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March Madness: The Sega Bracket

March Madness: The Sega Bracket

In the early 90’s, Sega became known as the David that, for a couple of years, slew Nintendo’s Goliath. That should make it pretty surprising that Sega fields such a weak bracket, but in hindsight, it does make perfect sense. After overtaking Nintendo on the marketplace for a couple of years, Sega developed some marketing and developmental habits which made them famous as the hardware maker that couldn’t capitalize on the good thing it had going. Instead of developing a real business plan and sticking to it, Sega took the approach of throwing things until something hit, and the result was a horrific clotting of ideas which never reached their real potential. In some cases – like the Vectorman series – Sega had a fantastic idea which they up and abandoned. Some – particularly the 32X – were bad ideas from the start. The Saturn was undercut by better marketers. Sega managed to get their act together to launch one final hurrah with the Dreamcast, a console that pioneered a lot of the functions the new generation of gamers is taking for granted. While many gamers acknowledge the importance of the Dreamcast in the evolution of the medium, Sega’s loyalists had moved on by its launch and saw no need to return. Sega is the only bracket in the tournament which completely shut down its hardware department to focus on making games for the other consoles, but their hardware developments and competitive history are of too much importance for them to be left out. 

1 – Sonic the Hedgehog
Who
The world’s greatest environmentalist and star of his namesake series, Sonic is a flying bundle of spikes who loves freedom and hates injustice. When he was first introduced, Sonic became the immediate prototype for the popular “XTREME” characters and attitudes that dominated in the 90’s, which produced later (and much worse) characters like Bubsy and Zero the Kamikaze Squirrel. Sonic was an instant star and when Sega still had its marketing head, they dumped their old mascot – Alex Kidd – and rode Sonic’s spiky back as he rushed them to the bank through some of the most magnificent platformers ever made. Sega invented a concept called “blast processing” to sell Sonic, but while blast processing was a real thing, it was created using a technique which can be likened to DW Griffith being the first director to move the camera: Such a stupidly easy thing to do that everyone just plump didn’t bother with it at the time. Sonic also helped legitimize video games as a medium when, in 1993, he became the first video game character to appear as a float in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Unfortunately, his games have undergone a terrible drop in quality since the 90’s, because they didn’t translate into 3D. His nickname in gaming circles is the Blue Blur.
Abilities
The theme song called him the fastest thing alive for a reason. Sonic gets his very name from his habit of regularly using his feet to break through the sound barrier. Several of his abilities, like the Peel Out and Spin Dash, capitalize on that. His primary attack is the Super Spin Attack. In later Genesis games, a shield would enhance the Super Spin Attack by allowing him to bounce high, fly as a fireball, or double jump. In later games, it had a targeting quality. When running at a high speed, Sonic can also roll up into a ball, which enables him to take out any enemies that happen to be blocking his path. His spikes are a simple thing, but Sonic is very good at getting both literal and figurative mileage out of them. 

2 – Joe Musashi
Who 
One of the killer apps that propped up Sega in the early, unsure days of the Golden Era was a line of strong arcade games that could be easily shrunk down to home Genesis size. One of those games was called Shinobi, which starred the ninja Joe Musashi. Shinobi was one of the series in a trinity of series – along with Strider and Ninja Gaiden – which popularized ninja video games, and is arguably the best of those series. Shinobi was never ported to the Genesis itself, but its three sequels – Revenge of Shinobi; Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi; and Shinobi III: Return of the Ninja Master – are all Genesis classics. Shinobi was later rebooted for a new ninja craze on the Game Boy Advance and Playstation 2.
Abilities
Like all good ninjas, Musashi makes use of a katana and shurikens. His games granted him with a variety of different ways of getting around, like dashing, hand-over-hand walking, wall climbing, and a flip from which a fan of many shurikens at once could be shot. Musashi is also known for his use of ninja magic, which is very powerful – it has the power to grant invincibility, smart bombs, high jumps, and to turn his body into a living bomb – but so rare that he rarely gets to use it more than once per level. 

3 – Ecco the Dolphin
Who
Known as the Defender of the Future, Ecco the Dolphin is the star of a series of very unique adventure games which sent him in search of his missing pod. It’s kind of a love-it-or-hate-it series because with its slow, meticulous gameplay, it rubbed a lot of casual gamers the wrong way. People who loved it (like me), though, reveled in an engine which opened up amazing mental rewards to those who could go along with its demanding, exploration- and puzzle-based gaming depths. Ecco the Dolphin revealed exactly what was possible in the realm of photo-realistic graphics; see, Ecco is NOT a cartoon dolphin. He was designed and animated using photographs and what we know about real dolphins, and the design and atmosphere remains one of the truly great early arguments for video games as art. 
Abilities
Since Ecco is a real dolphin in video game form, he has all the abilities you would expect of a real dolphin. Like all dolphins, Ecco deploys a charge which he uses against hostile sea creatures and the aliens who kidnapped his family. Also like all dolphins, Ecco communicates in song with other sea creatures, and uses echolocation to find and orient himself. Unlike other dolphins, Ecco upgrades his song through the course of his adventures so he can use it as a stunner and an outright weapon. 

4 – Akira Yuki
Who
The mascot of Sega’s awesome Virtua Fighter series comes off a lot like Ryu: Similar garb and similar point of his entire being, wandering, improving his skill, looking for good fights against worthy opponents. The first Virtua Fighter game was released in 1993, and it sent a shock through a public which had, by then, been given fighting game nourishment on a steady diet of the Street Fighter/Mortal Kombat wars which had captured the imaginations of anyone who had any interest in video games whatsoever. The reason? Virtua Fighter was in 3D and contained a deceptively simple three-button control scheme which was difficult to master because every joystick/button combination you could think of resulted in one different move or another. Those two features made Virtua Fighter an oddity, but the style caught on and now, led by games like Tekken and Soul Caliber, 3D fighting games are dominant on the landscape. 
Abilities
You know what also makes Virtua Fighter unique? The fact that every character in the game uses a real fighting style. There are no meter-building power moves, no projectiles, and no unbeatable or unstoppable special attacks to abuse. Everything Akira does is based on real kung fu moves. EVERYTHING. His move list includes things like the kaiko, tenzankou, and soutoushou, things which, in the arsenal of an experienced and hotheaded fighter like Akira, are very much able to put some clangs and dents in opponents’ heads. Akira is very strong on offense and, when in the hands of someone who is truly skilled at Virtua Fighter, nearly impossible to so much as even hit. 

5 – Vectorman
Who
Another eco-friendly hero, Vectorman starred in his own namesake game, in which he started out as an “orbot,” a cleanup robot left behind on Earth by the humans who abandoned the planet after it got too polluted to live on. He fights against a warped orbot named Raster, who took over after being mutated. Vectorman is a later-era Genesis series of action platformers which won various game of the year awards and were noted for their level designs, soundtracks, and graphics. The graphics were something of Sega’s response to the rendered 3D designs seen in Nintendo games like Donkey Kong Country. They were pre rendered, and instead of being a single sprite, were composed of many small sprites moving in unison, creating an ultra fluid look and feel. Unfortunately, they came out around the time Sega’s marketing department became SEGA’S MARKETING DEPARTMENT, and their handling of Vectorman became one of their legendary missteps. A potential new mascot was left after two stellar games, and Sega quit using their new graphic style for some reason. A third game was scheduled for release on the Playstation 2 in 2003, but it was cancelled because it deviated from the creativity of the Genesis originals, becoming just another generic third-person shooter; and the character was redesigned and looked more like Halo’s Master Chief. 
Abilities
Vectorman is armed with a ball gun contained in his hand which, like in any good action game, can be upgraded; Vectorman could nab power ups containing a machine gun, a triple fire gun, and a bolo gun. He also had the ability of transformation, and can turn into a drill which breaks through floors; a bomb; and an aquatic form to help him move around underwater. That doesn’t even cover the levels where Vectorman starts out in morph form and stays that way throughout the duration. Vectorman 2 gave him new weapons like a pulse beam, and new insect transformations. Even his double jump relies on foot boosters which fry any enemy unfortunate enough to be standing too close to him! Watch out for this one. 

6 – Blaze Fielding
Who
The resident tough girl of the Streets of Rage series, Sega’s response to the Final Fight games. Blaze is a dancer by night and she WAS a police officer by day until her efforts with her buddies Adam and Axel to form a blockade against a criminal ring failed and they all quit the force to take out the syndicate on their own. Streets of Rage was heavily influenced by Final Fight, but it tweaked the Final Fight formula just a wee little bit and made itself the better series.
Abilities
Punching and kicking bad guys into oatmeal is always nice and fun, and Blaze has an extremely developed array of punches and kicks. Besides being an ex-cop and dancer, she’s also really into judo, which means she’ll pick you up and throw you across the room without breaking a sweat. She has the most powerful throws of anyone in the Streets of Rage series, which is useful for hurling bad guys into pits or other bad guys. She later develops a very short-range fireball for use in emergencies, and has the most complex and elaborate ways on using the various weapons the bad guys leave on the ground. 

7 – Chris Redfield
Who
Chris is one of the defining faces of the Resident Evil series. Usually, fictional worlds present us with either evil corporations or evil zombies, but the Resident Evil truly terrifies us by having both. Chris Redfield was inadvertently yanked into a web of intrigue and conspiracy as a member of a special unit otherwise performing a routine mission. He and his three partners got trapped in a mansion where some experimental illegal shit was going down, and we’re not talking your average random drug dealers here. Chris was in the original Resident Evil game, a hit from Capcom which is credited with kickstarting the survival horror genre, and he is still playing regular major roles in the series. His most notable is arguably CODE: Veronica, which is considered one of THE must-own games for Sega’s final console, the Dreamcast. 
Abilities
Chris served as the point man for his STARS Alpha Team, and as for that common business of no one getting left behind, he takes that very seriously. He is an extremely proficient marksman, especially with handguns, shotguns, and sniper rifles, and his stance when blowing something’s head off allows him to fully control his weapons recoil, so he can retarget right after every shot. He even has that ability with the Remington Model 1100, a weapon so powerful that its recoil is capable of knocking a person down. On the off chance that his accuracy is taking a sick day, Chris is also trained in many different fighting techniques, with both fist and knife. Powerful, fast, and agile, Chris is pretty much everything you could ask from your combat team leader. 

8 – Liu Kang
Who
A kung fu fighting monk affiliated with the Shaolin Monastery, Liu Kang is considered the heart and soul of the Mortal Kombat series, the fighting games which competed with Street Fighter for the hearts, minds, souls, and imaginations of blood-and-guts-obsessed teenagers throughout the 90’s. Kang was mentored by Raiden, the god of thunder. In the end, Liu Kang defeats half-dragon Goro and shapeshifter Shang Tsung, becomes the champion of Mortal Kombat, and lives to keep repeating as Tsung’s master, Shao Khan, keeps trying to use the tournament to take over Earth. Mortal Kombat provided breakthroughs in photorealistic digital graphics, but the series is best known for a level of ramped-up ultraviolence. Mortal Kombat is known as one of the most violent video game franchises of all time, and it’s credited as the series that helped usher in a new era of cartoonish shock violence which changed video games by paving the way for more adult orientations, which helped because everyone old enough to remember the NES is now grown up and gaming is now a popular and accepted adult hobby. Mortal Kombat is also credited for being one of the final straws that resulted in the creation of the ESRB rating system, and Guinness says it’s the most successful fighting game series of all time. 
Abilities
Liu Kang is one of the most popular characters in Mortal Kombat because he might be the best starter character ever in fighting games. It’s very easy to learn and use his moves, and his combos don’t demand the precision and hours of practice required of the more advanced characters. His fireball is a good, reliable projectile, and his flying kick is a good way to catch an opponent off guard in close quarters. His bicycle kick is devastating. Although his primary fatality move – cartwheeling into his opponent and smacking him with a hard uppercut – is one of the most boring and pedestrian fatalities in the series, his dragon fatality more than makes up for it. Since the symbol for Mortal Kombat is a dragon, it’s only appropriate that it was Liu Kang who got to transform into a dragon and eat his opponent’s torso!

9 – Earthworm Jim
Who
The star of the same-name series is basically another marketing gimmick of the 90’s going XTREME! In the case of Earthworm Jim, though, there’s honest to god substance to back it up. It’s about an ordinary earthworm who is transformed into a superhero after crawling into a special super suit. The original game was a runaway success, and the Genesis version in particular was lauded with many game of the year accolades. There was a sequel soon after which was cited by many sources as better than the original, and a Sega CD remake of the first EWJ is considered the best game in the series. The 16-bit classics are renowned for hand-drawn-style graphics which were rare in the Golden Era, and their stylish and quirky humor. He got a couple of 3D games at the beginning of the Next-Gen Era as well, but they were made under a different developer, panned, and Jim has been retired ever since.
Abilities
Jim can use his worm head as a helicopter and a whip. His gun is capable of receiving some powerful upgrades like a Barn Blaster – an actual barn which blows up everything on the screen – and a Three-Finger Gun. There are a few traditional weapons, like a 64-directional machine gun and a Plasma Blaster, and Jim also carries a rocket in his pocket which he uses to push a bomb at one point in Earthworm Jim 2. He’s just fine as long as he avoids picking up the Bubble Gun.

10 – Terry Bogard
Who
Terry, along with his brother Andy, is the main character of the Fatal Fury series, which later crossed with Art of Fighting to create The King of Fighters series. He’s easily identifiable by his trademark red short-sleeve jacket and Fatal Fury hat, and his drive to kill Geese Howard. Fatal Fury is known as one of the Neo Geo hipster alternative fighting games played by people who got bored of the mainstream war between Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, and it’s also considered a somewhat pioneer of the 3D fighting game because of the dual plane innovation. Characters could jump between the foreground and background. Fatal Fury 2 introduced the desperation move, a very powerful special move to be used when low on energy, and a precursor to today’s ultra-difficult power moves which can be used when a meter fills.
Abilities
Terry can unleash the power wave, a wave of energy which moves along the ground; and the burn knuckle, where he launches himself at an opponent with his fist stuck out and on fire. Knowing Neo Geo fighting games, though, the only good special moves Terry uses are the ones in which the setting is on the powerful punch or kick, otherwise they wouldn’t dent a soda can or fly past Terry’s fingernnails. Every Neo Geo fighting game character is like that. If you’ve never played a Neo Geo fighter, later Street Fighter games give us Dan, a fighter who is in the game basically to mock the Neo Geo. Even though there are players who are awesome with Dan, he’s totally in those games as a joke character.

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About Nicholas Croston

I like to think. A lot. I like to question, challenge, and totally shock and unnerve people. I am a contrarian - whatever you stand for, I'm against.

One response »

  1. well said……..good post&pic……….!
    #wordpress!

    Reply

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