SEGA has released a flash report of its progress in the new fiscal year, and the numbers are a lot better than you might have expected.
The aging, but persistent, game developer has massively simplified its slate of games, with a streamlined focus on familiar IPs that are already finding success (and demand) both in the East and the West.
And the West is where SEGA is hurting most, as sales of packaged games continue to decline, along with arcade offerings in the East. The smartphone and digital gaming categories have picked up the slack in recent years, but we all know (including SEGA) that the Tokyo-based game developer can return to its peak greatness by delivering on the linchpin franchises fans have been clamoring for.
The first, and likely most obvious one at this moment, is...
#1 Phantasy Star Online 2
Japanese gamers have been enjoying this continuation of the classic SEGA series since 2012, a whopping four years ago. But a Western release for the Playstation 4 eludes gamers who've been promised a 2016 release "at some point," along with the anime of the same name that premiered in January.
At this point, it's a given that any game with the name Phantasy Star is going to make money, considering the longevity of the franchise and the fact that according to the flash report linked above, it's still making a lot of money in Japan. Releasing the PS4 version in both hemispheres should be one of SEGA's top priorities right now.
#2 Persona 5
Atlus, a subsidiary of SEGA, is developing and publishing this long-anticipated sequel to the wildly popular Persona series, which is due to release in Japan this September on both PS3 and PS4.
But for the West, that release could be much later in the year, or perhaps in 2017. Atlus had an entire "Take Tokyo Tower" event to hype the announcement of the game's official release, so it's disheartening to see that they still haven't provided a wider release announcement since.
Still, most fans agree that the game looks incredibly promising, based only on the scarce trailers and character descriptions Atlus has presented so far. Its biggest selling point, honestly, is that this won't be a spin-off of past games.
#3 Total War: Warhammer
Here's a release fans actually won't have to wait a long time for. The 10th entry in the Total War series is coming to PC on May 24, 2016. And so far, the hands-on impressions have been fantastic for this turn-based strategy game.
One of the most exciting changes made with Warhammer is the game's shift to fantasy elements, so you can face off against trolls, giants, dwarves, and other variables that help the game stand out. The developer, Creative Assembly, has also added mod support, which was removed from the game until recently to suit fan demand.
I haven't had a chance to play the game yet myself, but Daniel Tack from Gameinformer had this to say after playing the Vampire Counts Campaign:
It’s easily the most fun I’ve had playing a Total War title in nearly a decade. It’s easily the most fun I’ve had playing a Total War title in nearly a decade. The decision to break out of the historically restrictive boxes and go full fantasy instead of being mired in axes, swords, and crude siege weaponry has been a massive boon in breathing new life into the franchise. Playing a few hours with the Vampire Counts was a strategic and flavorful experience.
#4 Sonic Generations 2
The last time I had fun with this character was when I played Sonic Generations in 2011. It was a weak game after the halfway mark, but it played to the series' greatest strengths, which I think have deteriorated a good deal since SEGA leased the character to Nintendo.
That game provided a nostalgic blast to the past featuring the character, exploring old maps as they transitioned to more modern takes on the hedgehog. For a lot of gamers, however, this did little more than showcase how rote the series has become.
Which is why I think a second go at Generations, with more emphasis on the old school hooks of the franchise, is worth a look. It could do for Sonic the Hedgehog what Super Mario Maker did for a certain Italian plumber.
#5 Skies of Arcadia 2
Diehard fans of Valkyrie Chronicles and Panzer Dragoon (among others) will disagree, but I firmly believe Skies of Arcadia, which was released on the Dreamcast 16 years ago, is the best game SEGA has ever released. The fact that they haven't touched the IP since 2003 is somewhat endemic of the developer's overall struggles, considering how much potential this one-hit wonder still has.
The PS4 is the perfect console to accommodate a sequel that could explore a brand new swatch of characters (the first game wrapped up the story for its mainstays quite nicely already) and locations that would let gamers become sky pirates again.
At this point the likelihood of this sequel happening is low, obviously, thanks to immense competition from Final Fantasy. But if SEGA wants to reinvigorate the high quality of their best IPs, then they should be looking both backward and forward.