Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Old Shenmue Articles and Reviews

Hey guys, it's sure been a long time since I've updated this blog. Apologies about that. I haven't forgoten this place at all. Far from it. The problem is, I've been mighty busy recently and haven't had much time at all to play many Sega games, write reviews or write articles. In addition, in the free time I have had, I've been playing on my brand new toy, a Nintendo Gamecube (I know, I know *boo* *hiss* :P)

I've decided however, that now is the time to add a new post to Sega Ages. Admittedly, it's a bit of a lazy post, but I hope you enjoy it all the same.

I present to you some scans from my own Magazines collection. These scans are of Shenmue articles and reviews covered in the UK's GamesMaster magazine. All of these date from between 1999 to 2001. I hope you enjoy!

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Segafans.com and a quick update

I was checking out some other Sega sites, and was brought to the attention of this particular site. Segafans is a great website for all you die hard Sega fans out there, so I thoroughly suggest you check it out. It's full of great infomation about all of Sega's consoles and games.

Check it out here: http://segafans.com

In addition, a quick update to you guys. I'm working on some reviews soon for you. Hopefully I should have reviews for D2 (Dreamcast), Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Megadrive), Soul Calibur (Dreamcast) and Guardian Heroes (Saturn) coming in the next month. So look out for those soon!

Next week though I should have some more retro articles from UK games magazines for you.

Until next time guys, take care.

- Reprise

Dark Savior [PAL-E] Saturn Review

My God, this review has been a struggle and a half to finish.  Currently my feelings towards this game are not good, as I will go into in a little bit, but I shall try to be objective as possible.   I’ve owned this game for years and years, and when I decided to choose it for my next review I decided to play it all the way through again from start to finish.  That didn’t quite happen... Frustration has taken the best of me and I will not waste any more of my time on this game.   I did actually get right to the end of the game, but a glitch left me trapped and unable to finish the game properly RIGHT AT THE END! Not good is it Climax?... 
I've fully completed this game before, so I will try not to let the glitch taint this review as I'm sure it's a rare occurance.

For those that don’t know, Dark Savior is an action adventure (RPG-ish) game made by Climax Entertainment, the developers responsible for famed Mega Drive RPG, Landstalker.  This game is often mistaken for a sequel (or spiritual sequel if you will) to Landstalker, but in reality Dark Savior is a very different game.  A real sequel to Landstalker was actually released as Lady Stalker for the Super Nintendo and was only released in Japan.

Dark Savior is played from an isometric viewpoint and in that respect plays similarly to Landstalkers.  You play as Garian, a bounty hunter sent to escort the evil Bilan to Jailers Island to be Carbon Frozen.  When the monser escapes, you must run as fast you can to find Bilan and stop him.  From this moment a timer appears on the screen.  Dark Savior is unique in that there are actually 4 different versions of the game to be played (known as parallels).  Depending on how long it takes for you to reach the captain’s cabin, a different outcome will occur.  The game will then take a different route.  When you’ve completed the parallel, the game will save and restart to back to the ship in which Garian will awake from a dream.  The aim is to complete all 3 parallels and then the final 4th parallel will commence straight after the third parallel.  This makes the game very interesting to play, especially since references will be made between the 4 parallels, but you won’t get the full story until you play them all.  It’s definitely quite an original concept and adds replay value to the gamer.  Each parallel differs slightly in length, but none are more than about 4 or 5 hours.  In total the game is about 12 – 15 hours long, so unfortunately isn’t too long despite the multiple stories.

In terms of the gameplay, as previously stated, this is an isometric 3D action adventure game.  Isometric games can be quite an acquired taste.  Those who find them frustrating will most likely find this game suffers from the same problems.  Dark Savior is heavily platform oriented and often you will be jumping from platform to platform.  This can be incredibly annoying as one wrong move can lead  to you falling to your death.  With an isometric viewpoint it can be difficult to calculate exactly how to jump to next platform, especially if you’re on one of those pesky platforms that will quickly collapse under your feet unless you move fast.  Luckily, with this being a 32-bit era game, Climax did consider this issue and added a camera control feature.  Dark Savior makes good use of the 3D controller, with the analogue stick being used to move the camera around the player.  The L and R triggers are also used to move the camera.  This does help the problems at times, but it by no means solves them.

Unlike many similar games that preceded this, Dark Savior has a unique combat mode.  It may be unique, but it’s not particularly good.  Instead of engaging in combat similar to that of Landstalker, Light Crusader or Zelda, when you are approached by an enemy, you enter a fighting mode.  This has the camera zoomed in on the players and you must fight the enemy much like how you would in a beat ‘em up.  Whilst this is a novel concept, it doesn’t really work too well in practice.  It’s not terrible, but it could have been put to better use.  The main problem is it’s incredibly easy and very simple.  Basically you have A as your attack button, B is jump and you use the direction button to move.  If you hold down A your special bar will gradually fill and once full you will be able to perform a special attack.  This makes battles both repetitive and a chore.  Variety is added by the ability to capture enemies to later use in battle (think Pokemon), but the simple control system really does let the combat down.

Graphically, Dark Savior is quite attractive.  The game is made up of a mixture of 2D sprites and 3D polygons.  Most of the time the mixture of the 2D and 3D animation works tremendously well together considering the mixture of graphics, but at times it can be fairly ugly.  When you are engaged in combat, the camera zooms in and the character sprites are particularly jagged and ugly.  In addition, the mine cart scene in the game doesn’t look the best.  When Dark Savior does it well though, it does it well.  For example, the Silver Castle level features numerous platforms in the sky and the depth is phenomenal.  You have to see it to believe it.  It’s definitely one of the best parts of the game.  Adding to the mood of the game, the music and sound is also above average.  Although it is nothing groundbreaking, the sound is never bad and at times can work really well.

Overall, Dark Savior is a good adventure game, but it is let down by frustrating controls and awkward combat.  The story, despite being cheesy at times (in particular the dialogue), is generally very good.  Although one of the redeeming features of the game is the story, unfortunately some of the parallel endings are a little naff.  There's also a bonus (secret) 5th parallel that can be unlocked, but it's just a simple fighting game (which can also be played 2 player).  In my opinion Dark Savior is worth playing (especially if you’re a fan of Climax Entertainment’s other games), but you might want to try it before you buy it to see if you can put up with the game’s shortcomings.

Gameplay:          7/10
Graphics:             7/10
Sound:                  7.5/10
Longevity:           7/10
Originality:          7.5/10

OVERALL:            7/10

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Sega Ages on Twitter

Hey hey, I officially have a Twitter account now for the site.

Please follow me and I promise not to spam you. The Twitter will be used to keep people updated with the site.



UK Official Sega Magazine #2 February 1994 Sonic 3 Showcase and Review

Well this week I have something very special for the Sonic 3 fans out there. I was hoping to make use of my scanner for the first time in ages this week, but I'm very sorry to inform you that it no longer works. I decided to go ahead with this post regardless and instead made do with photographs. I'm sorry about the quality, but luckily you should still be able to read it well as the quality is good considering.

I hope you enjoy.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

The Dreamcast’s Top Hidden Gems - Segagaga

When it comes to consoles, there are always a lot of well known “must have” titles that gain a lot of hype.  In the case of the Dreamcast, some of these titles you might often here repeatedly are games like Shenmue, Soul Calibur, Virtua Tennis, Crazy Taxi, Jet Set Radio, Sonic Adventure, and Skies of Arcadia just for example...  but what about the more obscure games?  What about those hidden gems that don’t always get quite the recognition they deserve? Well this article is dedicated to just that. This is a top list of Dreamcast games with a difference.  If you’re not a hardcore Dreamcast nut you may not have heard much about many of these games, so it’s time to promote these gems.  The first game I will discuss is Segagaga.


Segagaga was released in Japan towards the end of the Dreamcast’s life (available only on Sega’s online store).  What the game proved to be was a fantastic farewell to the Dreamcast and a brilliant gift to the Sega fans that had supported the company through its history  It is unfortunate that the game was never released outside of Japan as it presents both an incredible game and a nostalgic trip through Sega’s history.  The game is text heavy and therefore it is difficult for those that do not speak Japanese to understand quite what is happening in the game.  Despite this, it is a fairly simple game and is a lot of fun regardless of whether you know the language or not.  There are translation guides and walkthroughs out there to help those that need help.

Segagaga is a RPG with a difference... Instead of being set in the past with an ancient fantasy theme, the game is actually set in 2025.  Segagaga's storyline actually parodies the commercial failure of the Dreamcast and the console battles between Sega and Sony that were happening at the time.  It was great to see Sega still having a sense of humour and ability to laugh at themselves, all whilst making subtle jabs at the games industry.  You play as a child recruited by Sega in a last-ditch effort to stop the evil DOGMA (*cough* Sony *wink wink*) Company from taking over the console market.

The game plays like a typical console RPG, with an overhead view and bright detailed 2D visuals.  The player must make their way through Sega’s development studios (Dungeons) and battle various employees.  Employees can be hired in order to make games once you reach the later stage of the game.  The cut scenes are beautifully animated visuals and are a real treat to watch.  Within the game there are also numerous cameos by characters from previous Sega games that bring joy to any Sega fan lucky enough to play this game.  Some characters that make cameos for example are Sonic the Hedgehog and Alex Kidd, just to name a few.  Seeing Alex Kidd working in a games shop apparently moaning about being fired as a mascot by Sega was particularly entertaining. 

If you own a Dreamcast, you owe yourself to play this game.  Do it.  Do it now!

The Dreamcast Channel

The Dreamcast Channel is a site run by @KellyStanford_ chock-full of interesting Dreamcast related articles. Kelly was kind enough to feature my review of Alien Front Online on her site.

Check out the site here: The Dreamcast Channel

The Video Game Experiment

Some of you might have seen, but my review of Shenmue has been featured in a site called The video Game Experiment. If you don't know about the site, it's an awesome online games library where you can earn points to rent or buy games. They have plenty of retro games, so check it out if you're interested here: Video Game Experiment

You can find my review here: Retro Blog

I'd like to thank the site owner again for featuring my review on their site, it is much appreciated.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Sega Mega Drive Collection

Again, like my Saturn collection, it's a little thin. Unfortunately when I was still a kid and the Sega Dreamcast was just out, I thought it would be a cool idea to sell some of my MD games in order to save up for a Dreamcast and games etc. Anyways in time it should start to grow.

I own one boxed Mega Drive II (although the box is not pictured, I can assure it is in prestine condition - at least I think it is. It's been locked up in the attic for the past 16 years), 2 controllers and a bunch of games.


The Video Game Experiment
The Dreamcast Channel
Dreamcast Top Hidden Gems - Segagaga
UK Official Sega Magazine #2 February 1994 Sonic 3 Showcase and Review
Old Shenmue Articles and Reviews

Sega Saturn Collection

Well I own one boxed model 2 Saturn, two model 2 controllers, one 3D controller, one memory card and various games too. Admittedly my saturn collection is a little thin compared to my Dreamcast collection, but no doubt it will grow over time. Sadly I have also yet to get into the import scene for the Saturn. All in due time though.

Dreamcast Collection

I own 2 boxed Dreamcast's, a variety of memory cards, an official keyboard, an official mouse, various controllers, and obviously various games.


Sega Mega Drive
Sega Saturn
Sega Dreamcast

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Shenmue [PAL-E] Dreamcast Review

Shenmue was always going to be a victim of its own hype, and since its release I cannot think of any other game that has divided critics so sharply. Shenmue is the marmite of games; you will either love it or hate it. Prior to Shenmue’s release Sega were boasting a game that would be the most realistic game yet, promising high quality realistic graphics never seen in a game before. People thought Shenmue was either going to be the Dreamcast’s saviour, or the biggest disappointment of all time. There was a lot of expectations for Shenmue, and for some, many of these were not met. Despite criticisms and the game’s many imperfections (but hey, life’s imperfect right?), Shenmue should still be seen as a landmark in video game history and a great achievement for Sega. There’s a definite feeling that those that hate Shenmue may just not quite get it, but I’ll come back to that in good time...

It’s November 1986, in a quiet village in Japan, the snow is pouring down, and Ryo Hazuki, the protagonist of Shenmue, arrives home to find a mysterious black car parked outside and the house sign smashed. The music is incredible during this piece, adding vast amounts of depth and rivalling the best Hollywood films. The tension builds as Ryo steps into the gardens of the family home to find his housekeeper, Ine-san lying injured on the floor. She points to the dojo speaking of Ryo’s father. Ryo steps slowly towards the dojo, the wooden doors in front of him closed. Smash, the doors fly wide open as Fuku-san gets thrown through the doors. Ryo fearing the worst rushes into the dojo to find his father standing with a man in long Chinese robes, both staring and facing off against each other. The intro has to be seen to be believed, it truly is incredible. What continues, is a fight between the man in Chinese robes, known as Lan-di, and Ryo’s father. The fight escalated until Lan-di picks up Ryo and threatens Hazuki that if he doesn’t hand over the mirror he seeks, he will kill Ryo. This ends with Hazuki giving in and allowing Lan-di to take the mirror. Lan-di then kills Ryo’s father in front of Ryo, and leaves. Words cannot describe how touching and intense the intro scene is and it remains one of the greatest introduction videos to a video game ever. This leads the player into a fantastic adventure and story of revenge, coming of age and self realisation.

Although graphical capabilities have advanced a fair bit since the Dreamcast, Shenmue’s fantastic attention to detail means that this game has aged phenomenally well. We all know the Dreamcast was ahead of its time, and the graphics in Shenmue were no different. The weather system is fantastic and the gradual changes from day to night are also great. Accompanying the superb graphics, the musical score is nothing short of incredible. Never before in video games had the musical scores ever rivalled that seen by high budget Hollywood blockbusters, but Shenmue changed all that. The attention to detail, depth of interaction and ability to explore the world around you is where Shenmue’s beauty really shines. This is a game that really rewards patience and exploration, and this is where the game has come to be loved and hated...

The game begins with Ryo stood in his room staring at the wall. This is where you start your adventure. The first thing that you will notice is that you can explore every drawer in Ryo’s room, and it’s no different in any other rooms in the game. A look through the drawers will find a photograph, a tape cassette (hey, remember those?) and a walkman tape player to play those tapes on. From this point on you come to realise that you have complete control and what happens next is up to you... Well, mostly. This brings me to the first criticism often levelled at Shenmue; the game is actually fairly linear. That’s right, despite the hype that built up surrounding the game; a quick look at the game reveals it to be a simple point A to B linear adventure game. Some would even describe it as boring as much of the game involves talking to characters to find out what next to do, or who next to talk to. Whilst this is true to a certain extent, this is merely what is on the surface. Spend a little longer on Shenmue exploring the world and you will discover the true depth of the game.

Whilst playing the game, you will encounter a number of side quests and you will meet various characters. There are hundreds of characters in the game, all going about their daily lives. Talk to them daily and you will learn about their lives; who’s dating who, what’s worrying them, who has broken up with who etc. Each person has their own life which evolves as time progresses, just like Ryo’s life evolves. It’s all very real and touching. A lot of the time you will have a choice of how you will continue the story, and whilst none of these ever really affect the overall story, it does add depth to the gameplay. In addition, you will not see all Shenmue has to offer in your first play through, in fact you probably won’t see everything on your second or maybe even third play through. There are a lot of scenes and events that require you to trigger them, and this really adds to the replay value. Each time you view a scene in the game, that scene will be unlocked in the Shenmue Passport (the 4th disc) to be replayed at your pleasure. As well as these nice touches, you can collect toys by buying them from the various capsule machines scattered across the game, or you can head down to the arcade and play some games. Space Harrier and Hang On are available as well as other games such as darts and a boxing game. These are all fun and add to Shenmue’s charm.

You control Ryo using the D-pad to walk. The analogue stick lets the player look at the world around you, the L trigger allows you to run and the R trigger zooms into a first person view allowing the player to explore objects. If you wish to interact with something or someone, A is your interaction button. X opens up your notebook so that you can see where you are in the game and then Y opens your inventory. The controls have attracted some criticism, in particular Ryo’s movement which can seem a little stiff. Personally I never had any problems with the control, but I can see their imperfections now. Whilst not perfect however, they are not bad either and they will not cause a problem. The only time control can be slightly annoying is when trying to control Ryo in small rooms, but I didn’t find it to be too much of an issue, if at all.

Shenmue generally consists of 3 basic gameplay styles. Most of the time will be spent in exploration mode, walking the streets, talking to individuals and progressing in your adventure. Then at times you will be faced in Quick Time Events (QTEs for short). These are action scenes that take place and require the player to quickly press the buttons on the controller as these flash on the screen. The QTEs are a really nice addition to the game and some of the set pieces are fantastic. In particular there is one QTE that is a real favourite of mine, but I don’t wish to give too much away however, as when it comes to playing Shenmue, ignorance really is bliss; the less you know about this game before you play it, the better. The last game mode is the fighting events. These play a lot like Virtua Fighter games, with the player using the D-pad to control Ryo, and then the A,B,X and Y buttons controlling the kicks, punches, throws and dodges. Much like Virtua Fighter different moves can be pulled off by pressing different combinations of buttons. New moves can be learned through the game and by training, Ryo can improve his moves and technique. The fights in Shenmue are really nice and prove to be a great strength in Shenmue. If there’s anything bad about the fights, it’s that there are maybe not quite enough at times. The third disc more than makes up for it however, and if you haven’t played Shenmue before or don’t know much about it, then let me tell you, you’re in for a real treat as the game builds up to its climax. Whilst these are the 3 main game modes, there are a few more you’ll find in Shenmue, for example in one scene you will have to ride a motorcycle.

Shenmue is completely engrossing. I remember the first time I played it 10 years ago, I was mesmerised by it and almost overwhelmed by the great levels of freedom. Whilst sometimes admittedly you find yourself limited by the game itself, undermining the supposed freedom at times, this is only a minor criticism. Shenmue still remains a landmark in video game history. Never before Shenmue had a game offered such realistic graphics, such attention to detail, and high levels of rewarding gameplay based on exploration. As well as this, the combat system is brilliant and the game is enormous. It’s not quite Final Fantasy or Zelda ‘enormous’, but it’s big and will keep you playing for a while. How long you keep playing for is up to you and how much you want to explore. You could probably brisk through the game quite quickly, but this is not what Shenmue is about and you’ll be missing out on a lot of what this game has to offer. Despite some minor criticisms and imperfections (not to mention the voice acting at times can be quite bad), Shenmue is still one of the best, if not THE best game the Dreamcast has to offer. Just be warned the game doesn’t end at the end, per say. Shenmue 2 starts where Shenmue 1 ended, but unfortunately Shenmue 2 ends on a cliff hanger. Really, it’s a complete crime that Sega never finished one of the greatest sagas they ever created. So there you have it, play one of the greatest Sega games ever, just be warned Sega never finished the story. At least not yet... we can still hope they’ll see sense and revive the series, one day.

Gameplay: 9/10
Graphics: 10/10
Sound: 9/10
Longevity: 8/10
Originality: 9/10

OVERALL: 9.5/10

Light Crusader [PAL-E] Mega Drive Review

Light Crusader is an action RPG for the Sega Mega Drive (AKA Genesis) developed by game legends, Treasure. This game initially received fairly mixed reviews. Whilst it’s not a bad game, you have to appreciate that Treasure have created some of the best games ever, so it was always going to be hard to match the quality they had previously set. Light Crusader was one of the first action adventure RPGs I had ever played and it still remains a good title. I’ve always loved the graphics and mixture of action and puzzles.

Light Crusader tells the story of a top swordsman known as David travelling to a town called Green Row. The king sent for David after people started to mysteriously disappear from the town. It’s up to you to play as David and discover the truth behind the disappearances.

The game plays in a pseudo 3D isometric viewpoint giving it quite a unique Western appearance for an action RPG. This at times can create problems however, with combat being fiddly or platforming aspects causing a problem as views are obstructed. Nonetheless the isometric view doesn’t prove to be too much of a problem most of the time. As the game starts, most of the game involves solving puzzles, progressing through the dungeon and combat against enemies. In many ways it plays fairly like the Zelda series. You will continue to advance through the dungeons as the story will gradually unwrap, at times you will also face bosses. Some of these are fairly simple and easy, but others can prove to be really difficult.

Light Crusader was one of my favourite games as a child, but as I’ve grown, I have come to realise that whilst this is not a bad game by any means, there are far better examples of the genre out there. That doesn't make this game bad however. It certainly does have its own unique features that help to make this game stand out from the crowd, although not always accomplished too well, it is still fairly original in its execution. Unlike many RPGS, this game does not feature multiple villages and different dungeons en route to villages. Instead this game focuses around one main village and one huge dungeon that players must work their way through. In addition, slightly similar to Treasure’s classic Gunstar Heroes, there is the use of a magic system available in this game. Many traditional RPGs have used a magic system, but until Light Crusader very few action adventure games with real time combat had featured a magic system. There are 4 magic elements available (earth, wind, fire and water) which can be used on their own against enemies, or combined in different combinations to create more powerful attacks. When not using magic, combat using a sword (much like Zelda) is your normal offence against enemies.

The graphics and sounds in this game often divide critics. Some applaud the advanced isometric graphics, whilst some have criticised some of the animations as being basic or dull. The music at times can be terrific, really adding to the atmosphere in the game, but other times it can be a little off. The same can be said for the sound effects. The inclusion of voice effects however is very nice.

I've seen this game be called "Treasure's worst game", but if anything in my opinion that merely highlights the strength of Treasure's games, as this is still a good game, at least it is to me. Despite the fiddly controls. Adventure and RPG fans should not be disappointed with this and it would be a great addition to your collection. Just don't go expecting it to match the brilliance of titles like Zelda.

Gameplay: 7.5/10
Graphics: 8.5/10
Sound: 8/10
Longevity: 8/10
Originality: 7/10


Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Nights into Dreams [PAL-E] Saturn Review

The year is 1995, and Sega, one of the leading games company’s of the world, has a new games console out, the Sega Saturn. The Mega Drive (known as Genesis in North America) was a huge success for Sega and the company was constantly at war with Nintendo during the 16 bit period. The one explosive piece of ammo Sega had against Nintendo, was the novelty of their company mascot, Sonic the Hedgehog. Sonic was cool, he had attitude and he had speed that left Nintendo’s Mario looking like a tired old OAP in comparison. Not only was Sonic’s image right, Sega had also created some of the best and most innovative platformers of the 90s in the form of the Sonic franchise. Now you’re probably reading this and wondering what this has to do with Nights or the Sega Saturn. Well fast forward to 1996, and Sega the once great company is trailing far behind in the 32 bit console war, facing stiff competition from a new console on the scene, the Sony Playstation. There are a lot of reasons behind the Saturn’s failure, but one of the biggest and most bizarre mistakes Sega made was not capitalising on the huge success of Sonic the Hedgehog. The Sega Saturn never had a true Sonic the Hedgehog game and this had a huge effect on the success of the console. However, you can forget all about Sonic the Hedgehog...

Because out of the shadows, entered Nights into Dreams, possibly THE game everyone associates with the Sega Saturn. Not only was this game made by the Sonic Team, but I’m tempted to say it more than makes up for the absence of the blue spiky hedgehog. Like Sonic, Nights is a game that contains a lot of speed and fast paced gameplay. Whilst there are some similarities between the two games, these similarities are few, and Nights is an entirely different beast. Nights offers something genuinely different and original that hadn’t been experienced in games before, and even now in 2010 I don’t think there’s any games quite like Nights.

Nights is a truly odd game, to say the least. Personally, I never really quite understood the story behind the game, but the story is not a large part of what makes this game so good, luckily. This is one game that is all about the gameplay. The game's story follows two children entering a dream world, where they are then assisted by the main character, Nights. That really is all you need to know though.

For me, Nights represents a game that truly is timeless and still stands up well today. The problem with the 32/64 bit era was 3D polygons were still a relatively new concept and developers felt forced into creating 3D games in order for them to sell. This left a lot stinkers and games that have not aged terribly well. Whereas 3D platformers were becoming incredibly popular during this period, Sega struggled with creating a good game in this genre. With Nights, Sega created a game with the speed of Sonic, but instead of platforming, flight was the central aspect of the gameplay. This was achieved using fluid gameplay and the use of a ‘3D controller’ with an analogue stick, created with Nights’ gameplay in mind. If you want to get the most out of this game, I advice you make sure you pick up the 3D controller.
During the game, the player must fly through loops, collecting stars and blue orbs, all whilst trying to create the longest ‘links’ in order to get the highest score. The primary goal is to collect as many blue orbs as possible and to submit them into a blue globe that can be found in one part of each route in a level. Once enough blue orbs have been deposited a new route will begin. There are 4 routes on each level and then the player must face a boss.

Nights takes place in 3D worlds, but the majority of the gameplay is placed in linear ‘2D’ routes in which the player flies through (mostly from left to right like platformers). Although the game is in 3D, the gameplay is not entirely as the player is restricted to only being able to fly in the 2D plane of the level, with the camera angle dictating the player’s actual motion. Although some criticised Nights at the time for not being a full 3D game, this is actually one of the strengths of the game in my opinion. Instead of forcing 3D gameplay down people’s throats, Sega have created something that feels far more natural and organic of a progression from the 16 bit era.

The game is split into 2 sides, with each using different characters, Claris and Elliot. Both contain 4 different levels, with an 8 in total (or 7 as the last level for both characters is technically the same). The levels are absolutely fantastic and Nights really excels with its creative level design. During Nights you will be flying in icy mountains, lush valleys, and gorgeous hills just for example. The graphics are really vibrant, bright and all round some of the best 3D graphics the Saturn has to offer. Sega’s creativity also reaches a great standard in regards to the level bosses. Not only are they great to look at, but they’re all different and require some thought to finish them.

Nights is far from being perfect, but there is a lot of original and great gameplay that makes this an essential purchase for any Saturn owner. The game is very short and not too hard, but it’s great fun, so there’s no reason why you won’t come back to it. The real longevity in this game is the high scores system and always trying to beat your scores. The game is a lot of fun, and the short length is only a minor drawback in my opinion, as the game doesn’t really require great length to it. In the case of Nights, it’s more about quality than quantity.

Gameplay: 9/10
Graphics: 9/10
Sound: 8.5/10
Longevity: 8/10
Originality: 9.5/10


Alien Front Online [NTSC-U] Dreamcast Review

Alien Front Online for me is one of the Dreamcast’s hidden gems. Just from the title I’m sure you can guess what it’s is all about. Basically it involves an alien invasion and the consequent fight between humans and aliens. While this concept lacks originality, where the game does score points for originality is that you have the ability to decide which side you choose, the aliens or the army. AFO did achieve some success in North America, but it was released late into the Dreamcast’s life and the European release was unfortunately cancelled. This is a shame, since it’s a lot of fun to play and is definitely worth importing. It is however important to note that this game was created purely with online gameplay in mind, but don’t let this put you off, as it’s still a great game when played in the single player mode.
This game has three basic modes to choose from. These are the online mode, the mission mode, and the arcade mode. This brings me to my first criticism of AFO; there is no offline multiplayer mode. This is a lazy oversight by the developers, and since the servers were shut down not long after the game was released, this left many people like myself with only the single player game to be played.
AFO puts you right in the middle of an alien invasion, and does so very convincingly. You can choose to be part of the alien team, controlling alien vehicles, or the army, controlling tanks. There are different weapons and upgrades available depending on which side you chose. Like I said in the previous paragraph, there is no multiplayer mode available, unless you can find a way to play this online. Even if it is possible to play this online, I doubt anyone still does. So that leaves you with the single player mode, but believe me, there’s plenty here to keep you occupied.
The arcade mode plays like a simple shooting game. Basically it’s your job to kill the other side and you have a time limit, but like arcade games as you progress through the game you get time extensions. This is a lot of fun and whilst lacks depth, it is fairly addictive like a lot of arcade style games. My only criticism of this play mode is that there are only 3 different stages available and the game simply cycles through them continuously until you die. Coupled with the lack of depth, the lack of stages leaves little to keep you playing on a long term basic. That said it’s still fun to come back to and play every so often, like all good arcade games. Whilst also there are only 3 stages, all are really nice levels, with some great design. The Tokyo stage is my particular favourite.
The tactics mode is what will keep you playing for a long time. Not only are there a lot of missions (60, to be exact) and branching story paths to keep you playing, but it’s also incredibly hard. It’s worth warning that it will cause you a lot of frustration, but the game isn’t impossible. During the mission mode there are a lot more stages than in the arcade mode too. Since I have yet to finish the tactics mode (it really is hard!), I wonder if it’s possible to unlock more stages for the arcade mode, but I don’t think it’s possible. The arcade mode is always good for quick no strings attached fun and frills. No need to worry about a story or anything else, but the tactics mode is always there if you want some added depth.
The most innovative thing about this game was always the online mode and that this was the first console game to allow chat via a microphone online. The Dreamcast was always ahead of its time proving to be a true innovator, but technology has obviously moved ahead since this game was released. So how relevant is Alien Front Online today? Well it may not be the most original game ever and online games may have since improved, but this is still a worthy game to own. The graphics, whilst not ground breaking, are really nice. They are fairly simple, but the attention to detail and effects are really nice. On the surface they seem simple, but when you get closer to the scenery and explosives are being fired you really see a lot of detail.
AFO is incredibly cheap; I managed to purchase a brand new sealed copy from Ebay just over a year ago for £9.99 including postage. The game also comes with an official Dreamcast microphone included. Since the microphone is normally sold for between £5-10 anyways, this is a great deal. Although the microphone is now pretty useless with this game, it can be used with other games such as Seaman. Although not overly original, I don’t know of many games quite like this and I would say it’s definitely worth picking up, despite its flaws.
Gameplay: 8/10
Graphics: 7.5/10
Sound: 7/10
Longevity: 7.5/10
Originality: 7/10
OVERALL: 7.5/10

Upcoming Reviews

Dark Savior [PAL-E] Saturn
D2 [NTSC-J] Dreamcast
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 [PAL-E] Mega Drive
Rez [PAL-E] Dreamcast
Sonic Adventure [PAL-E] Dreamcast
Guardian Heroes [PAL-E] Saturn
Panzer Dragoon Saga [PAL-E] Saturn
Soul Calibur [PAL-E] Dreamcast
Gunstar Heroes [PAL-E] Mega Drive
Burning Rangers [PAL-E] Saturn
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (and Knuckles) [PAL-E] Mega Drive

and many more.

Welcome to Sega Ages

Welcome to Sega Ages, a new blog started by myself about my favourite games company whilst growing up, Sega. My first console I owned was a Sega Mega Drive and I've loved Sega ever since, aquiring quite a collection in the process. In particular the Dreamcast is my favourite console of all time.

Thanks for reading and please enjoy my blog!