Sega Mobile reminds me a lot of Sega during the internet heydays when they ran their own online gaming service (Heat) for the PC, which was completely out of touch with what gamers really wanted. At the very least, Sega fans should admit that Sega has made some serious stumbles along the way. No, I don’t count the Dreamcast as one of them but under-producing the broadband adapter is one notable one. This is also another stumble of a Pocket PC game.
The Action Pack consists the following: Halley Wars, Vampire: Master of Darkness and a four in one game pack (rally racer, tennis, soccer and a Tetris clone). A game pack within a game pack is a bit odd but most of the games in the pack within a pack are superfluous. If you bought the Leisure Pack, you’ll already have the Tetris clone but admittedly, this one is a better pack within a pack. Rally racer works on a level not unlike the classic Pole Position. The tennis and soccer modes operate purely on an arcade level.
The masterpiece of this entire corpus will undoubtedly be Vampire: Master of Darkness; a platform action adventure title. Halley Wars may also be well known but space shooters are a dime a dozen for PDAs. I have two sitting in my review box right now and they both look, sound and will probably play better than the one Sega has provided.
Playing out in emulated form, Sega is giving us the real deal but with no additional embellishment. When people spend money on titles and companies spend money to develop titles, this is just plain laziness on the part of a huge developer like Sega. I’ll cite a few examples where titles have been made better, despite being released for than a decade. Broken Sword, for example, was re-framed, re-shot and re-drawn for the handheld screen to ensure that the original’s artistry made a smooth transition to the Game Boy Advance. Similar things happened with Konami’s classics, with venerable oldies like Frogger getting a multiplayer(!) makeover. On the PDA side, we’ve seen good ports of Speedball and of the Rayman franchise in the recent Rayman Ultimate. All cope with the idiosyncrasies of handhelds – lower resolution, smaller screen, different control schema.
Unfortunately, the Arcade Pack’s strongest title, Vampire, is pulled down by complete ignorance from the developer’s part. Why is this? For starters, the requirements state that any ARM/MIPS based Pocket PC will run this game. Sure, for the popular iPAQ 3600/3700 series, it will run but what about controls? Vampire relies exclusively on the use of mapped buttons. If you want to jump diagonally, for example, you simply can’t do it if you own one of the older/quirkier Pocket PC models. The least they could do is test it with one of the more popular handhelds. It wasn’t an issue when you played Tetris and puzzle titles in the Leisure Pack but it certainly crops up as an issue here.
Secondly, most of these games run in a very small window on your handheld. People always complain that handhelds are tough to use because they’re too tiny to look at. But the zoom function in the Arcade Pack merely enlarges the entire playing area to about two-thirds of the whole screen. Why couldn’t they enlarge it to the entire screen? Why handicap PDA users in a place where they’re already handicapped? It’s like a car manufacturer making a small car and then deciding to reduce the leg room and cabin space even further. There’s no logic to that.
Finally, to further highlight the lack of care in putting together this product, none of the products are polished to conform to today’s standards. Rayman Ultimate, a game from the Playstation (One) days, looks phenomenal on the Pocket PC. There’s no effort by Sega to update their old products and at times, with the simplistic titles like soccer and tennis, it seems like they’re just shoveling products out on to the PDA market just to show they have one.
That doesn’t mean Sega Mobile is awful. Some incredibly innovative titles like Monkey Ball are coming out for cell phones. Maybe the publisher has its heart elsewhere because it certainly isn’t in the Pocket PC sphere.
When it comes to classics, Konami really holds the bar for updating oldies. Someone actually went through all that arcade code to add more functionality to the game. When you sink down any amount of money for a product, I think you have to keep that in mind. True, this pack is cheap but there are much better alternatives elsewhere. Hexacto has great soccer and tennis titles that are thousands of times better than what is offered here.
Clearly, the whole is less than the sum of the parts. Vampire, if updated for its own sake, would have been an excellent game. So would Halley Wars, even if space shooters are released with rapidity on handhelds. Recently, while parsing through the WSJ, I noted the recent slip in Sega’s quarterly earnings. This is after a blockbuster first half in 2002. The cracks in the platform-agnostic empire are beginning to materialize and Sega fans on the Pocket PC are probably getting the shortest straw at the moment.
[06/10] Program Size
[10/15] Learning Curve