It was just announced this week that Sega is finally doing what fans have been begging for years and bringing back some of the more obscure yet deeply loved classics from the Model 2 arcade board years (roughly 1993-1996). Maybe it’s because they finally listened, or maybe it’s because Sega is hard up for cash and needs to plunge the depths of its IP library for cheap rereleases, but either way you look at it, we come out on top.
Thanks to the success of home ports of Daytona USA, and Virtual On: Oratorio Tangram, we can safely mark off the “home port want list” such classics as Virtua Fighter 2, Sega Strikers, Fighting Vipers, the original Virtual On, and Sonic the Fighters. It’s a good day for 20 year overdue home ports.
Now, assuming these classics sell well (as they well should), what other obscure arcade games could Sega dig into their archives to port to modern audiences? Let’s delve into their archive and look for some gems…
Sega Rally Championship
This one is a no-brainer. The modern sequel from Sumo Digital Sega Rally Online Arcade is already available for 800 points, so why not give fans the Sega AM3 Model 2 original? Released the same year as Daytona USA, Sega Rally was the alternative driving game of the mid-90s. It was far more popular overseas than in the US where its stock car brother dominated the arcade scene, as well as struggling in the face of competition from lesser games such as Cruisin’ USA and California Speed which were heavily promoted and distributed and required less skill than Sega’s racers, but were overall not as good as Sega’s technically impressive racing classics, which still hold up today. Sega Rally is a game that retroactively has earned a place in history as a classic a lot of people would like to play. Since Sega is unloading their archives onto the digital marketplace, this seems like a no-brainer.
Die Hard Arcade
Okay, here’s a f–ing classic of a fighting game. Sega of the 90s was the KING of arcade street brawling. Capcom had the 1-on-1 fighters down pat, and Namco was quickly taking over the 3D arena fighting genre, but Sega is where you went to spill some bare knuckle (pun intended) blood on the streets and cop games. Die Hard Arcade is the best of both. The game hit arcades running on the rather obscure Sega ST-V Titan arcade hardware, which was essentially a cartridge based Sega Saturn. Developed by Sega’s AM1 group (known as WoW Entertainment) and the US Sega Technical Institute (responsible for the production of countless Genesis classics), Die Hard Arcade has you climbing a skyscraper to save the President’s daughter from terrorists which shooting, beating, and killing as many of the bastards as you can on your way to the top. It never gets old no matter how many times you play it.
There would be a sequel titled “Dynamite Cop” released in arcades a couple of years later, which is ironic because that’s the localized name of the first game (Dynamite Deka), sans the Die Hard license. It’s ironic that Sega sought out the Die Hard license in America since the Saturn home release’s box features a random gun toting cop that looks nothing like John McClane, whereas the Japanese box for Dynamite Deka features a spitting image of Bruce Willis. Don’t believe me? Take a look.
Both games came to PS2 under the Sega Ages line in Japan (much like the Japan only PS2 version of NiGHTS on which the XBLA version is based), and would make perfect sense as a digital release two pack.
Daytona USA 2: Battle on the Edge
Here’s one of the most notorious lost home ports of the ages right here. The year is 1998… the sequel to the single largest grossing arcade title of all time has just hit the streets. The hype was massive. Even four years after its initial release, Daytona USA’s presence in arcades was dominant and massive. There has never been anything like it. The Model 3 exclusive sequel brought all that exaggerated arcade racing goodness back, prettier, faster, and even more cheesy with a full lyrical soundtrack by Takenobu Mitsuyoshi, composer of the first game and the guy who single-handedly coined the term, “Daytonaaaaaaaaa… let’s go away”. By this point, the arcade racing market was flooded to an extreme with Midway mostly being responsible for the over-saturation, but even so, Daytona 2 stood out with its brain-numbing sense of speed, otherworldly scenery, and simple Sega charm. Domed stadium race tracks with indoor waterfalls, and race tracks built inside a twisted amusement park, all while the most lovingly cheesy J-pop you’ve ever heard blares at you… it was clear that the king had returned.
Unfortunately, NASCAR’s popularity in the midwest had surged by this point, and in a clear example of pandering to the lowest common denominator, NASCAR representatives decided to transform into xenophobic assholes. Upon completion, NASCAR was incredibly unhappy with Daytona USA 2 and the way it represented their “league”. They demanded that the soundtrack be re-dubbed by an American vocalist to remove the Japanese flavor to the game (though Mitsuyoshi’s vocals are still available if you change the region setting), and shortly after release a Power Edition upgrade was pushed out by Sega. This “upgrade” (released mere months after the game had hit streets) was entirely to appease NASCAR. While adding the original Hornet to the selectable cars, the “upgrade” completely altered the visual style of the game. Gone were the indoor waterfalls and the crazier elements of the game’s Beginner track Astro Waterfall, to be replaced with a bland NASCAR oval titled Sega International Speedway, complete with tire streaks, more sponsor placement, empty sky backgrounds, and as little imagination as possible. The other two tracks suffered more subtile but equally neutered visual overhauls. This was more than dumbing it down. This was basically stripping out the game’s heart. A Dreamcast port was planned, but with the now toxic relationship between Sega and NASCAR, the deal fell through and NASCAR instead licensed their brand out to Hasbro for a line of shitty home console racing sims for PlayStation, though this didn’t stop Hasbro from sub-licensing the brand back to Sega for the Dreamcast release of the stellar Daytona USA 2001 which brought all the tracks from the original arcade title and Saturn releases (and some new content) together, but omitted any content from Daytona USA 2 for obvious reasons.
With NASCAR’s popularity now plummeting and their video game deal with Activision having fallen apart, the sports league saw fit to make a quick buck and allow Sega to reacquire the license for the first arcade perfect port of the original arcade game to XBLA last year, and it has since sold like mad. It only seems fitting to complete the circle and finally release Daytona USA 2 as well.
Technically this isn’t an arcade game, but it was meant to be. Built by Sega AM2 in 2001, Propeller Arena is a classic that was never officially released being one of the higher profile titles lost at the last second to political correctness. It was scheduled to be released on September 11, 2001. Video game + planes + buildings = Sega overreacting. Maybe they weren’t overreacting since Fox News was looking for anything and everything to blame for the tragedy of 9/11 and Sega would have been an ideal timely target, but ultimately this was Sega shooting themselves in the foot in a situation where their financial situation was less than ideal.
As for the gameplay itself, imagine Crimson Skies with less plot and more Sega style arcade action. The controls are that magical blend of simulation grounding mixed with arcade style flare. You fly, you shoot stuff, and look damn good doing it. Much like other Sega arcade titles of the period, this is a game that any Dreamcast owner would have loved to have, and indeed many found a way to acquire anyway when the disk image was leaked onto peer-to-peer sites in 2002 due to frustration of it being canceled at the last second. Surely this is a classic that Sega should rerelease for the masses on digital platforms to enjoy, especially with the current drought of solid arena flight combat titles available today. You’ll be amazed how well Propeller Arena holds up.
Insert Coin is Games Are Evil’s weekly exploration of arcade culture and classic arcade games, hosted by our own Lucas DeWoody. You can follow Lucas on Twitter here.