Special: Phase one: Dominate the competition.
It must be pretty nice to be Sega. After the unfortunate demise of it's Dreamcast, the announcement that the company was heading in the 3rd party direction instantly gave them media darling status as the top 3rd party in the world. Despite that tag, they still must prove themselves in this arena, and it all begins for them on Sony's PlayStation 2. Throughout the end of this year, and into 2002, Sega will unveil a multitude of original games, sequels to popular franchises, and the ever-popular series of Dreamcast ports to boot. Tack on the already released Crazy Taxi, and the soon to be released 18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker port under the Acclaim banner, and Sega has a full lineup of their excellent games for the good old PlayStation 2. Sega's goal on PS2 is clear: get those gamers who shunned their consoles to force down a nice heaping of crow.
Factor One: Sega Sports - Thanks to Dreamcast, Sega Sports (headed up by former Madden designers Visual Concepts) has been reborn after a terrible run on the Sega Saturn. The big killer, NFL 2K gave Madden serious competition for the first time since the heyday of NFL GameDay, and in many ways completely outpaced the Madden games. Problem was, they could never compete on the same turf. Not anymore. Finally, NFL 2K2 goes head to head with Madden NFL 2002, on equal ground, the PS2. Besides the NFL game, NBA 2K2 is hitting this fall, followed by Sega Sports Tennis 2K2, College Basketball 2K2, and World Series Baseball 2K3 in the spring; leading into the full Sega Sports line by fall. The goal is simple to see, but will take a lot of hard work to accomplish: Take EA Sports and knock them off the perch as the #1 multiplatform sports developer.
However, EA has arguably been producing some of the best games they've ever put out with the 2002 line; with outstanding versions of Madden, NCAA Football, and NHL 2002 being released, and NBA Live 2002 looking very good at this juncture. Of course it's possible that EA is performing like this because Sega is breathing down their necks, but competition is good anyway. Perhaps we'll see a revival of the EA vs. Sega feud from the 16-bit Genesis days, on PlayStation 2.
Factor Two: Dreamcast Ports - Some of Sega's best work was done on Dreamcast, so why not rerelease the games to other consoles to broaden the audience they deserve to have? And that's exactly what Sega is doing right now. It already started in May, with Acclaim's port of Crazy Taxi ? one of the best DC games out there. Acclaim is also handling the port of 18 Wheeler, and as long as it's as solid as the DC version was, it should turn out to be a pretty good (if not great) game for PS2 owners.
But what about the stuff coming from inside Sega? Well we know for sure that the best RPG of the last few years will see the light of day on PS2 (as well as Gamecube). That game is Skies of Arcadia. The Overworks masterpiece RPG was grossly overlooked on Dreamcast, and bringing it to the home of the most and best RPG's out there, PS2, was a no-brainer. Now, the same audience that plays Final Fantasy X can get to play SOA and realize the greatness the game exemplifies. Whether or not it's a straight port, or with a bunch of all-new stuff included is unknown, but either way, it's a game RPG fans will enjoy and may even drag them away from FFX. Now, maybe they can make Skies 2?.
Also, the poorly selling but highly original Space Channel 5, and it's sequel is coming to PS2. Despite lots of praise from numerous sources, SC5 was not a major hit, and can be found in DC bargain bins for $10-20 dollars. However if you don't own a Dreamcast, the PS2 version should be just fine. And considering the PS was home to games of similar ilk, like Parappa The Rapper and Um Jammer Lammy, placing SC5 here gives the game a good chance of appealing to the PS2 userbase. It's a little short, but the game is incredibly fun and should be given a shot.
I'm fairly sure there will be some more ports on the way, but those are the biggest. There's still a rumor that Acclaim is going to put out Zombie Revenge, and Ferrari 355 Challenge as well for the PS2. Only time will tell.
Factor Three: Brand New Sega - Of course, Sega can't survive just porting everything they made prior, or living off the Sports line; they have to offer some more good stuff as well. And they most certainly are. While not much is known as to what they have in mind in the future, we do know there is some good stuff coming.
The biggest of course is Virtua Fighter 4, Yu Suzuki's and AM2's fighting game opus. VF is perhaps the most complex fighting game out there, and VF4 should continue that tradition. Even though the game is built off Sega's Naomi 2 arcade board, the port to PS2 turned out amazing, after seeing screenshots of the game at the Tokyo Game Show. Sega's most popular franchise in Japan is the VF series, so the PS2 version, set for release there in January of 2002, should be a hot seller there, as well as here, even with the competition of Tekken 4 and Soul Calibur 2.
Also, a weird game called Rez is on it's way to PlayStation 2 sometime next year. A breed of music game and shooter (I guess so anyway), the game is highly original and quite interesting sounding. It even comes with some sort of vibrating thingy for better control. Because I'd probably lose my job at GT for making wisecracks about a vibrator-like controller, I'll just say it sounds like a unique idea that may bring Rez into the forefront, especially at finer adult shops everywhere. Whoops?
A rumor going around is Sega is also planning on porting the Xbox game Jet Set Radio Future to PS2 ? which sounds great, because the original Jet Set Radio was an underrated and overlooked classic that deserved a lot more attention than it got, unfortunately. Hopefully the sequel will hit the intended audience now and get its chance to shine, like Shenmue II will on Xbox.
Factor Four: The Rumor Mill - Ever since Sega went 3rd party, the rumors of bringing back old franchises have been at a fever pitch. Everyone wants to know if Sega is going to make a sequel to Nights, Panzer Dragoon (which will happen on Xbox), Phantasy Star (not online), Shinobi, and Shining Force, to middle of the road Sega hits like Vectorman. While Sega is keeping their plans to themselves, they must enjoy all the publicity they're receiving. Even if they don't hit PS2, the fact is people are talking about Sega again and are curious to see what greatness they pull out of their hats. Just that alone shows how important Sega support is to Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft.
Final Thoughts - It's pretty obvious to me that Sega is playing some serious hardball in the new era of gaming. Without the need to worry about hardware now, Sega can concentrate on what they do best: making great games. While not everything is coming to PlayStation 2 for the time being, what IS there will make a huge difference on the system, and give some of Sony's big supporters a run for their money. The Sega Factor is huge, and may ultimately decide who truly is the winner in this generation of gaming.