Review: Dreamcast Collection (Xbox 360)

Dreamcast Collection
Publisher: Sega
Developer: Sega
Genre: Compilation
Release Date: 02/22/2011

I think a lot of Dreamcast fans were pretty stoked to hear that Sega would be releasing a game titled Dreamcast Collection for the Xbox 360. Despite its short lifespan, the Dreamcast managed to introduce a number of stellar titles as well as several features that are pretty standard in today’s consoles. The console maintains its cult status to this day, and a few indie developers even continue to make games for it. So what better way to not only appeal to dedicated Dreamcast fans, but perhaps even snatch up a few new ones along the way, am I right?

That said, a compilation for a particular game system is only as good as the games you put on it. Since the Dreamcast is just slightly older than the Playstation 2, there’s a limit to how many of these games you can put on the disc (this is no Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection, in other words). Sega managed to fit four different titles in this compilation, which isn’t too shabby when you consider that these games are just a little over a decade old. These include: Sonic Adventure, Crazy Taxi, Space Channel 5: Part 2, and Sega Bass Fishing. Just how well do these games stand up today?

Let’s Review

Story/Modes
I’ll just tell you flat out that if you purchased this package looking for a compelling narrative, you won’t find it here. Crazy Taxi and Sega Bass Fishing have no real plot, and the stories found in Sonic Adventure and Space Channel 5: Part 2 aren’t really meant to be taken seriously, acting merely as a justification for getting from point A to point B, if you will.

For the curious, Sonic Adventure uses another classic “stop Dr. Eggman from using the Chaos Emeralds for nefarious schemes” plot device, and the scheme this time is to use them to revive the power of the legendary being, also called Chaos. The game divides the plot between six different characters. You start out as Sonic, but as you progress through Sonic’s story, you’ll be able to unlock series vets Tails, Knuckles, and Amy, as well as characters that are introduced in this game, E-102 Gamma and Big the Cat. By playing as each character you get to see the story from their viewpoint, which is kinda cool in a way. However, this is where I think character saturation begins in the Sonic franchise (I don’t count Knuckles Chaotix because seriously, how many people owned a 32X?). The whole point of the series is to run through each level at blazing speeds, occasionally stopping to navigate some platforming sections, and these new characters’ stories have such different gameplay that it doesn’t even feel like a cohesive package. Even though all of the stories intertwine at some point, the relevance of some of them are a bit of a stretch (see: Big the Cat), leaving you with the feeling that most of it just serves as filler. It’s serviceable, but not compelling.

Space Channel 5: Part 2 is the video game version of a musical. This isn’t to say that musicals have poor stories, but when your primary method of combat is a dance off, the sense of realism isn’t there. It’s still entertaining for what it is, and luckily you don’t have to have played the original in order to understand what’s going on. You play as Ulala, a reporter sent in to investigate a group called the Rhythm Rogues, who have kidnapped thousands of innocents and forced them to dance. Your own dance moves and occasionally your blaster are the key to fighting them off and rescuing everybody. Throughout the game you’ll gain the aid of the citizens you rescue, as well as some of your rival reporters. Even a well known celebrity lends a hand (hint: he’s a “smooth criminal.”) Again, the plot is entertaining, but nothing that will make you weep tears or anything.

Each of the titles in the package have multiple modes of play, so at least there is some variety within each game. Sonic Adventure, like I mentioned, has multiple characters that cover such a wide spectrum of gameplay styles that it almost seems like a new game with each one, in addition to such modes as Trial and Mission. Crazy Taxi and Sega Bass Fishing each have both an Arcade and Original mode to them, in addition to some other odds and ends (like Crazy Taxi‘s Crazy Box). Space Channel 5: Part 2 gives you the Story mode in addition to a two player co-op and Ulala’s Dance Mode which is basically a 100 round stage to see how far you can make it without making a mistake.

In short, even though there isn’t much plot to go around, at least there are a variety of ways to play each game. Even if they don’t vary wildly from one to the next.

Story/Modes Rating: Decent

Graphics
For being games that are over a decade old, the titles on Dreamcast Collection don’t look too shabby. Part of that, of course, has to do with the fact that they aren’t emulated ports either, as each one has gone through the HD filter. They still don’t look as good as other Xbox 360 games or even Xbox Live Arcade games, but they are not the eyesores I was expecting. Crazy Taxi and Space Channel 5: Part 2 have a very cartoony and exaggerated style to begin with, so it probably won’t even cross your mind how old these games are. That, and they both require a level of focus that distracts you from taking in any of the visuals anyway. It’s probably a good thing then, since upon closer inspection, even though the backdrops are perfectly acceptable, the character models are rather archaic and devoid of any detail up close.

Sega Bass Fishing is pretty bland, but that has more to do with the subject matter than the engine itself. You spend most of your time looking at the bottom of a lake, how good could it possibly be, right? There will be the occasional shack, forest of trees on the shore, and even ancient ruins (wait, what?) that try to add some much needed atmosphere to each of the locales, but there are no impressive water effects that we’ve been used to for so many years, and this is a game that really needed them. Instead, you’ve got fish, sand, and underwater vegetation against a blue backdrop which is just as unexciting as it sounds.

Sonic Adventure was probably the one that bothered me the most, given the fact that they couldn’t figure out a way to stretch the game out to fit the entire screen (even though they advertise it can on their site). It’s the only one on this collection that has this problem, and so you have to play through the entire title with these irritating blue bars going down the left and right sides. I mean, I understand that it might not look as good to stretch the image, but couldn’t I at least be given the option like in Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection? Even without that detail, the character models are nothing to get excited about. At least the stages are rather varied for the most part, though the textures are pretty ugly when you’re not running fast through each of the stages. You’ll have a lot of time to stop and smell the roses too if you are not playing as Sonic or Tails.

Graphics Rating: Mediocre

Sounds
This is going to be a tough score for me to give, because this section is all over the board. Ultimately though, Space Channel 5: Part 2 is the only game that is able to use its soundtrack and voiceovers to its advantage because it is basically what makes or breaks the game, really. That said, even though the dialogue is very exaggerated in its delivery, and intentionally so, it actually contributes to the style and fun of the game. The music is also very catchy, until you are forced to repeat sections of the game for failing out. One game can’t carry the whole package, though, and the rest of the titles are a mess.

Let’s start with Sega Bass Fishing. Generally, fishing is a relaxing pastime that is done while everything is quiet, or chatting with buddies, or what have you. Instead, you have an announcer that’s constantly shouting things at you in an attempt to make what you’re doing more exciting and arcade-like. While I applaud Sega’s attempt to make fishing more exciting to play in video game form (as I normally wouldn’t otherwise), this game makes me want to punch the announcer in the face. Every time you get a bite he shouts “FISH!” and then proceeds to tell you what to do like he was sitting on the boat with you treating you like an amateur. Meanwhile, you have this really intense music blasting in the background as you’re trying to reel the fish in. It’s as if failing to capture that bass was going to cause the boat to blow up or something. It kept me awake during an otherwise boring game though, so there’s that I guess.

Crazy Taxi‘s soundtrack isn’t actually too bad, it just gets really repetitive during lengthy sessions with the game. It should be noted that the likes of Offspring and other bands from the Dreamcast original are nowhere to be found here. Perhaps they couldn’t obtain the rights? Anyways, all this pales in comparison to the way too enthusiastic announcer though. This guy was a hoot and a riot when this game first came out on the Dreamcast. Now he just seems like an old man trying to relive his frat boy years when everyone else has moved on. If you’ve never heard it before, he sounds like a maniacal radio announcer trying to make everything he says sound cool by adding the word “crazy” to every sentence. I think Sega is crazy for thinking I want to listen to this guy every time I play.

And finally, we have Sonic Adventure. I think this is another classic case of how nostalgia doesn’t allow us to remember how bad the voice acting really was back then. Not only is the script awful, but every line is delivered in such an awkwardly stilted manner that it’s a wonder how any of us still wanted voice acting in our games after hearing something like this. What’s sad is even though I played the Dreamcast original, I don’t remember the dialogue being this bad! And don’t get me started on the vocal tracks that play when certain characters make an appearance. At least the regular stage music is pretty good, and the sound effects are all the classic ones you’ve become accustomed to over the years.

Sound Rating: Poor

Control/Gameplay
What’s nice about adapting Dreamcast games to the Xbox 360 is that the layout of the controller is fairly similar. Because of this, if you played these games on the Dreamcast, you’ll be able to grasp the controls rather easily. The exception of course being Sega Bass Fishing which was originally released with a fishing rod peripheral. Sorry, fans. This controller was not recreated for this release.

This simple fact alone makes this game’s inclusion all the more baffling. I’ll just say right now that I never touched the original release. I don’t care for playing fishing games in general for the same reason I don’t play sports games, which is if I cared enough to play a simulated version I would just go do the real thing. But wouldn’t the main gimmick of the game being able to re-enact the experience of fishing using this peripheral controller? Because without it, you have a bland experience that tries its hardest to give the whole thing an arcade coat of paint. In other words, if you’re not a fan of the genre, this title won’t turn you.

When you begin a round of play, you have a choose a lure depending how close to the surface of the water you want it to be and how difficult it is to use. Some are better for deep water, some need to be constantly reeled in to be effective, and the list goes on. You even have the opportunity to unlock more as you play the game. Once your lure and locale are chosen (though you’re always standing on the back of a boat facing a coastline), it’s time to cast. From there, it’s just a matter of jerking the lure around depending on which one you’re using and hope you get a bite. When a fish takes the bait, you have to reel them in and each button controls a different speed for this. However, reel too fast and the line may break, too slow and the fish will get away. You can also use the thumbstick to aim your rod in different directions, which the announcer will make apparent to you by shouting “LOWER YOUR ROD!” Success nets you more time on the clock and depending on the weight of the fish, you’ll be able to progress (depending on which mode you are playing). As I mentioned above, it was an underwhelming experience that makes me feel like Sega wanted to put a filler title on the disc rather than use an actual good game that could be saved for a potential future collection.

Crazy Taxi has you driving around the city picking up people who apparently have places to go and are willing to risk their lives to get there. The color of the circle around them will determine how far they need to go and the amount of time it takes you to get them to their destination affects your pay. A successful drop off will add more time to your clock allowing you to keep going. When you run out of time, it’s game over and you are awarded a letter grade according to your performance. It’s a simple premise, and an effective one at that, especially if you’ve never played it before.

This is the same version of Sonic Adventure that was released in downloadable format last fall. So if you haven’t already, check out D.J. Tatsujin’s review of the Xbox Live Arcade version or Aaron Sirois’s breakdown of the PSN version. Like them, I also feel that time has not been so kind to Sonic’s first 3D outing and while it may have been a blast when it first came out, there are far too many glaring flaws to recommend this game to anyone but diehard fans. Between the awful camera and the filler segments that involve other characters (problems that have continued to plague the franchise following this game’s release), I had to force myself to continue playing this game, which is a shame, because I have fond memories of this title. While it does still have some enjoyable segments, I would much rather embark on one of Sonic’s 2D outings over this one any day.

Space Channel 5: Part 2, like Crazy Taxi, also has a simple premise that has held up surprisingly well. Combining a loose narrative with the rhythm genre, you fight off bad guys using your dance moves. In order to dance, you must use the up, down, left and right functions of the thumbstick or D-pad as well as the buttons assigned to “Chu”, which zaps them with your laser gun and “Hey” which rescues a civilian to dance by your side. Ulala’s enemies will call out whatever buttons they are using and when it is your turn, you must do the same moves in the same order with the same rhythm. It’s basically like a musical version of Simon Says. You have a number that measures your performance on the bottom right corner of the screen and your overall score at the end is determined by this number. You are also given a number of hearts or stars that determine how many mistakes you can make before you have to reload your last checkpoint.

The most glaring flaw with the game that I uncovered almost immediately is how virtually unplayable it is with the default controls. For some reason, the Xbox controller was unable to register the up, down, left, or right motions on either the D-pad or the thumbstick. It was a total crapshoot, and the only reason I didn’t rage quit the game was due to the ability to remap the controls to the face buttons. Unfortunately, it doesn’t let you use all of the buttons on your controller for remapping purposes, so I had to double up on some of the buttons. Perhaps this is more a fault of the Xbox controller for having such an awful D-pad and sensitive thumbstick, but I find it hard to believe that this game made it beyond the testing stage without anyone picking this out.

It’s unfortunate, but Crazy Taxi and Space Channel 5: Part 2 were the only games I had any desire to play from this collection and this isn’t even the best version of these games to play. This collection is not looking good so far.

Control/Gameplay Rating: Mediocre

Replayability
The one advantage to buying a compilation disk is the fact that it should have replay value in theory. I mean, here you have four separate games, each with their own assortment of modes and ways to play. The problem is that if you only like one or two games in the package, then the value is not there, regardless of the bells and whistles they throw at you. And if you’ve played them all before (and mastered them), if they haven’t added anything to the package, it becomes even less valuable in that respect. As I mentioned before, these are not the best versions of these games, and there is nothing here that would merit owning this collection versus a different, and possibly cheaper, version of the same game.

Take Sonic Adventure for example. This was released on the Xbox Live Arcade not too long ago, so if you’ve already purchased that version, what’s the incentive to pick it up again? Let’s go one step further and talk about the Gamecube version that was released a number of years back. If you own a Wii, you can pick that up for just a few bucks and it will have all the DX content that you have to pay separate for, not to mention it will be in full screen.

While I’m on the topic of Sonic Adventure, let me just mention that even though there are multiple characters, as well as minigames and emblems to collect, it all just seems like busy work. Can you really consider it replay value if it’s not even fun to do? Same with Sega Bass Fishing. Yes, there is an arcade mode as well as an original mode that allows me to compete in tournaments as well as get into online leaderboards, but if I can’t even stand to play through it once, why would I play again?

Crazy Taxi and Space Channel 5: Part 2 are the games worth spending the most time with as they are endlessly replayable, but there are versions of these games available on other systems that may offer more value to the consumer. Crazy Taxi: Fare Wars is a PSP port of the first two Crazy Taxi games, not to mention there was also a Crazy Taxi 3: High Roller for the original Xbox and PC that reused the stages from those games as well. Space Channel 5 received a special edition on the PS2 that contained both games in the series in one package (which is the only other way to play Part 2, since it didn’t make its way to U.S. Dreamcasts when it was originally released).

While it may sound like I have beef with all four games, truth be be told, there is a quite a lot to do on this disk. As with other collections though, the amount of value you get from Dreamcast Collection will be proportional to how much you like each game. So, assuming you like them all at least a little, then you should get quite a bit of gameplay hours for your gaming dollar.

Replayability Rating: Good

Balance
Crazy Taxi is an easy game to learn, though difficult to master. I say it’s difficult, because it’s practically guaranteed that you will get a poor grade the first few times you try it (heck, I have played it before and I was still getting bad scores). However, much like Donkey Kong or Pac-Man or any other arcade style games, the more time you spend with it, the better you’ll get. The Crazy Box mode that has you doing various tasks such as jumping for distance and other oddities has its own share of challenges as well.

Space Channel 5: Part 2 I found was a pretty tough game. Some of the later missions will throw a dozen buttons at you at varying speeds that are very hard to nail perfectly without screwing up. That said, I never felt cheated while playing (aside from the control issues I later remedied by remapping buttons) and after giving the game a break I was ready to come back at it again. The two player co-op mode even lets you divide up the workload to a friend, so this can help to some degree as long as you are on the same page.

I found Sega Bass Fishing to be easy to pick up for the first time, but when it came time to try catching some of the bigger fish, I started to struggle. You are constantly working against the clock too, so on some occasions even reeling in smaller fish will work against you. It feels like no matter what you do you are fighting an uphill battle. I’m sure there is some nuanced strategy to it, but I didn’t enjoy the game enough to take the time to master it.

I know this has been said so much to the point of becoming cliché, but honestly, your biggest enemies in Sonic Adventure are going to be the camera and your patience. None of the characters’ stories are all that hard, but they are plagued with control issues. Getting all of the emblems (and with that, achievements) will require some skill if you are into that sort of thing, but if you are just concerned with seeing the credits, I guarantee that you will.

Balance Rating: Decent

Originality
Not only is this a collection of titles that were released on the Dreamcast, but all of these either have been, or will be released on Xbox Live Arcade. You’ll even notice when you play the game that this collection doesn’t have its own 1000 point Gamerscore. Instead, each game is listed on its own, like it would be if you purchased it via download. Not only that, but this is not the first iteration of these titles. As I mentioned above, Space Channel 5: Part 2 was already on the PS2, Sega Bass Fishing has shown up on the Wii, and both Sonic Adventure and Crazy Taxi have appeared on the Gamecube (though Crazy Taxi specifically has been on every console under the sun it seems like). Sadly, there aren’t any enhancements that make this package worth owning if you already have those games since it only looks marginally better graphics wise.

Originality Rating: Bad

Addictiveness
I went into this package thinking I was going to spend all of my time with Sonic Adventure, since I used to be a big fan of the franchise during the time this game was released. Instead, I ended up investing all my hours into Space Channel 5: Part 2 which is vastly different from the kinds of games I even like to play. Sonic Adventure, while fun during its initial release, is just simply not a timeless game, and as a result, I could only handle small doses of it.

As for the rest, forget Sega Bass Fishing. If you’re a fan of the genre, you might get a kick out of it, but I couldn’t stand it. I moved on once I got a good grasp of what the title was all about. Crazy Taxi is just as addictive as ever, but having played it so much in the past on various systems, I didn’t have the desire to spend many more hours with it. It’s a mixed bag all around, but like me, you’re sure to find at least one game that will occupy your time for awhile. The rest… not so much.

Addictiveness Rating: Decent

Appeal Factor
I know a lot of people who never owned a Dreamcast when it launched, but had at least a few games that they wish they were able to try. A collection like this is perfect for giving non-Dreamcast owners the chance to play gems that came from that system, and at a $30 price tag, it’s also cost effective for the consumer. But putting aside the fact that every game on here has been re-released already at one time or another, why these specific games? Sonic Adventure and Crazy Taxi were already available for download, so why offer games that potential purchasers may already own? And Sega Bass Fishing? Um, what the hell?

I know this is wishful thinking, but there are a ton of other games in the Dreamcast catalog that I would’ve chosen to include over these ones, even ones that are Sega exclusive. How awesome would it have been to get Skies of Arcadia? Or even a version of Phantasy Star Online with online access still intact? I would’ve even settled for Chu Chu Rocket.

I say scrap plans for a second volume and go right for a Saturn collection. I know there are a lot of fans that would be eager for a Panzer Dragoon bundle or Shining Force III. Make it so, Sega.

Appeal Rating: Mediocre

Miscellaneous
If there’s one thing to be said about this package, it’s the price. At a $30 MSRP, it’s half as expensive as every other new release for the system which is perfect for the price conscience gamer that would like several games in one purchase. That said, when you compare it to Sega’s other compilation for the Xbox 360, Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection, there is just no comparison. The Genesis games have aged far better as a whole and there is a lot more variety to appeal to every type of gamer. The bundle that Sega has put together for the Dreamcast Collection lacks cohesiveness and there’s bound to be at least one game that the consumer is not going to like (my money is on the fishing game). Still, it’s hard to argue with the fact you’re also technically getting four Xbox Live Arcade games for the price of three, so if you look at it from that perspective, it’s not too bad.

Overlooking the fact that the menu is incredibly generic, and the menu music utterly grating, one thing I can’t look past is how there’s no easy way to return back to the menu. When you decide to quit playing one of the games on the disk, the game dumps you back to the Xbox 360 dashboard. Then you have to reload the disk in order to get back to the menu again. I guess I can understand foregoing extras to an extent, but this is just lazy.

Miscellaneous Rating: Decent

The Scores
Story/Modes: Decent
Graphics: Mediocre
Sounds: Poor
Controls/Gameplay: Mediocre
Replayability: Good
Balance: Decent
Originality: Bad
Addictiveness: Decent
Appeal Factor: Mediocre
Miscellaneous: Decent

Final Score: Mediocre Game!

Short Attention Span Summary
While I applaud Sega’s effort to shine some spotlight on their often underrated final console, the Dreamcast Collection underwhelms in almost every way imaginable. Crazy Taxi and Space Channel 5: Part 2 still have some life left in them, but Sonic Adventure has not aged well over the past decade and Sega Bass Fishing doesn’t belong anywhere near the rest of these games. Not only is it a poor mix of titles, but they all have been re-released before and in some cases with enhancements that you won’t find in this collection. While it is a cheaper alternative to purchasing them all separately on the Xbox Live Arcade, you are better off sticking with the versions you have, be they on the Dreamcast or otherwise. As much as I love the Dreamcast, this is not the showcase collection to introduce to newcomers what the console was all about.

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