the crazier final boss fights I’ve experienced and you’ve got a fantastic game.  I hope Capcom (properly, a comp is not enough) resurrects this series sometime soon – online battling and the extra power of our current consoles could be the beginning of something special.

Tech Romancer

Tech Romancer

Tech Romancer is a pseudo-sequel to their earlier Cyberbots (which I’d love to actually play one day to see where Jin Saotome and Devilot came from).  Taking several anime mech designs, tweaking them just enough to make them “different” to avoid copyright issues, and letting them duke it out was a joyous exercise.  The controls were fairly standard for a Capcom fighter, but the addition of sideweapons, armor and mild destructible environments helped expand the gameplay from being a mere SF clone with mechs.  TR was heavy on using projectile attacks, so it took on a different style to properly play it.  The anime opener also was awesome for its perfect capture of the shows they were inspired by.  Certainly one of Capcom’s more interesting games.

Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike

Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike

Street Fighter III was a huge boon for the DC in my view.  Capcom never ported the series to the PS1 (and brought the DC port to the PS2 well past its original release), so fans of the New Generation turned to the Dreamcast to practice their techniques.  Parries, selectable supers, a mostly new cast, a grade system that critiqued your fighting, and some of the most jaw-dropping spritework in gaming was in full display for both SFIII titles.  It really is stunning to watch this game in motion.  A 2D highlight.

Project Justice

Project Justice

Lastly, we come to Capcom’s Project Justice, one of the last games released for the DC in North America, and one of Capcom’s strongest.  The art design in the Rival Schools series is phenomenal, and PJ continued that tradition with some of the coolest characters in all of fighting games.  Taking Japanese high school stereotypes and running with them, Capcom created a delightful cast that scream out personality.  The combat in this game is a bit like SNK’s King of Fighters – teams of three duking it out until one side is crushed.  However, the team-up moves set this game apart from SNK’s premiere franchise.  Watching Shoma, Natsu and Roberto roll up into a giant wheel to run over the opponent…or Batsu, Hinata and Kyosuke pound the snot out of their foe…it’s just awesome to witness.  It’s just fun to play, and is another great series that needs to be revived.

All of these fighters remain in my DC library, cherished memories of my youth and as an aspiring student.  The Dreamcast’s name suits it for me – it cast me into the dream of becoming knowledgeable in Capcom fighters.  And I will always remain grateful for that.  Thank you, Dreamcast.
Next time, I’ll cover ANOTHER excellent fighter that showcased the power of a next-gen system like no other I’ve experienced.
*I haven’t played Plasma Sword, alas, and I think that while Capcom Vs. SNK is significant, it is rather lackluster compared to its sequel.
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