With another year in the books, we figure that we try something a little bit new. The staff came together to compile a comprehensive list of our favorite SEGA and SEGA-inspired games that we played throughout 2019.
Corey Walls: Xeno Crisis
Growing up with mostly Nintendo titles and systems, there’s been many SEGA games and IPs that I’ve missed on or just haven’t heard of in my life. Illbleed, Yakuza, and the Persona series are some gems that come to mind. However, I’ve been able to start broadening my horizons ever since joining Mega Visions earlier this year. One of my favorite SEGA-esque games that I played this year must be Xeno Crisis by developer Bitmap Bureau.
I’ve started enjoying dungeon crawlers such as The Binding of Isaac, Rogue’s Legacy, and Enter the Gungeon more and more. Just being able to sit down and do some quick runs that do not take a long commitment helps to relieve stress and create a chill gaming session. Xeno Crisis helps scratch that itch with an aesthetic that I absolutely love. Plus, Bitmap Bureau released physical copies for the Mega Drive, Dreamcast and Neo Geo MVS – perfect for collectors.
Xeno Crisis is a top-down arena shooter that can be best described as the Aliens franchise meets Smash TV. Do yourself a favor and check it out, and while you’re at it, check out ScottyMo’s in-depth review.
TJ Kitsune: Catherine: Full Body
Personally, Catherine: Full Body was my most anticipated game from SEGA and Atlus in 2019. I loved the original on the PlayStation 3, and I was really looking forward to revisiting Vincent’s troubled adult life. Originally, the game was supposed to come to the PlayStation Vita, as well as PlayStation 4, and include a new character to the story and plot twists. Unfortunately, Sony cut production on the Vita in the West, and we never got the Vita version. What we did get, though, was the PS4 version, which came with a beautiful steelbook case, as well as a large special edition.
It was fun to find the puzzles different, a little more challenging and the new gimmicks that were added. There were more endings, new songs from the Persona series to enjoy in the jukebox and new Easter eggs to find throughout the game. It was very a welcomed updated version for me. I just wish we still got a Vita version, as I would’ve liked to have the game on the go.
LBDNytetrayn: Team Sonic Racing
Sumo Digital was given a difficult task when charged with creating a new racing game for SEGA. While this is a field in which they’ve excelled with the likes of OutRun 2006, Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing, and Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, what made this one a challenge was that they couldn’t use the All-Stars this time — just Sonic and his friends (and enemies) from His World — er, his world.
Provided you can get past the absence of other classic SEGA characters and backdrops, they handled things admirably. The team racing mechanics add something fresh, different and unique to the experience, providing a new type of challenge beyond knowing when to drift and boost at the right times. As good as you may be individually, you’ll either win as a team or lose as a team.
A new story mode and tons of car customization without any pay-to-win, lootbox or downloadable content mechanics help make this a solid package. Though on that last point, the character roster is a bit small, and seeing some Classic Sonic characters like Mighty, Ray or Nack would have been cool as add-ons. As it is, outside of multiplayer, teams are fixed, so no mixing and matching. Though it may not be the love letter to SEGA fans that we’ve seen in the past, Team Sonic Racing is still a great racing experience that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Christopher Wenzel: SEGA Genesis Mini
For years, we’ve seen multiple iterations of a SEGA Genesis clone console attempted with the likes of Gamerz Tek MiniGen and the notorious AtGames Mega Drive Classic. It’s a market marred by fluctuating degrees of quality, all while failing to provide an acceptable experience for the player.
Enter big daddy SEGA with the SEGA Genesis Mini: the pinnacle not only to third-party clone consoles, but to the mini console phenomena in general. Forty-two of the very best games in 16-bit entertainment, re-encounter Genesis staples like Castlevania: Bloodlines, Shining Force and Gunstar Heroes all over again. Industry experts M2 (SEGA AGES, 3D Classics…) provide near perfect emulation when compared to the OG Genesis, so you won’t even notice a difference, well, except that sweet 1080p resolution.
If you’re still not convinced that the SEGA Genesis Mini is the very best of 2019, perhaps our review can get you to change your mind.
ScottyMo – ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove
Nostalgia is all the rage these days and has become an easy cash-in for many companies. I bet you thought I was gonna mention Sonic Mania here, right? Well the shoe is on the … third foot? Anyway, I’m talking about ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove – the fourth game (yep, we have to acknowledge the Xbox game) in the funkiest series to begin on the SEGA Genesis.
Back in the Groove visually reminds you of the first game, but as you play, you realize aspects of TJ&E 2: Panic on Funkotron are also spread throughout each dungeon-crawling level. Back in the Groove brings back the leisure exploration of the first game and tosses in items and bonus levels from Panic on Funkotron.
Any ToeJam & Earl game is better with a friend, and Back in the Groove is no exception, whether you are both intense gamers or not. I played through this funky venture with fellow Mega Visionary, Chris Powell, and we found ourselves completing the game in one-sitting. However, this quick playthrough is not a slight against the game, because there is a ton of replay value through unlocking playable characters, hats that affect your abilities and gameplay and also a four-player mode.
The game’s strongest points are the graphics and the soundtrack. I would almost compare the graphics to Flash games or most things that once flooded NewGrounds.com, but I only mean that as a compliment. The loose style of the artwork really fits the mood of the game, which is only complimented by the funkified bass-heavy soundtrack. Part of me would love to hear the soundtrack run through a Genesis soundboard somehow.
Overall, if I had to pick one SEGA-related game from 2019 that I could sit down and play over and over with a smile the entire time, it’s ToeJam & Earl: Back in the Groove. In a time of gritty, overly-serious characters and movies, TJ&E bring a nice ray of goofy nostalgic sunshine to the screen. If you’re feeling funky, and have some nearby buddies, then slap that bass and put on your rocket sneakers ‘cause it’s time to invade Earth!
Chris Powell: Shenmue III
There was a time a few years ago when I really didn’t think we’d ever see another entry in the Shenmue series. SEGA didn’t seem like they wanted to make the risky investment that was necessary to fund the development of game of Shenmue’s scope.
It was a shock to everyone when the classic Shenmue music began to play during Sony’s E3 press conference in 2015 to announce that series creator Yu Suzuki launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund Shenmue 3.
Fast forward more than four years later and multiple delays, and we finally got the game in our hands just a few weeks ago. While some might argue there were better SEGA games released this year, no game was more anticipated for me than Shenmue 3.
Having recently completed Shenmue 2 for the first time, jumping back into the role of Ryo in Bailu Village felt right at home. Suzuki created a game that feels very much like the first two games, which is exactly what I was hoping for. I know Shenmue 3 isn’t a game for everyone and probably is outdated in may respects, but being the longtime fan that I am, I can’t help but love every minute of it.
SEGA definitely had some incredible games this year, and there were even some that made the list that weren’t even published by SEGA! Let us know in the comments what is your favorite SEGA game of 2019.