Big Game Hunting

So here I am, scouring the net in search of a Sega game that never managed to sell. Well, in truth, it must have sold, but only to greedy, miserly people who knew it would go for obscene prices a year later. Likewise in truth, I'm not really scouring the net. My girlfriend is.

She's cool like that.

And, I must admit, I'm a bit of a game-hoarder myself. I have two copies of some of the least common Saturn games ever made, including the elusive Panzer Dragoon Saga, Burning Rangers, and the game that was the foundation for my anime and manga addiction, Magic Knight Rayearth.

See? This relates to anime, somehow. At least it does a little bit.

Where were we? Right. Collecting stuff. I'm so much of a hoarder I even have two Saturns. Never have I ever used them both concurrently, but somewhere in the back of my mind, I tell myself that one is the backup for another. Also locked away in a safe place is an extra copy of Shenmue II, Space Channel 5 Part 2, and Samba de Amigo 2000 - all imports for the Dreamcast.

Here's the rub. These are some great games. While they may not be in everyone's home, they should be. Incidentally, the latest game I'm seeking (for a reasonable price in good condition, of course) is Rez. I'd prefer to snag it for the Dreamcast, but I'd settle for the (supposedly) aurally inferior Playstation 2 version. While it's rare to find a PS2 game that looks better than its Dreamcast counterpart, the PS2 version of Rez has the distinct advantage of being a domestic release, and thus slightly less costly. Plus, I won't need my trusty DC boot disc.

Yet, I do so love using my trusty boot disc.

The point that I'm haphazardly rambling towards here is this: I don't like giving lots of money to people who didn't make the games I want. The solution I would put into place, given the money, ability, and time, is simple. Some upstart group of people needs to run around to companies like Sega and convince them to license these games for porting to the newest generation of systems.

Right now, Sega's games demand higher prices than some entire X-Box systems, but the company, whose home console division hasn't made a profit in quite some time, isn't getting a nickel from its fans. So what we have here is a market that's willing to pay upwards of $80 a game two years after its release to some random person just because it can't be found anywhere else at a reasonable price.

Does it really cost that much to re-release a game that's already been made? Writing portable code is a standard programming practice nowadays, and with 99% of developers using some sort of object-oriented language, whether proprietary or C++, it seems that a team dedicated to porting games to other systems would be relatively easy to finance.

Game companies could even offer hard to find games bundled in with their newer ones. In fact, this is the ideal solution to my problem.

For example, think of how cool it would be if Sonic Heroes came packed in with Sonic CD on disc. Or better yet, the next Panzer Dragoon game (which REALLY needs to be made) could have Panzer Dragoon II, or even one of the finest RPGs ever crafted, namely Panzer Dragoon Saga, on the same DVD as the newer game I'm craving. Visualize, if you will, the sheer bliss-filled fantasy of a world wherein every new game comes packed with an extra title, one that is impossible to find on its own.

This imaginary team cranking out classic titles could also serve as a localization crew, offering translations of some of the more obscure Japanese titles that would only find a niche market here. After all, I really need to get Seaman II. I wasn't nearly creeped out enough by the first one. I want the little amphibious bugger with the face of a Japanese guy to appear in my nightmares, darn it.

And then there's Kuma-Uta. It doesn't even have to be translated, I just can't wait to make a polar bear sing! Enka (that's a traditional style of Japanese song)! In Japanese! Now!

While I'm at it, I'd pay tons of money just to get a home port of Sega's various arcade games that never made it to a system over here, such as the really fun shooters Gunblade NY and Jurassic Park, or an arcade-perfect port of the Star Wars Trilogy arcade game.

This is not an unheard of practice. The X-Box's superlative rail shooter, Panzer Dragoon Orta, packed in the PC version of the game that started the series. Squaresoft has released Playstation ports of a large number of their classic SNES games, such as Chrono Trigger and every title in the Final Fantasy army of games. Nintendo's doing an amazing job of offering Shigeru Miyamoto's classic Zelda games as bonuses for getting the latest incarnation of his green-capped blonde-haired tights-sportin' warrior.

I have to guiltily admit that one of the most exciting tidbits of news I heard from this year's E3 Expo is that Konami plans to put its classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade games on the next TMNT game that they develop, scheduled for release later this year. I don't care about the new game, but I'll buy it if I can play those older titles with three of my friends at home.

Let's just say I'd kill a baby seal (just like a polar bear!) to nab a home version of Konami's mammoth six player two-screen X-Men beat-em-up game. Talk about gaming bliss... there's nothing more satisfying than sitting down with a pile of friends to kill random baddies.

Regretfully, I don't really see my dream coming to fruition - at least not in any standard way - anytime soon. The sad part is that instead of waiting for a wonderful world where we can buy classic games in one form or another, the market is getting eaten up by emulators. I know; I've played them. Yes, they are a few kinds of illegal, and yes, game companies tend to dislike them, but let's face it - these people are providing exactly what gamers want on instantaneous demand. Rather than hitting ROM distributors over the head with a lawsuit, perhaps the game industry should completely wipe out a large percentage of the game piracy problem by doing something completely unexpected.

Release these games for free, packed with other games. Sure, these games may appreciate with age, but they only make more money for individual people, not the developers who sweated over their creation. In the end, people wind up downloading the games for free or paying outrageous prices on Ebay. I'm not particularly keen on either of these choices. First of all, I'm fond of my money (the little that I have), and I'm also a believer that authors, artists, and game developers should get something for their work whenever possible.

After all, it's an industry that I'd like to be a part of one day, and it makes me sad to think of the people Sega had to lay off who developed games that couldn't sell when they were released, but now go for hundreds of dollars a piece on Ebay.

If game companies gave these titles away as a bonus for buying a new game, then not only would more people have a chance to be exposed to these classic works of gaming history, but then we'd also have more money to spend on games purchased from their publishers - not from some auction.

This is the part about the mission I mentioned in the blurb on the page that might have led you here. Someone out there needs to start a company like this. And when you do, please do me a favor and sell me a copy of Rez that'll run on my GameCube, X-Box, or PS2. And if you need a hand pulling it off, you know where to find me.

For now, I'll just be waiting for the good news from my girlfriend, dreaming of a brighter gaming future.

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