Special: Sega's entire 2002 Xbox line-up is right here in one place. Now, who do ya love?
Yes, Sega, is there a better videogame company out there? Financially they've seen better days, and will again, but on a developmental level it is my opinion that no company can match them quality title for quality title over the past few years. Especially when it comes to originality and fun factor. But then again, when a company has a motto like ?Innovation is our life blood?, what else would you expect? And each and every one of Sega's 11 subsidiaries delivers amazing games, time and time again. This of course is why Sega is one of the most important ?factors? in the latest round of console wars. You know the one, with Microsoft's Xbox, Sony's Playstation 2, and Nintendo's Gamecube. Yeah, I thought so. So far Sega has graced our big black box with 4 triple A titles in Jet Set Radio Future, Gunvalkyrie, NFL 2K2, and NBA 2K2. And believe it or not, throughout the rest of the year it's only going to get better, much better in fact. Which is why today I'm going to take a look at Sega's remaining titles that our going to hit the Xbox in 2002. So, for all you Xbox fans and hardcore Sega gamers -- on your marks, get set, drool!
Factor One: The Summer Line-up
Sega GT 2002 ? Wow Entertainment, 6/15/2002
This summer Sega will be making their second attempt to dethrone Sony's Gran Turismo series as the ultimate racing simulation experience. As a sequel to the Dreamcast's Sega GT, 2002 will take everything that made that racer great, and up the ante. At the moment all the details on racing modes, the number of tracks, and the full car line-up are pretty scarce, however, do expect to see a wide range of vehicles from a variety of carmakers, some top-notch gameplay, and easily the most realistic racing graphics to ever grace a console (the car models will make your jaw literally drop). Racing purists should be taking notice, and Gran Turismo, your days just might be numbered.
The House of the Dead 3 ? Wow Entertainment, 6/15/2002 Wow Entertainment's second Xbox title will be the third installment to their arcade smash hit House of the Dead series. If you never got the change to try the games out, the concept here is simple ? take a light-gun and shoot freaky hordes of zombies while trying to stay alive. Up until recently the game was set to take on that stylish cel-shaded look that has become so popular since the release of Jet Grind Radio. But featured in the latest issue of the Official Xbox Magazine there is a supposed HotD3 pic that is cel-less so to speak, and looking incredibly realistic. While no official announcements have been made, the chances of seeing House of the Dead 3 in cel-shaded form might be looking less and less likely, which probably has to do with the fans' disapproval of it (take notes Nintendo). Another question that comes to mind is ? will a light-gun be available? Look for all the answers to these question and more to be revealed at E3, and in the mean time get that trigger finger ready? maybe.
Crazy Taxi 3: High Roller ? Hitmaker, 7/23/2002
Hitmaker will finally be making their debut on the Xbox this summer, and it appears as if it's going to be a wild and ?craaaaazzzzy? experience. That's right ladies and gents, the recently unveiled Crazy Taxi 3 is a coming! Like Crazy Taxi and Crazy Taxi 2 before it, CT3 will put you into a decked out taxi cab and let you race around a huge city where your goal will be to pick up passengers and take them to their destinations as you drive as crazy as humanly possible. As in the first sequel you will be given 4 brand new crazy taxi drivers to choose from (Angel, Zax, Bixbite, and Mrs. Venus), you'll have the ability to pick up multiple passengers at once, and you'll have a few new crazy abilities as well, not to mention the return of your old favorites like the Crazy Hop. The environment has also changed, going from San Francisco to New York to now the gambling capital of the world, Las Vegas (no word yet on prostitute passengers). And as you'd guess, the game is looking better than ever, with expansive environments, cool effects (like flames shooting out of the tires), and an overall more realistic interpretation of actually driving around in a real city. If you're looking high octane, white-knuckled fun, Crazy Taxi 3 will most definitely have you covered. This king is back baby!
Factor Two: The Fall Line-up
Toejam & Earl 3: All Funked Up ? TJ & E Productions, September 2002
Toejam & Earl 3 is a game that has seemed to bounce around from console to console over the past couple years. That is till recently when it was officially announced as an Xbox exclusive title, which will hopefully be it's final home. That hip-hoppity duo from planet Funkontron will finally be making their return to the videogame scene after a 10-year hiatus. And I don't know about everyone else, but I'm going to be glad to see them back in action. In taking more inspiration from the first installment than the side-scrolling sequel, TJ&E 3 will play much the same way, but in a luscious 3-D environment. Taking on the role as Toejam, Earl, or newbie Latisha, your goal will be to recover the 12 sacred albums of funk that have been stolen from the Great Funkopotamous. The adventure title will include randomly generated levels, power ups galore, and a whole slew of wacky enemies to dispose of. And as in the original, you can go at it alone or in an incredibly fun co-op mode where the screen splits in half as each of you venture off in different directions. Fans of the original know this game has the potential to be one amazing game. I can't wait!
Shenmue 2 ? AM2, Q4 2002
Love it or hate it, no one can deny the power of AM2's Dreamcast classic, Shenmue. And yet, with the unfortunately cancellation of Shenmue II in the U.S. last year, Sega has left Shenmue fans hanging for well over a year now. Unless of course you decided to go the import route like myself. And let me tell you, Shenmue II is one amazing game that features vast improvements over the original ? it's much bigger, more exciting, and flows a long much quicker than the first. The scary part is that the game is only going to get better in it's Xbox incarnation. Major plans include rehauling the entire graphics engine to take full advantage of the Xbox (hello consistent framerate and hi-res textures) and, as in the first, add English voice work throughout. Shenmue II is most certainly a hit in the making, and it's only on Xbox.
Phantasy Star Online ? Sonic Team, Q4 2002
Originally only planned for the Gamecube, Sega announced at last year's Tokyo Game Show that the game will also hit the Xbox. Phantasty Star Online is Sonic Team's version of a MMORPG (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game). Unlike PC MMORPGs, PSO is a much simpler game that lets up to four players from across the globe fight aside one another in one of six different, monster filled locations. The game sports a fairly simple combat system and is rather repetitive, but coming from personal experience, let me tell you that it is one of the most addictive games ever made. Leveling up, searching for rare weapons, and conversing with your fellow mates just never gets boring. As of now no details are available on any Xbox extras, so expect something very similar to the Gamecube's version, both in terms of visuals and features. So more than likely those of you who can't afford a broadband connection or don't have access to the service will be able to play with friends in a four-player split-screen mode. All in all, though, we really can't complain. Look for it late this year when the Xbox Live online network is in full swing.
Panzer Dragoon Next ? Smilebit, Q4 2002
Out of all the games coming out this year, Sega or not, Panzer Dragoon Next (final name yet to be announced) is definitely my most anticipated game of 2002, and I have yet to even see so much as a screenshot! Yes, I'm a slave to Team Andromeda's classic Saturn series and I proudly own all three installments (yup, even the infamous Panzer Dragoon Saga). Unfortunately Team Andromeda split up in late '98 and aren't around to create the fourth venture. But that's where Sega's up and coming star, Smilebit, steps into the mix. Smilebit, along with a few ex-Andromeda members, have been given the developmental duties on what is being described as a nice mixture of the first two versions' shooter gameplay, along with a few RPG elements that made Saga so great. Not much is really known about the title except for the fact that it's been in development for well over a year and Smilebit keeps promising ?something great?. Oh? and there's also that pesky rumor that online play will be available in some form or another. I have no doubts that Panzer Dragoon Next will be an excellent title and will carry on the Panzer Dragoon legacy with much success, and with an official European release set for October 2002, the chances are really good that we'll see the game in the U.S. this year. In the mean time, expect the game to make its groundbreaking debut at E3 in May.
Factor Three: Sega Sports
World Series Baseball ? Blue Shift, 5/21/2002
After Visual Concepts' lackluster World Series Baseball titles, 2K1 and 2K2, for the Dreamcast, they seemed to have passed the torch on to Blue Shift, as VC will only be covering the production work. Simply entitled World Series Baseball, this Xbox exclusive baseball simulation is looking to be what video game playing hardball fans have been waiting for. The team is using the same engine found in WSB 2K2 and refining it to make the best baseball game out there. One of the most noticeable improvements includes a fully realized franchise mode where you not only pick your players, but also your management team, who even have ratings on how well they coach. In addition, look for WSB's visuals to out shine anything the competition has to offer. I mean, WSB is being developed from the ground up to take advantage of the system's strengths, where Triple Play 2003 and All-Star Baseball 2003 are, in essence, just PS2 ports. WSB definitely has the potential to be the best baseball game ever made, and it'll be on the gaming shelves in just under a month.
The 2K3 Series ? Visual Concepts, Fall 2002
This will mark the fourth year that Sega Sports will be coming out swinging with the fabled 2K series. Most noticeably, the NBA and NFL portions of it, which has time and time again proved to be the best playing games in their respective sport. With the launch of both titles this fall (yes, we don't have to wait till after the football season to get NFL 2K3 this year), there are some obvious enhancements that you should come to expect --updated rosters, improved visuals and commentary, tweaked gameplay? the works. Since the games are a little ways off, one can only speculate on other improvements. Although, since WSB is getting a much needed franchise mode enhancement, I'd also expect the same for NFL and NBA 2K3. Compared to Madden, the NFL 2K series have always lacked in the franchise mode, so it'll certainly be a welcome addition. There's also a 99% chance that each title will support fully realized online play through a broadband connection! If that doesn't excite you, nothing will. And don't forget about Microsoft's pimp daddy peripheral, The Voice Communicator. Looking to trash talk with your buds from clear across the U.S.? It will be possible my friends, just you wait and see. Look for NFL 2K3 to launch this August, with NBA 2K3 following a few months later. Oh, and for you college football fans, NCAA Football 2K3 will also be available.
Factor Four: The Remakes
Unknown Titles -- Coolnet Entertainment, TBA
What will come of the recently announced joint venture between Sega and Coolnet Entertainment to bring classic Genesis, Saturn, and Dreamcast over to the Xbox is still unknown. It is not even known if they will leave the Japanese territory and make their way to the states. Reportedly, there are 4 mystery games currently in the works, with many more planned to follow. While there aren't any major facts available at the moment, what we do have is loads of potential. One can only dream of what will come of this. Who wouldn't love to see games like the impossible to find Panzer Dragoon Saga, a whole collection of all the classic 2-D Sonics (like in Sonic Jam), or even all 3 scenarios of Shining Force 3 make their way to the Xbox in some sort of enhanced form? Yes, I know this is some exciting stuff, and the four titles currently in development are scheduled to be announced sometime in May. In the mean time, think of the possibilities.
Sega's transition from unsuccessful hardware mogul to 3rd party developer has certainly been a smooth one. And by just looking at this line-up it wouldn't be hard to predict Sega topping EA as the number money making 3rd party developer around. There's something for everyone ? sports, adventure, arcade, racing, role-playing, and old school remakes, many of which are going to support online play. You may have noticed that every game featured here is in fact a sequel to an already established franchise, is this a sign of Sega getting lazy? Very doubtful, as titles like Gunvalkyrie and REZ prove Sega is still the most creative driving force in gaming today. And thankfully the Xbox is certainly getting the most loving from the big blue company. With the exception of the 2K3 sports line-up and Phantasy Star Online, everything here will be exclusive to the Box. Maybe it has to do with the fact that Sega has always been the underdog in the console wars, much in the same way Microsoft is now, or maybe they just believe in the more powerful hardware and feel it can go the distance. Whatever the reason, Xbox owners should be proud to have Sega as such a strong supporter, and the rest of 2002's line-up proves that there are great times ahead.