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SEGA is a Japanese company, right? Of course they are…aren’t they? Well, you would be surprised to learn that when SEGA was started in 1940, they were actually from the other side of the pacific.

Born as “Standard Games” in Hawaii, the company would get its start the way a lot of companies did back in wartime America, by entertaining American servicemen. There was a lot of money to be made in that industry, and Standard Games wanted a piece of the pie. So much so in fact, that they changed their name to Service Games in effort to connect better with their new client base.

The coin operated electro mechanical games that they toted would become very popular to the boys in green, keeping “SE”rvice “GA”mes (or SEGA) in the black. SEGA would enter the video game market by producing games such as Frogger, Zaxxon. When the video game market crashed in the 80’s, it affected many companies including SEGA, and would lead to SEGA’s Tokyo assets being bought out by a Japanese conglomerate. Re-titled Sega Enterprises Ltd., the company would buckle down for the video game resurgence of the late 80’s and come out swinging. Sega wanted it all – Arcade as well as console dominance. Some goals would be achieved and others would prove disastrous.

The arcade was the place for new developers to shine, and SEGA built a name for itself over the years. Classics such as Altered Beast, Hang-On, OutRun, and Afterburner would lay a lot of the bricks that would become the foundation for the company’s own console launchers. Golden Axe was another popular entry at the time, and lead to the development of six subsequent games that fleshed out the series. The games were loud, colorful, and addictive – just what young audiences were looking for in their next electronic vice.

SEGA would have a few early pieces of hardware, but its first real entry into the console war was the Sega Master System. Released less than a year after Nintendo’s unbelievably successful Nintendo Entertainment System, the Master System had some tough competition. In order to combat this, Sega created the game Alex Kidd in Miracle World. The game was meant to compete with the great success Nintendo found with its Super Mario Brothers franchise. While the game’s presentation and gameplay were sound (good enough to lead to the creation of a sequel) it wasn’t until five years later, that SEGA would finally give birth to a character able to go toe-to-toe with the mushroom munching plumber.

sonic_sega.jpgSonic the Hedgehog was first introduced in 1991 on both the Sega Genesis and Sega Master System. The games reinvention of the standard platform was evident at first view. Speed was your new best friend, rings were to be collected instead of coins, and loop-de-loops were commonplace. The spiky blue smart mouthed mammal would help SEGA become a major contender in the 16-bit era of gaming, and ended up replacing the tried and true arcade smash Altered Beast as the bundle game for future Genesis consoles.

Sonic would continue his ascension to the video game mascot hall of fame in a blue streaked blur, with TV shows and plush dolls to boot. Sonic the Hedgehog 2 would be released a year later, and prove to be faster and sleeker than its predecessor. A success that would result in it becoming the best selling 16-bit cart of all time. Other games of varying quality would follow, but Sonic’s earlier adventures stand out as his best (including the excellent Sonic the Hedgehog CD for the SEGA CD).

While success in the land of hardware hasn’t favored SEGA in recent years, the company does standout as a game developer. Originality is something that has thrived in SEGA titles. Nights into Dreams, a game that revolved around two 14-year olds entering the dream worlds of Nightopia and Nightmare to battle for both the real world and it’s sleep induced parallel universe, offered new and interesting gameplay mechanics, maintaining a very artistic approach, complemented by whimsical graphics, and sensational storytelling.

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Another shinning example of originality was Shenmue, a Dreamcast title directed and produced by the talented Yu Suzuki. The game, told the first part of a layered storyline which followed the path of young martial artist named Ryo Hazuki as he vowed to avenge the murder of his father. As arguably one of the best titles the Dreamcast had to offer, it stood out with richly developed characters, brutal open ranged fistfights, and “quick time event” triggered mini-games. Sadly though, the conclusion to young Ryo’s story may never be known, as SEGA has yet to announce any continuation of the series, as it never became the huge seller the company had envisioned.

While SEGA has had a rocky history, they are a company that maintains their credibility and quality within the gaming community. They continue to churn out Arcade benchmarks in the form of the trigger yanking House of the Dead, and strategic button mashing Virtua Fighter series. Shenmue’s legacy has been maintained with the addition of new franchises, like the totally immersing bruiser, Yakuza. As a company that’s seen a World War, million dollar mergers, and staved off a possible bankruptcy, SEGA knows how to survive.

Armed with exceptional amount of industry knowledge, and a commitment to creating quality games, SEGA continues to stay the course, compass held firmly in hand.

Must Haves:
Shenmue (DC), Sega Genesis Collection (PS2), Virtua Fighter 5 (Multi), Streets of Rage 2 (XBOX Live)

Have Nots:
Sonic the Hedgehog (XBOX 360, PS3)

Top Ten Developer List: 10 | 9 | 8 | 7 | 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | 1

12 COMMENTS

  1. lol for placing SEGA on 9.
    They are the most inventive company had the first commercial 3d games out in arcades long before pc and console 3d.
    SEGA Must Haves for ps?
    RIGHT…

  2. There are lots of must haves guys. I just jotted a few down without intending it to be taken as the only “must haves”, just a sample of “must haves”. You’re right LordCancer, Panzer Dragoon was fantastic. Never played Shining Force though. I missed out on that series. How about Kid Chameleon? Remember that one?
    -James

  3. Kid Chameleon, no, did a quick search and I see it was a genesis game and I actually never had one of those. For me it went nes, gameboy, saturn… so I personally more or less skipped that generation most of my memories of the genesis were of my cousins not letting me play shining force and using me as a punching bag in street fighter and mortal kombat… seriously good times… seriously…

    Ive thought about picking one up along with a snes and some rare carts like secret of mana and the old shining force games but I haven’t done so.

    Been considering getting a wii, was pretty excited when they announced shining force for vc but I have played that one so I’m hoping for others in the series and kid chameleon is on vc too so I might check that out if I ever make the plunge.

  4. Yeah LC, picking up a Genesis and SNES would be a great idea. There are some great carts out there. Unfortunately once you close in on 10 years after a system was released you start seeing an increase in price. Nostalgia ain’t cheap, and lots of people cash in on us trying to play the classics. Take a look at Secret of Mana prices on EBAY. You’ll be in for a shock.
    -James

  5. hahaha no sticker shock here, I’m well aware of the cost of the greats I’ve payed quite a bit for some working designs games. Shame about them.

    Theres ebs and flows you can still find deals and I’m pretty good at that. I actually kind of want to get a saturn again and a copy of Last Gladiators I miss that game.

    I recently picked up Deus Ex 1 & 2 brand new sealed for under 20 bucks with shipping.

    One title I have always watched is the Panzer Dragon Saga, $300 or there abouts for a sealed copy. I find that amusing.

    I would imagine if your serious and not jumpy with your cash you could find a solid secret of mana cart for about $15 for used no box or instructions. Then you can expect to pay more for box + instructions for I’d say around $50 the sealed copies are the real challenge and Id expect to pay as much as $200 on an impulse buy but I’m sure with patience it could be found for less then $100 maybe $80 or $90 depending on circumstances.

    Ive gotten some good deals on ebay and I have rules about ebaying and I can generally get really good deals if I want something bad enough.

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