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Rise from your grave: 6 classic Sega games that deserve a revival

Screenshot: Bonanza Bros.
AVQ&AWelcome back to AVQ&A, where we throw out a question for discussion among the staff and readers. Consider this a prompt to compare notes on your interface with pop culture, to reveal your embarrassing tastes and experiences.

Yesterday, word got around that Sega, the Japanese gaming stalwart that famously did what Nintendon’t, is looking to revive some of its dormant properties. As a founding member of the games industry that was never afraid to put its name on some truly bizarre releases, Sega has a wide catalog of memorable, long-ignored series ripe for resurrection. So we had to ask: What classic Sega game would you revive?

Like a lot of people, I first encountered Bonanza Bros. through the terrific Xbox 360/PlayStation 3 anthology Sonic’s Ultimate Genesis Collection. As with a lot of titles on that lovely little disc, I was shocked to find something quite so complex floating around the company’s back catalog: a 2-D stealth platformer that was about heisting loot with a co-op partner, rather than just killing bad guys. That sort of ambition is slightly more common now than back in 1990, when the loot-loving Robo and Mobo first showed up in arcades, but Bonanza’s uniquely frenetic take on the sneaky thief mold still deserves a second glance. To resurrect it, we’d stick with the side-scrolling look, but correct the original’s biggest headaches by swapping in more responsive platforming controls and much bigger locales to case. Meanwhile, I can imagine all sorts of fun traps to set (and opportunities for your partner to ambush your foes and help you out), but the key will be retaining the quick-paced, cartoonish vibe that made the original such an unexpected delight.

[William Hughes]

I was a Nintendo kid back in the days when blind corporate allegiance was cute, so I never had a chance to play Beyond Oasis until it showed up for sale on the PS Vita. A top-down action role-playing game released late into the Genesis’ lifecycle, Beyond Oasis drew ample inspiration from The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past and Secret Of Mana. The game distinguished itself with a light sprinkling of Arabic influence (light being the operative word; you play as Ali, who looks like Saved By The Bell’s Zack Morris in sirwal trousers), large expressive characters, and dramatically staged bosses. Updating the game wouldn’t take much. Instead of some big AAA release, you could keep it modest to better maintain a classic, lighthearted feel. And why not go all-in on the Persian setting by giving the game a Thousand And One Nights storybook phantasmagoria using classic Middle-Eastern monsters like djinns, manticores, and ghouls? You could even keep the game’s top-down perspective and fill it with environmental puzzles based around the intricate geometry of Persian architecture. Trying to keep up with all the tinkering and refinement the Zelda series has done over the past 26 years would be foolish. Instead, why not bring Beyond Oasis slightly into the present while still retaining the best qualities of a genre that’s fallen to the wayside?

[Nick Wanserski]

The problem with reviving classic games is that the new version has to be better than the original to avoid being anything but a disappointment. That’s why my pick for a classic Sega game worthy of a revival is one that was never all that good in the first place: Altered Beast. The original was about a buff dude kicking monsters and then transforming into a badass dude/animal hybrid, but the lousy gameplay kind of wasted that cool premise and the game’s weird, Greek mythology-inspired aesthetic. That means Sega would be free to put a new spin on it for a revival, like by turning it into Dark Souls-style 3-D action game where you’re a buff dude who brutally slaughters enemies to steal their beast energy. You become more buff as you kill more enemies, and once you have enough energy you can transform into a dude/animal hybrid with rad superpowers. Ideally, the revival would retain the exact same voice samples from the original, because it just wouldn’t be Altered Beast without “Rise from your grave!” and “Welcome to your doom!” screeching out of the TV.


[Sam Barsanti]

With the thirst for stylish, tough-as-nails action games at a fever pitch, the time is right for a new Alien Soldier. Coming at the tail-end of the Genesis’ lifespan, this impossibly difficult gem was a spectacular farewell to the console from Treasure, the storied studio responsible for some of the system’s best games. It’s a technical masterpiece, sporting blazing-fast action and grotesque screen-filling sprites, but the real draw is the flexibility of its forward-thinking gunplay. The anthropomorphic space-bird you control can switch between four weapons at any time, hover in the air, walk on ceilings, absorb enemy bullets, and teleport across the screen, a move that becomes a devastating screen-clearing attack when performed at full health. And the game puts your ability to juggle all of those options to the test across two dozen levels that are basically extended, insane boss fights. That structure is a perfect fit for 2017, and while the original game is so hard that it can take a beginner hours of practice to even beat the first stage, a modern update could refine that difficulty and give players an expanded level of control they’d need to surmount this staggering challenge.

[Matt Gerardi]

I have never liked Ecco The Dolphin games. Underwater levels are inherently bad, and Ecco’s weird mix of Earth Day moralizing and extreme abstract difficulty was not my bag as a kid. But the game has occupied a weird cultural space in the intervening years, not only inspiring the vaporwave ur-text Eccojams but also an entire galaxy of ’90s-inspired New Age Tumbr aesthetics. If played correctly—by which I mean as an insane, druggy trip through a glittering lo-fi ocean—the game’s blend of prismatic underwater graphics, clouds of ambient music, wandering level design, intense difficulty, and weird-as-shit sci-fi mythologizing could be subversively relevant in 2017. Recent games like Subnautica and Abzû, among others, have even proven that underwater games don’t have to feel inherently terrible to control, too. Give the property to, say, PlatinumGames and watch something wonderfully bizarre come out of it.

[Clayton Purdom]

“Making amends” isn’t necessarily the best reason to bring back a game, but when you’ve already screwed it up once before, the chance for redemption seems especially enticing, particularly when that game is Golden Axe, one of the great early side-scrollers of the Sega arcade era. The wicked fun came from rolling a variety of elements into one, and that combination is what set it apart from a host of imitators. Fusing the rock ’em sock ’em brawling of Double Dragon with the hack ’n’ slash weaponry of swords and shields (a mixture Golden Axe helped pioneer), it took those solid foundations and added spells, ridable beasts with tails made for assault, and a sweeping fantasy story from which numerous games have pilfered the basics. Perhaps one of the most satisfying and quietly influential aspects of the game is the death shriek—every enemy you dispatch, from the lowliest grunt to the mightiest boss, gives a Wilhelm Scream-esque cry when defeated, a reminder that you are shredding actual lives at a healthy clip. Several sequels throughout the ’90s maintained the basic contours of the original, continuing to deliver fun, but the much-maligned Golden Axe: Beast Rider from 2008 was a case of getting nearly everything wrong, dispatching with the good stuff people liked about the fantasy brawler and centering it around the riding of beasts—easily the most extraneous and worthless aspect of the no-longer-scrolling adventure. A reboot would be an opportunity to take advantage of the advances in scrolling games, and recapture the brutal fun of the original while adding contemporary complexity to story and style. As one of Sega’s finest contributions to sword-and-sorcery battlers (and the bloodthirsty fun to be had therein), it deserves a better legacy than Beast Rider’s near-mythological failure.

[Alex McLevy]


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