Dropping out of the hardware race back in 2001 with the Dreamcast, SEGA has struggled to recapture the glory of the 80’s and 90’s for the last 16 years. Corporate reduction, shutting down several first party studios, misuse of the Sonic franchise, oversaturation in the mobile market, and a general lack of focus are just some of the many offsets that have plagued it for the last decade and a half. However, the company has its best chance to finally make a comeback this year.
Yakuza 0 released earlier this week to universal acclaim, sitting at an average review score of 84 from over 56 critics in the industry, and 90 from users on Metacritic. Digging deeper reveals even more details about the latest in the Yakuza series to come overseas. Yakuza 0 is the highest rated game in the series to-date, despite being a prequel. Sales in Japan were over 500,000 copies only a few months after launch, rivaling all other entries. Along with the release of the newest in the Hatsune Miku series, Project Diva Future Tone, SEGA is already off to a great start in 2017, and we’re only one month in.
It does not stop here, as the company has a wide breadth of titles coming throughout the rest of the year that show signs of the strongest year for SEGA in recent memory. Releasing sometime in the next few months, Puyo Puyo Tetris will finally make its way to the West on PlayStation 4 and the Nintendo Switch. Puzzle fans have been waiting for this unique game for quite a long time.
Puyo Puyo Tetris debuted back in 2014 in Japan, developed by Sonic Team. The possibility of seeing the game released here seemed unlikely, as the last Puyo Puyo game to be localized was way back in 2004. However, it is coming out in just a few months and as a launch window game for the new Switch console in fact. This shows a change in SEGA’s mentality, with an emphasis on supporting not only brand new hardware, but dedication to its diehard fans.
That dedication continues with another Spring 2017 game, Persona 5. The acquisition of Atlus in 2013 was a major win for the company, and we get to see the most important result of that with Persona 5. Fans of Shin Megami Tensei and its spin-off series, Persona, are extremely vocal and have relentlessly expressed their excitement/disappointment over delays for the game, but those delays are promising. It proves that parent company of Atlus, SEGA, has no problem allowing its subsidiary to do whatever it feels is necessary to provide the best possible localization of Persona 5 in the West. That freedom gives hope for the highly-anticipated JRPG and the quality of its future games.
SEGA, also, has the opportunity to win back a lot of former fans with this year’s Sonic Mania. Described as a return to the roots of Sonic, this 2D side-scrolling platformer in the vein of the first few games on the Genesis shows a company willing to get back to the basics. Perhaps its most important release this year, SEGA has the unique opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start fresh with a Sonic game that gamers actually want. Starting to listen to its fans is by far the most humble and necessary gesture that SEGA has made in a long time, and continuing this will push the company back to the forefront of gaming.
Past this spring are several more titles from SEGA, all varied and catering to many different groups of gamers. Fans of Yakuza 0 will have more action this summer with Kiwami, the remake of the original Yakuza game. For gamers into more strategic action, the long-awaited Dawn of War III is coming to PC. Beyond that, there is the mysterious Project Sonic 2017 and more.
SEGA has shown that this year is going to be different. Shifting the corporation around, having fresh, new management, and finally listening to consumers is turning its whole situation around. SEGA used to be a cornerstone of the industry; the beginning of so many gamers’ love for the artform. Thankfully, all signs point to 2017 being the year it makes a comeback; one in which it remembers what made it great in the past, while looking towards a more responsive and bright future.