Sega is giving its newly-acquired development studio Atlus complete freedom to revisit any of Sega’s dormant IPs. Basically a very public handing over of the keys to all the cars in daddy’s garage. This is what’s known in the trade as a Very Good Thing. Sega may have released many strong compilations and HD remakes of its old games over the past few years, but proper revivals have been patchy at best. Remember the new Golden Axe? Neither do I. What these classics need is a fresh approach--and that's where Atlus could (nay should) shine bright like a Chaos Emerald.
The story has come out via a translated article from Japanese gaming mag Famitsu, as reported by CVG News. According to the report, Sega Sammy’s Chief Operating Officer, Naoya Tsurumi, said: "I believe that the addition of genres is a crucial factor.
"Especially with regard to the fact that Sega have never excelled in RPG titles. With consideration towards Atlus' strengths, Japanese RPGs would be a prime example [of an added benefit]."
But don’t think that means Atlus will be limited to using an obvious RPG candidate like Phantasy Star or just bashing out further iterations of its own RPGs. If they can reimagine any classic Sega franchise then they're allowed to go ahead and do it. Tsurumi said: “While we have no intention of forcing this, we'd definitely love to have them utilize any of Sega's dormant IPs.”
I don’t think Sega will need to force anything. The list of games ripe for revisiting must be a mouthwatering prospect for Atlus. Imagine what could be done with, say, Streets of Rage these days. Exquisitely-animated 2D artwork, destructible environments and even unique enemies through the entire game could be combined with an RPG-style ability tree that lets you unlock special moves, call in support and recruit other fighters to your team for co-op moves. I don’t think the recently unearthed pre-alpha version of 3D SoR (pictured) was the right approach. Atlus would do better, I have no doubt.
Then there’s Burning Rangers, the existence of which has only really been acknowledged by Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed since its debut on Sega Saturn in 1998. The original was only really hampered by the hardware limitations of the Saturn. These days, it could revolve around the life of a young recruit like Tillis, going out on missions to save people from fires across a sprawling futuristic city. OK, so it’s a Sonic Team franchise, but they haven’t exactly done anything with it. Let Atlus have a crack.
Or how about Skies of Arcadia? There’s a fully-realised game world, beloved by a legion of diehard fans, just waiting to be revisited. It already fits the RPG template, has potential to impress on the new generation of consoles (just imagine the view from your airship on PS4) and has a recent-enough original entry to be present on sites like Metacritic (with two green entries, might I add?).
Panzer Dragoon is still owned by Sega, even though the core members of Team Andromeda left long ago and made Crimson Dragon on Xbox 360. Which came out on Xbox One. Anyway, point is Panzer Dragoon Saga turned the lock-on shooting fun into a sensational RPG with novel space management around battle targets.
A world where ancient yet incredibly advanced technology lies buried in the ground? Mystical dragons you can ride and fight with? If you can’t make a decent game out of that, there’s no hope for you as a developer.
Finally--dare I say it?--Atlus could feasibly make Shenmue 3. It’s an RPG with real-time combat, both of which are bread-and-butter for Atlus. Get Yu Suzuki on-board to oversee development and there it is. Shenmue 3. If ever there was a dormant Sega IP that was ripe for revisiting and featured RPG elements, it is Shenmue. Of course I'd rather see AM#2 do it, but let's face it, there's complete radio silence from them these days. Presumably because they're making Shenmue 3.
Atlus is both a talented and prolific studio that’s put out a great number of strong titles from the 8-bit era to PS3. The only real criticism that could be leveled at the company is that its offerings have been a tad niche. The Persona series is highly regarded, but it appeals only to a certain type of gamer. The more mainstream appeal of Sega’s best IPs is perfect for Atlus. Granted, the mainstream may have forgotten names like Streets of Rage, but surely today's gamers are just as interested in glassing virtual thugs in the face as they were in the 1990s? That sort of simple pleasure can be enjoyed by any generation. Er...
So I suggest Atlus takes each car in daddy's garage out for a test drive, settles on the one that suits its style best, and tweaks its engine so that it purrs once more. Sounds like Sega has total faith in the studio's ability. So do I.