Come on SEGA, step it up! (SEGA’s downfall, rise and current state + the development of Sonic Xtreme)

Hey guys, Bulba here and SEGA has been on a roll lately… of choosing low budget over quality games. But what lead to that happening to SEGA? What is SEGA’S current state? These are questions I hope to answer, so come along with me on this history lesson and rant. I personally find this stuff very interesting so I hope you do to. Let’s do it!

It began in the early 1990s, SEGA was huge. The Genesis was a total success selling millions and even the SEGA CD had done fairly well. This was the only company who became up there with Nintendo no matter how hard others tried. SEGA was bringing arcade classics as well as all of the adults to their console, which is something Nintendo couldn’t do with their family friendly image. However there was one issue; the disconnect between SEGA of America and SEGA of Japan. Japan never really involved America in anything they did and America constantly had different ideas than Japan, so what did this lead to?

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SEGA of America anticipated their jump into 3D to be via the SEGA 32X, an add on to the ever so popular SEGA Genesis/Megadrive. Meanwhile SEGA of Japan had different plans in mind, they wanted to bring a new system to the market. However, SEGA of America didn’t expect the Saturn to be released to be released so soon as SEGA Japan gave them the go ahead to make the 32X. America ended up making and releasing the 32X as the cheapest way to transition into full 32 bit. Unfortunately, they were caught by surprise when the Saturn was announced to be releasing in Japan. SEGA America were not the only ones caught by surprise…

Customers were as well. After they bought a SEGA 32X that very year they were expected to buy another console, which angered them enough to not want to support the Saturn. The Saturn continued to sell exceptionally well in Japan while it flopped in America. One of the biggest reasons for the Saturn’s demise was no true Sonic game, even the one that was promised for 1996 was canceled. Sonic Xtreme as it’s known has a story for itself.

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Sonic Xtreme was originally known as Sonic Mars originally meant for the 32X. It started development as a 3D game with 2D sprites. This concept didn’t go too far however but we can see some interesting things. Firstly the chaos emeralds were planned to be different type of gemstones as shown in the bottom right corner. Also, it seems like Tails would have been able to speak to you and help you find out what to do. It also seems like you were to only have five lives and a set time limit. This is the least interesting to me at least.

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Next up is similar to the last one, but not really at the same time. It was a fully 3D more refined version of Sonic Mars complete with a intro and all. This version unfortunately didn’t get too far either but I just find it very fascinating that this was all running on the 32X. But as you probably know, Sonic Team would have to transition their work from SEGA 32X to SEGA Saturn. Surprisingly they decided to start from scratch after a few more prototypes and create what we now call Sonic Xtreme. (Gameplay of prototype: https://youtu.be/wHLqSAoE0bk)

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Sonic Xtreme was a mix of the two prototypes intended for release on SEGA Saturn and PC. The team worked hours day and night trying to get this to work, but after months and months it just wouldn’t run on the Saturn. Not only that, but SEGA kept deproving and deproving every single pitch they put out. It was a disaster so much so that it lead to the game’s ultimate cancelation. Here is one of the many planned stories for Sonic Xtreme from sonicretro.org; “The storyline for Sonic X-treme was one never set in stone, with quite a few ideas thrown about during the development process. The best known of these (which were mentioned in such magazine features as the Red Shoe Diaries) explains that Sonic the Hedgehog, having received a “bluestreak” distress signal, runs over to the home of Professor Gazebo Boobowski and his daughter, Tiara. The two are the guardians of the Rings of Order, and also know the ancient art of ring smithing. Dr. Eggman, having learned of the rings, has set about to claim them himself, prompting the professor to ask Sonic to retrieve the mystical rings before the evil doctor. When explaining the evolution of the storyline years later, Chris Senn stated that the “Rings of Order” story was hastily thrown together for the specific purpose of the Red Shoe Diaries feature in Game Players, the “final” story having yet to be solidified.” As for the gameplay of Sonic Xtreme, it was meant to be fully 3D and emphasize exploration.

Many characters would have been playable such as Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, Amy and the planned princess (daughter of the professor) Tiana each with their own gameplay, camera angle, and move set. The image above shows initial tests for Knuckles’ gameplay. New moves such as Super Bounce, Ring Shield, Sonic Boom, and an attack where you could throw rings at enemies were all planned for Sonic. Although there was one prototype that got running on the Saturn, it wasn’t good enough. The game was very ambitious even having planned huge boss fights and mini games. If I could resurrect one cancelled game, it would be this one. Here is a ton of gameplay footage put together by NeoGamer if interested (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a8sgZ9qQGkw). I think it’s also worth mentioning that a Sonic RPG, which ultimately turned into a platform with RPG elements, was planned for the Saturn after Xtreme’s cancelation. This would come to be something special, but we’ll come back to that. Now back to SEGA’s history.

So the Saturn flopped and fans became even more angry when they found out that SEGA promised that Saturn “wasn’t their future.” This also interested third parties who would cancel any Saturn game they had in mind. SEGA needed to come back with a bang and a 3D Sonic game, and this time America and Japan did it together. It all started with what was at the time a dream; the first 128 bit system to hit the market.

The Dreamcast released in 1998 in Japan and 1999 in America to critical success. The graphics were outstanding for the time and that secondly planned Sonic game was the key to their success. They ended up completely restarting progress on the Saturn game (some of which’s remnants are shown in Sonic Jam) and targeted release for the Dreamcast. This gave us Sonic Adventure which was a huge success. The Dreamcast seemed like the saving SEGA needed until…

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SEGA’s worse nightmare has arrived. They were willing to deal with the Gamecube, but this seemed unmatchable even though it hadn’t even released yet. It had 128 bits and a DVD player, something which if you bought separately would cost more than the PS2 itself at the time. SEGA immediately pulled the plug on Dreamcast in 1999 after sales immensely slowed down as people would rather wait for the PS2. This is when SEGA became a third party developer. It wasn’t until the early 2010s however when quality and quantity of SEGA games dropped badly.

I will be going over three recently released or soon to be released games and analyze each one. Sonic Forces, Valkyria Chronicles 4, and Team Sonic Racing. Each one has had very obvious budget cuts and have been very low in quality compared to SEGA’s previous standards. Let’s do it!

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First up is Sonic Forces for Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. First let us get into the gameplay. Oh gosh the gameplay! This was looking to be what SEGA needed after the mediocrity of Sonic Lost World and the absolute trash that was Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric. It had a serious plot again, SEGA was returning to the boost, and believe it or not Classic Sonic returning wasn’t actually initially a bad thing. Nothing could go wrong, right? Well, SEGA decided to basically make the whole “boost to win” joke to where you could beat large portions of levels into reality. Why did they do that? Because they hired low budget developers who have no interest in Sonic and gave the game a low budget overall. What about the serious story you ask? Well, how am I supposed to take Sonic after being “tortured” for months seriously when the next time we see him in prison he is cracking jokes? Also what happened to when Tails was useful??? While I personally enjoyed the music, it definitely wasn’t orchestrated like previous titles including Sonic Generations. As for Classic Sonic, don’t even get me started on his physics and music. Not to mention the fact that they heavily advertised Shadow and Chaos even though the do not get boss fights just to lure the Adventure fans which kind of disgusts me. Overall, this was not the great game fans deserved after 6 years of waiting for a good Sonic game, instead we just got another meh game.

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What console does the game above (Valkyria Chronicles 4) look like it’s for? A.) a PS2 game, B.) a Virtua Boy game, C.) a Nintendo 64 game or D.) a Wii game? If you guessed any of the above you are wrong. This is apparently a PlayStation 4 game. Yeah… no. Sure you could give me the whole gameplay over graphics talk but this is unacceptable for 2018. Don’t even tell me this is just a stylistic choice, because it’s just SEGA cheaping out as usual. I’m pretty sure a game given a AAA budget would cost more but sell ten times more as well. In fact I put up a poll on Twitter about this and over 90% of my followers said they would rather buy a high budget $60 great Sonic game over a $40 lower budget meh Sonic game.

I’m pretty sure myself and many others would buy a AAA game from SEGA, but right now it seems like the only AAA franchise SEGA is putting out right now is Yakuza. Who even buys those games outside of Japan, do they even sell well? These are genuine questions I have. Let’s compare Valkyria Chronicles 4 to Yakuza.

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The image above is from SEGA’s most recent Yakuza game, Yakuza 6. By this image alone you can probably tell that these games are visually stunning, have a good story, and has at least decent gameplay. Could you say the same about Valkyria? Probably not. The problem is that SEGA likes to only put out one AAA game at a time, which I personally think stinks as they have so much potential for more. Don’t tell me SEGA can’t afford it if they can put $90,000,000 into the Sonic movie, it’s more of a problem of them not willing to take the risk to put big budgets on more of their games. Anyways let’s move on to Team Sonic Racing.

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Remember when SEGA would treat even Sonic spin offs as AAA titles like Sonic and the Black Knight and Sonic Riders? Well that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore with Team Sonic Racing. It is planned to have roughly twenty one courses (some of which take place in the same areas and all of which are based off previous Sonic games), the game reuses many models and use lower quality textures, the story is told through static images and text and the music is mostly based on older titles. This shows SEGA has been relying on old stages and properties too much recently and for the original content they decide to cheap out. Speaking of relying on old properties and nostalgia a lot lately…

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SEGA has been selling their classic games recently a lot between SEGA Genesis Classics, SEGA AGES, and the SEGA Genesis Mini. I’m not going to lie they are at least good ports with good extras.. for most of them. For those who do not know the SEGA Genesis Mini is being created by ATGames. They are the ones notorious for their previous SEGA Flashback consoles with terrible sound quality and bad emulation overall. However, this may actually have a happy ending. Recently SEGA announced that the SEGA Genesis Mini was delayed to 2019 in order to have a “level of quality fans expect” and “rethink the design of the device.” Do you know what I think that means? BYE BYE ATGAMES, FIIIIINNNNAALLLYYY!!! That may seem a bit excessive, but do you blame me?

Image result for sega genesis mini

Although that might not seem very important due to SEGA’s drop in quality as a whole, it reminded me of one of the best aspects of SEGA. They listen to the fans, or at least try to. They don’t bring down fan games, they don’t monetize videos for their own profit, and they are willing to listen to ideas fans may have for games or ports. I am honestly glad they listened because the ATGames hate got so bad to the point that they pulled down their Tweet. While I may be wrong about ATGames being booted, I think it’s only probable at this point. Again, THANK YOU SEGA.

What did you think of SEGA and everything that has happened? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter. I hope you liked this one as it involved me restarting due to save issues and 7+ hours of work overall, but be honest on what you think. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time!

2 Replies to “Come on SEGA, step it up! (SEGA’s downfall, rise and current state + the development of Sonic Xtreme)”

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