Sega, it seems, at one point. The sequel to veteran publisher’s movie Sonic the Hedgehog 2 became a massive box office success, reaching $300 million in revenue, despite lukewarm reviews. It was also revealed that a film version of the classic brawler Streets of Rage is in development, scripted by John Wick creator Derek Kolstad; some postulate that this could be the start of a Sega Cinematic Universe. And last week, sources within the company revealed to Bloomberg that reboots of classic early 2000s titles Crazy Taxi and Jet Set Radio are in development, as part of a new Super Games initiative aimed at to create Fortnite-like communities around its titles.
Why so many Sega? Why now? Sonic the Hedgehog 2 may have arrived at just the right time with families venturing into cinemas once again, desperate for something lighthearted that everyone can enjoy – and not having much to choose from when they reach the multiplex. And whatever you think of the film’s finer points, it’s fast and fun, with a fun performance from Idris Elba as Knuckles and Jim Carrey back at his hammy, gurning best. It captures the feel of those original Mega Drive games, with their craziness, viscous energy, and bright, sky-blue optimism.
More importantly, unlike Nintendo games, which are primarily aimed at isolated family groups, Sega titles are aimed at communities. Many of the company’s greatest games were developed for the arcades of the 80s and 90s, when they were crowded with teenagers, playing, watching, and socializing, with arcade cabinets as their focal point. When veteran designer Yu Suzuki began creating the classic “taiken” or “body sensation” games of the late 80s – such as OutRun, Space Harrier and Afterburner – his goal was to attract non-gamers to the arcades. . He wanted people to come and watch, to enjoy the games as a performance, something cool to do on a Friday night with friends or on a date.
Later, in the 90s, young Sega producers such as Tetsuya Mizuguchi, Kenji Kanno and Kazuki Hosokawa brought a wealth of modern pop, artistic and musical influences, so that their games felt like extensions of street cultures. of Tokyo that they understood. The graffiti and roller-skating action game Jet Set Radio combined fashion, hip-hop and skating in an experience that felt like being part of a gang. In a time when we’re all trying to rebuild friendship groups and social activities, a reboot seems like a really obvious idea.
Meanwhile, Crazy Taxi reiterated Suzuki’s philosophy of intuitive and immersive entertainment for everyone. Players drive through a sunny city picking up and delivering passengers in their taxi, and while the game mechanics are deep, Kanno made sure the game was entertaining, even if you were terrible. The music, goofy characters and bustling streets all made for a fun place to explore – and the timer was more generous than most coins of the era, giving players more time than the standard three minutes for their 100 yen. This idea of games as something accessible, chaotic and performative is a trait of Sega.
Granted, Sega is now more of a publisher than a developer, and aside from the brilliant Yakuza series, it hasn’t really created any breakthrough hits since the early 2000s. But nostalgia is a big part of the appeal of the movie and fuels excitement around Crazy Taxi, Jet Set Radio and the upcoming Sonic Origins, which brings together the hedgehog’s earliest adventures.
These Sega games tap into our seemingly endless reverence for a kind of 80s and 90s glamorous simulacrum, all blue skies and blazing sun and euphoric electronic music; they recall the days of insane action movies, Saturday morning cartoons, Los Angeles rock bands in red lipstick and voluminous hair, Ferrari Testarossas, Malibu beaches and New York alleys. Sega is having a moment because we are once again desperate for the joy it has provided, those beautifully pixelated skylines, shared in crowded arcades, surrounded by other gamers, no worries in the world.