Sega Rally 2 – Dreamcast
Platform: Sega Dreamcast
Developer: Sega AM5
Release Date (NA): October/November, 1999
Nerd Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Reviewed by Nerdberry
You see, I haven’t purchased a game in probably over a year. I own a PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, and just about every other system released before it all the way back to the Atari 2600. I have somewhere close to 1,500 video games, most of which I’ve dabbled with, and a number of which I have never played. Today, for some odd reason, I felt compelled to dive into the Sega Dreamcast, a beautiful and once promising gaming system that I hold dear to my heart. I’ll admit that the Dreamcast lacked in a number of areas, but it never lacked in creativity or gusto. The problem with their “creativity and gusto” is that it never quite made sense to American gamers. Getting us to try games that are “weird,” or “oddball,” and the like is not an easy feat. Sega had truly excellent intentions, but their console swan song didn’t last long enough to gain enough steam. They closed their doors WAY too early in my opinion. I wish they would have put up a bigger fight, but business is business, and with their checkered past in consideration, I can’t say that I blame them. But I can see that I’m spiraling into a long-winded rant about my love-affair with an unheralded hero. I digress.
Today the stars have aligned in a way that I have not seen or experienced in the last few years. Through some very fortunate events, I find myself with about 5 hours of free time to play any game I choose. It has been months since I was able to actually sit and play any video game for more than 30 minutes. Welcome to parenthood. My wife and 11 month old daughter (note to self: remember to insert cutest baby ever picture here) are on a much needed vacation to my sister-in-law’s house in Queens (we live in North Carolina) for the weekend. And somehow, I find myself off of work from my other three jobs for most of the day. So when you find yourself with ONLY 4 to 6 hours of gaming time, and you own WAY too many games, how do you go about choosing just one game to play and review??
WHAT GAME TO PLAY?
To be honest, I can’t answer that question for you. I don’t know how you go about choosing just one game. You obviously can’t play games like Skyrim or Ocarina of Time. There’s no telling when I’ll be able to play again, so I can’t get too involved. I have to go pressure wash a house this afternoon, then my Steelers play after that, and then I have to pick up my family from the airport, and… and… what the fuck does this have to do with video games? So the game needs to be deep and rich enough to last the 4 to 6 hours (sorry Hydro Thunder and 18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker) but not too deep (sorry Phantasy Star Online). I am literally perusing my library of Dreamcast games between typing sentences and a few titles stand out to me. Rush 2049, Power Stone 2, Plasma Sword, Wetrix+, Soul Calibur, and… what’s this… Sega Rally 2?
SEGA RALLY 2, Roots and Expectations
Sega Rally 2 is the follow-up to one of the most average yet fun racing games to grace the Saturn in Sega Rally Championship. A few years ago I wrote a mostly positive review of Sega Rally Championship. Despite the above-average and middling Nerd Rating, I found the game to be mostly fun and exciting. And as I think back (I haven’t played the game since I published the review in February of 2014), I have no memories of disappointment, shortcomings, or inadequacies of the game, instead recalling memories of excitement, drifting tight turns on dirt roads, enjoyable music, and exceptional graphics. These memories ALONE are what bring me to spinning this disc in the sleek white Sega system.
Sega Rally 2 is an arcade game developed by the Sega AM5 development team. The AM5 team was a subsidiary of Sega who mainly focused on racing titles. That may not have been their original purpose, but with only a handful of titles notched on the belt, and all of which are racing games, one can only speculate that they were destined for racing titles only. As with many of Sega’s arcade hits, Sega Rally 2 found itself being ported to the Dreamcast, yet with little fanfare and not enough recognition.
Sega Rally 2 may not have been a launch title, releasing nearly 2 months after the Dreamcast’s 9/9/99 North American drop date, but it was released very early in its life. By the time it found its way to the home market, the game was now nearly 2 years old having made its rounds in the Arcade market since February of 1998.
As noted in my review of Sega Rally Championship, “Rally Racing” is a form of racing where modified or custom-built street-legal cars race public courses from point A to point B as opposed to racing in a circuit such as Stock-car racing. Being that Sega Rally 2 is the follow-up title to the aforementioned Saturn/Arcade game, there should be no confusion as to what one should expect here. Sega Rally 2 is a rally-racing game. Period. There’s no misinterpreting this game and what it is. Expectations are high.
BING BONG BING BING BENG BIIING, Starting up the Dreamcast
Upon starting up Sega Rally 2, I was excited but a little uneasy at the same time. My excitement and anticipation was linked to the thrill of having spent 30 minutes digging through my collection in the attic to find the system and hook it up in the living room plus having been a fan of the 1st game. But the uneasy feeling was in the introduction. I kind of hoped for something more, um, riveting. Instead we get the obligatory SEGA developer/publisher intro screen and then an immediate opening of the main menu screen. There’s no music until you pick a game mode, which is sort of weird, but I guess this lets me know that Sega Rally 2 is going to be a straight forward racing game. No frills. No mess. Just racing.
As with most racing games, there’s an Arcade Mode, which is your standard exhibition style. But Sega Rally 2 features a “10 Year Championship” mode. I’m not sure I understand the use of the term “10 year” but it is obviously a career racing mode. First off, let me tell you how damn frustrated you will be the first time you play it. Your standard arcade rules apply here, meaning that you must reach certain checkpoints to extend your time. If you run out of time before finishing a race, you will retire from the race and get a big ol’ fat GAME OVER. More than a few times I got a game over on the 4th and final race of the first round of races with the finish line in sight only to run out of time and have to start ALL OVER. I strongly advise that you spend some time in the arcade or time trial modes to get used to the controls.
The graphics in Sega Rally 2 are absolutely brilliant for the time. Granted, the game may be almost 20 years old at this point, but for 1999, it didn’t get any better than this. Aside from the accuracies in vehicle detailing, which is something the Gran Turismo series and its fans take very seriously, I found its realistic courses to be very appealing, most notably the snowy stage in the 1st year. The snowy trees and snow packed banks were absolutely gorgeous, despite the extremely treacherous driving conditions. Although the graphics and overall visuals are impressive, the stages lack some serious visual depth. The use of trees, land, and buildings packed right up against the tracks’ borders masks any depth in visuals beyond the track, making everything feel tight and enclosed. I would have appreciated a greater “stretch” of scenery beyond the initial track and its immediate borders.
MUSIC and SOUND
The soundtrack in the menu stages is composed very well and has a nice sound, but it sure is a mixed bag of I dunno what. There’s some percussiony electronic techno stuff in the “10 Year Championship” and “Time Attack” modes that feature fast-paced rave-inducing turntables and hard-driving bass-lines. Then there’s a raunchy and sort of badass rock tune with some killer guitar solo work in the “Arcade” mode. There is a piano-laden tune that fuses techno percussion with soft jazz piano and a rangy synthesizer dance techno tune that feels like a complete afterthought. But the creme de la creme is this oddball funky jazz fusion tune that feels like classic Sega in every way with a couple different sounding synthesized keyboard solos reminiscent of classic Sonic and Shinobi.
There are no in-game tunes instead opting for the sounds of engine revolutions, tires spitting up dirt, and your coach guiding you through hairpin turns and yelling in distress when you hit a wall. I’m surprisingly not disappointed with the lack of music during races as it lends a hand to the quality sound effects associated with racing. My fear is that the music would easily distract from the realistic racing experience, so I appreciate this small detail in development. And I have to give credit where credit is due; the sounds of rally racing are very spot on and realistic. Kudos.
Since there is no music during race scenes, there really isn’t much of a need for having many songs. All-in-all, there are a paltry five tunes throughout the game, and maybe more if I could ever beat the fuggin’ thing (maybe a cool nifty closing-credits tune that nobody has EVER heard before?). Of those five, one is a complete joke and the other four are actually pretty neat.
I understand that they want to provide some variety, but I was especially bored with all of the traditional stages. The obligatory “in-town” tracks and “muddy” or “dirt” tracks were more than serviceable, but that doesn’t make them exciting. Many of the tracks come and go way too fast, and while the constant weaving and turning makes for exciting race action, it takes away from the user’s ability to appreciate the courses. The inclusion of just one long stretch per course would allow the developers an opportunity to add some spice to the scenery of each stage. This would give them a chance to maybe include a defining moment or a memorable piece that we could take with us beyond the game in the lunchroom with our friends. Ah, to dream.
CONTROLS, VEHICLES, and CHALLENGES
The controls in Sega Rally 2 are very responsive and ultra-tight more often than not. The reason I say “more often than not” is because your vehicular control will be stripped away from you the second you leave the “fairway” on the snow course. We all understand the nuances of manual transmission over automatic transmission in video games, so I will eschew those details in favor of keeping this review tighter.
Each vehicle handles differently, but all of the vehicles are pretty tough to handle at first. The learning curve is pretty steep, overall. If it weren’t for the damn race clock and checkpoints, the game wouldn’t be so damn hard. But managing braking and acceleration with the spring-loaded shoulder trigger buttons all while maneuvering an ultra responsive analog stick requires some coordination that most casual gamers may never acquire.
My casual gaming nature materialized upon the birth of my daughter (second reminder to remember to insert extremely cute picture of baby for reader’s pleasure here), so getting involved with a rally racing game on a short gaming spree may have been ambitious on my part. Finding a way to coordinate my fumbling fingers with the ticking track clock and the fear of an instant game-over proved to be almost more than I could handle. But for the sake of this review, I forged forward, to great reward. I spent more time on the “time trial” mode learning my own capabilities within the game’s confines and found myself becoming quite the little rally racer within the better part of an hour.
Oh, and for the folks reading this who care about the vehicles, here’s the list:
Peugeot 206 WRC, Peugeot 306 Maxi, Toyota Corolla WRC, Toyota Celica GT-Four ST205, Subaru Impreza WRC, Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, Lancia Stratos, Lancia Delta HF Integrale, and maybe other unlockable ones that I never achieved. I read something about a Ford.
One thing that I noticed is the level of pre-race detail in the 10 Year Championship mode. In an effort to be more life-like, Sega included the ability to make vehicle modifications before each race, such as snow tires, mud tires, suspension, differential, and much more. Aside from showing a course map, they also detail exactly what sort of conditions the racer will face on the track. Weather conditions, visibility, what percentage of the track is asphalt, mud, dirt, water, etc, and so much more. They easily could have done something as simple as segueing from one race into another with no transitions, but they chose to include these details, which really add to the overall user experience.
* Gamer’s Note: I just got a Game Over in practice mode…….. WTF
*Note to self: Download that cool little classic tune you talked about to your phone in case anyone ever calls you.
*Note to Self: Why is this game so damn hard? I thought you were better at racing games, Nerdberry. You should probably just kill yourself. You’ve brought shame to your family. You’re a disgrace.
The developers at Sega really stepped up their game for Sega Rally 2, bringing forth much-improved visuals and course variety over their predecessor Sega Rally Championship from the Sega Saturn. Still present are the ultra-tight controls, classic Sega tunes, and moderate replayability. The controls are just as challenging, if not more challenging, as before, yet simultaneously more responsive and tighter. Heck, one could probably claim that the controls are TOO tight. But regardless of how you feel about the controls, one thing stands true: Sega sure knows how to make a quality racing game and have been doing so for decades now. Sega Rally 2 makes good use of the Dreamcast hardware, but the lack of depth still runs prevalent here, making this a hard sell for anyone looking for more than a half day of enjoyment.
Nerd Rating: 6.5 out of 10
Reviewed by Nerdberry
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