Last week, SEGA’s financial results presentation revealed that the company is considering remastering, remaking and rebooting some of its older intellectual properties. The documents mentioned a number of cult classic game series which have lain dormant for years, including Crazy Taxi, Jet Set Radio and more.
It’s all part of SEGA’s long-term strategy to take advantage of the “globally recognized’ games in its vault. Modern SEGA is known for brands like Persona, Yakuza and Total War, but this wasn’t always the case. A lot like Disney, there have been so many unique IPs debuted over the course of the company’s history, with many interesting ideas unfortunately left behind as interest in certain genres and game mechanics waned.
Let’s talk about how SEGA could bring back a few of the game series that are tucked away in its intellectual property vault.
Jet Set Radio
Bursting onto the scene in the year 2000 with immaculate audiovisual vibes, graffiti skating franchise Jet Set Radio quickly became one of SEGA’s most memorable properties, even if it hasn’t been used to its full potential. It’s not clear why the company hasn’t revisited the series since Jet Set Radio Future in 2002, but it absolutely deserves the star treatment now, especially given the size of the fan community behind the game some 20 years later, which has delivered homage albums, fan games and community pirate radio stations.
Jet Set Radio is ultimately about stylish anti-establishment rebellion. It’s timelessly tapped into youth culture, which is why I’m constantly thinking about a Jet Set game that retains that classic cel-shaded style but takes inspiration from modern cultural moments like Hyperpop and the Y2K aesthetic revival. It would be a home run for SEGA to bring the beat back now, but it may fall to young developers inspired by these games to take that energy in a different direction. Team Reptile is certainly carrying the torch with the inimitable Bomb Rush Cyberfunk.
Ecco the Dolphin
I respect SEGA for believing in some of the most imaginative game concepts, even if many of them, like Ecco the Dolphin, have fallen by the wayside. This game proved itself to be quite the Trojan horse when it first came out in 1992. The box art gave the impression that it was a charming underwater platformer, but it’s much stranger than the cover lets on, involving time travel, the Atlantis myth and ancient alien civilizations. It’s a wacky, singular game inspired by cosmic love, Pink Floyd and sensory deprivation tanks.
The good news is that there’s still something to the side-scrolling underwater exploration, which could be refined to play well today. The foundations of the art style still hold up too. If SEGA put this IP in the hands of some inventive storytellers (or brought back Ed Annunziata!) it could easily find an audience. Just like Sonic Mania, the visuals could still be grounded in nostalgia, but the remake could then expand and push the retro IP in authentic but interesting new directions.
Given the popularity of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic Adventure would be the easiest IP to revive, but SEGA hasn’t touched it since 2002. Sonic Adventure and its sequel Sonic Adventure 2 added a new dimension to the brand by letting players control several different Sonic characters in 3D space, including the villains. As a result, the gameplay felt fresh and the levels were always varied. As well as racing through stages as the spiky-haired series protagonist, you explored hub worlds, hunted for treasure and unlocked upgrades that had retroactive effects across the game. The soundtrack had serious range too!
A modern Sonic Adventure game would be an excuse to slow down the pace and explore the narratives behind these characters. It’d also be a chance to ditch the gimmicks that have dominated recent Sonic games in favour of a broader ‘Adventure’ theme that speaks to nostalgic fans and newcomers. We can’t ignore the modern potential of the Chao Garden either. This daycare metagame from Sonic Adventure 2 had you raising little angel critters in between levels, and would definitely find a modern audience in a world where Animal Crossing and Pokemon are still all the rage.
Beyond the blue blur, Sonic Team has also been responsible for some of SEGA’s most interesting IPs, and Yuji Naka and Naoto Ohshima’s 1996 brainchild Nights into Dreams is one that could definitely make a comeback.
The gameplay was simple, with players floating through the air collecting orbs to unlock new levels, but it also had plenty of ideas that were ahead of its time. An early artificial intelligence system called ‘A-Life’ meant that in-game critters could grow, mate and change the mood of a level depending on how players interacted with them.
Behind the mechanics, the game had a fascinating dream-exploring premise, interesting mental health undertones and heaps of inspiration from Jungian psychology and real-life dream research. The concept clearly came from a place of creative passion and freedom, even if the technology wasn’t quite there to realise its gameplay.
Given the series’ focus on flight, acrobatics and inspired landscapes, it feels like it could really benefit from recent advances in immersion, from virtual reality to high-tech controller haptics. However, it’s worth noting that the creatives behind NiGHTS recently implemented similar themes into a costume-changing platformer called Balan Wonderworld. It wasn’t received well, even if it did have undeniably strong aesthetics.