If you were to layout screenshots of some of my favorite games of all time, you would notice a common theme. That theme is they are all bright and colorful as a candy store. I’m not sure why, bright colors just grab my attention.
One of the brightest, most attention grabbing games I have ever popped into a console is Sega’s Chu Chu Rocket for the Dreamcast. All I knew going in was that it was a fun puzzle game made by Sega. The next thing I know rockets are launching into the air, uncatlike looking cats are scrambling and chasing somewhat mouse looking mice around a checkered board.
That doesn’t explain anything. Listen here man, this Chu Chu thing, it’s an experience. Cats meow, Chu’s chu, and rockets blast off to who knows where. It’s a rez-like multiplaying euphoria of neurons firing as you cry and clamor to collect the most mice possible.
I would best compare the frantic four person multiplayer to Bomberman in regards to the simple edge of your seat shenanigans inherent in each. Easy for novices but unpredictable enough for hardened chu chu gathering professionals.
That multiplayer experience, the single reason this game should belong to anyone who has friends, is also proof positive that Sega hates money, and just loves going bankrupt.
This is precisely the type of game that does phenomenally well with some online and some voice chat. Sega could have had Xbox Uno on its hands but just sat on those hands instead. Well they didn’t sit on their hands completely. They had a free moment to dump the game onto smartphones like people really want to play a slowed down, single player version of this game.
I felt bad when Sega was hemorrhaging money and the Dreamcast fell into it bad with the piracy and poor sales, and completely ineffective management. The Sega of today doesn’t get elicit quite the same response. They are willingly, knowingly doing the things they need to be awesome. They haven’t created a new Jet Set Radio (which would have been heaven on the Wii, but will be awesome enough on any system), Refuse to publish another Puyo Pop in the US, and they haven’t had Hideki Naganuma work on any of their soundtracks in quite some time. Sega does get it right sometimes, but these days that tends to feel like the work of outside developers, or just lucky swings these days.
I don’t know who was running things or how or from where, but Sega has a long history of kicking ass by taking risky bets on colorful and quirky titles. Releasing an online multiplayer Chu Chu Rocket won’t bring that Sega back, but dammit, at least remember who you were Sega!
I am working on another article, a bit related to Puyo, but before that I have to pay tribute to Puyo Pop Fever specifically. It came out on the DS very early on in the portables lifespan. It was definitely one of my most played games throughout the DS lifespan (I even played it on my 3DS a few times). I even imported Puyo Puyo Fever 2, and 15th Anniversary.
Among other things, like the game being great, this game felt like the final refuge of the colorful, over the top dreamcast era of game design from Sega.
Soon after this game was released, Sega would go on to have humans kissing hedgehogs and all hell breaking loose on Earth. I think that is what happened.
Are there any good, in-depth interviews or reports about the downfall of Sega in the late 90s? I love Nintendo and all, but I think the story of all the inner turmoil, stubborn leaders, miscommunication, and great artists that was Sega as the company fall from grace must be very intriguing. It all fell apart as the Genesis became some sort of Frankenstein with all the add-ons, then there was the rushed launch of the Sega Saturn, followed by the piracy issues that quickly plagued the Dreamcast.
I would love to know more about all that history, especially how it looked from Sega of Japan’s view (I got a good portion of the Sega of America side from various VG history books).
When I learn some more and find an angle on this topic I definitely hope to write about it. Also, if you are interested, let me hear your own stories of this time (circa 1994-2002) in Sega history as a Sega fan and consumer.