SEGA Games for the Sonic Gamer, Part 1

SonicsegaLike many SEGA fans, I started out as a fan of Sonic the Hedgehog more so then SEGA itself. As I became more invested in SEGA hardware, though, I was encouraged to begin trying out some of SEGA’s other franchises. I’ve since grown to love a variety of SEGA franchises and as part of the #Sonic23on23 celebration, I’d like to share some of my favorites with other Sonic fans on behalf of SEGAbits! All of the titles I’ll be talking about in this series tickle my fancy in the same way Sonic games have for years, that any Sonic fan ought to experience. These titles are not necessarily platformers, or involve cute and furry animals, but they do share at least one key element with Sonic games.

This series will divide the different games into categories and let you know which title you ought to try fist. I hope you’ll try some of these games!

Rail Shooters:

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After Burner

Before Sonic, SEGA had another adrenaline inducing game called “After Burner”. Here, players take control of the iconic F-14 Tomcat and blast through stages at sonic speed…literally. The After Burner games are all about memorization and twitch game play. Players have to be fast and at least somewhat familiar with enemy formations in order to succeed. All of the After Burner games produce a great sense of speed that is impressive even these days.

The original After Burner is not the most easy game to pay these days, and the best versions of the game available were made for the SEGA 32X and Saturn. SEGA has released a version of the game for the 3DS, which I do recommend picking up if it ever comes over. More accessible is After Burner Climax, which is currently available on Xbox Live and PSN.

If you want to know more about the game franchise, I recommend heading over to SEGAbits and checking out our content from After Burner Week.

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Panzer Dragoon

In Panzer Dragoon, players take flight on top of a big laser breathing dragon. This franchise is slower and more methodical then the After Burner games, but makes up for that slower pace with deeper game play and longer levels. Just like any great rail shooter, Panzer Dragoon is all about twitch game play, as players get constantly attacked on all sides by waves upon waves of enemies as they blast through beautiful, creative levels. Panzer’s world and music also possess an exotic charm that sets the series apart from other rail shooters.

Panzer Dragoon Orta is easily the most accessible game in the series, as it is the most affordable and is playable on both the Xbox and Xbox 360. It is also my personal favorite game in the series and has probably aged the best out of all of them thanks to the Xbox’s capabilities. The original trilogy is currently only available on SEGA’s Saturn. Of those, Panzer Dragoon Zwei is easily the best rail shooter of the bunch, though the original Panzer Dragoon is also pretty good. The franchise’s magnum opus, Panzer Dragoon Saga, is unique and excellent RPG, though is quite expensive and doesn’t really possess the qualities that would lead me to recommend it to Sonic fans.

Sonic Team Games

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NiGHTS into Dreams

Kind of obvious, but NiGHTS needs to be included all the same. NiGHTS once had a tendency to pop up often in Sonic games, and with good reason: outside of the Sonic series NiGHTS probably stands as the best thing Sonic Team has ever made. It shares some of Sonic’s qualities: it is simple, yet inventive. Each stage has its own theme and gimmicks that make them stand out and memorable. Many of the stages have unique topography that really do look like they came out of a dream.

NiGHTS isn’t exactly adrenaline inducing, but it’s still a fast game. Many of the game’s best moments come when your quickly zooming through loops and collecting blue chips, racking up huge links and points in the process. NiGHTS is all precision and memorization, perfecting your runs through the game’s stages so that you can improve your scores and A rank all the stages. NiGHTS into Dreams in many ways invokes many of the best elements of Sonic’s best games.

NiGHTS into Dreams HD is available on Xbox Live, PSN and Steam. If you’re feeling up for playing it old school, it’s also available on the Saturn. There was also a sequel released for the Wii version called Journey of Dreams, but that isn’t really as good and shares flaws with many of Sonic Team’s modern Sonic games.

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Ristar

Though it doesn’t bear the Sonic Team name, many Sonic Team alumni apparently worked on the game. In fact, this was character designer Yuji Uekawa’s first game. He would soon go on to become the character designer for the Sonic games starting with Sonic R in 1997.

Ristar itself is considerably slower than your standard Sonic game, but features the kind of cute character design, creative level design and unique character abilities Sonic Team was once known for. Ristar is all about swinging and bouncing around stages and adapting to the unique gimmicks each stage throws at you. One musical stage has you carrying around metronomes and bringing them to song birds that, when activated, add their voice to the stage’s background music, which slowly becomes more elaborate over the course of the stage. Another has you springing traps meant for you by throwing miniature Ristar models. Even the boss fights are varied, and can range from a cute little snow ball fight with a small child to an epic confrontation with a giant robotic mole during a freefall.

If you want to know more, you can check out the content I wrote for Ristar Week, which I ran for SEGAbits earlier this year. Ristar itself can be played on the Wii and Wii U through the Wii’s Virtual Console service. It can also be found on numerous compilations including the SEGA Genesis Collection, Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection and Sonic Mega Collection (as an unlockable). The original game can be played on the SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive.
I’ll be back later with more recommendations, so stay tuned!

11 Comments

  1. Well this is good stuff, i loved Nights so much when I was a kid, Ristar is great too. Just uploaded a new video on my channel, please visit, cause I’m an attention whore.

    1. …I actually didn’t see it was part one, whoops. If anything, though you gotta love Billy Hatcher for the special SEGA eggs and the stupidly catchy tunes. STUPIDLY CATCHY, I mean tunes that have stuck with me after eight years since I’ve played that game.

  2. I don’t see how Journey of Dreams is any worse than the original NiGHTS when it features exactly the same gameplay, except with transformation masks and special missions to make it less repetitive. Ok, some missions were tedious, and I suppose the original was more innovative, but it still suffers from flaws that JoD doesn’t have, like confusing objectives at first and repetitiveness.

  3. The game play is far from exactly the same. In the original the action was tight and focused, with loads of items closely clumped together so that it was actually possible for a skilled player to link things together. Not to mention, in NiGHTS you were encouraged to make constant laps around the course, wracking up links and points while you ran out the clock. In JoD your only real goal was collecting the keys as quickly as possible in the main stages. Once you get the key you can’t loop around the course for more points, you just need to get back to the cage as quickly as possible. The entire game essentially encourages you to speed run, and when I tried to take it a bit slower and play for points, I found the game punishing me. These two changes COMPLETELY change how the game is played, and frankly those changes are for the worst. Not to mention, JoD was also a glitchier game,and the game controlled awkwardly on the Wii’s hexagonal analog stick.

    The missions don’t just get “tedious”, they get awful. Remember the platforming stages? These were some of the worst platforming stages I’ve ever played. They were painful, poorly designed, and didn’t have anything about them that made them even remotely fun. Unfortunately, some of the NiGHTS missions were no better.

    I also don’t see how NiGHTS had “confusing objectives”. Even before I read the manual I understood the basic: collect the blue things, blow up the ideya captures, get back to the ideya palace before the timer runs out. Nothing confusing about that. The game also isn’t really any more repetitive then any other game of it’s day: all of the levels have their own quirks and gimmicks to mix things up, as I said in the article. It’s essentially like a really good arcade game: it’s got mechanics that encourage you to not just play to win, but play to improve.

    I honestly don’t even think Journey of Dreams is a bad game. It has some great moments. The NiGHTS stages are often quite fun, and some of the missions are quite good. The octopus missions probably catch the spirit of the original better then the main stages did. In the end though, it’s just not nearly as tightly made in terms of level design or controls. Like a lot of Sonic Team games though, it would be a LOT better without all the filler.

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