The Dreamcast Collection
Sometime in the future, some clever scientist bigwig person will put together a formula that determines the exact characteristics a video game needs before it can stand the test of time, and live its retro gaming status to the fullest. We all know how disappointing it feels to pick up a title we played and loved many years ago, and find that, by today's standards, it's actually a bit pap.
Sega's Dreamcast Collection, released for both PC and Xbox 360, could well be the perfect test subject for such a study, as it features examples from both ends of the spectrum. With four classic Dreamcast experiences on offer, all originally released around the turn of the millenium and all names that may well cause you to briefly remember the forsaken console in a good light, it sounds like an excellent deal. Bang the disc into your Xbox, however, and the smile on your face slowly transforms into a grimace.
The four games bundled aren't exactly the biggest surprises, although we can't say they'd all be our first choices: Sonic Adventure, Crazy Taxi, Space Channel 5 Part 2 and Sega Bass Fishing. Let's get the most obvious 'hurrah' out of the way first - Crazy Taxi is, and most likely always will be, a prime example of arcade gaming bliss. The way in which you can drive like an utter maniac and still make it look completely graceful is such a beautiful thing.
As with all four titles, it's a direct port of the original Dreamcast version, although there are Xbox Live global high scores and achievements thrown in for good measure. The highscore boards in particular add a dimension that this particular writer has not witnessed before, given that my Dreamcast refused to go online no matter how hard I tried. Crazy Taxi simply has one of the strongest 'just one more go' feels to it imaginable, and we're positive that we will indeed have many 'one more go's. One issue: Where is our Offspring and Bad Religion? The soundtrack made the original, and now this version has some generic screamos and emos sticking it to The Man.
Let us also briefly touch upon the initial 3D outing of the most famous hedgehog in gaming history. Everyone has an opinion about Sonic Adventure, whether it be good or bad, but twelve years later, it's pretty impossible not to see the cracks showing. This is one title that has not aged well, from the clunky controls to the terrible voice-acting to the hopeless 'open world' navigation.
Whereas Dreamcast owners used to big up the old boy's venture into the world of 3D, signalling great things for their doomed console, it's now far easier to laugh your way through this story. Every cutscene is hilarious in its own accidentally and special way, and the way Sonic will sometimes stop dead halfway around a loop before falling through the floor to his doom will always raise a firm but jokey "WTF?" All the Chao Garden stuff is even in there, and will make you feel embarrassed when you remember how much time you originally put into it.
Space Channel 5 Part 2's horribly visible polygon edges would completely put us off, were it not for how brilliantly batshit insane it still feels. From the mental cutscenes to the gameplay in general, which requires you hit A, B and directions to make Space Channel 5 reporter Ulala boogie around the place and shout random phrases, it's very Japanese and very OK with us.
If there's one thing you remember about Space Channel 5, it's the bizarre inclusion of Michael Jackson as 'Space Michael'. In this particular release, he is kidnapped by space aliens, and must perform his trademark dance moves to escape his captives. As with the rest of the game, it's as ridiculous now as it was then, and definitely worth a giggle or two.
Finally, and perhaps the oddest choice for a Dreamcast bundle, is Sega Bass Fishing. Sure, it was one of the flagship Dreamcast titles, but really, the only reason it gathered interest was the inclusion of the Sega Fishing Controller, allowing you to literally fish in your home. With no rod supplied this time around, there aren't many reasons to play this one, although that's not to say it's completely awful.
Well no, it is most definitely awful - but in a 'so bad it's good' sort of way. Animations are hilariously robotic, while the environments are laughable at best. The fishing itself is very Sega, and gives the impression that you're not just catching these fish, but wrestling and fighting with them, Hook a water beastie and the game will exclaim 'FISH!' before frantic music ups the ante and your controller starts vibrating like a bastard. You won't play for more than an hour, but it's worth experiencing if you've never done so.
The main issue with the Dreamcast Collection is not the games, though. It's the existence of the collection itself. Both Sonic Adventure and Crazy Taxi are already available to download from Xbox Live Arcade separately, while the other two will be hitting the Arcade sometime soon. The accumlative price of these downloads combined comes to roughly what you'd pay for this disc collection. Hence, you can visit the Xbox Live Marketplace and simply choose the games you actually want, and save money on the ones you don't.
There's also the point that you'll need to put the disc in every single time you play, whereas if you grab each game from the Marketplace, it sits on your hard drive and can be booted sans-disc. Hence, the Dreamcast Collection may well feature four games worth giving a go - hell, it could have the world's four greatest games on it for all we care - but given that the situation is comparable to spotting a sign in a shop window saying '5 each, or 4 for 20', it's probably best that you use your head and give it a pass.