Sunday, July 24, 2011

DJ Wars - Sega Saturn

When it comes to Japanese Sega Saturn games, most of the attention is aimed towards 1) Tactical RPGs, 2) Arcade Shoot-Em-Ups, and 3) Fighting Games, mostly 2D.  It's only after you explore those veins that the search for the real hidden gems can begin.  And that's where you'll discover DJ Wars.

DJ Wars is essentially a free-form rhythm-music game, without the strict control of, say, Dance Dance Revolution.  This seems to be much closer - interestingly enough - to Nintendo's Wii Music.  The game sends you, an aspiring DJ, to various clubs to impress the dancers and show off your skills.  There are no guidelines telling you exactly what to do and when to do it; you really have to discover the flow and learn what each crowd likes.  In that sense, it's much more of a DJ simulation than anything.

There are 50 tracks available, and you can bring 7 LPs (take that, digital!) to your gigs.  You can mix two tracks, use faders, add samples, and if you're really good, add in some scratching.  Just like real life, you'll be spending most of your time practicing in your bedroom and honing your craft before heading to the clubs.  My roommate, Nate, happens to be a successful DJ, and that's exactly what happens at the house.  Whenever he's not working his day job at the University of Minnesota, he's practicing for the next show, and loud thmp-thmp-thmp beats shake through the walls.

Like many of the late-era Saturn games, DJ Wars never left Japan.  The software studio, Spike, has been very successful over the years with the modern consoles, including a lot of sports and racing titles.  They're also the developers of Madworld on the Wii, which got a lot of attention a couple years back.  DJ Wars appears to be their first full-on video game.  I wonder why they haven't brought it back?  Certainly there was a window during the rise of Guitar Hero and DJ Hero.  Perhaps the need for actual licensed music would make such a project far too expensive.

Once again, spiraling production costs have made daring, inventive, quirky video games an impossibility.  When publishers are gambling $50 million on a single title, they're going to be very, very conservative with their money.  This is why I miss Sega's consoles.  Sega was a true home for renegade gamers who wanted something different, something new.  And this is why Saturn and Dreamcast are so beloved by dedicated gamers today.

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