The SEGA Dreamcast is the last console which inspired an actual emotional attachment in me. In the decade since its demise, I have taken every chance to praise the machine, sing hallelujah for such innovative games like Jet Grind Radio and Samba de Amigo, and tsk-tsk gamers that didn't plunk down $199 on September 9, 1999.
And so I consider it something of a backwards achievement that SEGA's new Dreamcast Collection for the Xbox 360 inspired moments of doubt in my romanticism. This four-game compilation is nothing short of a severe disappointment. Not only is it a bad deal (more on that soon), but two of the selected titles – Sonic Adventure and Space Channel 5 Part 2 – are just not indicative of the Dreamcast legacy.
After attempting to play the sloppy Sonic Adventure, a mess of horrible camera angles and unintuitive level design, I struggle to reconcile with my original circa-1999 admiration. This is simply not a fun game, especially when viewed through a decade-old prism. The controls are awful. Mercifully, many of Sonic's action-heavy sequences require little more than pressing up on the stick. Some boss battles are outright broken, with one Dr. Eggman battle breezily beat by using a homing attack and then allowing a glitch to loop the strike until the evil doctor's ship went kaput.
These bugaboos are small potatoes, though, compared to the decision to not only break Sonic's 32-bit comeback into disconnected stages (the city hub is garbage), but also dilute the adventure with a terrible supporting cast that includes much-maligned third-stringers like Big the Cat and Amy Rose. Time spent with several of these so-called heroes is time wasted.
Crazy Taxi also appears on the disc. This was a gonzo arcade romp and one of my favorite Dreamcast games. Sadly, though I still had a little fun blasting through the streets, egged on by a bargain-basement Wolfman Jack, Crazy Taxi has not aged well. The pinball-like driving is tough to regress to after a decade of real racing innovation.
There is still charm in the frenzied pick up-drop off rhythm of Crazy Taxi, but any hardcore fan knows it's linked in no small part to the ridiculous soundtrack from The Offspring and Bad Religion. Neither of those bands appear in this port. It's weird to think that losing some licensed music could be so fatal, but part of Crazy Tazi's original genius was the perfect marriage between Offspring and insane cab driving. The stand-in punk bands are hardly an acceptable substitute and proceed to deflate the game.
Space Channel 5 was SEGA at its bizarro best. Starring groovy chick Ulala, you matched dance moves with goofball space aliens to free innocent bystanders and out-shimmy Pudding, your rival space reporter. It was dazzlingly weird and sported a swingin' soundtrack – I still listen to "Mexican Flyer" from time to time. Sadly, this Space Channel 5 is not in the Dreamcast Collection. Instead, the sequel is included, which amps up the challenge (and tentacle appearances), but also tries to out-weird the original and fails. Whereas the first Space Channel 5 was that cool accidental weirdness, Part 2 feels forced at every turn. At least Michael Jackson shows up.
The biggest surprise in the Dreamcast Collection comes from the game I expected to like the least: SEGA Bass Fishing. Now, I loved it on the Dreamcast. The fishing controller was sweet and really did replicate the arcade experience. But playing on the Xbox 360 wasn't the failure I dreaded. Reeling in fish with the right analog stick worked exceptionally well and so I was able to get right back in the rhythm of casting lines, pulling in big fish, and giggling at the silly voice work. Even a decade later, I still cannot help but smile when the game calls out "Feeeesh!" This will be the only game in the Dreamcast Collection I return to in the future.
Now, can you believe only these four games make up the Dreamcast Collection? Two of them – Sonic Adventure and Crazy Taxi – are already available for download on Xbox Live Arcade, so if you have either of them, this is even less of a good investment. I could overlook some of that if SEGA packed the disc with genuine classics. But it went cheap on us and did the bare minimum. There isn't even a single historical goodie in here! Dreamcast fans deserve better and so do gamers that missed the console's original lifecycle but haven't stopped hearing about how awesome it was from people like me.