We come at last to the third and final segment in our "Project Phoenix" launch title series, with the star of the show, the Sega Dreamcast. This theoretical project is really all about the white box, giving it a shot of steroids and new powers, with the added ability to play Genesis and Saturn games (although the Saturn is the actual hardware).
I've thought and reflected on the devotion Dreamcast still holds among fans. There have been cries for "Dreamcast 2" ever since Sega quit the hardware business. The $64,000 Question becomes, "What sort of DC2 do you really want?" Do you miss original, surprising, quirky games that Sega seemed to conjure at will? I'm on the same page. Or are you really interested in more sequels, another Jet Set Radio, another Shenmue, another Crazy Taxi, another this and that. If that's the case, well, your wish has already been fulfilled in the Xbox and Playstation. Many Dreamcast 1 games have found new homes, come to think of it.
And so the question remains, what sort of Dreamcast 2 do you really want? Project Phoenix is my answer. Let's have a look at my picks for "launch titles" for our proposed super-system:
Phantasy Star Online
One of the biggest challenges with Project Phoenix is what to do about online. Online gaming has evolved by leaps and bounds since 2001, so it just didn't seem plausible to pursue in the age of Xbox Live and PSN. Then I started reading about (censored) and considered the idea of (censored), and that really grabbed my attention. Then last night I started a new character in Phantasy Star Online.
Screw it, we're bringing back the Dreamcast servers. We'll find a solution somehow, but PSO absolutely has to come back. It has to be a launch title, and it has to be online. This may be Sonic Team's final masterpiece. The atmosphere of that futuristic world, the endless monsters and surprises, that absolutely haunting music. Even when playing offline, PSO is fantastic. We absolutely need this game.
My favorite Dreamcast title, Namco fighting classic hasn't aged a day. I think this is a perfect illustration of what Phoenix offers - Soul Calibur 5 may look sensational on PS360, there's no doubt about that, but when it comes to gameplay, wouldn't you rather play the original? It was a better video game in 1999.
Here we come to my other "favorite" Dreamcast game, and here's where our challenges really kick in. Thanks to EA and the NFL's exclusive licensing arrangement, we can't bring back 2K football. Is that fair? Hell, no. This is a textbook example of why Sega was stronger with a hardware system to support. What are the odds that we can convince the league to relax their licensing to more publishers? Heck, I'm not even thinking of creating a new NFL2K game (let's tilt at one windmill at a time, please). I just want this one specific title.
I'm also including the NBA 2K series because, obviously, it's a terrific series. Even the Saturn original (NBA Action 98) was a great sports game. And as I've said repeatedly, Phoenix needs sports games. Everybody does. There needs to be a hell of a lot more sports video games on the market.
San Francisco Rush 2049
Next up on my must-have list is Atari Games' futuristic racing classic, and my personal favorite Dreamcast racing game. In addition to the terrific racing mode, there's also an incredibly addicting stunt mode, and a battle mode that plays like Atari's classic Roadblasters on steroids. This is a great multiplayer game with an endless amount of replay value. Remember that phrase, "replay value?" Yeah, it's back, baby.
Crazy Taxi is one of those obvious picks for the fans. It was extremely popular back in the day, and promises to be a big Phoenix hit. One gameplay alteration I would make, though, and that's to randomize the customers and their destinations. That way, every game plays different. Also, we'll need new music because the major record labels are greedy bastards. Kurosawa's advice: "Find hungry samurai."
Jet Grind Radio
Once again, "Find hungry samurai." One of Sega's most iconic and inventive games, currently headed to PS Vita, XBLA and PSN, this still belongs on the Dreamcast's true successor. I'm wondering if we can make the jumps a little less floaty, but we don't want to mess with the gameplay too much. Should we make new tags, too? That's an interesting idea to consider.
It's almost embarrassing how the Virtua Tennis series has fallen in stature over the years; the original is still the best, and remains one of the best four-player games anywhere. Terrific for sports gamers and the more casual party set. We're keeping the four controller ports, btw - did I mention that yet?
Shenmue, one of Dreamcast's defining video games. As you can see, I'm really top-loading the launch lineup, but this is currently based on the idea that we'll only have that first holiday season to win over the public, and make Phoenix a hit. I would prefer to move Shenmue's release back a bit, just because it's a flagship title (this is like network progamming, isn't it). This title deserves the "special edition" treatment as well. I also want to get Yu Suzuki on the phone. We want Shenmue 3 as an exclusive.
Typing of the Dead
I do want the light gun games, but there aren't very many titles to choose from, so the release of Virtua Cop and House of the Dead 2 should be pushed back a little. In its place, one of those great, quirky titles that Dreamcast was known for. We'll also include a simple USB adapter so people can use their computer keyboard. See, I'm saving you money! Think of it as "reverse-DLC."
Space Channel 5
Here's a hit with rhythm-music fans and female gamers alike. Space Channel 5 probably arrived a bit early to receive the attention it deserved, but in the wake of Guitar Hero and Just Dance, that may finally change. We need more social- and dance-oriented games like this one.
I think we need one more fighting game to round out the launch lineup, and Power Stone is unique enough not to crowd out any of the other titles. It was one of the standouts of Dreamcast's 1999 US launch, and I'm happy to see it on television screens once again. Graphics are clear, colorful and sharp. Gameplay is simple, direct, immediate, and always fair. Let's rebuild the Power Stone fan community.
There are many, many games that I would want to release on Project Phoenix, and with a successful launch, we would have the ability to do so. The goal is to arrive boldly, with confidence, and hit running out of the gate. We must establish our place in the market as a video game system for families, for lapsed gamers and new gamers. We want to become The Criterion Collection for games, a cheerfully defiant last stand for traditional, arcade video games.
So what do you think of the software lineup? What would you change? Which favorites would you recommend? What would get you off the couch and support Project Phoenix? Feel free to share your ideas and insights. Or you can laugh at me for tilting at windmills, either way is fine.