Sega has led one of the most tumultuous lives of any game company to date. It rose to prominence throughout the ‘80s and early ‘90s thanks to creative arcade games and popular consoles like the Master System and Genesis/Mega Drive, but then slowly lost that lead to Nintendo and Sony as the decade wore on. After a series of unrecoverable missteps, Sega was out of the hardware business altogether by 2001, forced to create software for its former competitors.
Above: Launching five distinct consoles (plus handhelds) within 10 years is a great way to scatter and confuse your audience
Since then, Sega’s annual lineups have been hit or miss. Sonic the Hedgehog lurches right along, Total War has made some nice cash over the years and Platinum Games is kicking all kinds of ass, but other than that it seems like most of Sega’s efforts are spent re-releasing compilations of its ‘90s hits instead of finding ways to re-invent them for today’s appetites. Those original titles were successful for a reason, and we think there’s still something to cull from their neglected corpses – so here we’d like to dredge up some of Sega’s brightest stars that skipped the supernova and went straight to inert ashy matter.
If Jerry Bruckheimer and Cirque Du Soleil teamed up to make a movie called “Backdraft 2051 AD,” it would probably come out a lot like Burning Rangers. You played a firefighter. This could normally be mundane, but because this was the future, you extinguished flames, blew up mechs and saved innocents by using a jet pack and a ray gun and dash somersaulting a lot.
Fire had evolved and gone disco. No longer were you fighting plain yellow flames – now, fire came in green globes, orange plumes, blue bursts and more, as if the Lucky Charms leprechaun got his hands on an inferno-creation machine. The flames were a worthy enemy too, often blazing into existence with only a moment’s notice or chucking smaller fireballs right at you. Plus, once you beat the game, you unlocked more playable characters (one with a ray bazooka) and a random level generator.
Sadly, Burning Rangers looked like crap on the Saturn, but on today’s consoles and with a Tron 2.0-style makeover, this could be so fashionably pyrotechnic that Rez creator Tetsuya Mizuguchi himself would beg for retina-saving sunglasses. It would be worth it, too – although a few of its ideas were revisited in the cripplingly tough GunValkyrie, no other game to date has matched Burning Rangers’ unique mix of acrobatic aerial platforming, bombastic shooting, and sci-fi visual design. Plus the theme song rocked in the cheesiest way possible.
Look at this. Really look at it. It’s a game starring two hip hop-obsessed aliens who’ve been stranded on an exaggerated version of Earth. They then roam this fragmented planet in search of broken spaceship parts while avoiding dentists, mailboxes and the friggin’ bogeyman. This idea is so insane it would never, ever be green lit today, and that’s precisely why it must return; why publish another third-person cover-based shooter when you could offer a colorful, funny and entirely unique experience that also happens to prey upon Sega fanatics’ nostalgia?
But how do you bring this back? Ignore the misguided and outdated humor of the 2002 Xbox sequel; TJ&E don’t need to lace their dialog with dick jokes, nor do they need to hopelessly cling to the early ‘90s view of hip hop. Either bring their tastes and fashion into the modern hip hop scene, or re-invent the duo as aliens infatuated with another burgeoning music style – maybe they’re freakishly into dub step, for instance.
Above: We’d want a soundtrack that’s as awesome as the era-appropriate funky fresh original
I’d also do away with one of the series’ most notable features – randomly generated levels. It was a great idea for the 16-bit days, but today we want elaborate goals to achieve, so randomly piecing levels together doesn’t sound like the best way to reintroduce this franchise. Create fixed levels, load them with eccentric humans and polish the dialog until it’s genuinely clever and not a series of lewd jokes that even the hackiest SNL writer would pass up. We know creative games often get the shaft (Psychonauts, Beyond Good & Evil etc) but that shouldn’t prevent others from trying to do something outside the industry’s FPS comfort zone.