RETRO REBOOT - Zombie Revenge (Sega Dreamcast)

By 1999, the brawler genre was becoming increasingly more passe as game development for home consoles became more robust and substantial. Sega was a company that wasn't going to let go of those arcade button-mashing heydays, and the Dreamcast was the last bastion of coin-op style gameplay. Due to the popularity of the Resident Evil series, Sega were likely thinking, "Wait. What if you could KICKBOX the undead!?"

Zombie Revenge is developed with assistance from Data East Corporation and published by Sega and built off their NAOMI arcade hardware. It was going to be originally named Blood Bullet: The House of the Dead Side Story. It was then reduced to Zombie Nightmare, before ultimately deciding of Zombie Revenge. There are House of the Dead references scattered throughout, such as the three protagonists Stick Breitling (if that's his real name) and Linda Rotta being agents of the AMS and the zombie types being exactly the same ones you take down with a light gun. or a keyboard, if you're playing Typing of the dead. The Curien Mansion, the first stage in HotD, is its own stage, as well as the theme. This home port offers a lot of extra features, like including the original coin-op version, and modes that place emphasis exclusively on the bare knuckle brawling or the gunplay. There's also "fighting" which acts as a 3D arena fighter, and a Vs Boss mode. All things considered, there's a decent amount of ways to play Zombie Revenge to vary up its straightforward nature.

Even for a game in the very tail end of the 90's, Zombie Revenge is as golden age as an action game could get. It plays a bit like Die-Hard Arcade mashed with a smattering of a gimped Virtua Fighter. Even the button layout is similar. You have a melee attack, a ranged attack that fires your guns, and a guard button. Pressing guard while moving initiates a run. There's plentiful amounts of ammo drops and health power-ups to keep you alive, but you're also racing against the clock. There's roughly 30 to 59 seconds to clear an area of zombies and proceed to the next location.

If you're savvy to modern action games like the Devil May Cry or Nioh line of games, something like Zombie Revenge is such a blast from the past, and not necessarily in an overly positive "you had to have been there" way. It takes a little bit of recalibrating your reflexes and motor skills to get used to controls that have antiquated greatly, especially if one has a brief history with the Dreamcast controller, if at all. Playing some genres with one oddly placed analog stick just feels very bizarre. For its time, Zombie Revenge played well enough, but it can be rather floaty and can feel a little unresponsive. I'll hover over items and try to pick them up, but nothing will happen. So I gotta wander back over it or mash the attack button repeatedly to grab it. When you pick up temporary guns, the melee attack suddenly becomes the "fire" button. More a nitpick than a genuine complaint, but that can be mildly derailing.

When it comes to graphics, this time period and those early Xbox/PlayStation 2 visuals just come off looking like wax sculptures in a poorly ventilated Arizona loft. Blocky shoulders and arms, lip flaps and facial reactions with slightly better responsiveness than Chuck E. Cheese animatronics, and absolutely muddy textures. It's why I refer to this period as the dark ages of visuals. Unlike pixels and sprites, which aged with grace, early 3D models are as flattering as pockmarks. 

Zombie Revenge isn't anything I'd call a masterwork of game design and playability, but in years before video games would really hit mainstream, this is some good tongue-in-cheek campy fun, something that the Sega of old really knew how to capture. With its cheesy localized dialog and ham-fisted button mashing nature, I feel like Zombie Revenge and titles similar to it on the Dreamcast were the last stand of a falling empire before heavy narratives began to drive most AAA games by the mid 2000's, rendering Sega's arcade style influence obsolete. Great to pop in if you want some very satisfying old school entertainment, whether you run it solo or co-op.

By the way, have you noticed that modern visuals have become so well defined and detailed, we no longer refer to "polygons" anymore? 

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