Nostalgia Danger: The Return of Sega

Last Updated on January 9, 2024

Guess who’s back? Back again. Sega’s back, tell a friend.

What do you mean that you didn’t think they’d ever actually gone away? Agreed, but it has been a largely pathetic couple of decades, barring the odd classic (insert personal choice here. For instance, Outrun 2). But the exciting thing is that having been all depressed for a time, Sega has decided they might be after your attention again.

They’ve had a shave, bought a new suit, told themselves to pull it together and have aimed their re-found spirit directly at some of your fondest memories, if you were into Sega. Five confirmed games from five old IPs, presented with gameplay footage in an advertisement which felt as though it were selling a new Sega console. That wasn’t the case, but it was a formal effort to announce their future intent for your wallet; a retro-focused branding with modern abilities. Sounds like they’ve been listening to the public. Sounds sensible even. But Sega has never really done either of those things and I do wonder, what is this new Sega shaping up to be?

Let’s take a look at what we have seen. Five games, and we’ll take them in the order shown.

Jet Set Radio

Up first, and most grandstanding in terms of reveal is the latest entry of the rollerblading series that never became one. Its first two entries did that magical Sega thing of picking up a lot of fans while never turning a decent profit. Simple in execution, Jet Set Radio on both Dreamcast and then Xbox won fans with its outstanding level design and bright cartoon appearance. A very Sega approach and not a lot different to the design philosophy of Sonic the Hedgehog. Motion and momentum are at the centre of them both and the few seconds of gameplay footage shown here appears to hold to that.

We see series regular, Beat grinding his way down Tokyo-to electrical lines and parkouring his way over signs and railings. So far so Jet Set. It looks sharper of course, with lively new flourishes of colour and animation. Even local DJ, Professor K is highlighted as suggestion that nothing has been left out of this games culture sensitive legacy.

All good stuff barring what appears to be a staccato frame rate. Perhaps it was the speed of the quick-cut presentation, but nothing in those few seconds looked particularly smooth. Probably nothing to worry about, but motion and momentum do require many frames per second. If they find that then this could hit the sweet spot between retro and reboot. Lovely to see those lurid yellows make a return. No wonder they showed this off first.

Next, some fisticuffs.

Streets of Rage

No introduction required here, except for the fact that this title already had a reboot of sorts a few years ago with Streets of Rage 4. And people liked Streets of Rage 4. Not me, because I didn’t recognise it as being from that series. New art style, and a new combo system… it was great, but just not the Streets that I grew up on.

Now we have this on the horizon, and honestly, perhaps I am going to have to go back and reappraise the last game because this new title looks miserable. The grimy 80s urban setting is there with the correct amount of neon on top, but it looks lifeless and low-resolution. The original games were masterclasses of aesthetics, but I see even less of that history in this effort than the last.

We see Axel punching a few goons like he always liked, but where has the tone gone? Streets of Rage 4 might not have had the familiar art style, but at least it did have one.

Anyone remember the similar-looking polygon brawler, Fighting Force? Let’s hope Sega does. I sure hope I am wrong about this.

Now onto some glad tidings.

Shinobi

Knife sharp visuals with sharper gameplay; Shinobi was one of the Kings of pattern-repeating 2-D platform hackers. The sort of pin-sharp gameplay that today’s retro-specific developers try to emulate. Which now includes Sega, apparently emulating themselves.

Whatever, it looks great. The standard Shinobi combination of modernity and far-flung feudal fantasy staging is there. The dynamism of the main character is there. The double-jump is there and the aesthetic is both modern-comic and reflective of what we have seen before. Indeed the short moment that we see our ninja riding a white wolf through a wispy white field complete with a gargantuan inky demon in the distance was the highlight of this entire advertisement.

It is tough to see how Sega are going to mess this up. The tone and weight of everything seems correct and ninjas haven’t got any less sexy in the intervening years. If they nail the steep difficulty, then I do not see how Sega can be looking at anything other than a hit with this one. Of course, I have said these things once or twice before now about Sega. Perhaps you have too.

Now for some more weapons.

Golden Axe

Another brawler of massive pedigree from Sega, albeit of a different setting. Golden Axe was pure pop-pulp fantasy in the arcades and made a reasonable show of itself on the Mega Drive. But I was too indulged in Streets of Rage to bother. Today though, because the new Streets of Rage looks the way it currently does, this already appears more appealing.

But I’m not sure. It all looks low resolution and brown again. The fantasy settings are strong, but other than a deep veneer of glossy sheen and clear design nods to back-then, it lacks a sense of identity. Things crash about, but we don’t really see any of our heroes actually smashing anything in. How do you show off gameplay footage without actually showing anything? Perhaps it is some new form of counter-advertising on Sega’s part? If so, it is good to see they are still up to old habits.

This could be a strong game though, and at some point they have to get around to showing some footage that might mean a damn. Something that makes it look fun would be good.

Crazy Taxi

Let’s go make some crazy money!

Well, indeed. Crazy Taxi was one of those unanimously loved Sega titles that found its way to every other machine once the Dreamcast took that early exit. Smart design and instant gratification. Plus those lurid yellows again.

And this new entry does look fun. Of course, it is Crazy Taxi so it has to look fun, although now there appears to be an equal weight to playing as The Police. We’ll see how that fits into the overall scheme of things. Otherwise, all the visual cues are in place to remind you of the map design that you used to know. It does also remind me of how good looking the original Crazy Taxi is still. Sega are going to have to work very hard to slide their way around expectations with this one. It currently makes me more excited to go back to the original than wait for this.

It all looks a bit… Mattel. Now perhaps that is what they are going for and if so, I will make apologies at the appropriate time. We’ll have to wait excitedly to find out.

So there we go. Five games in an advertisement featuring about forty seconds of gameplay. A mixed bag, with that inevitable feeling of needing to see more. But is it exciting?

I don’t think so on the whole, at least not yet. Sega have promised that more titles still are well underway, so we can assume that they are truly going for people’s attention again.

Sega’s back. Tell a friend.

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About the author

John is a writer and gardener. He comes with various 90's Sega attachments and is the author of The Meifod Claw and other works. His favorite tree is a copper beech and he would like his coffee black without sugar, thank you.

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