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I was one of many people who initially got very excited recently at the news that SEGA was reviving its Crazy Taxi and Jet Set Radio series for new, supposedly big-budget games. Unfortunately, these titles are set to return as part of the company’s ‘Super Game’ initiative, which means free-to-play across multi-platforms with plenty of in-game purchases. Uh. But hey, at least the June-due Sonic Origins collection looks amazing, bringing together better-than-ever versions of the 16-bit foursome of OG Mega Drive Sonic, its 2sday sequel, the Sonic 3 & Knuckles stakka-bo-here-we-go, and the personal favourite that is Sonic CD. Sorry, what? Basic extra content locked behind different pricing tiers? SEGA, c’mon, please. I didn’t wear a Mario Sucks badge to school for this. The House of the Dead’s recent remake was a fair few refinements short of a genuine recommendation, too, which was a disappointment given its Switch motion controls promise.
But what the initial rush of enthusiasm for these projects shows is that there’s plenty of love for SEGA series that haven’t had much action in a while. The last proper, premium Crazy Taxi entry was Fare Wars for the PSP in 2007; while Jet Set (or Grind, if we must) Radio’s not been seen, HD reissues aside, since 2003’s Game Boy Advance interpretation of the Dreamcast original. And SEGA sure is sitting on a number of dormant franchises right now - blasts from the past that could so easily, in my imagination anyway, be restyled and released anew in 2022. Here’s a few that are ripe enough for a comeback - but please, let’s make them more in the vein of the thrilling Streets of Rage 4 and Sonic Mania, and less whatever this ‘Super Game’ thing is.
Developed at SEGA’s US-located Technical Institute - a studio founded by Mark Cerny, who has more recently been lead designer on PlayStation consoles including the PS4, PS5 and Vita - Comix Zone was incredibly striking on its 1995 release. Initially a console exclusive on the Mega Drive, alongside a near-contemporaneous PC release, the game was ported to the Game Boy Advance in 2002 but there’s been a profound silence on anything new since then. But one look at this game is all it takes for that same wow factor to be felt, even almost 30 years on. There have been scores of games based on comic books - but how many are set in a comic book? Breaking through frames, changing routes based on the page’s layout - it’s amazing stuff, albeit with a steep difficulty curve. And I feel in the wake of the amazing visual style of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and its forthcoming sequel, there’s a video game take on that which could really be something special.
SEGA’s pedigree with arcade racers is second to none. But while it still puts its name to some very decent high-speed thrills - 2019’s Team Sonic Racing was officially great, if not Mario Kart 8 exceptional - its 1980s and ‘90s purple patch, encompassing the likes of Hang-On, Virtua Racing and Daytona USA, has rather been forgotten in modern times. To which I say: no. Bring that brilliant era back, and do so in style.
The original OutRun is at least available on Switch as part of the SEGA AGES range…
Give me the iconic sights and sounds of OutRun, with its sparkling blues and sunny beats, but in a semi-open world, why not. Throw in street races, of course; multi-route options across this no-need-to-be-too-expansive play area (let’s go more Burnout Paradise than Forza Horizon 5?). But also off-road tracks, for that SEGA Rally Championship experience of bumpy over-jumps alongside the tarmac-testing drifting of so many deep-red supercars (the famous F-word wholly subject to licensing). I know the pitch for the new Crazy Taxi is open world - but I don’t want that, I want this.
SEGA’s side-scrolling fantasy hack ‘n’ slasher series sorta hit a depressing full stop with its one and only 3D entry, 2008’s Golden Axe: Beast Rider. As wretched as that game was though (very), Golden Axe had been patchy for several years, veering from the pretty darn amazing arcade-only The Revenge of Death Adder to the messy and muddy-looking Golden Axe III, a Mega Drive threequel so good that its only physical release at the time was in Japan. However, with fantasy content enjoying plenty of popularity in this here 21st century, Golden Axe could well find fresh relevance if SEGA went back to the drawing board somewhat and looked at the RPG-lite elements that were originally pitched for the first game. Double Dragon meets Dragon Quest was the thinking back then - and I can envision a new Golden Axe that takes cues from the likes of 2018’s God of War, and maybe even The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, mixing intense and satisfying combat with role-play elements to really immerse yourself in. Alternatively, a 2D revival in the Streets of Rage 4 mould would go down a treat, too.
Ghost of Tsushima: hit! Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice: hit! Now, I’m not saying that these games would never have existed without SEGA’s Shinobi series (1987-2011, until further notice), but the adventures of Joe Mushashi sure left a gigantic ninja-shaped impression on gamers - some of whom then surely became games-makers. It’s like, the law of video game dev averages. And okay, yes, Tsushima is all about a samurai, not a ninja. But given these games (and more besides) have been successful a decade on from SEGA’s last Shinobi game, a so-so semi-reboot for the Nintendo 3DS only, that must send a message that this series could stage a return.
Alex Kidd (no, really)
SEGA’s de facto gaming mascot before Sonic spun into action, Alex Kidd’s series of platformers could have been - should have been - so much more than what we got. The character’s debut, 1986’s In Miracle World, was a competent-enough game that tried to rival Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros., fell well short, but still became somewhat beloved by Master System users as it was built into so many of those 8-bit consoles. Its DX remake of 2021 absolutely highlighted its shortcomings though - it’s a game best remembered fondly than replayed in the here and now - and what followed in the original’s wake didn’t make the most of what was good about Miracle World. The Lost Stars was a terrible arcade game which wasn’t improved for its home port; while both High-Tech World and Shinobi World weren’t even designed with Alex Kidd in mind as their protagonist, and their inconsistencies did nothing to help the character’s appeal. The boy with the huge fists and rock-paper-scissors habit deserves better - better than those spin-offs, and better than DX. Is it asking too much for a 3D platformer? Yes, probably - but give the character to the same sort of devs who’ve taken the Wonder Boy series in its terrific recent direction, and maybe there’s a great game left in the lad.
See also: NiGHTS, Billy Hatcher, After Burner, Herzog Zwei, Alien Syndrome, Alien Storm, Burning Rangers… Look, I could go on and on here, because SEGA really is letting so many great series and one-offs slumber on, and on. Cut me (don’t) and I bleed SEGA blue (I don’t), so I’m always optimistic that some day, somehow, the Japanese giant can reanimate an ancient corpse or two and make it dance to a tune worth listening to. Just leave Altered Beast where it is, yeah? No rising from that grave, please.
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