Features: Why Kinect Turns Xbox 360 into Dreamcast 2
Posted by James Newton
Favourite franchises on the way back
Dreamcast, we hardly knew ye. It's been over ten years since Sega's beautiful white baby came into this world, kicking off a revolution still being felt today. Ahead of its time in many ways, Dreamcast ran against Sony's DVD-enabled PlayStation 2 and came off second best, signalling Sega's departure from the hardware market. We're finally starting to come to terms with the fact there will be no Dreamcast 2, and bizarrely it's Kinect helping us along by continuing the spirit of the console.
Dreamcast's slogan of "we all play games – why don't we play together?" was a reference to its online service, which offered email, voice chat in select games and the world's first MMO for consoles in the form of Phantasy Star Online. It's comparable to Microsoft's approach with Kinect, as the company aims to bring families together with technology while also joining them over long distances using Video Kinect.
It's not just technology and spirit that links the two consoles together: here's just a few games heading to Kinect that can trace their lineage back to the Dreamcast.
A pseudo-sequel to Rez, a shooting masterpiece from Sega legend Tetsuya Mizuguchi that sparked his transition from producer of great racers – Sega Rally is Mizuguchi's baby – to bona fide gaming visionary. A tribute to Tron, arcade shooters and trance music, Rez is one of the most sought-after Dreamcast games, but Xbox 360 owners can download Rez HD from Xbox Live Marketplace for a fraction of the cost.
Where Rez focuses on a sparse wireframe environment, Child of Eden is aiming for organic beauty, its screenshots showing off all manner of inspirations: marine creatures and enormous flowers dominate the landscape, but the sharp lines and technical construction still survive.
Playing a Rez sequel with no controller means one of the original's most infamous features, the Trance Vibrator, won't be included; Kinect nodding its head in time with the music wouldn't be quite the same, we feel.
Ubisoft's tribute to the late King of Pop isn't the star's first foray into gaming: back in the 1990s, Sega created Michael Jackson's Moonwalker for arcade and Mega Drive, a title that's recently cropped up on Virtual Console.
Several years later, Rez and Child of Eden creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi created Space Channel 5, a retro-styled rhythm action game set around a TV news channel in space. Funky starlet Ulala garnered plenty of attention at the time, catching the eye of Jackson himself, who requested a role in the game, which at the time was only one month from completion. Obviously impressed by the game, Jackson gains a much bigger role in follow-up Space Channel 5 Part 2, his last appearance before Michael Jackson: The Experience.
The third Virtua Tennis game on Xbox 360 is the first since the Dreamcast days to be handled by the original development team in Japan.
The Dreamcast outings were not just arcade-perfect conversions, they introduced single-player career modes to flesh out the experience. Sega's Japanese team also created a wealth of enjoyable minigames years before the likes of Carnival Games and Game Party in Motion gave the genre a bad name.
Bringing the original developers back on board for this fifth home console entry (following Virtua Tennis 2009) is an indication from Sega how seriously the company takes its sole serious sporting franchise, just as it did in the Dreamcast days.
Team Andromeda's Panzer Dragoon trilogy on Sega Saturn culminated in one of the machine's greatest games: Panzer Dragoon Saga, a role-playing take on the universe, is among the most expensive games released for the console in the Western world. Its predecessors, on-rails shooters Panzer Dragoon and Panzer Dragoon Zwei, make the now-outdated genre look good. In its short time on Earth, the Dreamcast never received a Panzer Dragoon game, but Panzer Dragoon Orta on Xbox was pretty special.
Project Draco, the new game from Panzer mastermind Yukio Futatsugi, is clear about taking inspiration from its source material: an on-rails shooter where you must communicate and bond with your dragon, it's Panzer Dragoon in all but name, and the artwork revealed so far is as Panzer as they come.
While Draco may not belong to the same universe as Panzer Dragoon, just like Dreamcast and Kinect, there are plenty of similarities between the two to make you believe it's the long-awaited successor.
Sega's hardware business is over, but the company's spirit lives on in the works of the creators it nurtured during its glory days: Mizuguchi and Futatsugi are just two of the great minds working on games for Kinect, and if the sensor's future contains half as many great games as Dreamcast's back catalogue, there'll be plenty to be happy about.