The next generation of video gaming has arrived. With the release of the Dreamcast system, Sega makes a definitive claim to its piece of the video gaming pie.
Sega, a market leader in the early '90s with their Genesis console, virtually disappeared in the industry after the dismal release of their next system, Saturn, in 1995.
Their new system, however, has already smashed industry records, grossing $48 million in their first day of sales. With an unprecedented availability of 19 games on launch day, the console shows much promise as a system with staying power.
The Dreamcast is the most advanced system on the market, sporting internet-ready capabilities, a built in 56k modem that offers net browsing, e-mail, and access to national scoreboards. It also brags an advanced Artificial Intelligence program which allows the console to learn, and is the only gaming console available with 128 bit graphics.
Of course, no system is better than its games, so here's our take on some games that we checked out. The ratings are out of a possible five stars.
Sonic the Hedgehog
Sega's only recognizable game character is back, this time in 3D.
First off, the Sonic's graphics are mind-blowing: it's an exciting challenge trying to keep track of Sonic as he bursts through loops and tunnels at impossible angles. The game makes excellent use of all 128 bits. The voice acting is also quite impressive --better than any game on other systems, though one does think the game was rushed through production when character's mouths keep moving after the dialogue ends. Unfortunately, the story line tends to drag on, especially given the fact that you can't skip or speed up the cut scenes. The plot is aimed at a younger audience, so older gamers might find these scenes frustrating to watch. Handling of Sonic also gets difficult when you try to combine Sonic's "sonic" speed capabilities with the new 3d element. Altogether, the game rates about average.
I don't normally like sports games, but I have to admit that I spent hours in front of the screen playing NFL 2k.
Sega managed to get a full NFL license which gives updated access to all the NFL teams and players. They took out the extra rules that bog down the game, but kept the details like coin flips that make the gaming experience more enriching.
The graphics and gameplay are so exquisitely detailed, compared to other games on the market, you can almost forget that you're playing a game and not watching a live-action video.
Snappy and entertaining dialog from the two commentators adds an extra dimension to this version of football gaming, not to mention fun options like precipitation, wind, and temperature give the game all sorts of variety. All of these features combine to make this the best football game I've ever played.
Flag to Flag
Dreamcast's version of high speed and high thrills auto racing is a huge disappointment. Given all the capabilities of the system, Flag to Flag was an utter waste of technology.
There was nothing spectacular about the graphics, the soundtrack of a humming engine made the sound barely adequate, and the handling and control were difficult to master while nothing about the game made me want to become an expert.
The key to a good racing game, is to provide the gamer with an exhilarating rush while flying around corners and crashing into other cars. Flag to Flag does none of these, it's just a tedious journey from point A to point B. I suppose hard-core racing fans would appreciate the option to pick among the 27 drivers and 19 courses, as well as being able to complete the entire racing season. I'm not that into that particular sport, so Flag to Flag gets a lower rating.