Top 5 Friday: Five “Core” Sega Franchises That Would Actually Work Great As Mobile Games

Given recent rumblings that Sega will be shifting most of its future game development to mobile platforms, it’s easy to see that as one of the final nails in the coffin of the Sega we all knew and loved. However, Sega could actually use the move to mobile to reinvigorate some of its more hardcore dormant franchises, and not necessarily be an exceedingly “casual” company just because its going to be a mostly mobile one.

I should note that I sort of hate mobile games, and I don’t think that swiping, tilting, tapping, and especially virtual keyboards will ever be a suitable replacement for traditional game devices and game inputs. This list is just coming from the perspective of, if Sega absolutely must go the mobile route, they can at least do it “right” and not just turn into another big game company flooding the mobile market with bastardized freemium versions of its franchises, and only its two or three biggest franchises (while ignoring most of its quirkier and non-blockbuster ones). One can hope, right?

5. Virtua Racing

Sega’s most iconic overall racing franchise is most likely Outrun, but I thought I’d take a different route in which racing game series I want them to bring to mobile. For one thing, Outrun has been active much more recently. And for another, I feel that Virtua Racing never really got a chance to shine. It came out around the same time as Virtua Fighter and announced Sega’s move towards cutting edge 3D and polygonal graphics, and both games certainly were a little more about visuals than gameplay depth. But while Virtua Fighter stepped up its game and became a serious fighting game in its next installment and continued to evolve as a series for many years after, VR never really got that chance. In fact, by the time the Saturn hit, it was already delegated to being an afterthought, with the Saturn’s so-called Virtua Racing entry not even being developed or published entirely by Sega. So it’s with all this in mind that I feel it would make for the perfect Sega racing game to bring to mobile. They have far more creative freedom to adapt the game to mobile – and its simplistic design would lend itself well to tilt or virtual button steering – the game’s clean polygonal look could be sharp and gorgeous on just about any modern device, and they could easily include all the classic tracks as well as introduce a bevy of new ones. Lastly, with no previous license to tie them down, there would be no legal wrangling in resurrecting this particular franchise. I love Outrun, Daytona, Sega GT, and Sega Rally as much as the next guy, but why not start “fresh” and bring back the unfairly forgotten Virtua Racing?

4. NiGHTS into Dreams…

Nights was essentially an automatic runner 10 years before any of us even knew what that meant. With that in mind, it would make the transition to mobile pretty easily. The game would have to be streamlined a bit, but basically you would automatically fly forward, mostly only ever having to move up or down (which could be accomplished by swipe or drag). When it comes to the maneuvers like loop-the-loops and the like, some simple swiping and drawing on the screen could handle that quite well. In fact, I think 2.5D-style platformers in general need to be much bigger than they are in the mobile space now that phones can handle simple 3D graphics fairly easily. Nights games are never terribly long, and are instead focused on replaying levels over and over, so it wouldn’t even be that difficult to fit a complete-feeling Nights game onto even a phone. And to further capitalize on that platform, they can include the A-Life features in the mobile versions, where you merge and breed the game world’s inhabitants and track their moods. You could even set it up to integrate with your phone’s notifications, and be notified when your characters needed attending to, since that type of thing seems to be such a big hit with the mobile crowd these days. But that has to just be a side-portion of a proper Nights game. Do you hear me, Sega? If you just release a game that’s all A-Life breeding and stat tracking and nothing else, I will go all Yuji Naka on you. I mean it.

3. Space Channel 5

The original Space Channel 5′s gameplay consisted entirely of the four d-pad directions and two buttons. It wouldn’t be at all hard to imagine playing a Space Channel 5 game where you swipe the directions that were called out and tapped the screen to “chu.” They could even just go ahead and make “chu” and “hey” be the same command – if it means seeing the return of Ulala, I don’t think any of us would mind that one small concession. In fact, Space Channel 5 Part 2 even had a feature that let you map all of the games commands to a single button anyway, so super-streamlined controls aren’t completely unheard of for the series. Plus, Nintendo’s somewhat similar Rhythm Heaven series has largely been played with a single button for much of its existence, and those games are a blast. I bring up Part 2 because I do love all the variety it introduced, like sometimes having guitar and drum battles instead of always just having dance-offs and laser gun battles, and I would like to see that in a new version – they would just need to keep the controls simple. So the basic command should always just be “tap the screen” whether you are told to “chu” or “hey” or strum or drum or whatever other new stuff they might – and should – come up with. The other things that they’d need to get right are the music of course, and for the Western versions you have to bring back Apollo Smile, or a damn close sound-alike. That voice is too iconic and too big a part of the game to have Ulala sound completely different. Just no Space Michael this time, okay?

2. Seaman

Right off the bat I know this will be a somewhat controversial choice due to the recent passing of Leonard Nemoy, who’s distinctive voice and delivery where such a huge part of what made the U.S. version of the original so special. But if you can look past that and get used to someone else doing the voice, I think it’s easy to see what a perfect mobile game Seaman is. It has limited interaction which would easily make the jump to mobile, with the only major obstacle being most people’s likely unwillingness to bark commands at their phone on the bus or in their doctor’s waiting room. Voice commands are a must, though, and have to be included at least for at-home play. Perhaps the game can be set up so voice commands aren’t always a necessity, and you can either just do other things when you’re in public, or switch to a system of very basic commands that you can click on that will at least get the job done in terms of feeding and caring for your pet. Seaman was always just an amped-up, TV-based Tamagotchi anyway, and virtual pets were always a largely handheld experience anyway. It would be pretty easy to see myself getting as hooked on a phone-based Seaman game as teenagers of the 90’s got hooked on their digital keychain pets. And like I suggested for Nights‘ A-Life mode, maybe even set it up so you get alerts when your Seaman needs food or whatever. He could even text you in his hilariously snarky way, which I think would be the one instance of a game texting me that wouldn’t annoy me in the least. And perhaps best of all, we could have our Seamans visit each other and interact and even breed, something that mobile tech obviously allows very easily. If this was marketed the right way, I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see our parents and grandparents being obsessed with this instead of Farmville, provided they could get past the dirty-sounding title and the creature’s creepy humanoid face. Although, maybe we could take a picture of our own face that would be mapped onto the creature, another easy feature that would capitalize on the new platform. 

1. Panzer Dragoon

The Panzer Dragoon games had us “swiping” across the screen 10 year before…wait a minute, this sounds familiar. What can I say, Sega was ahead of its time in a lot of ways and seemed to predict mobile and touchscreen gaming, and they can utilize that forward thinking to bring back PD as well. As an on-rails shooter, PD would be perfect for a mobile device as the player doesn’t have to move their avatar at all, only having to worry about locking into enemies and firing, which of course could be done with ease by simply dragging your finger across the screen and then lifting it to fire. Other mobile games have already done this, in fact, and it’s okay for PD to copy them as the games that do that were copying PD to begin with. It might be a little cramped on smaller phones, but as a tablet game it would work beautifully. I know that the PD games also let you dodge and roll a bit, which would prove a bit trickier, but my vote goes with just eliminating that feature and keeping things as simple as possible. The game would just have to be designed so that any and all potential hazards can be shot down and don’t require dodging. Otherwise, maybe a little flick or tilt of the phone could serve that purpose and may be preferred by hardcore PD vets looking to preserve as much of the game’s character and challenge as possible, and I wouldn’t be totally opposed to that either if it was functional. Either way, a Panzer Dragoon would work splendidly on a touch screen device, and if they wanted it to be a visual showpiece they could develop it for newer devices and have it be the best-looking PD yet, surpassing even Orta, the current title holder in that department. Yeah yeah, we all want another Saga, but for me personally I don’t play deep, complex, 50+ hour games on my phone. I want simple, streamlined, and fun, all of which the non-Saga games in the series have always excelled at. As a side note, I think Rez would also make for an amazing mobile game, maybe even better and more suited to the platform than PD, but Tetsuya Mizuguchi was able to take that IP with him following his departure from Sega, so it technically isn’t a Sega property anymore and therefore wouldn’t have been eligible for this list. I want that too, though, while we’re talking about it. It’s good to want things.

I kind of love United Game Artists games, in case you couldn’t tell.