Happy September 9th, everyone! The 9/9 date has long been associated with important launches in the games industry (including 9/9/95 for the PS1), but perhaps the most famous was 9/9/99, a memorable date made even more noteworthy by the launch of the Sega Dreamcast.
A tiny machine with a lot of punch, the Dreamcast stunned audiences with its arcade-quality ports (such as Crazy Taxi), dizzying new titles (such as Sonic Adventure or Jet Grind Radio) and jaw-dropping visuals (such as Soul Calibur or NFL 2K). And when it came to Capcom titles, Dreamcast had an envious lineup loaded with classic franchises and inventive exclusives.
There are many amazing Capcom games for the ol’ Dreamcast, but today I asked GregaMan to help me write up some thoughts on a few of our personal favorites. This is by no means a “best of,” just musings on classic titles that, like the Dreamcast itself, left their mark on our consciousness.
Marvel vs Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes
As someone with countless Marvel figures choking his desk to death, the Marvel/Capcom team-ups over the years have really tickled me. And never in a competitive fighting sense, rather in a “wow, I cannot believe this is actually happening” way that fused two things I loved – but had no particular reason to be aligned – into one cacophonic kaleidoscope.
While I did experience this in arcades as a teenager, having MvC1 in my college home was a mind-blowing experience. I’d heard tales the of arcade-perfect X-Men vs Street Fighter for the Saturn (via the extra cart, of course), but now I could experience a blisteringly fast port of a cutting-edge arcade game without an asterisk next to the description. This was a sign not only of a powerful new console generation, but also a back-of-your-mind worry that arcades’ days must be numbered if our homes are just as entertaining (and ultimately cheaper) than the dimly lit, fistfight-prone hallways of the local game hole.
It’s 2000. SNK’s King of the Monsters is pretty long in the tooth and Destroy All Monsters Melee is still years away. If you wanted a great looking, button-mash friendly fighting game loaded with giant robots and destructible environments, you had to turn to Tech Romancer. And boy, the hours I spent shouting at the TV, passing the controller around the room and reveling in this homage to everything I loved about anime, robots, mechs and kaiju.
I haven’t touched this since the early 2000s, and frankly am not even sure it’s withstood the test of time, but for the purposes of rose-colored naval-gazing Tech Romancer was the perfect game for kids of the 80s who never got to act out their Ultraman fantasies. Well, except for that SNES Ultraman game, but uh…
Anyway, let’s hear from Greg!
The Dreamcast was something of a hotbed for faithfully ported arcade shoot-‘em-ups. When it comes to arcades, Capcom is more known for fighting games than shmups, but we did contribute to the scene by porting over Mars Matrix, originally developed by Takumi (also known for Giga Wing). The game is certifiably within the realm of the “bullet hell” subgenre , and features prerendered sprite graphics and a rare horizontal screen orientation (arcade shmups are typically vertically oriented and must be altered or awkwardly letterboxed when ported to home console).
The game doesn’t really have a gimmick like most shmups (“It’s a shmup, but you’re a ninja!”; “It’s a shmup, but you can slow down time!”); it’s just a fun, frantic, meat-’n-potatoes kind of experience for people who just want to blow things up and dodge bullets for awhile. Pairs well with pizza!
On a machine whose primary draw was arcadey Japanese games, somehow Cannon Spike—which was thoroughly both arcadey and Japanese—passed under most Dreamcast owners’ radar. Even more mysterious, the game had kind of an all-star cast of beloved Capcom characters: Mega Man, Arthur, Cammy, B.B. Hood, Charlie from Street Fighter Alpha, and of course, Three Wonders’ Shiba Shintaro. You know a console’s on its way out when even Shiba can’t pull in the preorders.
In all seriousness though, Cannon Spike was everything you’d want in a Dreamcast game: a frantic, challenging arcade coop experience with crazy bosses, translucent, polygonal explosions, and the artistic stylin’s of legendary Capcom artist Kinu Nishimura.
Unfortunately the obscurity of this title has led to some pretty severe inflation, and a genuine copy of the Dreamcast version will take a pretty hearty bite out of your paycheck. Just look at this eBay listing.
Oh yeah, and it’s a multi-directional shooter.
Plasma Sword: Nightmare of Bilstein
Back in college (when the Dreamcast was already a thing of the past, for those trying to date me (which, by the way, I’m spoken for (tee-hee))), my friend had a Dreamcast and a bunch of fighting games. He wasn’t a particularly avid gamer, but he just had a talent for fighting games, and he would beat me in every single round of every single game, except for one: Plasma Sword: Nightmare of Bilstein. I can’t explain the science behind it, but something about this game and this game alone spoke to me and did not speak to my prodigiously fighting game-inclined friend. It was a complete table-turner. I would beat him consistently in every round, whether I was playing as Hayato, Black Hayato, or that guy with the plasma yo-yos. Also, this game had plasma yo-yos.
Like most great Dreamcast games, Plasma Sword began life as an arcade game, and was actually the sequel to Capcom’s very first 3D arcade fighter, Star Gladiator. It featured a 23-character roster (most characters had a “bizarro” version with swapped colors and different moves) and a frenetic, dark sci-fi tone that I still think is really energizing and unique.
I recommend this game to anyone who routinely loses at fighting games and wants to win for a change, but is comfortable with never knowing how or why.
So! What’re your favorite Capcom DC titles? We didn’t even touch things like SFIII, Code: Veronica, CvS or MvC2, all of which are slam-dunk pics for favorite games of all time.
Man. 15 years. Even at the time there was something special about this system, and all these years later it still has some kind of hold on so many of us. It’s sort of the last console before consoles started doing other things, whether it was play DVDs, stream video or whatever. Sure Saturn and PS1 played music CDs, but it wasn’t a system-selling feature… PS2 onward consoles were expected to do “more,” while DC (and in a different way, GameCube) dug its heels in and said “hey, I play games. And that’s enough.”
Not to say today’s machines are lesser in any way – I spend just as time watching Hulu, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Twitch etc as I do playing games, but there’s just something extra sad / happy / sad again / happy again about the Dreamcast, its demise and the direction of gaming since 1999.
Whadda ride it’s been! Hopefully we’ll be writing “PS4/XB1 15 years later” stories in 2028… although I’ll be 47 years old and don’t even want to think about it.