As a fan and a proponent of Sony’s outstanding, albeit woefully underutilized, USB camera I have found Sega Superstars incredibly difficult to rate. On the one hand, anytime new software is released for the EyeToy it is a cause for celebration. It is a celebration that grows only more raucous when one finds that not only is one of the greatest luminaries in videogames behind it, but that it has also included a roster of some of its greatest icons within it. However on the other hand, one quickly finds that despite the inclusion of the aptly named Superstars they serve as little more than window dressing for virtually the same exact EyeToy games we’ve been playing since the very beginning. While Sega Superstars features the best versions of these games because of the characters attached and a few new wrinkles, it is still essentially the same games. So, do you give it a higher score because of the inclusion of these characters? Or do you knock it down for not bringing anything new to the table? Such is the conundrum.
The best place to begin as we unravel this game’s score is by briefly detailing the games included. First up is Samba De Amigo, a rhythm game that finds you tapping specific icons in tune with the music. Like most any rhythm game, you are awarded higher scores for stretching combos together and for tapping the icon with perfect timing. The SDA game is incredibly fast paced, forcing you to often move both hands in time with the music. Luckily the tracking of the camera and the response is spot on, making it all the more enjoyable. The biggest drawback is without a doubt the miniscule song collection, totaling a scant seven. While there are a handful of difficulty levels, which will stretch your experience some, it’s barely enough to keep your attention for long.
Next up is everyone’s favorite blue hedgehog, Sonic. In Sonic’s game you will guide Sonic down a clear tunnel collecting rings and chaos emeralds, while avoiding spike balls. You guide Sonic down the tunnel by moving an arm around in a circle moving Sonic along the safest route with the most rings. As with any Sonic game there is a great sense of speed, but unlike most Sonic games, the control isn’t really that great which makes the game much more difficult than it should be, for all the wrong reasons. The control is unresponsive making it nigh impossible to avoid the spike balls and to pick up the seven chaos emeralds. It is a game best played in a wide open space with no one else within striking distance because you’ll find yourself flailing wildly about as you to attempt to coax Sonic away from danger and into a row of rings. Of all the games included, this one is the most disappointing simply because it features Sega’s most beloved character in a game that quickly makes you feel as if you have no bearing on the action. However, it is not the worst game included, that is reserved for the following, which is…
Crazy Taxi. If ever there were a mini-game included simply just to get some face time for a particular character or game mechanic this one is it. The whole and singular goal of this game is to make as much noise as humanly possible, while wildly flinging your limbs in any and all directions to draw the attention of a taxi. What!? Is that even a game? Well, I suppose it is since you are timed, but that’s about it. I’m a big dude with some incredibly powerful lungs from years of quarterbacking and being a United States Marine, making me dangerous to both to the physical health of bystanders’ bodies and their ears. Enough said.
The next game on the list is one of my favorites, if only for its future potential, Virtua Fighter. In VF you square off against Akira in a good old, knock-down-drag-out test of wills. Well, all right, it’s not quite that dramatic, yet, but it could be. As you stand across from Akira you’ll be presented with icons for guarding, attacking, and counter attacking. The first two are pretty self explanatory, touch the guard when he attacks; hit the attack icon to attack him. The counter attack icon on the other hand is thrown out there in the heat of battle to try and sucker you in. You’ll be punching and kicking attack icons when all of a sudden the counter attack icon shows up. Hit it and Akira will nail you with a counter attack. This game is a fun, little diversion that I only hope and pray will eventually be fleshed out into a full-fledged fighting game some day.
Next to Virtua Fighter, Super Monkey Ball is the game with the next greatest amount of future potential and would be the best game in the collection if it weren’t for one very big headache. In SMB you guide Aiai in his ball (Who in the devil puts monkeys in a ball? And how do they pick up bananas through the ball?) as he traverses courses picking up bananas while trying to reach the goal before the timer runs out. You control his movements, like you do in the full-fledged game by moving the board and not the monkey. Unlike the full-fledged game, you accomplish this by placing your arms in predetermined positions to tilt the board this way and that. As much as I love SMB 1 and 2, this is a game begging for a full-on conversion to EyeToy support. The sense of speed and movement is amped up considerably with the loss of a controller. You’ll find yourself swaying wildly and losing balance as you try to guide Aiai with your entire body. I dare anyone to play this game with their arms only. IMPOSSIBLE!!! We’ve all seen the gamers who tilt, turn, and lean when playing a racing or flying game. This phenomenon is pushed through the roof here, which makes it a boatload of fun, until you find yourself in a corner. Guide Aiai into a corner and it all falls apart. It is almost impossible to guide him back out, mainly because the camera will not shift into a more beneficial angle, quickly sucking away the considerable fun you’ve been having up to that point. (Reviewers note: While it’s incredibly frustrating to find yourself in this position while playing, it is hilarious watching someone else suffer through it!)
In probably the most surprising addition, when compared against the rest of the roster, we have The House of the Dead. HOTD finds you whacking zombies, bats, and bosses as you make your way through a suitably spooky and dark environment. While all of the games contained on this disc bare a striking resemblance to any number of other EyeToy games (minus Crazy Taxi, thankfully), this is the one you’ll feel like you’ve played before the most. It’s a pretty simple game, but there is a little more challenge than its forefathers offered. For one, some foes require multiple punches to dispatch. Secondly, they do quickly pop out from nowhere. Lastly, in the midst of all your zombie whacking (that doesn’t sound too good), you’ll invariably find the damsel in distress, who will return your smack should you accidentally hit her. There is so much going on in the screen, that it is very challenging to make it through without hitting her.
In the “Wow, not only have I played this before a million times, I’ve already played it on this disc” category is Space Channel 5 featuring everyone’s, or at least mine, futuristic, dancing diva/news reporter Ulala. If you want to know how this plays, just scroll up and read about Samba De Amigo. SC5 is a tad more challenging than SDA because you must memorize the movements and then time it on your own, but it is virtually the same game.
Next is exhibit number 2 in the “Wow, not only have I played this before a million times, I’ve already played it on this disc” category, Nights. Like Sonic you guide Nights to pick up blue chips as you fly through rings. While not nearly as fast as Sonic, it is much more responsive, but alas, it is essentially the same game. However, with the better control and response it is forgiven because it is one of the most enjoyable games in the collection.
Next up is the homage to Virtua Striker, which has you knocking a soccer balls off of your head towards different colored balloons representing different point amounts. This game is impressive if only for the accuracy and speed with which the ball leaves your head. Every time that I hit a ball, the ball responded exactly how you’d expect a real world soccer ball to react. It’s a pretty challenging game, but there just isn’t a whole lot of substance here much like the real sport of soccer. (Real football rules!!!)
For those that could not get enough of the little Chao creatures in Sonic Adventure 1 and 2, a Chao garden has been included just for you. What this amounts to is a Tomagotchi (remember those things?) on steroids. You must rub its egg to get it to hatch, rub its head and belly to keep it happy, feed it fruit from the trees (which you gain by shaking) or from the market, and you must provide toys with which it can play. Toys and other food items can be purchased with rings you are awarded for playing the other games. Really, there is nothing too much of note here and like the Tomagotchi, it likely won’t appeal to anyone but little girls.
The remaining games, ChuChu Rocket, Billy Hatcher, and Puyo Pop Fever are far and away the most innovative contained on the disc and therefore the most “un-alike” ones as well. ChuChu Rocket has you controlling two to four switches, which open and close bridges for the ChuChu’s as they make their way to the rocket. With that said, let me get this out of the way right off the bat, “This game is INTENSE!” I know it doesn’t sound like it, but it is. The ChuChu’s pop up with increasing frequency on the various paths forcing you to eventually wish that you had four arms. Making matters even more difficult is that KapuKapu’s also show up within your line of ChuChu’s forcing you to quickly drop the bridge when he crosses only to raise it immediately after so that the following ChuChu’s don’t meet the same fate. Fail to rid yourself of the KapuKapu and they’ll eat your ChuChu’s when they reach the rocket lowering your score.
Billy Hatcher and the Giant Egg has you cleansing the Earth of Stormtroopers and Orcs as they try to revive Sauron aboard the Death Star. Not really!!! You play as Billy as he tries to guide his egg to their destination while picking up fruit and squashing wayward enemies with his giant egg. You control the egg by waving over hand icons on the screen. Wave over the right and the egg turns left and vice versa, while waving over both will move him straight ahead. The inverted, albeit realistic, egg steering takes a little getting used to, but this game is surprisingly fun and egg-cellent.
Finally there is my favorite game in the collection, Puyo Pop Fever. In this game you have tons of different colored Puyos raining down atop you from the heavens, which you must catch on your outstretched arms and guide into like colored baskets. However, mixed in with the Puyos are bombs, which can blow up the contents of your baskets. Sounds simple enough, but in practice it is quite challenging and a lot of fun. Leaving your arms outstretched for too long will pile Puyos atop your arms and head filling the screen. When overburdened such as this, tilting will quickly spill the Puyos on your arms, but some get stuck on the other side of your neck and shoulder forcing you to use your entire body should you need to get them to the other side. This is a pretty impressive little piece of technology in that it realistically keeps up with literally hundreds of Puyos and their reactions to the position of your body.
Graphically speaking, this is far and away the best-looking EyeToy to date. All of the superstars are presented in all of their glory or decay in the case of the zombies. Colors are suitably bright and there is usually quite a bit going on besides the flailing of your body. Also of note are some pretty good particle effects. All across the board and the games, everything is sharp and lovingly rendered. However, with a game that features your smiling face and windmilling, feel free to adjust the score in relation to your appearance.
The game also fairs pretty well in the sound department. Each game and the characters included all feature their trademark sounds and music. You’ll hear wailing guitar rifts as Sonic rockets down the tube, as well as the suitably whimsical music of Billy Hatcher and so on. Including the familiar sounds and music of each game is a huge plus, since many of which are near and dear to gamer’s hearts.
So what about the conundrum I spoke of at the beginning? Save for a disappointing appearance from Sonic and the ill-conceived Crazy Taxi game, the rest of the games included are of high quality and ultimately fun and inviting to gamers and non-gamers alike. It is disappointing that so much of what is contained here has been done to varying degrees of success by virtually everyone before it that has released EyeToy content, but there is no denying that they are the best examples of each style of play available. Another huge positive here is potential. Several of the games here could realistically be reworked into full version EyeToy games that would greatly enhance the individual licenses, as well as take advantage of this awesome little peripheral like none other. From Super Monkey Ball to Virtua Fighter to ChuChu Rocket, to even possibly Nights, the potential is there for EyeToy games that could be held in the same light as our standard games.
Overall for fans of the EyeToy, the inclusion of Sega’s tremendous stable of characters, as well as the tweaks here and there to the games similar to those past, make it a title worthy of your consideration. Whether or not you decide to purchase will ultimately hinge upon how much you liked the previous games of this style and or your obsession with all things Sega. Those gamers who will benefit most from Sega Superstars are those who have yet to take the EyeToy plunge. If you’ve been considering purchasing the EyeToy, this is the game that will make you most appreciate that purchase. It truly is the best representations of the “common” EyeToy games. The games are fun, forcing you to use your entire body in some cases, and who can argue with opportunity to spend some time with the likes of these characters in ways that you never have.
Review Scoring Details for Sega Superstars
Save for Sonic and the “corner” hiccup of Super Monkey Ball, the gameplay is spot on and responsive. Most of the games are an absolute blast, which will also give you a pretty good workout in the process. Also of note is that this game makes for an incredible party game, being both fun to play and watch. There are a nice variety of gameplay styles included, however short they may ultimately be.
What is there faithfully recreates the licenses and characters from which they came. In most of the case the graphics amount to a “picture frame” for the image of yourself, but they look sharp and feature quite a bit of animation. Those that feature more graphics and less you, look great and animate well.
While the music and sounds inherent to each game are spot on from their respective licenses, there’s really not much else beyond that. What is there, simply because many of these licenses are so well beloved, has a very high nostalgia factor which is appreciated.
There is numerous difficulties included which are subsequently opened by beating each game on the default difficulty, which usually begins as incredibly easy. However, the later difficulties do present a very healthy challenge.
The game gets points simply for being an EyeToy game and for the occasions where brand new chapters to these franchises have potentially been born. Unfortunately, in all too many cases the games amount to just barely new takes on virtually every other EyeToy game before it. While they do tend to be improved takes on these old formulas, they will seem too familiar to some.
Overall, Sega Superstars is the best example of the “usual” EyeToy games, but therein lays its biggest weakness, familiarity. It’s great to have the Sega legends all on one disc and it is great that most that is here is well done, but it could have been so much more. EyeToy fans will love what is included here, but whether that is reason enough to purchase it depends on how much they like Sega and this style of gameplay. Newbies to the EyeToy will get the most enjoyment and appreciation out of this disc, ably showing them why the EyeToy is quite possibly the greatest peripheral ever. Another big positive to this package is the ability to play with these beloved characters in ways not before imagined. Ultimately, this is a very solid package, with massive potential for future iterations of not only Superstars, but also for the actual franchises from where these Superstars came.